When you look at this picture of my family, what do you honestly think?
What is your first reaction besides the aesthetics of a sunny day, boat, and crystal clear water? I ask because as a family we receive looks, comments, and overall reactions from others. In examining race, recovery, and traditional codes, I finally realize how problematic those areas can be for a family living their healthiest life. While we often laugh, turn the other cheek, and pray for those who judge us, I felt it was finally time to speak on my experiences.
Pictured from left to right are me, my fiancée, and my daughter. My fiancée and I met at an AA meeting. At that time, I had six months sober and was living at a halfway house. She had two years clean and was in the middle of many life changes. I immediately connected with her soul while listening to her share. I felt an instant connection and knew that she understood the pain of restarting life. Frequently, people equate six months of sobriety with immaturity. However, each person has their journey. I was not looking for a relationship, but rather for healthy people that wanted a whole life of recovery. I would see her at meetings, and every time she shared, I would pay attention. I paid close attention because I was listening for how she was fighting life from a spiritual standpoint. Growing up in a single-parent home of recovery, I could relate to many of the challenges she faced.
Getting past my self-imposed barriers
I look back and realize God was connecting our souls before we even had a conversation. After finally sparking up a conversation, we exchanged numbers and began talking frequently. We attended weekly church services, meetings, and did healthy activities together. Despite what people may think, there was no sex involved! Not because we were not attracted to each other, but because we were both working on our souls. Our conversations consisted of the goals, parenting ideology, Bible readings, prayer, AA/NA literature discussions, food, hobbies, physical health/working out, and how we grew up. Then the turning point of both of our lives happened!
My words exactly were, “Kim, as much as I truly love you and think we could have an amazing life together, it will just not work! You have graduated college, have a career as an RN, are a homeowner, and overall are at a higher level of life than me.”
I will NEVER forget what she said next. “Freddy, it is not about what you have; it is about who you are!” I was blown away because I never imagined my soul would count before my resume. All I had to offer was my soul. I had no car, no home, no license, no CV filled with speaking engagements, no company, and no degree. Up to this point, I had believed a better life was contingent on obtaining those milestones. Kim taught me that I didn’t have to wait for those external things, that my life got better once I became a better person. I now realize the value of healthy people attracting healthy people. After she said those words, our life took off. We have yet to look back.
Becoming a father to an adult daughter
Many people are confused when they see me with my daughter. God put us together, not biological DNA, so we don’t look like your usual father-daughter pair. I’m not allowed to state my fiancée’s age (happy wife, happy life), but I will acknowledge that we have an age gap. I entered my daughter’s life after she’d already been raised. People are frequently bold enough to ask how I can parent someone that is not biologically mine, is of a different race, and is a grown adult? I counter that with my personal experiences from my upbringing.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I lived that story to the fullest. I was raised in a single-parent home with regular input from people outside of my biological family. An abundance of Caucasian people helped my mother with money, food, and childcare. My first job was cleaning the local Baptist church where my Grandfather taught me two lessons about how Jesus loved others: I was taught that we are all God’s children and that I must love as he loved me. When my fiancée and I got together, I immediately knew I was a parent. How could I be with someone who is a parent and not take on my share of that duty? Even if that were not the case, her children play a significant role in her spirit and life. I have always believed that when I’m in a relationship with a parent, I am a parent. Honestly, how could I not love her children? The gift of parenting has become such a blessing. and made me a more accountable man.
Recovery made us a family, which made us all richer in the soul. We all take mental health meds, see therapists, and live our programs of recovery. We pray together as a family and feed the homeless. These are critical components to life that I missed with both of my biological parents. My daughter now has five months clean and asks us for advice on how to navigate recovery. On Father’s Day, she gifted me a key chain that reads, “Any man can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad. Thank you for loving me as your own.”
Looking back, my first attempt at parenting was an abysmal failure. I was a child raising a child. I thought being a good parent meant having Jordans on your feet. I now realize a good parent uplifts their child’s soul and educates their mind. If I hadn’t learned this, I would have missed the opportunity of a lifetime and never experienced real family love. My mother told me, “Freddy, I am forever grateful that God allowed me to live to watch you become a family man. You have broken a cycle!”
Growing together in recovery
Since becoming a family, our lives have changed dramatically. My fiancée now has six years of sobriety and excels in her job. She will graduate with her Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration in May of 2022. She mentors other women and has improved her physical health, as well. Her life has completely changed, and her children now call her mom again. She’s been featured in a documentary episode and in articles concerning my work through www.themessagellc.com. I will graduate the same week as her with my Bachelor’s in Communications. I’ve been selected for multiple national conferences as the keynote speaker and speak throughout the country at different colleges. As the younger generation states, “We are winning!” The reality is that we would be losing if we had never become family, or if we had allowed the poison of society to infiltrate our hearts.
When you see us, do not judge us. Instead, pray for us and that society becomes more loving for all families.