There is a regular group of us who gather at Starbucks.
We weren’t friends first who decided to meet at Starbucks.
We were five or six individuals who found ourselves regularly in the same place.
Friendships like this are kind of odd because we are as sincere and honest with one another as with any friend and yet, who we are outside our morning get-togethers is relatively unknown. Oh, we know about each other’s kids or grandkids, pets or new car, each other’s political views and yet, at the same time, we know very little about each other. Our personal lives – the nitty gritty stuff – doesn’t really enter into our morning gatherings.
Except when it has to.
When something so large, so all-encompassing occurs in one of our lives that it can’t help but sneak in.
Amongst the group is a man, in his late 60’s. “Jim.”
By all accounts, Jim is a devoted father, husband and recently new grandpa.
He and his wife are financially comfortable and have good relationships with their children. They are active in the community. All and all, they seem to have carved out a nice life for themselves and their family.
Jim is also a recovered alcoholic who suffers from depression. (But then what alcoholic doesn’t have a comorbidity of depression?)
He mentioned this once to me, a rare moment when it was just him and I having coffee, though I’m sure everyone else knows as well.
That was a long time ago, he told me.
He got the appropriate help, pursued the necessary sobriety.
He seemed neither asahmed nor “proud” (in that annoying way some recoverying alcoholics can be) of his past. In fact, it seemed like he had exatly the “right” attitude about his drinking and recovery. He owned it without wearing it.
A success story in the alcoholic recovery areana.
Recently he told us that his wife of 40 years had left him!
I literally did not think I heard him correctly.
I told him somethig along the lines of,
“I thought you said your wife moved out.”
“I did. She did.”
I couldn’t believe it.
He said that was the reaction of all his friends.
He didn’t go into details but he did say that they were in counseling and he “just needed” to “keep the drinking under control.”
I know alcoholic double-speak when I hear it.
He started drinking again.
This man is so gentle, so kind, so nice that it’s hard to reconcile the limited snapshot I have of him with what I know the big picture of alcoholism is.
But I can do it.
I dobut those who interact with my husband outside of our home would ever guess who he is behind closed doors.
I told Jim I noticed he still wears his wedding ring.
He said he is hopeful and optimistic he and his wife will get through this. He said,
“I don’t think she is going to throw away 40 years.”
I smiled politely but inside I raged.
There was SO MUCH I wanted to say.
It’s the rare – if any! – alcoholic who REALLY! GETS! What it’s like to be married to them!
I wanted to say to him,
“You know, when you’re an alcoholic who got sober but then falls off the wagon, it’s not ‘starting over’ in your wife’s eyes.”
I wanted to say,
“All that pain of the years ago, it wasn’t erased by your sobriety. It may have been tempered but it wasn’t erased. She may have chosen to not feel it but it’s still there.”
I wanted to say,
“This is not a new chapter to her. This is another chapter of the same, old tired book that she thought she was done with.”
I wanted to say,
“She’s not throwing away 40 years. You did.”
“One drink at a time.”