Once an active alcoholic suffering from PTSD from an abusive past, Martha of recoveroutloudllc is now living her life selflessly helping others in the world of Instagram with motivational live feeds and posts. Her message is one of hope and inspiration helping to “promote recovering out loud and proud” with an impressive following of over 8K. I am honored to have Martha be my first featured story under “recovery voices.”
One could say my life ended and began on December 28, 2017. I woke up to my boyfriend walking in on me passed out on the couch with a bottle of Tequila under my pillow, empty pill bottles, and a half eaten gingerbread house on the floor. For months it was a fight to get me to shower, wake up, or function on the most basic level. He spent months scared to leave me alone, and I was blind to my own depression. Pivotal is the only way I can describe the next couple days as I sat alone in my thoughts wondering how I got to this point. So many thoughts swirled through my head the following days. What would my 2 sons do without me, how did I even take two handfuls of pills. Why didn’t I die. The most basic component was alcohol. This was the death of addict Martha, and the beginning of recovery Martha. On January 1, 2018 I gave up not on myself, but on fighting the label of alcoholic. I quietly made the vow to myself to never drink again and waited months to reveal my choice.
Removing this one component was the most powerful decision of my life. As I began the process of deconstructing what had led me to get black out drunk and wash down 2 bottles of pills with 2 bottles of tequila, I was reminded of the recovery cliche, one day at a time. The immediate issue was due to alcohol abuse I was under ACS investigation and the biggest red flag was despite the investigation I continued to drink and fail test. Due to this I was given the option of my children being put in foster care or my mother moving in with me until the case was resolved. So to keep my kids my narcissistic, abusive mother moved in. I struggled to get better with the looming presence of the woman who had abused me my entire life. A constant mental and emotional abuse so insidious and pervasive I just accepted it. A few days after my resolution to stop drinking for good and with intention. I had a court date. My children had been in Kentucky with my mother leaving me alone that Christmas. It was at this court date I learned ACS and my mother had been colluding to give her custody. Then it all became so clear to me. She had been setting me up for months.
The judge asked what happened, why I drank the last time I was caught drinking. This was the first time I felt heard in this entire process and with tears in my eyes I was able to openly admit my mother was and had always been abusive. The words rolled off my tongue, my eyes watered and my heart raced, because the judge would react in one of two ways empathy, or accuse me of making excuses. She asked, “Ms. Duke I know its hard but could you elaborate?” I concisely replied the 3 examples of abuse and neglect. One being beaten with an ice scraper because my sister and I laughed at her. Letting me run the streets at 13 and doing nothing when I was raped other than tell me it was my fault. Finally, her multiple suicide attempts and unstable mental health. The judge who I can never thank enough addressed the court and said, “I do not see how you can recover with the person who abused you in your life, I am approving non familial care” (basically a non family member could stay with me). She then addressed the court stating, “You have lost sight that Ms. Duke is the children’s mother and it will remain that way.” That was my first victory, my first sign that my decision was manifesting into good. It was like this vow I made silently and privately was in the universe working its magic.
My children returned home not knowing my decision, neither did anyone else close to me. That glimmer of hope set my soul on fire. I quietly counted my days and reclaimed my role as mother and this time I wouldn’t take the two beautiful souls I have been gifted for granted. From that point on I did the drug test, I saw the therapist, and I continued to improve with each passing day. It became clearer to me that my mother had to go and I had to go no contact. I had done it before after a narcissistic abusive relationship, and with toxic friends, but my own mother…totally different scenario. I made the choice with no qualms and when ACS said she could go back to KY a sense of relief and calm came over my household. It was at this point I came out to the world as sober, posting my day counts, becoming more active on Instagram. I joined support groups for daughters of narcissistic mothers. These were small crucial steps to chipping away the pain and traumas that had kept me bound to a substance and a lifestyle that objectified excess, partying and “the scene” over present parenting and being a good mother.
