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.”
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.