We take a moment to check in with our VPs Tucker and Jenn, who open up about where they are in their journey. Listen as they uncover their clarity of being a healthy, functioning family now vs. being a dysfunctional family living in a cloud of chaos.
They share their humbling lessons of going from surviving the disease to thriving where simple gestures like breakfast in bed and holding hands while walking through the streets of Paris have become transformational. Who knew the power of a simple act of a bagel and coffee could uncover the trust that is being built back in their relationship?
Find out how their perspectives have changed and the positive place in their relationship now that is such a gift.
Their biggest fear? Losing how far they’ve come.
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Marriage And The Road To Recovery
I’m super excited because I believe this is an unending journey. It’s unfolding for all of us. In my own journey, where I was months ago is different than where I am now. Also, where I was a year ago was different than where I was months ago. Talking to you both now is so valuable because your journey has been in so many ways pretty quick in the last couple of years, and as individuals, as a couple, as a family, and then as a generational component to all of this, too.
To visit about generational healing, the larger family healing, what’s taken place from where were you previously to where you are now, and what took place to make the changes happen gives hope and promise to those who are stuck in these places where they don’t know if that’s possible. There are no guarantees. It’s just who we are and how we show up. Can we show up with people who potentially are open to an evolution in the change in the relationship? Tucker and Jenn, I’m going to turn it over to the two of you to speak about your journey.
Thank you for that introduction in the sense of a starting point because there are probably a million places where we can start. I won’t speak on behalf of Jenn, but what I will say is that those first five years, phase one, go by very slowly in the sense that we’ve talked about this in the past. It’s like, “Get sober. Everything’s great.” It’s not that way, but I will attest from my perspective that the moment things do start to click, it accelerates so much faster than we anticipated, which is so hopeful and so exciting. It is the moment the entire family’s on the same page where both mom and dad specifically, have done their part and invested in the work.
They have learned the new dance and have owned emotional intelligence in a way that we’re probably somewhat forced into, but also one of my greatest blessings out of all of this was the emotional intelligence gained from it. I was probably suffering from that for so long, but I would say the greatest observation for me is the acceleration of happiness and the coming back together again. That’s what I’m excited to share. Jenn?
One of the reasons why I wanted to speak with you again, KL, was because you don’t realize the thickness of the cloud that you’re in of a storm until it starts to clear up a little bit and then a little bit more. Once you feel like your storm is completely cleared up and you start to become a fully functioning family again, you realize how big of a storm it was at some point and that there were still some gray areas of clouds that we’ve been working through.
Once you get through the whole storm and then you look back and you’re like, “What just happened?” Where we are now is such a gift. It’s such a blessing that we’re so afraid we don’t want it to end because we work so hard to get here. Clarity in thinking is one of the biggest things that I wanted to bring up. I thought I was clear 1 year or 2 ago, and even more so, giving it time and healing.
It’s the clarity of thinking for me as an individual and seeing the difference between a healthy family that’s functioning versus where we were before. You can’t see if you’re functioning well or not because you’re in the thick of it. That’s why I wanted to speak on it because when you finally get out of it, you see the gifts that have been given, all the things that you have learned from it, and how humbling it is as an individual and as a family unit to say, “This is where we were and this is where we are now.” The attitude that you hold is overwhelming.
I’m sure each of you would have a little different perspective on this, but can you give the comparative contrast, a story that represents the past and now a story that highlights the healing that you’re speaking to Jenn, and then we’ll visit, what’s the bridge?
I’m going to start with the positive. I made Tucker breakfast in bed. That was probably the first time. I don’t know if it’s ever been done, but I made it way back when we were in a honeymoon period. I made him breakfast because he’s been busting his butt for our family as a father. I recognize that and didn’t take time to recognize it, but for me to fully embrace that this is a different person than whom we had years ago. I find that the way that I hold him in my mind and in my heart has completely changed. It’s the way that it was initially when we first got married, but it’s also a little bit different because of the way that life has happened.
