A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Five days ago I celebrated eight years of sobriety. If I’d known eight years ago that my life—more importantly my outlook—could change so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed you. That being said, I’ve been feeling down lately. A lot of different things have been going on, and even before all this happened I was feeling blah for no discernible reason. Last night after class I wanted to cry, and I wanted to cry again when my friend Kevin came over and joked about how long dinner was taking me to cook. Let me rephrase that: I didn’t want to cry so I held it in. Not healthy but I just didn’t feel like it, not in front of anyone.

Class yesterday left me with an old feeling of deep-rooted insignificance. Invisibility, without a voice, unimportant, unheard, silenced. It probably wasn’t my classmates’ intention—certainly it wasn’t Rochelle’s, because she’s the sweetest, most compassionate student in the class, and I don’t know the other guy in my group very well but he seems nice—yet I felt… swept aside. We had to do a case study together on a guy who sounded just like my dad, so I felt like I knew just what to do with this guy. My group had a different, more extreme approach, so my suggestion was outvoted. I just don’t think you can take a person who’s used to eating Philly cheesesteaks every day and tell him he can no longer eat any bread, sugar, fast food, or processed and refined or packaged foods on Day One. The person they described is a heavy drinker with type 2 diabetes. Yet when I suggested abstinence for the client’s third month, the guy in my group was like, Whoa there. Let the guy have his drink. He’s human. The health problems that this guy had, and the effect of alcohol on someone with diabetes—it’s just dangerous. And the way in which this client drinks coupled with the fact that he has a family history of alcoholism suggests he’s a problem drinker, possibly an alcoholic himself. As medical professionals we have a responsibility to tell someone their drinking is dangerous to their health, and that if they’re having trouble drinking they should consider treatment. It pisses me off when students gloss over someone’s drinking because of how acceptable—and not only acceptable but encouraged—drinking is in this country. To have one or two drinks is one thing, but when a person drinks so much their judgment is impaired and they’re causing damage to their health, taking dangerous actions, driving drunk, destroying relationships… Ugh! I just want to scream! I know. I have been that person.

But it’s such a touchy subject, especially as someone in AA. It’s not my job to preach to the world about how they should all be abstinent. For one, most people don’t need to quit entirely. For another, most people—especially those who have a problem—don’t want to quit. But would you tell someone who’s a hundred pounds overweight with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar that it’s okay for them to continue eating fast food? Would you tell someone who’s allergic to bees that it’s okay if they stand next to a beehive as long as they only do it once a day?

The thing is, if a person has a problem, they’ll quit when they’re ready. No one can make them quit. To harass that person about it won’t help, and in fact can cause more damage. But what you can do, as a medical practitioner is inform them that their drinking habits are unhealthy, dangerous even, and suggest that they cut back, and if they can’t cut back, then suggest that they consider treatment. Then it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. And if you’re a friend or a family member of someone who drinks too much, let them know you’re worried about them and suggest they try cutting back, and if they can’t but want to, then suggest treatment. If they don’t want to, that’s on them.

Enough on that soapbox! Thanks for letting me share. Lol.

The thing is, I felt ignored yesterday. I suggested what I wanted to do for a diet plan with this client, and my classmates were like, Well this is what we’re gonna do. It touched a nerve, because the one guy in my group was informed about what deficiencies the client had based on his symptoms, rattled off something about the different metabolic pathways, remembered a bunch of science-y stuff from biochemistry, and my fear is that I won’t retain this information nor will I remember it if I do.

love-yourself

The day before I’d gone on a date with a guy working on his PhD in molecular biology working on cancer research. I didn’t understood much of what he said when he discussed his work, and when I’d mentioned a few things about nutrition, he replied with his point of view as if they were facts, as if he’s the one not just studying nutrition, but having already studied it and become the expert. He mentioned he’d been commissioned as an officer, and I had no idea what that meant. Turns out he’s in the Commission Corps, which I didn’t know existed. All of it left me feeling small, stupid. Apart from his work he didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, and afterwards he sent me a text telling me I’m beautiful and sexy, and has since sent me several texts referring in some way to sex. He’s 33 years old and told me he likes older women because they’re better in bed. I told him the same is true of older men.

I’ve decided not to reply any more to him or the guy I had a date with after class yesterday. That guy was nice but something about him came off as inauthentic. He was almost too nice. His mom died about 10 years ago of cancer, and the conversation about our mothers’ deaths didn’t go in a way that felt right to me. In other words, I am following my gut feeling and leaving these two guys alone.

self-worth

Ditto for the guy I had a phone conversation with last week. I also met him through Match, and he was funny, but I just had this gut feeling something wasn’t right. He seemed like someone I’d have drank with back in the day. And that’s a red flag.

A couple of weeks ago my closest guy friend “in AA,” Spencer, decided he couldn’t talk to me anymore because he wants more than a friendship. I use “in AA” in quotes because he doesn’t really practice the program or go to meetings that much, and although I’m bummed, it’s a relief too. For one, it’s difficult to try to be a flotation device for someone who’s drowning, particularly when you aren’t the best swimmer yourself. And another, maybe it’s just not right to be friends with someone who wants more. This was one reason I didn’t have close male friends before Spencer and my other friend Kevin. Kevin also wants more, but says he’s okay with just being friends. I don’t want to cut off the friendship because he’s a good friend but at the same time, am I doing him a disservice? If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t even hang around a guy who I liked for more who didn’t reciprocate the feeling. This is why it’s best for us girls to just stick together.

