May 22 of every year is special, simply because we made it.
I am not sure how, but we did.
I can’t sit here and say that when our story began it was ideal or even close to something healthy but regardless, it started and our story kept on going.
It is nothing short of a modern-day miracle that we are still speaking to each other.
How we are even friends today who love and respect each other is beyond me (in a very literal sense).
Of course our relationship didn’t start out in a healthy or normal place.
I wasn’t either of those things and had never been.
And as for him He was still processing and coping with (drinking away) the recent death of his dad. But we came together, and bam!
We became one giant black hole of all things dysfunctional with fun sprinkled in between.
This was ‘us’.
Which was great, because that is what I was accustomed to anyway.
Except that he wasn’t abusive, or controlling, or dealing anything illegal and I liked him anyway.
In reality the very real contrasts between he and I were important, and really, should have kept us very far apart.
He didn’t come from generations of dysfunction or unhealthy living. His family dynamic was pretty healthy and included sober people, established boundaries, a family business, lakes houses fun memories, annual family vacations, and even a long-time pastor in the mix. None of this means he came from perfection by any stretch, but for his family, it did mean that there was balance and tradition and love, and bonds that were created.
And while he may not have been grieving & dealing with his dad’s passing in a healthy way, and while he did drink a lot …..he wasn’t (and isn’t) an alcoholic.
He did own his own business and was also a home owner. He even paid his bills on time and by all accounts, was a typical 26 -year-old bachelor.
As for me? I looked normal on the outside and I did that on purpose.
I always had, actually.
From a very young age I got very good at dressing the part of ‘normal’ or what I thought that ‘normal’ looked like. One the inside I was truly just a shit storm of rage, navigating life aimlessly, doing my best to fit wherever I could fit while secretly I was really seeking some kind of relief or acceptance or validation, or probably all three. We didn’t have a family dynamic. Wait. We did, but it disconnected and patchy and was contingent on codependency and helping each other in the worst ways possible.
I did have a few fun memories tucked away and had taken vacations with my grandma. But most of that was done because she felt so guilty and responsible for the way that things turned out for my brother and I, and I thank her for those experiences. But if a few vacations could have reversed trauma I probably wouldn’t be here sharing this story at all, and honestly, I hate that she felt that way.
By the time I crossed paths with my now-husband, I was a 22-year-old high-school drop-out, working, single-mother of one, who was also addicted to prescription medication, who also preferred to work at a bar to feel a tiny bit more justified about habit of drinking every day by noon.
Oddly, I was able to spew false confidence like nobody’s business and I also aspired to be something someday without actually believing that I was capable of anything.
But somehow our paths crossed.
And by somehow, I mean I was a bartender and he liked to drink with his buddies.
A match made in heaven we were.
And the truth is, I didn’t even attempt to reciprocate any interest in him for the first couple of months and after we did start dating, I didn’t even think about sobriety until we were together for a solid six months.
It took eight for the idea to stick, and for my recovery to officially get off of the ground, or out of the ditch, or whatever.
That doesn’t sound like a long time.
Except that it is in terms of addiction. It’s can feel like a lifetime for everyone involved.
Day-to-day living with someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol, or essentially, addicted to escape as quickly as possible on days that end in ‘y’ feels like a form of self-torture.
Eight months of me lying or wiggling out of telling the truth at every turn.
Eight months of not really knowing where I was or if I would show up or if I would disappear or if I would come back.
Eight months of me being in court or in and out of jail or getting pulled over or being picked up for one thing or another.
Eight months of a lot of drama and the unknown.
It would be like riding a roller-coaster that you have never been on without a seat-belt.
Sort of like white knuckling every single day and only being able to exhale when they were sleeping right next to you, but at the same time you can’t sleep because you have to make sure they are still breathing, yet you are still grateful that you actually know where they are.
Dating me would have been exactly like that.
As a healthy sober person who is sitting here typing this post I can tell you with one-hundred percent certainty that I wouldn’t have put up with my sh*t.
I would have left and I would have left a long before eight months, probably before eight weeks, and maybe even after eight dates.
I am glad he didn’t.
Because he is obviously certifiable.
But when I ask him what his problem was his answer always surprises me even though I have already heard him explain himself over and over again in different ways.
It really wasn’t that he felt sorry for me.
He had seen a glimpse of ‘me’ and somehow felt that I was hurting and pretending.
So I guess he saw me sober once or twice, probably in the morning.
And apparently, I wasn’t as great at hiding my pain or how much I was hurting as I had thought.
Somehow, he was able to see the very human parts of me and found them to be likable, and even, worthy of love.
He has told me that he could see how much I was trying every day to keep it all together and how much I struggled to balance my family situation with my own, and how much I struggled to keep them separate and also how much my compartmentalizing wasn’t working for me.
Funny how things look from someone else who has a sober, healthy vantage point, right?
It is so much easier to pinpoint where the problems and solutions might be hiding when you are looking in from a distance.
It is much more difficult to see a way out of the maze when you have been spinning around in the dark tunnel year-after-year and have lost all sense of direction, like you are stuck in a bad adult version of pin the tale on the donkey or something.
But he was standing outside, in the light, without all of the weight of the past or the drama and the confusion.
And instead of trying to fix me or change me, he handed me off to a group of people who led me into recovery, and helped me to face and uncover my own truth for myself.
Anyway, here we are celebrating year ten.
Instead of trying to convince myself that this whole thing began with an intricate web of perfectly timed coincidence all strung together I choose to believe that God had his hand right in the middle of my broken road and He helped it all come together in a way that could only be explained by His Grace.
My marriage is an imperfect but healthy living and breathing thing.
I am so grateful to know what it feels like to endure ups and downs with another human, while remaining loyal and accepting, and excited and connected at the very same time.
It’s the coolest thing.
So here’s to ten more.