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The Sober Husband – Volume 5 – 12/31/20

It’s 10pm on New Year’s Eve and I just put Jen in bed. She didn’t even make it to midnight. She apologized profusely as I put the blankets over her and I assured her that it’s ok… and it is. She gets up at 530am every day during the week and works hard at her job. Her ambition and drive is one of the things to which I’m most attracted. I’m not bitter or angry or resentful that my New Year’s Eve is over before midnight. I’m grateful for the wonderful night we had. We got dressed up and had a candle light dinner, then put on our pajamas and zoomed with some friends. I called or texted most of my friends and family throughout the night to wish them a happy new year. One of the things that I realized tonight was that I don’t talk to my friends or family nearly enough. I was always the one who organized our nights and weekends when we were younger back in Chicago and I’ve let that fall by the wayside as adulthood and distance has taken over. Life is partly to blame for it but so is laziness and if I’m being completely honest, self-centeredness and pride. (i.e. Why can’t they call me?) 

This week an old comedy pal of mine from Chicago died of ALS. I had no idea he even had it. We hadn’t talked in 3 years and it turns out that his brain had been extremely impacted by it and his personality was gone. When I heard the news I looked at the messages we had exchanged throughout the years and every one of them was an unsolicited note of encouragement from him. Every one. What a gift. And I thought how easy is it to just be kind. It’s so easy. To just reach out to someone and tell them you’re thinking about them or that you’re proud of them or just ask how they’re doing. 

Tonight is the perfect ending to 2020 and the perfect analogy of what my year was like and how sobriety has changed it.  For most alcoholics (and even normal people) New Year’s Eve is the cherry on top. It’s the perfect excuse to let loose and drink your face off and I took advantage of that most NYE’s. I wanted to ring in the new year with a bang. I wanted to fucking party. I wanted to laugh and cry and smoke cigars and beg my date to let us stay for just a little while longer. Just one more drink and we’ll go. I never wanted the night to end. 

This is my 5th sober New Year’s Eve and it’s during a pandemic. To say this year has been challenging would be the greatest understatement of the year. Simply put, it sucked shit. Many of us lost jobs, or at least income, some of us lost loved ones or had to witness some family and friends getting very sick. We had to wait in long lines just to do normal things like grocery shop and most of us haven’t been to a movie in 9 months. Black Lives Matter united some yet divided others and to top it all off it was an election year. An extremely stressful election regardless of which side you were on. 

When I reflect on this year I know I would have drank most days just to pass the time and deal with the psychological impact of quarantine. Liquor sales were up 40% this year so I wouldn’t have been alone. I also would have been far more depressed as I brooded over the dire situation we found ourselves in. And as usual there would have been many many drunk dials. But instead I was given the greatest gift I’ve received in sobriety thus far. Perspective. I didn’t hit the panic button. I stayed in the present. I understood that this too shall pass. I stayed patient and tried my best to be empathetic. I prayed and meditated more and even a few times I just had a good ole fashioned cry. I focused on being of service to other people. Like so many of us, I had good days and bad days, and when I did, I talked about them to Jen and my friends. I didn’t bottle it all up like I’ve always done but just let go of whatever I couldn’t control and stayed grounded in gratitude for the things I did have. My health, money to pay bills, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and of course, Tiger King. 

My perspective has changed. I no longer have to be the life of the party or even go to the party to have joy in my life. I can have dinner with my beautiful wife, tuck her in and blog on New Year’s Eve and not dwell on the fact that someone out there might be having more goddam fun than me, god forbid. I was so worried about being boring when I quit drinking. I was worried about not drinking at weddings or ball games or barbecue’s. I was dreading my first sober new year’s eve but all of that fear went away when I realized that the thing that I loved the most about this night was the people I spent it with. So I called them. I texted them. I told them I loved them and I made a promise to myself to make sure I said it again before next New Year’s Eve. Because if this year has taught us anything it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised and so as my friend who passed away this week so often did, I wanted to end this cluster fuck of a year by letting you know that I’m grateful for you. I’m grateful for my new perspective, my sobriety, my life, and most importantly my lame ass sleeping wife.

Happy New Year! 

The Sober Husband Blog – Volume 2 – August 28th, 2020

One of the things that you have to understand about alcoholics is that our world is the only world that matters. There have been many times alcoholics have been confronted by a doctor or judge or wife who have looked them in the eye and told them they are going to die, go to jail or lose their marriage if they take one more drink and the whole time that’s being explained to them they are thinking, “This is stressing me out. I need a drink”. I promise you that for an alcoholic it is far easier to walk out and go sit on a bar stool for hours at a time than it is to stand there and work it out because that requires intimacy and as we all know… intimacy is fucking gross. 

So last week when I painted the ceiling in the bathroom Jen made a comment on how the fumes were bugging her. Then about a half hour later she made another comment and said she might have to leave. I still took no action. After all, my world isn’t being impacted by the fumes.  Finally she said, “you can totally stay here but I think that I’m going to get out of the house for a little bit and get some food.” Now the alcoholic in me wants to not be bothered with her problems. If she leaves then I’ll get to play video games and relax and do what I want to do OR (you big idiot) you have a chance to take your beautiful new wife out on an impromptu date (girls love that shit btw) and spend some quality time with her in a new city she’s not familiar with. OHHHHH!  

