18 years ago, a blurry eyed and hung over Steve Dahl put down his Jack Daniels and beer. He had a concert at Navy Pier, and his boys (14,12,10) were there to see him. Dress rehearsal had been stressful. He was working with Brian Wilson, a legend and hero. His friend Joe Thomas was worried about him. He decided to strap on a sober persona for the real show.
Hated it. But….
Since that decision, Steve has never stalled or relapsed. I know that the essence of sobriety is that you have to do it for yourself, but I always know in my heart that Steve did it for his family, too.
He does not go to meetings. He never had a sponsor. I would like to say it was easy, but it never was.
He loved the release from his essential quiet nature. ( come on, you know radio is the safe haven for shy people) He loved the rebellion and anarchy. He loved adding other substances to the mix. Shocking people. Misbehaving with an excuse built in. Staying out late, away from home. Sleeping away the day.
He did not like the hangovers. The Tylenol he took in his drinking days would kill a lesser liver. He did not enjoy my harping, though he was adept at tuning it out. He eventually could not ignore his sons’ knowing looks.
Also, I think he realized we would not be able to stay married with the drink/embarrass/disappoint/recover/apologize syndrome. Steve does not like to fail.
I know he wanted to be a better man. So he became one. Day by crabby day. Till it became a habit.
He DOES have guardian angels. He sees a counselor who encourages him to be his best. And Don L, who sends him an AA coin every year to toll the anniversary. Joe Walsh, his birthdate brother, who took the sober plunge just before Steve and checks on him. He has me; he knows I expect a sober Steve. His Dad is proud, and who wants to let a Dad down? His boys have come to see his current conformation as the only Dad they recognize.
In the holistic column, he gets a massage when he is stressed. Despite the lack of AA meetings, he slogs through each day,one at a time. It is mostly subconscious, but still a deliberate pathway.
There are some speed bumps: recovering alcoholics live with deprivation, and they often double down on another fixation.(Coffee, food, God, pills and sex are the usual suspects) Steve would love to dabble in all of these besides God. Just kidding, Father Terry. I think we all know Steve romances the burrito like no other man. His new danger drug is a 5 hour energy drink. For awhile, he had an OCD relationship with calorie counting and fitness. Unfortunately, that avenue has faded a bit. We both plan to try to jump back on, but honestly, I am a bad influence there. My addiction is junk food. And there are occasional “dry drunk” days, where old thought patterns return, disconnected from alcohol. Those days feel like a raw nerve, and believe me- I recognize them. Steve guts it out.
Lots of bad things have happened in the last 18 years: Radio died and took Steve’s first love, his job, with it. My Dad, his mom and brother died. Our kids navigated the pitfall years, full of stress and worry. Steve has been steady.
Most recently, he has been plugging away in the basement, delivering a fresh podcast 5 days a week for 4 years. He is trying to create an alternative subscription communications model. (Go to dahl.com and try it for free. You’ll like it, and of course- full disclosure, I am on the show on Tuesdays, and whenever I need to butt in. Come visit. )He is once again a pioneer, much like the upstart who dared to talk and have characters on the precious FM bandwidth.
It’s hard. He has to see-saw from creative to business concerns all day long. His right and left brain are working overtime. He’s tired. He is serious as a heart attack when he is not taping. Quiet. We have a settled life. Little drama. A little boring. I’m fine with that. My early days had enough drama to amortize for the duration.
Steve faces forward, stone sober. I’m along for the ride.
There are few accolades associated with this accomplishment of 18 years. There are criticisms of his serious, quiet nature. Our boys sometimes crave the Silly Steve that resides in their childhood memories. They do not connect that person to Jack Daniels. Thoughtless people say he was funnier when he was drunk. Or say he should try it again now that he is older. That is not helpful.
Still, he does not take the bait. His new life is tethered to a gritty determination to stay the course.
One day at a time. So far, 6574 days. The best 6574 of our marriage. Finally, we tipped- we are married longer with a sober Steve than a drinking Steve.
For that, I say thanks. On to 19. One day at a time, together. Congratulations, husband.
If you are facing any of these issues, I am glad to be your on line cheering section. Just email me at Janet@dahl.com. I may not have all the answers, but I can listen and encourage.
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