October 23, 2017: Reflections on Thirteen Years of Marriage

Thirteen years ago, I woke to brilliant sunshine after a week straight of rain, with a banging headache, in a hotel room at the O’Callahan on West Street, in Annapolis, MD. My addiction to alcohol would not take full root for several more years, but the previous night had been full of revelry with friends and family. We’d been celebrating in preparation of this day, the day that I would commit my life to the most amazing and beautiful woman I’d ever met. Yes, Mrs. TKD and I were getting married!

We had fretted about the weather for the entire week as it poured rain on Maryland. The forecast had predicted more rain on Saturday but here I was, awake with sun streaming in the window and clear skies as far as I could see. The air crisp and clear, we would have the perfect weather for our October wedding day after all.

The day became a bit of a blur once things got rolling, but at six in the morning I had a lot on my mind and couldn’t go back to sleep. Around seven, I met Mom for breakfast. I took a walk around ten and ate oysters at the Market House in Annapolis, shucked by a kind old black man named Lester Jones.

Lester had known my father and after he died always asked me how Mom was doing. When I shared the plan of the day with Lester his broad smiled showed through his slat and pepper beard and he told me that Dad would be proud. He told me that Dad would be with me that day. And I knew that he was with me in spirit. I carry my dad’s spirit with me everywhere I go, even now.

I’ve been reading a book called Waiting: A nonbeliever’s Higher Power, and one of the central tenets of the book is that we live in the here and now and that the very act of being present with other human beings — the act of communicating and participating in fellowship with other human beings — is in and of itself spiritual. I believe that this sense of community that we find in the rooms is perhaps even more powerful in our recovery than understanding any Higher Power in which we may believe.

I know for me this has been the case. The recognition that we are not alone that comes from spending time with others who seem to understand us vitalizes our lives. Talking about our pains and joys, actively listening to others, and offering our thoughtful suggestions are indeed connections between our spirit and the spirits of others fostered by a common language of struggle and triumph. When I came to understand that I was not alone in the rooms, my world expanded many fold.

Lester’s reminder that my father was with me was no accident. Indeed, I’d gone to get oysters from Lester specifically to spend time with my father’s memory. It was a small way to bring him into the day. I knew, if only subconsciously, that Lester and I would talk about dad and that by talking about him, we would bring his spirit to the day.

I did not know Lester Jones well, but I know a bit about his life. I knew that he’d been born south of Annapolis in a house on Muddy Creek Road in Edgewater, MD. I knew that he’d worked on the water as a younger man. I knew that he’d been married and divorced and that his current woman drove him a bit nutty but that he loved her. I knew that he was in his late fifties (at the time) but looked much older and weathered.

His had not been an easy life but he was a gentleman who had kind words and a smile. I didn’t know his entire life story, but I knew enough to know that his life was very different from my own, and yet, I considered him a friend — someone who was important enough in my family’s story to visit and to share the memory of my father with on my wedding day. I’ll never know if Lester considered me anything more than a customer, but I suspect he did. Lester made connections with people. He never forgot to ask about Mom when I visited his stand.

Today, as I celebrate thirteen years of marriage, I’m thinking about the connection between my spirit and Mrs. TKD’s spirit. I fell in love with her spirit first. It was here spirit that told me the stories of hiking Machu Picchu, of travels in Europe, of wanting to be a cartographer at National Geographic. It was here spirit that showed up on dates in pink and white cow printed sandals, and wore sparkly flip flops on that warm April day in 2003 when I met her. And it is her spirit that lifts me up when I am down. He spirit gave here the strength to never give up on me even in my darkest hours.

Our spirits are forever entwined and changed by the other. They will never be one, but they are close and I hope will never be separated.

φιλία (philía) love

The first time the man who I would eventually ask to be my sponsor said, “I love you” to me I was a bit stunned and I managed to stammer that I loved him too back, even though I wasn’t sure that I wanted to say the words — not because I didn’t love him, but because it felt awkward.

