Brand New All Over Again


This is a piece I wrote a few weeks ago for a treatment center alumni weekly newsletter.  My old treatment center, in fact, and one that I work with on a regular basis.  I wanted to share this here on my blog.

flowers

She found it while cleaning up.

My wife, sorting through some shelves, found our wedding photo. I hadn’t seen it in many, many years. The last time I had gazed at it, it was on the floor, surrounded by broken glass and a torn frame – remnants of an argument we had one night. A night no doubt driven by, and exacerbated by, my untreated alcoholism.

My marriage was often a barometer for my own mental and emotional health. My marriage was like my drinking – on the rocks and complicated, both fuelled by my ego and self-centered actions. My alcoholism had isolated me and kept me distant from the woman I had vowed to honour and cherish for the rest of our lives. I was a fading shadow. A ghost of that young man in that picture.

When I came to treatment, my wife had already asked me to leave the matrimonial home. I was living on my own for the first time in my life. We both didn’t know what was going to happen, but it was clear that working on my recovery was first and foremost. Without that, everything else would crumble at the softest of breezes.

I took the advice from the old-timers who said that my Higher Power would take care of things once I took care of my recovery. I worked the steps, kept open to new experiences, and started the process of gaining clarity and accessing what was previously shut down within. I found a connection to the Creator and found His spirit moving through and throughout me. I started to move towards healing from within so that I might heal without.

My wife needed to do her own healing as well. Living for many years beside the twister of an alcoholic husband does its own damage. It fractures and weakens. Tears and breaks. As we started to heal, we started to talk. We talked honestly and openly for the first time. Gone were the layers of deceit and resentment. We were able to come together and have real heart-felt dialogues. Talks about what we wanted and where we saw ourselves. Unbeknownst to us, the process of coming together in a new and healthy way was starting to happen.

The ironic thing was that during this process, we were convinced at some level that we would not be back together. The betrayal my wife felt through my actions and secrecy took a heavy toll. The anger and hurt that my wife felt through my DUI and subsequent consequences was a burdensome cross. But somehow hope slipped through those cracks. And hope started to bloom and burst forth. Hope stemming from my step work and through our connection to the Creator and my wife’s gradual willingness to work through our issues. I started to see that spirituality and romance could co-exist. In fact, inventory work moved me to write my romantic ideal – how I saw my wife, how I would treat her, how I would honour my commitment to her.

Fast forward a few years now and we’ve continued to grow in our marriage. We’ve had another child since. We’ve learned to appreciate each other in new ways. I see in her now what attracted me to her in the first place. I have learned to practice spiritual principles in my relationship with her. I have learned to see things in a new light, to practice empathy and entertain her ideas and thoughts, rather than bulldozing through her like I used to. We have come together as a real partnership. We have never raised our voices once since we have come back together.

Our marriage is based on full honesty, devotion, patience, understanding and respect – things that I wasn’t able to give way back when. We have learned to walk hand-in-hand through the rough patches and to celebrate the fun times. We’ve been able to come to a maturity in our marriage that we only dreamed of before everything came crumbling down.

Coming back meant doing work, and continuing to work at it. But I have come to learn that it’s not just about coming back to an old marriage; it’s also about creating a new one. It’s a brand new marriage. And if that’s the case, we’re still newlyweds. And it feels like it.

My wife once told me, about a year into my recovery, something that I have never forgotten. While we were separated, she took a trip to see her friend in Florida. And while at the beach, she made a list in the sand of what she sought in a mate. Honest, spiritual, strong, open-minded, etc. And it was about six months into my recovery that she saw in me the very things she carved into the shore that day. That has shown me the power of what is possible in recovery.

That wedding picture now sits in our living room. A bit faded, a bit ragged at the edges, but there is still that bright light that shines from our eyes. Those eyes still shine bright today. But with the knowledge that we come from authentic places, and all pretence and pain dropped and washed away.

We celebrated nineteen years of marriage last month.

Brand new all over again.

married-3_1615820a
Us, in a few years.

52 Comments Add yours

  1. One day at a time says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It gives us (well me) at the beginning of recovery some hope. I have a lot of healing to do and a lot of bridges to build…. but my effort is all centred on reaching 100 days sober at the moment.

