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It’s almost that time of year again. February 17th, my sobriety date. This year marks 11 years in recovery. As I sit in my home office, a France cycling guide on my lap, I focus on the photo Chantal gave me last year to celebrate my 10-year anniversary while we were cycling in Myanmar.
I love both the photo and the frame. Chantal and I are in Chile, wearing French cycling jerseys, a volcano in the background and a group of fellow adventurers just out of view. We are fit, smiling and doing what I love most: exploring. That’s the gift of recovery in my life, right there in that photo with a cycling chain that holds together my 24 hour, 1 year, 5 year and 10 year AA coins.
When I left my career as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I had no idea that moving across the country, my mother dying, and an acrimonious divorce would send me into free fall. I lost my grip on life, myself and my drinking. But it was a private war because I was that high-functioning alcoholic.
Just as I started my new life with Chantal in a home that was so us, elegant and eclectic, with paintings and sculptures we had each collected during our own expat lives from cultures as different as Russia, Thailand, France and Mexico, I could not put down the drinks. Vodka seeped into my morning juices. My private war turned into an all-out battle between us, hidden behind the appearances we kept. Neither of us understood what was happening, individually or together.
I remember telling Chantal, sitting in this same chair all those years ago, that if I could not bring my mountain bike to Caron, I would not go! I came that close to not going into treatment.
I got sober and still am, but recovery, that was an entirely different thing. That part took 30 days at Caron, AA, therapy (lots of it—as a good CEO I fired at least four of them and negotiated my way out with the last) and a few AA sponsors. I followed Chantal to couples’ communication workshops, I agreed to retreats, went to Shamballa meditation, journaled, went back to Caron for its Breakthrough program, joined a men’s group, let my frustration loose in kickboxing and walked the dark road of guilt to the center of my soul and back. I made painful choices, like delaying our wedding, resisting medication and rebelling mostly against myself.
Those four coins on the frame, I earned them with a lot of sweat and often silent tears. I don’t like what this disease has done to me, my three children and ex-wife and especially to Chantal.
But in some crazy way, it’s also given me my life back. Recovery has given me the ability to love Chantal in a way I didn’t know before. From the quiet moments listening to the loon on the dock in Quebec, to the parties we’ve had mixing our neighbors, friends and AA networks, to hiking Patagonia, to introducing Chantal on stage when she launched her first book, to mentoring a Thai young man, to being a Rotarian and living my life fully. That’s life on life’s terms.
William Thomas & Chantal Jauvin
William Thomas is a corporate executive who has led global fortune 500 multinationals. He retired from corporate life as President of The Western Union Company in 2007. William has now turned his attention to philanthropy, teaching, and serving on nonprofit boards. He is fully engaged in a life of adventure, travel, and wellness.
Chantal Jauvin is a corporate attorney who has negotiated deals from Mexico to Uzbekistan, led a legal team based around the globe and lived in countries as diverse as Russia and Cambodia. Chantal has now taken on the challenge of creative writing and published her first book The Boy With a Bamboo Heart. When she is not working on her current project Love Without Martinis: Stories of Couples in Recovery, she is cycling, nurturing young adults or traveling. (see www.chantaljauvin.com)
Content retrieved from: https://www.caron.org/blog/2020/02/treatment-and-recovery-made-us-stronger-as-a-couple.