I've never been close to an active alcoholic before. My little brother and I were shocked when we visited our dad's apartment after the divorce and saw a single six-pack of Samuel Adam's beer in his refrigerator. I don't think we had seen either of our parents drink ever. So perhaps it took me longer than it should have to figure out that my girlfriend -- my beautiful, intelligent, talented girlfriend -- is an alcoholic. I spent the night before on the computer, researching the disease, as well as AA. I'm scared to confront her about it. I know she has a temper, but if there's anyone she might listen to, I think it would be me.
I sit far too primly next to her through two TV shows -- one, ironically, about a character confronting alcoholism. It's getting later, and I know she goes to bed early. I have to start now before I miss my chance.
"Um, so I'm a big wimp and it's taken the entire night for me to talk to you about this, but, um, I'm worried about you," I begin.
I take her hand in mine as she waits patiently for me to continue. My heart is pounding. I tell her I'm a nerd and am going to get my notes, just in case I get flustered. She smiles and says it's okay, she understands.
I only ramble somewhat, and I think I hit almost all my points without having to look at my notes. I'm sure somewhere in my long speech I pause for a breath, but it seems to come out in one long breath of words. I finish with saying that this has been really scary to confront her about my concerns, but I remember that she said her ex-husband never noticed when some of her behavior turned destructive and all she wanted was for him to notice and care. I notice. I care, I said. I would just feel so awful and guilty if something happened to her and I hadn't been brave enough to say anything.
When I'm finally done, I'm surprised that she's gazing at me with a serious, but soft, face. It's one of those looks that makes me feel like it is special, just for me. There's a thoughtful pause. She takes my other hand, so now all four of our hands are piled together in the ultimate hand-hold.
"I know. Last year I went to AA for seven months, which made me realize that I had to leave my husband. I couldn't handle doing both at the same time," she said.
She says she knows it's a problem, but right now she doesn't care. She hasn't hit her bottom yet.
Hand holding, hugs. Quiet, honest, loving voices. Eyes that read love, concern, knowing, distant sadness.
This was terrifying to bring up, I say, but I had to because I love her and in the end, I also want her to know that I do care. But I had no idea how she would react. She thanks me. She's had these talks before, but this is the first time she didn't get angry and yell.
Well, that's a start. Maybe there's hope...
I feel so torn. N is done. He wants to be done with this all and get T out of our lives forever. He doesn't think he can ever get over all she has done and especially the way she treats him. But I can't. I can't let go of her. I'm not ready. I love her. I want to figure out how to make this work. I feel so guilty because N is supposed to be my primary, but I love T just as much as him. Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. Both N and I are grieving this doomed relationship, but we are at completely stages and they do not work well together at all. N is fully into the anger stage, and I'm firmly stuck in denial. Sorrow overwhelms me, followed close behind by guilt, confusion and fear. I don't know what to do.
Saturday, April 10, 1:50 p.m.
I try knocking again. Barking once again competes with the loud electronica music flowing from her apartment. Seriously? Where is she?
For weeks T and I have had plans to spend at least today together, if not the whole weekend, while N is visiting his daughter out of state. Of course, in the days leading up to today, T went underground again and wouldn't respond to any of my messages. Determined not to let my weekend be ruined, I made backup plans to drive down to St. Petersburg and go to the Saturday Morning Market, then try to contact T after her 5K race and then yoga class are over and see if she wants to hang out today. If I couldn't get a hold of her, then fine, I would just go to Busch Gardens by myself.
My heart seemed to stumble over itself and my eyes grew wide when I looked up and realized T and I were walking past each other at the market. I ducked my head down and hoped she didn't notice me. Awesome. Yeah, that's the way I should act when I run into my girlfriend. I tried to wander around carefully as to not run into her before I was ready, but as I was passing a waffle stand, I looked up and was actually surprised to see her walking towards me, head cocked in inquisitive surprise at seeing me. We wandered around together for a little while before she says she has to go home and shower, but let's meet up afterwards and go to the Blues Festival together. I happily agreed and entertained myself by exploring downtown. But then 1 p.m. rolled around and I had run out of things to do. I still hadn't heard from her. I call. No answer. I text. No answer. I stall. I go back to my car to find a fresh parking ticket slid under my windshield wiper. Awesome. And now it's almost 2 p.m. and I'm knocking on her door and I'm sure she's here, but apparently she isn't answering the door for me.
I walk back to my car and send an angry, confused text.
A half an hour later she finally responds. She was tanning in the back yard. Didn't realize I was on a schedule. But now she's going to shower and go into the office. She doesn't seem at all concerned that she just stood me up. Again.
I call her.
"I don't understand what's going on." My voice is small. "I don't even know if you like me anymore."
"I don't like anything right now."
We hang up. Something in my head breaks. I'm tired. I'm done. I can't do this anymore. We can't do this anymore. We're done. I text N to tell him and that I want us to break off all contact from her. He's relieved. He's wanted to be done for a long time now.
Of course, that doesn't last for long. He engages in a texting exchange that night. It starts off innocent. It is innocent. He asks her what she is up to that night.
I'm getting drunk. Isn't that what alcoholics are supposed to do?
Everything spirals out of control from that point. He tries to respond, but she isn't having any of it.
It's over. We're done, she writes. Go rescue someone else.
I'm furious at N for contacting her at all. I had finally, finally decided to be done and had desperately wanted things to end on my terms. Now all of that has been stolen away from me. Still, I don't contact her. N feels terrible, so I soften towards him so he can relax enough to get some sleep. At least it's really over now.
