Maggie and Amy Lewis share a home in Delaware, a pair of adorable 1-year-old twins and a love for college sports. Just a few years ago, however, this picture-perfect life was not what Maggie would have imagined for her future. For over a decade, she battled a chronic alcohol addiction that left her feeling hopeless.
“I was depressed all the time," Maggie, 37, told NBC News. "I carried around a lot of shame and guilt." She said she ruined six relationships to addiction before she met Amy, now her wife.
“You’re just constantly thinking about how you’re going to get drunk or high, how you’re going to hide it, how you’re going to feel the next day, how you’re going to feel the consequences,” she said. “It’s a full-time job, and there are no benefits to it.”
Now, three years after Maggie's last drink, the couple says they're able to reflect on the highs and lows of their relationship and celebrate the love they share for each other.
Maggie and Amy met in 2012, after initially exchanging messages on Facebook. Thinking at first that they would just be friends, they made plans to go kayaking on the Delaware Bay.
Maggie recalled sparks the moment she saw Amy. “I knew from the very beginning that I was going to marry her,” she said.
While they were out on the bay, Maggie said they “told each other most of the stuff that we probably normally wouldn’t have told anyone.” Though, Maggie admitted, there was one thing she didn’t mention.
“I didn’t really get into the alcoholism at all,” she said. “I tricked her into falling in love with me first," she jokingly added.
Not long after their kayaking trip, the two women began dating. Within just two months, they moved in together “in typical lesbian fashion,” Maggie joked.
Life was far from easy at first. Maggie was often drunk, Amy recalled, and Amy began finding small empty bottles of alcohol around the house.
“It was definitely horrible,” she said, adding that she had never been around someone with an addiction before. But Amy, 34, said she stayed in the relationship, because she loved Maggie.
“Of course, as an outsider, I was like ‘Why can’t you just stop drinking?’ I had to do my own research to figure out what’s going on in an alcoholic’s head," Amy said. "It took me a long time to understand that, yeah, this is a disease."
People in the LGBTQ community are more likely to suffer drug and alcohol addictions than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Substance abuse, the CDC notes, could be "a reaction to homophobia, discrimination or violence" stemming from sexual orientation or gender identity.
Maggie said she has never felt stigmatized due to her sexuality but said she knows many other LGBTQ people who also struggle with addiction.
“The proportion in the meetings is very skewed,” she said, referring to Alcoholics Anonymous. “There’s a lot more gay and lesbian people in meetings than there are in the general population than if you just went into a random room.”
Maggie said her alcoholism started in high school and continued well into her early 30s. The addiction, she explained, made her feel “about as small as you can feel.”
“It’s a very demoralizing place to be,” she added, “especially knowing how much I was hurting [Amy] and everyone else around me.”
Both women said Maggie’s addiction began to fray their relationship. Amy had begged Maggie countless times to stop drinking, but even after she started going to AA meetings regularly, Maggie said her addiction always managed to overpower her.
Amy said she briefly left Maggie once but loved her too much to stay away indefinitely. “There was just something inside of me that said I have to [stay], and it’s going to get better."
In 2013, Maggie was fired from her job as a result of her drinking. Desperate to get better, she signed herself into a rehabilitation center in Maryland. Rehab was hard, she recalled, but she said knowing that Amy was waiting for her kept her focused on her therapy.
“She sent me flowers while I was in there,” Maggie remembered, noting that the two spoke on the phone every night.
After 21 days of therapy, Maggie signed out of rehab believing she had left her addiction behind.
THEN COMES MARRIAGE
In late 2013, the couple recalled walking out of a jewelry store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with a pair of rings.
“We came out of the store and looked at each other and were like, ‘Wait a second, are we engaged now?’” Maggie recalled. Both women chuckled together at the memory.
In 2014, they got married on the same bay where they had gone kayaking that first time they met. The sky was overcast, Maggie remembered. Then, the sun came out as they walked down the aisle.
“It was absolutely perfect,” Maggie said.
After the wedding, Maggie slowly began to relapse. She had begun taking pills, she said, and then eventually started drinking again unbeknownst to her wife.
One day in February 2015, Amy came home from work to find an empty bottle of alcohol on the kitchen counter. Angry, she confronted Maggie and demanded she go to her AA meeting the next day and confess that she had relapsed.
“For once in my life, I actually did what I was supposed to do, and that was my last drink,” Maggie said. “I never had another drink after that.”
Now, three years later, she attributes that life-saving change to her wife. “Just knowing that she was there made all the difference in the world,” Maggie said.
FAMILY OF FOUR
In mid-2015, the couple decided to have a baby through artificial insemination. After five attempts and endless visits to the doctor’s office, Maggie got pregnant. The pair remembered the morning when the pregnancy test came back positive.
“I went back and looked at the stick and saw it was positive. …[Amy] ran in there. I was like ‘Babe!’ she was like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’”
After another trip to the doctor, Maggie discovered she was pregnant with twins. She called Amy from her car to tell her the news.
“I burst into tears immediately, as soon as I said the words out loud, because it was terrifying,” Maggie recalled.
In the spring of 2017 she gave birth to a healthy boy and girl, Ethan and Quinn.
“It was kind of exactly what you would expect, but it’s much different to know what to expect than to actually experience it, the overwhelming sense of just absolute love,” Maggie said.
MORE THAN A 'HALLMARK HOLIDAY' FANTASY
Both women said their ideas about love have matured since meeting each other. Amy said she now realizes love is not that “Hallmark holiday" fantasy everyone thinks of on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s the getting down and dirty and into it,” she said, “and finding out that the person you love is an alcoholic and has a problem and sticking with them.”
Now, she said, their relationship revolves around raising children together, something she said comes with its own set of stresses.
“I wouldn’t want to be going through any of these highs or lows, or anything, with anyone else,” Amy said.
“I guess before, logically, I knew what love was,” Maggie said. “That you care for them more than anyone else, that you do things that you don’t do for anyone else. You go to bed together at night and all those cute cuddly things. But after meeting [Amy], it just became much more innate. It wasn’t something I ever had to think about anymore.”