a distillation of a distilled spirit.
Sobriety killed my relationship. There it is. Avert your eyes, you Puritans, but there’s no contesting this fact. There’s no tip-toeing around it. There’s no obfuscation that can mask it in some well meaning, yet woefully misguided, attempt to present it as something any less unsavory or dispiriting (ha!) than it is. Sometimes, no, oft times, the realities that we clutch close to our chest are greased thick with grime, caked with a coating of raw sewage. This a stark contrast to that which we wish to sell to ourselves and as an extension, to others around us. We want to salvage and preserve our images with a filtered watered-down version of the truth. We carefully hand select our finest-tipped paint brush and attempt to conceal with precision–electing to serve a glossed and gleamed over finished product. But, who are we kidding?
I’m done pretending. I’m done because at this point I’m not upset about it. I’m not ashamed. I’m at peace with the entire epoch. In fact, it’s almost satisfying to get a strong grip on facts and contexts. I’m able to sit back and objectively analyze the tenets and integrity of my former relationship. From my current vantage point, I can extricate myself from the tangled web of emotional elements and with a clear mind and metronome- steady heart, graph out our timeline: from the early seismic tremors, to the subsequent crumbling, cracking, erosion and and eventual implosion of the structural foundation in its entirety. The book end to a romance that was, for the most part, anything but.
I entered into it as an alcoholic with an alcoholic. A dream duo of dysfunction and delusion. Perfectly synchronized in our self-diagnosis of “crazy and in need of a drink.” We were our own worst enemy until we found each other. Our worlds collided and our vices colluded–our sloppy, sloshy solidarity instantly granting us the illusion of normalcy that we so desperately craved. It was in this state of blitzed bliss that we managed to exist merrily (and chaotically, dangerously, recklessly) for years. Here, in our seemingly eternal haze of inebriation, we lived in chunks of time defined by night and day, light and dark. We hit reset every morning, electing to remember solely the good times from the previous evening–the ones peppered with laughter and mirth–the ones giving us the warm fuzzies, the staying up late, the spontaneity, the careless disregard for societal rules and norms, the hot unhindered, untethered and unpredictable sex, the snark and sarcastic wit that emerged with a few too many down the gullet… the shared memories of careening towards a black-out together. We blocked out the blurry and bleary battles, hid the spilled and broken bottles, skipped over the alcohol-fueled arguments that sometimes got too handsy and hurtful, swerved around the emotional roller coasters that led to holes in the wall, broken furniture, neglected animals, medical bills, humiliation,self-inflicted wounds…mars and scars a plenty. It was messy, beautiful, dramatic, theatric, bombastic and gloriously chaotic…. at times truly Shakespearean.
Then we got sober… at different times…and things changed.
We grew apart because under normal circumstances we would have never been close together to begin with–proximity wise, maturity wise, personality wise, goal wise, etc. Alcohol was our binding agent. We drank together. We meshed beautifully when an IV was firmly inserted into our veins, poison pulsating throughout, with notes of pinot and bottom shelf wood varnish….errr…Taaka vodka to sate the palate and obscure our harsh realities with an even harsher aftertaste. We then became equals. Everything else dissipated in a dizzying fashion the more we drank. Nothing else mattered except our shared desire to drown our disorders out with a neutralizing agent. We felt normal in our abnormality. We continued this way for far too long. Years, literal years of our respective lives.
But, here’s the interesting part…the humanizing element to all of this… throughout it all, we forged a bond that WAS real. The love was real. The degree to which I cared for her was immeasurably deep. All was true. All was legitimate. But, so much of the passion, the desire, that magical spark that serves as the backbone of any long-lasting romantic relationship dried up when the alcohol drip switched off. That love, no matter how pure, profound and substantial, on its own, could be enough to keep us afloat in the absence of all the other myriad qualities and traits that make and shape a quality partnership.
With sobriety came the reemergence of our former selves, of the personalities, peccadilloes and peculiarities that we had sought to outpace and evade in the past through our drunken marathons. We suddenly had to face that which we hoped to never encounter again. That was scary. It was scary then and it continues to be scary now. Essential? Sure. But, a horrifying prospect to come to terms with on the daily. We had to exit the safety of the cave we had holed ourselves up in for the better part of our twenties. The light on the outside was blinding. We were disoriented. We were not adjusted. We were not ready, but who ever is? We stare into the mirror and that reflection we see proves not only to be more wrinkled and aged than we last remember, but unrecognizable on a psychological level as well. There is a lot of anger and resentment boiling right below the surface. And in the months that follow that last sip of scourge of self-loathing is A LOT of introspection and reflection…it actually becomes rather all consuming and inescapable. There is a struggle to accept the wasted time. There is a lot of internal interrogation, a lot of meekly verbalized “Who Am I’s?” Months of this existential questioning and re-discovering follow that last swig of Svedka. It is grueling. It is disheartening, discouraging and disparaging. The days seem long. The nights are longer. All of your troubles and issues metastasize, eventually seeping into and out of every area of your life. Nothing and no one is spared. You start to doubt that any of this was even worth it. That little puckish voice you naively thought you had successfully squandered, re-manifest itself within your ear- whispering sweet nothings, purring and cajoling, pulling and tugging at your increasingly weak resolve. But, you now have control. You have power. You escaped the clutches of a life fueled by liquor… liberated yourself from the libations. You realize you have strength. You recognize your individual worth. And then the brick wall… you look around and grasp that even though you have had someone offering support beside you throughout the entire arduous process- you ultimately did this on your own. You did it. You.
