A THANKSGIVING MIRACLE
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
Seven and half years ago I was reaching for my phone where a text was waiting for me to read. It simply said, “The only problem I have is that you are still breathing.” Wow! It punched me so hard in my heart that it left a dent for obvious reasons – so I would never forget. Those were the words that were written by a man I shared a child with, raised a family together with, and had loved with all my heart and soul. They were written by my ex-husband. But like I said, that was seven and a half years ago.
I won’t go into the long drawn out detail as to why those words were written for me, as that will be saved for another story and is not what this one is about. I’m sure though, you can use your imagination as to why there was such passion behind his words. To say he hated me was an understatement. In fact, at that time in my life my children, as well as I, feared for my life. Now let me make sure up front that you understand he has never in any way harmed me, in reality it was the other way around. He has never threatened me or hurt me by any means. It was I that was the guilty one who had caused him so much pain in my drinking that the last words he spoke to me was to make sure I understood that he wished me dead.
Very shortly after reading those words, my higher power swept me up and saved me from my own self. I got sober. Today is a much different story. Today it is Thanksgiving and my children and grandchildren will be centered around me filling my home with laughter and joy. We will be making memories I can file in my gratitude journal to remember for all time. But this year it will be different once again. It will be a special holiday – a very special one.
Here in a few short weeks my baby girl will be leaving home for the first time and this is our last Thanksgiving together as a family until she returns from her journey. This is a bittersweet Thanksgiving and one we recognize the significance of. Life for all of us will be very different after this year – again. We have a lot to be thankful for – at least I can count my many blessings.
This year there will be another chair at the table. This year there will be one more smile to light the room up, one more voice to echo laughter through my house, and one more memory that I can give a complete prayer of gratitude for – a Thanksgiving miracle. My ex-husband will be joining us at the table this year.
I will say that the road here has been long and hard – smiles aside. I don’t know how we got here and I don’t question it either. I roll with it. You see when I first put the drink down all those years ago, my ex wouldn’t even let me know where he lived. He had remarried and kept his new wife safe from me and my radical antics. When my daughter would spend the summers at his home he would refer to me as “the crazy lady” instead of her mother, tearing my daughters poor little heart up every time he said it. My daughter was constantly caught in the crosshairs of the weapons we used against each other. She was on constant guard over both of our hearts and yet neither of us fully understood it was our job to watch guard over hers. To say it was vicious is an understatement.
We spoke only when we had to and it usually ended up in bitter angry mud slinging and hours of stewing over it afterwards. The hatred was embedded so deep that the idea of any peaceful resolution was an abomination to both of us.
Then months without a drink went by. I was working diligently on my recovery. The work was beginning to show as I let up on the painful phone calls to him and eased up on my responses. He began to be a little softer in his interactions with me. Then the day would come that I needed to make amends to his wife for my actions, and he let me. It was the beginning of true healing taking place in my life as a result of doing the work. That day as I drove away after the amends, I saw my daughter standing with her father’s new family and the smile that was on her face is one I will never forget. She smiled and waved at me with them. I then watched her mouth, “thank you” and I knew that I had arrived. Tears escaped my eyes as I drove away. I will never forget how much hurt had left my heart that day. I had freed my daughter, my ex, and myself. The beginning of miracles had just begun.
Time went by and we slowly started to have civilized conversations, we even laughed together, and began to work together to raise our daughter. Then the day would come that my father would pass away. He would be the first person I called. In tears, sobbing relentlessly, I asked him to be the one to call my children home. He took over and became the beacon in my very dark night. He stayed with my family that day and made sure that we all were fed and the grandkids were watched as we grieved. He then stood in my father’s room, his ex-father-in-laws bedroom, and made the choice to carry my father out of his house for the last time. He would sit with our family and be a pall bearer at my father’s funeral. He was a strong source of comfort for me and our children during this. Four months later, he would do the same for my mother. He never had to – but he did.
My love for him has evolved over the years into something much more solid than it was when I was married to him – strange I know. He is now one of my best friends – hell, its what he started out as all those years ago. In year six of my sobriety, I would take my chip at my home group as I had all the years previous. I would be surrounded by family and friends and so much love and gratitude. This time though, it would be different. My ex, who over six years ago by then had left me those final words in his text to me previously, would join them and watch as I took my chip and shared how I did it. Nothing could be so surreal or a true testament to staying sober and working a program of recovery. I had proof.
Within the last year, he has shared almost every holiday with us as a family. I know he does it for the kids, but I’m grateful our relationship is safe enough now that he can. This year I got to honor him with the children for the ultimate sacrifice he made in our last years together as a unified family. He is a soldier who fought in a war that ultimately he and his family paid the final price for. We got to honor him by putting together a holiday Christmas parade float for our hometown this last weekend. It was called “A Soldier’s Silent Night” based on the poem, “A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas” by Father Ted Berndt. It was a beautiful representation of what he and our family went through right before my drinking career got started. We won “Best Musical Adaptation of the Theme” and what an exciting yet healing day it was for all of us.
Today you can find him spending what free hours he has with the family. We share long talks, friendship, and laughter after many years of hard work done in recovery. The aftermath of the fallout is a masterpiece I couldn’t have created on my own. My higher power had his hand in this all along. I could never have made it this perfect. Our family is a true Thanksgiving miracle this year. It is just one of the many miracles that has happened as a result of doing the work in my recovery.
Here shortly, my ex and I will get ready to say goodbye to our little girl. We will get to share another milestone together. I always thought I’d be together with him as we let her go. Well, it looks different today than I had envisioned it through the years, but its exactly the way it was supposed to be. We are together today, just in a different way and I am perfectly blessed with it just the way it is. There will be more Thanksgiving miracles to come as long as I just don’t drink today. The miracles do happen. This is a promise I can give to you, if you stay sober and do the work to clean up the wreckage of your past. It won’t be easy. It will take time. And there is no way to say what those miracles will look like for you. They will look nothing like you expected, but they will be exactly what you needed.
It has been seven and half years since I received that text that impacted me in such a profound way. So much has changed. As my ex and I gather around the table this year with our family, we will give thanks for a variety of blessings. There will definitely be no shortage by far. I will not forget what it took to get here, remembering that there are others that will not be as fortunate as we are today. This is not the story for so many, but it is our story. I pray it can bring hope to those still waiting for their Thanksgiving miracle. Don't leave before the miracle happens.
From our family to you, we wish you many blessings and a very Happy Thanksgiving.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author.