A new episode of the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast is live!!
Today, we meet Dayna Del Val and Mazz Marry. In this episode of the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast, Mazz shares his story of what it took to realize he was suffering from the disease of addiction.
Dayna openly shares her side of the story, her painful journey inward, and the profound realizations she faced. Their story is a journey from naivety and denial to the stark realization alcoholism looks different from Hollywood’s portrayal.
You can learn more about Mazz & Dayna, a couple who beat many odds, through the links below.
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See full transcript below.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast, a place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction. Now here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Intro: Welcome back! You have been asking for partners, and today I am thrilled to introduce you to Dayna and Mazz. For the long-time listeners, you may remember them as I was fortunate to be a guest on their show, The Daily Dose with Doctor Marry and Dayna.
As we begin with Dayna and Mazz they share both sides of their story of coming to the stark realization of the depths of Mazz’s alcoholism. Meet this remarkable couple Mazz and Dayna.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast
I’m thrilled to welcome you both to the podcast. Dayna and Mazz and Mazz, I can’t call you anything else. I think it’s because it’s so close to Mags, which is my nickname. But I actually find it very fun that that’s the name you too used. I had the privilege of being on your live and getting to meet you really the first time live. So that was kind of a treat. And this time you graciously offered at any point to be on the podcast. And I want to do this because I feel like you offer such resources to family members. You offer couples resources, and I do hear from couples a lot like what are you going to have couples on or a partner on instead of parents. So, we are you’re going to fit the bill.
Dayna: So here we are.
Margaret: So, if I was to ask either of you who your qualifier is, as a result of this disease being a part of your family. Let’s do that generationally, and then as a partnership. Do either of you come from homes where addiction was a part of your story?
Not directly. In Ireland, there was this thing called being a pioneer where you take a pledge not to drink alcohol. It’s part of the Catholic Church in Ireland. And you get a little lapel pin with the Sacred Heart of Jesus on it. So, my dad became a pioneer when he was 15. He got drunk when he was 15, swore he’d never do it again and never did.
He also did it so we could play soccer because in Ireland at the time, he played Gaelic football and he hated Gaelic football, he played soccer.
And I have this great little quick story to tell that when he was a kid on Friday they went to confession, because the priest was the soccer coach. So, my dad was in the confessional booth for hours, talking strategies about soccer. And when he came out, he’d always looked at these old women and they’d look him up and down and all that Terry Marry is a wrong one.
Margaret: That’s great.
Mazz: So, both my grandparents, my dad’s dad and my mother’s dad were alcoholics. And I have many cousins tonight who are suffering from the disease as well. But my mom never really drank either. So, in my house growing up, there was no alcohol.
And what do you say it’s fair to Mazz say that. And please challenge me on this. But in within your culture, there was a lot of drinking, even though in your home, there wasn’t would that be fair? Yes.
Yes. Drinking underage in a bar down the high street, because everyone knows you’re going to do it. My parents tested me. So, at the time, I knew when to stop. So, I can go and have a couple of drinks and come home and everything was fine. And I got through college and grad school doing that, too. I knew when to stop at that point.
So, we’re gonna to come to you, Dayna, because I can see how this is overlapping, but I want to kind of pull you through to current. So, you’ve just clearly stated, it’s in the genetics. You did not have a problem. You had an off switch or apparently could render an off switch, through college. At what point did that change Mazz? When did you notice, it had gone to a point where whoa, this is not the way it used to be?
I don’t really know I’ve been trying to work this out. I mean, one of my mentors in AA said to me if you can’t work out what your switch was, what started is it don’t, don’t beat yourself up or drive yourself crazy. Just accept the fact that it happened and then live with it not happening again. He said if you try and, you could waste the rest of your life. Trying to work out when your off switch was just except that one happened. So, I’m not trying to get out of any details.
No, you know, I think that’s very true to what I’ve always worked with my clients on in treatment settings. Don’t worry about the why or the when the reality is, is it now a problem for you? So, I wonder if we flipped the other side of the coin there. Dayna, can you identify when something changed that may be Mazz can’t?
You know? That’s a great question, because Mazz and I dated for six and a half years before we got married, and we never lived together. So, there was this late evening period of his life that I really did not know very much about because I had a five-year-old when we met.
So, we got married in 2008. At the end of May, and I would say immediately, I thought, oh, he drinks more than he ever told me he did. The first night we met, he told me he had one whiskey at night.