It’s the recognition of, “Look how far you’ve come. I’m so proud of you.” It’s saying words of affirmation. Is it the five love languages that we talked about? Knowing his love language, words of affirmation is what he needs, and bringing him that bagel and cup of coffee was a big deal for him. Saying to our children, when we went to dinner, “Your father just landed X, Y, Z client or account. How proud are we of him?” Coming together as a unit, as a family in recognizing and learning the love languages that are needed versus before when we were giving each other apples and oranges.
He was making home videos while I was working, and I needed somebody to help with a carpool, with the dishes, or make a meal. He wasn’t capable of doing that. I remember saying that in our last interview with you. That’s where we were before. The way he’s showing up now to his family and the importance of recognizing it for your loved one. This isn’t just about alcohol. This is about marriage. This is about life. This is how different we showed up for each other before, which was apples versus oranges, and the resentment, anger, and frustration, passing each other night versus now. Recognition, love, awareness, and that way would be my best way of saying it. Tucker, is that accurate for you?
That’s very accurate and yes, I did have to pinch myself. “Am I still in my REM sleep or is this happening? Something’s working.” It was a small gesture. She’s right. Words of affirmation is my love language, and when I look back and realize that words were such weapons over so many years, I realized that my love language and even my own self-talk were being extinguished. So was that failure and all of that goes with it. I was blown away by the gesture, but it also felt a reassurance to me that we were both headed in the right direction and it wasn’t about me feeling good.
It was seeing her feel that trust was being built back and who would’ve known that bagel and coffee would be such a powerful gesture? Jenn can remember what I was wearing on September 1st, 1999 but I think of things more conceptually so my recollection of answering your question is going to be a little bit more conceptual. What I’m noticing in the past, sitting down and trying to have a conversation, was trying to one-up the other, or I would always get defensive and turn everything into an argument or whatever that might feel like.
Words are being used as a weapon. The therapy that we’ve been working on is understanding respect, validation, and being able to sit down and have a conversation that is more focused on how we come to a meeting of the minds. How am I going to create my army over here, and how are they going to meet on the battlefield? It’s a completely different experience if we don’t agree with the other person or we have a different opinion.Even if you disagree with another person, learn how to accept their opinions without getting angry or raising your voice. Click To Tweet
To be able to sit down collectively without anger, without raising our voices, is more of a calming thing. We didn’t have conversations like that, and most of my friends that are talking about certain things have that same conversation where it’s like this and you can sit back and say, “It’s this and it’s this, but it’s also this.” It’s not been apparent to us for quite some time. Those words of affirmation, acts of service, like Jenn did, were a big deal. That’s where my mind immediately went to. It was the power of work and the power of healthy conversation can change everything.
What are you thinking, Jenn?
I don’t have much to say about that. I agree with him. There’s so much that’s happened and there’s an additional piece of it where your perspective has to change in a healthy way. I said the words in our last interview. I said, “I’ve had a lot of things happen to me.” If they didn’t pick up on that then, they can pick up on it now. Everybody has stuff that happens, but when you’re in that “victim role” of, “This has happened to me,” it’s easy to sit in that pile and feel sorry for yourself that this has happened to you.
Everybody’s had stuff happen to them. What are you going to do about it? You get up and you pick yourself up out of that pile and you don’t sit back down in that pile of the pit. You move along and you try not to say that again. You change your perspective and take the lessons. For me, it’s the most valuable lesson that I have learned. It was not fun to go through these trenches because it was tough. As I’ve said before, God’s not going to give you something that you can’t handle.
There were moments where I was like, “This is plenty,” but if you change your perspective, it empowers you. You become more powerful in your own mind, body, spirit, and in your own words. You then start to do greater things. It’s not necessarily changing the world, but within myself, in terms of the way that I show up to the world and the way that I present myself, and the way that I function in the family. That’s completely changing and when you go about it, there has to be a humility piece to it. You don’t have to be the strongest person in the room or the loudest person in the room. What I’m learning is that it’s very good sometimes to be quiet and listen because you’re going to pick up on so much more by observation.
