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They met in a recovery program. 18 years later, their love is strong.

Susan and Victor Rickman
Susan and Victor Rickman

Salt Lake-resident Susan Koles was over a decade into sobriety when Victor Rickman started attending her weekly recovery meetings.

Years passed, and one day, Susan asked Victor to join her at a gala for a non-profit they both supported. What started as a one-off date grew, and last September, Victor and Susan Rickman sat down together in StoryCorps’ mobile unit in Salt Lake City to reminisce about their love story. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Susan Koles Rickman: So, it starts with my sobriety. About 18 years ago, I would say, I watched this guy, Victor, come into my usual 12 step recovery room. And I watched him for the next six years try to get sober. And I thought, “gosh, I care about him. I hope he makes it.” You know, I got to know him in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I ran into him at another meeting, and we were both getting cake, and I said, “Victor, do you have a date for the Ronald McDonald House Gala?”

And you said:

Victor Rickman: “I do not. Who do you have in mind?”

SKR: Nice!

VR: Yeah. And you said, “well, how about me?” And I thought that you were attached. But, since you asked me, I said, “well, yeah!” Up to that point, I had primarily just seen you in AA, and you were genuine, and you shared well, and you were damn funny. And I just didn't think you and I would necessarily be going on a date.

SKR: But we did go on a date. And it was an awesome date. It was fun. We sat at a table with our friends, and sparks were flying, and chemistry was going. So, we got in the car and, on the way to go home, and I'm thinking, “I don't want this date to end.” So I said, "Victor, do you want to make out?" And I have never seen anyone cross three lanes of traffic and make an illegal right turn into a parking lot quicker. And you turned out to be a really good kisser.

VR: We had a really, really nice courtship. We’d been married before and we'd had past relationships, and the biggest thing I can say is, it was just easy.

SKR: So you started leaving notes on my car saying “I am your safety net.” And “I'm not going to let you fall.” Of course, that made me fall even more in love with you. But it also made me feel like, you know, it gave me a little security. Every step along the way, you made me feel a little safer. And, gosh, I'm so grateful you did that. 

VR: I was making changes in my life, about my sobriety, my well being, working with a therapist, trying to get my life put together. And she was always there. And I trusted her implicitly. She has made me a better man, and for that, I love her so much.

SKR: I've felt my heart open in a way that it never has. My heart is open all the time. And, because of that, I'm kind of free to pursue creative things that I've always wanted to do, and I mean, you've just created a place for me to be the best I can be, too, and I've never been happier in my life. You're the most important person in the world to me.

VR: Thanks, baby.

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