Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

So much for anonymity

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
 "This one's for you!" (pictured: that's me with the cake, my husband, right, gets all the wine around here--even when we lived on a vineyard, where wine all but flowed from the garden hose.)

A (Very Special) DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday a delicate and meaningful milestone quietly passed. Waking up, I searched for a way to respectfully acknowledge the date, lest it pass as another ordinary day. Quietly walking out to the bedroom terrace, I looked around at the countryside.  As far as the eye could see, there was greenery: olive and almond trees, the forest, and the sea.

It was a relief to wake with a clear head and no regrets. Breathing in the morning scent, I closed my eyes. Now was the time. I offered up the simple acknowledgment, and thanks. There was a moment of complete and utter silence, and then seagulls cried in the distance. A train passed, blowing its horn. The neighbor's dogs barked. My robe sagged, and I reached down to tighten the belt. It was both an ordinary and an extraordinary day.

"You can take me to lunch," I hinted to Jean-Marc, both reminding him of the important date—and suggesting how he might help me to mark the occasion.

"How about with a big glass of cognac?" he chuckled.

"That is NOT funny!" No matter how many times I tell him that such jokes, given the circumstance, are in bad taste, he cannot help himself.    

"OK, then how about a six-pack?" my husband continued.

"T'es terrible!"

"I'm very proud of you," Jean-Marc assured me, planting a kiss on my lips. His tenderness provoked flashbacks of years ago, when I would discover little notes stuck in a book I was reading or in the pocket of my robe.

"Çela fait dix jours. Continue, Mon Amour... That makes ten days. Keep it up, My Love," the encouragements read, and "Trois semaines! Fier de toi, Ma Chérie! Three weeks now! So proud of you, My Dear!"

The scribbled notes were encouraging but had I foreseen the future, I might not have had the guts to continue on the new path, not knowing that some of the rockiest parts were just around the corner. The hand-written notes would stop. The sores would begin to open.

A decade has passed and I am still on that fragile path; despite all the setbacks, I have never once veered off track. And even if I wouldn't be celebrating the 10-year mark with a glass of champagne, I was looking forward to eating out with my husband.

Only, when my daughter ran up, asking to bring a friend home for lunch, plans changed. Five months at the new school, and she, too, had passed a delicate milestone: the courage to invite a new friend home!

Well, at least I no longer have to fret about what to wear to the restaurant! The positive thoughts continued as I set about tidying the house, and preparing for my daughter's special lunch.

But as I hurried to fix up the house for our important guest, I felt a familiar rush of panic. There won't be time to finish the cleaning AND to get the meal started. Recognizing the anxiety—that old foe that I could not cope with ten years ago—I was able to put a stop to it. No, there wouldn't be time if I insisted on a perfect outcome. But there was plenty of time otherwise!

What was important, after all, wasn't how the house looked or what we ate, it was how our guest would feel. I wanted Jackie's friend to experience that good and cozy and welcoming feeling and to leave with a desire to return! 

"Promise to come back and see us?" I said, kissing my daughter's friend goodbye after lunch.

"Oui!" came the shy response.

Noticing the look in the young lady's eyes it seemed a guardian angel was smiling back at me. If I had gone to the restaurant to celebrate and be pampered, I would have missed this heavenly encounter.

At the end of the day Jean Marc presented me with a gift. Gently tapping on the door to the bedroom, where I had been putting away a stack of freshly folded clothes, he curled his finger several times, signaling to me to follow him.

I was a little leery of whatever he was dragging me out to see. After polyester pajamas, discount branch shredders, and T-shirts I could never wear in public, I never knew what kind of gift was up his sleeves.

"Will I like it?" I asked, nervously, letting my husband lead me by the sleeve.

Opening the front door, I saw the little cherry tree posed just beyond the welcome mat, like a gushing guest. I looked closely at the delicate, leafless branches. The tiny buds were burgeoning.

"Congratulations!" Jean-Marc said. "I'm so proud of you!" 

The burgeoning continued, inside of me, as teardrops surfaced like the little buds of the cherry tree. Fragile as its branches, my sobriety continues.

Update: February 3rd, 2019, I celebrated 16 years of sobriety.

Golden retriever Smokey resting on the balcony overlooking the vineyard and hills

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Happy 10 years! You write beautifully. Keep it up.

Kathy Shearer

Congratulations, Kristin. You are winning. One day at a time.


Happy 10 years!
This is a great start to your memoir. I want to know more...


Thank you for your celebration, wit and candor. You inspire us all by honoring yourself.

