Getting to the other side

I left a toxic relationship a year ago, and just like when I was drinking alcohol and stopped, it is taking a while for my body to recover and adjust to a new normal. I have come to realize that just as I was in recovery for several years after drinking, I am now in recovery from the toxicity of someone putting their shame, anger and fears on to me.

In my toxic relationship, I was a place he could release all the parts of him that he didn’t want anyone else to see. After a while, I became numb to his outbursts and his need to start fights with me. I stopped engaging and I shut myself off because it hurt too much. When I stopped engaging, it allowed me to eventually see the patterns of our relationship for what they really were; a toxic cycle of trauma bonding. And it made me start to wonder if he ever really did love me.

I left the relationship but where did all that negative energy go that he directed at me over the years? I shut myself off, so I was not releasing that energy. I believe parts of that energy lives in me still. Just like any traumatic situation, it takes a while to heal from it. And I know the way I approach life and relationships has still has not completely healed.

Do I regret staying as long as I did? I don’t have an answer to that. I can only trust the process of how things are unfolding for me now. But, I do know that I wasted a lot of years trying to figure someone out, that did not want to be figured out. I wasted a lot of energy trying to hold together a family that was already broken beyond repair. I wasted a lot of my youth not feeling pretty, sexy or wanted. And that makes me angry sometimes.

I guess it is anger over living a part of my life that was so much harder on me than it needed to be. I was living in a place where every day was hard work. Even vacations I spent on eggshells trying to predict someone else’s mood. I don’t know if it could have been different for me. I was a different person, and a part of me wonders if I brought this on myself. Maybe I was destined to live this way no matter who I was with. All I know is I felt so much hope and wanted so badly to start a new life away from the abuse of my past, and that hope was crushed and my heart was broken.

So, I feel like I am at a disadvantage now, because I would like to have the affection and stability of a healthy relationship, but I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t trust who I am attracted to. I seem to be attracted to men that help to distract me from diving deeper into my own feelings of what I really want and need. These men also keep my insecurities at bay by feeding my ego, and giving my mind something to try and figure out.

I had a fun summer of dating these type of men, and I know I needed to explore and experiment. But, I also know in the long run, this isn’t a healthy place for me to be. So, I deleted my dating apps and decided to take some time to reflect. Since doing this, I surprisingly have felt more agitation and confusion. But in sitting with those feelings instead of looking for a distraction, I started to wonder what was on the other side of that agitation?

I know when I stopped drinking alcohol there was a period that I felt nothing. It was a terrible feeling, and if I had thought that I would feel that way for the rest of my life, I would have probably started drinking again. But somehow I knew there was something on the other side of that nothingness. And there was! There was a whole world of subtle feelings that were deeper and more meaningful. There was also a whole new way my body could feel. Without drinking alcohol, my body eventually felt so much more alive, sexual and empowered.

This week I started to realize that this process will be the same when it comes to relationships. Yes, I have felt agitated and confused lately but I also know that there is something on the other side of these feelings. My last relationship was tumultuous, overwhelming and traumatizing. I am used to relationships feeling this way, so I think if it doesn’t have these elements then it isn’t interesting. But, that is not true! I know that there are subtleties of relationships that I have yet to experience.

Just how life seemed dull at first when I stopped drinking, so relationships seem dull without the drama. But that won’t be forever. I can sit with the confusion and agitation with the faith that once I get through it there will be something better for me on the other side. And just as I did when I stopped drinking, I will trust in the process of getting to the other side, because I know a whole new world awaits!