Kevin hurt my feelings last night, joking about how long it was taking me to cook dinner, as we often do with each other. We always joke in that mean sort of way, like the characters on “It’s Always Sunny,” or my dad and his friends, insulting each other, and while this wouldn’t work with my female friends, or maybe it would now depending on what and how it was done, it’s hilarious to us. Until last night when I thought he was for real. I was already feeling sensitive, wanting to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him because I just didn’t feel like going there. The problem with that is this is how you develop closer friendships. By opening up and letting yourself be vulnerable. I don’t know if that’s a good idea with Kevin given that he’s interested in dating me, so I’ll let myself off the hook.

Another mental note I made for myself was the two times I went out with the two aforementioned guys, I was in an awkward position of saying yes because it’s my default reaction to be a people-pleaser. The PhD guy asked at the end of the date if we could go out again and I just said yes. How does one say no in that situation? Then the second guy asked if I wanted to continue the coffee date by going somewhere else to eat, and I said yes even though I didn’t want to. I decided if these kind of situations come up again I’ll say, “I really had a good time but I’d like to talk to you on the phone a couple more times first,” or “I have other plans,” or “I’ll be in rehab for the next year,” etc. Anything. I could tell the guy I’m alcoholic and I’m twice divorced. That I have explosive diarrhea and need to go home immediately. Lessons to be learned, my friends. Note to self: be prepared to say no.

do-i-like-them

To top it all off, as soon as this semester ends I’ll be flying to Georgia to take my 95-year-old whippersnapper of a grandmother to Albuquerque to see my sister and her kids. Y’all, this trip is gonna be like an updated version of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (by Flannery O’Connor) except hopefully no shooters (didn’t the Misfit have a gun?). Hence, I am stressing.

Also, my ex-husband texted to say he’s in DC this week for work and wanted to know if I wanted to hook up with him. Lord help us all. There’s a man out there who I will love and who also loves me for me and doesn’t think of me as a good piece of ass. I just haven’t met him yet.

make-ourselves-strong

St. Patrick’s Day has had me thinking about the last time I drank, in Savannah with my second husband and his parents, when I got so drunk I felt like I’d die the next day. I’m so glad those days are behind me.

Off to work now but first I want to say that I’m grateful for the life I have today. I’m glad to be sober, to be dating, to be attractive to guys, to be able to choose, to have an opportunity to take my grandma to New Mexico.

Peace and love,

TCH

Freedom and Self-Love on Valentine’s Day

This article from the New York Times jumped out at me this morning when I logged onto my laptop: For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person. Stephanie Coontz writes, “Many of the problems experienced by divorced and widowed people may result not so much from the end of their marriage as from having relied too much on their spouse and thus failing to maintain social networks and the skills of self-reliance.” Amen to that, sister.

Last night my friend Kate invited me out, saying sometimes a group gets together to go bowling, and also there’s a girls’ night out on Fridays once a month. I’d been invited to the girls’ night already, so I’m excited about that. Mixed feelings about both because there’s a back story to both situations, but overall I feel glad to be single because when I’m in a relationship I feel like I can’t participate in these kinds of outings. Or if I do, it’s not as much fun. Never have I been in a social circle that included the guy I was dating, because I don’t typically date guys in AA, which is where I make all my friends. Kate told me last night she doesn’t want to be in a relationship; she’d much rather have her freedom and have friends. She looked at me and said, “You don’t seem to broken up about Mark.”

Spencer had said the same thing, and I must admit it’s true. My life has been far less stressful without driving 30 minutes to Mark’s house, packing and unpacking my stuff, skipping meetings or missing outings because I’m with him, etc. I told Kate I wish that he and I could’ve kept the sex part lol, and she said something like I needed a much more low maintenance sex partner (lol). I do want a companion, more than just a sex partner, but what I also want is someone I can share a social circle with, but who has their own friends, and doesn’t become possessive of my time, who’s okay with me having my own friends.

So here’s the backstory to the social situation I referred to earlier. One of the girls in the group is someone I sponsored but who decided she wanted another sponsor because she felt like she didn’t see me enough. She’s younger, about 28, and ended up asking someone else to be her sponsor, a bossy woman in her late 50s. Apparently both of them are part of the group that goes out, so it’s mildly awkward. I can’t help but feel rejected by Brooklyn, the girl I’d sponsored, and I’ve just never liked her new sponsor. And Brooklyn started dating this creepy older guy who has about 25 kids, a guy I’ll call Jake, who’d sent me a like via Match a while back which I ignored. Dude is twice Brooklyn’s age, and he has so many kids, including little ones. He’s not attractive in the least; he looks like an unattractive woman. Brooklyn on the other hand is new to AA, pretty, young, and she has whole life ahead of her. It’s just creepy. None of my business, but still. I can’t help but think if I were her sponsor I’d be giving her better guidance, I hope, than that bossy Bianca. For one, I’ve been there before. I’ve dated creepy guys not worth my time because I was so insecure I loved the attention and didn’t think I’d get it anywhere else. That’s experience I could’ve shared with her, and she could do what she wanted with that information, but it would be a seed, I hope. I suppose I still can share this with her if the opportunity comes up. Bianca’s the kind of person who will have an opinion and will probably give it. She seems like someone who tells you what to do, and maybe Brooklyn likes that. But it wouldn’t work for me.

