Most of my first 29 years, when I got my coin, I’d spout a few clichés in a meeting after my wife said a few heartfelt and meaningful words about how far we’d come in our marriage and recovery. Every now and again, I’d have something important to say, but I’d normally keep it fairly short and simple. Something about trusting God and helping others, I’d hug my wife and accept my coin.
Not this year. This year, my whole recovery was turned on its head when I asked God, “How deep does this rabbit hole go”? He proceeded to show me.
From November 19th, 2021 until late February, my story was the first paragraph. Rinse and repeat. I’d had one of the best sponsors AA had to offer about ten years earlier, who passed from lung cancer, who would light up a room when he walked in. He had a gift for making everyone in that room feel better about being who they were because he simply loved everyone. It was amazing to watch the dynamic of a room change when he walked in the door. He gave me some of the best marriage advice I’d ever received and I still use it today. Sadly, I had no clue how I’d get from where I was to where he was on the path I was on when he died. And I was no closer in late February until I had a conversation with my daughters. They were worried about Jess and I and how we would do after Josie left for college (she’s in her junior year), without the distraction of having kids around. They brought up an interesting point.
And gave me a new goal.
A short while later, driving to work listening to the local news show on the radio (npr or talk radio, take your pick, doesn’t matter – most left or right extremists want to know whether it was a lefty or righty station so they can form a summary judgment of who I am based on politics… those freaking people are sick). Anyway, it occurred to me I was listening to the same damned news story for the last 25 freaking years. There had to be something better I could do with my time! Something that would help improve my life. But what?
I asked God for some inspiration. Twenty minutes later I was listening to a psychology professor’s lecture on YouTube. He was talking about arguing with people. I thought this will be great! I can learn how to argue with my wife and maybe win once in a while! He spoke about doing the least amount of damage possible in order to get your point across, and let the other person show who they are and let them expose their agenda which should be easy enough to dispense with. I loved that concept! A couple of days later, a video on implementing that in a relationship, only in this case we don’t try to win. We do the least amount of damage possible and negotiate for peace. My mind was completely blown. The idea was to not fight. I tried it on my wife. We started out arguing on the way to a concert and by the time we got to the venue we were having the best time we’d had together in YEARS. It was magical.
Another video about narcissism a few days later. I was sure I was going to learn a lot about my wife from this one. The first three things were absolutely my wife. The next three, were me. What an eye-opener! I immediately asked God to show me everything. The emotional barriers and walls I’d built over the years crumbled and I was laid bare. I called her in tears and apologized for who I’d been and let her know things would get much better. I explained in detail what I’d learned.
I started working with a new sponsor shortly thereafter and he helped me navigate some of the tougher waters, including a massive bout with possessiveness that struck me to my core. He helped me to pray and meditate, and listen to what was going on inside me so I could ask God for direct help where I needed it. When I found I’d wronged my wife throughout this time, I immediately went to her and took ownership of where I was wrong and pledged to mindfully do better. Then I did better. In the meantime, she began her own changes, once she saw that what I was going through was real and safe.
We had some intense negotiations over the next several months but we didn’t fight much. On the rare occasion a fight was necessary, we always remembered to come back to doing the least amount of damage possible and negotiate for peace. We grew closer than we’d ever been. She was amazing and challenging at the same time.
I started talking about the changes at meetings, because they were all centered around the tenth and eleventh steps. Bringing it up at meetings was part of twelve.
All of a sudden people started asking me to sponsor them. I’ve worked with more men in the last six months than I ever had in the past. My wife and I have reconciled to a point our marriage isn’t even recognizable in its current form from what we had last year. There is peace, happiness and contentment… and joy.
And at the heart of it all is our Higher Power and steps ten, eleven and twelve. It was just a couple of months ago, now, that I sat down with my wife and talked to her about something that had changed in me. I told her I’d just realized that earlier in the year I had no idea how I would get from where I was to where my old sponsor was. All of a sudden, after everything had changed, I knew there was a lot of work to be done, but I could at least see the path. All I had to do was walk it.
And so I have, and so I will.
Thanks God. Thanks, Sunshine. Anything is possible in recovery. Anything. As long as I keep coming back and work the steps.