When you do speak, people will listen to you more because you’ve been observing and you don’t have to be the loudest voice. Being okay with not being the strongest, but working towards that. You have stuff happen to you, but pick yourself up and then try and start moving forward with what you can and feeling worthy of it. It’s the perspective change, the humility, and knowing that you’re worthy to be strong and powerful again. Have the best relationship that you want to have for yourself and the kind that you are deserving for yourself, but also how you show up to others in a respectful way. Those are all massive perspective changes for me.
Do you guys both think or individually think that this is one of the gifts that’s been embedded in this journey of addiction and alcoholism? This higher level of being able to be humble, to listen, to change your perspective, to observe, and to be present in a more powerful way?
Yes, because we went to a football game and we observed various interactions and ways people moved about. We saw some of our old ways maybe, and we laughed and chuckled quietly to ourselves. You learn things about yourself how you want to show up to people and how you want to show up to the world. The way you make other people feel is one of the most important and impactful ways you can move about in this world. As I said, you don’t have to be the loudest, the strongest, the best, or the brightest, but the way that you make people feel when you speak with them, the way you leave with them, and how you present yourself to them is far more impactful than having a resume that’s long.
I’m assuming that there’s a whole lot more intentionality about how you show up now.
A lot more self-awareness. As I said, I used to be the loudest one.
Used to be?
Yes, with my family on NFL Sundays, I am the loudest person in the room, but yes, there’s the intentionality of how I move about in the space and how I present myself, intentionality in words and actions and interactions.
Is there an intentionality about how you want to show up for others and how you would like their experience to be with you?
It’s interesting because our whole friend group has changed. The dynamics of past relationships have changed. We’ve both recognized and made an intentional decision to focus on relationships and friendships that see reciprocal support versus what she was referring to at the football game. You never know. For me too, I spent so many years in fear of how I was perceived that my defense came out as mean. It came out as harsh. It came out as short, terse, and angry. I didn’t know at the time that it is a defense mechanism.
Unfortunately, the family is the one that has to see all of that nastiness but the moment that you move through it and accept what’s happened and become the person you want to show up all of those fears subside. All of those feelings of anger and dismissiveness start to fall away in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve talked about this in the past, where it’s that scarlet letter. The moment that you remove the scarlet letter and own it as a badge of courage, that changes the way you show up immensely.
You start to not care what people judge you as. It’s their reflection of them. That’s the mirror. One of the things that Jenn and I have accepted is how we show up to one another. There’s no, “You’re this. You are that.” It’s who we are. Jenn made a comment. It’s the one where, “This is life. We are who we are. Can we accept it and enjoy it?” I don’t know if you recall what I’m talking about. It’s a conversation you had with me that stuck. It made me stop trying to perfect change or whatever it was. It’s like, “Just show up as who you are.”
I remember that conversation.
I’m having trouble articulating, but it was one of those moments where I’m like, “She spoke to me in a way that I don’t think we’ve connected before,” and it was not judging one another, but not judging our situation. It’s realizing that this is what it is, so let’s have fun with it. That was a moment of clarity for both of us. That’s what came to mind.
Can you pinpoint a couple or three things that each one of you has done along the way to go from where you were to where you are now?
Yes. In general, one thing that we learned for both of us that I try and make sure that I do every time, and I don’t get it right every time, but I practice it and I want us both to be doing this for each other is if we’ve done something that hurts the other person, even our kids if we say something wrong, it’s not sorry you feel that way. It’s, “I’m sorry that my words and actions made you feel sad or made you feel angry. I’m responsible for the way that I made you feel, and I will try to never do that again.”If you've hurt someone, do not tell them you're sorry they feel that way. Instead, take responsibility for your words and actions, doing everything you can to never do it again. Click To Tweet
It’s not, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It’s not taking responsibility for the action that I did because everybody’s going to do it and I say this to my kids because we have teenagers. “Mom makes this all the time,” I say this on a daily basis now at this point. I say, “I’m sorry that the way that I said that made you feel whatever emotion it is, sadness, frustration, or whatever. It is my responsibility to not do that again. I give you my promise that I will work very hard to make sure that I don’t do that again.” It has to be genuine because I’m a human being.
