They share their ups and downs, failures and triumphs, as they continue to navigate this disease in their marriage and as parents.
They uncover the unexpected, the real and raw scenarios that challenged them as individuals and as a couple, and how they overcame the trials and tribulations that come with this lifelong disease.
They speak as individuals and as a team, and how they had to “learn a new dance” after Tucker entered recovery.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the addict – it affects all of us. Take a listen!
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Behind The Scenes Of Marriage And Alcoholism
I’m thrilled to have you both in the same room.
Thank you. We are, too.
For my information, is this the first time the two of you have sat together to have this conversation?
I want to say thank you for doing this, having the courage and honoring me with your trust to do this. I believe based on having spent time with both of you individually that your story is very powerful and will inspire many other couples that generally probably would not make it through. It holds a beacon of possibilities. I appreciate this time. I would like to start with, where in your journey as a couple was that transformational moment, almost that made it before and after that led to the re-imagining and the coming together of your marriage anew?
We had some challenges since I spoke with you. We’ve had some health challenges for Tucker. You’re aware of it, but it’s important that I bring it up because when I said to him, “I sent this video to my mother and also to another family member whose husband is going through the same thing.” It helped her. I’m so grateful that we did it because I know how alone and scared she is.
With that being said, I said to Tucker, “I’m not going to sit here and pretend like everything is champagne and bubbles because based upon the weeks that we had, it’s our responsibility to be authentic with people and say what happened so we don’t look like, ‘We’ve got this. We’re super together. Isn’t life grand?’ There’s so much good that I want to talk about. At the same time, it’s extraordinarily important for us to be authentic, honest and real.” If we’re helping nobody, then who are we doing this for?
I’m a little nervous to talk about this with him because when we first started therapy, it would always end in arguments at the end. It was so hurtful for both of us. As we’re starting a new venture, I’m nervous that it could end in a similar outcome, not necessarily as intense because we’re both going to be talking. When I speak, I hope it doesn’t hurt his feelings or affect him too much. It was fall when our therapist said to both of us, “Sh^+ or get off the pot.” That was her saying that we’ve been going around in this tornado with a marriage therapist for a few years.
I had dedicated myself to my therapist one-on-one. We weren’t going anywhere, and I was afraid that we weren’t going to make it. I said to Tucker, “You need to genuinely commit to going to your one-on-one therapist, but also get on medication.” This medication for him has made everything for us. It’s just as important for him with sobriety as it is to be on this medication. It’s like an asthmatic being without an inhaler.
It’s not necessarily that the asthma is going to be here forever. We’re in a pandemic. Everybody’s stressed out. You don’t have a lot of outlets and I can tell that you’re suffering, but at the same time, this marriage is not going to make it if something drastic doesn’t happen. The moment he got on the medication, it didn’t happen immediately, but you could see him slowly coming back and more.
It was somebody who I almost didn’t recognize between work and at home, two very different people, he finally came together and as one whole wonderful person. He was positive and genuine in and outside the office. I saw the flirtatious boyfriend start to come back, the happiness and the respect that I needed as a spouse. It was just as much needed as sobriety for me to continue with this and when that happened, it was a game-changer.
Is the medication an anxiety medication?
Jenn brings up a good point. We’ve talked about alcohol, the substance or the coping mechanism isn’t the problem. It’s the underlying root issue that’s the big deal. I had gone for years and years with untreated anxiety. I realize I can go back and pinpoint certain parts of my childhood where my anxiety was super high but back then, in the ’70s and ’80s, it was like, “You’re nervous. Chill out.” They didn’t have the science that they do or the neurochemistry to understand all of that.
Jenn is right. I did brain mapping when I was in treatment. There were parts of my brain that were overactive and under active parts. That’s where chemistry starts to play a big role. I don’t like medication or pills. I was never a pill guy. The concept of medication wasn’t admitting defeat, but it felt like something else had to control the situation, and I didn’t want someone else to control it.
She’s right. When that medication kicked in which is a stabilizer for anxiety, it made a huge difference. If I were to answer that question, it is around the same time that I started on the medication. Our therapist had one word that I keep coming back to that has transformed the dialogue and the perspective for both of us. The word is validation. Before there was this inherent nature in both of us to be right or not win the conversation, but there are areas we’re both pigheaded, stubborn and strong-willed.