It’s none of my business but that’s what goes through my head. At the root of all this is me feeling rejected because Brooklyn left me for another sponsor (as if she was my girlfriend lol), when I felt like we had a good relationship. I was always available for her, we met frequently, we’d gotten to her 7th step already. The only thing was we didn’t see each other at meetings often because I was usually with Mark instead. She didn’t know that but probably guessed, so I feel judged, like she and everyone else thinks Bianca is somehow a better person than me. As if somehow I’ve failed at sobriety, lol, which is ridiculous because I’m still sober, and I still practice doing the right thing in all my life situations. Anyone who can’t see that chooses not to see it, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I know who I am and what I do. What I forget is that Brooklyn’s decision to fire me and get someone else has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her. Sometimes when people do that it’s because they feel like they’re not working a good program and they want to blame it on their sponsor. That’s why I changed sponsors so many times during my first four years of sobriety. Whatever the case, I must remember not to take it personally. And who knows? Maybe the guy’s not really a creep; I don’t really know him… Btw, I’m coming up on eight years now! What a blessing and a miracle that is.

Anyway, the other awkward situation is that the group of friends who go out bowling sometimes includes the guy I’d dated briefly (Jay) who went back to his girlfriend (Yvonne), a couple I refer to as Jayvonne, and Kate wanted to know if I’d be okay with them being there. Honestly, I don’t really mind, and would love to go out with the group; it’s only mildly uncomfortable when Jayvonne is there because I feel bad for having slept with him when they were separated. No one, including them, knew they’d get back together, so it’s not like there was infidelity, but if the tables were turned I wouldn’t like having the other woman around. Kate doesn’t think she’d mind, and he doesn’t care and probably likes it because he’s a guy, and he probably feels like a rooster. Anyway, I’ll probably go out with the group soon. That whole situation is just a lesson learned not to sleep with guys in the group. Or anyone else for that matter.

Both of those situations, and my recent break-up with Mark could leave me feeling rejected—and I do, especially with the sponsorship situation. I mean, I hate rejection, no matter what form it takes. But these situations also make me glad to be single. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I actually feel grateful to be single, to have my freedom, to do whatever I want with my time. I’m glad not to be in Brooklyn’s or Yvonne’s shoes. I’m grateful to be enjoying school this semester. My room and bathroom have never been cleaner and more organized, which I’ve been able to maintain because I’m actually home now, so my space has become a haven. I have a warm home, a fun job with supportive co-workers, friends and a social network in sobriety, and sobriety itself. If you’d told me 10 or 20 years ago this is where I’d be today and I’d be happy, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I am.

I hope everyone can find this kind of peace and gratitude. You just never know where you’ll find yourself. I know a lot of people who are suffering, and I can relate. I’ve been there. For SO long. Years. But if you believe good things are just around the corner, that good things are here already, you just have to open your eyes to them—life gets better. It really does.

May you find peace, happiness, and self-love.

Here’s a song (a cover of Meghan Trainor’s song “He’s No Good for You” by someone named Eliza) I’d like to dedicate to Brooklyn, and all the girls out there who are dating creepy guys who don’t deserve their time, because they want to fill a void that really only a higher power and self-love can fill… Girl, I’ve been there before, and I hope never to go back.

Love,

TCH

Men and Relationships: My Favorite Addiction

This is the time of my life in which I’m single. I hope. I can’t make any promises, y’all, because you know how I am. The first good-looking, interesting guy who catches my attention I’ll be imagining how we’ll live together. Men are like a drug to me; relationships are an addiction for me. If Mark texted me today to see if I wanted to get together, you better believe I’ll be there. I’ll say it’s better this way, I can live my life and he can live his, we don’t have to get married, we’ll just see each other on occasion…

But if I play the tape the whole way through, as they tell us in recovery to do, it doesn’t end well. It can go one of two ways. Either he comes back to me or he doesn’t. Let’s say I get what I want. Guess what? I won’t want it anymore. Oh I’ll play the game for a while, years even. We may even get married. And then I start feeling trapped. You mean I have to stay with this guy for the rest of my life? Eventually someone appears on the fringes who seems much better, who I have much more in common with, who I wish I was married to instead. Secretly I’ll pine over that guy, or I’ll create some persona of who I think that guy is, and I’ll feel like a fraud, living a double life, knowing in my bones and in my heart I don’t want to be married to this guy anymore, pretending that I do. Wishing I was single. Free.

How about being grateful for what I have today?

Yesterday I woke up so grateful not to have the flu, which has been going around, literally killing people. At work our immune support section looks post-apocalyptic, empty, signs up that the manufacturer is out of stock. I’ve been taking so many supplements I don’t even need to eat food (JUST KIDDING—everyone needs to eat food, y’all, and that whole breathatarian bullshit is a dangerous lie). But I’ve been taking a lot of herbs and vitamins, and washing my hands like a mad woman. I’d gone home the night before not feeling great, paranoid and convinced I’d wake up with the flu.

But then I woke up feeling SO happy, and so grateful to be well. That’s a blessing that not everyone gets. For example, one of my friends has rheumatoid arthritis which has no cure and causes her so much pain she can’t work. And I’m over here worrying about my silly boyfriends? I mean, come on. Now’s the time I can embrace this moment.

Last night I went to a women’s meeting, which I love because rarely does anyone talk about drinking, which I don’t care to talk about so much anymore. Even though I’m an alcoholic, drinking is just not something I think about very often anymore (which is a miracle because for 20 years the obsession dominated my life). In March I’ll have eight years of sobriety, and I thank God for that.