    1. Thank you for reading and being here 🙂

      I am rooting for you on the 100 days (and beyond). At 60+ days now, you’re already seeing the small (and not so small!) things that come with sobriety. What joy! And guess what? There’s more to come. Don’t just take my word on it – ask around. We all have some grand things to say. Mind you, there will be bumps and potholes…not gonna gloss over that, but in the end, it’s all worth it 🙂

      Love and light,
      Paul

    2. dorkmasterfunk2013 says:

      This is a great blog posting. I was about to leave my own comment when I read this comment by one day at a time. My first alcoholic thought was almost 100 days, I was right where you are over 15 years ago, one day at a time. My sencond thought was: man I wish I used that name before he did so I can have it. (one of my character defects is greed) . So my new friend(hopfully) One dayat a time even after all these years of going to the rooms, being active, sponsoring other people having different sponsors because sometimes they die or move to England. Keep up the good work 1.d.a.t. and concentrate on being there for yourself and your loved ones one day at a time. Just a thought that worked for me: my first 2 years I did 90 in 90 8 times. and after all these years I’m 62 days into another 90 in 90.
      Peace.

      1. Welcome DMF. Thanks for the groovy comments (and I read your post over in your corner of the world…wow. Hoping to get a comment in there soon). I hope my sponsor doesn’t move to England…is that where they go retire? lol. 90 in 90 eight times? wow! I did 210 in 90 early on and haven’t come even close to that since. That’s a lot of fellowship 🙂 And clearly whatever you’re doing is working for you.

        Coolio – thanks for the drop in…hope you feel welcome here.

        Paul

  2. lucy2610 says:

    Beautiful Paul 🙂

    1. Thank you very much Lucy – very kind of you to say that here.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  3. Congratulations you two crazy kids. Seems like only yesterday you hijacked grampa’s jalopy and dragged tied shoes and cans off to honeymoon in Niagra Falls. To see you now, 19 years later still going strong is beyond inspiring.
    Beautiful piece, too. Reads uber clean and strong. Flows silky smooth.
    So huge bravo on both. The anniversary. And the message it carries.
    Love,
    Marius

    1. Ah, you remember those pics I sent ya eh? Good memory, young warrior. You have a Mensa mind and heart. Big and roomy and oh so smart. But in a good way – not in an algebra way.

      Thanks for the kind words, Mr. G. You always have a way of making this hombre feel good, and yet humbled. That’s talent. And as for the verbiage on this one, I am hoping to tread more this way. Lighter, more to the point. The word count required for the newsletter always gets me whittling things down, separating wheat from chaff. So that is probably something I look forward in doing here a bit more.

      Life now with my bride is wonderful. I can’t say enough about how things are different now. Fully completely there now – it’s a new way of living and relating and it really does feel new, and at the same time, we carry history and compassion and other things with us, so it’s also comfortable.

      Thanks Marius for being here.

  4. Number 9 says:

    You are such a great writer! I love this. Happy anniversary!

    1. Regina! It’s been too long since you’ve been here. Big smile on my face right now 🙂 Thanks for being here and the kind words! Hope all is well on your side of the swing set!

      Blessings,
      Paul

  5. This was absolutely beautiful, Paul. Congratulations on 19 years of marriage. Not too many people can accomplish such a love so you both are very lucky you found one another and worked together to grow and learn from each other.
    First of all, I can relate to this on so many levels. During my worst years with alcohol abuse, I was an entity no one could reach… Not even myself. Sadly, the man who swept me off my feet and was my college sweetheart and then companion for 6 years suffered from my wrath. Our love was destroyed by my choices and addiction and I have not seen that person for over 4 years. He was a great love but I made the choice to leave because I couldn’t live with the decisions I made and how much I hurt him.
    Fast forward to now, I’m with someone who I love very much and our relationship, too, almost withered away with my alcoholism. But this person showed me another world… a world without alcohol. And we have had to work a lot to get to where we are now. Key word…work. Sobriety is important for us alcoholics when it come to our relationships or marriage because it enables us to put forth the strength, work and dedication needed for us to grow with our companions.
    I’m going to share this post with a friend of mine. I think this will help her a lot. LOVE IT.

    1. Thank you Gina. Work is the word, my friend. It’s work. We alcoholics don’t do relationships very well, especially in our sick times. Even when we get well, things don’t always work out. I know many guys who ended up divorcing or splitting with partners even years into their sobriety. Sometimes the damage is too great…and it sounds like that was your experience.