There are four of us under the same roof. Our kids are Aries, too. Can you imagine? Super Bowl betting? Forget it.
That concept of validation allowed for the concept of winning to be removed from the equation. It didn’t matter. It was like, “You feel this. I feel this. We’re both going to agree that we both have these feelings, and neither of them is wrong because they’re our feelings.” Listen and validate the other, come together and come up with a solution. That then becomes a win-win versus you trying to overdo the other person.
It’s changed even how if there was an argument, a disagreement, or we come to a head-on something, the first thing we both say is, “I hear you. I’m validating what you’re saying. However, I feel like this. You feel like this. Can we come together?” That was a huge breakthrough for us. You can’t validate the other person’s feelings until you’re in full acceptance of responsibility for your side of the street.
For both of us, whether you were the person at fault or not, understanding that you’re responsible for your actions and you take accountability for that is very big. Whereas before it was very easy for me to manipulate and push or deflect, now it’s a matter of, “I see my part in this whole thing. I hear it. I validate what you’re feeling, I’m going to accept responsibility for my actions, learn from them, and then move on.” That was a huge breakthrough for both of us.
In any relationship, when you’re open enough to be able to hear the other person separate and apart from yourself because you love them, you want to understand their perspective and where they stand, that opens up so many things for possibilities. I appreciate the validation piece of this. Coupled with being able to get your anxiety tapped down. At the same time, hopefully, you’re in the process of developing skills that deal with the anxiety. The whole-brain science thing is fascinating to me but that’s another whole topic. The big shift took place in the fall.
Yes, because we had a pendulum of events. It was during the time of all the wildfires. It was 120 degrees in the desert. There was a wildfire not 30 miles from us and the sky was ominous like an apocalypse, the sense of bright orange and there were clouds. You couldn’t see more than 50 feet in front of you. The air conditioning was broken. It was like 130 degrees in the house, and he handles that super well when he’s hot- and then the washing machine broke. Water started going everywhere.
This is his parents’ house. His parents have this beautiful home. There are these 2 inches of water. He forgot to turn the washing machine off. Somebody is going to get electrocuted. In a matter of a week, we had the apocalypse and then a flood. He was not able to handle it at all.
There’s only so much emotional regulation therapy that you can muster, but it goes back to the chemical imbalance. As much as you hear about this overmedicated society, there’s something to be said about Western medicine when it comes to finding chemical balance. A lot of people suffer from mental health issues. It’s a chemical imbalance. Stress is added to that. You had stress and other stressors. It’s a recipe for an emotional explosion. That’s what happened.
It was just one after another. There are going to be a lot of different people watching this. The medication was what Tucker needed. Everybody is different because a lot of people choose holistic ways or they’re very much against medication and I understand that. It was like when he got out of the rehab, when they said, “His brain is mush. It has to regrow and redevelop.” That’s what was right for him. That is not necessarily what’s right for other people, but we certainly realized through the series of events that something had to happen.
I appreciate you saying that because this isn’t about telling people how they should do it. This is about opening up the window into your story and they can pick the things that they hear that resonate with them and let the rest go.You can't validate the other person's feelings until you're in full acceptance of responsibility of your side of the street. Click To Tweet
When you asked what was the turning point, I’m always very hesitant to say that out loud. Especially after going through a pandemic, the presidency and all that happened in 2020, everybody has their opinion, background and set of beliefs. I respect that about everybody, but I hope that people will understand that this is what happened to us.
This is your story. The common thread here for everybody is that stressors create stress and there is a multitude of ways to handle it. This is what worked for both of you.
Two things I want to bring up and on that, too. I used to do some work inside prisons. It was doing some programs inside prison. I’ll never forget the first day I walked into a yard and then met Shakey. He came up to me. He has a little bit of a shake and he said, “Hi, my name is Shakey.” I asked him specifically, “What’s your biggest life lesson that you’ve learned since being here?”
He goes, “When you enter the prison system, they strip you of everything and fill you with nothing.” That was one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. When you think about it from the perspective of someone who’s struggling with substance abuse, when you strip them of the coping mechanism and fill that person with nothing, it’s a recipe for disaster.