At this women’s meeting I go to we usually talk more about what’s going on in our lives today and how to live a spiritual life, how to find peace and gratitude without using alcohol or drugs to escape. It was so nice to be in a room full of supportive women talking about our lives and how to live better. We all laughed a lot, and I got them laughing too which always makes me happy, and a few women came up to me afterwards to chat. It’s so comforting and welcoming. A few of us even talked about the culture we live in, the families we grew up in, how we’ve grown up with low self-esteem as a result of being taught that getting married (and to marry well) is a sign of success, or that we’re not as smart as men, or just not smart enough or good enough.

When I was in Georgia visiting my dad, he asked me what he often asks when we see each other, which is why my oldest sister and I don’t have good jobs. He couldn’t understand her especially because she has such a high IQ. I’m his dumb, pretty daughter, so I guess it makes more sense for me, and plus I still have a chance to get rescued by a husband. (That last sentence was meant facetiously; I feel like it makes the writing worse if I have to explain that but I would rather have y’all understand me.) I explained to him that Sherry had a good job as a director at an animal sanctuary, and now she’s searching for something new, and we’re happy anyway. Then I tried something new and I asked him, out of curiosity, “Are you disappointed in us?”

That surprised him. He said that he was just baffled, because he’d gotten a job out of college on the air force base working as a chemist, got promoted several times, and retired with a pension. Today is a different day, I explained. If we could have that, or if I could, I’d take it (IF I liked the job, which I probably wouldn’t, lol, but no need to tell him that part). I asked him what was it that makes Tracy, my other sister, better than us? She didn’t work for many years. She got married and raised kids (and she’s an excellent mother and has done a great job, btw, so I’m not knocking stay-at-home moms).

“Well, that’s something,” he replied.

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’d had a good head on my shoulders like Tracy has always had, I’d have found a good man as she did when I was younger, and maybe I’d have had kids (but knowing me, probably not). I’d love to not work, and have free time to do something fun or rewarding such as volunteer work or taking a painting class. And it’s not that I can’t do those things now, but my time is limited right now while I’m in school. And I’m not saying that’s how she spends her time because it isn’t—she’s actively involved in her kids’ lives which takes a lot of work and time, which I couldn’t have done when I was younger, given my alcoholism. To prepare a little human being to become a good, responsible adult is a huge task I don’t think I could undertake. She also got a part time job and has been working to get her CPA. So it’s not like she does nothing; that’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is, when have I ever gotten credit for my independence?

All through college I didn’t ask my parents for money, I took out student loans, I worked part-time. I got married and paid half of the mortgage and bills (my ex-husband did buy my alcohol and food which was ridiculously expensive so I’m not saying I was a saint). The second time I married I paid half the bills, maybe more. I told my dad this, just the part about the husbands and paying half, and he said, “Well they should’ve paid more.”

That’s not the point. The point is I did this all on my own. And am still doing it on my own, working while in grad school. And no one gives a shit.

And honestly, why should they? This is my life, not theirs. And am I going to be on my deathbed one day feeling glad I paid for all of my stuff? Will people be at my funeral talking about how financially independent I was? God, I would hope that wouldn’t be the most important thing anyone could say about me. I just wanted my dad’s approval, is all.

He must’ve thought about it, because lately he’s been sending my sister and me emails talking about how much I helped him with nutrition advice, that I gave good advice that his doctor corroborated. He really is sweet—he’s become much sweeter lately, since he quit drinking a year ago. He’s the person I remember from childhood, who I’d forgotten, to be honest. But he’s a product of his generation, the baby boomers, and his goal in life for my sisters and me is for us to get married so a man can support us. He just wants us to be okay, to be taken care of. But that idea is not helpful for me. My subconscious has been ingrained to believe that I need a man to complete me, and it’s just not true.

As independent as I pride myself on being, which is my ego talking, I’m not really independent as long as I keep looking for a man to “fix” me. I can take care of myself. Today I have God in my life, and for that I’m truly grateful.

No promises that I won’t go back to Mark if he asks, but I’m not reaching out to him, and today I’m not reactivating my online dating memberships. And that’s a start. I really, really want to try to stay single for a while this time. And I will probably go back to Codependents Anonymous meetings.

Here’s a song I love by my new favorite, Taylor Swift. She’s been around for years but at the time I snubbed pop music and country-pop before that. As a side note, I like what she says in the beginning. She’s funny and human, and it makes me glad not to be famous, not to be criticized for my life choices by a public who doesn’t even know me as a person. I love the line, “Oh my God / Look at that face / You look like / my next mistake.” Oh man can I relate.

Peace and love,

TCH

When You Have No Other Choice But to Look at Yourself

Since Mark left me I haven’t cried, except once I welled up when “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor came on at work. I feel numb. My default reaction is that nothing good ever happens to me, my higher power’s plan for me is never what I want, and I’ll be alone forever.

But the new me points out the positives: he reminded me that good guys exist, he encouraged me to use my voice, he didn’t abandon me for using my voice, and I now have time to focus on myself, my school, career, friends.

