8a. Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning…

For the next three weeks, I went to treatment every weekday and two AA meetings a week. We poured in our sand, shared and continued to learn from each other. Also, I got caught up about what was going on in the residential house I used to be in.

This interesting group of people, some in their sixties, some twenty-something mothers, and others young teenagers – all joined by a disease that made us all the same – truly helped me on the correct path of working on the treatment for my disease, thus making my graduation day much more solemn than I thought possible.

When you graduate from JoAnn’s rehab group, the other members pour some of their sand into a small glass bottle and say a few words about you before you pour in your own sand. Then JoAnn pours in her sand – black with stars so you can look at the night’s sky and says a few words about you.

JoAnn said she despaired of me at first, thinking I may need a lot of work. Oh, but that day of Dayna’s visit and the serving up of my rear-end! My rapid turnaround was something she was proud of me for. I remember she called herself a light to show us all the way to a new start. I suggested that she was a lighthouse warning us which course to safely navigate. Again, I felt proud of myself, which is a good, healthy feeling if you haven’t had a reason to feel that in a long time.

At graduation, JoAnn also gives out a motivational stone with a word on it – mine says “Truth.” I glued this to the top of my jar of sand and they now sit atop of the display case Dayna bought me. Quinn designed the holding pattern, which contain my monthly and yearly sobriety coins. Next to my jar of sand, also sits a plastic coin with a smiley face that my mother-in-law gave me when I was about six months sober.

After Prairie St. John’s

The Monday following graduation I went to HR with my then Dean. I was informed that my time in rehab would be taken as sick leave, that my sabbatical was still set for the following semester, and that after that time I would be expected back at work. Remember I said I know how lucky I am. I kept my job, no criminal record, no DUI, no financial ruin (due to a lot of careful money management from Dayna that I was shamefully oblivious to), our medical insurance covered almost everything, and my wife wanted to see if the person she first met was still around.

No lies: The first time this all hit me – I wept.

In the first few weeks after rehab, Dayna and I went to five couples’ therapy sessions at Prairie St. John’s and I went to about the same number of solo sessions with an AA case worker. Both of these were fantastically useful for both of us, and I do believe that these sessions helped us reshape and rebuild our lives together.

I typically attend two AA meetings a week, the Friday night at St. Genevieve’s Place (my home meeting), and the Saturday morning at Olivet Lutheran Church. I have missed a few of these meetings from time to time.

A fellow AA member explained to me once that I have missed moments of my life when my only interest was drinking and that, if I feel right about it, missing a meeting to spend family time together is a wonderful part of sobriety. However, I always attend if we have no plans. For about the first year I did not speak much during these meetings because I needed to listen, needed to learn how to stay sober. It is true what they say – any fool can get sober, all you do is not drink for a day.

Staying sober, day after day because you want to, now that takes a little work.

While I was in rehab it was suggested that, to feel like you have accomplished a task every day, make the bed. When I first heard this, I thought it was rubbish (it was in my early days at Prairie St. John’s). Today, as I have for the last three years, I make our bed and happily move on to the next task for the day. I have a copy of the Serenity Prayer (the prayer for the alcoholic) engraved on a dog tag necklace I never take off, a framed copy of this prayer on my side of our bed so I can see it every morning, and that display case containing my monthly and yearly sobriety coins just where I can see them all when I sit in my favorite spot downstairs. These things remind me of how far I have come to date, and how each future day can be a good one.

This disease also destroys your interests in healthy activities. When I was doing day release for rehab, Dayna suggested that we try the new CycleBar in West Fargo together, and armed with a fledgling broad mind, I gave it a go. For me, the first few were … painful, it had been a long time since I did any exercise and only about one month since my six-day coma (although, in a way, I had just been exorcised – sorry, Catholic waggishness).

Today, Dayna and I go four times a week (I believe many of DD’s past blogs have discussed being at CycleBar). Doing this together as a couple has been fantastic. Yes, you cannot talk to each other during a spin class, but you can on the way there and back. Engaging conversation with a significant other was yet another thing the disease steals from you, but I was able to get back.

These last three years have been fantastic. Upon great refection, I can honestly say this is the happiest I have been in a very long time. I have rediscovered my ability to do (and actually want to do) house projects. Quinn and I put down cork flooring, installed some strip-lighting, and replaced a faulty toilet. Dayna and I tackled the kitchen and have done great things in the back yard. I now know how to fold towels and sheets – although I will admit, I have some work to do with sweaters.

I started attending conferences again, and Dayna has come with me, helping turn each one into a wee holiday together around conference activities. We have also traveled together outside of conferences, building new memories of our rejuvenated lives together.

Last year, on the recommendation of my then Dean, and the vice president, I was promoted. When I met my current Dean for the first time, we talked of just moving forward and not dwelling on the past. I also received some very good advice to work towards the next promotion.

However, the real joy of the last three years has been my life with Dayna Del Val. Thank you DD, for just about everything. I did mention that I know how lucky I am?  I can live with my disease and I can live my life with it – my very happy little life.

There are many details I would like to mention – but this might turn into a book – or, horror of all horrors, a textbook. I’d like to finish with mentioning my sobriety coins. Some of them – the one year and up ones – do have special meaning to me. My one-year coin I dedicated to myself (I guess for a good job well done so far), my 18-month coin I dedicated to my Friday night AA meeting group – living with this disease is a group effort. I dedicated my two-year coin to Dayna – my rock who helped me get out of my self-dug hole with grace, for the second chance, and our newfound life together.

This three-year coin I dedicate to JoAnn Spiering – for being a lighthouse to me and so many others.

Our trip to Hawaii in June 2017. This was a renewal of our marriage and commitment to each other. We realized then just how lucky we were and continue to be.