There’s this tendency, “I’ll stop drinking, doing this, gambling,” or whatever it is, that is automatically going to self-regulate your body when it puts it into shock. Part of that is being able to fill it with things that make sense for that particular person. Another turning point for us is it’s so easy to put all of the emphasis, therapy and healing on the person that struggled with the addiction or the problem and ignore the loved ones. Let them fend for themselves because they’re not the problem.
At the end of the day, one of the things that were great for Jenn was to say, “It’s my turn. I want some support. Can we focus on me, too?” Allowing her to have all the resources and the tools that she needed for herself was a huge thing because a lot of people forget about that. I mean that in a very positive way because for Jenn, it was like, “I need my healing. You’ve got your stuff. Let me focus on me, too.”
That was a big eye-opener for me because I always felt like it fell on me to have to do certain things, or whatever it was, and the loved ones are like, “They get the by-product or the benefit of the other person going through the therapy,” but what I didn’t know is how much damage I had done for the loved ones. For her to be able to have access to those resources and focus on herself for once, she deserved it. You deserve all of that for having to put up with so much. It was great that you each have your path of healing. You can’t heal together if you don’t heal the parts of yourself that were hurting.
Do you think that you are dealing with this disease was the call to everybody healing in your family?
To a certain degree. Before you said, “If Tucker were to give a TED Talk, what would it be?” I’ve said, “This concept of how alcohol restores family values.” It has allowed us to heal as a family. Not necessarily heal, but also educate and help raise our kids in ways that they’re going to be emotionally intelligent, and be prepared for real life.
They’ve been through some tough times so when they do encounter the tough times when they’re on their own and out in the real world, they’re prepared for it. There are the healing components, but there’s also the emotional intelligence and education behind some of the stuff that we’re able to provide our kids that’s going to make them way more resilient than others. That’s a component that I always worry about. It’s like, “What have I done to the kids?”
The truth of it is, they’ve seen the rawness of it, the hurt and pain, but also the incredible beauty that comes out of two people focusing on a relationship because it’s not easy. It’s not all about the unicorns and rainbows. They get to see the storms that we have to weather. There’s that old saying, “It wasn’t that my parents were wrong. My parents were still growing up.” We’re still growing up and doing our thing, too.
What do you think, Jenn?
When he says, “Our kids are growing from this,” oftentimes, one of the things we disagree about is, “We don’t need to tell the kids.” I go, “No, we’re going to tell the kids because they need to know when life hands them a pile of crap, how do you respond? We don’t need to scare the crap out of them and make it seem like life is over. We’re not going to be quiet about it, but we don’t need to go to the extremes that the world was ending. We have to expose it.”
When he’s saying, “Our kids are going to be more prepared.” I would say that is something we’re starting to unite a little bit more on because before I was the one who was always like, “We got to tell him the truth.” When they’re by themselves, and they have to make decisions and have to cope with something, I want them prepared and knew what that is like versus being in a bubble.
One of the things that both of you referenced in the interviews that I did with you was the ability to ask for help.
I never had a problem with that.
I’m smiling because I’ve experienced that. As you know, I had to reschedule this time four times because of the unexpected things that popped up and all the driving that I did. I recognized that what I was doing was exactly the treadmill that I had been on for years, where I was taking, who needs to be where, what needs to be done when and forgetting to not have time to eat. I didn’t have my lunch until 3:00 PM. That’s how I used to operate every single day. I wouldn’t come home until 8:00 or 9:00 PM and then have dinner late. That’s how you get the weight on and all that stuff.
I finally said to Tucker, “I need help.” I had a firm boundary because, before this, I expressed myself firmly to say, “This is enough for me. I can’t handle it anymore.” On Sundays, he gets very tense. It’s like he’s ramping up for the week and he hates Sundays. Quite frankly, I hate being around him on Sunday because he gets so anxious and stressed. I said to him, “I guarantee you that tomorrow, you’re going to sit in front of your computer and do great. I love Monday and Tuesdays because they’re very productive days for you.”
I go, “I guarantee you something great is going to happen on Monday,” but he said, “I need you to carry more weight and go back to work.” Years ago, I would have lost it, but because of all the therapy, I said, “What did they say for me to do?” It’s to validate. I was doing it but I was like, “I have no desire to validate you now.”