He also convinced me that I look good without much make-up and my hair more natural. Let me revise that: I wouldn’t say he convinced me that I look good so much as made me aware of how much better women look who do not put too much make-up on. While I personally think I look better with black eyeliner (and I got a lot of compliments!), a Cleopatra hairstyle (got lots of compliments on that too), and unnaturally vibrant auburn hair (and I got compliments on that too!), he made me realize that wearing neutral tones of make-up and wavy brown hair looks… well, in my opinion, fine, and in his opinion, better. I must say no one has complimented this new look now that I think of it so maybe he wanted me to look worse so no one else would like me. LOL. Just kidding. I think he really liked that better, but whatever the case, this is who I am and I don’t want to become the old lady who dresses 20 years younger with a bunch of fake stuff.

Over the past few days what’s really come to mind is that although I still have two years left, I need to figure out how to become a nutritionist. This will be my livelihood. This will be what I do 40 hours a week, presumably. It’s how I’ll spend my days. If I cannot find confidence in myself doing this, my life will not feel worth living. I have no option but to do something for myself.

When I woke up this morning I remembered a girl I worked with at the store, who has since graduated from the school I’m attending, and who works at an apothecary similar to where I work, except she works with a team of nutritionists and practitioners and they advise clients on how to heal or recover or become healthier through nutrition and supplements. She’d suggested that I go to work there last year while I’m still in school, that it would make my life easier down the road as a nutritionist, but I liked my current job too much and didn’t want to jeopardize that. This job I have now is the only job I’ve really loved, with good people who treat their employees well, where people care about each other. It’s the only job I’ve worked in my adult life that was not a shark tank, and I’m terrified to go back to that environment. I wish I could work at the grocery store forever, but even if I made enough money there, I don’t see how they’ll survive, especially with Amazon. And now that Amazon has bought out Whole Foods, there’s no way a locally-owned grocery store can make it in the long run. Their days are numbered, in my opinion.

Even the apothecary probably can’t survive, but it will be a good way for me to get experience advising clients. As it is now, I don’t get to do that much. Customers ask for advice, but because I’m not a licensed practitioner I’m not allowed to give advice, nor can I say anything will treat, mitigate, prevent, or cure any kind of condition or disease. I know more than the average person, but I find it hard to remember what I think I should remember. My boss remembers a lot from when she was in school. She has since dropped out, yet she remembers details I didn’t even get the first time around from school. She knows how the body works and can describe in detail how the different processes and pathways work and the mechanism of action for various supplements. I don’t even try to remember that kind of information. All I can tell you is that, for example, milk thistle is traditionally used to support healthy detoxification. Don’t ask me how or why.

While I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, and my boss is smarter than the average person, I still feel inadequate. But at the same time it helps to know she’s smarter than not just me but most everyone else, and I suspect that when she describes some of this stuff to customers it goes over their heads, so they buy the supplement because they think she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about, even if they don’t. At least I can explain things in layman’s terms, provided I understand it in the first place.

I feel my memory getting worse, and it’s never been great. So that worries me.

Back to Mark: I can’t help but feel that if he were to change his mind and decide to stay with me, to go to therapy and do what he needs to do to manage his OCD, I’d go back to him. I would at least give it a try. It’s worth it, provided we both put in the work needed for the relationship. Maybe it’s more work than would be good for me. Whatever the case, it’s not up to me. It’s over so now I have no choice but to move on, and hopefully look back and see that it all worked out for the better.

Relationships are my addiction. When I’m in a relationship, that’s at the forefront of my mind, rather than the career change I’m in the process of making.

I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how much anxiety I feel about this career stuff. I’ve never had a job I liked outside of restaurant jobs from college, and the grocery store where I work now. Being in the workforce in marketing and even at the law firm before that was terrifying for me. I always felt out of place, never comfortable, never at home.

Sigh.

I have to change. There’s no other choice.

That’s all I got for today.

Here’s a song I’ve been listening to on repeat lately.

Here We Go Again

Mark broke up with me.

Over the few days prior to Christmas we’d grown closer, the intimacy had gotten stronger, we’d talked more, the sex got better. He’d already told me prior to this that he’d marry me tomorrow if he didn’t have these obsessive worries he has, and at that time I thought he’d overcome these worries, eventually. He’d told me he wanted to stay with me for a long, long time, and he wanted me to stay with him at his house as many nights as possible, which ended up being almost every night the past two weeks.

Then last Wednesday he told me he just started crying uncontrollably on his way to his mom’s house, because his mind was going in a loop over past events—his and mine—and he’d thought that crying would be a catharsis, but instead he just felt worse over the coming days. By this Tuesday he went to see his therapist who he hadn’t seen in two and a half years when he was dating his ex-girlfriend. There relationship was on the rocks, and he started seeing this therapist, he and his girlfriend broke up, he started taking Paxil, after a while he felt better and stopped therapy, and then stopped Paxil. He thought he was healed but he didn’t get into a relationship again until he met me.

He knew he had OCD, but he thought it was related only to germs, or so he told me. Turns out he has something called “retroactive jealousy OCD,” as he discovered online. He admitted to me that he’d had this problem in prior relationships, and he was nice to me about it all, repeating that I’d done nothing wrong. I was like, I know I’ve done nothing wrong. I was really hurt. I still am upset by the unfairness of it all, though it’s not his fault.

Retroactive jealousy is a condition in which a person becomes obsessed with their partner’s previous sexual history, so much that they cannot get the image of their partner with their ex out of their heads. I read several articles and blog posts about it, but found this one to be helpful.

