When I Was A Falling Down Drunk: A Love Story

tomhanson_bwIt’s only been a few days but I feel it.  In the hidden, hard place where I keep my little girl heart that learned to be scared too early.  That place in my heart has shifted.

It might be that I am writing out the story of how I once was a falling down drunk.  I’ve been looking for ways that I was loved through it, and I’ve been realizing

over and over how I was so loved. My husband

lived out this incredible, sacrificial, life-giving, endless, kind, patient, generous, soul upon soul holding of my precious life when I wasn’t into or able to be caring for myself

at all.  Didn’t believe I was precious or lovable at all. I guess you can say I couldn’t possibly, since I was more and more consumed

by booze.

And here’s shit’s honest truth: I will never, ever–not ever–be able to repay him.  Every ounce of love that I can give, a life time of kindnesses, every selfless act of thoughtfulness—all of it,

none of it will ever make up for his saving my life by helping me through the drunken years.  Trust me I have walked back over every ugly moment that I can remember. And when I couldn’t remember I interviewed him. Phew that was hard on us both.

And that is what he did.  His love saved me and it was totally undeserved.

Kind of like what God does in sending Jesus and that’s so amazing I’ve just had to sit

here in my writing chair.

Hours on end, sitting.

Feeling my thankful feelings for sobriety. And for Tom. For my children surviving (though we can all see a toll in their minds and hearts, but that’s another story.)  I’m just



So whether it actually was the practice of stopping and writing down what I’m thankful for, I’ll never know.  Sometimes God works by making two things collide bringing a providence of actions and

then it is on us how we respond.

How to love a drunk is a love story.  Yes, a valentine.



An excerpt from the article I have been writing:

It is breathtaking for me to think how much Tom loves me and showed it both with his long-suffering gentle care.  And, in the act of telling me he couldn’t take it any longer he faced his greatest fears.  He was potentially losing me either way. That letter confronting my addiction was selfless love.

After drinking an entire bottle of white wine the night before, I was scared to death. And God’s spirit had been graciously preparing my heart, perhaps for years. Tom’s letter and my readiness collided and became the catalyst.

I was ready. That was our miracle. That’s what it looks like to love a drunk.

Honestly there are no sweet guarantees.  But Tom never gave up on me.  When we married twenty years ago, pledging in sickness and in health neither of us knew what a high price IN SICKNESS contained.

Good People (those that toil, so that others can create)

There are people,

good people who toil every day

at work they don’t love and some

days simply endure.

Why do these people, good people do that?

They’re partnered with a creative soul;

a dreamer, someone

who scribbles words one after another, collected into pages

of an idea that is yet to come;

that hears a different drum beat and dance;

who changes others’ trajectory through an image or a song;

who observes  life for its beauty and complexity;

who follows an uncomfortable path into the unknown.

These people, good people do

their everyday work because they love a dreamer.

Here’s to the good people whose love’s labor

is a gift to us all.


For Tom and Carol and the other good people.

Who Needs a Heart when a Heart can be Broken?

For one human being to love another;

that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,

the ultimate, the last test and proof,

the work for which all other work is but preparation.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

[I have avoided writing this; dreaded the moment when I force myself to write about the sermon on Sunday about Turning your Family or Friends into an Idol. A part of my Be Real series.]

I have spent the last twenty-three years trying to understand my family and a lifetime of living within relationships that I cannot understand.  It has been long and hard.  Even in my most optimistic moments, yes I do have them, I don’t have much good to say about growing up in my family of origin. I do not idolize family, if anything I have turned recovery from my family’s co-dependence into an idol by spending so much emotional energy on it.  These days, I just want to do and think about something else.  I’m tired of the subject.  It is a stove that guarantees to burn.

My family of origin was dysfunctional.  My family was hard to grow up in.  I got an acid stomach ache every time I walked through the doors of my parent’s home as a young adult, when I was living nearby and coming over for Sunday meals.  My family was (Oh!  You see, there goes my blood pressure rising as I write this.  My heart is beating more quickly.  Anxiety floods into my chest. Cold white panic sits in my belly.)  Just to talk about it still causes me physical pain.

I’ve told this story elsewhere on my blog, so I don’t want to belabor it.  My father was verbally and emotionally abusive.  Home was a place of fear, secrets, and shame.  My family was not all bad – there was love, my mother reminded me recently.  You could call it that.  My father could be tender and loving.  One never knew if he was going to think you were good or bad, pleasing or not, funny and clever or rude and cheeky, insightful and brave or insulting and mean.  It had no logic or rhythm, my father’s anger.  It only had the same result over and over – to me family came to mean fear, anxiety and pulse pounding stress.

