Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Triangle

This is a true story, but as a true story it is not about another woman. Or it was about many women but not about amorous liasons, instead about friendship and trust, intimacies of the heart. In AA I have had and take that opportunity to befriend women. I went home to my wife. In the early days, people figured it out. I was going home to my wife. Women found me trustworthy and as a result I wound up with as much female intimacy as I wanted, and this included a chaste form of intimate hugging and touching, an occasional familial kiss. I went home to my wife. That was a whole other story. Our marriage had become distant due to my drinking and it wasn't coming back so well.

(I should say as an aside, three times over eight years there were women who just stepped in closer and once I was very close to accepting the offer. I stopped, but not without creating hard feelings in the lady. She thought she had me. She got me to come home with her but couldn't get me in the bedroom. That ended it. Ouch. This was a couple years after the moment this poem is about.)

On my sixth AA sobriety anniversary, hoping to get my wife to join in on this joy in my life that was AA, I convinced her to come to my celebration meeting. Other people would do that, have their spouses come to the meeting. It usually was a fine thing. It would work out wonderfully I thought, a family thing, a solidarity thing, a healing thing. That's what I thought would happen. My wife was a Social Worker, and a good one. She had pushed me into sobriety. I was making it work, had become a successful sober story. It all pointed to a wonderful time of celebration. She came with me. We sat together. I acknowledged her. It all seemed to be going well. The usual things were said. People, several of them of course my women friends, said good things about me and how I was valuable in the group and to them personally. All of this.

After the meeting, on the way home, I asked her what she thought. This poem is basically what she said. I was crushed. There was nothing to do, no way for me to fix it.

The Triangle

I saw her but damn
I just hate meeting her now,
your mistress, that's what
you told me coldly
upon returning from town.
I could say nothing.

February 12, 2009 10:43 AM


  1. Oh dear...

    My marriage ended when I was just over a year sober. This saved my life I have no doubt, this year I also ended a long term relationship with a fellow clean guy....that taught me so much! About what I don't need anymore :)

    God knows what I'm doing now, but it doesn't matter, because I am accountable only to me....and I like that a lot.

    Anyway, my point was....yeah.



  2. Well, that's a super-bitch, Christopher. Being female, though, and seeing how many old broads have thrown themselves at my husband (and trust me, he ain't no Brad Pitt--never was, never will be), I guess I can understand her pain. (My husband is a retired nurse and I could sit here all day telling you sordid stories about the women who came on to him. And it does tend to make a person wary and just a teeny bit PISSED OFF.) Alcoholism is a nasty bug, for sure, and leaves nothing but pain and destruction in it's wake. I'm glad you achieved sobriety. That's a HUGE accomplishment. Blessings!

  3. Dear Jealousy
    that pangs the heart
    and makes the words cruel
    that stops the true love
    behind the fear
    jealousy taking the trust
    and turning to fear
    no held hand no joy
    just this pain....

    I am sorry Christopher ...that that moment for you and your wife could not have been different.

  4. Yes, Michelle, leaving the marriage is often on the level of saving lives. When we finally separated it was at that level, one or both of us were at life threatening risk, how toxic it had gotten by then. Neither one of us really wanted it. We both thought the other was a decent worthwhile person. We both loved each other. Didn't matter. We were killing each other.

    And just for clarity, all you out there, I tried to point this out. I am not telling a story here where I am in the right and my wife should have felt differently. I am really pointing out that I had no clue what was happening and she was carrying pain that I should have sensed. Since then I have pondered the simple fact that often in AA intimacies are shared that even people as close as wives do not hear. The reason is simple. We often carry burdens that would be explosive in the family but we need to share in order to ease the way. In AA this is life saving literally.

    Thus, it is a set up for jealousy and anxiety when spouses know for sure that sort of thing is going on, and AA members know stuff that "ought to be kept in the family". Do you see? There really is no arguing. It is a legitimate opinion, just not really a realistic one when alcoholism is involved.