And just to go back and answer your question, I grew up around, no alcohol. I remember, the first time I ever saw a beer and I was 13 years old. And it certainly was not in my household. None of my friend’s parents drank that I knew of alcohol was as foreign to me as like, well, are you deep sea divers in North Dakota? No, we’re nowhere near the sea. So, I grew up in a completely alcohol-free household where it was never even discussed. I mean, we didn’t even have wine at church, it was grape juice, because I grew up Methodist. So, I really had no exposure to it. So, Mazz told me on our first date that he drank one Whiskey a night. And I will say that I did exactly what you did Margaret, which was to say, well, he’s Irish. I mean, that’s more than I’m super comfortable with. But he’s Irish. And then we got married six and a half years later, and he was definitely rarely only drinking one whiskey at night. Now. It didn’t seem like a huge problem. But I do remember very distinctly within days of getting married thinking, huh, I wonder why he’s not only drinking one. And then how it moved from that to 6am Whiskey, I cannot exactly tell you there was not a moment where I can say and then it went from not great to terrible. It just was like an incredibly slow moving seven-year avalanche of progressive decline.
Yeah, I agree with that completely. So, I remember having moments when I decided that I had a problem, but also decided that I wasn’t worth fixing, because I had everything and threw it away.
I think the last year was kind of like that. And I was still doing my job. So, I thought I was okay, because at that point, I was just in complete denial. And I couldn’t understand why everyone was short with me. So, I just started having the bare minimum contact with anybody at work. You know, I would sit there try and work out why Dayna was mad at me because I could never make the connection. Even though I knew deep down there was something wrong with me. I’ll just go hey, why is Dayna irked with me and I couldn’t sort of live with me work out. It’s because I’m an alcoholic?
Well, that’s a lot to unpack right there. Because I think that’s so common a story within families and partnerships, where there’s a slow decline that is an avalanche, but when you’re in it, it’s coming over you and you’re surviving in it. And you may not see the clarity of it until you have some time away from it. Or someone else shows up in the home and sees it and has never noticed it before. And they’re like, whoa, whoa, what am I seeing or someone brave enough to point out? Who may have peripherally seen it?
Margaret: Did either of you have anyone in your life who shared their concern with you, that you shared your questions with?
I had two different people, a colleague of Mazz’s and a good friend of ours, both who grew up in alcoholic homes, at separate times, reached out to me. And I had such a limited understanding of what alcoholism was. I really only knew about it from Hollywood. So, I thought, he’s not crashing his car. He’s not getting DUIs. He’s kept his job. He drinks too much, but it must not be alcoholism.
So, I remember when his colleague wrote to me, and I really liked her. I still like her. I have great regard for her. And she wrote and she said, you know, we’re really concerned about Mazz in the department. We think he’s an alcoholic. And I took it to him, and I said, your department thinks you’re an alcoholic? And he said, Well, I’m not. And in that moment, I felt like I have to support my spouse. I don’t know what else to do here. So, I wrote back to her. And I said, I don’t know what to tell you. He says he’s not. And I have to believe that. And that caused a rift. And the same thing happened with our friend. And we have repaired both of those relationships. But it was hard. And I have so much appreciation for the bravery it took to say something. And I have a lot of compassion for myself, because you could say I was in denial. I’m sure I was. But I was also in naive denial, I just really did not understand what this was.
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I really appreciate that too, because I think that one, we love the person we’re with. We’re in a relationship where we want to make this work, both of you, both sides. There’s a level of denial with both of you, within yourself, then when you’re brave enough to go with what someone brings up to you to the source? And they say, No. Where are you left?
It’s also interesting that both of you had a level of denial around naivety in a way. So, the naivety, I mean, is very human one that I hear in many people’s stories, which is, what is an alcoholic? What is an addict?
Mazz: Yeah. And the visual that we come up with is usually the very baseline, low functioning, homelessness, poverty, criminality, whatever, Hollywood’s painted, whatever stereotypes are out there. It wouldn’t be someone who’s a professor or a doctor or a maintenance man who maintains his job or woman. It would be somebody who’s lost everything.