I’m going to say it again. “I’m not going to get it right every time, kids.” I say that and I’m trying to model for our kids how we’d like to talk to other people and how to be responsible for our own actions and words. I want us to show up like that as a married couple for each other. That’s how I’d like to be treated. It’s like the Golden Rule, “Show how you’d like to treat others the way you’d like to be treated.” That’s how I’d like to be treated. I don’t want to be dismissed for something that may have hurt me, so I try and walk the walk that we’ve learned.
The other thing is that in going through all of this, in all seriousness, I feel like it was a bad dream because we’re in such a different spot and we’re not in a perfect spot but because there has been a flip of the coin. We almost feel like that decade was a bad dream. Some guilt has been coming up, “How could you have thought of not staying together?” I’ve worked through it with my doctor. That happened. Feeling that way at that moment is normal thought and that’s a normal response to something that’s very scary or a normal response to something that is not right.
Acceptance did happen and also, acceptance that there were signs before. You love someone so much and you don’t want to see it. Acceptance that there was a sign and signs many years prior, but I didn’t want to accept it and face it. It naturally did the course. With the clarity that I’m having now, I realize that there were signs. Being honest with yourself that it’s okay to be honest with yourself, even with things that become new that you don’t want to feel and afraid to feel it.
It’s okay to feel it, even if it scares you. Feel it like you talk about in your five acts of courage. Feel it, walk through the emotions, and it takes its power away. That would be the main couple things that I’ve learned about apologies and recognizing the past versus the present. Also, walking through the emotions is the three that I would say would be mine.
What I do also appreciate about what you’re talking about is it’s the persistence and courage to continue to lean in and understand your own journey and the journey with Tucker and the kids. It’s continually rewriting the story. I do believe that takes resiliency and persistence. That takes courage. To recognize that is present in this journey. You have chosen intentionally to do this. Once you set that way of being in motion, then you will continue to unpack and unfold all the things that go with that. Months from now, you’re going to be in another different place because you can’t put your foot in the same place in the river every time.
I recall the conversation he’s talking about because what I said to him was when we were going through a bump and I said to him very plainly and clearly, “I can handle this. I need you to show up authentically so we can figure out what it is and then we can walk through it together.” I was giving him the confidence, “I can handle this. I’m going to be here. I need X from you to be very direct. I need you to show authentically so we can get to the root of whatever it is so we can just get through this bump.” Having that unconditional showing up for each other. The trust for him to know that I would still be there as we unpack what we had to unpack at that moment. Is that how you recall it, Tucker?
I want to pinpoint your ability to clearly and concisely communicate because so many people in communications walk around thinking, “They know what I’m thinking.” For a number of years, I would say to Patty, “I cannot read your mind, so please drop the expectation. I’m asking for clarification because we don’t think about things the same. Help me understand what’s in your heart, what’s in your soul, what’s in your mind, so I can at least know, and then out of that space, I can show up and meet you.” That’s what I’m hearing in this story that you’re telling, Jenn. Tucker?
Jenn knows that I’m also an oracle speaker when it comes to these things because I’m conceptual that way. One of the things that’s a mindset thing for me and pinpointing it. Even when someone says, “What’s your sobriety date?” I don’t even say that. I say it’s my release date because it’s that release from that self-imposed prison thing. For me, as you’re going through life and it felt like this huge valley, what’s cool is to back up and see it as a huge peak because there were some dark times. The cool thing about it, I call it collateral beauty, is that out of all of this came something pretty significant. As we do this, we climb out much stronger.
I do think that we’ve both learned life lessons that we would not have learned had we not gone through this. There are blessings that way and I said this time and time again. Those get mirrored and passed on. It’s always a great thing. The other thing that I would say too is pinpointing the idea. This is not a one-and-done. It’s not an experiment. It has to become part of your DNA and what’s cool is that the more we’ve practiced and invested in whatever it was, it’s cool to wake up in the morning and feel like it’s now becoming part of our DNA of a trial and error.
The trial and error can get old real quick. It’s frustrating. It can still be finger-pointing. It can be this and that, and all it does is recall the past but when it starts to become part of your day-to-day DNA, there is something powerful about that. Jenn’s also right. The moment either one of us makes a mistake or says something wrong, in the past, I’ve never wanted to be the person that says, “That’s on me.” It feels good to say, “I was wrong. It was the wrong choice of words. I’m sorry that caused you hurt. That’s not fair.” All of a sudden, “That was easy.”
