Diana, my wife of 20 years, preceded me on the road to sobriety by almost two years. Her struggle with alcoholism was tougher than mine. She loved her sobriety, as you can see in the photo below. But her journey was tragically cut short when she died of cancer in May, 1978.
The Six Months that Turned My Life Around
In October, 1977, I came out to my wife and children. The year before, a therapist helped me come to terms with my homosexuality. I would have spoken with my family then, but there were other challenging family issues at the time. The professionals we were working with recommended that I wait for a better opportunity before rocking the boat with this explosive new issue.
In the fall of 1977, Diana and I were working with a therapist on those other family issues. He knew I wanted to come out as soon as he thought it appropriate. He chose a session on a Saturday morning, the day before I was scheduled to take a vacation on my own, my first without the family. I was flying to London on Sunday to visit my pal Terry, whom Diana and I had met when he'd visited BNA in Washington the year before. I knew he was gay; Diana didn't. At the end of our session, the therapist announced that he thought it was "time for the hidden agendas to come out in the open."
We had a long talk. I told Diana about a couple we knew who seemed to have a happy marriage. Diana hadn't known the husband was gay, or that the wife knew it. With the wife's agreement, he had a regular weekly night out, enjoying the gay scene. She enjoyed including his gay friends when they entertained, and their adult children knew about the arrangement.
I didn't think Diana would find a similar option appealing. I was right.
Working at the same company (BNA) complicated an already difficult situation. When I returned to work on Monday morning, the president --a close friend -- called me into his office to say the news of our separation, and the reason for it, was already in the office grapevine. I spent the next day meeting with close friends at work so that they would hear the news from me, not via the grapevine.
A month later, we learned that Diana had throat cancer. She was in the hospital for most of the next six months. She died on May 23, 1978.
Diana had a tougher battle with alcoholism than I did and she got sober a year and a half before I did. She thoroughly enjoyed her new sober life. Cutting it short so soon was tragic.
For years, I convinced myself I was drinking too much because of family tensions and my repressed homosexuality. In March 1978, "out" and living on my own for months, I realized I was drinking more than ever.
I'm grateful to say I've remained sober -- one day at a time -- for almost 36 years now. I no longer attend meetings, and I've learned to treasure my alone time. But AA remains with me; I'm frequently reminded how its teachings and maxims help me live a sober, meaningful life. Many of my friendships today have their origins in AA.