I am an alcoholic.

Three years ago, I was an alcoholic in denial who woke up Christmas morning, staggered into my kitchen, and saw the bottle of wine sitting on the kitchen counter. I had left about a quarter-inch of wine in the bottle the night before because I didn’t want anyone to think I had finished the bottle. The bottle: a room temperature bottle of chardonnay. Not even chilled.

On Christmas Eve 2011, The Wizard still lived in the house. Dinner was still a production. Fancy clothes were mandatory. China and silver and crystal lined the dining room table. Christmas tunes played on the stereo. Bottles of wine were opened. Cocktail ice rattled in glasses. And, few, except the most hardcore alcoholics, could stomach the eggnog.

I didn’t drink at dinner that night. In fact, I didn’t drink the entire evening.  See, I was a “good” Alanon and certainly not an alcoholic.  I had the empty glass to prove it.  Look-y here, folks, see my wine glass is empty because I am not an alcoholic. He’s the alcoholic (insert the Alanon finger wag here).  I was married to a drunk. The Wizard was my problem. If I fixed him, then I would never have to drink again.

On that Christmas Eve, everyone left. The Wizard passed out. The Kids went to bed. My heart ached with an unimaginable depth of incomprehensible demoralization. I started crying and pouring. And pouring. And pouring.  I poured warm chardonnay into that empty glass that a few hours earlier I had held up as my trophy of non-alcoholism. And it felt so good going down and down and down.

In the morning light of Christmas, I stared at the bottle I had almost emptied. I had left a little in the bottom of the bottle — exactly as The Wizard did.

I quickly dumped the rest down the drain and hid the empty bottle in the garbage. I didn’t want anyone to know. But I knew. I couldn’t hide the bottle from myself. I couldn’t run from myself.  I was an alcoholic. I am an alcoholic. My drinking had nothing to do with The Wizard, the price of tea in China or global warming. I am an alcoholic with an allergy of the body and obsession of the mind. My only cure is complete abstinence, a relationship with Something Greater than Myself, and a program of recovery.

Fast forward, three years past the tears, the heartache, the joy, the dark abyss, the ugly divorce, the financial insecurity, the great adventures, the pain, the rigorous self-examination, the work — the hardest work I’ve ever done.

And here I stand: three years sober.

Last night, I sat in Midnight Mass. On my left, my daughter sat next to me. On my right, Tall Dude (TD) sat, holding my hand. I met this gentleman about a month ago through online dating. We’ve talked on the phone every night since meeting. We see each other several times a week, sitting in restaurant after restaurant until closing time, exchanging stories.

This gentleman drove an hour in the depth of winter darkness to go to Mass with me. I rested my hand on his leg as naturally as if he had sat next to me for a thousand years, and he placed his hand on top of mine, giving it a squeeze.  All through Mass, we held hands in that supporting way one holds hands. Whenever I turned to look at him, in amazement that he was actually there, he returned the gaze with a little smile and another hand squeeze. We let our grasp go only long enough to kneel together in prayer. When it came time for the “peace be with you” greeting, he placed a gentle, church-appropriate kiss on my lips and said in the deepest, sweetest voice, “Peace be with you.”

When I went up for communion, he was right behind me. His warmth, unlike anything I’ve ever felt, was right there.

The priest, the one who confirmed me, heard my first confession, guided me through the conversion process and knows my story better than I do, gave me a little smile when he saw me in the communion line. At the end of Mass, as I shook the priest’s hand, I started to say, “Father J, this is…”

He interrupted me. “I know who he is.” The smile from earlier grew even bigger. He shook TD’s hand, and we moved on through the night’s crowd as others waited for their handshake.

Father J had never met TD. I had never told him about TD. But, this is the priest who has seen me in Mass after Mass by myself. This is the priest who, when I sobbed that I didn’t know how to find forgiveness for The Wizard, told me, “I don’t know what is wrong with The Wizard, but real men don’t do what he did. It isn’t your fault.”

Last night, Father J knew TD not from introductions and handshakes but from the expression of wonder on my face and the glow in my eyes.

Dreams do come true. Prayers are answered. And sometimes I get to kneel in church next to a gentleman who drove an hour in the winter darkness to attend Mass… with me.

God, thank you. I wouldn’t be here without You.