Margaret: So, both of you kind of had that preset, that that must be what alcoholism is, because I still have so much, I still am functioning. That’d be fair on both sides. That was part of the
Yeah, I think that’s it. I was doing my job. I, you know, I was, I was getting good reviews from students, I was getting everything done. Weirdly, I got some memory of feeling safer at work, because I never drank at work. And then, between leaving work and congratulate myself, because I’ve just done nine hours without drink, and the first thing I did when I got home was of course, have a drink. It stopped making sense to me at all. And then I actually went into complete denial. And I think I just stopped thinking about it.
Yeah. Well the disease requires it doesn’t? In order to keep consuming and doing something that’s destructive in one capacity of your life, if not all to keep doing and I have to keep playing it down where the disease keeps playing it down. So, I don’t see the ugly truth. And if I do see glimmers of the ugly truth, what solution? Do I have to go to?
Mazz: Have another drink? Forget about it.
Yeah, yeah. And in my case, if I were to really have said, you have a drinking problem, then I would have had to also come up with a solution. And I didn’t know how to fix that. I thought I could fix it. Somehow, I thought I could like, shock him back into who he had been when we first met. Again, I was naive, I had no concept of the utter control that alcohol had on his life, on our life. I really didn’t look into that.
So, I just kept thinking, well, I can talk him out of this, I can get him to see that he’s being an irrational drinker, because he’s too smart to not be able to fix this. You know, and it was that hole, and I’ve heard it so many times since then. You know, you should stop, why don’t you just stop? And that was really what drove me. You know, I’m right. You know, when I tell you, you’re drinking too much, I’m right, and you’re wrong. Stop being wrong. And I had just no idea that that would be like saying, stop breathing. stop blinking. Stop having your heartbeat. I mean, I just did not understand that.
And as Dayna described that, I noticed you put your head down and even almost shook it.
It’s still tough to hear out loud because you’re torn between thinking God what an idiot I was, and then thinking, well, ya know, that’s part of the disease, but then I know that. But I also don’t want to get complacent or huh, I was terrible. But in order to stay on the right path, you got to remember how bad it was, I think, you know, it’s probably a lot of the Irish in me coming out there. But I think, on some level that it doesn’t damage you. You’ve got to, you know, stay true to your roots, I guess what I’m trying to say is remembering how bad it was, but not dwelling on it. So that’s alright, I’ve been down there. And I don’t want to be down there. Again, I’m happy up here. So, let’s just live up here.
Yeah. So, the expression I was given in recovery early on was sleeping on a highway. No matter how far down the highway, you are, your equal distance from the ditch that you were in the very first day you got on the highway. So gotta be mindful of that. Because we could end up in that ditch really easily. But we don’t want to be dwelling and leaning into the ditch or will end up there.
So, I hear you saying I gotta keep on the highway. But I can’t lose sight of the fact I do have a ditch on the side. And this type of difficult conversation when it is hard to hear that truth, again, is a reminder where I was, to help me keep going on the highway.
Yeah, and there’s another thing that it does trouble me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot more, you know, next Wednesday, I’ll be sober six years,
Mazz: It’s the whole thing about you learn from your mistakes, it makes you a better person, I think I’m a better person for what I went through, to get back to where I am now. But if you learn from your mistakes, and how can you forget where you were, you know, it’s, it’s in there as much as I’d love to forget where I am. And I’ve heard people say to me, it’s like when you move house, and people say, you know, I want to talk about this, because that’s my old address. I don’t live there anymore. I’ve moved on. But to me, that puts you in a danger of forgetting the lessons you learn, so you don’t end up where you were in the first place.
So, and another one that’s been given, I’m sure you heard is the size of the front window versus the rear-view mirror. That that’s designed on purpose, that we don’t lose sight of the mirror, but we don’t focus on it, or we’re in trouble and back off into the ditch.
Mazz: I like that.
Margaret: So, I hear you, I have to remember my rear-view mirror. But where I get into trouble is if I’m going to go take a bath in the rearview mirror and start soaking in all the misery.
Mazz: Yeah, that’s good.
Yeah, it’s interesting, because we had this program that we did for two and a half years, which we ended in December of 2022. And we have not talked about anything around your addiction now in six weeks. And so, it’s funny to be back having this conversation again, because it’s almost kind of a rote conversation, because we were so ingrained in talking about it for so long. But I’m also sort of having an out of body experience, where I’m looking at this conversation, and I’m thinking, who are you talking about? And having to remind myself that I’m talking about us. And so that front mirror and rear-view mirror image, I think, is really good. You want to be paying more attention to what’s coming at you than what’s behind you. But you sure better also be occasionally looking back to make sure that something’s not dragging with you going forward.
