January 10, 2018

I gave up the Bottle & Found my Husband.

Back in 2008, when I was 22 years old, I got my first real bartending job at a bar revival in German Village. On my first day at orientation I met one of my coworkers, a guy named Brandon. He was clever and fun. He was handsome and intelligent. At first, we worked well together as he taught me how to bartend, but we quickly evolved past that. Throughout the years we became drinking buddies, went on a few dates, concerts and hikes, until he became my best friend and my confidant in recovery. But even sober and friend zoned, our chemistry couldn’t be denied. We were drawn to one another since day one. Despite time, other relationships, and drunken bullshit, we always found ourselves picking up our phones and reaching out to one another. And now, today, it’s been a year since we surrendered to that chemistry and decided that despite the obstacles that lie ahead, we were going to give us the chance that was owed…Brandon, thank you for the best year of my life. For being my best friend and my partner. I love our story. I love us. We’ve had so many adventures and I look forward to the many more that await us. Happy anniversary, my love 💚💛 @bfrenchwood

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I met my husband in a bar.

We were both young bartenders—perpetually drunk, and leading progressively disastrous lives.

He and I shared an undeniable attraction that strengthened with each cocktail consumed. Over the years, we’d meet up for the occasional blur of a date, but remained nothing more than friends.

We danced in the rain at a concert, skinny-dipped under the stars, and navigated the downtown streets with alcohol-fueled amnesia. Whenever he and I would hang out, we’d share whiskey-flavored tongues, followed by the occasional, awkward morning cigarette.

In a serendipitous twist of fate, we both found ourselves pursuing recovery, simultaneously. Our once booze-infused acquaintanceship quickly began to change. With our relationships in turmoil due to the calamity of our lives, we found solace in one another’s company.

Soon, our friendship grew into one of substance rather than substance abuse. We’d grab coffee, go hiking, binge-watch “New Girl,” and eat all the chocolate.

It wasn’t long before our subtle flirtations became actual feelings that we couldn’t evade.

Intimacy is hard enough to navigate without the added component of addiction. Upon getting into recovery, both my now-husband and I were shown the blueprints of how to become better versions of ourselves, and in turn, better to those we hold dear. It was because we had been lacking these tools that we were unable to love and be loved properly.

When we decided to finally place fear aside and give “us” a shot, we implemented these lessons into our relationship:


We, as humans, exhaust so much energy trying to maintain control, especially when it comes to our partners. There are times that it drives me batsh*t crazy that my husband isn’t a vegetarian too. In those moments, I have to remind myself that I have as much authority over what he eats as I do what he drinks. There is a liberation that comes from acknowledging that which we can’t control—like clenched fists releasing tension.


I am excellent at holding a grudge. I won’t even remember why I’m luggin’ all these damn things around, but that still doesn’t stop me from setting them aside. Resentments are heavy. They’re like toxic carry-ons, overflowing with bitter junk. Now, whenever I find myself hauling around a grievance, I talk it out so that I can be rid of the weight. The sooner the better—else I end up hoarding my resentments, leaving no room for love.

Mea culpa.

Admitting when we are or were at fault is never easy. Most of the time, we know when we’ve f*cked up, yet apologies get caught in the back of our throats. As difficult as it is, it’s vital to cough em’ up and spit em’ out. Not only does it keep our mistake from becoming a nasty little resentment for someone else, it shows our partner that we consider their feelings and that we can be accountable. So we apologize—promptly, as a means of honoring one another and ourselves.


My husband and I recognize that although we share so many of our experiences (and our lives!), we do have our own individual trials. When we communicate, we try to keep our minds open and use honest, yet respectful, language in an effort to co-create a supportive relationship, rather than a dependent one. Our mutual desire to evolve into decent humans is, at times, a collaborative effort. Ultimately, we are just two people backing each other through our own life journeys.

One day at a time.

When you think about it, it’s all about being present—not getting lost in anxiety-ridden visions of the future. Just as I wake up every day and recommit to being sober, I also recommit to all of my other intentional life decisions, including my marriage. Some days are easier than others, but as long as I maintain my desire to still at least try, I usually succeed. He and I both agreed that we couldn’t promise one another that we’d be in love forever; however, we made the promise to continuously choose each other, day by day.

I often think back to how we used to be and see who we’ve become now. In doing so, I witness the poetry of life. There’s a thrilling irony to a couple of tragic drunkards coming together in a sobering plot twist to create a shared life of purpose and compassion. Although, I suppose I have to revise my opening statement…

I met a friend in a bar. I met my husband after the hangover.


Author: Johanna L. Vissman
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May

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