Thursday, April 5, 2018


I need to write about what happened to me in the past two years. I don't want to.

I need to put these words down, though. I need to get them out of my body, stop carrying them. They have been stalking me lately. Tap-tap-tapping on my brain. You need to look at me. You can't ignore me forever. I'm hurting you.

I need to write about this because until I do I can't process it. Until I do I don't really have to process it. 

I have to process it.

TW: alcoholism

For almost a year and a half, I was in a chaotic, dramatic, emotionally manipulative (abusive? I don't know...) relationship with an alcoholic.

I was scared most of the time. Not for my life, but for hers. And maybe for my life with her. I was scared of that, too. Of being dragged down.

She lied to me. I didn't know the extent of her issues with drinking, the truth of her alcoholism, until about 4 months in. 4 months in, when she got black out drunk, got angry, got belligerent, got scary, almost walked into traffic, and peed in my bed in her sleep. When I woke up in the soaked sheets at 3 AM, bewildered and shocked, when I woke her up and asked her to please please get up so that I could change the sheets, she was still angry, still drunk. The next day we fought in a restaurant. She was mad at me somehow, for her drunkenness and her behavior. Probably because I had seen. I spent two weeks trying to get the smell of her urine out of a mattress that was not mine. I needed to get my deposit back.


Early on, before I knew, before I understood, I drove 5 hours in a tiny rental car on icy roads in the dark just to spend two nights with her. When I got there, the sheets on her bed were mussed and tangled. I saw this, but didn't understand. Hours later as we're in her kitchen drinking wine, leaning against the counters, she confesses to me, "I slept with someone else." "Oh, when?" I dumbly ask. This is allowed, after all. Allowed in that she wants it to be and so I agree, trying on the mask of someone who can be in an open relationship even when the relationship in question is brand new and built on a paper-thin foundation, ready to break.  "A few hours ago," she says. She apologizes, cries, rationalizes. I am stunned, embarrassed, hurt, confused. I spend the rest of that weekend licking my wounds, pulling away, trying to pretend I'm not. Wondering what I am doing there, but staying all the same.


I spent a weekend alone in a snowstorm, in the apartment I had shared with my ex-girlfriend, surrounded by the artifacts of our life together, fully faced with the choice I had made. She "wanted time alone," though she was always, always telling me how much she wanted to see me whenever she could. But then, she didn't. She disappeared. One of many, many times. Only looking back can I understand that she was trying to hide her drinking from me. She spent that weekend, I know now, with bottles of wine, passed out and escaping from everything. From herself, from the world, and from me. I had no idea. I spend that weekend devastated, heartbroken, confused, utterly alone. Re-reading text threads, trying to figure out how I could have misunderstood so completely how she felt. I thought I was crazy. I wasn't. 


"Have you heard from her?" I got this text so many times. From her mother, mostly. Her mother, who knew, when I didn't yet know, why she was gone. Where she had gone. "Have you heard from her?" was a call to arms. "Have you heard from her?" meant that she was in danger, again. All the calls, the texts, from me, from everyone, pleading and begging for her to let us love her. Begging her to let us save her. "Please just let me know you're ok?" So much fear. Boundaries broken. I begged friends I barely knew, had just met for the first time the week before, to go knock on her door, use the spare key, check that she hadn't choked on her own vomit, died in her sleep. Sometimes I feared she might try to hang herself, her depression was so violent and so full of self-loathing. Horrible images of this filled my thoughts as I spent sleepless nights waiting for my phone to ring.  These were my weekends when we weren't together. Always scared. And also? Victimized. Terrorized by her refusal to be in the world. By her anger that no one was there. But we were. I was.


It took me too long to realize that we mostly just got shit-faced together, stumbling home in the cold, too late, her falling down drunk, banging her head on some dangerously hard surface, startling me out of my drunken revelry. “Oh. Wait, that was bad, are you ok?” Always laughed off, brushed off, sometimes angrily, by her. One time it was the tile-on-top-of-concrete kitchen floor that met her head so violently, as she slid off the stool. I remember the sound.

Most mornings her hands would shake. I noticed it almost from the beginning, and told myself it was a side effect of a medication, or something. No. Withdrawal. I could have known this if I wanted to? I didn't want to.

One day, she was found in the parking garage at her job, half in the car, half out, passed out. She had driven to work and passed out. She had been drinking all weekend. She hid this from me, though we texted and Facetime'd and I suspected but didn't ask. I guess I wanted that weekend off.


I went on a vacation with her and her family. Much too soon, but it felt romantic, daring, welcoming at the time. We walked on the beach, lingering far enough back behind her family to have our own conversation, still learning about each other, shyly exploring what was happening between us. Every night of that trip, she would be too drunk, sometimes furious at me for not wanting to have sex, or not in the right way, or at the right time. Once, in the hot tub with her mother and her brother, she was suddenly belligerent, clearly drunker than everyone else, and not the same person I thought I knew. I watched her mother change, too, into someone I didn't know, staring her down, telling her to calm down, to stop. Oh. Now I see what that was, the warning in her mother's eyes. They all kept this secret from me, naive in the cold spring sun.