Cynthia Hinson

I've been a reader and an admirer for several years. But it's funny how this one post puts so many things in perspective. Thanks for having the courage to share your story, which so many of us relate to in our own ways.

Mary Jane Harris

Happy 10 year anniversary and many more. I always look forward to reading your blog and, like today, frequently marvel at the wonderful stories that you share. Looking forward to reading your memoir someday. Wishing you all the best in sobriety, health and life.

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Happy 10 years! I hope you are as proud as J-M is.

With admiration and respect,


Happy Ten Years. Thanks for being you and sharing "you."

Sheryl St. Germain

Happy Ten Years. I just passed my Three Year mark and I know what this means. Beautiful.


Heather Donaldson

Me too, I've read you for years yet somehow missed this. I so appreciate your gifts and never so more than today. Congratulations on 10 years - wow!

Robyn France

Kristin--this one spoke to me in so many ways--your generous spirit always seems to rise above worries and issues. Heartfelt congratulations on finding the path that is right for you and avoiding the detours which can hurt--we're all on the same path whether we acknowledge it or not. Love the beginning of this story.

Celia Sawyer

I identified with your fight with skin cancer, as I have had 2 bouts myself and have lost part of my nose. Yes, surgeries and reconstruction have left me with scars. Yet INSIDE I am whole and my heart is strong and full of quiet joy. I have not shared this particular walk with you, but please know I will always remember your cherry tree in my heart...and will rejoice with you as the tree flourishes!


Happy 10 years, Kristin!
What a smart and dear inspiration you are!
And your writing is wonderful...this particular vignette was so well done.
Granddaughter and I made the gateau de yaourt yesterday...she loved the video with well as the whole adventure...which was quite a success. (I have to find cool ways to sneak in love of French and all things French, as her mother opposes it).
But this day is about YOU!!! Congratulations!!!

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Congratulations Kristin! You are very courageous and inspiring!

Mike Hooban

Congratulations on your 10 years, and thank you for being an example to all of us. My mom went through the same thing when she wss in her 50's and stayed with it until her death at 76, one of the most admirable things I've seen. Bon courage, Kristin, et merci.


Congratulations Kristi!

Kathy K

Brava! And brave, n'est-ce pas? Congratulations on 10 years. Just proof that we can do hard things, to quote Glennon Melton. xo

Jackie in Natick, MA

How could I have missed this major piece of your life, reading your moving, stunning, touching writing all these years? My deepest congratulations to you as you continue to meet the challenge. You've accomplished so much and your wisdom and true understanding of what matters- welcoming Jackie's friend into the warmth of your loving home and not worrying about any dust or superficial disorder, so so profound! You know what matters and you live it.
With my deepest admiration and thanks-

Linda - New Delhi, India

I continue to be inspired by your writing, compassion and integrity... and now this. Congatulations on this very special milestone, Kristin.


I totally agree with Cynthia's comment 'this one puts so many things into perspective'.
Thank you for sharing your path through such inspired, subtle writing.
Love that your husband tried to keep things LIGHT. Life can be so daunting, one needs a lighter, simpler view (as annoying as it can be sometimes).
Don't let go. Hopefully your readers can give you the energy to stay on your path if there's ever any moment of doubt.


Congratulations! And thank you for your warmth and openness.

David Simmons

You’re on the right track, Kristin,

My experience as a physician has shown that those who report, as you do, that maintaining sobriety is a current issue and future concern rather than a past event (un fait accompli) are usually successful.



Congratulations! " May God blessed keep you always, may your wishes all come true. May you always see the truth in the light surrounding you.".


A beautiful and important milestone! Thank you for letting us share in your special day! Je t'embrasse!

Joan Delise

Congratulations Kristin!
Thank You for sharing this personal part of your life with us. We all can gain strength in our own lives through your exemplary courage!

joie in carmel

Does it seem but yesterday? And still so many more stories to tell.


Your opening is perfect. Sometimes it being anonymous doesn't allow people to give you the 'atta boy!' that you deserve. 10 years-in a winery? You deserve a wedge not just a chip. : )

I was in France this past fall (I've only got 4 years) and people gave me that weird look--"You don't DRINK?" and with the next breath become serious and say something about how they wish they could cut down or know someone who would benefit from it. I would joke about being the designated driver for life-my husband drinks.

Wallow in the joy of having the courage to put aside something in your life that doesn't work for you.

Big hugs!!!

