- 2011 -
I spent most of my time at the White House by the end of the summer, terrified of spending any kind of extended period in solitude. Unemployed, directionless, living on my own, I felt my passions waning. The things that used to motivate me simply couldn’t anymore.
I supposed I must have just sat around, watching TV shows I didn’t really care to see, eating cheap pizza, sinking pathetically into couch cushions.
Only a few months prior, before going out on tour with Yours Truly, I’d been stepping out into new territory with my musical endeavors. I had raised funds to record a new studio album and began working with other creative minds and heroes of mine to make it happen. It had seemed that, at long last, exciting things were beginning to happen. I had booked a tour to play, after all.
But after she left, I didn’t care about music. I didn’t care about anything.
Feeling strangely uncomfortable attending services alone, I pulled away from the church we attended together for four years, and passively followed Tim and Jared to evening services at a seeker church across town. I liked very little of the commercialism I found there. But I liked being alone even less, so I kept going.
Spending countless summer days in an idle stupor, I roused myself occasionally for meetings with friends and mentors. Tim and Jared had no clue how to console such a person, other than nodding and praying and saying often, “it’s going to be alright.” The only bit of consistency I had was a daily workout routine we started together. It kept me sane. Before that, I’d never really understood how important rituals could be.
By the end of August, my music project had been put on temporary hold, as well as the rest of my life. People encouraged me to go back to Colorado, to see her, to chase after her, but I remained reluctant.
She moved back in with her parents, after all. She’d told me how extremely angry they’d been about the conversations that had shaken our marriage. I figured that if I attempted to go back there, I’d only be met with force. In the end, they were all excuses, though. I just didn’t have the courage to go back.
Half-hopefully, I made continued efforts to stay in contact with her, mostly through email and text. I only received occasional blunt, abbreviated responses. She never told me how she was doing. By the end of the summer, the communication just became one-way: me updating her on my life in the new apartment, telling her things I knew would spark memories or maybe even a smile. Eventually, she asked me to stop contacting her altogether.
Despite our dying communication, I did know with certainty that she was to be a bridesmaid in early September at the wedding of a mutual friend of ours. Unsure what else to do, I made plans to drive out to see her then, when I knew there might have been a chance to catch her alone. But she guessed I’d do as much. She told me not to come. She said it would cause unnecessary drama at our friend’s wedding.
Still, I wasn’t dissuaded until the bride-to-be herself told me that she didn’t think it a good idea either. I felt confused and ganged-up on, and gave up after that. And with that, I missed my last window of opportunity to see her again before she made things final.
Ashleigh had to be a resident of Colorado for ninety days before she could legally file for divorce in the same state we were married in. She wasted no time.
- 2011 -
I knew very little about Alcoholics Anonymous before meeting Tim.
We were sitting on the back porch of a local coffee shop the first time we talked about it seriously, sipping cold drinks in the sinking summer evening. The city felt cool and tired.
From the time I first met Tim, he’d always been completely unabashed admitting his past drug and alcohol abuse –– addictions he’d harbored since high school. He’d most likely consumed just about every substance a person might imagine, from cocaine to LSD, before he wound up at Recovery. That happened around his nineteenth birthday, and when I met him, Tim was nearly three years completely sober.
We watched the shadows grow along the pavement lining 21st. The cafe door opened occasionally, letting a few nostalgic lines from old 90’s songs drift out into the streets. An ebenezer was being pinned down.
“I think everyone should have to go through a twelve-step at some point in their lives,” Tim continued over top his coffee cup.
“Yeah. Recovery is all about bringing things into the light. It’s about seeing patterns in your past –– in the ways you hurt others or yourself, or how they hurt you –– so you learn how to handle all of it better in the future.”
Tim explained the program to me as he’d done numerous times before to others; after he’d completed the program himself three years before, he’d become a sponsor and guided others through the same process.
“That sounds great,” I said.
“Yeah, it is.” He folded he hands in front of him on the table. “And there’s a reason I’m telling you all this…”
Tim asked me if I’d go through the Recovery curriculum with him.
The question caught me off-guard at first. I didn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, but I suppose I knew that wasn’t what Tim was getting at. I was –– we all are –– addicted to something, and that something was what most often wreaked the most havoc in my life. Tim wasn’t just goading me into a program to fix my addictions; he had invited me to discover just what my real addictions were.
Various things flew through my mind when he asked, and I still remember them vividly: Do I really need this? What would other people think of me if they knew I was going through a twelve-step program? What if Tim’s more concerned about being my sponsor than being my friend? Maybe he just wants to fix me and leave.
It’s strange and funny: if I’d been paying close attention, I might have recognized that those very questions would have pointed me right to my addictions. My deepest fears often rise from the cracks of my heart to speak up when they feel threatened, and by doing so, give themselves away.
I told Tim I’d go through the curriculum with him. He smiled.
“This is gonna be so good for you, dude.”
- 1994 -
The old red van shuddered as it streaked across a small highway along the countryside, pummeled by the giant drops of a rare afternoon thunderstorm. You could almost feel the dry earth rejoicing.
I sat in the front, next to Dad. I was singing too (rather obnoxiously), along with the cassette tape blasting through the car speakers.
The song was “The Ants Go Marching.” While we went marching along towards home ourselves, I peered out the windows at the thunderclouds and drooping trees, imagining pincers instead of teeth and wondering what a rainstorm might be to an ant. What excitement! What terror! The song swelled and I belted the refrain.
“THE ANTS GO MARCHING FOUR BY FOUR––”
Dad’s voice stopped me; I forgot about the ants. “Yeah?”
“Take it down a notch, buddy.”
I quieted myself a bit, still unable to stop completely, and returned to the world outside. Rainwater fluttered across the windows, making everything beyond look like watercolors. Where did ants go when a flood came? In the ground, or the trees? Did they have tiny escape plans hanging on their walls, like at kindergarten? THE ANTS GO MARCHING FIVE BY FIVE…
“I did take it down,” I said.
Dad sighed. “Yeah, but you don’t blend well. Listen to your sister sing, she knows how to blend with the recording.”
I turned to peer into the back, where Mandi sat in her car seat, her curly head of hair propped up by a smug grin. What did blending even mean?
“But she’s only three years old.”
Suddenly realizing she’d become the center of conversation, my young sister pursed her tiny mouth closed tight and turned very serious. I shot her a frown.
She didn’t move, looking cornered.
I ignored her and turned back to the front. As the last lines of the song played, I breathed the words to them softly, trying to blend like Dad had said. In the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing it all wrong. I didn’t sing the rest of the drive home.