She invited me to go to her friend's wedding in Maine. I flew in the early morning. She was to meet me there, driving up herself as I flew. I didn't hear from her until I landed in Maine. She wasn't there. She had "overslept." She gave me no more explanation, then told me an hour later that she was on her way. I waited for 5 hours. I didn't know where we were staying. I was stranded. 

She showed up drunk, a half empty bottle of vodka at her feet in the car. We fought in Arrivals as she begged me to get in the car with her. I refused and she tried to grab my bag from me, to make me go with her. I yelled at her to stop, begged her to leave the car where it was and catch a cab with me. She stubbornly climbed back in the car, stared straight ahead as I pleaded with her on the curb. I took her phone from her to find out where we were staying, begged her again to come with me. She ignored me. I stood on the curb in shock as she drove off, still drunk, heading to our rental. I followed behind in a cab, too stunned to cry, wondering if I should have called the police on her. I still wonder.

When I pulled up behind her at the rental house, she was sitting in the driver's seat, sulking. We checked in together, me all smiles and lies for the host, trying to distract from her drunkenness, the fact that she could barely make it up the stairs. In that adorably quaint room in a strange city, I stared at her bewildered, speechless, scared. She was a stranger, then. She had no answers for me. "What do you want me to say?" she repeated every time I asked her why. She stormed her way back down to the street to get her bags. She was gone too long. I watched her stumble back up the steps to the house with her suitcase, almost falling every few steps. She re-entered the room drunker than she had been, finished off the vodka in the parked car.

I begged her not to drink for the rest of the trip. We had a drive the next day, to actually get to the wedding, and I couldn't drive her car. Please just don't drink tomorrow? She would not promise me, and was annoyed at my asking. She passed out. It was early afternoon.

I sat in that quaint little room in that strange city and couldn't believe what had happened to my life. I tried to figure out if I could just leave. Fly back home and leave her there. I called my ex, the only person I wanted to talk to in that moment. The only person I could trust. It all felt like a twisted dream. I was terrified to actually leave, scared of what she would do, how she would hurt herself or worse if I left her. I felt trapped, caged, pinned in by her self-destruction. I rented a car, took a cab back to the airport to get it. When I returned, I noticed her tire was flat. I envisioned her driving up onto a curb with enough force to split the tire, somewhere along her drunken drive, and shuddered at all the tragedy that had been narrowly avoided somehow.

The rest of that trip is a blur of sadness. She couldn't explain to me what was happening, or why. She was angry. I was stunned and could hardly believe that any of it was my true and actual life. She continued to drink, defiantly, aggressively, the entire weekend. I drove. We smiled for the selfies, pretended to be happy. How did I get here?

We broke up, of course, after this. But, it did not take.

She went to rehab, of course, after this. It did not take.


She convinced me in the fall that she could "drink moderately," didn't need abstinence, that it was too rigid, too one-note. The AA party line was not for her, she said. She was stronger than those people. She was different. She convinced me. I wanted it to be true.

In Las Vegas she drank and drank and drank. I watched and noticed and worried and said nothing. I was not happy. I was scared, again. I wondered, again, what I was doing there.

I took her back (went back to her?) so many times. What haunts me most is why.  Why and how was I so sucked into her orbit, her vortex, her pain and fear, again and again?

To escape from my own?  


Once, long after I knew, a call from her mother, after days of no communication from her. "She's drinking and she won't stop, I don't know what to do." And more calls, and more begging. Please don't drive right now babe. Why don't you take a nap? Please don't get in the car. You don't need more to drink right now. Please? Please. She Facetime'd me as she drove, drunk, to the liquor store, to make sure I knew that she was ignoring all of us, that she was intent on continuing to hurt herself, to put her life and others at risk. More calls and texts with her mother, helpless and scared. A plea to a cousin, who called the police, to try to save her from herself. She spent that night in jail, drying out. She lost her job soon after that.


She had bought a ring for me. Had ordered it. Had shown my best friend. She cancelled the order, told me so, after she was fired for showing up drunk to work. She was fired for showing up drunk to work.

Two months later we sat at a fancy dinner in a fancy place where she told me she had been planning to propose to me. That very weekend, if everything hadn’t fallen apart. But everything did. I was relieved. Angry. Ashamed at how much I had lost myself. At how much I had been fooled. At how much she had fooled herself. At how much I had fooled myself.

How much of it was willing? How much of it was running? How much of it was me?


Things ended because I finally couldn’t ignore that I would never believe her again. She was sober (again). She was trying (again). I felt trapped (again). 

I was not often angry while I lived through all of this. I am so angry now. I know she is sick. I know she hurts. I also hurt. I am also hurting. I wonder sometimes if she really knows. Sometimes I barely know myself how truly affected I am, how terrifying so much of it was, how much it all still haunts me now. Does she know? Does it matter? I don't want it to. I hate that it does.

I want to forgive. Myself. And her.  I know that I really have to look at what's happened to me, acknowledge what I am carrying in order to be able to put it down, to be able to heal from it. I know that I have to feel it to do that. I'm feeling it now, ready or not.

I'm ready to be unburdened of this. I hope writing it out, saying it aloud, helps me to be free.

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