I said to him, “I recognize that it’s very stressful during a pandemic to be in a one-income household. I need you to please take care of yourself and the job. I’ll take care of the children, the house and all the other stuff that comes with it. For you to ask me to go back to a job, I did that twice before. I went right back to a job because you said, ‘Go back to a job.'” That’s when cancer scares happened and my body started shutting down. I know the difference. Before I would’ve said, “You want me to jump. How high? You want me to go back to work. How much money do I need to make?”
What had happened? He got two new clients. I said, “I told you.” It’s recognizing when to hold a boundary that’s not an unkind boundary but a genuine, “I can’t do any more for you or the family boundary.” I was able to say no. “Maybe months from now, I’m happy to go back to work but now, as we’re all adjusting back to school and all of these things, no. We need to get a better grounding on our feet.” Years ago, I wouldn’t have asked for help and held a boundary.
It’s important for people who are reading this to recognize that we each have our journeys and timing. If we can love each other through our journeys, then we can come together. Say a little bit more in terms of the ability to ask for help.
For me, you saw where not asking for help went. This goes back to a lot of the work that I’ve done specifically in the recovery space around helping other men who can relate to this. We have lived historically in a society where asking for help is a sign of weakness or maybe admitting defeat. I didn’t see my father, my grandfather or the other males in my life asking for help ever.It's really important for people to recognize that we each have our own journeys, we each have our own timing, and if we can love each other through our own journeys, then we can come together. Click To Tweet
We often mirror what we see. That wasn’t part of my upbringing so I never asked for it. I always tried to figure things out on my own. It wasn’t until I saw where that can take a person that I realized that I had this new philosophy that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It means I have things that are so great in my life. It requires other people to support me.
There’s a difference when you shift that perspective from that way. Before it was like, “I don’t have a lot going on but I want to ask for help.” I’m going to isolate and drown myself in the hole.” Now it’s like, “I’ve got so much passion and angst to want to do things on a much bigger scale.” Realizing that asking for help and creating healthy boundaries is where we start to step into our zone of genius and surround ourselves with good people. It changes the trajectory of everything. I didn’t have that skillset or vision before.
When I raised my hand and asked for help, I don’t even think twice but I can still see a lot of people around me, especially men around my age in their mid-forties. It’s s not about asking for directions because you’re lost. It’s about, “If I ask, I’m going to be seeing different and my ego is going to be destroyed if somebody else sees that weakness.” That’s been a great journey for me to understand this concept of ego and how that plays into it. Now, I don’t think twice but that took many years and falls to realize that the only way I can get back up is to ask for help and it’s okay.
I would be speaking on experience because weeks have been tough. They weren’t sure if Tucker had a brain tumor because he lost hearing in his right ear. He was, as any human would be, in shock, not doing much. He couldn’t hear and then he would have to fall asleep at night to noise in the television background because the ringing was so tough. That was hard for me because right after I had spoken to you, this all started to unfold and it was right in the marriage therapy that we were starting to date again. We were planning on how Tucker was going to ask me out and start courtship.
I had it all planned out, KL. I was bringing all the moves.
I was so disappointed. We were supposed to go on a date and everything. It happened on Valentine’s Day weekend. We were supposed to have Valentine’s Day dinner outside and our daughter was going to be a little waitress and take our orders. We haven’t done anything since. It was so much watching him look the way that he felt during a month of, “Do I have brain cancer?” Everything that we had built up almost felt like it had been diminished. It’s not that we’ll get it back but finding out that he doesn’t have brain cancer is a huge deal.
During that time, our therapist said, “You have to ask for help.” I was thinking to myself, “Who am I going to ask for help?” What I did do is I finally reached out to my mother and my best friend. I did tell them what was happening. I said, “I’m letting you know because a few years ago when he was struggling, I wouldn’t have told anybody, and I would’ve carried the weight and the stress on my shoulders. I’m simply telling you because I want to walk the walk that I’m saying, which is telling people when you’re struggling.” Even if it’s saying it out loud so somebody else knows. If they try and call me and I’m not available to talk, I’m short or whatever it is, they know what’s going on.
