On Valentine’s Day 2009, my wife announced she wasn’t sure she wanted to be married anymore. Shortly after her declaration of doubt, I began this blog. I launched it not to lament a marriage on the rocks, but to invite a discussion about how it is people with double-digit sobriety walk through some of life’s more disruptive moments with dignity and grace. In a phrase, how we deal with life on life’s terms.
On Valentine’s Day of this year, my now ex-wife announced she was filing for divorce. Shortly afterward I stopped posting to the blog for legal as well as personal reasons. On the second of July, before the divorce was actually final, she moved out of my house and into a house owned by the boyfriend I’d always suspected but to whom she never fessed up. (He was initially presented to my daughter and son as mommy’s “friend.”) Within hours of completing the move, my ex, my kids, the new “friend,” and his two daughters traipsed off to dinner at what had always been one of “our” favorite Mexican restaurants. A week later, on the 9th of July, the marriage was officially dissolved.
All told, the process, from the declaration of doubt to the dissolution of the marriage, took 18 months. During those 18 months and since, I’ve been approached by numerous men and a few women (most, but not all, in sobriety) who are now facing the same set of circumstances I faced: Spouses who declare they’ve fallen out of love and want to move on. Everyone asks the same question: How do you get through it? For some of those in sobriety, I know the underlying question is’ “How do I get through it without drinking (or going crazy trying to figure out why it happened)?”
I don’t know that I’ve gotten through anything, but I do know that I haven’t had a drink (in fact, I celebrated 12 years on the 31st of October), I haven’t become any crazier than I already was, and I haven’t exacted any vengeance since the process began. I haven’t tried to defame my ex (to the contrary, we’re better friends, I think, than we’ve been in years) or turn my kids against her. I haven’t stalked her boyfriend and waited for my chance to show him how fast and furiously an older man can move, jab, uppercut, knee, and head-butt once armed with evidence he’s been cuckolded. (Don’t get me wrong, my thoughts haven’t always been as pure as my deeds. I’ve overshot my exit by miles while driving home from work fantasizing how that encounter would go down, and who would hit the pavement first.)
What I do know is There Is a Solution. It’s the same solution that was handed to me the day I walked through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. Back in the early ’90s, when I first showed up at a place on Penn Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa known affectionately as the White House, I had dozens of “old-timers” feed me the classic newcomer line about staying sober: “Staying sober’s easy, Kid. All you have to do is change your whole goddamn life.” I often waited for the big guffaw as they walked off, but it never came. They meant it.
Luckily, as I branched out around the city to more and more meetings, I heard somewhat more expansive and hopeful versions of the same message. I was told that meeting makers make it; that if you don’t know what step you’re working today, you aren’t working a program; and, after strenuous resistance, I learned the value of sponsorship and became closely aligned with a group that valued action and sponsorship above all else (except maybe God) as a path to the solution. Prayer, meditation, studying the steps as they were presented in the Big Book, sponsoring and being sponsored, service work, fellowship–not necessarily in that order—were presented to me over and over as tenets of the solution, which, if practiced simply and consistently, patiently but fervently, calmly but often, would keep my ass from falling off. Initially, I resisted so much structure and direction in my life, a life that had been predicated on hard work, instant gratification, and the notion that, since my father was no longer alive, no one left on earth was going to tell me what to do—unless they had a gun. Consequently, my ass fell off repeatedly, I stayed drunk for years longer than I needed to, until finally, I was beaten into submission.
This time around, I’m not waiting to be beaten into submission. I’m testing acceptance and surrender from the start. And that’s where I’d like to restart this blog, with the solution as it presents itself on a daily basis, with a discussion about what it means to surrender and win. I hope you’ll join me.