This article from OCD UK has a more scientific basis, describes the type of OCD as having intrusive thoughts specifically related to relationships. “Retroactive jealousy OCD,” or “relationship OCD,” as it’s also referred to (though may not be exactly the same thing, I’m not sure), are not medically recognized conditions, but there are plenty of websites from sufferers describing this horrible form of obsession.

But this article I found most helpful because it reminds me that I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who repeatedly asked questions about my past, snooped on my computer or phone, or treated me with mistrust or judgment. Because y’all know my codependent self wants to fix him, wait for him to get better and come back to me. Let’s be real here.

Everything had been going well for the most part, though there were some red flags I chose to ignore. He had asked too many questions about my past which I downplayed because no one wants to admit they got blackout drunk and had one-night-stands with people they’d just met in a bar; however, I did tell him I had done that, which was my first mistake. It was all a hundred years ago when I was drinking and I would never have done it otherwise, but I did it, and it can’t be undone. If I had to do it over again I’d have had sex with only the three guys I fell in love with, but I was deeply depressed back then and would do anything to escape. But what’s done is done and I don’t think about it too much these days. For him, however, he can’t stop thinking about the past. To someone with this condition, they believe that if someone does something once, they could do it again, and I don’t think he understood that I only did that because I was drunk, because he said he didn’t worry that I’d drink again. His reaction to my past, and his incessant questions became unnerving and I finally told him I wasn’t going to answer any more questions, that it was none of his business. It got out of hand when he asked me (in the beginning) if I’d ever had sex with two guys in one day. I realized then that his imagination was wilder than my past. In reality I’m a bit old-fashioned, and I carry shame about some of the things I’ve done, and for the record, I would not and have not had sex with two guys in the same day. I’d like to pretend (and sometimes do) that I don’t care about what I’ve done, because it makes me feel powerful, like I’m the woman who can do what she wants, that whatever a man can do, I can do it too. I also just don’t like to hide things; I prefer to admit the truth when it comes up (if they ask, I don’t usually offer up information), and I hope that the other person can be mature enough to understand that we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. For Mark, shades of gray like that don’t really exist. I think he knows intellectually that I’m not the same person, but he can’t stop worrying about it, and he doesn’t understand that I would not take the same actions today, and that if I hadn’t had the life experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and that person is vastly different from who I was back then.

Mark also had some traumatic events happen to him as a kid. He wasn’t molested but he’d witnessed some disturbing stuff related to his mother that has stuck with him.

Looking back on it, the bad breath incident was another red flag, and then more recently he told me he couldn’t come to my house because he was afraid it would trigger his OCD to see my room and imagine me in it with another guy. Once he snooped on my computer and on my phone using an elaborate lie that he wanted to look at my childhood pictures. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure he was snooping.

He wants to remain friends with me, and has apologized repeatedly, told me I’m a good person and a nice person, reassured me that he doesn’t think I’m slutty. He’d already told me that he felt tremendous empathy for me for my past (I’d also told him about my stepbrother and about my depression that started in childhood) and he felt that the other guys did not deserve me. I’d explained that I rarely even think about that anymore, and that the painful events of my past just make me more grateful for the life I have today, that I am not a victim, that I’m strong, and that I had many happy childhood memories and a lot of love from my biological family for which I’m grateful. But nothing I said seemed to help him.

I told him I can’t see how a friendship would help, that it would be difficult and painful, but he seems to think it would ease the pain for both of us. I’d read somewhere that retroactive jealousy is also referred to as the “madonna whore complex,” in which the guy can only sleep with women he’s not emotionally attached to, because those he’s emotionally attached to are more like his mother to him. So I wonder if he lost sexual interest in me after becoming closer to me as had happened in those days before Christmas. I do know that he couldn’t get the jealous obsession, intrusive thoughts and images out of his head and he started to feel like he couldn’t function, so he felt he had no choice but to break up with me, since I was the trigger.

I’d just posted pictures of us on Facebook, showing all of my 700+ “friends,” mostly people from AA, some from childhood, some from previous jobs, classmates, etc. How many pictures of boyfriends and husbands am I going to have to put up and then take down? So I deactivated my Facebook account, I cancelled my membership with Match and Eharmony (they renew your membership automatically, and I’d kept it going in case it didn’t work out with Mark), and I started back on Prozac because I don’t care about the sexual side effects and in fact welcome them because I want to stay single for a long, long time. As a codependent I’ve never been single for long, having always slipped into a relationship whether I planned to or not, so this time I really hope I can focus on myself, my school, career change, spirituality, friends. I won’t say that I will, because I honestly don’t know, given my track record.

But I really, really hope I can do it this time.

Who knows? This could be the biggest blessing I could’ve received at this time. This may be the start of some real growth for me. I hope for Mark’s sake that he finds true growth too.

Peace, love, and happy new year,

TCH

 

Like Donkey Kong

Remember my post from yesterday? OMG, that was such a long time ago, my friends. How do I write this. I try to keep this blog fairly family-friendly–ish… I mean, in a dysfunctional, f-bomb, keeping-it-real family-friendly way, so I want to keep this all G-rated, or at least PG-13.

Let me just tell you this: It is ON.

Ladies. Gentlemen. Everyone else. I think you know what I mean.

Let me just lay it down for you like this: Ella got her groove back.