My way of asking you for help this time was simply a listening ear because that’s what I needed. I needed somebody to know, but I also asked Tucker for help. There was a period when he was struggling so much with the fear of, “Do I have a brain tumor?” A lot of the same patterns came back. I have to clap for him to remain sober during a very difficult time when anybody would have wanted to pick up a drink and he didn’t. A massive kudos to him for that. At the same time, the emotional trauma that he was experiencing, many of the same similar patterns of behavior when he was at the height of his disease came back and that was crushing.
Finally, one afternoon I couldn’t handle it anymore. I sat down and he was having a breakdown. I simply sit quietly with him. I said, “You’re a lot to handle.” That’s all that I said. Years ago, it would have come through anger and an outburst of a fight. It came after the validation of feelings that we’re supposed to be doing in our therapy but me saying quietly, “You’re a lot and I can’t handle where you are.”
I thought it was a compliment, but it wasn’t.
He didn’t say anything after that. I think he got it.
What was interesting about it was a few years ago, I couldn’t recognize it. We’ve talked about prednisone being the worst medication on the planet, but as if I was out of my body watching myself going through all of this, I got to experience myself in a way that I didn’t know that’s what Jenn was experiencing years ago.
Not to make a positive out of it, but let’s find the silver lining anyway. It was an interesting experience to be like, “I get the dual persona.” Trying to have to put on a net because I’m not feeling good, wearing these masks, worried about people-pleasing, all of that stuff came rushing back, which was very anxiety-ridden to the point where I couldn’t sit and I’m scared. I’m like, “I’m having all of the feelings I have before.” The only difference is I’m not numbing them out with something to cope with. I’m having to feel the feels. I can look back on it and know the trajectory of where things are going.
At the time, it was interesting for me to be able to step back and say, “I see what Jenn saw and understand what she went through.” To be able to almost say, “I’m going to apologize for what I’m about to say because I have no control over what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it.” It was like that. It would come out and be like, “I can’t control it.” It had that much of an effect on me. The moment that I got rid of the medication, started feeling again and realized, it was like, “I can regulate those emotions and I feel like the chemistry’s back.”
The medication was a steroid to get rid of the ringing in his ear.
It’s a high dosage and very heavy steroid.
One time he goes, I’m about to be an a$$, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’m like, “Wow.”
I was like, “You’re going to do it anyway? Okay.” That was the pendulum of where he swung back. With the asking for help, I knew that I couldn’t get help from him, but I said, “You’re a lot to manage.” That was me asking for help in the sense of, “Please stop bombarding me with the behaviors that destroyed us years ago. I’ll be patient as you’re on the steroid to get rid of this ringing in your ear, but we’re not going back to this. This isn’t going to be status quo.”
Embedded in this story are both of you doing this a different way. Your ability Jenn to very calmly say, “You’re a lot to handle,” and for you, Tucker, to have the experience of almost out of body watching yourself and then that clarity of seeing, “That’s who I was.” The way that I think about it is that’s an extraordinary gift for you to have that perspective that you didn’t have previously.
I bring that up too because this interview is meant to not just be a reflection on us but also, on what we can give to others. Finding humor in the past and pain. If you can’t go back and laugh at yourself for the triumphs that we’ve accomplished and recognize how ridiculous some of the behaviors were and some of the stuff that we’ve overcome, that also brings back a lot of, “There they are.” Those kinds of little things that we can go back and find humor in it.
Speaking of humor, I’m going to tell a little secret. Part of it was also the letting go of some ego in telling our part of our journey. You have to let people see the real you. One time my mom goes, “Your hair looks great.” I go, “Thank you.” It’s because I picked up on what all these women do online. It’s a hair scrunchy. I’m being real here, ladies. I lost so much hair when I was going through the height of when he was sick. My hair would come out in clumps. I had to get extensions because my hair was so thin. You could start to see my scalp. To the point where you were almost like an elderly person at my age or what I would look like at 80, 85. That’s how much air hair I lost.
With the pandemic, I stopped with the extensions, but you could see how much hair loss I had from all the stress. It’s those things there that I would never have admitted years ago. “This is a hair scrunchy.” Pretending like I haven’t gained all the weight that I have because I have. It’s being comfortable in your skin and saying, “This is what it is,” and not letting the ego get in the way of looks or being worried about what people are going to think of me. Life is way too short. When he talks about humor, I always think of this because losing hair is not fun and scary, honestly, when it comes out in clumps. That’s the part of a little bit here and a little bit there.
