Hoo boy. This was a night I’ll never forget. I had made the gut-wrenching, terrifying decision to stop drinking the day before and held the secret, deep in my belly, like a ball of ice. I knew once I said the words out loud, there would be no going back. Ever.
We were sitting outside on the deck, he with his cigar and glass of Jack. Me with my bottle of flavored seltzer, cradled to my chest. Just talking, drinking, enjoying a beautiful summer evening. He commended me for my willpower. We had made an agreement that we wouldn’t drink on weeknights (Monday through Wednesday, anyway). It had been a summer full of celebrations, showers, special occasion dinners – our youngest had gotten married a few weeks prior. We were cycling back into our normal routine and wringing the last few drops out of summer. I had been wrestling with how to tell him I was done. Honestly? I was a tiny bit worried about how it would change our relationship. Would he find ‘sober me’ fun? What about going out to dinner together? What about traveling together, which we love? We always enjoyed wine and snacks in the afternoon, drinks with dinner, more wine later…. How would I fill that gap? He doesn’t have a problem with alcohol and I didn’t want to be a killjoy. So many thoughts I was struggling with…. having to reinvent so much of who I am.
Anyway. So he tells me he’s impressed with my willpower. All the blood in my veins turns to ice as I think, “This is it. Tell him!” I take a deep breath and say something to the effect of, “I’m glad you’re impressed. You’re going to get used to me not drinking.” He looks at me, visibly confused, and says, “I don’t understand…”. I reply as my voice starts to break, “I think I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”
The floodgates broke. I tearily told him how I’d been struggling with the notion of quitting for a long, LONG time. Told him all the gory details of the incessant mental and emotional static I’d been dealing with. Probably for years. Now, we are not a couple who keeps secrets from each other. He has joked with me that I’m allowed to NOT share every thought that runs through my brain. I had been bearing this terrible, heavy burden for so long…. And it felt so good to dump it on the table between us and examine it with him. We talked for about two hours, sitting outside, lost in each other. I told him everything I’d been struggling with.
He said three things to me that night that, if I didn’t already love him like crazy, would have made me follow him to the ends of the earth:
1. He told me I was his hero. He said I was brave and strong and that he was so proud of me and admired me so, so much. Such a soothing bandage for my raw, bleeding, embarrassed, vulnerable soul. I felt weak and pathetic, but his words were a mirror that let me see myself in a much more positive light.
2. He told me that he would stop drinking at home if I ever decided it bothered me or compromised my ability to stay alcohol-free. And that he would back me one million percent if I felt I needed support, in any way, shape, or form.
3. Later that evening, I was feeling exhausted and wrung out – but in a good way. I had poured out the contents of my heart and he had helped me sift through everything, with love and without judgement. We were turning down the covers on the bed, each lost in our own thoughts. Very quietly he says, “So…. what do you think they’ll put in the neighborhood liquor store when it closes?” I burst out laughing – and fell just a little more in love with him.
Could I stay committed to being alcohol free without his support? Sure. Is it a jillion times easier, knowing he’s got my back? Totally, immensely easier to stay on this path, not because he thinks I need to be here. But because he respects that I KNOW I have to stay here.
And that means everything.