      I am so happy that your new man is there for you and also worked with you in showing you the other world – booze free and happy 🙂 It’s a wonderful place to be and can’t imagine going back. What a bona drag that would be.

      Thanks for sharing this – that’s very kind of you!

      Have a terrific day and thanks for your wonderful comments 🙂

      Paul

  6. REDdog says:

    Well done Paul, another heart warming and encouraging message. And congratulations on 19 years, my Queen and I ticked that off last October, so we’re not that far apart…a major milestone to be sure. Deepest respect, man. REDdog

    1. REDdog – isn’t it amazing how quickly it all goes by? And you and your Queen have gone through a lot too, especially recently…and boy doesn’t that bring people closer (except when it’s breaking them apart, that is…ha ha). Cliched, I know, but it really does bring the two of you to new place, and the things that might have been reason for a row now seem inconsequential. I have learned to let go of some thing that in the past would have been a thorn in my side. (I am still a neat freak, but I don’t freak out like I used to 🙂 )

      Glad you’re here, kind sir – have a fab day!

      Paul

  7. Happy 19 years.
    So glad you both took a second chance with other. When you find a good one, you do whatever it takes to keep them and you both did that!

    1. Thanks Carrie! I have certainly been the lucky dog having my wife in my life after everything. She is good peeps, indeed 🙂

      Glad to have you here!

  8. good2begone says:

    Beautifully written, Paul. I could feel your emotions all the way through it. Congrats to you and your wife and you carry on what was meant to be. You 2 will obviously look great in a few years!

    1. Thanks G2BG. I am looking forward to when we will look like that couple at the end there. What a gas that’s gonna be! Thanks for being here – always happy to see you here!

      Paul

  9. Jean says:

    Beautiful, I hope you and your wife continue to grow together!

    1. Thank you Jean – that’s very kind of you to say. I know she will be the one growing old with grace, and I will just try not to need a walker in my 50’s. (That’s why I need to keep exercising 🙂 )

      Blessings,
      Paul

  10. Who ever said there are no second chances was never an addict. What a fabulous love you and your wife have rekindled. This is a true testament to the strength and power of our spiritual sides and what CAN happen when we allow ourselves the right to change and to grow. Happy Anniversary!

    1. I love that first line – we’re all about the second chances, aren’t we? Sometimes third, fourth…lol. I also love what you say about allowing ourselves the right to change…what a fabulous concept. When we’re in our alcoholism / addictions we think that there is no way of changing. That this is as good (or bad) as it’s going to get. But we find that glimmer of hope and grow it. And that’s been my experience, and that has carried over into our relationship. I am certainly a lucky man.

      Thank you for your insightful comments 🙂

      Paul

  11. sherryd32148 says:

    I love this so much. Happy Anniversary.

  12. Kate says:

    This was so beautiful. What an incredible and inspiring redemption story. Your testimony gives me hope in lots of ways, Paul. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Thanks for sharing with us what is possible.

    1. Awww, thank you Kate. I will take it at your word that this somehow resonated with you. I am glad that things are on the right track. Not perfect, but certainly on the rails. That’s a great start 🙂

      Glad you’re here, my friend 🙂

      Paul

  13. Erika says:

    19 years! wow! You are one lucky man to have such an amazing woman by your side.
    You rock, Paul.
    Share more of these with us! Loved it 🙂

    1. Erika! Where have you been?? Love to see that smiling face again 🙂 Who knew that some romantic leanings would bring you out of the woodwork! Anyway, I *am* lucky. She stuck through it all, and for that I am certainly blessed to come out on the other side of things with her still at my side. It doesn’t always work out when things like this happen, that’s for sure. She’s amazing.

      Thanks for the comments, Erika – miss you, but I know life has gotten you wrapped in it’s clutches. I hope you are doing well 🙂

      Love and light,
      Paul

  14. warmginger says:

    Heartbreakingly romantic…truly! 19 years is wonderful, simply wonderful and I look forward to your photo 19 years hence, as I think it will be of two of the happiest newlyweds ever. 🙂

    1. You’d be surprised how much she looks the same (to me – she denies it), and me? Oh man, I look like a KID (I was – 23 years old and at least 40 lbs lighter…skinny runt!) Seriously, I saw the pic and said “that’s ME?” Le Sigh. But that shows how much we’ve come along, at least I have. The only difference is that she smoked back then, which seems like forever now. I don’t remember the last time I saw a cigarette in her clutches.

