We have a detached garage behind our house that was built in 1915 and was originally intended to be more of a shed than a place to park cars. At some point in our house’s history, the garage was extended, presumably when a previous homeowner came to the conclusion that he needed to protect a car from the weather. We now jam two cars in the garage with barely a few inches between them. The garage serves two purposes: to protect our Jeeps, and as incentive not to gain so much weight that we can’t squeeze our fannies into the driver’s seats.
The path that brings us to and from the garage is a thin patch of concrete squeezed between the north side of our house and our neighbor’s fence. Backing down the driveway feels like threading a needle, especially where our house’s furnace exhaust makes the bricks jut out, or where the fence posts extend a few inches past the fence.
In the twelve years we’ve owned the Jeep that my wife drives (which, in my defence, is substantially wider than mine), I’ve bashed the rearview mirrors into the brick protrusion, or the fence posts, so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve also detached two downspouts from the house so that they now dangle precariously from the gutters without a mooring to the exterior wall, so at least I spread the damage around.
Years ago, I shattered the driver’s-side mirror against the chimney and had to replace it with a mirror I bought at AutoZone that was intended for a 1989 Mazda RX-7. It fit the hole, so I glued it in place with satisfaction, because that was a better alternative to paying the Chrysler dealership the $500 they wanted to replace the motorized, defrostable mirror. That was the only incident involving shattered glass. The other couple of dozen times I’ve smacked the mirror while running the gauntlet we call a driveway, I broke plastic and detached the glass mirrors from their mounts. All such problems were fixed with Gorilla Glue and duct tape.
Last week, I nailed the passenger-side mirror pretty squarely as my wife, Sheri, and I backed down the driveway. We were in a hurry, and my subsequent glue-and-tape job reflected my impatience. Sheri just stared ahead out the windshield as it would have been impossible for anything she said to have improved the situation, and there was lots of potential to have made it worse. She sat in silence and pondered the logic of us parking the Jeeps in the garage, rather than on the street, for their own protection.
We drove along in silence. When we merged onto I-25 heading north, the highway speeds were too much for my hasty repair work to endure. The mirror began flapping around and bouncing off the door and windshield tethered only by the long-since-inoperable wire that connected the mirror to the electronic adjustment knob. Silently, I removed the roll of duct tape from the cup holder and handed it to my bride as she lowered her window. She ripped off several strips, six inches or so long, and climbed halfway out of the passenger window as we barreled along at 70 miles per hour, and taped the mirror back in place. She used the remnants from previous glue jobs for proper placement like a chalk outline the police use to mark the sidewalk position of murdered bodies.
To make the entire incident just a little more perfect, the duct tape she used was day-glow green. In case anyone who shared northbound I-25 with us that day didn’t notice a woman protruding from our moving vehicle, they would surely notice the glowing mirror on the right side of our car.
When she finished taping my mistake back to the puddle of Gorilla Glue intended to fix the problem, she gave me a little glare silently asking me what might be the next steaming pile of dog shit I intended to throw in her path. She returned the upper part of her torso to the car, rolled up the window, and placed the duct tape roll in the cup holder. With both of us staring straight ahead, and without a spoken word between us, we started simultaneously laughing. Laughing hard. Laughing uncontrollably.
Our car was a mess, held together with glue and duct tape. But our marriage was as intact as it had ever been.
I’ve been writing our story for over three years now. I look at this blog as an initial point for people to find connection – something to which they either resonate or they don’t. This blog is like a hand reaching out to the people who drink too much, and the people who love them. I can’t tell those people what to do – I haven’t yet earned their trust. This blog is the first step in asking people to trust me.
When our story closely resembles your story, you are more likely to read on. You are more likely to find comfort in my words, not because I have all the answers, but because I share your problems. If you are worried about your drinking, or the drinking of someone you love, our story is your story.
I really hesitated to write this post. I have put off sending a message like this for months for one simple reason: my life – my marriage – is better than it has ever been. I hesitated about publishing this because the chasm between where we are and where we were is so great, I worried that our readers would not relate. I worried that bridging that gap in your minds was asking too much of our readers wallowing in the depths of your pain. I worried that I would turn you off by writing from a place that seems unreachable.
It probably sounds ridiculous that I’m describing a busted mirror held on by glue and duct tape as so gloriously perfect as to be unreachable by mere mortals. I can see the arrogance in my own writing. But if there is one thing on which we can all agree, it is that life is far from perfect. Joy, contentment, peace, satisfaction – they all come from how we experience the imperfect moments. And that’s the part that’s never been better for Sheri and me.
My most read blog post ever is titled, “Inevitability of an Alcoholic Divorce,” with hundreds of reads per week. I wrote it in the summer of 2019, and there are words in the title that are searched for more than anything else I’ve ever written. To think that our marriage was on the brink of disaster a mere 18 months ago, and now is stronger than I imagined possible, is hard for me to wrap my mind around. It is impossible for me to expect our readers to understand.
So when I know so many people are searching for information about the inevitability of divorce in an alcoholic marriage, it is hard for me to write about how good my relationship has become. It feels like running the Lexus December to Remember Sales Event commercial during a documentary on declaring bankruptcy. It seems like a bridge way, way too far.
So why did I write this? Because it is true. And you, my readers, have always rewarded vulnerable honesty over passionless intention. This time of year, I should be writing about navigating the holidays sober. I should be doling out advice about triggers and stress and patience and detachment – all subjects on which Sheri and I are totally familiar. That’s what we are qualified to write about. That’s where our experience gives us credibility.
But my suggestions and instructions have never been as well received as our story. Me telling you how you should get out of your jam is far less impactful as me telling you about us. And that’s why I wrote this blog post.
If I’m going to keep telling our story, I’m going to have to stop worrying about your ability to see a path to get from rock bottom to here.
When I started writing about my drunken debauchery, it was hard. When I started sharing the intimate details of our failing marriage, it was hard. But I got used to sharing my pain, and I worked past the shame. Now I have a new hurdle to overcome. I have to stop being ashamed to tell the truth about life on the other side – a life that is going places I didn’t used to know existed. I have to be willing to admit that this is possible.
I don’t know if a post like this about mirrors and duct tape and laughter and divorce is hopeful, or if it is so unrelatable that you stopped reading hundreds of words ago. I just don’t know. But I do know that it is honest and vulnerable. I also know it is possible. If it is possible for us, it is possible for you.
I am not a recovery coach or a relationship therapist. I am a researcher and I am a writer. I’m not going to waste our time with me telling you what to do. I’m going to ask questions, and share what I am learning and experiencing. Hopefully, in our written and spoken words, you will find something with which you resonate.
When Sheri and I met in the spring of 1994, this isn’t how we planned it. Knowing what I know now, I can’t believe our messy can be this good.
We hope you’ll read more of our story, and learn all about the messy stuff that’s working for us. Please read our new book, soberevolution: Evolve into Sobriety and Recover Your Alcoholic Marriage.