Thursday, June 3, 2010

After forty years, what's next?

Well, there were some forty year milestones in the news and none of them were happy.  First, there was the death of 40 year old Andrew Koppel, who went on a long drinking binge during the course of the day and ended up dead in a seedy apartment in Washington Heights, NYC.  It's thought that he died from alcohol poisoning.  I want to write something profound but the words escape me.  All I can picture is the horror of drinking and dying in one's own vomit and feces.  And yet he talked earlier in the day to the new drinking buddy about his daughter that he loved so much.  Love isn't a match for alcoholism. It gets beaten back every time.

And love brings me to the next item in the news. I heard as many did the announcement that Al and Tipper Gore were separating after forty years of marriage.  Forty years is a long time to be together.  Forty years is a lot of shared history-- a lot of honey-do's, a lot of honey please don't, a lot of hugs and kisses, tears and laughter.  A lot of a lot. 

A sponsee asked me whether I thought that people were meant to marry anymore.  I honestly don't know.  I think that fewer people have the commitment that it takes to weather the hard times. The easy times are the gravy but the difficult moments are the grist in a marriage.

I think that failing to communicate and isolating from each other create a chasm that is hard to bridge.  C. and I still reminisce over silly moments that we've had.  Last night we talked about the time we stuffed manicotti using "cookie shooter" and it shot the stuffing for the manicotti all over the ceiling.  We often bring up these moments that have been shared. They bind us together. 

Even the times when we had difficulties have lost their bite.  C. once hit me in the back with a chili dog when she was angry at something I wasn't doing when she wanted it done.  We can laugh about those things now. And the really bad times are the ones that we don't discuss with each other but let them lay fallow,  because to re-visit them with each other serves no purpose.   

I guess I hope that Mr. and Mrs. Gore remain friends and perhaps just separate.  Maybe with some time and space, they will decide that they will stick it out for the rest of their years.  I would like to tell my sponsee that marriage is alive and well today.  And that familiarity just brings us closer, makes us love each other more, and doesn't drive us apart.


  1. Your post brought back some painful memories for me. Back in 2003 my closest friend in the world, K, went on a drinking binge. She vomited in her sleep, aspirated and died. Her 16 year old son tried to revive her. So stupid. So senseless. It still makes me so so angry I could scream. I still think about her every day and I still ask why?
    Such a waste of a life.
    K was 38 years old.

  2. wow it is always sad to imagine someone's last moments with alcoholism, what a terrible way to go. on a happier note, I LOVED reading about your marriage and how you've made it through and decided not to revisit certain things. My marriage has been rocky with me in the program and my husband not, but we are trying really hard and I always appreciate hearing someone else's experience strength and hope.

  3. We all have to remember, I guess, that the Gore's marriage is just one marriage. It cannot represent marriage as a whole.

  4. A very good post, as usual Syd. It is important to work at a marriage as you well know. Joe and I have been through a lot in the 16 yrs we have been together and I can honestly say that the hard times made us stronger and more committed to each other.

  5. i don't know if marriage will last at all myself. personally i have never been married so i am not scarred by a bitter divorce. i am grateful to not have been married yet, i would surely be divorced now.
    this world is going crazy, the oceans are dying and it feels very powerless and i feel very mortal today, i feel my childrens mortality as well and it gives me both fear and gratitude. i am grateful to appreciate how very precious they really are. the three of them all one of a kind and you can't go to the store and replace them should something happen to them. i cherish every moment today. i look at them and hold them a long time, i know my time on this planet, like everyone else's is finite. when i read of ted koppels son i was grateful that it was not me today. that in of itself is a miracle for this addict

  6. The Gore news was a shock to me, too. It made me sad.

  7. I can't imagine being with someone forty years. I'm too old now to be with someone that long; been with hubby almost five years. If we are together another thirty one years I would be a hundred. Anything is possible though. I do enjoy hearing how you and C can laugh about some things and have the sense to just leave other past experiences alone.

  8. Wisdom is knowing that you don't know everything. Your sponsee will figure it out (and hopefully so will we!)

  9. Great post, Syd.

    I hope marriage is not dead. I used to have a "tendency to isolate" as we say in the program. I was convinced I was not marriage material. I had lived alone too long, became set in my ways and, besides, I enjoyed my own company.

    I wondered, too, whether people were meant to be married, and whether it was realistic to expect that one person could meet all your needs for the rest of your life.

    But after nearly eight years of being happily married (okay, so it's not anywhere near 40, but it's an impressive number for me) and a couple of years of recovery, I no longer think that way.

    For one thing, I no longer think we're meant to go through life alone. We need other people. There are things you can't do alone. Important things, like love. By definition, love requires community.

    But I've also learned that it's not reasonable to expect ANY person to meet ALL my needs for ANY portion of my life. That would be making that person my Higher Power. And when I do that, I will always be disappointed. Because people are human, and humans make mistakes.

    So now, I try to love people for who and what they are, including my husband, and accept with gratitude whatever gifts they are capable of offering.

    I guess I never thought that through until just now. That's why I appreciate your blog so much. You make me think about what it is I believe. Thank you.

  10. i hear you that fun little moment with the cookie shooter...they make it all worth it..i think marriage is for those that can handle it...too many ruch in and as you said communication is key...marriage is work...if you cant hang it, dont try it...