And at this point, you finally get a chance to observe and analyze the situation you now find yourself immersed in. Once you are able to slough off the muck, wipe the crust from the corners of your eyes, shake off the slumber and reorient yourself with the rest of the world– you might come to the realization that you’ve emerged from your cocoon as a changed entity. Post-chrysalis, your wings still wet and folded, you can only focus on yourself and your personal wants, needs and desires. At this juncture you can’t go back to who you were before because you are literally just not the same. And you never will be. That’s ok. That’s good. But, the effect and probable strife that this will have on you and your significant other’s shared relationship is significant and likely insurmountable. It’s no one’s fault. But, it is a harsh, unpredictable and unforeseen post-script to your sobriety saga. All the differences you had previously managed to ignore, overlook or avoid become all that you can focus on. The jarring discrepancies, the varied tastes, the disparate dreams, the dissonance and discord, the utter lack of any commonalities or congruence in communication. Everything becomes magnified. You try to force it for awhile. You want so badly for this story to have a happy ending. You want this to work. You overcame so much. Don’t fail now.
Because, like I previously stated, you grew to love and care for this other person on a level you never thought possible. You would give your life for them, to them, with no hesitation or questions asked. You glean great comfort from their presence. You miss them when they’re away. You spend the bulk of your time worrying about their well-being, wondering what they’re thinking or feeling, and working to make sure they know they are appreciated and important. But, as the days wear on, with your mind and body growing sharper and more aware with each sunrise, you recognize that it’s just not enough. It will never again be enough. Something is missing. You feel lonely, despite never being truly alone. You feel misunderstood despite the other party knowing every intimate detail of your existence and being. You feel ignored despite every word being heard and digested. And you feel trapped despite being offered every bit of freedom you could possibly hope for.
And there we were. We were shells of what we once were as a couple. The fun was gone. The spark and sparkle dulled and turned into ash. We were set in our routines. We could have continued on in this manner indefinitely. We could have. I would have. I’m not afraid of comfort. I embrace monotony, tedium and a repetitive unvaried pattern of existence. I was content. The fundamentals were all in place, the basic boxes ticked off: the love, the affection, the respect, the shared experiences, the compassion. The absence of the fire and flames? I could tolerate. She could not. And that is okay. As it stands now…. she freed us both. I should thank her.
It hurts. It hurt then…it hurts now. Yes, it still stings. But, not as much as the acrid aftertaste of a stale lukewarm shot of vodka at 7 in the morning to combat an oncoming hangover from a week-long bender. And the truth is that at two months into my post-breakup life, the pain has dissipated and has been replaced by a semblance of relief. No regret. No yearning to turn back time and Butterfly Effect this entire situation. Nope. None of that. I now can clearly see this as an opportunity to move forward, to reestablish a friendship with her at some point, and in the process forge a stronger sense of identify for myself. I want to answer that rhetorical question of “Who am I?” with a definitive. I need to know ME in order to know what I want out of life and eventually… in a future partner and enduring relationship.
It’s all for the best.
I mean at the end there… I viewed drinking again as the only way to save my relationship. That’s when you know you’ve taken it as far as you can. That’s when you know that it’s time to move on. I could not accept it then. But, I accept it now.
But, yes…. sobriety killed my relationship. And we knew it might. We knew it was a risk. Yet, for our own personal betterment, we still took that chance. We bit the bullet. We pulled up our big-girl britches and powered through the sobering up process as gracefully and with as much dignity in tact as we could muster. In the end, we failed as a couple. BUT, we succeeded at obtaining control over our own disease.
And that is something.
So, such is life. Win some, lose some. Gain knowledge and grow as a person in the process. I haven’t seen her since the split, but I think we both can attest that we have and continue to do so.
This was written as a response to a recent article I read: Secret to a happy marriage? Maybe drinking alcohol, study says
Alas, I can Absolut-ely see how this study bubbled up into existence. It makes life fun, but there always needs to be more below the surface. My next relationship, if I ever get to that point, will be a sober one (for me) and i will put on zero airs nor attempt to mask who I really am. Honesty all the way!