I am writing to you from an empty coffee table within an even emptier AirBNB rental in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I am here because I choose to be; I am here because I need answers. I am here because I am at the “end of my rope”, as some say, and I don’t know where else to go or what else to do at this point. I have felt my life spiral out of control; I am barely holding it together. I need you, and this laptop, and this blog right now. I need to stay grounded.
Like many others in this city and South Florida in general, my fiance is a resident at a substance abuse rehabilitation facility. Today marks the 30-day anniversary of his admission.
I am a 27-year old Texan-turned-North-Eastener. I hold a very demanding position in the healthcare industry; I graduated top of my class at one of the most prestigious schools in the south. I travel 3 hours a day by train to get to and from work; I’m out of the house by 5:30 am, and I get home around 7:00 pm on a good day. I come from a small family with big Texan values–I must have recited the Golden Rule a million times as a child. I grew up going to Sunday School every week and was raised with the slogan “Honesty is the Best Policy” stamped across my brain. I pride myself on being independent; I love others deeply and I try to see the best in (most) people. I have an affinity towards anything furry and adorable; I also have a weird obsession with chocolate
I’ve also freshly discovered that I possess many other qualities and characteristics: I suffer from some sort of martyr complex. I’m a control freak. I can forgive and forget only so many times before I go off the deep end and pull an Amy from Gone Girl (ie, go full sociopath). I harbor a lot of self-resentment and a side dish of self-pity. I have a low self esteem.
I’m a lot of things.
I’m also engaged to the most kind, gentle-spirited man on the face of this planet. My fiance is, to the world, perfect. He’s exactly one year, one month, and one day younger than me (so, 26 for those of you who are stuck on anything past 2nd grade level math like myself), yet he’s accomplished so much: graduated from an Ivy League school, climbed the corporate ladder faster than anyone, ever, at his Fortune’s Top # company. To an outsider looking in, my fiance has it all: the job, the girl, the dog, the apartment, the life…
What people don’t know is that my fiance is fighting a daily battle with alcohol and pills. What people don’t know is that my fiance is struggling with honesty, and addressing his self-loathing. What no one knows, outside of family and close friends, is that my fiance has a disease that has its claws in him so deep, he will spend the rest of his life fighting it.
What no one knows is that my fiance is still the amazing human being he appears to be to the world…he just also happens to be an addict and an alcoholic.
All this to say, if you had asked me three years ago, four years ago, five years ago if I wanted to marry an addict and an alcoholic, I would have looked at you sideways and asked if you were crazy. Addicts and alcoholics, I thought, were “not my type”. They just weren’t. They were selfish, they were lazy. Addicts and alcoholics were wreckless and stupid; they were hell-bent on destroying themselves and taking down with them anyone who stood in their way. Addicts and alcoholics weren’t normal. How could I ever love someone who loved a cheap bottle of vodka or a script for stimulants more than they loved themself? How would I even give myself the opportunity to begin to love someone like that?
I have seen what addiction and alcoholism does to people, to families. My own family has not been allowed to exist without feeling the pain of the disease. Growing up, I saw a lot, though I’m finally comprehending and feeling it now. I saw the consequences of my uncle (drug of choice: crack) stealing from my ill grandparents to get his next fix. I saw the heartbreak. I saw my uncle leaving his daughter, so young, behind for months while he went on binges and lived on the streets. I saw that same cousin pleading with him to be present; I listened to her grieving when he wasn’t. I saw my uncle finally change when it was too late, 20 years later. His daughter has disowned him, the greiving has turned into hatred.
I saw my great-uncle showing up to family gatherings with a bottle of wine already opened and in-hand, reeking of alcohol. I had to endure the drunken lectures about life and regret. The same great-uncle later died from damange caused by the disease; no one was surprised, but his children were devastated.
And yet…here I am. Sitting at a coffee table, alone in Ft. Lauderdale, because I am absolutely, positively, 100% in love with an alcoholic and addict. He told me the third week after we started dating he was an alcoholic. I’ll never forget. My fiance took out his Blue Book and explained to me what AA was, what alcoholism was, and asked if I was “ok” with dating “someone like him”.
I would be a liar if I said I haven’t thought about what my life would be like now if I had just said…”No.”
But I didn’t. My heart swelled, I looked at the brave man in front of me who wasn’t scared to reveal to me his demons, and I told him I was fine with it. He was going to AA…he had it all under control…everything was going to be fine.
But it wasn’t. And it isn’t fine.
Tomorrow, I’m going to write a post about my fiance’s struggle with alcohol and drugs. It’ll be a hefty post, and you may even relate to some of it. The lies, the heartbreak, the shame, the rebuilding of trust only to have it shattered once again…it’s a vicious cycle.
It’s an exhausting cycle.
But, at the end of the day, I have chosen to be here.