Addiction

This post is not going to be organized.

I was once in a terrible relationship. He was an addict and my first love. For a girl with abandonment issues and from a dysfunctional family that did not a healthy love, make. Our relationship hurdled down a gamut of emotions, as most relationships do. But, dating an addict is different. Dating an addict when they first decide to get clean is extremely different. Dating an addict who is also your coworker and eventually creates this messy triangle between your friend-also a coworker- and you at the boarding school where you grew up and all three work, is novel fodder of epic proportions.

It took me an excruciating amount of time to get to a place where I wished them well. They’re married and have a kid, and I honestly hoped they were in a fabulously healthy place. In order to stay in that well-wishing spirit, I need to stay as far away from information about them as possible.

Finding out that my friend, let’s call her Sarah, went to visit my ex and my former friend made me pause. We’d been playing phone tag and I’d stopped trying to get in touch with her because I knew I’d ask her how my ex was doing knowing it was bad for me. Codependency does that. Falling in love at 24 with a predatory addict does that.

After talking on the phone with my friend I went to a bad place. A terrible place. I knew I would. Not because of how they were doing, but because of how my friend referred to and categorized my relationship with him. It was along the lines of: “…he’s doing so much better now that he’s not with you. His wife [my former friend] is so different from you that he’s a much better person now.” Typing that gives me literal heartburn.

Hearing that made me question my sanity. I began to believe what she said.

However, here’s the truth: He’s not better off now that he’s not with me. Those two statements have nothing to do with one another.

The first time he acknowledged his addiction was while we were dating. He began to see a therapist and do some serious work. During this he began to go to meetings and stop “acting out.” This was a time where he chose to work on his issues and when he became incapable of dealing with them reverted back to old behaviors. This is a person who, while in a relationship; got a blow job in a McDonald’s bathroom because somone offered him one –like it was a box of Nuggets–, who trolled the back pages of The Stranger met up with and received a blow job from a *transgender woman even though he reportedly “was not attracted” to her and hated himself while it was happening, who has slept with hundreds of prostitutes, who, while married to his first wife, had sex with a poor woman in his neighborhood for money several times — they had an “arrangement”, who physically fought an ex girlfriend for pills she’d been prescribed because he was addicted to them.

This is a person who physically assaulted a student where we worked and only received a 3-week, without pay, suspension from his job. This young girl went on to commit suicide a few years later.

I was the adult who saw him assault her, I was the adult who picked up this sobbing child and carried her to safety. Who spoke with his class afterwards and helped them know that his actions were unacceptable. Abuse is never okay.

I was, am, and will always be the person that reminds him of his inability to get clean.

I remind him of his failure. I am a source of pain for him because after knowing all of his dirty secrets, I loved the shit out of him. I didn’t judge him. I stood by him as he treated me terribly. I loved him as he fucked up his life. I walked away when he dove face first back into his addiction in front of my eyes.

He is not better because we’re not together. He is not better because he is in another relationship. I am not, nor was I ever the reason he was an asshole to me and to others. His actions have nothing to do with me.

For Sarah to trivialize a relationship that was pure hell is offensive and hurtful. For her to assume that our relationships are anywhere NEAR being on the same plane is idiotic. I held his figurative head over the toilet bowl while he vomited up his self-hatred, fear, and inability to love anyone not just me. I lashed back at him when he treated me terribly unlike anyone he’d ever known. I stood my ground in situations where his other partners cowered. I stayed in that relationship for entirely too long while he used me.

My memories are real. His actions were real. His addiction is real. Her assessment of my relationship with him is unreal and bullshit. It’s pompous, misinformed, and based on 3 days with a couple and mostly like a shit ton of Facebook photos. Facebook exists to share the gilded and hide the truth. There was no hiding with me. Anyone who dates me doesn’t have to hide.

Typing this is a syntaxed sigh that weighed heavy while internal. This is something for me to look back on and remind myself that it happened. It was horrible, painful, difficult, and real. The first time I fell in love was difficult, ugly, brutal, and very very fucking real.

Ugh, I really need to see a therapist.

*the issue is not with getting a blow job from a transgender woman. the issue is his self-hatred and inability to engage in intimacy during the sexual act…doing something that made him despise himself.

This post is not about death

I believe that there are instances of our life that happen like pictures.  With or without a camera those incidents are daguerrotyped into our brains and we’ll never completely get them out.  One of those pictures is of my first kiss. Another is the scene in my 3rd grade classroom when a girl got a hold of my journal and read the entries aloud. One that just happened is the face my grandfather made as he collapsed to the floor.

