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My husband often says that his definition of respect is based on seeing someone acting in a manner that he, given the same set of circumstances, is unsure he would be able to do. He uses this reference often when speaking to others about my staying with him as he battled his addictions. He says, “I would have left me, had the table been turned. But, she never did.”

I find myself in that place of respect for him today.

It’s been a rough road lately. In the wake of the country’s economic struggle, he was a casualty of his employer’s attempt to cut costs. Laid off from a six-figure job that provided our vehicles and health benefits, he never wavered from his position that it must all for the best and someday we would know how and why. He has methodically put one foot in front of the other daily working toward regaining a position that will afford him a similar income. We’re not there yet, but we are on the road to recovery.

Recovery is something he knows about. He’s six years sober, and I mean sober, I don’t mean dry. There is a distinct difference between the individual who has put down their drug of choice for a period of time (dry) and those for whom the compulsion to use has left, therefore they no longer need to do so (sober). You can tell the difference by the sense of inner peace that the sober person exudes. My husband has that inner peace. In the midst of his own financial and emotional struggle, he has continued his work with other addicts and alcoholics; carrying the message of hope and the promise of a solution to those who haven’t yet reached that place inside themselves.

Today I learned that it had been said by someone within the sanctity of the AA group of which my husband is a member, during a meeting for which he was not present, that the reason he had lost his job was that he had failed a drug test. Ludicrous, of course—anyone within his employer’s organization would know differently, but this individual was not someone on the inside, it was merely a “you know what I heard…” situation. I was livid. Absolutely appalled and angry, that anyone-let alone a member of AA, a program of rigorous honesty-would say such a thing. Hasn’t this man been through enough? Why would anyone feel the need to kick him when he was down in this fashion?

As I was sharing my rage with him, my husband said only, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to justify my sobriety to anyone. I know I have it. That’s enough.”

Now THAT is an attitude that I am fairly certain I would not be able to adopt were I personally the target of the same circumstance. As I continued sharing my anger and frustration about someone within the program spewing lies, he said only, “The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is perfect. The people within it are not. One idiot in the room doesn't get to take from me all the good that has happened there”

As I breathed those words in, my anger began to fade with the realization that they are a metaphor for our world at-large. Our planet is perfect, the people residing on it are not. No one can take the good from us when that is where we choose to put our focus.

Like I said, he has that inner peace…and my undying respect.

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