14 years earlier
I strolled into work this day like usual. Another day, another dollar… but something was different, I could feel it. As I was making a floral arrangement I looked up to see someone looking at me. Immediately my eyes focused on this man. Beautiful red hair, blue eyes, tye dye socks, sneakers, and a string of hemp around his neck that held a green healing stone along with several other colorful beads. . He had the most welcoming, beautiful smile I had ever seen. He exuded so much joy, sunshine, and happiness. Where did this man come from? Unbeknownst to me my employer had hired temps for the fall foliage season Was it really that sunny of a day, or was he the sunshine? His smile, his presence brightened any room he walked into.
The first day he kinda smiled and just observed the lay of the land, so to speak. The next day he walked over to the floral counter where I worked. He shared that he was going thru a difficult transition (divorce). He was starting over here as a transient from Lake George. Looking for gainful employment. Was in AA and had so much gratitude for this one day. I listened, offered some sharing of my own, and we instantly became friends. I too was in a 12 step program, AlAnon. I too was going through divorce, a difficult transition. I was 33, he was 31.
A few weeks later, after weeks of flirting with each other, he came over to me, smiled and said “when are you going to have me down for dinner?” I quickly replied “I don’t cook but I have several kinds of cereal!”…. he responded with a wonderful grin on his face “I’ll bring the milk!” October 8th was our first “date”. We sat on my couch and shared about our lives. He held my hand, as we shared with each other about our lives. He shared that he had been in trouble with the law due to drinking. He touched my face with the back of his hand, and then cupped my cheek into his hand. Both of us felt like we had known each other forever. We had much in common. Six or seven hours later, when we realized how late it was, or early (lol) he left to go catch a few hours sleep before meeting with his lawyer in NY. After he left I laid in my bed reliving every sentence spoken. Something huge had happened that night. Out of the blue it came. For the very first time in my life I realized why everything happened the way it did in my life. Everything aligned, painful things that I had experienced fell into a groove of acceptance, uncertainties were resolved. It was the most incredible powerful night of my life. If I never saw him again, that wouldn’t have changed. Still wouldn’t today.
When I looked into those beautiful blue eyes I knew this man was going to be significant in my life. The anticipation of being with each other at night was unlike anything I had ever experienced. He felt the same. Kismet, love, lust… this was a powerful combination. A few weeks later his address changed to mine. I wasn’t yet divorced, though I had been separated for 2 years from my exhusband and I had asked for a divorce a few months earlier. My hand fit perfectly into his, my shoulders into his. As he shared of his past problems with alcohol I wasn’t afraid. For me, it was a miracle to both of us that we had found each other, life was good, we were going to be okay. Together we could conquer the world! Our relationship grew, everyday got better and better. Not only did we “fit” physically but spiritually we were aligned, and emotionally we connected on a level I had never experienced before in my life, and doubt I ever will again. Our goals, morals, standards, dreams were one in the same. We adopted a dog from the humane society, he named her “miss molly”… an instant family in a small house in a very small community. He started a new job (a place where I had worked for several years before), and encouraged me to teach painting at the local school after a call from local schoolboard member. We planted gardens in our yard, we camped and canoed at his family’s camp in NH, we went on long rides and he showed me places I had never seen as I did him. One day we decided to go for a long drive and find a place to camp overnight. It was so cold, I believe it was early December, we laid in separate sleeping bags, cuddling, and he showed me how eskimos kiss by rubbing his nose over mine. Smiles.
I met his parents at Christmas time. They came to the house, did not stay long, but they gifted me with this huge beautiful plant. Before they arrived he had picked out a painting I did that he thought his mother would like, it was a country scene on an old barrel stave that he had sanded up for me. Our christmas tree was beautiful. It was decorated with popcorn and cranberries strung together, and we made decorations ourselves. As if to shut off our pasts, we wanted to start anew with each other. Another commonality was we didn’t have a lot of money, but it didn’t matter. We defined wealth and richness in our love for each other, in our home, in our furry animals, family and many friends. One of our favorite things to do on the weekend was to take the jeep into the woods, pack a lunch and just drive. We went through streams, swamps, rocks, dug up some wild violets and fiddleheads and transplanted them back in our yard. Sometimes we would bring back a rock to commemorate the day. We frequented the movies weekly. Friday nights were movie night. He loved to pick out movies like “Alien Resurrection,The Cell” because he said “you sit really close to me and bury your head in my chest!”. We loved going to the movies. And he was right, I was afraid and freaked out at some of the movies, so I DID in fact bury my head in his chest.
