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Happily ever after

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2007

"And they lived happily ever after."

It really was a love that pure, a union that sacred. How could it not have a happy ending?

"Suzy" says her insides were turned inside out, torn apart and shredded into little pieces. A glass of wine or two or five numbed the pain. Her one true love -- her husband of 29 years, "the finest person I ever knew in my life" -- was torn apart from her.

Prince Charming had seven years on his 19-year-old bride-to-be. Engaged after just three months of dating, "it easily was the best decision I ever made in my life," she says. You just knew it was his, too. Their sublime DNA created three new lives for a family that seemed too good to be true.

Suzy had felt "less than" -- not pretty enough, smart enough or athletic enough -- for about 19 years. But affirming her being came naturally to him.

She learned, "I was perfect the way I was." That lasted about 29 years.

Oct. 8, 1997, was a balmy afternoon as they vacationed in Arizona. Breezy, too. He, the picture of health except for that angioplasty, stepped out for a routine run. She, at the hotel, relaxed with her needlepoint.

He ran back, overwhelmed by chest pain. In their room, Suzy grabbed on to his hand through his convulsions. Then, as their ambulance raced to the ER, she heard EMS workers in the back screaming for this or that and, then, for nothing. It wasn't official but "I knew it was over."

"He's gone, isn't he," Suzy told the head paramedic. The helpless lifesaver only could say, "I think so."

Everyone knew so.

Suzy, too numb to cry, never forgot what that woman said. "She prayed with me. She was an angel." And then she told Suzy she'd be OK "because men like that marry women like you."

But OK by when?

"The pain was so great that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," said Suzy, calling him her "drug of choice." Wine gradually became her new one. A lot of wine -- too much wine, much too much wine, never enough wine. Day after night after day after night.

Her work suffered. Her family suffered. She suffered.

Suzy couldn't go two days without a drink. "Maybe I have a problem," she thought. She couldn't picture life without wine. But she saw that life with it was unbearable.

Desperation drove her to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Aug. 21, 2002, her first meeting was in Glassport, the second, near the West End Bridge.

"Places I never knew existed," Suzy says. "I left better than when I came in. It takes me outside of myself and my self-pity." She even learned to validate herself.

"God made me who I am. That feeling of being 'less than' is no longer there. I'm just me and that's good enough."

AA and the many other 12-step, self-help meetings for addictions are free, simple and effective. None are very choosy. There's always an extra chair or two or five. Coffee sometimes, too.

Suzy's advice: "Even if you consider that you might have a problem -- go."

Hope is a phone call away for free help dealing with a substance or behavior:

• Alcoholics Anonymous -- 412-471-7472

• Narcotics Anonymous -- 412- 391-5247

• Overeaters Anonymous -- 412-765-3004

• Gamblers Anonymous -- 412- 281-7484

• United Way Helpline -- 412-255-1155

A meeting might help someone live happily ever after.

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