In an special 2-part Interview, over the last 8 weeks I have been working very closely with MMA athlete Lauren Murphy (Taylor) on an Exclusive Interview about her life. Lauren has been very ‘open’ and ‘brutally honest’ on the path that she grew up on and how Drink and Drugs took a hold of her young life, how a chance meeting with the sport Jiu Jitsu changed everything for her.
The Invicta FC Bantamweight has her biggest test to date on December 7th when she takes on Miriam Nakamoto for the Bantamweight Belt; but first I take you back to when Lauren was growing up and what shaped her for the ‘Fighter’ she became today…
“I believe fighting can be such selfish work, and MMA can be so selfish, so it’s nice to hear that people can get something out of me fighting. I never get enough of hearing people say that I am inspiring.” Lauren Murphy
EB. You grew up in a small town called Eagle River in Alaska, what was it like growing up there for you?
LM. I hated it! I hated being from a small town. I always wanted to part of all the action in a big city and all the cool stuff that I imagined was going on there: More people, more concerts, more crazy stuff happening; I travelled as a kid with my family, we went places like Hawaii, and San Francisco. I have family in Stockton, California, and we would go there sometimes. We would go to these cities and there would be stores like we did not have in Alaska, the parks were way cooler, there were more activities, a LOT more people… then I would go home to my small little town and I did not like it, I always wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere but in that small town.
EB. How was your childhood, growing up?
LM. There were definitely some times that I went through that I hope my son will never have to go through; but there were really good times too, and I really want to make that clear, we had a lot of good times, there were some parts of it that were not ‘normal’, but what is normal? Looking back now that I am older, we had good times, we had bad times. In a lot of ways I was really blessed as a kid, but I could not see that, I don’t know why. Looking back now my parents did the best that they could with what they had, and they really tried their best to raise me right. But they both drank a lot and that can really f**k you up- it just makes you do weird things and sometimes awful things, and sometimes we saw that as kids: we saw our parents do really shitty things to each other and it was scary, it can be terrifying for children to see that kind of stuff. So it definitely shapes the way that I think, and made me who I am for sure, but I need to make it real clear to you that we had some real good times when I was growing up too and my parents gave me what they could.
My dad died when I was 11 and that was pretty terrible. I was a daddy’s girl. Me and my dad were buds, we were best friends. I wanted to be just like him. When he passed away it broke my heart, I mean, it broke my heart.
EB. The lead up to your involvement into drink and drugs at an early age, can you pinpoint as to why or maybe you went down this route?
LM.Even if my upbringing had been perfect, even if my parents had done everything right, I probably would still have an addict like personality. I really believe that no matter what, I was born this way, and if I were to go start drinking right now, I would drink alcoholically, like a maniac. And right now, my life is the best it’s ever been, and I’m really happy with the way things are; So, you see? what goes on outside of me doesn’t make a difference on the way that I drink; it’s the way I process alcohol and drugs even, it is just different from that of a normal person; I’ve met people that can do cocaine like once or twice and be like “eh”, and not really care about it and never do it again because it doesn’t do anything for them. For me, any drug or any substance that makes me feel different makes me want to do it all the time, so maybe the way I grew up may have shaped me a little bit but no matter what I still would have done drugs and drank like crazy.
I think most teenagers come across drink and drugs in their teenage life at some point, you’re just going to experiment with stuff, they are going to try and piss their parents off, do things different, be rebellious. For me though, it wasn’t just good enough to do it a little bit. I loved it, I loved the lifestyle, I loved the way it made me feel. I wanted to do it all the time. To me it was something I was good at, something that made me feel good.
EB. What kind of drugs were you talking about here?
LM. Living in a small town I would do whatever, as it came in waves. I definitely went through periods where I would do cocaine for awhile, like a couple of months, then somebody would have a bunch of acid, so we would take acid for a couple of months, then maybe it was ecstasy for a while. Not every day or anything, just whatever was around. In a small town, stuff comes in waves; everything is not available all the time; in a small town you have to know people, you have to know what’s around and what’s coming in, then get a hold of it while you can, although I started off with cannabis and alcohol in my teenage years.
EB. It appears you became pretty dependant on drugs and alcohol at an impressionable age, how were you managing to fund such an addiction at an early age?