      Anyway, thank you, my dear for this…next year it’s some sort of celebration! Twenty years…oh man…ha ha.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  15. Happy Anniversary Paul, this is truly a message of hope!

    1. thank you Josie! I am glad that the message went out like that…I know that many of the dudes I speak to at alumni meetings all want to know one thing – did we get back with our wives / girlfriends? I remember one counsellor saying “Never mind that! Get well first!”. So there is always hope. But sometimes the damage is done.

      Hope you had a wonderful day today 🙂

      Paul

  16. byebyebeer says:

    How cool is the list in the sand story? Your story gives a lot of hope, Paul. Happy (belated) anniversary.

    1. Yeah, that story was pretty cool. She used to go to the beach every morning (she called it her “meeting”) and I think she did a lot of thinking and reflecting there. It brought a chill and a tear to me when she told me 🙂

      Thanks for the well wishes…one more to go for the big 2-0!

  17. stacilys says:

    Oh Paul, I am sincerely touched. I could really sense your heart and commitment through this piece. I am so glad and encouraged by your ‘fighting for life and love’ spirit. Absolutely love it.
    No humor in this one eh. I’m glad there wasn’t this time. I think you’re so funny and I thoroughly enjoy reading your other pieces where you weave humor into serious topics in your life. But this one wouldn’t have been the same with it.
    I lost my dad to alcoholism so I know that it can be a deathly, degrading disease. It can totally rip a person apart, tearing everything of true value and worth. So glad that you beat it.
    Blessings Paul=)
    p.s. how old is your youngest?

    1. Thank you, Staci. I certainly tried to keep it short and sweet 🙂

      Yeah, sometimes I will eschew the slapstick on the post and just dive in, au naturel. I should probably do more of that. It’s something I have struggled with in the past – am I yukking it up too much, or what? But it is what it is. It’s my style. It’s what suits me. Most often people will take it for what it is. I don’t mind. It’s an editorial thing, I guess…but thanks for noticing that 🙂

      As for my boys – the oldest is six and the youngest four. Yours are older, yes?

      Paul

      1. stacilys says:

        I don’t think there’s anything yucky about your posts. I love your style, whether there’s humor or whether there’s not. But I truly do laugh out loud at some of your stuff. It’s great. Be yourself. Don’t need to change a thing (at least that’s my point of view).

        Nope, mine are little ones too. My oldest, Caue is 6, turning 7 in a week. My youngest, Hannah is 3, turning 4 in two weeks and a bit.

        =)
        Staci

  18. big mike says:

    Paul

    You know, because of some medical issues, I’ve been chained to the house recently. So I’m on the computer and I stumble on a ‘sober’ blog by accident. So I look down in the comment section and notice if you click on the names of the commenters you get directed to their blogs. Opened up a whole new world to me. Reading blogs like yours is like going to a meeting and even seeing friends there. I don’t feel alone. I feel connected.

    So I have read a lot and I mean a lot of sober-blogs where the writers aren’t so sober and are in a lot of pain. And if you read back in their entries, you see they have been in pain for along time, sometimes years. Its heartbreaking.

    And then there are other blogs, where if you read back you can see the positive transformation taking place. It is in black and white. There is no denying it. Yours is one of those blogs.

    Full honesty, devotion, patience, understanding and respect: Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being filled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we Work for them,

    Any alcoholic can quit drinking. Staying stopped requires a transformation.

    Thanks for your 12 step service bro.

    And congrats on 19 years. She must be a saint. lol

    1. I hope that your physical pains are healing and that you are feeling better, my friend – sending positive vibes your way!

      Thanks for the kind words, Mike. It really does mean a lot to me, coming from you. I know because you have seen a lot and heard a lot. No BS when it comes to this stuff. And you’re straight up on this…and I respect and admire that.

      And like you, I totally feel that I am connected when I am out here…that is why I comment and read so many blogs. I do feel like there is great mix – lots of newcomers, some mid and long-timers and those like me. It’s sometimes one of those things where I do feel that when I step off the computer, I feel that there has been a connection, some sort of service done. I do need my face-to-face fix, of course. that is the meat and potatoes, but this also gives me that opportunity for talking recovery and to learn as well.

