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My sister and I stepped off the train together in Central Islip. As we walked across the platform, she fished through her bag for the car keys. "Look, Mary. David seems like a very nice guy. But he's gonna want children, and you can't have any more kids. You can barely take care of the one that you've got," she reminded me.
My son was living with his father. I'd already been divorced twice. The second guy was in jail, and I had put him there. I was 33 years old, sleeping on a twin bed in Judy's basement.
"Your sister's a bitch," my addiction would mutter under his breath. I wanted to agree with him, but she was right.
Since we met, Dave was eager to share his life with me. And I tried to make room in my addiction for him. It was a laborious task. Once we were married, our union struggled under the weight of my pre-existing relationship. I truly wanted to be with my husband, to experience all the wonderful things couples enjoy. But drinking and getting high is an all consuming career path. It requires hours and hours of research and study. It's like being a doctor. You have to take it seriously.
Still, we managed to do many wonderful things together. We bought a car and a dog. We purchased our first home. I successfully filed for joint custody of my son, and Kirin started high school in our town. Dog #2 to keep the first dog company. It felt deceptively like progress.
Every once in awhile, I'd take a moment to consider the possibility of starting a family. We'd see a baby in a shopping cart at the grocery store or sitting in someone's lap on the bus. I'd find myself staring a little too long. David would turn to me and say, "Admit it. You want one of those."
"No, I don't," I'd reply. I wasn't thinking straight.
My addiction and I had many confusing discussions about this matter. He never liked David to begin with, and he was vehemently against the possibility of introducing a new child into the equation.
"Look, what's the rush?" he'd ask whenever I brought up the subject. "You have lots of time."
"Not really. I'm already 37. If I'm gonna do this, I should probably start soon," I replied.
"That's not necessary. You've never had trouble getting pregnant before," he trailed off, sarcastically.
I couldn't dispute what he said, so we just stopped talking about it for awhile.
But the notion continued to present itself, even though my dependency was quite severe. I knew in my heart that I couldn't carry a baby to full term without using. I couldn't even stay straight one day. That harsh reality continued to hit me in waves over and over again, knocking my legs out from under me. It saddened me to admit that I was out of control. I didn't want to believe it, but I was drowning.
"Well, what do you think?" I'd inquire of my addiction in an inebriated moment.
"I still hate the baby idea," he'd tell me. "Don't you remember what your sister said? 'You can barely take care of the kid you have.'"
"But that's not true," I protested. "Life is so much better than it was."
"Yeah, but Judy had a valid point," my addiction insisted.
"Wait a minute," I reminded him. "You called her a bitch."
"I know, but I meant it in a good way," he shot back.
Sometimes, my habit just wanted to fight. "That husband of yours, Daniel?" he asked.
"David," I corrected him.
"Whatever. He's very controlling. You're so stupid, you don't even realize it."
"He's supportive and encouraging. I've never been treated so nicely," I attempted weakly.
"Ha! He never wants you to have fun," he laughed, for emphasis.
"You know what?" I held my throbbing head in my hands. "You need to back off. I can't even remember the last time any of this was fun!"
With considerable softness this time, he offered, "Look, you're just upset. Take these." He held out a handful of pills. "Let me get you something to drink. You'll feel better."
"Okay," I agreed. Like always. There is no arguing with addiction.
I'd love to propose that a strong desire to have a baby was the catalyst for my getting sober, but it wasn't. I got sober because I just couldn't get high anymore. I don't know how else to explain what occurred. I kept hitting it, but something just wasn't working. I was doing my thing for so long, I truly believed that if I stopped, I might die. And when I considered what life would be like without getting loaded, I couldn't even begin to imagine. I saw nothing. It didn't seem like there was anything worth seeing.
During the first year of sobriety, it is strongly suggested that newly recovering addicts not make any big changes. I found this recommendation endlessly confusing because everything I knew had already changed. My life was dumped on its ass and nothing looked familiar. But I did what I was told. I ate food and slept. I went to meetings. I got a sponsor. I saw a therapist. Ate. Slept. Meetings. Therapy. It was difficult and monotonous. But I didn't pick up a drink or a drug, and my marriage survived.
The second year I was clean, I continued doing the simple things I'd done the year before. Life on life's terms became easier to manage. Additionally, David and I planned to have our baby.
That baby is Desmond Henry. And today, he is eleven years old.
Mary is an alcoholic and an addict who regularly blogs at highwiregirl.blogspot.com.