A single parent is tasked with education, health, discipline, fun, providing, and overall safety of their child on their own. All while trying to maintain their own sobriety.
“I really wish me and your father would have made it,” Mom said. Those were the first words my Mother stated to me when I entered the viewing of my late Grandfather that raised me as his own. I was perplexed, baffled, and any other adjective you can think of in describing a high state of shock. I never realized the toll being a single parent in recovery took on my Mother until that moment. She did such a masterful job in providing, teaching, and covering up for the loss of a father that I forgot the daunting task of being a single parent in sobriety. Throughout my travels as a motivational speaker, I have seen a lack of empathy, respect, and overall praise for all single parents in sobriety. As a humanity, it’s time that we pay homage to all single parents in recovery for doing what is seemingly an incredible selfless feat.
I was going through my fiancé’s wedding album of photos, and quickly noticed all the happiness on everyone’s face. My insecurities began to show, and my fiancé could not understand. I explained that I had never seen her and the family so happy in one setting—the excitement and joy they were displaying made me question our relationship. She explained to me that weddings are supposed to be timeless photos of one of the best days of your life. I spoke to my therapist about this and spent time contemplating this idea. I then realized that no one gets married to then get divorced. The ideology of marriage is that you have found a partner you love to live in this life forever. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of couples divorce in the United States. I would love to ask each one who walked down the aisle, did they expect divorce? I will take an educated guess that 99 percent expected to live happily ever after, and the mention of being a single parent was equivalent to utter blasphemy. My eyes were now open to the excitement of marriage. This new understanding helped me gain perspective on my Mother’s journey as a single parent in sobriety.
My Mother entered treatment during my third-grade year of elementary school. This year she will celebrate 27 years of sobriety with no relapses. During all of my inpatient stays at treatment centers and psychiatric units, I was always reminded that my Mother is a modern-day miracle. Experts in the field will always draw upon how statistically, my Mother’s accomplishment and road in sobriety is phenomenal. Now let us add on coming out of treatment after only five days of detox to raising a child as a single parent. In examining the odds she was up against, I must say single parents in recovery are a model for success.
Medical experts commonly use the phrase that two brains are better than one. A single parent is tasked with education, health, discipline, fun, providing, and overall safety of their child on their own. My Mother worked in social service, stayed sober, and raised a son. I currently have a spiritual two-parent home where we both are blessed with education and years of sobriety. I promise you that parenting is the most challenging job I have ever done in my life. I have no clue how any single parent raises a child in sobriety. I work extremely hard to stay sober and juggle the quality time with my family. The daily regime of staying sober requires time, money, and commitment that being a single parent can easily make overbearing. In third grade, I did not have the mental capacity to understand the new life my Mother entered. Immediately this makes it more difficult because you are raising a child in a life they do not understand. My fiancé and I consistently state how grateful we are for each other’s help getting through life. Countless nights and days, we both are deeply appreciative of being able to rely on each other for growth. God putting us together gave us a life beyond our wildest dreams. As a single parent, my Mother had no other partner she loved to lean on in times of need. Every day she woke up to a game seven where losing was not an option. Yes, my Grandfather was an invaluable piece of help that was irreplaceable, but if we dive deeper, that can also be demanding.
My Grandfather was a blessed old school soul, Christian, and married for over 30 years. When my Mother divorced, he made clear that it was unacceptable, and her job was to ensure I was educated. The day she came home from rehab, he told her, “If you ever drink again, I will take Freddy!” To this day, my Mother recalls that conversation as the fear that kept her sober. While I believe her, that also does not do the justice of understanding the pressure. No one wants to let their parents down and let alone their child. No one is given a book on how to be a parent, let alone a single parent. On the fly, she was tasked with figuring it all out, praying that the results would bear good fruit.
I entered my first treatment at 16 and left home by the age of 17. Let me be clear! That was to no fault of my Mother but rather my unwillingness to change my behavior. I was spiritually sick, immature, and did appreciate her efforts as a single parent. Looking back, the criticism she faced was the unequivocal judgment from a spiritually immature atmosphere that has reigned far to long. As a woman, a person of color, and a single parent, her efforts were extraordinary. Now that the dust has settled, she is a blessing to my family. She has set the standard for parenting and survival against enormous odds. I now realize the sacrifices she made as a single parent are why I am able to write this article today. Her resume is filled with accolades of college graduates from a historical HBCU, social service awards, and documentary appearances. Those achievements are beautiful resume glory, but her most extraordinary milestone was her work as a single parent mother.
If I had a dime for every single parent Mother I have met that had low self-esteem and shame for being in that position, I could retire. America, we need to wake up and realize these single parents are the definition of faith, courage, and perseverance. Our society has embedded awards and parties thrown for education and employment achievements. How about the achievement of being a single parent in sobriety? How many people can not only stay sober but raise a child on their own at the same time? How many are willing to sacrifice their wants and needs for the long term benefit of their child? How many are willing to face the scrutiny and negative feedback of every decision they make concerning their child?
When I see a single parent dropping their kid off at school, daycare, school events, and not having a social life, I realize they are displaying the highest character of love. Instead of shaming these beautiful people, let us take the time to praise their efforts and surround them with more help in this society. I have been extremely blessed to grace the stage as a National keynote, graduate with high honors, and be a published author. Most who meet me always ask and assume those are my happiest moments in life. Honestly, the best days were when my Mother was dropping me off at daycare at 5 a.m. because she is working midnight shifts to earn extra money. The days she sacrificed her lunch to bring me lunch at school because I forgot mine at home. Countless nights that I ate, and she didn’t because we could not afford both meals. Watching her budget at the kitchen table and making the choice of my needs over her own. Hearing her say, “Lord, please make way for daycare, lights, and Freddy’s sneakers for basketball.” Her making me watch Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers when she had to do work to ensure I was always getting a good education in my mind. See, my Mother’s story is just one of the countless other single parents that we as a society have taken for granted it. I no longer see single parents as a loss but rather as a gift that the world should embrace. To my fiancé, Mother, and any other single parents in recovery who reads this, I thank you and salute you for the gifts and love you brought into this world. As a society, we have failed you and often not appreciated your marvelous efforts.