I say, “Cool. Let’s go,” and that’s it, but you said the same thing.
It doesn’t fester. It doesn’t linger. It used to loiter around and now it’s like, “Okay.” It needs to kick it and move on. Those are the two things that stand out. I would say the third thing is what used to be very shameful. It’s like, “We can’t talk about that now.” Now, sometimes it comes out of my mouth. I’m like, “To someone else, that might be traumatic.”
This is what we talk about all the time. When you’re at a dinner conversation with people and you tell me that. You’re like, “Maybe they don’t talk like this.”
We were planning to go to the bar ahead of time if we were meeting with friends and saying, “Can you give me club soda with a lime in a short glass so it looked like an alcoholic beverage?” I would bring that to the table because I wanted to carry on the facade the way it’s always been. Now, it’s like, “Give me a Diet Coke,” and if someone says, “You’re not drinking?” I’m like, “I gave it up years ago. It’s the best thing I ever did.” It flows like this and it’s freeing, but it’s not for everyone in that sense. For us, it’s a sign that we’ve done the work and we’re also helping change the narrative for how all of this is shared with others because that to me is what’s going to make families heal.
Number one, owning our actions is a sign of growth and maturity. The piece that you spoke about was the practice that you don’t stop something. You have to lean into creating something new and then you have to practice it so that rewires the neuro pathways in your brain. It then becomes, “This is how we do this now.” If I say something and I get a response that isn’t quite what I wanted or intended, I’m going to own what I said, and then we’re going to come at it anew.
What I want our audience to learn are intentionality and rethinking. Instead of stopping, it’s figuring out whom I want to be in that situation and then the practice has to occur in order to embrace this new way of being in the world. It then settles into comfort, freedom, and the dropping of the shame, the stigma, and the judgment of ourselves.
There’s a lightness that we haven’t experienced in a long time, and even when my beasts start to reoccur in terms of financial, whatever it is, and fear here and all this stuff, I know now that I can go to Jenn and share that. Before it was shameful and I would bury it and then there go the symptoms again. Now, one of the best antidotes is honesty and conversation, which is what marriage should be built on for humans. Sometimes, I’ll be the first one to admit that when our brain isn’t working the right way, things happen.
That stuff can get lost in the disease and over time, in a marriage naturally. The thing that I wanted to bring up is codependency. I don’t know what it was. I didn’t see them myself and I know sometimes people say it a little bit differently, but what I recognize now, as I’ve said in the prior interview, the two years after he got sober were the two of the loneliest because it’s like the person that you loved is still here. They’re still living here in your house, but you don’t recognize them in their personality, the way they show up to you, and the way they show up for themselves.
That was lonely because prior to all this, I had become dependent upon our relationship. We were eating dinner together, rollerblading, and going to the movies. Anything that we did together was dependent upon us always going. We were this. I lost myself as an individual over time, even prior, I would say to us being married because we were so codependent upon seeing each other constantly and being with each other.
It was the two loneliest years of this disease that I have ever experienced but it was the time that forced me, frankly, to take the time and recognize that I had to develop as an individual again. I had to redevelop my morals and stick with them. I had to remind myself of the path of the gut, heart, mind, and body where I wanted to go. I redo my path and take some stuff from the path that I did want to keep, and then leave the rest behind and create this new path for myself as an individual.Even the loneliest times of your life can give you the opportunity to develop as an individual all over again. Click To Tweet
There were lonely nights and days. You get to know yourself again, take that time, and be willing to accept that this is what it is right now. It’s not always going to be lonely, but this is what it is. More interest and more thought patterns and things that you know about yourself and then you start to enjoy who you are as a person. You start to become proud of who you are as a person. You then come back into the marriage as we did after two years as two very completely different people. You’re almost reintroducing yourselves to each other and then seeing, “Can we dance together again?” You have to make a choice.
