Right now you are curled up behind me like a cuddly question mark. Your body heat is more than enough to suppress the slight chill in the air.

Just a few memories ago, the bed was cold with me lying alone in it.

You were out somewhere drinking. Or maybe you were just drunk in the next room.

Either way, I was alone.

Right now the oven timer is going off. It’s late but I have Amish bread to pull out of the oven. I sidle away from you out of bed and into the dimly lit kitchen. The whole house seeps cinnamon and sugar perfume.

You are sleepy-eyed and right behind me, asking, “What can I do to help?”

We weave in and out of each other, shaking loaves loose from pans, pouring fresh dough back into the hot pans, and sprinkling with cinnamon before putting those into the oven for another hour.

Years ago, you would be passed out, practically comatose, on the worn leather couch where wild animals and Category 5 hurricanes couldn’t shock you out of your slumber.

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Back then I rode it out: trapped on an uninspected roller coaster, too many bolts and washers missing to be assured of any kind of safety. Always one feather’s breath away from plummeting.

You were consistently several drinks past out-of-control.

We take hands now as we tiredly trudge back to the bedroom, calling out goodnight to our two teens who are up too late on a school night. I don’t have the heart to lecture them. They are engrossed in a lively discussion and it makes my insides ache how quickly they are growing up.

Our dogs dart around our ankles, little tripping ninjas.

Tonight I am besieged by blessings.

But nightmares from our past still conspire and lurk. Our present photo is permanently vignetted with darkness around the edges.

Alcohol floats and saturates those edges. You are still, and will always be, one sip away from blowing up your life.

Husband, I ask that you never drink again.

See, I loved you back then.

When the fights were never-ending and the madness was all-consuming. I loved you. When I peeled the dusty blinds back to watch for your headlights in the middle of the night. When I cleaned up your messes, called in sick for you, made excuses why you couldn’t come to family Thanksgivings, cried until my eyes burned, scoured the internet and recovery groups for the magic answer to keep you sober, and begged God to take this burden away from us. I loved you.

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When you rushed in, drunk and obnoxious, to tuck our near-sleeping kids in and got them all wound up again. When you totaled the car. When you were in jail. When you lost your license and I had to drive you, me, and the kids everywhere for several years. When our voices were raw from screaming. When I didn’t have an answer for why I was staying besides I loved you.

I love you now.

While you sing made-up songs to the dogs without even realizing you’re doing it.

While you spend hours tuning the kids’ skis.

While you fix the brakes on the car and Rug Doctor the filthy carpets.

While you carry ten bags of groceries because you don’t want me carrying anything.

While you bring me ice packs and Excedrin when I have a migraine.

While you pick up tampons at the store and worry about them being the right ones.

I love you.

While you want to hold my hand all the time and snuggle for hours on the couch.

While you hug me and know that I always want my back cracked while you do so.

While you call me ridiculous nicknames and make yourself laugh.

While you get a This Is Us marathon all ready for us to binge on Hulu.

While you let the dogs kiss your entire face and jump all over you.

I love you.

Husband, whether you are sober or not, the exquisitely brutal truth is that I always have and will always love you.

But I will never stop praying that you will never drink again.

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Melissa Neeb

I'm a Minnesota native and lover of nature, WW2 memoirs, rescue dogs, photography, and thrifting. My husband and two teenagers are the great loves of my life. I am passionate about advocating for addiction recovery, writing about parenting, life, faith, and everything in between.