Tuesday evening, April 13
I can't believe how much I hurt. Never in my nearly 27 years have I felt pain like this before. It's not enough to cry until my eyes are purpley red and swollen shut. No. My heart sobs. My throat sobs. My arms and core and soul sob. Everywhere I look, shadows of her creep up to taunt me. Songs on shuffle make me gasp in pain and blur my vision. Passing a car like hers thrusts needles through my chest.
It doesn't help that N is so angry. He's angry at me as much as he's angry at her, I think. I guess we're in different stages of grief. How do you thoroughly mourn the worst heartbreak of your life and still hold onto your current relationship? Especially when the same person is going through the same thing.
Maybe I'll try to draw how I feel.
Monday night, April 26
"Don't go," he begs.
He's calmer now that I'm actually packing my overnight bag. Where I will go I don't yet know, but I have to leave. This fight was serious and real. We really might be breaking up. And as much as that possibility terrifies me, part of me exudes relief. Part of me whispers, "Yes!" I owe it to myself to get out of our apartment for the night and clear my head.
Tears tighten on my cheeks as I close my car door. But as I still don't know where to go, I merely drive to the dark section of our apartment's parking lot and grab my phone. Sorrowful magnetism guides my fingers as I dial T's number. Her voicemail switches on.
Hi. I don't know if you'll even listen to this, but if you do, please call back. I need a friend.
I call my good friend, Patti, next. The timing is perfect -- she's just getting out of work. Stay there, she says. I'll come and get you. You can stay at my house tonight. Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry, are you okay?
I had only just pressed the End Call button when my phone lights up again. I stare dumbly at the picture and name that pops up. It's a good seven seconds of shock before I remember how to answer the phone.
Hey. Are you okay? I got your voicemail and you didn't sound good and I thought, I need to call my girl. I tell her what happened. Our fight. That I left. Are you okay? Do you need me to come and get you? You know you can stay with me any time, for however long you need. You don't even need to call first, you can just come over. I love you.
I thank her. I'm okay for tonight. Tomorrow maybe, though. Thank you.
Tuesday, April 27, 6 p.m.
I stare dumbly at the screen of my iPhone. Cold words glow back at me. She can't be serious. Not even T could be that heartless. Could she?
It was so good to talk to Patti last night. Everything was both confusing and perfectly clear. Just talking out loud to someone helped sort out my thoughts. It's scary, but I've actually been feeling good about being apart from N. I missed him a bit today while I was at work, but I haven't felt the pull to go back home. I like this freedom. Somehow it feels right.
I decided to drive down to St. Petersburg after work and take T up on her offer. Patti won't be home until late tonight, so I don't know where to go before then anyway. Besides, it would be good to see T again, and it meant so much to me by how wonderful she was last night.
Now here I sit in my car in front of her apartment, dumbfounded. I IMed her to tell her that I'm am hanging out, writing, waiting for her to come home. After a long pause, she writes back that she has to work late. That's not a problem, I say, I have plenty to keep me busy with. Another pause. Actually, she finally says, she's not feeling so great. Roundabout ways of saying I can't come over.
Seriously? Seriously? My marriage could be ending, I need a friend, and she chooses NOW to stand me up? Again? I can't even fathom doing that to anyone, never mind someone I say I love.
I blow up.
Finally, Wow. I guess I'm pretty stupid, I say. I actually believed her. I actually thought she cared. Well fine, then. I'm done with her. I absolutely cannot be around someone who treats me so cruelly.
But now what? Where do I go? I guess I could go home. I do kind of miss Nick. Maybe we could talk...
Thursday, April 29
I am strong, but I don't need to prove that by demonstrating how many times I can be hurt and still survive. I am your friend, but I don't deserve to be treated this way. I am here for you, but I can't be when you won't let me in. I hate your actions, but I still love you. I wasn't lying when I said I love you unconditionally. I do. By any black and white sense of logic, I should probably hate you right now, but I can't and I don't. I still see the beautiful soul you hide inside, which is why it makes me so sad when the darker side takes over. Because I really do believe you -- every time -- when your kindness and compassion and friendship and generosity show. I truly feel that in that moment, you mean what you say. And that is why it is so incredibly painful the next day -- or even the next hour -- when it is all ripped away from me again. Because my initial reaction is incomprehension. I can't imagine what could have possibly changed so much so fast. I can't understand how someone so kind can do things that are so cruel.
But then I remember.
I understand, T-----.
I understand the unpredictability and unreliability. I understand the selfishness and the coldness. I understand the inconsiderateness and the violent mood swings. And I understand that those things are NOT. Who. You. Are. They are symptoms just as uncontrollable and blameless as a runny nose, a cough, a rash or a fever. They do not define who you are as a person. They do not make you less of a person inside. And when you are ready, if you are ready to get help and overcome this disease, know that I am there for you, even if you don't want to hear me say that. I truly hope you hit your bottom (without there being any permanent damage along the way) so you can get on to living the beautiful life that you deserve. There is so much happiness in the world and so many people to love you and so many of your talents and wonderful characteristics to blossom and shine.
I wholeheartedly forgive you for all the times I have been hurt by your actions, T-----. I harbor no anger nor malice nor hate towards you. The sadness will fade. The love will not. It might change, but I sincerely care about you as a person, and I always will. I am walking away, but I am not abandoning you. I will always be here for you, but I need space to heal and move on because I know that I can not be with you as long as you are drinking, and without allowing myself space to heal, my heart won't be able to let go enough to move forward. I treasure the wonderful times I had with you, and I will never forget them. I hope our paths wind back together again one day. You're my girl. My Purple. My beautiful T-----. My first in so many ways.
You know how to reach me.
I love you, T-----. Goodbye.