I like to think that I’m a fairly enlightened modern male who is not a rampant homophobe — I have gay friends. I have gay family members. I accept them and love them unquestionably because I understand that homosexuality is not a depravity, disease, or mental illness — it just is. I believe that love is love regardless of gender.

And yet, hearing the words, “I love you” from a man who I’d only known for a few months — let alone parroting them back — felt supremely un-masculine. Vulnerable. And perhaps, I’m ashamed to admit, a bit homophobic.

Our understanding of masculinity finds its roots firmly in the image of the “tough guy” – a heterosexual, lone wolf machismo who fights off an army of “bad guys” on his own. The masculine guy has rugged good looks, maybe a scar or two, and can seduce a beautiful woman simply by looking in her eyes and smiling. It’s a fiction perpetuated by the media.

But we’re not all 007 — most of us are more like Agent 86.

Of course, there were many times when these words were exuberantly shouted in times of drunkenness, but I’m not talking about those insincere, intoxicated ramblings. I’m talking about open and honest communication between two members of humanity marked forever with the XY chromosome set.

I have said these words to other men over the years with no qualms, but always in the context of a very deep and long time connection — I said them to my father nearly every time I spoke with him. I say them to my brother, my son, and my nephew with regularity. There are a handful of men from my college days that will hear these words from me on occasion. But saying them to men who are not family or very old friends felt unnatural.

The Ancient Greeks spoke of four types of love:

  • ἀγάπη (agápē) – the love of god for man
  • ἔρως (érōs) – sexual love or lust
  • στοργή (storgē) – the love of family or parental love
  • φιλία (philía) – friendship or affectionate regard between equals

Aristotle spoke at length about philia in Nicomachean Ethics, which is one of the many books that I halfheartedly read in college in pursuit of a minor in Philosophy that I never really earned. I fulfilled the credits for it but never declared the minor — probably because I was too busy having deep philosophical conversations at my favorite bar, Zeno’s which was located “directly above the center of the Earth.” Or maybe they just seemed philosophical because of the portrait of Dionysus (aka Bacchus) that looked down on the seating area from the portrait wall.

One of the greatest gifts of my recovery has been a greater understanding of φιλία (philía) which as given me the ability to tell another man that I love him without getting freaked out by it as well as to hear it from another man.

The words “I love you” are powerful, whether we say them or we hear them. They lift us up, tell us we are accepted, and that we are not alone. In the moments of darkness, these words can be the single candle burning in the night — a beacon of hope.

I recently had a conversation with a brother in recovery and he told me that he loved me — and I knew that these words came from his heart, that they were indeed genuine and true. I knew that I’d made a difference in his life, even if it were just for a moment.

The world would be a better place if we could abandon the ideas of masculinity that are tied up in our 007 selves and embrace our Agent 86 selves more often. As males, we don’t say these words to each other often enough.

Matt & Caz’s Story

Damien’s Note: Matt and I have followed each other on Twitter for some time and have had enjoyed good interactions. Last week, he reached out via Direct Message requesting my email, saying that he had something to share with me. When I opened the email, in the middle of my work day, I was dumbstruck. I had to get up and leave my home office for a bit to absorb the pain.

Matt’s story hit home because I know what it’s like to loose someone important to death, but I can’t imagine loosing my wife. I hoped that Matt might want me to share this story on my blog. Matt’s story is one of resilience. He’s proof that our sobriety can be stronger than our emotions, life’s twists and turns, and even death.

C0IQQWbXgAAO-U8I married an amazing woman in 2004. We had been together as boyfriend & girlfriend for 7 years to the day when we tied the knot. Not only was I marrying the love of my life, this person was my best friend/lover & soul mate.

I came out as bisexual to her early in the relationship, she understood and excepted me. If I am in a relationship with a person that’s it I am just in a relationship with that one person.

By coming out to her it was as if I had come out to the entire world. I was free to be myself, no secrets and no shame. When I saw her eye up some attractive random man could smile and tell her she had good taste, a relationship like this comes but once a life. Continue reading