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We have been married for four years and can say that we are really doing well as a couple for the first time. It has been a long and very painful road to where we are now, but it has been worth it.

We both come from alcoholic families. One is a survivor of incest (possibly both of us are), and both of us have had to endure the brutality of being raised in our out-of-control homes. We are in recovery for our individual addictions and attended the first RCA meeting in 1988. This is our story.

We met in the lobby of the apartment building where we both lived. Our first date was a boat trip on a popular lake in the Minneapolis area. We sat in a quiet bay and ate bread and cheese and talked. It seemed as if we could share for hours and never get tired of talking. We had an immediate "bond" and seemed to know what the other was thinking and feeling.

We continued to date each other, and the next few weeks we spent in each other's company most of the time. We talked until the wee hours of the night and hated to say good night and return to our apartments. We wrote love letters to each other and put "love messages" under each other's door. We were sure that we had found a "cosmic mate," someone who understood us like no one else could. Three months after our first date we were engaged, and eight months after that we were married.

All had gone well during the first few months of our courtship, as we were sure that we had found that once-in-a-lifetime partner. But, after we got engaged, the reality of what it might be like to spend the rest of our lives together became clear, and things started to change.

We began to doubt our ability to survive the mounting obstacles that arose as the wedding drew near. Could we reconcile our spiritual/religious differences? Would we handle a blended family situation with a child from a previous marriage? Would the pressure of our disapproving families get to us and tear us apart? Would the nine years' difference in our ages make it impossible for us to relate to each other? Were we making a mistake like our families kept saying? Following much pain, confusion, and deliberation, we decided to go through with the wedding.

After a small, private wedding (which none of our families attended), we moved to an apartment and set up house for the first time. What a shock! Neither of us was prepared for the feelings that were to come. Our sense of ourselves all but disappeared when we moved in together. We were unable to express our needs, both afraid of what might happen to our "perfect relationship" if we did.

Our blended family was the source of the most pain for us. Jack had a five-year-old son from a previous marriage, and Deb had no children. What at first appeared to be an issue of little concern quickly became the "Elephant in the Living Room." Deb had feelings of resentment toward Jack and his son because of the special relationship that they seemed to have, and often she felt "on the outside." Jack was aware of this and began to distance himself from his son so Deb wouldn't leave him. Jack had a severe fear of abandonment. Deb tried harder to accept the relationship between Jack and his son. This brought about great feelings of resentment from both, and arguments became a regular occurrence.

As the weeks went by we stuffed more feelings and built more resentments toward each other. Our addictions were in high gear; we were both codependent, one bulimic/anorexic and the other a workaholic and relationship addict. We began to use food and alcohol more frequently, to numb our pain and resentments. Soon we were blaming each other for our misery and often talked of divorce.

We separated in the summer of 1988, unsure of our ability to make our marriage work. Our pain was immense, and no amount of talking, individual 12-Step meetings, or counseling seemed to help. The only thing which seemed to kill the pain was to not be together. We were truly on the brink of divorce.

Our higher power had a plan, unknown to us. We enrolled in a weekend retreat for dysfunctional couples called "We Came to Believe." This was the first retreat of its kind to be held and was an experiment of sorts. It showed us how to practice the 12 Steps as a couple and gave us tools to repair our broken relationship.

After the retreat was over, we knew we needed to continue the healing that had begun. Two other couples from that first retreat agreed to meet with us at a nearby church to talk about our issues as couples in recovery. We all felt a great sense of relief in talking with other couples who had the same kinds of problems we did. Our shame as a couple had been so great that we never talked with other couples about our problems. We had assumed that our inability to "be like other people" was a problem that no one else would understand.

That small church room was a haven for us. We were able to be honest in revealing our shame and powerlessness in our relationship and felt that someone understood what we were going through.

We are truly grateful to our higher power for our new life as a couple. We hope that other couples will find as much comfort and healing as we have.