On July 18, 2015, I married the most amazing woman. She makes me laugh, she makes me feel loved, and she makes our home a place of joy. She’s a gifted artist and a wonderful photographer. She also happens to be a recovering alcoholic.
When we met in 2009, Karen told me that she was in recovery. She might as well have told me that she was from Mars because I had no idea what “in recovery” meant at the time. In 2010, Karen relapsed, and it was like a hurricane had hit my life. I was completely leveled by what happened, and I looked for any type of cover until the storm passed. I blamed myself and became paranoid that my actions in our relationship would cause another relapse. And our relationship suffered because of this; we almost broke up in 2011. Thankfully we decided to get help.
I went to a therapist who works with people whose loved ones are recovering alcoholics. The plan of action was simple: Stop blaming myself and learn everything I could about alcoholism. I started going to Al-Anon meetings, and those meetings changed my life and how I looked at addiction. I learned that I have zero power and control over this disease. I learned to let go of trying to fix Karen’s addiction by myself. I worked the same 12 steps that they work in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and I went to Karen’s AA meetings and panels. Those panels taught me that Karen is courageous because she is actively working a program to combat her addiction. Those panels showed me that Karen is compassionate to other addicts. Those panels reminded me why I wanted to marry her; the qualities were so infectious that they made me want to be a better man, partner, and father.
When I think of Karen’s addiction, I can’t help but think of Switchfoot’s “Hello Hurricane.” Music plays a big role in my life, and I latched on to this song about the storms that we all face in our lives:
“Hello Hurricane, you’re not enough
Hello Hurricane, you can’t silence my love”
Karen’s addiction is our hurricane, but we both work our programs. We take time out of our everyday lives to appreciate each other. We give thanks for the things in our lives that we’re grateful for. So, when the hurricane hits, it doesn’t silence my love for Karen. It teaches me to offer her compassion – and I believe that this is my role in her recovery process. There is no yelling at her; the volume won’t cure her. I know that as bad as I’m feeling, it pales in comparison to what she is feeling when she has a relapse. She beats herself up so much; if I yell at her, I’m just going to re-enforce her low self-esteem. And for me, this is huge: My job is to show her how I see her (and how I wish she’d see herself): the beautiful, compassionate, and courageous woman I love.
Karen’s addiction is a mechanism to numb the pain and to help silence that voice in her head that tells her, “You deserved what happened to you.” This is the cycle that both of us are working to break. This is the great journey we are on as couple: the journey of healing. And I would weather any hurricane to be part of this journey with her.
“Everything I have I count as loss
Everything I have is stripped away
Before I started building I counted up these costs
There’s nothing left for you to take away”
I’ve surrendered, but that does not mean I’ve given up. Nothing could be further from the truth. What it means is that I’ve given up the notion that I’m in control. I am powerless in the face of this disease. I will work my program and if the hurricane hits again, I will make sure it will not silence my love and compassion for my wife.
When I stood up in our church in front of friends and family and God, I looked my best friend straight in the eye and told her that I loved her unconditionally. I told her that I’m her biggest advocate. I told her that I would make our relationship a sacred space. On our wedding day, I told my new wife that, no matter what, the hurricane will not silence my love.
“Hello hurricane, you’re not enough
Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love
I’ve got doors and windows boarded up
All your dead end fury is not enough
You can’t silence my love
Yeah, I said hello hurricane.”