As with any new relationship, or when you begin living with someone you learn things about them, and you learn your differences. One day we went to the local video store to return a video that he had forgotten to grab that morning to drop in the box. There was another day charge on my account. I was digging for the money when he said “We’ll just pay the late free when we rent another movie’. I remember saying to him “I don’t work that way… I pay for things as they come up”. Looking back on it years later I realized this was one of the first changes I made without much thought. The changes were so small and gradual that I either wasn’t cognitive of them happening or I had abandoned my beliefs and ways because it was easier(?).
Many months later I went away for the weekend to spend time with my two sisters in Wolfeboro, NH. He was encouraging me to go, told me to just go and have fun. I ended up having one of the best weekends of my life….Mt. Washington, shopping in North Conway, eating meals and reminiscing with my sisters… life was good. I decided to come home a day early to surprise him. I couldn’t wait to see him, to see Miss Molly and my boys (Sam & Pickles). My cats absolutely loved him. Sam was a cat that only liked 2 people in the world-me and my sister Darlene. But he quickly became Jim’s cat. His coloring matched Jim’s, the reds/oranges. Smiles. Sam would actually lay on his chest and rub his head on Jim’s beard. He had never reacted like this to anyone, and he was almost 10 years old. I drove in the yard and he and Molly weren’t home. Within a few minutes I heard the jeep bombing down the road and into the driveway they pull. His face was beat red, but this wasn’t unusual for a red head when exposed to the sun. He was surprised but happy to see me. I thought I saw a flash of fear in his eyes, and I couldn’t quite figure out why until we got close to each other. He was drunk. Everything came crashing down on me. The bubble had burst.
That night I slept in the spare room, he slept in our bedroom. In the middle of the night he came into the room where I was, sat down on the bed, rubbed my back and started to cry. I cried too. I told him I had lived with active alcoholism before, I didn’t want to again. And very innocently and naively and in hindsight I will include ignorantly I said “I thought you were happy”. “I am, I am happier than I have ever been Donna, this has nothing to do with you or us. I can’t help myself, I just can’t.” Never once did he say he would quit, or promise to quit. He didn’t say he had a desire to quit. The next day I met one of my dearest friends in the local park. I was crying, as I told her what was happening, that the man I had fallen in love with had fallen off the wagon. My all or nothing thinking told me I had to end the relationship, yet how could I say goodbye to this man? He had some quirks, he was absent minded, he was irresponsible in ways, but he was the kindest, sweetest, most loving and supportive person I had ever met. We nurtured each other, we loved each other. It was that day, talking to Janice that she said to me “Why Donna does it have to end? When was the last time you went to AlAnon?” It was that day that I realized, oh my god, I had forgotten all about program, and so had he. We thought that together we were bigger than that, that it wasn’t necessary… NEVER had we been so wrong in our lives We started going back to meetings infrequently. Hours, days, weeks of conversations, discussions, happiness again… We somehow grew closer from this. A couple months later he sold his jeep, paid the landlord 5 months worth of rent, and surprised me with my first studio. A few months later when he went away to CT for training it happened again. “I’ll call you when I get there, I love you”…. And when he called his voice had that added element of excitement in it. Later when he called I could hear the slurring in his words… Reality has a way of slapping you in the face when you realize you are in love with a binge drinker.
I had been involved with AlAnon on and off because of involvement with alcoholics in my life. I was familiar with daily drinking, but I had never quite seen nor did I have experience with binge drinking. I was, however, a recovering bulimic, I tried to relate to the build up that I felt when I would binge.
We continued to enjoy each other, our life was pretty good with the exception of his biannual binges. I knew when they would be coming as his whole body language changed. He would get this firey look in his eyes just before he would binge. I don’t know how to explain it, but it truly was present. Inside of this man was a craving, a need he could not control for longer than 4-5 months. When I felt a binge coming on for him, which over the years progressed from biannually to quarterly, I would try to control the situation by talking to him in advance about it. I had read about the dangers of binge drinking, the damage it does to your liver, to your body. I would share this information with him. This effort proved futile, though he would listen to me. “I know Donna, I know”. When he returned home from training and drinking, I would be angry with him, and hurt. Again and ignorantly I would say things like “if you loved me, you would stop drinking”. It would take us a few days to get back to where we were before the binge, but we always managed to do so. Over a period of this happening I started to feel resentful. During one of his away trips / binges my cat Sam became very ill, and I had to make a choice whether to put him down or not. Jim was unavailable to me, not only was he away, but he was in his own little world unreachable by phone. When he arrived home, I had put Sam down, and was extremely angry and hurt with him. Somethings you can forgive but they stick to your insides like flesh to the bone. I would express my concerns, and worked hard on his guilt. (Later I learned how this behavior only contributed to his drinking). He listened, he offered no excuses, nor promises. He said to me “Booze is my best friend, Donna. I can’t live without it”. In hindsight, he never spoke truer words to me than those.