Sarah in Chicago

Congratulations Kristen! I have read your blog for years, but I never knew you were challenged this way! How wonderful for you and your family---JM gave you a gift, but you have given them a bigger gift! As I watch my niece choose alcohol over sobriety time and time again, I am more impressed by your dedication. Even more so surrounded by wine everyday! Bien fait! Felicitations!


you go girl!! A lundi xoxoxo


Congratulations on this milestone, dear Kristin, and on this post so beautiful and brave. It must have taken so much courage to write this, and we, your readers, admire and love you all the more for it. May your tenth year + one day be as sweet as yesterday -- we can all only strive to live one day at a time. xoxo

Jan greene

Congrats, love and day by day, peace! This is a milestone to celebrate! Thank you for letting us walk with you!


Congratulations Kristin on reaching this achievement. There's a saying that goes,"write what you know". Thanks for your encouragement and candour.

Maureen, Freiburg

That took courage, wow! And how subtly and elegantly you told us. Your writing gets better and best....Kudos to you, girl!

Beth in NC

Congratulations to you, Kristin. Ten years is a great milestone! We all admire your strength of spirit, and courage. Well done! :)


I too have been reading your wonderful blog posts for years and somehow missed this particular challenge. I admire your honesty and your eloquence. I congratulate you on this milestone and look forward to hearing how the cherry tree blossoms.


PS I know you can create a beautiful memoir. The most meaningful and heartfelt words come from when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Courage, Kristi! And as you said to me long ago, bonne continuation.

Diane Samson

Congratulations on ten years, Kristin! I know your memoir will be wonderful. You can write so well. It will be great, as all your other writing is. Bonne chance.

Congratulations! You are a model to all of us! My weekness is sugar!!!


Ten years, that is an accomplishment....may you and your family enjoy many many more! Keep on writing!

Julie Borders

As someone who attends Al Anon meetings to help cope with the effects of a parent who drank, I think you are giving your children the best possible gift -- and life-- they could have. You're a strong woman. Congratulations to you. What a great model you are for your children.

Susan d rolfs

Have a fabulous day

Barbara Monajem

That was beautiful, Kristin. Write on!

Julie Borders

And, p.s., after writing my last comment, I went back to the original email with the story and saw your tongue in cheek title for entry. Very cute, and appropriate.

Pamela Wing

One day at a time, that's how it goes. My ex-husband put an "X" through every day of the calendar for 15 years, another day in the light, from the first day of his sobriety until he passed away in 2009, 16 years later.

You can spend the next ten years, and beyond, tending your cherry tree, your lovely family, and a full heart. Bless you.


I can think of nothing to add that hasn't been said here before. You make so many people smile. :)

Alyssa Eppich

Congratulations on so many levels to you, ma chere! Onward and upward!

Virginia Ward

Bonjour Kristin.
What a beautiful gift for a beautiful, strong woman. It will blossom through the years as you have and will.
Les bisous. Virginia

Gary & Diane

Good luck on the next ten as well, hope the new home is being good to you!

Best Wishes

Gary & Diane (and Bonnie & Clyde :-))

Kate S. :-)

Congratulations - 10 years is a milestone. Keep coming back!

Jacquie P.

Dear Precious Kristen,
First, CONGRATULATIONS, ! ! You belong, to the most grateful group on the face of this planet. And we are all grateful for you and sharing and being such a beautiful example for all of us and those yet to 'get honest.' I am just thinking how many you have reached with this acknowledgement and how many you have helped, just being you. Amazing, isn't it?
What a breath of fresh air to wake up, open my email and find you quietly curled up waiting with such wonderful gifts of words to open and explore and reflect upon. Truth and sharing and beautiful pictures painted with your words.
I've known Bill Wilson since 1983 and this journey is truly 'one day at a time.' You can have the years under your belt that I have this morning. So proud of you.
And So grateful that I am because I found all of you.
My very best wishes that you have many more such milestones. And I know you will. Jacquie

Elena wolman

Your post fills in a missing puzzle piece. Thank you so much for sharing your story and being so brave to go "public". Being anonymous, in any endeavor, feels like a safe place to be but really makes our life so much smaller. Something I am working on too. Congratulations on 10 years. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story

Marcia Stoub

You are a heart winning, award winning writer, Kristin. Congratulations on 10 years and blessings as you continue your journey!!

Jacquie P.

I forgot to say, 'love to you'. And I mean it. Oh, and my husband thinks you are such a beautiful gal . (We -all need to hear those kind thoughts.)

June and Jeff Turner

From someone who celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last year
(an Australian married to an Englishman) I wish you a joyous future - like us you will have yours ups and downs - and we have had them in three different countries! - you will find they strengthen your love just knowing that you have come through them together. We have just had our first great-grandchild and what a joy she is!
With very best wishes and every good wish for your future,
June and Jeff Turner
[email protected]

Amie James

You continue to inspire!
Congratulations and thank you.


