Tammy and I first met at an NA meeting. She was there with her boyfriend, and the two of them went out with me and my friends for ice cream afterwards. While eating ice cream, I started to think what a shame it was that such an incredible girl was with such a… Well, let’s just say that I was a little envious of her boyfriend.
I actually gave Tammy her 30 day chip at an AA meeting a couple of weeks later. We saw each other at meetings a lot, and became pretty good friends. I knew that I was attracted to her, but I had a girlfriend and she had a boyfriend. Over the next couple of years, this always seemed to be the case, although the boyfriends and girlfriends would change periodically. It seemed that we were never single at the same time so the opportunity to pursue her never came up.
My sponsor was a commercial fisherman named Steve. I went to see him one afternoon while his boat was in drydock. We sat on the boat and drank coffee. I don’t remember what the problem was or what the crisis was in my life at that time, but I think Steve may have grown tired of hearing about it because he told me that I should probably go out on a date. Did I know of any single girls that would go out with me, he asked.
It just so happened that Tammy had broken up with her boyfriend about the same time that I had broken up with my girlfriend.
I told Steve that I might just know of one girl and maybe I would ask her out.
Six weeks later, Steve stood beside me at our wedding. To Steve’s credit, he had enough wisdom to refrain from offering me any advice on the matter. I’m sure that he had his concerns and his misgivings about the whole thing, but he could also see that my mind was made up and he knew me well enough to know that once that happened it was not going to change.
They say that you can tell when two people in AA are on their second date because of the U-Haul truck parked in the driveway. I guess that’s a joke which has more truth to it than humor.
We were told later that some of our friends at the reception had quietly voiced their opinions that the marriage wouldn’t last six months. Tammy and I have been married for 16 years now.
In retrospect, our friends had some very valid concerns. Both of us were very new in recovery, and it wasn’t a sure bet that either of us would be able to sustain our sobriety. The two of us combined had more issues than a magazine rack and more baggage than an airport carousel.
The odds of two recovering crack addicts getting married and staying married and staying clean and sober are very slim.
Tammy and I are still married today – and happily so.
We are very fortunate.
I attribute our success to several key factors.
First and foremost, we both have a strong belief in God and a strong faith that God will get us through the difficulties in life and in our marriage. Without God’s merciful assistance, I’m not sure we would still be married – and I’m certain we would not be clean and sober.
Next – both of us are stubbornly committed to staying in our relationship and in our marriage come hell or high water. The idea of walking away from our marriage has never been an option for either of us.
Not that this was ever even in consideration during our marriage together. We truly enjoy each other’s company. I believe that the fact that circumstances forced us to become good friends before we ever became romantic is a big plus.
Both of us are in recovery, so we can help and support one another and also understand one another fairly well.
What we cannot do is allow ourselves to become each other’s sponsor.
Tammy has always had her own program and I have always had my own program. We do have meetings that we attend together, but we also have meetings that we go to by ourselves. It’s important that both partners work a strong program of recovery.
Speaking of sponsorship, both of us have had the benefit of extremely good, strong and wise sponsors. While we value our privacy and keep the more personal aspects of our relationship from becoming public… We do give each other permission to share more intimate details with our sponsors if need be. This is a given that there are no secrets from our sponsors.
Another important thing for us is that we have healthy boundaries in our relationship with one another. Tammy and I made an agreement when we first married that if I came home drunk or loaded she would not let me into the house, and vice versa. Relapse would not necessarily mean that the marriage was over, but it would mean that the partner in relapse would need to get himself or herself straightened out before we could live together again.
We’ve also had strong boundaries about how we speak to one another. We try to be respectful with one another and kind with one another. We don’t call each other names even when we’re angry, and we don’t try to manipulate one another.
Basically, working these principles in all of our affairs means that we work the principles of the program and God’s principles within our marriage.
Thinking back to when I first met my sponsor Steve and asked him to be my sponsor… The man had a lot of wisdom. He told me that it’s not recommended that you get into a relationship in your first year of recovery – but that he knew I probably would anyway so he wasn’t going to tell me I couldn’t. Instead, he told me that if I do get into a relationship in early recovery I need to work “one hell of program”.
My advice to any recovering addict who is considering marriage Is exactly the same.
Marriage can be a wonderful and beautiful gift from our higher power. But, you definitely need to work one hell of a program.