I like visuals, they helped me understand it. And the other thing that I picked up on their Mazz when you were sharing your thoughts about mistakes and remembering where you were, but yet new address. Your wife reference, you’re very smart. And one of the things that goes against the simplicity of the solution of recovery, and I mean this with no ill respect is when we tried outsmarting it.
Oh, yeah. Yes, actually, someone we know who’s a medical doctor said, in his opinion. What made it worse for him is because I’m a medical doctor, I apparently know better ways how to lie. Well, that’s interesting and real depressing all at the same time.
I think we afford smart people or people who have positions of authority, they have a bigger window to make mistakes because a, they can answer us in ways that sound right and smart. And we’ve been told, well, he’s a doctor, he can’t be an alcoholic. He’s a doctor. And so, you forgive some pretty baseline behavior from smart people that if someone were deemed not very bright, you would immediately judge and label. I think that’s very true.
That’s very interesting when you consider the the origins of AA, that it was started by a doctor in a door-to-door salesman.
Yeah, that’s right. And they managed to somehow simplify the solution despite knowing the complexity of the people walking in the room.
Margaret: Quite brilliant. I mean, I find it fascinating. And we could do a whole discussion on the history of AA. But I’m always stunned as a woman in this decade, that I can read that literature and relate, and that they had the wisdom to talk about it as a Higher Power of your understanding at a time when that was not acceptable.
Dayna: No, it’s true.
Margaret: Like, there’s a lot there. It’s fascinating. They were very forward thinking, and they knew their audience. Well, my opinion, there is still hard language to get past for some people, but I appreciate where it came from.
Margaret: So, with the progression happening, the wheels are coming off. Dayna, you share regularly and openly that you were incredibly naive and unexposed to the addiction, which made it hard to navigate these people coming in saying something’s wrong, Mazz denying it. What was your gut telling you?
Oh, my gut knew that things were very, very bad. But there’s a piece that we’ve hardly ever talked about that really drove so much of my side of this.
My mother and stepdad had an almost immediate disliking to him as when they met him, my stepdad in particular, and that really clouded my mother’s perspective of him. And so, it was years of difficulty me being caught in the middle of like, what do I do about holidays, he’s 6000 miles from home, I’m four miles from home, he’s not really welcome in my home. And I’ll be really honest with you, it wasn’t because they thought he was an alcoholic, it was a whole series of other things that are kind of irrelevant to this conversation. But I could never, ever, ever, have actually leaned into what my instinct was telling me, because it would have proven that my mother was right. Even though her reasoning wasn’t right. I stayed with him for how long were we married? Seven years, almost exclusively, to avoid having to tell my mother that I was leaving him and hearing from her, see, I knew this was the wrong person for you. So, it hardly matters what my gut was telling me because I was running from it as fast and as furiously as I could.
That’s fascinating. Do you think having that part of the story, gave you and Mazz a chance you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t have that part of your story? Because you did stick in there and you didn’t leave him? Or do you think it prolonged the issues?
No, I’m so grateful that I was too scared to leave or too stubborn to leave, or whatever you want to call it. I’m so grateful for that. Because if I had left him, if he had died, which he very nearly did. If he had fallen back into addiction, and we had not made it. I would have been as ruined as Mazz for in entirely different ways. Really, throughout my entire life had drunk very little. So, alcohol is not my problem. But it would have utterly destroyed me. So yes, thank goodness, I did not have the courage to say to anybody, something’s really wrong at my house, and I do not know what to do. Because anybody else would have said to me, you’ve got to leave him. He is a raging alcoholic. And if the right person had said that, to me, I don’t know who that right person would have been. But if the right person had said that to me, I might have gone and what a shame. Now I always, always follow that up with do not hear our story and decide that a, you didn’t try hard enough if your marriage relationship didn’t work, and you’re passed it or be that you should stay in something that’s terrible. We are not common. I know that we are not the norm. We are the exception. And so, everybody has to do what works for them in their relationship. We are not the model by which other couples should hold on and see if it works. I really believe that.
I think it’s also very important to say that the outside influences have the best of intentions but they’re not walking in your shoes.