Guys – women tell you exactly what they want/need. All the time. She spelled it out for me in very specific terms. 1. The fumes are bugging me. 2. I need to get out. 3. I want to grab some food. I mean it was pretty clear cut.  But because I live in my own alcoholic world my first reaction is; No fumes. No problem. In the past I would have closed the door and set up some fans and then spent an hour convincing the person I love the most in this world that it’s not that bad and we don’t have to go anywhere because going out and grabbing some food was not part of my plan today. I have no idea if any of my exes read this but I assure you they are all shaking their heads. It’s Ken Garr 101. I hear “solve the problem” and come up with a solution that suits my needs when the solution has already been provided. Jen, like most women, communicates very clearly what her needs are at all times. I truly could have stayed home and she would have been just fine going out on her own. And there have been times that I have stayed at home while she went out shopping. But I had spent all day painting and she had spent all day working and I could tell she just wanted to spend some time with her husband. And truth be told I love going out with her. I have fun with her no matter where we go. 

I read this book years ago by Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton called “How Full is Your Bucket?” and the premise based on a 50 year study was this, the more you fill other people’s buckets the more yours becomes filled. I painted, I’m tired, I’m sweaty and I can’t shower because the ceiling is drying in the bathroom still but here I have an opportunity to spend time with my new wife who loves me, stinky and all, no matter what and fill her bucket. To a normal person or someone already in a healthy relationship this might sound ludicrous but I assure you it’s progress for me. I’m trying to be a better listener and to understand that the more I can fill her bucket and make her feel loved and the less I make myself the center of the universe, the happier and healthier we are going to be.  And all it cost me was a falafel. 

The Sober Husband Blog – Volume 1 – July 15th, 2020

It’s three days before the wedding and Jen has a visitor. We are preparing for a wedding amidst a global pandemic and a cross country move to Los Angeles at the same time. Needless to say my anxiety is through the roof and despite my best efforts it’s starting to come out in the form of crabiness, sarcasm and my old friend passive aggressiveness.  Her friend is over and looking at some art work. They are going through some old clothes as well that Jen is getting rid of. They are sitting cross legged on the floor relaxed and gabbing away but all I see are items that need to be packed, rooms that need to be cleaned and one of those storage pods sitting on the street outside that’s only about a third full. “What kind of person just comes over and chats three days before a wedding?” my brain fires off. And why isn’t Jen ushering her out so we can get to work on the things that need to be done?

I’m agitated. I pause. I take a deep breath and then it dawns on me.  Because it’s Jen.  

People are drawn to her the same way I am drawn to her. She gives you her undivided attention. She spends as much time with you as you need and she makes you feel seen and genuinely cared for. The qualities that I adore about her and the reason I’m marrying her in three days are the same qualities that all people see in her. She is a procrastinator and waits till the last minute but she’s never been late for anything since I’ve known her and she has never missed a deadline since I’ve been with her. A calm comes over me and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I don’t want her to change. I don’t want her to adhere to my schedule and meet my sophomoric (at times) expectations. I just want her to be her and I need to not only celebrate who she is but be grateful for it because it’s those same qualities; love, kindness, attentiveness and generosity that make her such a great wife and partner.

The wedding day comes. It’s at 2pm. It’s the hottest and most humid day of the year so far in Chicago but we’re Chicagoans so we’re used to it. The tent goes up. We’ve made 50 face masks with our names and initials. Our theme is tiki, of course, because that’s cheesy and cool at the same time. Just like us. It’s unbelievable what it took to get to this day. We got engaged on March 13th and on March 14th the whole world literally shut down due to the Coronavirus.  Our wedding, originally planned to take place in Las Vegas at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club by Brad Garrett, was cancelled and we were forced to scramble and figure out a way to have a safe wedding in a time where you were literally rolling the dice on having any type of gathering. My sister got ordained online, we invited a small number of family and close friends, held it outdoors and practiced social distancing. And somehow we pulled it off.  (As of this publication nobody at the wedding has tested positive for the Coronavirus) 

As Jen emerged from the back of her house holding her father’s arm and looking as beautiful as ever I have never seen a woman so elated. All of my stress and anxiety dissipate and I’m able to be present and truly enjoy the moment we have worked so hard to put together. My sister, our online minister, whispered to me, “She’s so happy!” Her father and I embraced and I took her hands and for the next ten minutes we didn’t take our eyes off each other. We repeated the vows we had written together and we became husband and wife. As with all weddings the rest of the day was a blur and the occasion ended all too quickly. Five days later we packed up her blue Nissan Versa, our dog, Wilbur, and the two dumplings (guinea pigs) and set off to start our new life together in Los Angeles. 

When I got divorced in 2011 there weren’t any books for men about divorce because since the dawn of man we have been encouraged to never ever discuss our feelings let alone publish a book on how to deal with them. It’s just easier to start wars than talk about our feelings apparently. Throughout my divorce my male friends were amazing but all but one of them had never been through a divorce. The hugs and whiskey were bountiful but I didn’t know how to process it. I am admittedly an over analyzer and problem solver (aka alcoholic) but I was just left wondering what happened. It wasn’t until years later after a lot of therapy, soul searching and sobriety that I realized that my marriage was doomed from the start because of my own defects of character and inability to maintain any healthy relationship let alone a marriage. 

So as I begin my second marriage I wanted to share my experiences and perspective as a sober husband trying to get it right this time in what many consider the dawn of a new age where the paper mache/cardboard cut out of a husband (the dutiful husband going to work, putting food on the table, cutting the grass, flipping burgers on the grill on weekends while drinking a beer) is gone. The world is changing and the role of the husband is changing (more on that later) and by god I’m going to save the world with this blog! You’re welcome America.