  11. I think marriage is alive and well for those that can take "better or worse". My husband and I have shared a pile of pain, a lot of worse, and many wonderful moments too. Don't get married if your looking for happily ever after. It will be boring, and some of the best times come after the worse appear.....

  12. I was going to do something about Koppel yesterday on my blog but I just couldn't bring myself to write about yet another addict/alcoholic succumbing to the disease. I had to write about the solution instead...

    But your post is great...

    A chili-dog. Cracks me up.

    My husband and I just passed 16 years of marriage on 5/28. We had supper out and then came home and hopped into bed before our son returned from being out with a friend. ... I feel deeply fortunate that we've weathered so many problems together and continue, after 20 years of knowing each other, to have such a happy and close relationship. For us, as you mention, dedication to communication is important...

    I've added your blog to my blogroll. Thanks for being here, Syd... --G

  13. I do not know quite how to jump in here since I have been married four times. 3rd was for 25 years, and pg and I have been together more than 20 years.

    Even so, I would be classified as a failure . But no, is AS you say, perseverance, and persistence are helpful--did you say that? -grin!

  14. 40 years is crazy. I hope someday, I can say I've been with someone 40 years (ya know other than being with my parents for that long...which isn't here yet)

  15. That's really sad. so many of them don't make it.
    As for marriage, I think that a bad workman blames his tools. meaning it is not the marriage that is at fault, but what people bring to it. I think relationships are far from easy, and that too many bail when the going gets tough. who knows.
    thought provoking post as usual, so thanks for sharing it.

  16. In what universe does forty years equal failure. They had kids, raised them, made a country more aware of the environment and had many more successes. This does not spell failure to me.

  17. My ex-husband died of alcoholism at age 60, five years ago. He was a 'skid row' bum when he died. We'd been divorced since 1976;I'd seen him a few times in those years, the last time at his father's funeral. My ex was drunk. Death by the slow (or rapid) suicide of Alcohol is very difficult to Accept, whatever the relationship with the person. My heart goes out to Andrew Koppel and his entire family.

    I felt sad, dismayed, that Al and Tipper Gore were separating, planning on divorce. I respect their choice, but don't understand. I hope they find happiness in their separate paths as they're both people I admire as individuals as well as having admired their marriage.

    I'm hoping their love story isn't over; that this is a hard chapter in their lives. But who knows; I once admired John and Elizabeth Edwards and their marriage, too.

  18. that chili dog story does sound funny although probably at the time not too funny. I think relationships are so darn hard. Great post Syd.

  19. Marriages that last don't get near as much press as the ones that don't.

  20. Syd this is such a thoughtful and important post. You stated everything you had to say in such a clear and perfect way.

    There was such truth here that it almost hurt. These days I love the truth - for better or worse.

    I believe the institution of marriage is in a pitiful state these days. I think too many people are looking for an easier softer way and where intimate relationships are concerned there is no such thing. Marriages take work like all relationships.
    Just my opinion. :)


  21. Thank you for sharing the stories from your marriage. They had a good feeling, just like the picture you posted. I have a great marriage (11 years)... now I want to spend some time thinking of our funny stories. Thanks for inspiring some revival :)
    The news (such as the items you re-counted) has really been depressing me lately, so many sad personal stories and adding in the oil spill and the economy. Let's go back to your reminiscing...
    God bless.

  22. Today at work I was sent a suicide case from the M.E.'s office. I found his last known phone number in Washington state so I called it. A very cheery gentleman answered "Alcoholics Anonymous". The deceased had worked there. I found his friends. I'll write about this case next week when I get more of the particulars, but my best bet...relapse.

  23. Chili-dog? Classic! I am sorry? to say that I think C. and me may be kindred spirits. The chili dog story reminded me of a time that I threw a pumpkin over the edge of our 2-story deck because my husband kept forgetting to take it out to the trash like I asked him to. I am so glad I don't have to act that way anymore!

  24. Great post Syd. I have been married 13 years (in a few days) and we have had a lot of up and downs and of course the drama of living with a teenager using. Even through the rough times I can't imagine divorcing (have done it before though)...The chili dog...that really made me laugh. And just as I am trying with my son to look to the future and not bring up the past. He knows what he has done and it does no good to keep reminding him. I am no longer bailing him out of what he has created and my goodness, it is helping the both of us.

  25. I love the particular sentence, in which you say that you and C.... let certain memories lie fallow. Good metaphor.

    Some of those fallow places, revert back to whatever nature wants to have grow in that place, instead.

    I pray to remember these lines, the next time my painful family member wants to re-hash the past. I will use a different verb and metaphor and that may make peace more possible for us.

  26. After 28 years together dearest one and I have memories we allow to lie fallow as well. And ones we laugh and laugh about. We could not be grateful for what we have today had it not been for the worst of times. I plan to grow old with him,if we are blessed with old age. He doesn't care if his mind goes, I don't care if my body goes. So between us maybe we'll do okay!

  27. my wife and I have recently renewed our commitment to our marriage through counseling. We're doing ok, but it's fragile. There are no guarantees as to the outcome. But, the commitment for today is there and that has been getting us down the road a day at a time.

  28. Both stories are sad...I still cannot understand how a substance's pull can be greater than family or love...

    As for marriage I do think a lot of people have the attitude that there's always something better for them....a lot of people are greedy and lazy, they can't be bothered. I really hope the next generation's attitudes change or societies are going to have huge problems. ( I'm not saying that's what happened with the Gore's just a general observation)


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