My family was nothing you’d want to be a part of and that hurts.  If my father had lived I don’t know what I would have done about his impact on my children.  I am (mostly) grateful that I never had to figure that out, because he was verbally mean and dangerous, and his anger was frightening.  (My stomach lurches again.)  It still frightens me because I am his child — I got his brain and his verbal skills and red hot temper.

I did two decades of psychotherapy to heal.  I spent years in a fog of alcohol and before that as a workaholic.  I was always eager to make my dad happy and he rarely was satisfied with me. This is his legacy.  This is what I have now — and all I can do is stumble to the foot of the cross.  Without Jesus in my life I would be – without Jesus I am a shattered and broken person.  If there is anything good in me, it is Jesus.

So when I hear sermons about how people idolize their family to the point of putting them ahead of Yahweh (which is what any idol is) I feel kind of sick to my stomach.  And my heart feels heavy with sadness that can’t be ignored.  I’m not ignoring it but I’m also trying not to place it too high in importance.

I don’t even feel envy anymore, okay perhaps a little, when I hear my pastor talk about how important his family is to him.  But I’ve lived long enough and had enough hurtful experiences to not even believe in that mysterious thing — familial love — as something special or attainable, at least not for me.

We are not family in any way that our culture says is good.  I don’t believe I can change that.  I’m not sure that I should try.  All I can do is work on my stuff – be responsible for how I treat others – not shutting anyone out when they reach for me.  We are separate, autonomous, and seemingly lost to each other.  I deeply love each member of my family but I know that they have found “family” elsewhere.

Most days it is all I can do to love my husband and kids without smothering, boxing in, shaming, chiding and berating, criticizing, or condemning someone.  You do what you know. I want to know something different, something better.  And Tom has taught me something else, he is beautiful, pure and good.  After almost twenty years of marriage, I can say he will not intentionally hurt me and I believe it.

It is all I can do to try to live in the midst of the reality that I have no faith in the idea family. To me it represents broken hopes and pain.  When people talk about their “precious family” life, I will smile in response and inside I am wondering what the hell they are talking about.

Lest you completely despair for me, I wrotethe following poem last year.  It too is true.

I Never Knew Love

I never knew
that love would be so good.

Our beautiful chaotic life
of music, creativity and ideas. Of
trust, values, and goodness.
Of dreams.

I’ve learned
what it means to give up yourself, yes die
to self. That’s love
to me.

Often the world says
otherwise. But they don’t have
this beautiful chaotic life
we share.

I thought we had to fight,

and disagree
more than not. I imagined
we would be in constant friction.
Because the house that raised me
burned to the ground.

But I learned
the way to live is to give. Then
you get it all back without even realizing you are loved.

My dear, you are, everything.
And from you I have learned
to live.

So how can that be true and all the above as well?  All I can say is that it is and that is the tension of life.  I am learning how be in and make a family.  I am learning about loving, giving, and hoping and perhaps one day I will be able write more about what it means to create your own “precious family.”  Until then, all I can say is, no, I don’t idolize my family.

(Parenting by Free Fall is something I wrote about my fear of parenting based on my experiences.)

A Poem: love in the shadows

.love in the shadows.

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

Said it before, but I am thankful for my home which is a peaceful haven and for the love I experience there.

Love in The Shadows

What do you see
in the shadows?
What are you searching for?
I see you wanting;
hoping for more.
Can you hear the music,
the song lingering here?
Shelter, comfort, home;
fragrant with his scent and sound.
What is the color of
the shadows,
the songs,
the scent
of love?
it has no color, sound,
or smell,
but it is abundant.

by Melody Hanson, 2007

50 Years for Better or Worse

Excuse my perverse sense of humor. Image via Wikipedia

My in-laws celebrate fifty years of marriage this year and each family member was asked to write something to them.

December, 2010

Dear Bonnie & Terry, 

I must say how much I have been blessed by a marriage that is relatively easy — For Tom and me, it was a joining of two people’s lives that made complete and total sense.  Growing up, my parent’s marriage seemed so hard, which I now know was as much a reflection on the people than the institution of marriage.

I am so grateful for the man that Tom is, the man you raised him to be and for his life experiences that have shaped him into the person he is today. But I know that much of his character was formed as child in your home and I am so grateful to you and to God for allowing him to grow up in a healthy home with Christian parents who loved one another!

