Regrets

You hear a lot about damaged people.

Living, breathing human beings with psyches so fractured, they’re almost immobilized, emotionally speaking. I once knew a man like this. For the longest time, I thought I was the one who was bringing the dysfunction into forefront of our relationship. In retrospect, I was merely responding to his lunacy.

How can you detect these broken people? They don’t come with visible cracks, but they’re there–just underneath the surface. It doesn’t take long for the astute observer to notice that something is amiss. It’s by their actions. Attentive at first; supportive in the beginning. Then comes the little white lies. They start out infrequently, but gain momentum. And all of sudden, you wake up one day, aware that you’re already in too deep and panic ensues when you realize that his growing inability to be honest WILL BE a part of your relationship’s vista. Sadly, the lies get bigger and bolder and soon, those little white ones become tinged with vivid anger and resentment. And these become the ugliest of colors.

He was a liar and I would imagine, he still is. He was always of the mindset that everyone else is at fault. He was never errant. The problem lied elsewhere. He drank too much. Way too much. Calling him a functioning alcoholic might be akin to saying a woman is just a little pregnant. But if you were around him enough, you noticed that either beer or a gallon of Jim Beam was never far from his reach. That bottle meant everything to him. He was a coward and alcohol gave him courage–or so he thought. Liquor filled in his character flaws–or so he thought. The problem was that his alcoholism was his biggest character flaw. And he never started a weekend, or ended one, without a bottle or case of something.

I used to ask him about his drinking and he’d glare at me then say pointedly, “It’s a symptom of a bigger problem.”

Meaning me.

My God, we were a match made in Hell. I’d always felt that Satan had a hand in the matchmaking process. What we had was horrible, hellish; we were never happy; not for one second of one minute. Why did I stay? Pathetically, I can’t answer that. I only know why I eventually left. I wanted to continue living and I assure you a death of some sort would’ve awaited me had I stayed. It was that bad.

True, I waited too long to leave, but leave I did and that I don’t regret doing at all. The abject horror that I experienced in that relationship had to have been karmic retribution for previous sins committed.

And let me be perfectly clear about the fact that I wasn’t perfect. He drank and I reacted…poorly. But he dealt the first blow. He was never faithful and stayed out all night with another woman a mere three months into our relationship. He lied and he drank and drank and lied. But please note: one wasn’t a catalyst for the other. He lied sober, too.

In the waning years of our union, I lost a very high profile position and in my line of work, you can never just slip into the private abyss of unemployment. No, when we get fired, it’s accompanied with a press release and an article in the newspaper. I’d never been fired before and I took it hard. So, lapsed into a deep state of depression and that gave him permission to drink more; to cheat more. I sat there, broke, damaged all alone and sad beyond the realm of human comprehension. In my fit of depravity, I reacted to everything by eating pills like Pez. Our mutual dysfunction was reflective and refractive. But I can honestly say that hope was never lost; it never existed.

He was miserable and I lived in the depths of depression, rejection, non-existent self-esteem and a gut wrenching hopelessness that with Martin Scorsese-like attention to detail, directed the downward spiral.

I’d battled abandonment issues all of my life. This delightful combination of professional failure and his pulling away, put me over the edge. I was in a tremendous amount of pain and it had gotten to the point, where I didn’t want to “feel” anymore.

But that was late 2003; this is mid 2008. How I survived isn’t as important as the fact that I did survive and on top of that, time has been kind. Then again, I forced it to be. When it comes to being victimized by mental cruelty–your own and his, what other choice do you have? You gather your courage and then, you exact revenge. First by leaving, then by living well. No more, no less.

I woke up this morning thinking this. I also thought about life and regrets and the few that I have. Most are insignificant:

  • I wanted to be an actress, but went into Broadcasting instead
  • I wanted to graduate from the University of Texas, but instead got my degree from Southwest Texas State University
  • I quit my first TV job because I thought I was in love

But my biggest regret; the one that creates intractable shame in the core of my very soul is the relationship I write about in this post. And the reason why I’ve chosen to write about it now is because I want its exit from my life made official. Let this serve as a public proclammation. I want the world to know that there isn’t a single memory in the wasted seven year span that was our relationship, that is worthy of salvaging.

