This holds some honest truths and rough language. Read with that awareness and without my apologies, because when you tell someone else’s story, you don’t change the words.
On one of our first dates, Peter dissected his heart on the table. He told me who he was. He wanted to give me every opportunity leave before our hearts got any more tangled up in one another.
“I’m an alcoholic,” he said, unpacking his story for me. A checkered history he wasn’t proud of. He thought he was telling me all the reasons he couldn’t be loved. But on his face I read an open book of honesty, a man who knew his wounds, his demons, and his story. I’d always rather be with a man who knows his weaknesses than with a man who thinks he has none.
As our love story entered the world, many people said to me, “We know all about you, so when will you tell us Peter’s story?” And I subtly shook my head, almost imperceptibly. Not a hard no, but no. His story wasn’t mine to tell.
But Peter has given me permission. In fact, this year wrote a book that holds his journey. It’s coming out in July. Just.You.Wait.
I remember the first time I attended Alcoholics Anonymous. It was Peter’s fifth anniversary for sobriety, and that is no small thing.
It was in the basement of a church. As Peter says, “That’s where drunks hang out: in the basements.” The walls are yellowed, partly because of paint choice and partly because of age. There are labeled cupboards, white styrofoam coffee cups, and honesty.
On the day I attended, I learned that the 12 steps are different from the 12 traditions. They talked about the fifth tradition: to carry the message to those who still suffer from the grips of alcohol.
They each begin with, “I’m an alcoholic.”
These are the things they shared with one another.
B. said, “Last week, someone told me I’m calm. I never knew that. The thing is, when you stick with the program, the good stuff kind of sneaks up on you sometimes. You don’t realize you’re changing and growing, but you are. The good stuff just sneaks up on you.”
L. said, “You have to go out and share the hope with somebody. And the important thing is that the person who needs to hear it might not be somebody new to the program. We all need to hear it. We all need to be reminded.”
M. said, “When I stick with the program, people say things about me that I’m not used to. They say I’m calm. Collected. I’m not used to that.”
M. said, “You know what I’m enjoying? Just being kind to people. Kindness is a big deal, and I love it. I wake up in the morning and I know that all I have to do is God’s will for me… without drinking. So that’s all I’m trying to do. God’s will without drinking. I’m just trying to do God’s will. And I’m pretty fucking happy to be here today.”
E. said, “I’ve discovered something really important: I can’t trust my own brain. It tells me I need alcohol, but I don’t. I can’t trust it, and I don’t have to listen to it. And that’s revolutionary.”
A. said, “Let me tell you how it feels to belong to this group: it makes me feel safe. Coming here every day is the best thing about my morning. I don’t have to believe in anything, I don’t have to pay anything, and I don’t even have to deserve to be here. I can just be here.” I cried as he said that: I don’t even have to deserve it.
M. said, “Last night as we watched a tennis match on TV, my wife said, ‘It’s nice to have my husband back.’ And I thought, ‘Well, holy shit.”
B. said, “Congratulations on your five-year chip, Peter. I had one of those once.”
I love that they all told him happy birthday. They were celebrating his rebirth. The beginning of his new life, five years ago.
After Peter shared his story, L. said, “I remember when you first shared your story on your first birthday of sobriety. You had your story down, for sure. You sure were funny… but you sure weren’t broken yet. Now you are funny, and you have the years to support your brokenness and your healing. Congratulations, Peter.”
And when it was Peter’s turn, he said, “The greatest gift in my life is that this woman next to me will never have to see me drunk. So I’ll keep coming back until they run out of chips or until I run out of breath.”
This weekend, Peter celebrated his seventh birthday. To partake in his journey in our family, and to celebrate humility the only way we really know how, we each gave up what we thought we couldn’t live without, if only for a few days. If he can, we can.
As a guest in his meeting, I listened, so convicted by the fact that this is what the church should be. People who have come together to talk about what is hard, what is real, and what is true, and then to encourage each other to go out and let others know about the hope they have found.
What if we started all of our conversations together as, “I’m Tricia and I’m a sinner.” And then the whole room responded with, “Hi, Tricia.” Because it’s okay, and me too, and you’re welcome here, sinner.
As they finished their meeting, I felt like I had been to church. The people in that basement, huddled together with their styrofoam cups and their open books, they are the warriors. They are the heroes on the front lines. And their time together is the truest church I’ve been to.
~ ~ ~
Just You Wait is available for pre-order, and we cannot wait to share it with you. This book holds much of Peter’s story and all of my heart.
This man, he’s a hero. And he let me write his story.