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The Sober Husband Blog – Volume 3 – October 2nd, 2020

I met Jen the day I got divorced. The whole day was weird. I woke up to the song “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. I took a shower and went to the courthouse. I was in line with my wife when the guy in front of me recognized me from high school. I asked him, “How’s it going?” 

“Not great! he replied.” Oh yeah, he’s getting divorced too. 

The judge gave his speech and the marriage was dissolved. Said goodbye to my now ex and went and bought new tires for my car. They said it was going to be a while so I went to the mall and bought a $100 pair of jeans. I had never really done that before and just figured I needed a “me day”. 

That night I went to my home comedy club and handed the bartender my keys and told him, “I just got divorced. You are not to give me these back under any circumstances.” My oldest brother showed up to do his brotherly duties and we started drinking. It was open mic night. They called my name and I got on stage and I said, “I can do my act or I can talk about the fact that I got divorced today. Your choice.” 

“Divorce!” they all yelled simultaneously. 

And for the next 10 minutes I talked about my divorce that day. How when I got to the parking lot of the court house that morning that my first thought was, “I should have tailgated.” Just grilling burgers and drinking beers at the Bridgeview County Courthouse parking lot? I came off stage and my brother and I clinked beer bottles. It was raw and real and honest and funny. Then Jen walked by. 

Jen takes over a room when she’s in it. Like a movie star. All eyes are on her. The first time I saw her I felt like Roger Rabbit seeing Jessica Rabbit for the first time. She has this air of confidence and energy. She floats through rooms. 

The open mic ended and my brother and I took our seats at the bar outside the showroom. There was drinking to be done. Much to my complete shock Jen walked up to me and introduced herself. I immediately tried to convince myself that this happens all the time and tried to be cool. 

“Did you really get divorced today?” She asked. 

“Yeah.” 

“And you just went up on stage and talked about it?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Wow!” 

“Yeah, I’m actually headlining here in two weeks. You should come back up and see me.” said Ken totally keeping it cool. 

“Ok, I will.” she responded with a smile. 

Then she joined her friends at the other end of the bar. I sat there for a minute and thought about the gravity of the day. I had gotten divorced. The person that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with was like, “Nah bro” and it was over. I felt guilt and shame and embarrassment. I had failed as a husband and had to start all over again. I had nothing to lose. 

I stood up. I wrote my number on a napkin and walked over to Jen and her friends. I put the napkin down in front of her and I said, “I don’t want to wait two weeks to see you. Call me tomorrow.” Her mouth dropped. She just looked at me and said, “Ok.” 

To this day I don’t know what made me do that. I had never done anything like that before in my life. I was always too afraid of rejection. She texted me later that night and told me that was the most baller thing any guy had ever done.

Jen and I had our first date Thanksgiving night three days later. We met at some dive bar and had a couple drinks. It turns out that she had just ended her relationship earlier that week too so we were both getting over someone. “Crazy Train” by Ozzie Osbourne came on and we both laughed. “That’s not a good sign.” I kissed her at the bar and I remember thinking the moment that I kissed her that I had married the wrong woman. I had never felt like that kissing someone before. 

We only dated for a few weeks. I was too raw emotionally and insecure and we were both on the rebound. We still debate to this day who ghosted who but eventually we got in touch and began a friendship that lasted 7 years. That Christmas I met a girl and jumped right back into a relationship (serial monogamist much?) and Jen eventually met someone and got married as well. We both worked downtown and had lunch occasionally. I told her my girl troubles and she told me her boy troubles. We really got to know each other and I accepted and respected our friendship and the boundaries that came with it. I never had a secret crush. She was just my friend and I really valued that. She even invited me to her wedding and I went by myself. I didn’t stay too long. I said my goodbyes and gave her a hug and walked to my car. I sat in the car and I remember thinking. “This isn’t over. I don’t know why but I think I’m going to be with her some day.” I had no reason to believe that she wouldn’t be happily married for the next 50 years but I just had this vision in my head of her painting while I read a book on a couch. The vision was clear as day. I figured we would meet on some cruise ship in 30 years and she would push me around in my wheel chair till I died. 

Her marriage didn’t last long and we re-connected. By this time I was sober and I had figured out who I was and for the first time maybe in my life I finally had self worth and self esteem. I was able to finally be in a healthy relationship and be honest and transparent and let my walls down. The first couple of months we dated we spent hours talking, about our fears, our needs, our wants. For the first time I didn’t hide behind some persona that wasn’t me. The party animal, the life of the party, the false Bravado, Tatonka (long story). Like that night on stage the day of my divorce, I was raw and real and let her see the real me, flaws and all. I expected her to go running for the closest exit but she kept coming back and loved me no matter what and I accepted that love which for me was the hardest part. And slowly we built, one day at a time, a foundation for what would be our relationship. 

I am honestly grateful for alcohol. I know that sounds weird but I don’t know if I could have pulled off that move sober that night. It’s called liquid courage for a reason. Alcohol allowed me to stand up for myself at times and to vent my anger. It numbed me from pain I didn’t know how to deal with at the time and it gave me the courage to talk to the prettiest girl in the room. It worked until it didn’t work anymore. But once I got sober and finally let the real me surface and let people decide (without fear of abandonment or rejection) whether they wanted me in their life and more importantly whether I wanted them in my life I finally started to have healthy relationships for the first time. It hasn’t been easy. I know there are people in my life who miss that guy. He was a lot of fun the first few hours of the night but I can’t help but love the gift of being present. When you talk I’m truly listening and when I say something it isn’t some slurred ball of angst. I say what I mean.  Alcohol may have been what I needed that night to get Jen to call me but sobriety is what has gotten me to keep her. Seven years ago when we met there is no way we would have made it as a couple and I think we both recognized that quickly. I would have made the same mistakes I had made in my marriage but having gone on this journey I finally realized in order to find the love of your life you must first BE the love of your own life. Until you can truly love yourself unconditionally it is so difficult to be authentic in any other relationship but I have that today… And that makes me the luckiest Roger Rabbit of all. 

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.