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A Recovery Love Story
Written By: Mark Smith


Healing Toxic Shame Through Recovery
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Managing Abandonment  Issues Through Recovery
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Dante's parents were completely undependable. His father was a raging alcoholic and his mother had a new boyfriend every other week. Broken promises and lies were the only consistent characteristic of his childhood. He learned that he was THE only one that he could ever truly rely upon. He built thick walls to protect himself from the world's cruel betrayals.

Dante grew into a very handsome man and women flocked to him. His first love ruined their relationship due to her addiction to prescription drugs. She was his father all over gain without the rage. His first wife ripped his heart out when he found her in bed with his best friend. He became very jaded "screw em and leave em" became his motto. He would never again let another woman close to him. At the first sign of a woman not being 100% reliable he cruelly dumped her without an explanation. He dumped one really hot cheerleader for being 15 minutes late for a date. He dumped a woman that he really cared for over a little white lie that she told her boss. There were not shades of gray with Dante when it came to being dependable.

Meredith worked with Dante and she had secretly been in love with him for years. She wasn't a knockout like all the women that Dante dated but Dante found her intriguing. There was something different about her. She had a depth and a caring that he had never seen before. When she asked him to dinner he gladly accepted. The relationship was going swimmingly for the first three months, but Dante's antenna was out this was too good to be true.

Meredith grew up poor. No, I mean really impoverished. Many times there was no food in the small town Kentucky shack. She went to Northwestern on a soccer scholarship and now for the first time in her life she had enough money to not have to worry about money. She did have a little issue though, as people are prone to have. She was a shopaholic. I don't mean that she bought shoes or clothes. She actually horded supplies like toothpaste, food, and printer cartridges, etc. Her basement was filled with supplies. After an unexpected surgery her medical bills were killing her. The extra $200.00 to $300.00 a week that she spent on her hording habit was now going on her credit card. She didn't tell anyone about her problem. She was ashamed.

One day as Meredith was getting ready for a date Dante just happened to look down at a credit card bill that was laying on Meredith's kitchen table. The balance on that card was over $8,000.00. He found another with a $12,000.00 balance and another with a $10,000.00 balance. He had been in the basement and seen all the stuff stored there. Ok, here is the punch line: the woman was a shopping FREAK who would surely run him into bankruptcy if he married her. When Meredith came out of the bedroom she found that Dante had disappeared. Meredith was in tears when Dante didn't return her calls for weeks. What had she done? She didn't have a clue.

Then Meredith showed up at Dante's apartment and she demanded an explanation for his abandonment. Dante simply wrote the figure $30,000.00 on a napkin that he handed her. Meredith was instantly mortified. Someone actually knew her horrible secret and now it was going to cost her the love of her life.

She tried to explain about the surgery because that actually accounted for half of her debt. She told him what it was like growing up with no food, no wood for the stove, no toothpaste, no toilet paper, etc. He was harsh and judgmental. Her wounds didn't really concern him. As far as he was concerned they were excuses.

The thing about Meredith though was that she truly loved Dante more then he had ever been loved his whole life. She was not going to be dismissed so easily. She enrolled in a credit counseling program, she cut her expenses and she took on a part time job. She asked Dante if he would consider dating her again if she would completely pay off her debt and clean up her credit. It took Meredith a year to achieve those goals. They burned her final statements over an open fire a year to the date that Dante had walked out.

After making love with each other for the first time in a year Meredith had something that she needed to say to Dante. She touched his face tenderly as she spoke with firmness and a sweetness that Dante had never heard from her. She rubbed his stomach as she addressed little Dante, "I'm so sorry that your parents let you down, baby. You deserved loving and reliable parents. You were a special boy and you needed a safe, consistent environment to trust in. But sweetie, your wounds are now getting in your way. We all have warts sweet boy. Nobody is perfect, not even you baby. While you know about my former financial imperfections I need to share a few more of my flaws. I was kicked out of college for smoking grass. I had an abortion when I was 21. And the awful truth is that I currently have 7 unpaid parking tickets from counties all over the Mid West. I have forgotten dinner dates with dear friends on more then one occasion. I have messed up my fair share. Ok, take a deep breath and rub your trust stone baby. Let me love you even though I am flawed. Let me love you even though I am unreliable at times."

Dane was about to have an anxiety attack. He had enough dirt on Meredith to dismiss the entire Colts cheerleading squad. Meredith looked Dante right in the eyes and said, "I love you with all of my heart. Don't you know, it isn't being perfect or not ever messing up that makes a relationship safe, it is all in the forgiving and in the sincere efforts for growth that result in safety and in the rebuilding of trust." Just then Dante broke down and cried from deep in his soul. The cold hard walls that kept him from being hurt melted under the intensity of Meredith's kindness, acceptance and wisdom. She said "being flawed and messy and ugly at times doesn't have to ruin a relationship: the grace to truly see and still love, nurture and forgive a broken and wounded partner is part of the really good stuff in a relationship. It pushes you; it makes you work on your own most vulnerable wounds. It reminds you that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

For the first time in Dante's life he truly saw and understood a woman. And he experienced a depth of forgiveness and grace that he had never imagined before. He felt freeing to take the high road for a change. He felt like Mr. Scrooge on Christmas morning after he was haunted by his Christmas ghosts. He almost wanted to dance. Dante held Meredith close and he whispered "thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you very much, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me". Dante learned to love Meredith warts and all. He learned to loved her completely. In the process he also worked up enough grace and forgiveness that he was able to also forgive and come to terms with his parents. Dante's issues with unreliability had actually owned him. They ran his life. Meredith the gracious changed all of that. Thank God someone loved him with a deep and crazy love that would not take no for an answer. She loved him in spite of all of his imperfections or perhaps even because of them. She willed herself into his hardened heart with a flinty determination that puzzled her friends. But then again, Dante was worth it. Dante now celebrates warts, unevenness and even the occasional major messing up with wit, joy and gentleness. His eyes are eyes of grace, understanding and forgiveness now. He is at peace. And, he is very much in love, forever.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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