About Intimacy

Intimacy: “…The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it …” Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Today, my spouse and I celebrate 19 years of marriage and 21 years together. Between us, we have 5 marriages, share 3 children, none biologically (I’m a bonus dad and she’s a bonus mom), and 5 grandchildren (I’m just Grampa and she’s just Grandma). One of her daughters, my stepdaughter died 9 years ago. We’ve raised 4 puppies (she’s says no more and I say we’ll see), 4 kittens, and cried together when the old ones died. Our marriage almost ended in 2007, when I was trying to stop drinking alcohol and could not. It almost ended in 2010, when our daughter died and my wife buried her grief with alcohol. And here we are, closer than we’ve ever been.

Somewhere in all of that anger, fear, distrust, resentment and grief, we found each other. We accepted each other for who we are and stopped trying to fix the other. Our lives are separate in many ways. I go to AA or Al Anon daily. My wife is supportive, but has no interest in 12 step participation. She still drinks alcohol daily. Almost never to excess these days. Al Anon helped me learn how to be ok regardless.

I play guitar and she plays video games. I like Indian food. She does not. She reprimands dogs with complete sentences. I give them treats. There’s more, but you get the picture. I should point out, that we mutually agreed to have no alcohol at all in our home my first year of sobriety. Now there is usually some form of alcohol in our house most of the time. But never if I’m going to be alone for even a few days if she is traveling.

But back to our story, the concept of being able “to form a true partnership with another” was beyond my grasp until I had been sober for a few years. By learning to be honest with those in AA and in Al Anon, I learned to be honest with myself and I learned to be honest with my wife. Our most cherished time is 15-20 minutes in the morning after the dogs and cats have been taken care of and we share coffee/tea before we leave for work. The only boundary is that we don’t talk about money nor honey-do lists during that time. We’ve each learned to listen differently over time. I used to listen for ‘what does she need me to do’ and she used to listen for ‘what is he not telling me’. If you look back over my 12+ years of gratitude journals, you’ll see days that I was grateful to have a marriage to work on and you’ll find days that I was grateful for and grateful to my wife.

I

We walk by the lake
And through the wood
My love and I
A touch of her hand
And I remember
Who we were
And who we are
What we’ve become

II

Morning conversations
You with your coffee
Me with my tea
Little corners of our lives
That we share with each other
A time to be who we are
What we’ve become
From a distance
Quite ordinary
And mundane
But here in a moment
Before dawn
Making time for
What matters most

III

I saw you that day in a once-upon-a-time
I see you now with those same eyes
Living life sometimes took its toll
But we paid it with love as best we could
That’s what I think when I remember
When I saw you that day in a once-upon-a-time

IV

Is there anything greater than love
Love that weathers the storm
Sees faults and doesn’t look away
Places no blame at the end of the day
Ask nothing other than love in return
Wandering spirits seeking refuge
Souls among the lost and found


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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Pat Nagle
Pat Nagle

Lovely thoughts and poem. We’ve managed almost 37 years together, and have been grateful and happy from the start, more now than ever. I didn’t think anyone would ever love me, and didn’t expect sobriety to change that. I was so wrong! Incidentally, we always refer to our former spouses as just that. “ex” seems like such a needlessly negative, depersonalizing term.