The thing about Step 1 for me, was that I was ALL-IN for it before I even walked into the rooms. I wanted nothing to do with the alcoholism around me, so I was willing to admit ANYTHING in order to escape it. "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable." I could have admitted that in my sleep. In fact, it felt so easy and gave me such confidence that I felt buoyed towards Step 2 right away. I even remember thinking that I could check it off, move through Step 2 in February, and spend a month on each of the rest of the steps so I that I could make it to the end of the program in a year. It wasn't like that at all though.
Instead, steps 1, 2, and 3 felt a little like learning to crawl, walk, run. I would move forward and then slip back into the beginning as necessary. I literally found myself on my hands and my knees repeating Step 1 over and over again through tears after finding a string of naked pictures on my husband's phone. I had two little kids. I couldn't make drastic changes or freak out in front of them. I had to have a safe way to lose my mind. That seemed effective at the time. Again, I would move forward or backward, it's hard to say in hindsight. There are a million times that I wish I had walked away (namely, before I ever met him) but I have three amazing kids to show for it all. I wouldn't change that for anything in the world.
Going through recovery while having kids is like having an anchor tied between your life raft and the other sinking ship. I've had to cut the lines so many times I can't even count any more, and there are still ties. On the one hand, the stress of raising them through the insanity, guilt, and shame could have capsized me alone. On the other hand, I don't know how I ever would have had the strength to get over him without them. They were my encouragement, my inspiration, my muses.
Why did I even try, though? Why did I try to recover, to repair my marriage, to move forward? It all came down to them. There was an episode of Grey's Anatomy many years ago that came into my mind clearly on a run one afternoon. I had just left the house, brushing away tears, and started uphill contemplating those exact questions. I saw Dr. Bailey standing over top of a man who was DOA, calling for more services, performing more and more heroic efforts to try to save his life. Everyone stood around watching her, wondering why she would continue to work so hard. Wondering how she could continue. In exhaustion at the end, she admitted that she needed to be able to tell his family that she did everything she could.
From that moment on, each kiss in my marriage burned like CPR. Each strained, "I love you" felt like a chest compression that never fully kick-started my bruised and battered, fighting organ. Still, I needed to go through more time, more healing time, so that at the end of it all I could say to my kids, "I did everything I could."