Part 2: The Relapse & The Realization
After the snow melted, I retraced my path home. Twisting through 'The Gorge' and onward and over, finally reaching South Carolina as my son slept in the backseat, I gave some intentional thought to the past two weeks (and the past eight years.) This entire incident of traumatic loss reminds me of the five stages of grief. The relapse I experienced harnesses three of those stages.
Now, the first stage, denial, indeed began on December 8th. That part was long gone when I took that first drink two weeks ago.
And the last one, acceptance?
I'm smack dab in the messy middle. But today looks a whole lot better than yesterday
Over the weeks leading up to the New Year holiday––twenty-three days to be exact; I sailed over waves of rejection that felt like a tsunami. Why so dramatic, you ask? First, I wouldn't say I like change, pal. Like, not a tiny bit.
Plus, do not my husband and I have too much invested in this union to walk away from it? Therefore, it must be one of his passive-aggressive mind fucks, which I have grown accustomed to and have become a willing participant in.
See! It can't be real; he won't leave. He's captivated with her; that's it. I mean, he doesn't even know this woman's favorite film or the song she puts on repeat when she's sad.
He won't go through with it.
I phone the other woman at her day job. She won't speak to me, so I tell her new boyfriend––my husband––exactly what I think of her. My outrage grows when I discover the two of them laughing, behind my back, at the pain inflicted by their wounds.
How dare she? Woman to woman, how?
Before I know it, I'm bubbling over. The nerve of this man I trusted with my heart, my secrets, my scarred soul––turning on me as if we are kids tiffing on the playground.
Anger turns into resentment; I know this because I've watched it in real-time. Easy now. I don't wish to hurt anyone. Well, nobody other than myself, anyway.
Then, on Saturday, December 31st, my mom was in town, and I headed to a coffee shop to "work," knowing damn good and well I couldn't focus on productivity. Instead, I could only think about my best friend and his new lover at the restaurant where they co-work every shift––laughing at my pain.
So, I grabbed my Macbook, crippling fear, lavender oat milk latte, and headed to the liquor store instead. I didn't hesitate a bit, nor did I finish my favorite coffee.
In hindsight, the bargaining with myself and a husband to whom I'd co-pendently attached shows a great deal of delusion I couldn't see at the time. So I began drinking a little more, then slurring, begging, crying, and pleading anytime he listened.
"Don't do this, Josh! Why??"
I told him I could change into the wife of his dreams, not that I grasped the entailment of such a task, but it didn't matter at that point. I was half-cocked and fully lit. And loud, obnoxiously loud, and aggressive.
"Tell me what it is about her that you love more than me?
Tears. Ugly crying. Face like a two-year-old at bedtime.
Not one minutia of the plethora of heartbreak he'd caused me over a near decade mattered as I begged for my cheating husband's mercy.
None of it was successful. Pathetic, most definitely, but unsuccessful nonetheless. The lovebirds continued to kiss after work and plan a jaded future together via late-night text messages while he continued to live in our home and sleep in our bed.
He'd say, "But I just don't know what I really want."
So, yep, instead of kicking him to the curb––because I am not the perfect wife either; I let him stay. Notwithstanding how confusing and uncomfortable that would be, I drank some more.
That's when I considered drinking myself into an even stupider stooper. After all, he'd never failed to pick up my broken pieces before now. Maybe those years of being my caregiver were what made us work.
Yes, of course, that's it! It's so obvious; I became sober six months ago––not only physically but emotionally, and perhaps, he felt I no longer needed him.
Ha! Jokes on you, Josh. Here come the big guns, baby!
We can probably all agree, especially if you are familiar with substance abuse disorder, that other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, run concurrently.
I have suffered from bouts of depression since my teenage years. Some I kept hidden from others. Some are impossible to hide. And although I am aware that alcohol is a literal depressant, the feeling of ease and comfort that comes at once after taking a drink is enough to convince me otherwise when I'm sad enough to believe happiness shall never greet me in this lifetime.
And, a spell of depression, precisely, is what transpired next; imagine that?!
I wished I could sleep until this brand-new year was over. And if that was impossible, at least if I could swipe my debit card at the liquor store without apprehension. Counting change lifted from every catchall is depressing work.
But, as I said before, we can't alleviate depression symptoms with a dose of depressant. I was fighting fire with fire, alone on the floor of my walk-in closet, hiding empty pint bottles inside my boots––and I have way too many pairs of boots. Swearing like a sailor as I promised my inner voice that I wasn't depressed, just betrayed.
Then, the bottom fell out, as it often does when I attempt to drown my painful emotions with deadly poison. Fuck you. Fuck the world. You don't know me. You don't see the volume of sorrow I've suffered, sometimes even unwittingly. Now, leave me to my best friend, the bottle. He'll never cheat on me. He won't end our relationship because some other girl sucks at his neck and is more his "type."
Now, pack your duffle bag and pull out of our driveway, husband. The kid is away for days, and I will escape this dark pit. I won't even blame you this time for throwing me down here, either. Woe is me. Gulp, gulp, gulp.
And don't you dare try and stop me; only I can do that, and right now, I would prefer not.
Of course, the sun rises again, burns my irises, and sends me straight to the toilet seat, where I sit and swear today will be the last. But, then, I open an app or two on my handheld computer, immediately reminded that, though at this moment, I feel I am winning the battle, I know that within the hour, I'll be losing the war.
And the hunt for loose change begins again. That is until the money is no longer the issue; my damned body is betraying me now.
It's Day 4.
It feels less shitty than the last time I hit that number. Less shaking this round. I picked up a "surrender" chip––think poker chip––from an AA meeting tonight. I have enough of them to tile my bathroom floor, so I felt righteous taking more of their plastic memorabilia, but they insisted––friendly people.
I can't say if it were the snow-covered hills we gawked at as I drove my son home from Tennessee, weaving along the blue ridge parkway. But as we did, acceptance washed over me. I know, I know––too soon bitch; go back to spiritual kindergarten; you're jumping ahead. Whatchu know about acceptance?
Perhaps, more than I thought. I had help, though.
Something had a hold on me––mind, soul, muscles, skin, chakras––and I've struggled for decades to get the monkey off my back. I've done so with a myriad of modalities. And I can't quite explain it to you logically, but the "hold" just "let go."
Now it's my mission to keep it away. To participate fully in my own "letting go."
My life depends upon it.