My recovery began with my third wife, Josephine. We were drinking partners and we were each particular about our drink of choice. Her drink was Scotch and mine was bourbon. Josephine was my collaborator, so to speak. She helped to get me into a detox and then off to a 28-day rehabilitation facility.
One Sunday, while I was at the rehab, I was sitting on a couch in the large meeting room. Sunday was the day for family to visit patients. At the top of the wall, posted all around the room, were AA’s Twelve Steps.
When my wife arrived, she walked up to me where I was sitting. She looked at me, then she looked up at the top of the wall, and then back to me.
“Well?” she asked.
I had no idea what she meant. She looked up at the Steps and back to me again. Finally I leaned around and took a look at the words over my head—Step Eight. I was quite new to the program and I had no idea what that Step really meant, so I said nothing.
As time went on, I attended AA meetings daily, talked with and visited my sponsor regularly and continued working the Steps. Josephine was not impressed with what I was doing in recovery and saw no reason to change her lifestyle just because I couldn’t drink anymore. We grew apart and two years into my recovery, the marriage ended in divorce.
Since we had both been married previously and had arrived in our marriage with children (two for me and one for her), the divorce was not only hard on us, but also hard on our children. Once the divorce action began, Josephine managed to disappear with her son from the lives of my children and me. Over the years, the kids grew up and found each other through friends and managed to stay quietly in touch.
I went for over 30 years not knowing how to find Josephine. I had an Eighth Step list of all the people I had harmed, and I had become willing to make amends to them all, including Josephine. I just didn’t know how to find her.
Then one day about three years ago, I was using my computer to look into what sort of information I could find about myself on the internet. I found one entry with some erroneous information about me, but it included a notation with her name and a link to some information on her. I followed that link and located a mailing address. I prayed about what to do and decided to write a letter to the person at that address.
I was not sure the woman at the address was my ex-wife, so I opened the letter with an explanation of who I was and why I was writing and my hopes of reaching the right person. I discussed my desire to mend the pains I had inflicted on my ex-wife and her son, and invited her, if it was her, to write, phone or email me at the information I included with the note.
A week or so later, my phone rang, and to my great surprise, it was Josephine. We had a very pleasant talk and I did what I could to talk about my remorse over my actions. I also thanked her for helping me get into recovery. We each talked about our current lives and agreed that our individual lives were just as God would have them be. From that day on, I was comforted that the Eighth and Ninth Steps once again were a key part of our program.
But wait, there’s more to tell. Just last week, I got a call from my daughter. She told me she had heard from Josephine’s son. He told her that Josephine had died from brain cancer. Josephine’s son wanted my daughter to tell me that his mother had very much appreciated my note and our subsequent conversation. The pains in both hearts had been mended thanks to the gift of our program and the blessings of God’s time, not mine.
For more candid, firsthand stories from members' experiences with Step Nine, read Making Amends, available in the AA Grapevine online Store.