    Marion, the last thing my wife was was a super bitch.

    Liz, thank you for your poem.

  5. This is a tough one in my opinion. I have been with my hubby in his meetings and seen the intimacy so openly displayed there knowing like you he came home to me. It is good for you to know that can stir some fear or resentment in the wife. It would be even more disturbing to know you went to a woman's house. I'm not judging you at all, only saying it would bother me. I also know how it is frowned upon for people in recovery meetings to hook up and I so understand that. We all seem to fall back on our weaknesses when we are faced with something that is hurtful and I think that is what happened when your wife went to the meeting and her coldness was her way of protecting herself.

  6. Techno
    To be fair to my wife, she was experiencing the AA widowhood, where AA takes so much time that a wife or husband wonders why sobriety is better. I was and still am placing AA higher in priority than most things because it saves my life. So my wife lost not only the intimacy but the time too. My sponsor drew a line in the sand when he married, because by his lights the marriage had to come second to AA. He says if he loses his sobriety, he will lose his marriage anyway. Enough said about that.

    Re the house visit, that was me losing my way and stopping right then, realizing that I wasn't ready to cheat on my wife. Most of the time the AA women did not want to mess with a married man and I wasn't at risk like this. This woman was looking to steal me for reasons of her own. I was very happy I did not go there.

  7. OMG, Christopher, I would NEVER call a person online a super bitch, much less your wife. I said, "That's (the entire SITUATION and MISUNDERSTANDING you spoke of) was a super bitch." I'm sorry you misunderstood me. I do NOT call people names and try really hard not to judge others.

  8. Marion, I had no big emotional reaction to you, and of course seeing it as you explained it quiets the whole thing down. It actually has made for good commenting. I am sorry I misunderstood you. It is difficult, this writing clearly in the limited comment boxes. I can see it now. And in that context you are quite right. A really unfortunate situation with both sides utterly right and pain in the gap between.

  9. This may seem far off, but I once felt this way about the people with whom my husband worked. He was giving his life to work at the time, and I was the jealous one. So, I can see how this could happen.

    Leaving that job probably saved his life (tooooo stressful) and our marriage.

  10. yeah right.... all that, but jeez.... would she have rather you continue to romance the bottle?

    but 'ya know..... the alcoholic's past does quite a bit to create interpersonal conditions and habits that persist long after sobriety.

    Sometimes when the echos from that dark past come back to haunt the present... are maybe heard in the words of a loved one by the "now sober" alcoholic, it isn't pleasant.

    in her eyes, perhaps, you had simply substituted one "mistress" for another, and left her with the same empty feelings.

    still, i think she might have done better too.... that's sad.... expectations you know....

    "....As I returned across the lands I'd known
    I recognized the fields where I'd once played
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid

    And if I built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire...."


  11. Karen, I have no doubt that your experience is similar.

    Ghost, my good friend, when you see in my behavior the switch from one mistress to the other, that is, from wino drunk lover to AA member lover, from Annie's point of view exactly right. Then add to it several women in that meeting saying they loved me (love me still, some of them, 18 years later). How much more emotional logic can there be? I saw that instantly on her saying she had met my mistress. I certainly had nothing more I could say. I could not deny, diminish or belittle her feelings without being a complete horse's ass. She was exactly right and I instantly surmised I could easily feel the same. Neither could I redress the issue without risking my life. Not only was there nothing to say, there was nothing to do. Even for Annie I was not prepared to risk returning to drinking.

    As a professional social worker at a high level of service, and also actively engaged in attempted ACOA recovery (at the time through individual counseling), Annie knew she shouldn't feel like that. That didn't matter either.

  12. I was going to write out how there was probably so much going on with your wife emotionally that she wasn't able to see through her own pain to celebrate your victory with you. But then you went and already had that figured out.

  13. Thank you all for your comments and your friendship. This online community thing is remarkable.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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