When I think of you two, I feel I feel more than a little awe.  Your partnership seems to work so well.  You two don’t talk a lot about your marriage — whether it has been easy or difficult.  There is so much I would like to know.  Your marriage seems to have a quiet strength.   I suppose the best testimony is the 50 years you have been together.  Yours has shown the test of time.  CS Lewis described that kind of love as not only a feeling but a deep unity, that must “be maintained by choice and will, and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parties ask, and receive, from God.”  It is clear that you made a choice a long time ago and you work daily to support and reinforce it.  “This quieter love enables people to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (Mere Christianity)

When I think of you two, I think of that deep unity and the quiet love that Lewis speaks of and I know that it must have been a daily choice to make it this long!  But more than simply choosing because it is the right thing to do, you both seem to be happy in your marriage.  My parents certainly loved each other, but they had a strange relationship.  It was a puzzle to me why they stuck it out when they often seemed so miserable.  But you all have been together for more than fifty years and you seem to enjoy your life!  That’s a great example to us and to our kids.

Recently I read an article that said in a committed relationship roughly two-thirds of the problems are unresolvable.  That’s daunting when you think of it, but especially in a coventant of marriage where you plan to stay together until death parts you. 

You two seem to be quite different and yet you have made a good life together.   Whatever it is that you have found, it works and it is a joy to see you share your lives together happily.  Although we cannot hope to resolve every problem, being committed to a person and to the life that you want to build together, seems to be the key.

May your lives continue to be an example to us and to your grandchildren for many, many years to come.

I love and admire you both.


I Don’t Know (A poem)

And from my eleven year old son, Dylan:

Happy anniversary Grandma and Grandpa. 

I hope you have had a wonderful 50 years together. And that you have many more years. I think you are nice and generous people. Thank you for being my grandparents.  

Love, Dylan

From my nine year old, Jacob (with a little help from his parents.)

 Dear Grandma and Grandpa — Thank you for coming to Wisconsin in the middle of he winter and for all the trips you have made here from warm Florida.  You are fun and kind.  I love you.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for coming to stay with us and taking care of us when my parents go on trips!  You do a good job.  I am glad that you are my dad’s parents!  Love- Jacob


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Feeling Thankful for Love


Love at first sight is easy

to understand;

it’s when two people have looked

at each other

for a lifetime

that it becomes a miracle.

-Amy Bloom


Feeling Thankful

I’m thankful for Tom. My miracle. My best friend.  His heart is good and because of this he is a gentle and loving person. It makes me think of the gospel according to Luke 6:45 : “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, ….. ; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

I am often blown by winds of life, but he is sure-footed.  I am often scattered, there is a centeredness to my husband that is beautiful and reassuring to me.  I am often frightened by my past and what it means for our future, especially for our children.  He is solidly behind me encircling me with his belief in me, his hope for transformation through the grace of the New Testament Jesus and the shalom offered there.  My mind is full and my heart as well, of the knowledge and experience of sharing a life with him.

June 5, 1993, we married in the chapel of Christ Presbyterian Church here in Madison, WI.

  • Four children,
  • two houses,
  • three churches and
  • many, many coffee maker’s later.

And more importantly:

  • leaving a career that was important to me,
  • losing my father to cancer,
  • dealing with family addiction,
  • my battle with major depression,
  • my alcohol addiction, and other personal struggles;

As I have worked my way through a web of family history and learned so much about myself, he is still the person I fell in love with all those years ago.  I certainly understand him better, know him more intimately, comprehend a little better the complex person he is and is becoming.

This feeling of gratitude that I woke with comes out of a trip to Urgent Care with him.

None of us know how many days we have left.  So often we live as if we’ll never die and we face the days as if our loved ones will be with us forever.  By the way, Tom is fine.

This is just a reminder to hug the someone/s that you love.  Hug them and hold on tight.  Consider all that they bring into your life and what it might be like without them.  For all their possible aggravations (thinking of kids right now) they are the one for you —  be it a friend, a child, a lover, or a life long companion.

I know that I bring my many imperfections to this partnership.  And so does he.  That’s what is so amazing about it.


“For death begins with life’s first breath. And life begins at touch of death” – John Oxenham


Tom’s Music on Primetime CBS show


My lovely husband.  I am so proud of him.  Although his ‘day job’ is wonderful and he’s an amazing leader of his organization, I know that his passion is his music which does in his off hours. Last year he completed his 2nd album, ironically titled Everything Takes Forever, a five year project?! It’s a beautiful CD.

He just received word that one of his songs—“Even So” from his 2nd CD Everything Takes Forever will be used on  the CBS prime time show, Ghost Whisperer, tonight Friday (2/13/09, 8:00 PM ET; 7:00 PM CT) If you’d like, check it out.

Also, his website is:

www.myspace.com/tomhansonmusic in case you want to stop by to sample.

Peace to all,  Melody