Margaret: So, no one can really tell anyone what to do even in a clinical setting anywhere. It has to be the decision we come to as individuals based on the story we are living in and what we can and cannot handle, tolerate, live with. Or not live with.
Margaret: When you say you’re the exception, put that into a little nugget. How do you see yourself as an exception to the norm when it comes to couples with this disease,
Can I go first?
Yes. Just burning in there, waiting to come out.
First of all, I think it is so rare, not impossible, obviously, but rare to be a person whose addiction was as intense as Mazz’s was, and to have gone through treatment once and had it stick. When I went to see his rehab group, I think there were seven or eight of them. Nobody else had been in there fewer than three times. And this is people from age 20, to probably 75.
Mazz: Someone in our son’s age.
Dayna: Yeah, for the fifth or sixth time they were 20. So, I believe that Mazz only needing to do this once to date,
Dayna: is a rarity.
So, let’s just put a cap on that. Because that’s a very factual statement, even though it’s your experience, statistically, the average range of the numbers of treatment for people to find some traction in their recovery is three to five.
Dayna: Yeah. So that would make sense to the story you just shared.
Okay. So, for me, I think that the thing that makes us the exception is that Mazz didn’t just get sober, and we carried on with life. Mazz got sober, and we utterly rebuilt a new life. Because the great gift that I got with his sobriety was not just him coming home and being present, and alert, and bright, and intentional. And all the things that came with that. The great, great gift that I was given was the opportunity to hold a mirror up to myself and say, mhmm and what about you? And I would never have done that. Because where else? Besides something like addiction? Do you literally use language like you’ve hit rock bottom, you will climb out of this chasm? I mean, the language is constructed to remind you that it doesn’t get worse than this. Nobody else has that kind of language in their life. So, I think for most of us, we can say, yeah, you know, I might be judgmental, or I might be this or that. But it’s kind of okay, and I’m kind of working on it. You don’t have that luxury. When you’re in rehab, you don’t kind of work on sobriety. You work on it to the exclusion of everything else. And I chose to do a kind of similar path, because it became so clear to me that while he was the drinker, we were the problem.
Could I like drop the mic on that one. But one of the things that that impresses me in that sharing is who suggested if anyone to look in the mirror?
Margaret: Nobody. That was something in you.
It was. We had this amazing, amazing traveling nurse, masseuse was in the hospital for three days before he began to detox. And we kind of got to be friendly with this nurse, named Susan. And after he moved into a period of absolute madness, and they sedated him, she came to me, and she handed me a journal. And she said, you have to take this. And I mean, I had a sense of what was happening, but not really, even still. And I looked at her and I said, what am I supposed to do with this? And she said, I don’t know. But you do not know what’s coming at you. And I’m just going to encourage you to use this.
And so, they moved him up to intensive care because he was on such intense drugs to be in this medically induced coma. And I sat with him for five and a half days. And I wrote, and I’m a writer by nature, but I’m not a journaler. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote and I literally purged all of the poison that was in me onto those pages. And I said everything I had never said and everything I wanted to say, and I raged, and I cried, and I lamented, and I did everything I needed to do. And I stripped myself back as far as I think I possibly could.
And by the time he woke up, I won’t say to you, it was fixed. Because he wasn’t fixed either. But by the time he woke up, I had at least walked through the crucible of burning embers that I needed to walk through. So that I could be present for whatever was coming next.
And believe me, I had no idea what was coming. I had no idea they would come in every day. And they would say, we’re going to bring him up and see if he’s ready to be present.
Dayna: They would bring him up, and he would immediately start to see so they would put him under, and I mean, I just I had no idea who was going to wake up if and when he finally stopped having seizures and was a conscious human being again. And then I thought, well, okay, so what if he wakes up? And he’s present? And he goes right back to drinking? I mean, I just had no idea. So, nothing was fixed. But I had at least turned myself inside out,
Dayna: and laid everything I could on the table, and just looked at it.
What an angel.
Yeah, she is. There are people who come into your life and are extraordinary whether they are real humans or embodiments, she is one of those people.
Outro: I am so humbled and in awe of how Dayna and Mazz leaned in rather than were split apart through such destruction, it almost caused Mazz his life. Come back next episode to hear more from this remarkable couple as they share about treatment, and the beginning journeys of recovery.
I want to thank my guests for their courage and vulnerability in sharing parts of their story.
Please find resources on my website
This is Margaret Swift Thompson,
until next time please take care of you!