Two years ago today, Flea Market Guy and I were having our last big blowout. I was done with all of his drinking. I was done with the drunk texts to other women. I was done with having to deal with toxic ex-girlfriends. I was done with hangovers. I was done with passing out. I was done being miserable. I was done with missing work. I was done with it all. I don’t even know why I went to his house to help him finish packing up and moving out of the apartment that he lost because he chose alcohol over everything. I think it was my optimism that maybe, just maybe, I would show up and he would see that I was worth quitting for. I selfishly and foolishly believed that I could “fix” him. The same way I have believed that over and over about the people in my life that I love.
And, of course, I was wrong. I was so angry when I went to help him load the last of his belongings into the back of his truck that I honestly didn’t care where he was going to lay his head that night. Looking at his face made me want to spit and to take back every profession of love I ever made to him. He promised he would quit drinking. Words I had heard over and over again. I had watched for months as he went to AA meetings only to leave and go straight to the liquor store. I would come by on my lunch break and he would be passed out on the couch already. I watched as he gagged in the morning, maybe from a hangover, maybe from withdrawals. It was hard to tell in the end.
And over the last two years, I have watched as he has become a totally different person than that guy who stood on the steps with a look of desperation on his face when he said, “can I just stay with you? I promise I won’t drink.”
I didn’t believe him then, but I loved him and I couldn’t say no to him. I mentally prepared myself for the break up that I knew was inevitable when I walked in and found bottles of fireball, but I couldn’t prepare myself that day. So while I hoped for the best, I expected the worst and I let him bring a duffel bag of clothes to my house and nothing else.
You would think that I would remember all the bad stuff like it was yesterday, but I don’t. It just disappears in his blue eyes most days.The reason that I said yes to letting him stay was because the face that was looking at me with such desperation and defeat was still the same face from a year or so earlier that leaned over and kissed me on the cheek at a flea market and made me fall in love before I even knew his middle name. I couldn’t give up on that guy. Drunk or not, we had fun together. Plus, I had been hurt so many times before, I just told myself I could easily handle one more heartbreak. And when the day came that I had to put my heart back in my chest, duct tape and all, I would just do it and move on. Because, honestly, I wasn’t even sure I would like him when he was sober because I never knew him sober.
But, what I actually learned, is that sometimes, you just need one person to believe in you. Sometimes you have to take someone else’s belief and use it until you have enough of your own to keep going. I have learned that people actually do change sometimes. I have learned that old ways of behaving and thinking can be unlearned and retrained. I have learned that communication is the light that helps get us through the dark. I’ve learned that all the cliches about love are mostly true. Most importantly, I’ve learned that having someone in your corner to hold you accountable creates positive consistent changes. Nothing happens overnight, especially when you are wanting so badly for it to happen. And I learned that we actually do like each other. Maybe even more than before.
I stopped drinking when FMG stopped drinking. It was not a difficult decision for me. My drinking was only a problem after the first drink. So, I decided to not have any more first drinks. It wasn’t out of some noble cause. It was because I knew that if I drank, it could derail him. If he got derailed, so did our relationship. And we finally had the chance at a good relationship, I couldn’t think of any brand of tequila that would be worth throwing it away. I still can’t.
And so, he goes to meetings and he comes home and we chat about all the things we agree and disagree with on this path of sobriety. We practice gratitude daily toward one another. We make jokes about drinks we will never have. We both agree that a person can not be your reason for quitting anything. The same way another person can not be your reason for starting anything. You have to find that one little slice of love you still have for yourself and listen to it when it whispers in your ear “you are worth this.” And if you have to turn the music down and wait until 5 am when the world is silent so you can hear this reminder daily, then that is what you should do.
I’m not foolish enough to say that if you stick around through anybody’s bullshit that you will get a happy ending like this. I firmly believe that most people will end up disappointing you especially when drugs and alcohol are involved. Because those two are very selfish. But when your person says they know they have a problem and when they say they want help, I think a little faith and a lot of love go a long, long way.