I’m aging gracefully, though.
He has a George Clooney look going on. He’s aging so much better than anyone. He’s getting more handsome as he ages and I’m getting the wrinkles as I’d said before.
You got well-earned wrinkles.Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It just means, “I have things that are so great in my life, it requires other people to support me.” Click To Tweet
Those are called wisdom lines.
I have a lot. I must be smart.
That was part of my strategy.
Thank you. You’re so sweet. Always thinking of others.
What I want to shift to is the whole notion of forgiveness, forgiving ourselves and forgiving each other.
That word was tough. It’s not now but it was a tough word. One of the first things that I was taught was you’re not going to be able to gain the forgiveness of others if you can’t forgive yourself first. I’m like, “What are you talking about? How does that even work?” Part of the self-forgiveness is recognizing and honoring the pain and the stuff that eventually at some point became some of the biggest lessons in my life. With that concept of forgiveness, I thought, “No one’s ever going to be able to forgive.”
One of the things that we struggled with a lot was words. At one point, Jenn said, “Those two words coming out of your mouth no longer mean anything.” They’re not even part of your vocabulary. When you can finally say, “It’s not about saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ anymore. It’s about showing, ‘I’m sorry’ through actions.”
At that point, I stopped saying, I’m sorry, walk away and come back with action. I had to show it from my perspective. Self-forgiveness was honoring the pain, what was going on, the why and the commitment to becoming healthier. Recognize that I’m not a bad person doing bad things. I’m a sick person trying to get healed. I found that the most important way for me to show forgiveness was through action. They often say that in terms of making amends or living the concepts, “It’s not about walking up to the person say, ‘I’m sorry for what I’ve done.'” It’s, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done. Let me show you how important you are in my life by what I’m about to do through action.”
That concept of forgiveness on my end had nothing to do with the words or creating a specific moment in time that says, “I’m sorry.” It was probably one to two years of full action of regaining trust. Showing that through action, gestures and I can rise from all of this, that’s where forgiveness for me had to play a huge role.
I’m going to speak on the most recent because that’s the most authentic for me rather than going backwards years back with forgiveness. What he’s talking about in terms of his actions, he would say sorry over and over again. Oftentimes, he would put together family videos while I’d be at work until I get there when the light was coming up, leave when the sun was going down and I was exhausted. While I’d be gone, sometimes he’s putting together family movies or videos. He did that several times and said, “Look what I put together for you.” He was doing that to try and gain my forgiveness.
It did exactly the polar opposite for me. It made me so hurt, frustrated, and angry because what I needed was someone to help with the dishes at home, a carpool or something like this. The forgiveness part for me was difficult in the beginning because he was giving me an apple and I needed an orange or vice versa. We were missing the mark with each other.
With therapy, she said, “You need to specifically say what it is that you need.” Be short to the point and specific. Once I was able to figure that out, then it started to come back together. Having him empty a dishwasher was oodles of gratitude on my part because he was listening to what I needed. I couldn’t continue to do all that I was doing.
When I talk about being current with forgiveness, I feel very guilty that I couldn’t keep up driving 10 different places in a matter of 5 hours. Why can’t I do that? I used to do that all the time. I was on a treadmill. I had trouble forgiving myself and then asking for help and saying, “Tucker, I need you to do this because I can’t do it.” When he did that for me, he did a pickup, but that was so important to me. When he did little actions like that, what he’s talking about more often and then me validating say, “Thank you so much. That is exactly what I needed. I appreciate you,” that’s when the forgiveness started to naturally flow back and forth.
What would you say to the people that are reading, in terms of understanding how important it is to forgive themselves much less their partner?
It’s so important and I’m still working on that. I am not going to pretend somewhere I’m not yet. This is where I’m at and I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was a little bit more each day but the forgiveness part for me is tough. When he said, “You need to go back to work,” forgiving myself by saying, “I’m not well enough yet to be able to handle a job and two children in a home during a pandemic.” Forgiving myself and saying, “You can’t do all of that. As I said years ago, “How high am I supposed to jump?” There’s nothing to forgive because I was doing everything for everybody else.
Tucker, what do you think about the people that are reading? How about the importance of forgiving themselves much less the partner or spouse that they’re with?