You inspired me to write a poem, but I will have to post it on my blog. It was too long to put into this little comment box! Congratulations, my friend! Happy Choiceday!

Bobbie Bynum

Congratulations! Your resolve and fortitude are admirable traits. You inspire us all. Be happy with what you have accomplished.


God Bless You! We have even more in common than I originally thought!


I love the way you let this story unfold for your enchanted readers. It's clear that the support of your wonderful family and your firm grasp on what life is all about will see you though the next 10 years and countless more beyond! And as a bonus, you have a beautiful cherry tree to remind you of your accomplishments each and every day! Congratulations!


Beautifully written, courageous, and ultimately emotional.

Mary Lou Harris

Congratulations to you and your wonderful family.

Bethany Russell

"It was a relief to wake with a clear head and no regrets." I have been following French-Word-A-Day for almost six years. I thought it was because of fascination with all things French, Smokey and Braise, and the beautiful pictures,(and now the videos!) but when I read your latest post and understood in a way only one who has been through the storm can understand, I now clearly understand my fondness for your writing, your family, your thoughts! Thank you for being so honest. I too celebrate six years this year and I am grateful. I look forward to your posts, thrice-weekly. Thank you for letting me live a little French life through you!


For seven years I've been trying to teach French in Tucson. I've been addicted to your stories and all this time had no idea. Sometimes self pity hits me like a June monsoon (how can one teach French without a good cognac in the evening?), but here I am, quiet tears at my classroom computer, so grateful for sobriety's gifts and your posts. Thanks for reminding me. Congrats and God bless....and merci mille fois!

Tracey Lander-Garrett, Brooklyn, NY

With congratulations and admiration for ten years.


Thank you so much!


I discovered your wonderful blog recently and have become a faithful follower. I too want to congratulate you on this major achievement. We all know those who have struggled and most do not succeed. You should be very, very proud of yourself!


Thank you for sharing, you have given me a lot to think about. Very much appreciated:). Susan

Gaelle from AZ

Congratulations!! God provides.

Chef Katherine

You have come through some distressing circumstances, but have shown compassion to yourself and others by sharing your story. A bold and continuing journey. Sending many good wishes your way!

Josephine Girardin

Forge ahead with confidence.


Chère Kristin,

You really are an inspiration with your elegantly expressed honesty,
your ability to model self care and celebration, your sharing of your love of life, family, art, France and so much more via your writing and photography. You are an inspiration to me who spent many holidays in Provence as a child and who loves France and teaches French to adults and children. I have a little song : One day at a time, that's all Love asks of us, Hold your hand tight in mine, we'll walk one day at a time.....Meilleurs voeux en te souhaitant encore des dizaines d'années de libération ! Margot

Jocelyn Anne Mason

Happy 10 years! You have overcome so much! Continue and you will continue to be rewarded. It takes so much strength, but you are STRONG! Don't ever forget that :-)

Cheryl in STL

Brava, Kristin! Congratulations for the 10 years and deepest thanks for sharing your that part of your journey with all of us. Here's to the next 10!

Karen Whitcome - from sleet infused Towson, Md  USA

Congratulations! My goodness - to be tempted by the masses of vines on a daily basis for these years - you are stronger than I ever imagined. "Blossoming" takes on a whole new meaning now and I know that the cherry tree shares that significance. Very proud of you, and your amazing, courageous, human, and beautiful spirit.

Julie Mautner

Bravo...for your bravery, sobriety, lovely writing and willingness to open up and share your struggles with strangers here. Bravo...keep it up...all the best...

Johanna DeMay

Chère Kristin,

Congratulations! Tears came when I grasped the significance of this morning's post. You are so brave, so generous, and so beautiful! We love you and will celebrate with you today. Be happy! You deserve it!

Johanna DeMay
Albuquerque, NM

Sue J.

joining in the chorus of congratulations and felicitations on this milestone. always look forward to reading your stories.

Valerie McCaffrey

Who knew? Inspiring testimony. thank you Kristin.

Lillian Kennedy

You are amazing - truly you are! Thank you for your gifts to all of us - your writing and photos delight so many.
The delicate buds you speak of are so adored for their exquisite sensitivity.


Here is that poem's placement on the web:


Very tough choice to make, to live the life you could lead if you were sober. Very proud of you for continuing to make that decision, every minute of every day. Hearty congratulations!

Jean Creighton

How marvelous. God has given you courage, strength, honesty, talent, and a loving heart- and husband. You are a rich woman, my dear. This story , so beautifully written, is so heartfelt and precious. May God continue to bless you. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations .


Chère Kristin--I have recently rediscovered you on a more regular basis and now I understand why. I have also of late let French back into my life, having majored in it in college 20+ yrs ago. It was always such a huge part of my life. Now I have resigned from my job to pursue graduate level work in it. I have been a subscriber of your newsletter "French-Word-A-Day" for I don't know how long...and read it off and on (as time w/work & 2 daughters permitted)...I always enjoyed it. I do relate to your story on a certain level. I understand perfectionism & letting that go with age & wisdom. Je te comprends...pardon me for being so bold as to use "tu", but I feel I know you! I just watched your youtube video the other day (you at the Shakespeare Co.)... Please know: I am now and forever a devoted fan! Amitiés, Debbie Z.


Hello Kristin!
Deepest and warmest congratulations to you!
And... welcome to this symbolic cherry tree!

In all your writing we can feel that love is all around you.
Lucky you! And though I know you only through your much read blog, I do know you deserve this love!!

Do take care & thank you once again for this lesson of humility, bravery and strength.

ps : shall I confess I am addicted to your blog??

Kristin - Exton, PA

Thanks for being such an inspiration and reminding us to always treasure and appreciate all of the little things in life. It's these little things that seem to carry us through life day by day. Congratulations on your milestone!


Blessed anniversary to you, Kristin. Your honest stories make us like you. Your courageous honesty makes us love you.



Life is so daunting, Kristin. I thought I was reading something between the lines, felt something, but let it always pass. Go get 'em girlfriend, for that is what you have been to your readers. You are a beacon of so many virtues to us, your readers. What an inspiring lady. I wish you all the very best, and wish just the same to your special family too for this continuing journey.
Kristin, you rock!

Georgane Sullivan

Congratulations Kristin,
I just started reading your blog in 2012 as my sister, son and daughter-in-law, and myself are coming to France in May 2013. I foolishly thought I might be able to speak a little French by then but know it was a pipe dream. Mai's out, just words here and there. However, I love your blog and know I would love your memoir if it gets done so please keep on trying. For some reason I never saw a picture of you yet but love the one today of you and your adorable husband. Thanks for posting it. A gift of buds on a branch would be such an insightful gift. One to treasure! Au revoir Georgane

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

C’est une grande exploit., mon amie

I also quit a little over four years ago after contributing to making the breweries add night shifts to meet to demands. Ha!

À bientôt

Kamara Alyicia

Happy 10 year and many more you are a very gifted writer and you keep alive my love of France and the French language everyday. God bless you.

Ken Scupp

So many tributes. What could I possibly add? Like so many others I have read this blog for several years without knowing of this struggle. Both the skin issues and this- you are an amazing woman. Bon Courage!
JM est un homme de la chance!

Debbie from Baltimore


Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us, your faithful followers! As time goes by, and now with this new revelation, I see more and more how profoundly your gifts and your strength affect us all. Please know that you have the love and support of so many, and please just keep doing what you're day at a time.

Mary C. St. Mary

Your post touched me deeply as my father never could defeat his demons and stay sober. Thank you for having the courage to share a very private detail with all of your devoted readers. Happy Anniversary...and many more.

Mike Auchard

Joyous anniversaire.


What a priviledge it is to be part of the tribe of your readers. You often make my day, but today your beauty and strength humbles and amazes me.

julie camp

Sobriety is a gift of love you give to yourself, your family, your close friends, and now your admiring readers. Your candor inspires us all to deal head-on with our excesses. Thank you for reaching out and moving us. Congratulations, Kristin, for achieving your 10-year milestone.

You write like honey; we await installments for your memoir. LOVE.


Happy 10 years. MOST awesome! An anniversary to celebrate, for sure!

Thank you for your blog. It's wonderful. Your commitment to delivering it to your readers is amazing AND appreciated.

Wendy Lane Crandall

Thank you for sharing your private struggle. It is beautifully written. Your courage is inspiring. Keep cherishing your life. There is so much more to come.


Congratulations dear Kristi! Your trials and tribulations have made you the writer you are today. Look at all the love and inspiration you evoke in others. Here's to ten times ten more years . . . can't wait to see the finished project. I believe you in you, your husband and family believe in you, all your readers believe in you. Here's to the innumerable, countless others who will be touched by your inspiring writing and deep emotional stories. Oh to be so loved - what a gift! Miss you so much, xx R

Tina in INdiana

♫ ♫ Bonne anniversaire!!! ♫ ♫ Keep it up! What a tremendous accomplishment because you also live on a vineyard! February 1st was 12 years of no smoking for me!
I love your blog and look forward to it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)