Everything wasn’t easy. With a clear mind comes suppressed memories, flashbacks, and a clarity only known by those who have walked blindly through their lives. Many of those said flashbacks I can thank Facebook memories for. It would be so convenient if we could all just say I’ve changed and go on, but to change you have to heal and let those around you heal as well. I had to face the fact I was not the mother my children needed. I saw pictures of the boys and I out to eat and they looked annoyed and I looked drunk. When I drank I would get mad at the kids, because they didn’t have fun. Of course they didn’t I was drunk and embarrassing!!! I saw pictures of me out with the signature red face and empty eyes drinking knowing I had chose that over my babies. Of all the regrets and bad memories they all came back to parenting for me. Was I going to turn into my mother with children who would remove me from their life as soon as they could. Was I going to neglect them to the point that they would turn to drugs or alcohol? Despite any excuse, despite my PTSD, and every acceptable societal reason for drinking, I chose to love them.
Part of my recovery was the hashtag SoberMom, with this simple hashtag a whole world of sober women choosing to love their children more than a substance or lifestyle was right there. Women just like me. Those who had survived rape, abuse, and domestic violence. On my hard days I would look at their progress and be reminded it’s possible. It’s possible to recover. I will forever be indebted to the women who motivated and passed the torch to me and that is the recovery community. No matter the program you work the message is clear, sobriety and service go hand in hand. We are a community, community keeps us sober and everyone’s story matters.I have learned so much from just listening to people in recovery. We all have the same struggles and the power to help one another.
I did have one very very big obstacle when it came to maintaining sobriety and present parenting, How would I make money? All my previous work experience was with nightclubs, event marketing, and lots of networking aka drinks. I noticed a trend, that is what my marketing mind does…moms are fed up with mommy wine culture. A simple search for sober mom shirts revealed a void in the market. So my company Recover Out Loud llc was born. I made two tank tops, a website, and a blog. Then it was off to the races. I had many great ideas during my active addiction with zero follow through. Fabulous ideas languishing in drunken half memories scribbled on bar napkins. This idea like my sobriety was made with great conviction and a yearning for change. I did have that tiny negative voices still chiming in from time to time telling me I would fail, or give up. These were the voices of the abuse and PTSD. These same voices had dictated my entire life, so not today Satan became a mantra. Now we are more than 2 tank tops, we are a movement. A movement to break the stigma of recovery, encourage community, and implore others to be a present parent.
Present parenting is a common theme in my insta post and blog. Its not terribly difficult to be a present parent, its being there. Its Friday movie and pizza night. It’s taking the time to listen, its simply showing them you love and care. This for me was impossible when drinking. I was either out or hungover. I recently learned my son thought I just didn’t care, it broke my heart to look him in the eyes and say,”No baby, I was hungover, I’m sorry”. I was the mom who didn’t show up to parent teacher conferences, back to school nights, or check homework folders. In addiction I didn’t understand I was conveying to my son I didn’t care about him. When I was in active addiction my boys and I rarely traveled, there were no trips and I was always paycheck to paycheck and often moving. My kids got use to the routine, every year a new apartment, toys lost in the move.
In recovery it is mind boggling when you see how much money you were spending on using. The benefits or gifts of sobriety started to pile up. The boys and I took our first trip for Spring Break, and flew to Hilton Head with the biggest surprise being I was able to rent a convertible mustang for the whole week! My youngest and I spent a month in Alaska, and Christmas in Phoenix. My kids are both involved in my business, and I listen to all of their ideas. I get hugs, kisses and snuggles daily. Unsolicited I love you’s that melt my heart. Whatever I was looking for at the bottom of that bottle was right in front of me. By removing one component I rearranged my whole life and changed not my future, but my children’s future. The old me died on December 28th by means of a failed suicide attempt, and a clean new sober canvas was born ready for all this life has in store for me and my family.
I could have wrote this as a domestic violence survivor, a sexual abuse survivor, a rape survivor, or suicide survivor, but my biggest accomplishment was refusing to let those labels and pain keep me chained to a substance that allowed others to dictate my life. A substance that was robbing my children of the mother and life they deserve. I don’t write this in defeat, but with unbridled optimism that at least one mother will read this and be moved to find her worth, and cherish the gift of motherhood. Forget the party it goes on without you. Know what does go on without you? Time. In the blink of an eye your baby is a teen and I don’t want anyone to feel the regret I have endured knowing the moments I missed just to see who was at the bar. To me what matters is my children and being a whole happy person for them and a living example of perseverance and optimism.
**If you would like to see more of Martha and her work, visit her at recoveroutloudllc