There Is a Solution


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.

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12 responses to “There Is a Solution

  1. I had found your blog a while back when it was dormant, and your words resonated for some reason. Despite a difference – my addiction is food, not alcohol – I know that you are right about acceptance and surrender. Surrender is a hard concept for a control fanatic like me… so I look forward to your dialogue..

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    • Thanks Ellen. Hope you’re well and hope you join the dialogue. Your comment reminded me that “control” and the impossible desire to hang on to some semblance of it is probably the biggest roadblock to serenity. A daily struggle for me still and at a point in life when I should automatically know better. Self knowledge avails us nothing, right? Look forward to hearing from you again. Kayko

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  2. I got divorced in January, 2001. Every divorce is different but… I probably know how you’ve been going through the stages. I do care about you, Greg. Take one day at each day. I really hope you stay healthy.

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  3. Greg, I have a request of you. A friend of mine recommended your blog to me. Maybe you’ve done this and I haven’t seen it, but how have your views of yourself changed through getting sober and having a marriage end? What’s your identity? Who are you really?

    I believe that addiction is the secular word for what the Bible calls slavery. While we’re born free to some degree, we’re really just free to choose our master. What master we choose is based in our identity. If you have interest in exploring that in this blog, I’d love to read it.

    yiothesia8.wordpress.com

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  4. yiothesia8,

    First off, thanks to you for stopping by and thanks to your friend for the rec. The request is a pretty tall order, especially the “who am I” part, but I’d definitely like to take a crack at it in an upcoming post. In short, if addiction is akin to slavery, and I think it is, then recovery makes us servants of our fellows. At least mine has. More in a future post. Cheers.

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  5. I would think “who am I” is challenging becuase “I” am always evolving and (hopefully) growing – so defining who I am is tough. It is easier for me (I can only speak for myself) to define, at any moment, the values I would like to live my life by; and even that changes.

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  6. ‘Who I am’ seems to me to be very much a statement of the gap between the person I currently am and the person I’m becoming. Our values certainly are part of the process of growth, as they define, to some extent, our path. When adversity hits, if we don’t have a firm sense of how we understand ourselves, we’re at risk for destructive behavior. It’s all part of our identity.

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    • Ryan,

      RT@Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio Explains Consciousness via @huffpostbooks http://huff.to/99nhMY

      Just noticed this article on huffington post and thought it might be of interest. Speaks to identity. Kayko

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      • Solid article. It hits dead on the issues I had as someone addicted to self-preservation through deceit. The tension between the various levels of self are destructive. As my relationship with Christ has grown, my fears have been quelled, and I’m able to live with an integrity that allows my “true” self to be expressed regardless of circumstances. I’m far from perfect as God continues to offend my mind to reveal my heart. But it’s precisely the tension between those levels of cognition that lead us into self-destructive behaviors.

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  7. Hey Greg…

    Facinating to hear your story. Bear many similarities to mine. My divorce happened pre-recovery but served as the catalyst of desperation that beat me sufficiently to seek the help I needed for so long to effectively deal with my alcoholism and alcoholic thinking.

    Glad to hear you remained sober and sane through your divorce and wife’s betrayal. Mine to had someone waiting in the wings.

    This was incomprehensible to me. Fascinating to hear how someone like yourself applied the program to their life during this time whereas I went nuts without one.

    Glad to say life is way better today. Glad yours is too.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

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    • Chaz,

      Was a regular at your blog before the legal mumbo-jumbo started back in February and life got insanely busy. Now that the seas have calmed a bit, I’ll have to get back to it (your blog, that is). Thanks for stopping by and look forward to your posts as well.

      BTW: My first marriage (and divorce) was essentially my cost of entry into AA. Paid a high enough price back then I figured I’d better use the principles of the program to get me through the second one, especially since it involved kids. I know what you mean about going nuts at times of adversity in the absence of some framework for living. Take care.

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      • Hi Greg… pop by any time. I comment on other blogs more than I post on my own but I check in daily.

        Lots of experiences to share for those of us who have travelled parallel paths.

        Will check back with you. Glad to know you are doing well through all fo this. I am sure you know this, but let me reconfirm that “this too will pass”, whatever ‘this’ may happen to be today.

        Regards,

        Chaz

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