On the 4,000th day of our journey we decided to celebrate. It was that many days ago that a new life began for our family.
It’s nearly 11 years now, but all that time has been made up of nothing but days–single days doled out one at a time. Back in August 1989, I finally stopped drinking and took up with the AA way of life. As time went by, my family took up with it too. I thank God that all that was required was that I become open, honest, and willing. If it had been any more complicated than that surely I would have failed. But it really was that uncomplicated. I made a simple choice every day. I said, “God, you’ve got to come into my life or I’m going to screw this thing up.” And then I kept doing the next right thing, using the 12 Steps as my guide. A single choice, a simple attitude, and the results have been amazing.
Before I got sober there was a time when I would drive the freeways of the Twin Cities looking for a bridge abutment to slam into. My husband would be at home hoping I succeeded. The children were little, ages five and ten, and not directly impacted by my drinking–or so I thought. I know now that they must have been harmed indirectly by the diminished love, trust, and respect between their mother and me. Tom and I lived our lives pretty much expecting the very worst of each other and, day by day, that’s exactly what we got.
It was the honesty, the openness, and the willingness that changed all that. It was through my regular attendance at AA meetings that I learned how to put myself first, love myself, be a trustworthy man, and have respect for myself and others. These skills, along with my new attitude and that simple daily choice, changed our lives forever.
Recovering for a single day
It changed my approach to marriage, too. During the third year of recovery I realized that this day-by-day thing was really working. Taking my life “one day at a time” had brought success, confounding my continual failure to quit drinking “forever.” I wondered if the same thing might work for my marriage. I went to Tom and said, “I can’t quit drinking forever, but I can quit for a single day. This thing is working. I promised you that I would stay married to you forever, but now that idea scares me too. Would you be willing to be married to me for a single day at a time?” She said yes, and so from that day forward we have remained married–but only for one day at a time. Each day I ask him, “Will you marry me for this day?” On a good day, she says yes. On a bad day, I don’t ask.
A family living this way one day at a time; a family loving and respecting one another; a family sharing both its successes and its sorrows is something to celebrate, truly something to celebrate, so we decided to go to our local Chinese restaurant for dinner. Some friends and relatives came along, and we were happy to have them join us.
As the meal began we joined hands, bowed our heads, and said grace. I offered a small toast in honor of all of us. Then, for the rest of the meal, I was completely ignored. The kids talked about movies. Tom talked about his job. Cousin Chris talked about her recent trip to Paris. I sat by and listened. I was ignored–taken for granted–and that was just the way I liked it.
Ignored but content
At no time before the meal had anyone suspected I might show up for supper drunk. Not once did the children wonder if Mama and Papa might have an argument that would spoil the evening. Never did it occur to anyone that I might say some god-awful thing that would embarrass everyone. It was a perfectly lovely evening.
The following Sunday at my regular Big Book meeting, I reported all of this to my friends. A man sitting across the table spoke up: “It sounds to me like your family has taken your sobriety for granted.” He smiled, then added: “Because you haven’t.”
It’s nearly 11 years now since I sobered up and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and every one of those years has been given to me in single days doled out one at a time. I thank God that nothing more was required of me than becoming open, honest, and willing. If it had been anything more complicated than that, surely I would have failed.