My therapist said, “Shit or get off the pot.” We said, “We’re going to go and we’re going to figure this out.” As Tucker said, it didn’t happen overnight but learning to become an individual with my own thoughts and feelings and knowing that I’m worthy of so much more than I thought that I was. It was a huge game changer for me because I’m much more independent now. I’m trying to show that to our children because that’s something that I stumbled and fell with. I learned the hard way.
You try and give your kids a map book. I love when I do things wrong because I run and tell the kids right away. “I messed up. This is what I learned from it.” I like telling that more almost than telling about my successes because who cares? “You did that. Great.” I mess up and my fingers get dirty. I’m like, “Let me tell you about something that I did wrong. Don’t ever do what I do.” You become so much more comfortable in your skin. I’m a part of two, but I’m so happy being myself and who I am now. I think I am a better wife and mother because of that.
That’s so powerful, Jenn, and for me, it is so much a gift of this disease because most people married and parents with kids are enmeshed and they lose themselves in the midst of it. It’s this whole notion of, “I’m the parent of a recovering addict.” The job description that a lot of parents take on is, “I have to fix them. I have to control this. I have to do all that,” but no. It’s exactly what you spoke to is, “I have to do my work. If in fact, he pops out the other side, I am the happiest, the thriving, and the most centered whole person I can be to welcome him home.”
For a lot of people, they’re like, “You have lost your mind,” but if you read what children will write to their parents once they’re on the other side of it, it is exactly what you said, “This is my journey. You can’t fix it. You can’t cure it. You can’t control it. Let me have my journey. I may not ‘survive’ but you need to do your work in the meantime so that you are there happy, whole, and joyful and all the things if I pop out the other side.” It is powerful. Tucker, what are you thinking based on this conversation?
It’s somewhat of an oxymoron to sit here and smile looking back on the hell that was. I was reflecting and I lost myself as you guys were talking because I was remembering some of the times that I was most shameful about, and now I’m remembering the times that we can laugh and we can joke about it. These are things that most people would be like, “I can’t believe that it happened to you,” and now just try to chuckle at it and be like, “Yeah, it did,” but it doesn’t define us. What does define us is the laughter, the reconnection, and all of the things that we went through.
As horrible as they were, it makes me feel so much more excited about the next years. It makes the next years feel that much more rewarding because we’re not going through it at 50, 60, or 70 years of age. We got it in our midlife awakening, not our midlife crisis. We’re going to be able to soar into the future of retirement on this little house on a lake that we’ve been imagining for a long time. Wherever that may be with or whatever money you may make but at least there’s the vision because a few short years ago, there wasn’t even a vision to get through the day. Now, the vision is what can we do for eternity? That’s a pretty cool realization.
Congratulations. This isn’t for wimps.
There’s one image I want to leave, whether it’s a spouse or a parent or whatever, but we were in on our vacation and I reached out to hold Tucker’s hands and we haven’t held hands for years. You don’t just go back to hand-holding and doing all this stuff because it’s going to take some time. It was weird at first, but we’re getting our rhythm back. The kids down go, “Mom and dad are holding hands. What’s going on?”
We came back from our trip and we went to the movies and held hands again. It comes back in time, but you have to have courage, an open heart, and willingness. I was so intimidated and afraid to hold hands before because I get hurt. Why are you going to go hold hands with someone who may have hurt you a while back and maybe not trust you? Have the courage and be brave enough to put your hand out. Hold the hand of whether it’s your child, your spouse, or whatever.
Our son is about to go to college and we’ve said to them, “We didn’t accomplish all that we wanted to provide for you because we had a big bump, but even though we don’t have the biggest house in the block, we don’t have X, Y, Z and what we thought we would be able to provide, we hope you know that you live in a home of so much love. I hope that you’ve seen us battle through this. Know that whatever you encounter in life, you can get through it.”
When I pass away and hopefully, I get to go to heaven, I feel like I’m going to say that my biggest accomplishment is that I kept my family together. It was messy and it wasn’t what I expected, but my biggest accomplishment when our kids go to college or whenever my time is up is that I kept us together and fight for that person. Fight for yourself, fight for your family, and fight for those relationships. That handholding moment is possible for everybody.
It’s the best place to leave it on.
Well said, Jenn.