Make no mistake, I am over this man. The last nail of the relationship coffin had been hammered in a long time ago and the damn thing has been buried for as many years. In fact, he remarried and has moved but for a while there, I had to remind him of that fact. He has (or did have anyway) a terrible, terrible habit of remaining in close contact with all his exes, which meant his Rolodex was huge. It was the same with me after he got married and I know that his “wife” was in the dark about most of his actions and covert activities; as was I when we were together. Odd, that she and I would switch places. He cheated on me with her and there he was, married to her and trying to reestablish a connection with me. And he did it with Christmas gifts, birthday gifts; calls; cards…E-mails. Everything he gave me, I discarded, erased or destroyed. I even had to demand that he quit contacting me. Hearing his voice; seeing his name attached to an e-mail in my inbox created a visceral response.

For a while there, my family would bring up his name (which was rare, but it happened), I’d change the subject. If I saw his first name somewhere, such as on TV or on a billboard or something, I’d look away. And when I saw other people working in the same profession (and his had a particular mode of dress associated with it), I’d literally swallow hard or rub my throat in an attempt to force down bile and sputum.

But lately, I can hear his name and for a few moments, absolutely nothing registers. I have forgotten. I can see his name and think nothing of it. But when I see people with whom he shares a professional connection, the memories come flowing back. I hate it but can’t help but remember. I respond simply by shaking my head in pity and feeling immense gratitude that I no longer have to be among them. These are people who while educated, skilled and entrusted, possess very little integrity,  generally speaking.  This deficit seems to part of the very nature of their business.

But life goes on. I am mercifully, not that same weak soul I was. I not only survived, but I evolved. Worse for the wear, but better for the tear. It’s in the ongoing process of healing that I am becoming whole, perhaps for the first time in my life.

In terms of the ex, I know very little. I honestly don’t know where he is; I don’t know if he’s still working or if he’s still married , but if he is, I can be magnanimous enough to admit that I feel sorry for his wife; in spite of what she did to me. I have no idea as to what his character is like these days, but I’d imagine that he hasn’t changed. His behaviors were so ingrained that modification seemed unlikely. I would like to think that he’s emerged a different man, but like a leopard and its spots, I suspect he’s also unable to change.

And the glory is that after all these years, I don’t care. Apathy is a lovely and for me, a wonderfully covetous state of nothingness. I am there and it is a good place. I’ve forgiven me for allowing myself to live with his disease and mine. I’ve forgiven him, too and while liberating, all sentiment stops there. I don’t wish him evil; I don’t wish him well. I wish him “nothing”.

In the years since stepping free, I have only asked for distance–emotionally and physically and I’ve wished to someday know a much greater love than he was capable of providing; I’ve asked to be introduced to the greatest love I’ve ever known.

Five years later? Wishes granted on all fronts.

,.

8 comments

  1. Seven years of sand led somehow to this teeny-tiny pearl. It seems, from here, to have been worth it.

  2. I’m haunted by what you wrote because it was like reading my life. I was also involved with an alcoholic. I never handed him the bottle but my insecurities did. I hated being in the relationship but I stayed, probably like you, because I was more frightened to leave. I couldn’t agree with you more that it’s a horrible place to be.

    I get the feeling that you didn’t write about all the horrors you experienced. That you even acknowledge that the memories are there and that they’re as horrific as they were is enough. I understand that and I also understand what you wished for and why. I prayed for love, threw pennies in a fountain, wished on stars, rubbed every lamp in every house and in every store wishing that I’d find what had eluded me forever. Well, I finally found love and while it’s not perfect, I wake up every day being happy and content to be in the relationship. As corny as this may sound to someone as obviously intelligent and well read as you are, I’ll risk it. Love isn’t supposed to hurt nor does it come with a price. It’s not perfect, but it’s not something you want to flee either. I’m happy that you seem to have discovered resolution and even happiness. I hope so.

    I have.

  3. My mom lived something similar to this but unfortunately took another path and still carries a huge amount of hate for “that” man. It’s painful to see her so bitter, especially from the perspective of someone who knew her before… and it’s hard to reconcile to the two completely separate women she was then and is now.

    There is much about this post that spoke to me but I think the part that inspires most is this: You not only survived but kicked ass. You recognized that the best revenge is living well, and you have, and you’re inspiring others by doing so.

    As someone at a kind of crossroads in her own life, your story inspires me – not because I’m in a similar situation – I’m not and never have been and likely never will be – but because I admire your gumption and perserverance and somehow I think it will help me find the confidence I need to put myself out there.