If you can’t forgive yourself, you’re never going to heal. You’re asking for history to repeat itself. You fall into shame, guilt and self-pity. You fall back into ego and into being selfish. It’s hard to hear. It seems almost like an oxymoron, but one of the most selfless things to do is to forgive yourself, even though it sounds incredibly selfish. It is the first step.
From there, it’s all about actions speaking louder than words. It’s about changing the vocabulary and your behaviors. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things but those simple gestures depending upon what your love language is or whatever that is can speak volumes. You recognize them. That’s also putting up a lot of boundaries and, “I need this.” It’s not until we’re able to specifically say what I need. A lot of the time, we make these assumptions that we’re doing good things for the other person, but if it’s not what they need. It’s a disservice. Listen to what they need and follow through.
What about the moments where you ask for what you need, you’re looking at your spouse and they don’t have the capacity? Have you found yourself reaching outside of asking your spouse when their capacity is maxed?
That’s a real hard one for me to answer and the reason why I say that is because when he was sick, there wasn’t any capacity to do much. It was a very lonely five years. That question hits home for me and it’s hurtful. Honestly, it makes me want to cry because there was no capacity for a long time. That’s hard because then that stirs up a lot of anger and resentment. “How can you not empty a dishwasher? It’s super easy. Teens can empty a dishwasher. Why can you not do that? Why can you not get dinner?”
That is when I had a lot of resentment built up. That was a large piece. I had to learn again through therapy to step away, let go and stop asking until I could realize and see that he’s getting better and healthier and that he could start to give a little bit more. The capacity was getting a little bit bigger, but know to be patient and wait for that capacity to get to the point where he can do it. He wanted to, but he couldn’t.
It’s hard to be incapacitated that way.
Can you speak about that? It was hard and awful.
When you’re in an inactive mode, your brain is not supporting you anymore. The smallest of things feel like giant Mount Everest to climb. I have no explanation for it other than the motivation is so not there. It’s even hard to talk about sometimes. You can’t even think for the littlest of things. It’s like we’re a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old. We can’t get them to do the dishes. It’s the same concept. It’s like your brain reverts to oblivion. It doesn’t register. That’s part of having to rebuild the neurochemistry that’s inside the brain. That’s when you know that you’re sick because nothing that’s supposed to be simple changes everything.
They told me to lower my expectations and lower them even more and then be at this. If you get a little bit of this capacity, be grateful. I had to expect nothing.You're not going to be able to gain the forgiveness of others if you can't forgive yourself first. Click To Tweet
Also, the weight because you don’t know what you don’t know. It is a spiritual journey.
I did GRAPES, Gentle with Self, Relaxation, Accomplish, Pleasure, Exercise and Social. While he was sick, I wasn’t getting to any GRAPES. One morning, I finally sat outside, and he was calling who’s going to have a cup of coffee.” I invited him to come out with me. I was on the corner of our porch because we have our dates on our porch.
He had walked out the door and our puppy went two steps down from him. I’m in this corner 10, 15 feet away from the puppy- he could have reached out. He goes, “The dog went down the stairs. Can you go get the dog?” It brought me back. There was a trigger for both of us because I was like, “We’re not going back here.”
Two people who are in our situation, there are going to be bumps in the road. We hit a bump and it was a big bump for us. The washing machine breaking was a tiny bump, but this problem that we had was a significant bump and the triggering that came back for me and him was something that happens. The only way I could call it is an emotional relapse.
That was good. I’ve not heard that before. That makes so much sense.
The biggest side effect that still lingers is emotional relapse. Part of that is being naturally human, but the other part is still being able to self-regulate and recognize when it’s coming on and be able to nip it before it gets too big.
Are you able to see how far you’ve come? Those weeks have been a test or a trial and an opportunity for you to see both of you and collectively as a couple.
It’s how much I was looking forward to the courtship because it’s easy to not even care or want that. To both be excited about that and have that taken away makes that desire for that to happen even more than before. We look at the first few years when he was sick, then the last few years I still think that he was sick when he was sober because he was trying to come out of wherever he had placed himself and it was super hard for him. It’s like little chapters, and this was a different chapter. In that decade, there were pain, anger, resentment, isolation and all these different terrible things.
