Sitting at the lunch counter with Mase I twirled a straw wrapper between my fingertips and tried not to meet his eyes. “So, I, uh, so I… I relapsed.” He was the first I told in person. The weight of it on my shoulders was released, then quickly replaced as tears came to my eyes and shame moved in. It’d been 36 hours since I sat in an old friend’s apartment with a bottle of bourbon, but I was still having trouble believing it happened.
He didn’t ask me why. He knew why I drank after over three years of sobriety. The only reason anyone ever relapses, I couldn’t find a reason why it mattered if I stayed sober anymore. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t go looking. I didn’t make phone calls. I didn’t go to a meeting. I just gave up and I drank. Another split-second decision that I’d have to pay for.
I didn’t keep drinking. I went to a meeting as soon as I could. I earned my 24 hour chip and then sat in my car sobbing. Not for the things I’d lost, but for the things I am. For the places I keep coming back to. For the selfish, self-serving, and stupid things I find myself doing over and over again. For my carelessness. For my apathy. For my lack of patience. For my passion and stubbornness. For my hurtfulness. For how pointless and hopeless this all feels. For all the things sorrys and sobbing won’t change.
Yet I continue forward. Despite my current inability to see why. Though I feel I don’t deserve it and it doesn’t matter anyway. I climb back up and I put one foot in front of the other and I go looking.
Go looking for something–for anything–that makes this feel a little more manageable. That reminds me I am someone worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness. Which proves I can change and grow. Something that will tell me it doesn’t always come back to this. That I can keep looking. That I will find the reasons and learn to keep them close.
Private places to cry.
Andrew, Mason, and my parents.
We go back to places we remember. Try to nestle back into the space between tree trunks we grew with, but we no longer fit there. The moss, the roots have overtaken everything. This is not the place we once frequented. That space does not exist.
Visiting with arms I’d forgotten, comfort and safety and memory. A reflection of something I wanted, but never had. A promise unkept. Not made by the person who could keep it, but the one who needed it. People do not become other people by you envisioning a spark and hoping. What you see if what you get, so make sure you’re paying attention.
Nadine reminds me that I almost ended up in a psych ward a year ago. Tells me I am a fire that he extinguished. Tells me how she’s never seen me happier than I am now. Tells me I deserve it. I earned it. Tells me I’m worth it. She tells me, “This is like drinking. You have to just cut him out.”
Inhaling sharp I realize I’ve been one foot in and one foot out. Half-hoping there would be a reconciliation with a man who is only living in my imagination. The one I thought I married, but never actually met. With passion. With emotion. With an unapologetic lust for the relationship. Those attributes did not exist in him and so I thought they didn’t exist at all. Thought I wasn’t the type of person who deserved them. Thought I had to find a way back into a relationship that was not what I wanted, but was as close as I was going to get.
But fuck that.
I broke down the night before and Andrew drove to my house and carried me inside. Put me in bed and wrapped his arms around me even though it was so hot we stuck together like a mother’s skirt and a little kid. He rubbed my shaved head and told me I’m perfect. That he loves every messy inch of me, even as I sobbed and told him I was broken. He told me he trusts me and he knows me and he’s unafraid of what may be coming. And I believed him. And my breath slowed and I relaxed. He’s uncovered the part of me that can be comforted, that can be calmed. That is open to being loved and loving fearlessly.
So when I got back from coffee with my ex-husband I did not sit down and write the email I was thinking about. I did not tell Mason I couldn’t do this, that I need him. Instead of giving up on the idea that I deserve happiness and passion, I drove to Andrew’s work and left a note on his windshield. Too many words to say something as simple as, “I love you. Let’s do this. I’m all in.”
Photo courtesy of Loic Djim.