LM. I had some shitty jobs, I worked lame jobs around town and stuff. I don’t think I really stole too much. I would ask mom for money sometimes, and say I needed to go shopping but then I would go get high; mostly I think I had a job from about the ages of 14/15. I worked at fast food restaurants, or I would babysit, or anything I could get around town. I would do odd jobs. I always found a way to make money. Then I started selling cigarettes to the kids at school, and that was the first time ever I started ‘making money’. I also think I had a boyfriend back then and he would go buy a bunch of cigarettes for me and I would go sell them to all the kids at school, I thought I so cool at the time, you know, like you do (laughs).
EB. A ‘way of life’ to you was a ‘criminal type’ later in life to fund the habit that in essence took hold of you; what kind of things did you get up to?
LM. From the ages of 14-17 I didn’t do too much ‘bad’, I went out and earned most of my money, I liked to drink and get high, but we didn’t go out and really hurt anybody. I would shoplift sometimes or it would be stupid ‘petty crimes’, but I would never really hurt anybody. It was when I got older, maybe 17/18/19, I started getting really crazy, breaking into places and such. There was potential for people to get seriously hurt from some of the stuff we were doing, there was potential for ourselves to get hurt also and I think that is when things started kicking in. The older I got, the more daring I got, the more willing I got to do stupid crap with stupid people. We would just go do crazy stuff, mostly I would steal stuff, I stole a lot of stuff in that time period. I can’t even tell you how much it was but later on in life I had to make a lot of amends, I had to make it right in a lot of ways. Back then, I would lie to people, cheat and steal, try and rip people off…that was the way we all kind of lived. When you’re doing drugs, everyone is trying to f**k everyone else; you’re going to sell shitty dope to people; you’re going to take their money and not give them anything for it; you’re going to shoplift all kinds of stuff from stores or out of peoples houses or whatever, sometimes some of the people I was with they would go get money by robbing people or whatever, and I would be okay with it. To me that was okay. It was okay to lie, cheat, and steal, I did all those things, with really no remorse. Looking back on it now, I feel so lucky. The amount of people now who carry guns and shoot people over nothing, you can only imagine if they catch someone who is actually wronging them. I’m really blessed to be alive. I don’t even know how many close calls there were, or even all the times we would get crazy and get into a vehicle and be high or drunk or something, and be driving around. It was just crazy.
EB. Your real ‘addiction’ became when you were left a huge lump sum of monies at the age of 18, can you talk me through this?
LM. I lived at home till I was 16/17 then I moved out. My dad died when I was 11. He was killed in a plane crash and there was a law suit. The company was charged with a wrongful death suit, and there was a settlement. Out of that money I was given a lump sum when I was 18 years old and I just went crazy. That was where a lot of the drugs and alcohol I did came from. I blew this huge sum of money I got. I had no responsibility really. I had my son, but he was just an infant and I was a young dumb kid so, the baby would go stay with my mom a lot. My mom lived right down the road, and she took really good care of him, while I went out and partied my face off. She took care of him more than she should have, but because of it, he gets to have a really cool relationship with his grandma. They have a very special, close relationship.
EB. All the while whilst you were ‘living this lifestyle’ did your mum not suspect any abnormal behaviour? Or were they dealing with their own issues at the time?
LM. My mom knew that I was in a lot of trouble and she knew that I was doing a lot of drugs. Maybe she wasn’t aware the extent of it all, but she knew it wasn’t good. She knew that I was living a shitty lifestyle and that’s part of the reason she took care of my son so much. I think she didn’t want him to be in that environment, for one thing, and for another, she has this belief that- and I think this is true too- you can’t make somebody else straighten up. So she was like, “well, stay safe, and I love you and I’m going to let you do whatever you need to do, then whenever you’re ready to get clean and sober you know where I’m at.” That was always her attitude, she would go to meetings a lot and I would go with her sometimes, I got to know everybody there. I would go introduce myself and stuff and she was always willing to bring me with her and she more led by example, she didn’t really tell me she just showed me that you could live clean and sober and have a good life.
EB. There were more than one occasions where you classed yourself as having ‘overdosed’ can you tell me about just one of these incidents?
