By Nancy Howard
The word that describes our recovery is, Gratitude. On November 2, 1964, my husband, Don, walked up a steep flight of stairs to an AA Club on Delmar Avenue in St. Louis, and he started us on an incredible journey. This journey would challenge and strengthen us as individuals and a couple.
On that day, Don was given two wonderful sponsors who pursued him like the hounds of heaven. He had turned to AA as the result of an “informal intervention.” His parents refused to lend him any more money. His boss was scrutinizing his work habits. Some close friends quit socializing with us because they couldn’t watch his drinking behavior.
My sister and her husband sternly expressed their concern to him regarding his behaviors. And instead of my usual prayer, begging God to make him quit drinking, I prayed for the strength and guidance to do whatever I needed to do to bring sanity into my and our daughters’ lives. This prayer led to my confronting Don with, “I love you, but I can’t live with you.” He would tell me at a later time that my demeanor told him that I meant it and was ready to take steps to divorce. The week before my declaration, he had heard a Mr. X, a recovering alcoholic, in an interview on KMOX Radio in St. Louis, talking about alcoholism. Mr. X said that you could be young, be employed, have a family, only drink beer, and be an alcoholic.
Because of that interview he was inspired to seek out Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, he did not go to AA with the intention of staying sober any longer than it would take to get back in the house, but what he heard and saw there was like seeing the future. He heard the stories of men who had lost everything, and at one time they had been just where he was. Our journey was not a straight smooth path but the light of understanding gave us hope. Hope that we could change as long as we were open to learning how to improve ourselves and our lives as individuals, partners, and parents. The Twelve Steps facilitated the process of growth in very practical ways. His sobriety gave us freedom and responsibility. The freedom we needed to grow individually and as a couple. We could take advantage of others’ knowledge and experience. We made mistakes but we had the faith and commitment that we would weather the storms. We wanted to make our marriage and family work. We sought out ways to learn how to live better lives. We also learned that we were responsible to pass it on.
I am very grateful for all the guidance and support we received from many people in our families, AA, Al-Anon, in our church and community. I am grateful that my husband discovered that his special talents and experience were useful to serve others. I am grateful that we were able to stay together for our daughters and a son who was born during the sober years. I am grateful that he challenged me to step out into life. I am grateful for the many wonderful memories, the passion, fun and friendship that we had in our 45 years of married life. I am grateful for the marriage enrichment work that we did together.
My husband was so very proud of his sobriety. He was 26 days short of celebrating 41 years of sobriety when he died on October 7, 2005. Since all of us gathered around his bed knew he would stay sober, his sponsor, Willie D, pressed the coin into his hand. I believe that God has created each of us for a certain mission. Don discovered his through sobriety and Alcoholics Anonymous. His sobriety brought great rewards for him, for me, our family, and many others in our community. He left a wonderful legacy by serving others. I am grateful.