Here’s how it went down. Mark got all upset with me because I’d forgotten to mention a couple of previous partners when discussing our sexual history–the details or numbers of which, btw, are none of his business, but which I’d brought up partly because my ex Steven had made a big deal out of promiscuity and shaming women who’d had multiple partners, and I want to be upfront with any guy in the future that I’m not a virgin yet I’m also not on Tinder hooking up with random dudes all the time. I’m a human being and a grown-ass woman with needs just like you, Mister, and I will not be shamed for having made some drunken, embarrassing mistakes in the past, nor will I be shamed for having a friend with benefits after my divorce (or at any time, for that matter).

When Mark got upset, that told me one of two things. Either dude likes me and feels jealous, or he’s a germophobe and a shamer-blamer like Steven. I felt pretty sure it was the former, but just in case it was the latter, I decided good riddance because I don’t need that in my life. We’re not in high school anymore and I don’t need some grown man in his 40s acting like I’m a bad girl because I had a one-night-stand. I decided that if Mark was going to make a big deal out of this and not talk to me, I would move on, because no way will I be ignored or judged like that.

When I was in high school I dated a boy who was crazy about me. I was not that crazy about him but thought he was fun and funny so I dated him. Same kind of situation with my first husband, except I thought he was stable and not really that fun or funny. In both cases I had them wrapped around my finger because I really did not care if they stayed or left. It was manipulative and controlling on my part, and not fair to them. But let me tell you: they loved it. They just kept coming back for more. Steven did the same to me, and it hurt so badly to be on the other side. It’s such a cruel way to treat someone.

So I felt like I was reverting to my old self when I decided not to contact Mark again after he got upset, because I had apologized (profusely and earnestly, btw), and I sensed he was holding a grudge. It felt like Steven all over again, a situation in which I’d made a mistake, and he got his feelings hurt, and I’d spend the next day or week or however long with a knot in my stomach unable to sleep or eat because I’d “ruined the whole relationship” by saying the “wrong thing.”

When I came into AA I learned that the way I’d treated men with mind games like that was not cool, not a spiritual way of living, that it’s best to be honest and upfront, genuine, and don’t withhold your love. Somewhere along the way for me that got blurred with not setting proper boundaries. It’s one thing to say or do something in order to try to manipulate someone into doing what you want, and it’s another to say this is not okay to treat me like this, and I have no problem walking away if this is how it’s going to be. I’d apologized and now the ball was in his court. If he didn’t accept my apology for this minor detail that I wasn’t even required to offer him anyway, which I’d offered of my own volition, well then I’ll be on my way, sir.

And I did have a problem walking away, because the chemistry is beyond galactic, and we haven’t even kissed yet. But I meditated, prayed, went to the gym, texted with friends, colored my hair, repeated the third step prayer in my head throughout the day, and basically did everything I could to distract myself and try to think of everything but him (or studying, which is what I should’ve spent the whole day doing yesterday). Finally I went back on Match and started emailing and “liking” other guys at the advice of my guy friend Spencer, who is a bad influence. I was like, I feel like I should not do that, Spencer. I should be doing something else, like I dunno reading the Bible or something. To get on Match is just trading one drug for another, and what I really should do is just cancel my subscription and focus on school, friends, myself. God. And I only went on Match for about half an hour because, tbh, it was boring me to be on there.

My therapist had actually suggested something similar before, and another friend also texted me that the best way to get over a guy is to get under another. I’d like to go on the record for saying I think—or thought?—this was all terrible advice, and it seemed to me it’s just avoiding the real issue, which is that I’ve got to get right with me, to be okay with me, and not look to external things or people to make me feel better about myself.

But I have to admit.

It worked.

It didn’t completely keep my mind off the situation, and it did get boring after a few, but it helped me to remember that there are so many other fish in the sea who I can have chemistry with, and I barely know this guy. He is not the last man on earth. Okay so maybe he is six foot six and I try not to think of how big his hands are. But this is just lust. Infatuation. And like I said before, big hands are not a requirement. But it felt good to know I had lots of likes, winks, and emails from other men just as or more interested in me. Don’t give your power away, my guy friend had told me. Make him wait. Do not grovel. Amen to that, brother.

Spencer made a bet with me that he’d contact me again though I felt sure he was gone forever like how I always felt with Steven, and my abandonment issues were in high gear. I braced myself, decided who needs him anyway, though I did start to let go a little bit. These guys are interchangeable, my CODA sponsor had told me before, and I’d thought, Wow, that’s a jaded view. But what I think she means is that there’s no such thing as The One, the fairy tale romance, knight-in-shining-armor who does everything you want all the time, not anymore than there’s any person who does what you want all the time. If there was only One then what happens when dude dies or if he leaves you?

Sure enough, Mark texted me around 3pm. It may have helped that I’d already told him the day before, when we were talking about dealbreakers, that I will not be with someone who ignores me, that if I don’t hear from the guy for a day or so without any explanation I assume he’s no longer interested and I will not go after him. He’d basically said yes ma’am to that, so I figured time and his actions would reveal the truth.

And sure enough.

He came back.

He says he’s interested in me, hopes this will develop into something more, plans to keep me warm this winter, etc. Oh you will, Mister.

But at the same time, we’ll see about that. Because this girl is not hanging around waiting for someone to decide when and if they want me or not, ie, that today you hope this will develop into something more but tomorrow you have no time or space for me, nor will I be hanging out with someone just to have someone around.

And that’s all I got to say about that.