    I kinda love you.

  4. Wow, your words are beautiful and really hit home. It is all about the calm after the storm. I’ve only been out of the storm for a year and just started a blog about the devastating hell that is living with an alcoholism.

  5. First off, I still enjoy your writing.

    Second, you know even at my young age, you’ve seen my angst with love, but what you’ve described here as an alcoholic… makes me want to be more aware of how alcohol can be such a large factor in a relationship when it doesn’t need to be one.

    Third, this is some of the best love/relationship advice I ever heard and as odd as it might sound, it came from the show “Scrubs” (the damn show has made me cried a lot for its comments)

    “Dr. Cox: Relationships don’t work the way they do on television and in the movies: Will they, won’t they, and then they finally do and they’re happy forever — gimme a break. Nine out of ten of them end because they weren’t right for each other to begin with, and half the ones that get married get divorced, anyway. And I’m telling you right now, through all this stuff, I have not become a cynic, I haven’t. Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate-covered candies and, you know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can call me a sucker, I don’t care, ’cause I do…believe in it. Bottom line…is the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else, but, the big difference is, they don’t let it take ’em down.

    Dr. Cox: [continuing] ….One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every time, if it’s right, and they’re real lucky. One of them will say something.”

    Just thought I’d share.

  6. Smacky,

    I like your writing too. It’s rather advanced for your age and that said, I can look at you and immediately see that your youth doesn’t eclipse your understanding of most things.

    But here’s where I have to call attention to the one area, you might be lacking.

    You wrote:

    “…..what you’ve described here as an alcoholic… makes me want to be more aware of how alcohol can be such a large factor in a relationship when it doesn’t need to be one…”

    How alcohol can be such a large factor in a relationship when it “doesn’t need to be one….”

    ?????????????????????????????

    Smacky, alcoholism is a thief. It robs you and everyone in your alcohol laden midst of everything and I DO MEAN EVERYTHING. It is true; my relationship with this man should never have been established in the first place. But it did and we were together and we stayed together, for reasons I’m still trying to fathom and every problem we had (and there were many) were further compounded by his drinking and my immature response to it.

    Make no mistake, we’re talking about an egregious disease here. It’s effects are vast and painful and dirivitive. It cannot be lumped into the minutia of marriage. It’s incomparable to quibbles about leaving the toilet seat up; or her lackluster sex drive or his unwillingness to help with the kids.

    And yes, someone said something alright. We said many things at many different times. We discussed staying together; we discussed leaving and we discussed his problem which he more often than not, denied having. But it got to the point that I was drowning in denial–both his and mine–and one day, when it was about to completely take me under, I realized that leaving was the only option. It was for both of us, I suppose. But for me, especially.

    I saw that episode of “Scrubs” and I assure you, what Dr. Cox said resonated with me for days afterwards. Still does. I agree that yes, you can fight for the cause that is love–or what you deem it to be–and you can emotionally duke it out until you’re both blue in the face but even if theoretically, you’re “right” for each other. But sometimes you have to stop fighting; it’s no longer worth the effort and that’s when you take stock of your life. It’s a hell of a note to wake up one day to the sad, stark reality that your one time reason for living, has become your reason for leaving.

    And so you leave and you do so for your sanity.

    If you don’t understand that or how alcholism can be an incredible factor in the dissolution of a relationship, fine. I get that…you’re young. As someone who lived it, I hope you never HAVE to grasp what it’s all about.

    Live well, my young friend…but do yourself a favor; also live wisely.

    LK

  7. This is… beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Being two weeks out of a similar situation, it gives me a little strength. And hope… knowing what I have look to forward to now that I have him out of my life.

    Here are some things I have learned about forgiveness for me:

    1) When I forgive it is for me.

    2) I don’t forget because forgetting means I don’t get to learn.

    3) Whatever I am forgiving is not “Okay” (as in, “Oh, that’s okay…”). It matters and that’s why forgiveness is called for.

    4) I can forgive and still never interact with him again, because my forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean that he has learned anything.

    5) He doesn’t need to know (or get to know) that I have forgiven him.

    My hope is this will help me let go without forgetting. That way I can appreciate — and not be a jaded wench — when I am introduced to the greatest love I’ve ever known.

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