dating

"I'm lonely and I miss him." In the middle of quarantine, I let my boyfriend go.

We met at a picnic. I’d gotten out of work early, and I was in a skirt and heels that made my legs look toned. I caught him looking and it felt good.

I was talking to someone about a date I’d been on (my first and only in the six months since my divorce). The date had freaked me out by searching through my Facebook feed and finding a photo of me, my sister and my dad when I was 18 years old. A photo I’d posted four years ago. It was a little stalkerish.

Anyway, this guy leaned across the table and butted in. I didn’t think much about it. He was tall. Had that sexy accent/charm thing. I didn’t even remember his name the next time I saw him. But I saw him around a few times after that.

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We started hanging out in the run up to Christmas. He helped me put up Christmas decorations. He really enjoyed it. He loved doing things with his hands.

We both liked country music.

I knew I was in trouble when he kissed me in the car park the day after Christmas.

It was like I had never been kissed before. This instant warm flush that travelled through my whole body. It’s the first time I’d ever felt weak at the knees from a kiss.

But it was already complicated: he was in early recovery. And I had been in recovery for years.

In normal circumstances, I would have left him alone and told him to call me in a year. But I was dealing with a lot at that point. More than I realised. My defences weren’t working properly, and he — being very persuasive and charming — quickly got under my skin.

It started off well. We laughed a lot. We were comfortable together. We went surfing. Snowboarding. We went to dinner after meetings. He was fun, smart, savvy, and sexy.

We turned off the outside world and spent days in bed. I fell utterly, utterly in love. Just as I had let him in too quickly, I let him take up too much of my focus. I let things slip — friendships, meetings, work. He was my new alcohol, but like any addict in their disease, I couldn’t see it.

Gradually, the small world we’d built tilted off its axis. He didn’t want to meet my normie friends. He didn’t want to do things on weekends. He stopped looking after himself. He started getting resentful and stopped going to meetings.

And I got resentful about meetings too. They took too much time away from him. I wasn’t doing well at my new job. I was let go. I was depressed and grieving; I didn’t realise at the time the depth of both.

Eventually, he started using again.

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There was a huge drug and alcohol bender in Mexico.

It alternated between him being loving and charming, then angry and cruel.

He remembers very little about Mexico— he mostly remembers the fun hour we spent surfing, the delicious lobster meal, and him taking photos of me in my bikini on some rocks.

I remember trying to leave him in Mexico when I discovered the empty packets of the drugs he’d been taking. I remember how he threatened to kill himself if I did. I remember how I flushed everything I could find, how it all culminated with us waiting at the border, while he screamed and shouted at me for hours. My hands clenched the steering wheel aa tears ran down my face.

It was like looking into a mirror of my past life.

This is what I must have been like.

Someone had loved me then; they’d put up with it for over six years. I had never really seen it before.

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In the past year, we’ve been on and off. We’d break off contact, he’d promise to get sober again. And he would. For a while. And then he’d show up. Come back. And we’d be back in Honeymoon Phase I.

But I’d be holding my breath. Waiting. And sooner or later the meetings would drop off again, the resentments would start and then he’d confess to having taken a pill, a drink or something, and again off we go.

I knew that behind the addiction, under all that false bravado and lying was a loving, caring, smart and sensitive man. I knew he loved me — probably still does. I understood the addiction. I’d been there too.

But the feeling I got from lying in his arms, or the warmth from his kisses wasn’t enough anymore. Trying to worry about what he’s doing, trying to keep him sober, took up all of my headspace.

Increasingly, I was the thing he was relying on the most. My own wants and needs got buried under his. I swallowed them down and I compromised again and again. And the energy this took meant less energy for my writing. For my friends. For my life.

It came down to me finding a tiny pill in his cigarette packet completely by chance after we’d spent the weekend together. After I’d let him back in — again — when he’d promised he hadn’t taken anything, that he was sober and still working with his sponsor. He’d laughed when I found it. I wanted to know if he was on anything. He asked what difference it made if I couldn’t tell.

A lightbulb went off in my brain.

He didn’t see it yet. Just like I hadn’t seen it — I’d lost everything and relapsed a few times before I finally did. He didn’t see that this little pill was another Mexico waiting to happen.

I realised I couldn’t keep spending all my energy trying to make him see anymore. Just like me in my disease: It didn’t matter what anyone told me,

I only saw it when I was ready. I walked out without a word. I didn’t even say goodbye.

In my head, he shows up with flowers or a little token. He’s contrite. Sincere. He loves me. He’s found his higher power and he’s taking better care of himself. He’ll be the partner I’ve always dreamed of.

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But here’s the reality: he turns up on my door. Laughing. Smiling. He tries to act like I didn’t get pissed off because he started taking pills again (he only takes a little, he can control it). He doesn’t apologise — doesn’t admit anything, dodges questions about if he’s on something or not, alternates between jokes and seriousness — truth and lies, so I don’t know which is which. He switches on the charm. Offers to take a drug test.

Eventually, I’ll cave and we’ll make love. It’ll be fun and slightly kinky, or tender and loving, depending on what he’s coming down from. We’ll snuggle and kiss until dawn.

But the next day, he won’t take anything and he’ll just want to sleep and eat all day. And this will go on for a few more days. I’ll get restless and irritable. I’ll want to go out and do something — and he’ll feel pressured and guilty.

And this bittersweet rollercoaster will hurtle into Phase II again.

It always ends with my heart in my stomach and feeling slightly nauseous from constantly squashing that gut feeling of “this isn’t right.” Never really feeling safe enough to let my guard down.

I know he doesn’t understand, but it came down to him or me.

This time, I chose me.

I miss him. Especially now that we’re on lockdown and I’m stuck in a place filled with his ghost. I still sleep on one side of the bed. The cat takes up more of it than me.

Every day or so, I’ve written him a draft email and deleted it before sending.

I’ve secretly unblocked him on Messenger and then started writing gibberish, then deleted it, just to see if maybe he’s looking at Messenger at the same time. Maybe he’ll realise I’ve unblocked him and message me first.

I leave my porch light on in case he’s driving past and sees it.

He’s another addiction and I know he will pass, but right now I really miss him.

I pray to my higher power that if he shows up on my door, I’ll have the courage to turn him away.

I’m taking my therapist’s advice: I’m using this forced solitude to be selfish with my time. To focus on the things I really want and put actions in place. And it’s going great!

I’m focusing more on my writing and I’m connecting more with family and friends. I’m networking and building working relationships on Zoom.

I’m working on myself, learning Spanish and doing home workouts. I’m showering attention on my cat instead of a man who isn’t good to me — or for me.

And I’m writing this to you, instead of to him.

This piece originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. 

Jo Buckman is and English born, mostly Australian writer, currently living in LA. When she’s able to be physically separated from her laptop, she can be found camping, scuba diving, traveling the world or reading a book. Sober and single. Currently exploring sexuality, mental health, love and life – and taking you along for the ride. 

Feature Image: Unsplash.

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