I am Addicted.
So, I stopped drinking alcohol almost 5 years ago. Was I addicted? I don’t know. All I know is that I am shy by nature, introverted, and I prefer one on one deep conversations to being in big groups. So, when I discovered alcohol it smoothed over all my social awkwardness as a teenager. I was no longer shy, I was daring and sometimes obnoxious. I could be a part of the parties and fun in college by drinking, and when I graduated college and moved to San Francisco I enjoyed the multitude of attractive men that wanted to buy me drinks. Was I addicted to the substance? Maybe, but more than that, I was addicted to everything that surrounded it that made me feel validated.
Once I stopped drinking, I started to see my life more clearly. I started to see that when I drank I didn’t defend my boundaries, and I did and said things I wouldn’t do if I was sober. I had started drinking alcohol to escape from myself and fit in, but it eventually served to unleash my inner angry demon and isolate me. All the emotions from the times that I had felt unworthy and depressed and had a drink rather then take care of myself, started to surface. I was no longer the fun loving party girl, I was the angry disillusioned woman who wanted answers.
I grew up in chaos, abuse, and a place where I wasn’t safe and where I wasn’t allowed to ask questions. I didn’t know what it felt like to trust someone and know that they had my back. As a child, I did my best to please my parents and to stay out of the way when they were in a bad mood. I became adept at reading situations and people. I became the observer, listening to the tone of voice and watching body language, rather than listening to the content of what was being said. I wasn’t present and participating, I was guarded and defensive.
I married someone from a similar background, so we understood each other. To have someone finally understand why I suddenly withdrew from situations, or why my temper flared at the oddest moments was validating to me. I just wanted to be with him and no one else. I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like, but I felt as close as I ever had to being peaceful and happy.
We drank a lot. We fought sometimes. But at the end of the day we would go for long walks with our baby, make love and bond again. We were good for a while. I thought I met the man of my dreams, who would always understand and take care of me. I didn’t recognize that his bad moods for no reason, and the way he walked away from me when I was hurting were red flags. I would feel sad when he would ignore me and freeze me out of his life. But I held it all in because I thought maybe I was doing something wrong or that maybe he was so hurt that he was just having a hard time expressing himself.
After a few years, I tried to ask questions about his behavior, but we would always end up in a fight. There were never any answers or resolution to our arguments. We would ignore each other, and then eventually break the silence by having sex, and he would promise to do better without giving me answers. So, started the toxic cycle.
I didn’t realize at the time it was a toxic cycle, because every time we went through the fight/make up cycle, I really did believe it would be the last time. I believed that our troubles were behind us, and we would move forward. But we never did. As hard as I tried to move forward with him, he would always bring us back to square one, which now I realize was his way of maintaining control of the relationship. He would pick a fight, ignore me, or just not be home and not answer my calls. It was this intense back and forth that became toxic and addicting. My whole body got used to the connecting through sex and affection, and then being pushed away. My mind and body started to ride the wave and instead of thinking things were resolved I started to expect the next blow up. When was it going to happen?
This was the hardest part of being in a toxic relationship. When I knew the truth of it, and I knew that it was toxic and wrong, but I couldn’t leave. This is where the real damage started. When I thought he loved me, it was different. But when I knew he didn’t , and that he was just playing me it sunk me to a new low. When I questioned him as to why he treated me so badly on occasion, and he said ‘Because I can!’, I felt my heart fall to my stomach. I knew that I was trapped. He would barely be affectionate towards me, and I would lap it up because I was so desperate. He had me right where he wanted me, and he knew it.
It took my 5 years after I knew the truth to finally walk away. Those were the hardest years of my life. I have never been so lonely, hurt and hopeless. Even as I finally did get away last year, I missed him. I missed the intensity of our relationship. I missed him trying to win me back. Our last conversation was him crying to me telling me how much he loved me. Yes, I cried too, and there was a part of me that still wanted him. But I knew I had to give up the addiction. As hard as it was, I knew I had to say goodbye.
My mind and body are still recovering, and when I started dating a part of me was bored with a simple dinner and a man being nice to me. I wanted him to devour me and posses me. I wanted him to take me back to my place and rip my clothes off in passion. I didn’t care what he wanted out of life, I cared if he wanted me! And how badly did he want me? This is what I was used to, so how can I have a simple conversations about life and feel any attraction? I felt like I was talking to a friend, not a potential lover.
But I have come to realize that this is the same as giving up alcohol. After I stopped drinking, life did seem boring. There were no more heated arguments, bleary eyed late nights, or the whole next day full of regrets. As toxic as that was, a part of my body missed it because it was used to the intensity of it. But I eventually came to discover the beauty of connecting with people on a deeper sober level, and also connecting with myself on that level too.
For now, I know that I need to take care of myself and heal. I know I will eventually get there with a relationship with a man. I need to give myself time and patience because I understand that I am still in recovery.