What the World Needs Now

It feels wrong to write about anything other than the tragic news of Las Vegas yesterday, or the dire conditions in Puerto Rico, so I feel I should at least mention it before I go into my post about dating. If you’re like me and feel helpless, look up ways to help and just pick the charity of your choice. Since I don’t live in the Las Vegas area, I cannot donate blood, so I donated to their local Red Cross. But there are all kinds of disaster relief organizations you can contribute to.

I don’t know if Puerto Rico is getting the money and supplies that are being sent, from what I’ve heard, but I donated anyway, and signing petitions and letters to Congress because it’s better than doing nothing. People are dying. And suffering. And animals are too.

0compassion

On a completely different note, both of my dates went well. I did not expect that at all. I expected to go on dozens of dates with guys who I had no chemistry with and to meet someone in six months to a year after going out on countless first dates. Not that that won’t still happen, but it’s just odd for both dates to feel promising. I’m not really ready for this! I just went on this site to help me get over Steven 100%, and not to feel so rejected by Jay (who I didn’t care about anyway and who I saw the other night and it was such not a big deal–it’s just that I hate rejection lol), and because my therapist suggested it. I’ve been having too much fun with my friends and my independence to want to ever go back to the codependent, isolated relationship Steven and I had. It would be great to have a relationship with someone and have my independence but I don’t know what that looks like, because I’ve always made the guy my top priority.

How can someone like two guys? And there’s a possible third one who I’ve been emailing but we haven’t went on a date yet. (I’ve already decided he’s probably a no-go, because one of the first emails he sent me he asked me if I was being sarcastic about some well-meaning, benign comment I’d made. That kind of paranoid insecurity scares me, but I do want to keep an open mind.)

Maybe I’m just in love with everyone. I do feel strong love for a lot of people in general. Maybe that’s what happens when you start learning to love yourself? It’s so refreshing not to feel indifferent to or annoyed by most people, but instead to love people for who they are, warts and all. Not that I walk around feeling like this all the time—it’s a practice that’s become easier and easier, and I do have a lot of days in which it takes no effort at all.

My friends all want to know, who do I like better? So far there’s more chemistry with Mark, the extra tall guy, though I have more in common, and feel like there’s more relationship potential with Lawson. Mark’s just a friendly guy who seems like someone who everyone likes. He’s fun, positive, warm. He’s close to his family-of-origin, and he comes across as someone who’s protective, who looks out for his friends and family, which I love. He’s never been married which is a possible red flag since he’s 42, but I try not to judge. It could be my insecurity talking, but he seems like he could be the kind of guy who’s a player but no one knows it because he’s just super nice. He seems like the kind of guy who makes you feel special because he genuinely feels that way about you, but he also feels that way about everyone else in the world. He works for some government organization doing something with plants which he loves and has done for many years, but says he doesn’t make much money but it’s worth it to him because he loves it. I commend him for that, and don’t believe he doesn’t make much money, though I believe he thinks he doesn’t make much. It doesn’t matter to me if he doesn’t make a high salary because I’d rather date a guy who loved his job and made an average salary than someone who hated their job and made high salary. (I’m not interested in taking care of a guy who makes a low salary though. Let’s be real here.)

Lawson on the other hand is so sophisticated I had to wonder if he’s really gay, because no straight guy is that amazing (no offense to my straight guy friends). He’s also tall (but only 6’1 and not basketball-player-tall like Mark), and he’s thoughtful, musically talented (he plays guitar), loves his dog (better than hating your dog, right? lol), loves the outdoors, drives a Harley (okay so apparently I have a thing for bikers, so sue me), and he’s an attorney. He’s really good-looking, more so than Mark, but I didn’t feel strong chemistry. I’m not giving up though because I read an article that says to give it at least a few dates to see if there’s chemistry.

A new friend of mine—who I don’t know that well, so consider the source, because she just married a guy she met less than a year ago on eHarmony, which to me is nuts—but she told me that when there’s immediate chemistry, like that feeling that this is my soul mate, like how I felt with Steven, [she’d said] that feeling might be a red flag that high drama is about to ensue. It’s been bothering me for some time because this is the opposite of what we’re told in this [American] culture, that you meet someone who you just know right away is your soul mate. So I did my research, ie, I referred to Google, and found this article about chemistry. It’s not exactly Psychology Today but good enough for me.

My therapist said something that struck me the other day. We were talking about all the different factors that go into play when dating and whether or not it works with someone, and she said it’s like a crap shoot, that so many different reasons go into it, and she casually threw out a few reasons, one of them being if you’re horny. LOL! But I just realized how incredibly true that is. And it made me wonder if that’s why there wasn’t chemistry with Lawson, but there was with Mark. Because Sunday I was not feeling frisky, though yesterday… let’s just say Ella got her groove back. Ella’s me, but not really, because that’s a pseudonym, but you get the point.

Now that the hormones are in high gear, I feel a sense of urgency to rush into something with one of these guys. Which I realize is unwise. My friend Kathy suggested I do one of two things: 1) Have sex and have fun, or 2) Wait it out and be friends first.

I really, really want to follow option #1. I’m human, y’all!

But I’m going to try and just be friends for now. Kathy was like, Yeah it’s really hard to do that option because you have to come up with conversation and activities and shit. Gah! So exhausting. But that once you run out of things to say to each other then you find out if you really like the guy or not. Seemed like wise advice to me.

Hugs and prayers to all the victims and loved ones of the victims of all the recent hurricane devastation and the mass tragedy in Las Vegas. And rest in peace, Tom Petty.

Love,

TCH