LM. One time we were doing cocaine, in my truck in a parking lot. It was the very last of it, I didn’t have any more drugs and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I was homeless at the time, staying in my truck. I didn’t have any friends left or anything. I was a mess. There was a girl with me (my dealer), we were using needles, shooting it up, and I did the last of what I had and I had a seizure. I remember feeling like I couldn’t really breathe, and I wanted some air so badly, then I don’t remember anything after that. I woke up and I was looking at this girl that was with me, and she was looking at me. I didn’t understand what had happened, I was like, “What was you looking at? Stop!” I was angry for some reason. She said, “You just had a seizure!” I was like, “You’re kidding me, I had a seizure?” I couldn’t believe it. She said, “Yeah, you hit your head on the horn, you made a bunch of noise and everything, are you ok?” I said, “I guess so”. She said I needed to drive her home, so I drove her home, about 30 miles away. Looking back now, that is just crazy. I was scared, so I went to a friend’s house, and I sat down with them and said “Look, I had a seizure this afternoon and I ‘overdosed’ and I don’t really know what to do.” They said I needed to go to the hospital, and they called an ambulance and my mom. My mom met me at the hospital, and she was crying, she had seen stuff like this before when she was drinking and using. She met me at the hospital and I was just laying in this hospital bed, I was dirty, I was tired, I was detoxing, I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had some friends there, but the nurses and the doctors didn’t want anything to do with me, I was just dirty, trashy; It was pathetic. I was pathetic. I said a little prayer, “God, if you get me out of this sane and alive I will never, ever, ever, use drugs again, ever.” And I meant it so much! I was discharged from the hospital that night and I went to my mom’s house and stayed the night there, then got up the next day and I just started getting high again. I could not stop.
EB. After each time, was there a cycle of promising yourself that if you managed to find your way out you wouldn’t touch a drop of alcohol or do drugs again?
LM. I always said, “I will stop tomorrow”, “I will quit tomorrow”…and then tomorrow would come, and then I would say, “Okay just this once”… then I would be off to the races again. I would make lists and write them down, like, tomorrow I’m going to get a job, I’m going to wake up early, I’m going to be a responsible mom, a better friend, I’m going to do all this stuff… and then I would wake up the next day and I would go get high. I didn’t have an excuse or a reason. I knew I shouldn’t, but every day I was going to “quit tomorrow”, for like five years.
EB. At the age of 17 you became a mum to your beautiful son Max, how did you cope becoming a mum so young and dealing with your addictions?
LM. The way I dealt with it was I dropped him off at my mom’s house and she took care of him a lot. When I was 17 I thought I knew everything. I thought I was such an adult, I had life all figured out, and nobody could tell me different. I thought I was so grown up. Looking back of course (I’m now 30), I know I was such an idiot, but I did not know that at the time. I thought I knew everything, so if you had asked me when I was 17, to me there was no problem. I thought I had everything under control.
EB. Having a child, some may say, may of gave them the clarity they needed to become clean and sober, was this the case for yourself?
LM. No. I mean, I regret to say that, because people do, but here’s the thing: It should have been enough. Drinking and using like that is such a selfish state of mind, it does not matter who loves you or who you love more than anything on the planet. That was just where I was at that point in time, I knew I needed to get sober at some point but I just didn’t think it was then. When things did get really bad my son stayed with my mom. She really took care of him when things were really out of control, so he wasn’t exposed to that very much. I think also because he was with her so often I almost felt like I didn’t have a child to get sober for. He wasn’t there in front of me so I could just let loose.
EB. When did you and Max reunite as a family?
LM. Well, I had gotten sober at the age of 21. I went to rehab a couple of times. I was in and out of rehab for about a year before I actually got sober. Eventually, I had just had enough of whatever it was, that misery, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I thought “If I don’t stop doing this I am going to die”. I think because I had ‘overdosed’ a couple of times and things had gotten so shitty, a lot of my friends did not want to be around me anymore. I was out of money. I didn’t have anything to my name. I felt like I was too young for this sh*t, I’m f**king 21 years old, I want a life!
So I started going to meetings. Slowly piece by piece I started building my life up again. I got a shitty job, then another shitty job, then I got a pretty good job, I then started going back to school. I started meeting a lot of sober people, and made a lot of friends who were sober.
Max came to live with me when I was 22. I had been sober for around a year at that point I think. It was a learning experience to start with. I was figuring out how to be a mom and Max was of course confused as he was living with my mom, then he came to live with me, and that’s a big change for a kid. We moved around for a little bit from house to house. He’s a good kid and really resilient, thank God. We had a lot of good times and we had some crazy times too as we were trying to get used one another again. He would push the boundaries, try and figure out what was okay and what was not. All kids do, right?
