It’s not quite the middle of the night; what time of day or night is 4:06am even considered? It’s early…even for me. I’m up, listening to the wind whip through the bare branches of the trees outside our bedroom window. I don’t remember what the weather was like five years ago around this time of the night, or morning, which is odd because I wasn’t listening to it outside our windows, I was outside in it.
Dr Marry’s infamous nosebleed is a well-known story by now. So is the fact that by February 1, 2017, our marriage had largely descended into a kind of begrudging tolerance of the sloppy state of things.
By 4:06am on February 1, 2017, I had gotten dressed and warmed up my car to take Dr Marry to the emergency room. We’d driven through the silent streets, moving in and out of the eerie overhead lights. I don’t remember if we talked. All I can hear is Dr Marry heavily sniffing up mucusy blood, trying not to bleed all over my car.
I’ve often wondered what would have happened to me if Mazz had died that night, or in the ensuing days when he was in a medically induced coma—something the doctors told me was a possibility. What if we couldn’t have gotten him into Prairie St John’s in-patient rehab program? What if he’d really had the narcissistic personality disorder I was told he almost certainly had? What if, on the very day he came home from being gone for 6 1/2 weeks and I yelled at him about my sadness at not being able to have a glass of wine and he’d said, “Come on. We’re going to Luna.” instead of ordering a San Pellegrino lemonade, he’d ordered a whiskey sour?
What if? What if? What if?
If he had died, so many of my “problems” would have been solved. I would have gotten his life insurance policy, which would have taken care of the financial insecurity we constantly faced. I would have been cast as the poor, young widow whose husband had gone too soon. People who’d lived with alcoholism somewhere in their lives would have passed knowing glances at whatever reason given for his death because I certainly didn’t know that that was what we were dealing with. He’d always been kind of “sickly,” so I guess the rest of us would have chalked it up to a poor constitution, as if we didn’t have any better medical understanding of the human body than during Jane Austen’s era.
I would have been secretly relieved in many ways. I guarded so closely the pressure valve on my life, desperately trying to make sure that I only vented when it was just the two of us at home; I didn’t want Quinn to live through that. Of course, I often failed to hold the rage until he was out of the house. I desperately didn’t want my mother to be right about what a disaster this marriage was. I could never figure out how to dismantle the life we had built and the one I had thought we were going to have together.
Maybe I didn’t want to; maybe this imbalance fed some broken part of me that needed to be the superior side of the scale.
If Mazz had died the year before when he had his massive seizure or during this hospital stay, I could have played the grieving widow while quietly knowing that I had been the better person. I had married him, despite not believing in the concept of marriage, because he wanted that. I had allowed him into my life; into our lives. I had “done the right thing.” And he had screwed up
But he didn’t die.
And while he slept in his hospital bed in the ICU, his body fighting an externally silent, still battle with alcohol for all those days, I moved back and forth and through the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The various emotions came like tidal waves across the pages of the journal I kept. So much anger—pent up, brand new, anticipated and more. So much depression, fear, sadness. So much exhaustion and misplaced blame.
Such a profound lack of self awareness.
Page after page of fury over how stupid I felt, how embarrassed I had been, how angry I was about this or that. No understanding of the commanding role I had played in this tragedy. No concept that I had been compensating for the broken parts I had never dealt with. No acknowledgement of the way various people’s response to him and my tolerance of that must have hacked away at his sense of self worth. No remorse, because I didn’t even know that it was a problem until later, that I had consistently prioritized my child, my mother, my job, my dream over him, for all of our years together.
If Dr Marry’s nosebleed is a well-known story, so is the fact that he won’t allow me to take any of the blame for his fall into alcoholism. I think it’s an AA edict that those who suffer from alcoholism and addiction must carry all of the shame and blame on their own shoulders. I don’t ascribe to that. I didn’t force cheap whiskey down Mazz’s throat for all those years, and he drank well before we ever met, but I aided and abetted his consumption by holding myself up as the superior one, the better side of the scale. I brought the child, the home, the nearby family, the culture and the country to the balance, and I “allowed” him to participate in it. But never equally. And almost never without a reminder of the imbalance, albeit often unconsciously implied.
If Mazz had died, I would have almost certainly never done the hard work of introspection I have been gifted with doing over these past five years. I would have continued on in my selfish, bitter, broken state because I would’ve told myself that my instincts had been correct all along—another thing I could be quietly superior about.
I shudder to think who I would be today had February 1, 2017, not occurred.
More importantly, I tremble to imagine who I would be had Dr Mazz Marry not woken up and decided that I was worth reinvesting in, too. That my broken parts, so different from but equally problematic to his, were things we could work to repair together.
I’m so proud of Mazz for celebrating his 5-year soberversary today, and I’m honored to have been by his side, cheering him on through these years.
But here’s the truth, at least from my perspective: Mazz got caught up in a terrible, spiraling disease that very nearly took his life. But if he had died in 2017, he would have died an excellent man who lost his battle with alcoholism.
I, on the other hand, would have survived as a broken woman who never realized she was damaged almost beyond repair. I would have taken his death and added it to my wagon of disappointment and despair and continued to pull it behind me for the rest of my life, never realizing that I could simply unpack those moments and experiences, look them in the face and let them go.
When Mazz Marry decided to become a smiling, happy alcoholic enjoying sobriety, he set me free, too. I don’t have a chip to celebrate my 5-year become-a-better-personversary, but I am grateful for the date all the same. And I thank the stars for the man who patiently helped me get here.
Last year’s post on this anniversary.