I remember exactly where we met. I remember the intimate lighting and the view outside of all the expensive yachts. A marina restaurant on Chickamauga Lake in East Tennessee. I kept looking around to see if anyone was there who knew me. Yes, I was concerned that someone might see me doing this. But the more I got to know her, the less I cared about that. There are times in your life when you try something you've held back on in the past, and you cross over and find yourself in a new place. She was that place.
We had only a short time together that first night. But at home, later on, I knew I must be with her again. Soon, I hoped.
The next day I came up with all sorts of reasons why this was a very good thing: a thing I deserved, a thing that comes along and you have a right to. A thing that might go against your upbringing, sure, but lie is too short for looking back. Hell, I was ready for this.
As you might guess, we began to meet when and where we could, every time we could. She was intoxicating. The more I was with her, the more I needed to be with her more. I constructed all sorts of excuses and occasions. I found myself planning my days around chances to be with her again. For when I was with her, I was new and different to myself. I was freer, funnier, wiser, manlier, braver–everything. And that was intoxicating too. I loved her, yes, but also I loved what I became in her presence, under her spell.
Now and then I would ask myself where this was headed. After all, I did have a job, and a wife, and two children, and a reputation to uphold. I had a church I went to, and work to do that I was paying less and less attention to. I paid less attention to everything, actually. And people may have noticed this, I didn't know. I didn't want to think about that. I went on paying more and more attention to her.
For years I did.
Finally I did ask myself where this was headed. In my sober moments, I realized I was not in control of this relationship. It was in control of me. I was spending my life covering up, making excuses, and offering apologies. I was no longer the free and funny man I had been. I was a man caught in circumstances of his own making, whose life had become unmanageable.
Fourteen years ago, in great desperation, I finally told her I had had enough and could not go on. She thought I would change my mind, and that if nothing else we could surely see each other occasionally and be friends. But I had tried to do that. I had tried it over and over, and it never worked. Anyting I had tried to leave her before, I had soon gone back.
At work one morning, I walked into my boss's office, closed the door, sat down, and told him my story.
"I have to make a change," I said. "I'm going to make a change."
I did not forget her the day I made this change. I missed her terribly, and still do, all these years later.
For a long time I was more of a wreck without her than I had been with her. She had been my life, and now I had to learn how to live it on my own.
But I did not waver, and have not until now.
"One day at a time," as they say.
As we say. We alcoholics.