I stayed sober for like 5 years. Max lived with me, and after he started going to school I started drinking again. It never got as bad as it was when I was a kid but it did get pretty bad, and I had to get sober again. So I was sober from 21-25/26 then I was drinking from 26-28.
EB. Do you feel you had a Brother/Sister connection more than a Mother/Son?
LM. I did at first but now I don’t, now I feel like his mom. I think maybe like the first six months or something it was really hard for us both to adjust back to having a mom and son relationship; he didn’t want to listen to me and I didn’t know what to tell him or what to do. I didn’t know what was okay. Now we definitely have a clear idea of what the boundaries are. He is also older now, it’s easier for a 12 year old to understand than a 6year old. He currently lives with his father in Alaska.
EB. In 2009 you enrolled Max (aged 8) in Martial Arts. What prompted you to think of Martial Arts for Max?
I always wished I knew Karate. I wished I had a black belt. There was a girl I went to elementary school with and she was a Taekwondo black belt at a really young age, like by the time we were in 6th grade (11years Old). She had been doing Taekwondo all through school the whole years I had known her. For show and tell she would bring in different coloured belts, she would do all these different presentations, and I thought she was the coolest person ever. I had wished I had done that. So here I am 26 years old, my son is with me, and I’ve got this idea: If I wasn’t able to do martial arts, I’m going to make sure you have an opportunity to. I wanted him to have something better and have a chance but I didn’t know anything. I thought, “Maybe we should do Judo, Taekwondo or Karate.” I didn’t even know what the differences were between any of them, so I just chose one at random and it happened to be a Gracie Barra where they did Jiu Jitsu. I took him there, bought the GI, put him out on the mat and watched him.
EB. When you were younger, you took Karate lessons and enjoyed them, what was the reason for you not going anymore?
LM. I remember going to karate, and we would have to get rides with people. Our neighbours would have to give us rides, as it was too far to walk or take the bus, and we were too young for that anyway. We couldn’t get there ourselves, and a lot of times our parents just wouldn’t take us. They would be drunk, so they couldn’t drive us anywhere. Or we would be at my dad’s house, or in between houses, it was just too difficult. I remember the instructor pulling me aside and saying, “If you don’t show up for more classes I can’t give you your yellow belt”, and I literally burst in to tears. I was so heartbroken because it’s wasn’t my fault, I really wanted to be there. She wouldn’t pass me and I’m not sure, maybe I just perceived her as being super mean about it, but to me I was so humiliated. Looking back I now, it’s pretty easy for a kid to get a yellow belt in karate. They don’t have to do too much, so I don’t know if we were really that lame or if the teacher was being that mean. I wasn’t going long, only maybe a month or so, but I loved going. If I had kept going, who knows, maybe I would have been twice the fighter I am now (laughs).
EB. After you enrolled Max in Jiu jitsu, how did he take to it?
LM. He didn’t, he thought it was too invasive, too much in your personal space.
EB. You decided to enrol in Jiu Jitsu to try and help Max engage more, with you knowing nothing of the sport, how was this for you?
LM. I thought, “If he’s going to do it, I might as well do it. I may be too old now to go anywhere with it, but at least I will give it a shot.” I loved it, I immediately fell in love with it.
I often think about how funny it is; It wasn’t a big deal but it was a life changing decision.
I’m adding in Lauren’s Thank You’s which are in the second part of this interview which will be up after her fight.
I’d like to thank my husband Joe, I love him so much it hurts. He changed my life and I don’t think I’d be here today without him. I’d also like to thank my family, especially my mum and my son, they have been with me and loved me through thick and thin.
I have some great sponsors in American Knockout Wear, they help me through my fight camps and have supported me a ton, please go check them out atwww.akowear.com and buy yourself a Lauren Murphy T-Shirt. Part of the proceeds go to a really cool charity that supports a program called KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program). My manager, Paul Stockler for looking out for me and my career, and to my team at Gracie Barra Katy. They are so good to me, especially my coaches Pat, Alex, Pena, and Ted. Thanks also to the guys at Westchase and Draculino’s. 🙂
In part 2 we talk about finding Jiu Jitsu, MMA, New Addictions, Invicta, the love of her life, UFC and the future……
Photo Credits: Lauren Murphy, Brian McNulty-American Knockout Wear, Invicta
Special Thanks to Lauren Murphy for her generous time given to myself to allow me to do this interview and all that goes with it 🙂