Even if…

After touring the sober house we hoped Swenny would call home for the next six months or so, Swenny and I stood in the office with the house manager and the owner. It was a room that could have been a 1970s den, with dark furniture and wood paneled walls adorned with photos of John Wayne.

On a counter were registers where residents signed in each night, with a column for someone to confirm they had taken and passed a daily breathalyzer. Containers for drug test samples were at the far end, and breathalyzer tests were in the middle. Never fond of silence, I started a conversation by commenting that I’ve not been able to successfully administer a breathalyzer. So they showed me how. And the course of Swenny’s and my forever changed.

What Swenny initially fought seems now like a gift: months spent living away from home in a community of strangers joined by a common enemy. The sober house a stop on the way to someplace else.

For us, that stop lasted an hour, and our someplace else is still being determined. We are finding our way by exploring inpatient rehab, other sober houses, and separate accommodations for Swenny and for me. As I keep paperwork to begin divorce proceedings in my bag, he is carefully considering his next step, hoping I will change my mind.

Which I won’t. I remain firm in my decision, but a need to be kind to our twenty-seven years as husband and wife has me treading lightly. And thoughtfully. As much as I want to move forward quickly, I don’t want to hurry. Or discourage him and the progress he needs to make instead of answering the continued call of an addiction that has him believing the drink he’s holding is his last. But I also don’t want to mislead him, so remind him almost daily of my intention, and why.

“Even if,” he asks, “I do all of this?”

Yes. Even if.

Even if he agrees to in-patient rehab followed by months in a sober community, I will move to dissolve our marriage. Because any other decision enables his continued drinking, and removes years from a life still reaching for its potential. Any answer other than yes to the question even if discards the care and concern of our children as they come to terms as young adults with the seriousness of their father’s disease and the consequences we now face as a family.

When I begin to waiver, I return myself to a week ago last Wednesday. As Swenny failed the test I inadvertently wrote, John Wayne looked on from photos as the house manager shared the result with his colleague. Swenny knew what had just happened, but I waited for the proof. When they turned the breathalyzer toward me, I saw in the reading the answer to the question I have considered for too long.

“Is it over?” Yes.

Because any other answer takes away the chance that Swenny and I will grow old together. Unmarried ~ yes ~ but with love and affection…til death do us part.

All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be some place else. ~ John Wayne

All Rise

“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” ~ Joan Didion

Two days ago, I sat at a dining room table in a beautiful but unfamiliar home. To my left was Swenny, and across from us were two men. One the house manager and the other the owner of a sober house we had just toured. It was big, well cared for, and the final stop on a road paved with ultimatums.

The view outside was of a park in a neighborhood not far from the sober house Swenny called home in the summer of 2015. The conversation was small as we talked about alcoholism, house rules, meetings and the formica table of the same vintage as my grandmother’s. I kept my focus on the table because nothing else that was said mattered.

Swenny failed a breathalyzer test, and wouldn’t be moving in.

As the men sought to alarm Swenny of what the future holds for him while wanting to assure him that he could still have one, I considered how we got here. To a place where his drinking had again escalated beyond what he can manage; to where his best judgment left him with a blood alcohol content high enough to betray him during an important meeting held almost a full day after his last drink; to where it is left to strangers to tell him the rest of his story based on the worst endings they have known.

While Swenny listened as if they were talking about someone other than him, I decided to pick this as the place from which I walk away. From where the latitude is lies and the longitude is denial. From where in sickness and in health feels like a sentence I have served for too long. From where alcohol presides.

I hope that Swenny, too, picks this as the place from where he walks away. And turns instead toward an ending unlike the one for which he is heading.