Facing the cold hard truth by Lauren Hall

So aside from being a single mumma to my two little guys who are 2.5 and 14 months, I’m also an English teacher, tutor, landlord, Masters degree holder, excellent friend, wannabe runner, mad Tigers fan and above all, happier than I have ever been! I’m not afraid to say it – I’m a happy single mumma getting it done!

My story to single motherhood status began way back when I met my ex-husband ten years ago. It was bucketing down with rain and I was at the pub with my best mate when we met. I was 27, sick of being single and clearly lacking in good judgement.

Even from those early days, I knew deep down this wasn’t the love of my life; he drank a lot, the bong on the coffee table and little plastic packets of white powder probably should’ve sent me running. But, ever the rescuer, I think I thought I could change him – and change him I did.

From living in a surfers shack with the boys, he soon moved into adult life with me. The bong went, the hair got cut, he got serious about his career. We fell into that easy pattern of life together, but my internal alarm knew things weren’t great. The constant need to drink every night, as well as the occasional bender on the party drugs slowly crept back in.

I was 32 when he finally proposed and being surrounded by happy married friends, of course I said yes. My biological clock was ticking and more than anything I wanted to be a mum. So, I guess I convinced myself that this was it. We had created a life for ourselves – a mortgage, travel, a social network of beautiful friends and family.

From the outside, it was textbook. But on the inside, the lingering, unspoken burden of addiction lay dormant, waiting to rear its head.

It took two long years to conceive our first born. Miscarriages, negative pregnancy tests and fertility treatment consumed me. All I could think about was motherhood.

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Meanwhile, I was ignoring some serious red flags. Huge withdrawals of money became a regular occurrence, severe mood swings, insults, long absences, excuses. When we’d argue and I’d try to leave, he’d physically stop me. Hide my keys. Then profusely apologise and promise he’d change. It’s just pressures from work. I’m sorry, I love you. You are my world. It’s going to get better, I promise.

I found out I was pregnant on Melbourne Cup day in 2013. Two strong pink lines and a blood test to back it up. I was so happy. He was so happy. I felt a huge calm descend over our lives. He was home, attentive and excited. But still, the money was vanishing.

We went away to Bali that Christmas, a treat for everything we’d been through. It was horrific. He was aggressive, rude, distant. He couldn’t sit still and was sweating profusely. Looking back at that holiday now, I know he was detoxing. Unable to bring his ice pipe with him.

It was March when my sister sat me down and said, “Lauren, he’s using ICE…”. A close friend had confided in her and she felt compelled to tell me.

Twenty weeks pregnant and absolutely devastated. I confronted him and he admitted it was all true. He’d even used on our wedding day.

ICE is a drug that is invisible. It doesn’t smell and for those who don’t use every day, it’s easy to keep the secret. He said he wanted to quit, he wanted out. He wanted to be a good father. I left for 6 weeks. He moved home with his parents, got help. He had everything to lose and he fought hard. We moved into a new house, back home, closer to our parents. For those few months just before our bubba was born and in the months after, he was that good father. Proud, loving, hard working. He repaired friendships, earned back the trust of my family. We made plans.

When our beautiful boy was just 9 months old, I fell pregnant naturally. After so much heartache with falling pregnant the first time around, I couldn’t believe it. He was overjoyed and we began making new plans. Two under two! But, between returning to work, being horribly sick for the entire pregnancy and juggling a very busy toddler, I failed to notice he was slipping away from me again.

Once the little one arrived life got even harder. I needed an ally, a partner. Instead I got the missing money, the lies, the red skin, the erratic behaviour. The extended absences, the iPad going ‘missing’, the screaming matches and finally the physical abuse where he began pushing me in front of our sons. My family could see it, but I kept trying hard to cover up for him. How could I fail at this? How could I have gone back, had another baby to an addict? What would everyone say? She’s an idiot, surely she should’ve known this would happen.

 

Inspiring single mums - Lauren

It was June 15, 2016 when I asked him to take a drug test after work one night. He scoffed at me and tried to make excuses. But I knew 100% at that moment our marriage and our life together was done.

I packed a huge suitcase the next morning when he’d gone to work and went home to my mum. I was exhausted. I was suffering from PND, I was sleep deprived. I had a five month old that wouldn’t sleep, recurring mastitis and a toddler who knew much more about life than he should.

For the first week, I slept. I blocked his calls and tried to come to terms with how I was going to get through this. Then, he went missing. He had nothing to hide now, and his habit consumed him. He went to the sewer and abandoned every responsibility he had. In the space of 12 weeks he lost his job, smashed his car, committed insurance fraud, ploughed through savings, sold possessions. He wouldn’t answer phone calls, ignored friends and family who were desperately trying to help.

I was left to mop up our life. End a lease, pay the bills. I had nothing. I have always worked, but I was on Maternity Leave with not a cent to my name. I called Centrelink. I was a single mother, on single parent payments. He had singlehandedly taken a sledgehammer to the life we had built and smashed it to pieces.

I have never hated anyone so much in my life. But despite all the hardship, I didn’t feel heartbroken. I wasn’t sad it was over, in fact I was relieved. It was time to call it a day. It was raw and real. That’s what facing up to the truth does. It shines a light on everything and even though it can be brutal, the truth is liberating.

So, nine months on, nine months down, I’m here. Stronger and happier. Excited about life without an addict.

I’m not the greatest mum in the world – my sons co-sleep with me most nights, there’s probably too much apple juice, TV and swearing going on – but I do my best and I am more determined than ever to raise them in a safe, stable home where they are never lied to, let down or disappointed.

I have worked so hard to create a new home for them, to have clothes and medicines and trips to the beach. There’s so much laughter in our home and no longer do I walk on eggshells.

I’m outspoken and vocal on the issue of domestic violence in our society and the devastating impact that ICE is having on families all around this country. I believe, in many cases that the two are closely linked and so much more needs to be done to support the partners who are left in the aftermath.

My boys got me through the early days and now they serve as my motivation to be the best I can be. I want my sons to respect themselves and the women in their lives. To know that violence and aggression is never an option. To be aware of how dangerous drugs can be and to make the right choices.

My story is sadly all too common in this country. This drug doesn’t discriminate and it destroys lives. But we all have choices in life and my choice was to put mine and my boys’ future and happiness first and foremost.

I have no regrets and I can walk away knowing I did all I could. This chapter won’t define me, but my role as single mother does and will and for that, I am so so proud.

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