(Photo credits: http://afocusedperspective.com/)
Three years ago today, July 23rd, Rob and I (finally) said I do. After years of living together, three kids, splitting up, getting back together, over and over again, like a revolving door. After years of me telling him we needed to get married. Years of me trying to explain to the girls that mommy kept her name because…well…I never really had a because.
When we decided that we were getting back together (for good this time), he asked me to marry him. I said yes. He had been sober for a couple of months. We didn’t wait long to tell family that we were finally doing it. We set a date and set out to plan a wedding.
If I had to do it all over again, among other things, I wouldn’t have had a big wedding. It was crazy expensive and we could have taken the girls to Disney or something. I regret that. But it was my dream. Every little girls dream to have the white dress, the flowers, the flower girls, bridesmaids, walking down the aisle…It had been my dream for years and I deserved it.
And that’s what I told myself. Except the few times I was really honest with myself. It had to be a big wedding. With people coming from out of state. Plans being made in advance. Because that meant it was going to happen. I wouldn’t dare let people down by canceling when people were throwing showers, buying dresses, renting tuxes, making plans…I wouldn’t dare.
Even when the drinking started again. Months before the wedding. Even when he was so drunk when he put the engagement ring on my finger that he couldn’t get up off his knees by himself. Even when I begged the counselor we were seeing to believe me. To listen to me when I told him he was drinking. Even when others started to notice he was drinking again.
I couldn’t cancel. I couldn’t let people down. I had made a commitment and I needed to stick with it. It wasn’t going to change. His drinking wasn’t ever going to stop. But. I was finally going to get his last name, the ring, the wife title…I deserved that. And I deserved dealing with his drinking. I had made three babies with this man. Besides, who else would want me, with three kids and all my baggage…
And then…it got bad. Really bad. After our shower in Ohio with my family. After the gifts were opened. After the church shower in Arkansas had been planned and put in the bulletin.
If you haven’t lived through living with an alcoholic/addict…it’s hard to explain. He had lost his job (again). I had found him a job working as a contractor. Every day I wondered if he would go to work that day. I had reached out to probably more people than I should have. Trying to find someone who would say, I know he’s drinking. I want to help. I didn’t know what I needed, but I needed someone to be on my side.
And then, the week before the shower, someone did. Someone I love and respect with all my heart. She took me aside and said, “You don’t have to do this. You deserve better.” “But the shower—” “You don’t have to do this. People will understand. And if they don’t, who cares? You do what’s best for you and those girls.”
I’ve never told her. I’ve never said what hearing that meant to me. I don’t know if I have the words. The permission I couldn’t give myself. The risk she took saying that to me. The love and heartache in her eyes. The bravery I didn’t have. I could have said yes. I have no doubt she would have been right by my side when I told people the wedding was off. I have no doubt, even now, she would stand by my side anytime I need her, no matter who might stand against us, I know she would stand with me.
But I said no. I had resigned myself to living with an alcoholic for the rest of my life. I hoped there would be more sober months, but I wasn’t counting on it. This is what my life would be.
The day of the wedding. The happiest day of my life. I remembered her words. You don’t have to do this. She was there, helping with reception tables and decorations. I could have said…I could have asked…She would have stood by me. Her and others. I know that. I knew it then.
I was caught up in dresses, makeup, pictures, adorable flower girls, bridesmaids, ring bearers…I was caught up in the people around me. The amazing cake my aunt made. The beautiful table settings. The joy of having my family there, all together. I was caught up in it all. Until he walked in.
I was on the stage, waiting…and he walked in. And. Nothing. I felt nothing. And then I looked at him. His hands shaking, a sign he hadn’t been drinking yet that day. His eyes empty. And I was sad. I was sad for me. For him. For our girls. So I did what I always did when that happened. I put on my mask.
I didn’t tell anyone what was racing through my mind…I don’t want to do this. Please help me…Please stop this…I’m not strong enough…This can’t be the rest of my life…
I smiled. And said I do. And life went on.
I don’t remember our first anniversary. I imagine it was just another day. Last year we both forgot and remembered the next day. But, again, not a big deal.
And now. Three years in. It’s a big deal. We have a real marriage. In less than 3 weeks, hubby will celebrate one year of sobriety. It’s been good.
And I’m dreading tomorrow.
I want to shout to the world, happy anniversary to my amazing husband! I want to. I probably will. And then, some well meaning, good intentioned person, will ask…how many years?
And I dread that. And it sounds silly, even to me. But I do. Do I say, three years? Or, 18 together, 3 married? Or, just leave it at we’ve been together 18 years? Because I have earned every one of these 18 years. And I want to claim that. I need to claim that. It’s silly. It probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me. It’s not like people are going to spend their day talking about how many years it is. And yet, it is important to me.
So I’ll put my mushy, happy anniversary posts all over social media. Without numbers. Without old (or, not so old) wedding pictures. And I’ll hope no one asks the question. And, knowing me, I’ll probably worry about it all day.
Until 7:23pm on 7-23. When I will be somewhere with my amazing husband, who is planning our anniversary date all by himself. Who is sober. Loving. Thoughtful. Mine.
And then, it won’t matter if anyone asks how many years. Because the number of years we’ve made it isn’t as important as making the most of the number of years we have in front of us. And whether it’s 20 or 30 or 60…We will make the most of them.
One day at a time. One moment at a time. One year at a time.
7:23 pm on 7-23. It’s kind of a big deal.