Dr Marry and I started talking about doing this series of posts about his alcoholism and our journey through addiction together in November of 2019. The truth is, the great majority of people in our lives had no idea that this happened or that Dr Marry continues to this day to be an alcoholic enjoying sobriety, because for the rest of his life, he will be an alcoholic. But I also believe fervently that he will, for the rest of his life, be sober. I don’t say that glibly or without the understanding that there are people who are sober for decades who, for some reason or another, fall off the wagon and have to start all over again. If we have to, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. I don’t spend one minute thinking about that as a reality because unless it happens, it simply is not our reality.
Instead, our reality is that life is more glorious than either one of us could have ever dreamed it would be. Our reality is two challenging, meaningful jobs. One son who has traversed this journey with us, albeit from afar, and also found his way back to a lovely relationship with Dr Marry. Three parents and their partners as well as three siblings, their partners and children who are all healthy and happy and an important piece of our lives. One very silly and extremely needy pup who would rather we simply be home all day, every day to let her out so she can come in, only to go out 15 seconds later again. And, most importantly, one amazing relationship that has transcended anything I ever believed I would have. In fact, I could never have even dreamed of a relationship like this because I had never seen one like this; I didn’t know these existed.
I didn’t know that you could have a partner who actually was a sounding board with valuable insight that mattered to your decision-making. I didn’t know that something good or something bad could happen, and the first person you would want to talk to was him because he will instinctively know what to say or not to say, and he will let you feel the way you need to feel and go through it with you however you need him to. I didn’t know that a mundane day could be as lovely as a trip to new locations halfway around the world because you are together. I didn’t know that you could “willingly” drag yourself out of bed four days a week to go to spin class with someone simply because you value that it’s important to him, and you find joy in being part of that with him.
Have we had ups and downs since Dr Marry came home from rehab? Absolutely. I’ve catalogued many of them in this blog already. But do you know what has not wavered in these three+ years? Dr Marry’s commitment to being sober, my commitment to staying invested in him and our deep and abiding love and respect for our marriage and all that that entails.
I can honestly look back on the “dark” years, the years before Dr Marry’s body forced him to either stop drinking or die, and say that I wasn’t wrong to stay. I wasn’t wrong to stubbornly refuse to give up on him or us. Where I was wrong was in my instinct that somehow I could save him; somehow I could snap him out of whatever he was mired in. I now know that no one can save another person when stacked up against addiction.
While I absolutely believe I played a contributing role in Dr Marry’s fall into alcoholism (we differ in opinion here—he refuses to let me take any of the blame, but I believe there’s more than enough to go around, and not just to me!), I couldn’t do anything to “force” him out. He had to do that. And he did, with a lot of help from hospital and rehab staff, medicine, the tools he learned in rehab, the people he spent time with there, his ongoing AA groups and his own glorious, stubborn will.
Our story is not like many stories. The day I spoke to his rehab group, I learned the sobering truth that between the seven other participants, they were back in rehab for about the 35th collective time. I’ll never forget sitting in that room with that group and wearily fearing that I would be back to do this time after time after time.
That has not been our reality. But if any piece of this story is part of your reality, let me encourage you to not go it alone. I barely let anyone know how seriously bad things were at home. I thought I was managing to compartmentalize that against the rest of the areas of my life. I can easily look back and see how the stress of a marriage that was bad for reasons I couldn’t adequately articulate was bleeding in to other aspects of my life. But as I invested in those other areas, Dr Marry felt abandoned and dove even further into addiction, which pushed me even further away. We were in a vicious cycle that I don’t believe either of us could have broken on our own.
I’m so proud of Dr Marry for being this vulnerable and honest. I’m so proud of Dr Marry for being sober for three+ years. I’m so proud of myself for the seismic shift I have taken because of the gift we were given in the six weeks of this journey. I was terrified that I would just find other areas of his life to criticize and blame, and I haven’t done that. I was terrified that I didn’t know how to be a supportive, invested spouse who prioritized her marriage. I have become that. I’m so proud of us for going through this crucible together and coming out stronger on the other side. I’m so proud of us for doing the work every day to commit to our present and future together. And, above all else, I am simply so, so grateful for this man by whose side I want to be everyday for the rest of our journey together.
Next: Counting our Blessings, an Epilogue 9b (video)
photos: Bettys Tea Room for my 46th birthday, York, England (12/18); Cambridge, England (7/19); Oxford, England (9/17); Heathrow Airport, England (1/19); our basement for Dr Marry’s 49th birthday (2/19); Bath, England for Dr Marry’s 50th birthday (2/20); The Three Lyons Pub, West Fargo (5/19); Balbriggan Harbor, Ireland (5/18); the 1880s train, Hill City, South Dakota (12/18).
Wow! I’ve been following you through this journey. I’m so happy for you and your hubby that things have gotten better Congratulations to both of you and continued happiness.
Dayna Del Val
Thank you so much Gloria! Continued happiness (and health!) to you and yours as well. It’s hard to believe this is our final week. It’s been quite a journey, and I so appreciate that you have stayed with us.
I’m so glad that you are doing this!! One thing I believe is that you shouldn’t be ashamed of where you came from – be proud of where you are now!!
Dayna Del Val
What a smart way to look at it, Brent. Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for reading and writing!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I went to school with your mom in Bowman for my last 2 years of high school. I lived with my cousin and his wife because my dad was an alcoholic and I needed to get away from him. Unfortunately he never stopped drinking and died my senior year. Alcoholism affects everyone in the family in different ways. I was extremely lucky that my mom was smart enough to send me somewhere safe so that I could have a relatively normal life. Reading about your journey has been good for me. I really appreciate you both putting yourself out there for everyone.
Dayna Del Val
Elva, I assumed you were connected to me through my mom. Thank you for so faithfully reading and for sharing your story here. I am grateful that your mom got you out of your situation, too, and I am sorry that this story hits so close to you without having the benefit of a happy ending with your dad. Blessing and health to you today!
Today’s Reminder: This day and every day, I will place myself and my life in the hands of God, secure in the knowledge that He will not fail me,if I, too, do my part.
True humility does not mean meek surrender to an ugly, destructive way of life. It means surrender to God’s will, which is quite a different thing.
Dayna Del Val
Thank you, Carol.
So blessed to follow your journey, and to have an opportunity to reflect on these same issues in my own life and relationships over time.
Dayna Del Val
Awesome, yet again. Both of you are such symbols for the power of truth and of having the courage to be vulnerable. I love you both dearly for that.
And btw, I remember you saying early on that you’d explain the context of why you refer to your husband as “Dr. Marry.” I just thought that would be another interesting story in your remarkable journey. Did I miss that piece?
Dayna Del Val
Thank you for this lovey note and your unflagging support of us, Joanne. Can you hold out until next Saturday for the Dr Marry explanation? I just finished the post today, but I’m waiting to put it up until our Tuesday video and Thursday podcasts are completed this week. Good memory! Love to you and Robert!