To the Spouses

Early days. I was on shaky, newly sober legs and my marriage, more likely to dissolve than survive. A few of the elders, male and female, I’ll add, said, “have her read, ‘To the Wives’.” I read it and decided, no. They also said, “tell her to go to Al-Anon.” I did not (though I now attend an Al Anon meeting, once per week myself).

My spouse and I had been married seven years, the first five of which I did not drink alcohol, followed by two years, during which I spiraled quickly into alcohol use disorder exacerbated by frequent anxiety, darkening depression, and suicide ideation. It was a third marriage for my spouse and a second for me. She cared for me deeply and I her. But I am ever so grateful that she ceased trying to change me with escalating ultimatums and that she stopped ‘cleaning up’ the social, professional, and financial messes I created at my lowest, literally and figuratively. She stated emphatically that she was not going to let me ruin her life, that I needed help, pointing me to the nearest ALANO clubhouse, separated our finances and obligations, and separated herself. She gave me two months to figure out where I was going to live while she lived upstairs and I lived downstairs.

I went to that first AA meeting on April 21, 2007 and even went to a second later that same day to really impress her just long enough to go back to ‘normal’. I’m grateful that I still had a place to live, a car to drive, food to eat, bills that were paid, and though we rarely spoke, I was not alone. After a couple of weeks, I wanted her to agree to commit to working on our marriage. She would not. I had to decide that I was going to get sober and stay sober, regardless of what my family was going to look like or not. I did. I did it for me, for her, for us.

We are still together and are better individually and together than we’ve ever been. We’ve watched parents die, a daughter die, grown apart, grown together and now cherish each other giving each their room to be who we are and to grow. Holding space for one another. And creating space for each other in our lives. Here are three verses that update for me, “To The Wives.” Oh and my spouse still hasn’t gone to Al Anon and I’m ever so grateful she didn’t read, “To The Wives.”


I once was dying a slow death
And I made you watch
For I was sore afraid
That I do regret
My dying became yours
I gave up but you did not
Saving me from drowning
By letting me learn to swim


There is much beauty
That lies within
Beneath imperfections
Wounds and scars
There to see
When I hold you
Gently in my heart
I see you and
You see me


There is a part of me
That only you know
A part of me that is
Equal parts best and worst
A face without masks
A dancer when no one is watching
A part of me that even I can’t know

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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