He’s been falling a lot lately and I don’t have anything in my toolbox that can help. I’m not a doctor. I can’t research his symptoms and prescribe adjustments that will result in him living longer.  If I could. I don’t know that I would.  He’s been ready to die since his wife died two years ago.  He wants it to be over and yet his life continues.  Well, some version of his life is in the works, but it’s not the whole one. Unfortunately, it’s not even sliced into neat pieces that are conducive to an orderly existence.  His mind is split into pieces that leave him calling me by my cousin’s name, calling his daughter by his mother’s name, and calling his sons by names I don’t recognize.  Sometimes when his computer tries to reboot itself he is left standing blank in a doorway or just in front of the sink.  If my aunt or I recognize the symptoms soon enough we can prevent fall. It’s not always possible.

A few days ago friends of the family, whom I’d never met, were visiting and asked me to describe him in one word. I chose ornery. It was, apparently, a harsh descriptor because everyone looked around the room and silence ensued.  But he is ornery. He is stubborn. He is mean. He is sweet. He is loving. He is my grandfather and I am here for him. I quit my job for him. I am living in the basement of this house for him. And me. I couldn’t remain 3,000 miles away, hear about his deterioration, and be okay.  I couldn’t be forced to deal with his death from a distance as I was my grandmothers’ and a former student’s. I needed to grieve up close for him and that’s what is happening.

I grieve for him slowly as I walk behind him bracing myself for his fall.  I grieve for him in pieces when I have flashbacks to the vibrant grey-haired man of my youth.  The one who would scrub my skin so hard in a Jamaican bathtub that I felt as if my whole self would peel off.  The man who loved me in my youth but allowed me to be abandoned by his son. The man who always had a drink in his hand, but never seemed to be drunk.  The man who loved my grandmother but cheated on her anyway.  The man who never said I love you. The man who loved me.  I grieve for him in whole pieces when I am away and hear his voice on the phone.  When I hear a great crashing sound as I go to bed and run back upstairs to care for him after he has fallen, if he has fallen. The man who I help get in and out of the shower. For whom I sometimes hold my breath as I walk into the bathroom to flush the toilet.  The man for whom I adjust old sweatpants that are too big and need to be tied extra tight to satisfy him.  The man I sit next to as he stares blankly through windows and relives his hauntings.  I grieve for this man constantly these days.  I am living in a state of grief.  It’s not always as hard as it was today.  But I saw his face as he fell and he was so afraid. I was too far to catch him and didn’t see it coming.  I will never get the sight of his fear out of my mind.

This post isn’t about death it’s about grief.  I want the grieving to be over.

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I broke my fast and almost murdered my best friend

My friend often finds herself in the Chicago suburbs for work.  Yesterday around 6:00pm I get a text that says, “Two flat tires will be home SUPER late.” I’d just woken up from a nap because babysitting her daughter earlier in that day while on day two of my fast had wiped me out.  I was nothing short of exhausted.  Day two is usually the worst. Your body is like, “Wait, what’re you doing!? STOP.” I like to take it easy but it was the only day I’d get to see my friends from out of town + my friends wanted their daughter out of the house so I melded both worlds.  I ended up carrying this tiny two year old for most of the day.  After all, her little ass legs only rev up to snail’s pace.

I’m home for the evening when I get a call where she tells me that the garage guys need to get the wheel locks off of the car (they’ve had their tires stolen multiple times), but the keys are in Chicago — an hour drive away. So they decide to try and break them off. In the process of doing so they crack the tires. My friend is obviously upset.  She’s in a super suburb which means it’s hella far away from the city and everything closes at ten. They can’t fix the tire. She can’t rent a car. She’s fucked.  My immediate response was, “I’m coming to get you.” Her response, as usual, is to rationalize why she doesn’t need help and then explain to me why she can do it on her own. It’s annoying that she’s so stubborn. So rather than find a place to wait while I drive out, she argues. Our conversation goes like this:

Her: No, no. I can take a cab to a train. It’s the last train of the night, but I think I can make it. [this is like the worst time to roll the dice]

Me: Let me call (her friend in the city who has a car) to see if she can drive out.

Her: No, let me see what else I can do to figure this out.

Me: I’ll borrow (my friend who just drove into the city’s) car and drive out.

Her: *annoying statement that’s trying to avoid getting help*

Me: I need to have a conversation with them now because if you don’t figure something else out then I won’t be able to get in contact with them to get the car to help you. They have toddlers and it’s getting late.

Her: Something annoying trying to convince me that I shouldn’t bother and that she’ll be fine.

We hang up.

I call my friend, tell her the story, ask her if I can use her car and her immediate response is, “Yes, do whatever you need to do.” I have amazing friends by the way.

I call my stranded friend and tell her I have the car.