Now, we’ve had the opportunity to heal separately. I’m not there fully, he’s further along because he started earlier than I did. Understanding that we love each other unconditionally, no matter what. While this was a temporary thing, it still brought out the ugly that I never wanted to see again and I saw it again. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Knowing that, we’ve been through this thing before and we can get through it again.
Also, I was a little bit more assertive. There are more boundaries. If he would do something negative, I would come like this and we would create a bomb fire. If you would come at me during those few weeks, I would know not to come back like a bear because it doesn’t help. With all the things and tools that we’ve been taught, we were able to navigate the last few weeks more effectively, efficiently, calmly and lovingly than if we didn’t have those tools and took that time to heal. It would have been a different experience.
I’m curious for each one of you, what’s the 1 thought, the 1 lesson or the 1 piece that you think is so important that people who are reading this understand as the spouse or as the one who has the disease for them to take with them?
Not to simplify it but this is the most powerful thing. Regardless of the depth because everyone experiences this family disease differently, and it hits everybody differently. We’re taught to never compare trauma, and this is worse than the other. We all experienced it in different ways. We all have our separate stories. At the end of the day, you can recover. I always say, “It’s the one disease that has a cure if you do the work, but it takes a lot of discipline. It’s possible.” It’s not cancer or life-threatening if you follow the medication, which is doing the work.
It feels strange to say that it takes both parties to do it but at the end of the day, as Jenn said, if you love the person unconditionally, then you commit to it. It does take both parties, the spouse and the kids. The kids have committed to understanding all of this, too. Recovery is always possible no matter the depth, and it takes a lot of hard work. The answer is there is a cure. That’s something a lot of people can’t say about certain diseases.
I feel like when Tucker talks, he’s a lot more polished than I am because I feel like he’s had a lot more time, counseling, support and attention. I feel like when I’m speaking, I’m just blubber of verbal diarrhea because I haven’t had the time, resources and opportunities, quite frankly, to be placed number one. You can only do that for yourself. I’m trying to do that now more but I feel like if I could ask for understanding from anybody who’s listening and hearing me that if what I say is not perfect, or if what I say doesn’t resonate with you or hurts you in any way, that would never be my intention.
Even saying the word that Tucker had to go on medication. I fear I said that somebody went on medication and that helped him because everybody’s different and has their opinion. I’m a very sensitive person. I’ve had a lot happen to me. The one thing is that if someone who is the spouse, the parents or child’s coming from a place where they’ve experienced what they’ve experienced and are beginning to tell their side of the story, if it doesn’t come out as well as we hope it would be, speaking for myself, please be patient with us as we begin our journey of recovery and healing.
When he was on his journey of recovery and healing, it was so private and confidential. There are so many journals. He was in the hospital and a rehab facility. This is me coming out like would have been in one of my first sessions and I’m coming out publicly. Honestly, when I think about that, I sit back and realize what I do. Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I said. It’s coming from a place of compassion. I’m not perfect, and what I’m saying isn’t going to always resonate or be right but please be compassionate because I’m trying to help other people who were where I was.
Knowing you as I know you now, the courage that it takes to be raw and real is tremendous.
You never have to say it. There’s not a right way to say it but what you spoke about is why our show was born. Most of the industry focuses on the one who’s suffering from the disease. It’s the family that’s left on the wayside to figure it out. He’s had a whole lot more work, journaling and hospital, which is fantastic and you were trying to hold life together at the time that he was on that part of his journey. I want you to recognize how courageous you are. For me, what I love the most about you, Jenn, is your courage, realness, being vulnerable and raw because that’s what people need. This isn’t just, “He stopped drinking and he got some help. We’re all fine now.”
Thank you. That means a lot because as I said to him, “I’m going to tell the truth. If I don’t do that, then what is this for?” I had to trust him enough that he was not going to get angry at me like he was years ago when we would start talking about this. It’s having the security and safety knowing that I can say my truth.
That’s a tremendous gift. All we can do is speak our truth, whether it’s Tucker’s truth, your truth, my truth or whoever’s. What’s true at the moment is you have permission to give that voice. I want to thank you both from the bottom of my heart for taking this time, showing up, being real and raw and speaking for so many people that are going through this, individually and as a couple. This will be powerful for people to read.
We hope so.
That’s why we’re doing it. Thank you, KL.