FARGO — "2:45 a.m., February 1, 2017
"I was sleeping soundly when Mazz called out brusquely from the hallway outside our bedroom door, 'D. Get up. I need you to take me to the emergency room. Something is really wrong with me.'
"I took a minute to let my irritation wash over me (again). I was warm and exhausted, and not feeling particularly cordial towards this man. And I didn't appreciate his insistence that I get up right now.
"I stumbled into the bathroom, which can only be described as looking like the set of a war film. Blood was everywhere. I shook my head to clear the sleep away and looked again. Then I turned to look at Mazz who was holding a bloody rag to his nose, sucking up gobs of blood and trying, unsuccessfully, to wipe it off his face.
"I was awake." — Dayna Del Val, "The beginning of now."
The above snippet brings readers to the morning that sparked a couple's journey to overcome alcoholism, a disease that affects roughly 1 in 8 American adults, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to a study published in 2017 that found the rate of those suffering from alcohol use disorder jumped 49 percent in the 2000s.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, meanwhile, found in a 2018 survey that 14.4 million American adults, or about 5.8 percent of those 18 and older, had alcohol use disorder, with only 7.9 percent of sufferers receiving treatment in the past year.
It's a journey Fargo couple Dayna Del Val and Andrew "Mazz" Marry started publishing online to share with the world — and something Del Val considered "the most personal part" of their relationship that has spanned two decades.
"It's really two perspectives," Marry said. "It's our journey together from the spouse of an alcoholic. We don't really dwell on what started it, but we start at the day I went in the hospital, which became my sobriety birthday. It's what Dayna was thinking when I was in the hospital, initially, and then when I was in Prairie St. John's, and then my perspective."
On Saturday, Feb. 1, the couple posted the first part of their story on Del Val's blog, Extraordinaryextraordinary, to mark Marry's third "sobriety birthday." While there are still some bits of the story he doesn't remember, bits that happened when he was in a medically-induced coma, he said it's good to see his wife's story.
"I think this really should touch everyone affected with this disease," he said. "It is a disease that affects entire families. It's not just you fighting it. That's one of the things they tell us in rehab. Yes, to get sober or get straight from an addiction you have to be selfish, help yourself first, but then they remind you that it's then, when you can think straight, it's not just you. You have, through your disease, affected a great many people."
Once those who are addicted get on the road to recovery, support groups and professionals advise they make amends, "trying to set things right from the past," he added. "That way, you can move forward."
Del Val and Marry's story will be shared as a nine-part series on the blog, with plans to release a new written story each Saturday. The series will include four posts each from Del Val and Marry and conclude with an epilogue, along with accompanying videos and podcasts responding to feedback from readers.
It's a way to break through the stereotypes of addiction and share their real story, Del Val said.
"Well, if there's a poster child for addiction, it's not Mazz Marry," she said about her husband, who is an associate professor of biosciences at Minnesota State University Moorhead. "He doesn't look like it. He's all of the things that you wouldn't think fall into that — aside from being Irish. But I think it's important to see that it's not a disease that doesn't have the chance to affect everybody. So we just felt like we could add a piece to the narrative."
Addiction is a disease that affects every part of one's life, they said. In addition to the addicted person, families and relationships can suffer, often causing loved ones to feel distant and alone.
"I think for me, I had no sense of alcoholism. I mean I knew about it from pop culture, but I had no sense of it, no personal experience with it, and so to go through it felt crazy," said Del Val, the CEO and president of The Arts Partnership.
"In the worst sense of the word, I felt crazy for a long time. And I felt really alone because it's so acceptable to drink, and even to drink too much. (If) we are at dinner parties and everyone is having lots of wine and lots of whiskey, and if I expressed concern, I was kind of on my own — I felt like I was on my own," she said.
While understanding and overcoming addiction is an ongoing battle for those who have faced it — for both addicts and families — Del Val and Marry said they hope their story can help others know they're not alone.
"For me, it's about there are other people like me who find themselves in this situation, find themselves culturally in a very comfortable drinking world with someone who is uncomfortably drinking and having nowhere to go," Del Val said. "I would like to let people know that there are people like them, because I felt really alone."
It's ultimately just their personal story, Marry said — but it's relatable for many others.
"There are hundreds and thousands of stories out there that tell the struggle it is to get over this disease of addiction. And it's not easy — you're going to stumble; you're going to fail," he said. "But the (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings are a place you go where you're not judged, everyone's the same, and it's a fantastic support group."
"Our story is not anybody else's story," Del Val said. "But if our story can help somebody begin to see the end of the tunnel, then doing it is worth it. Our outcome, to date, has been incredible. I just feel really, really lucky, and part of it is just wanting to honor the journey and express the gratitude."
Read their story
Dayna Del Val and Andrew "Mazz" Marry will share a new written story each Saturday on Del Val's blog, Extraordinaryextraordinary, and also post videos and podcasts about their journey. To keep up with their story, visit extraordinaryextraordinary.com.