Her: …okay, well, I’m going to get a ride to the METRA station and arrive in the city around midnight.

Me: Okay. I’ll come and get you from the METRA station downtown.

Her: No, it’s fine. I’ll just take the “L” into the city.

Me: It’s midnight. That’s dumb.

Her: It’ll be fine.

Me: I’m picking you up from the train station.

We hangup.

You may ask yourself why I’m adamant about going to get her. First, it’s because it’s who I am. If you call me and tell me you’re stuck, I’m going to come and get you. Second, I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and stranded. Sometimes you just want someone to say, “I’m coming to get you.” I don’t have a hero complex — although it reads like it– I just know how annoying it can be to wait for the train after a long day, let alone a shitty long day.

It takes me an hour to get to where my friend is staying to pick up the car. I know I used to live in this city, but I can’t remember shit about getting around. It’s super annoying. Lost twice in one day? Ugh.

I get back to the apartment with the car a little after 10:15pm.  At this point I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE. I head up to the apartment to charge my phone because it’s at 14%. I call and ask her if she’s gotten on the train yet. She says no because the people who dropped her off dropped her off at the wrong train station.  The train doesn’t stop at that station after 10:00pm.  At this point she’s waiting for a cab to pick her up to take her to the correct train station before the last train leaves for the evening. If you haven’t guessed it, her phone battery is also dying and there’s nowhere for her to charge it. I know, I’m shaking my head too.

I forget a lot of what happened here except this part:

She tells me she’s looking into the empty parking lot through the window of the train station and there’s a car behaving erratically. It’s circling the EMPTY parking lot repeatedly and the people inside are staring at her through the train station windows.  Their behavior is making her nervous and she doesn’t feel safe.  Now, my friend is not someone to whom fear comes easily. I can tell by her voice that she’s upset and scared, which is making me frustrated — I know, I know, it’s not a logical response, but it’s my response.  I ask her if she can get somewhere safe and she says she’s waiting for a cab but that might be 30 minutes. In my head I’m thinking, “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LET ME GET YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.” She keeps telling me about this car and how her battery is dying. And I’m like, where are you? I’m coming to get you. Her response, which in my opinion should have been, “I’m at 3459 N. Whatever Street in Whatever town Illinois,” was, instead, “I don’t know where I am and I’ll email you the location once the cab takes me to place where I can plug my phone in.” What? Who says that?

At this point I just said, “Look at the GPS on your phone. Tell me what city you’re in so I can start driving. I have no idea what city/town you’re in so I can’t even leave Chicago.”She tells me the city.

Now, I’m juice fasting. It’s only the 2nd day and I’ve already overexerted myself.  I’m hella cranky. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE, and I thought I was going to be in bed by this point. I am going to drive a little over an hour to get her.  I know that it’s not safe for me, or the drivers around me if I drive in my current state.  So I ponder breaking my fast.  I think. “Well, there’s a vegan protein bar with great salads I wonder if they’re open.” I look at the map and they’re in the opposite direction of where I need to go to get her making this trip almost 2 hours instead of one. All the places around me are bars, or just shit shows in terms on waiting on food, but I know I can’t drive. Well, I know I don’t want to drive like this so I look across this street and there’s a shitty chain pizza place. It’s right there and I know I can get something immediately. With guilt, frustration, and hunger fueling my steps I get some pizza and get on my way.

Minutes after I eat something the headache subsides. I get lost a few more times while driving –UGH– but I get to her.  She’s super grateful and happy that I brought her dog with me. I knew she’s want to see him after such a shitty day.  She does the thing panicked people do when they’re safe, unload all of the shit about their day at lightening fast speed.  I felt badly, but all I want to do is listen to hip hop, drive, and get home. No talking.  I tell her, “…hey, so I broke my fast and I’m feeling kinda shitty about it. I ate pizza and it’s making me feel gross plus I’m tired I can’t give you the attention you deserve. I’m sorry.”  She’s like, “…oh, it’s okay I don’t need 100% of your attention I just need to talk. Oh, and I ate a great salad I feel pretty good.”

This is where I run into trouble. Many find speaking cathartic. I find solace in silence.  How do you maintain your composure when the person you’re around needs the exact opposite of what you need? Plus how do you respond to someone who just sat in a restaurant eating salad and drinking margaritas while you ate shitty pizza and hated yourself? You. Don’t. Say. Anything. I know my emotions are all askew because I’m fasting. It’s 1:30am and my responses are totally irrational and hyperbolic. I’d be picking a fight just to be mean and that’s not cool.  I awoke this morning still frustrated and greasy. I have to start this shit again and that’s annoying.  I’ll talk to my friend about how I felt, eventually. For now, I just want to do yoga, meditate, and find my happy place.