      Ah the promises (the 9th step promises, to be exact) are wonderful. I love the 10th step promises even more:

      And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.
      Alcoholics Anonymous pp.84-85

      I love the first line. What a promise, Mike. I don’t have to battle anyone any more. Not even the booze. It’s done without me even making a promise or swearing on a stack of bibles. It’s just happens. Wow.

      And you are right – lots of people out there still in pain. Still hurting. And I get it – we’ve been there, haven’t we? We can only…carry the message and be there for others.

      Thanks for being there for me, Mike. Get well.

      Paul

      P.S and yeah, the wife is certainly patient…ha ha. She has put up with more stuff than I could have handled were the situation reversed. Saint indeed!

  19. iamsobernow says:

    Happy Anniversary, Paul. Congratulations to both of you for weathering the storms and rebuilding your life together. It is a lovely message of hope. Joyce

    1. Thank you Joyce 🙂 It’s a blast now…much different than it was before.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  20. Al K Hall says:

    What a great post! i’m almost jealous, in the sense that my second marriage didn’t survive my sobriety as a lot of our relationship was built on the premise that i was a practicing alcoholic. Still, i have no regrets and i know that it’s for the best. Which does not prevent me from celebrating the newness you have found and continue to find! Awesome!

    PS Love the cartoon from The Wall! One of my all time favorite movies.

    1. Thanks Al. I think what you said about it being for the best may be right…I guess, when we see it with new perspective, we see that things happen for a reason (I know that sounds trite, but I do really feel that – nothing is by accident in my view). I didn’t think me and my wife would get back. I just held fast to the process and trusted in it. Regardless of how it fell, I knew that things would work out in the way they were supposed to. I can’t lie in saying that I was thrilled when it did happen the way I hoped deep down.

      Anyway, thanks for being here!

      Paul

  21. Everything you write blows me away. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on 19 years!

    1. Aww..thanks. That means a lot 🙂

  22. That was positively beautiful and heartfelt. I’ve been married 35 years and it’s had it’s ups and downs, so many phases. Now empty nesting, it’s like being newly married again back to being two. It’s amazing what our spouses go through with us. Congrats on 19 years and beyond.
    Sharon

    1. Thank you Sharon. I can imagine how much you have gone through with almost double the marriage time we have had!! Right now, with these two little ones, there are times I wish for the empty nest! But I say that in jest…I do love these days, hectic as they are. It will give us something to talk about in the autumn of our years 🙂 and yes, it IS amazing what they will tolerate!!

      Thanks for being here,
      Paul

  23. You’re the second blogger I’ve read lately who has been married 19 years! Me and my husband will celebrate our 19th next month too. Every marriage is different but if I had to name one thing that is key it’s to always give your partner permission and room to change. The moment we think we know everything there is to know about the other person is the moment growth is stifled. Beautiful celebration of love, Paul!

    1. You know what, Karen – I have seen it three times now too! And you make four! Something magical there. I love what you say about giving permission and room to change. That is wonderful advice, and gives pause to thought – am I holding them back in any way? I don’t think so, but certainly my alcoholism held her hostage. Ugh.

      Thank you for the heartwarming comments Karen – and happy (early) 19th anniversary to you crazy kids 🙂

      Paul

  24. Congrats on 19 years! Here’s wishing you and your lovely wife another 19… one day at a time. Stories of marriages that survive and recover always touch my heart and bring tears to my eyes. Selfishly, sometimes the tears are because I mourn what could of have been. (Officially 21 years of marriage when the judge declared: “This marriage is dissolved.”). More often now, the tears are for the incredible hope and strength I see. It gives me hope and helps me believe, as my sponsor says, this is all about rebuilding relationships.

    1. Thanks Dorothy. I am sorry that this is bittersweet. I didn’t realize that the day your marriage was dissolved was also the day it started 21 years earlier. Ugh. But rebuilding relationships…AND new ones. You have some special ones starting or going now. Sponsees, gent, the kids, etc. All fresh and vibrant and with their challenges too, but it’s all there for you. And you’re present for them. What a gift for them 🙂

      Thanks for the comments

      Paul

  25. Jose Silva says:

    So very nice…and as always I love your sense of humour and hope.

    Love, Mom

    Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2014 19:32:06 +0000 To: rjsilva2@hotmail.com

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