the love drug

I’ve awakened to a startling clarity that my love addiction works overtime, patiently waiting for a weak moment to reassert itself, like a dormant sickness that lies in wait for stress to shake down your immune system.

For a few years, I’ve been matter-of-fact about my sex and love addiction, running around with the false belief that if I no longer had casual hookups that I was fine. I drew this conclusion because I was well aware that I had been destructive and hurtful to others in my carousel of casual sex encounters.

Yes, this was a good step, and a fine start. What I failed to recognize, until recently, was the fact that this was only part of my problem.

I failed to see that my love addiction was and is more entrenched in me than sex or alcohol. Alcohol was a gateway to forgetting my pain, and running from it. Sex was much the same way, and it provided a way to numb out the feelings in that moment. Though it became a terrible cycle where I needed more in order to keep the feelings at bay.

But love addiction is much harder to harness. We all need and desire love. I find myself stymied with the challenge of not getting consumed with pursuing love the way a marathoner pursues a faster pace per mile. In fact, one should probably not pursue love. Love should find us. The love we have with friends or family has grown over a period of time. It is most definitely not pursued.

It seems like as soon as I figure out one challenge in the love addiction department another one pops up, almost as if the universe knows that it has my full attention again so it says, “Here’s another one now that you figured out that old issue. Take care of this one too!”

Earlier this week I successfully avoided replying to my ex-husband’s email. I was happy with myself that I did not give into my feelings. I was smug with myself for all of a hot minute when I found myself at dinner with this ex-boyfriend from 2008. Since I recently decided not to move in with him as his room-mate we’ve been on okayish terms. I took him up on his long-standing offer to go tv shopping with me since he’s an electronics connoisseur, and I’m barely aware that they don’t make tube televisions anymore.

I love the ease of our friendship in which I pass my yankee bean soup to him while we’re having dinner at the diner before tv shopping. This freakishly big bowl of soup came with my dinner, and I ate some of it, then passed it on to him so that he could eat some as well. We consumed the bowl of soup that way, passing it between each other and eating from the same bowl until the soup was gone.

In spite of the fact that we have few commonalities, I found my heart leaping up and down for him that evening. There’s a comfort in the way we just link arms or hands without even thinking about it.

He’s back together with this gal that has an admitted jealous streak. I only learned of their recent reconciliation at dinner that night right before tv shopping. Thankfully, he told her about going tv shopping with me, if you read on you’ll see why that was a good thing.

We had given up on tv shopping for the night, and the store had an arts and crafts section that I availed myself of with the chance opportunity in that store. I rarely set foot in this establishment because of it’s vast size, and my own discomfort with it’s sizable influence in the market. This store has such an influence that I will not give them any further advertising by naming them here.

We turn the corner so that I can look at their assortment of felt stickers, and there she is, the gal he’s dating again, with her house mates. She’s tall, svelte with black hair and fair skin, and she’s waving around Hershey’s chocolate chip bags in her hands when we come upon her in the aisle. She asks me what I’m doing in the store. I say, “shopping.”

“Oh,” she says. “For what?”

“Stuff,” I say, and turn around to go back to looking at felt stickers.

Admittedly, this was a total bitch move on my part. I was aware of it in the moment I did it, and I did not care. While at dinner my ex-boyfriend asked me not to text or call him in the next three weeks because she departs for her home country for good in three weeks, and they are “together” for her remaining time in the United States, as she successfully defended her dissertation a few weeks ago. Apparently, she has a tendency to search his cell phone, and interrogate him about what she finds.

When he made this request of me I laughed at him, and said “Sure, I rarely call or text you as it is. But what the hell happened to you that you’re putting up with this?”

He admitted to me that jealousy is her major flaw (indeed it is, a few months ago she called me from his landline after she found my phone number programmed on his phone), a big reason they do not have a long-term future; however, he proclaimed that she is “a quality woman.” I was stunned that he would put up with such stupidity, but I finally recovered from my stunned laughter, and allowed myself to be dragged into the world’s most controversial store chain in order to shop for a tv.

Back in the ginormous store I’m looking at felt stickers, refusing to move from my spot. She and her house mates are a mere few feet away. Out of the corner of my eye I see her grab onto his arm, she asks him something to the effect of when he will be done so that he can come pick her up, and then I hear her kiss him. Or, rather, I presume she kissed him. The kissing sound was unmistakable. How apropos that this Jerry Springeresque experience was happening in THIS store.

I felt myself become enraged inside my being, all the while aware that I had no right to feel this way. He and I have not been together since 2008. I started thinking ridiculous thoughts like,”Why does he like her over me? I’m crazy, but not that crazy. Did he choose her over me because she’s so beautiful?”

In reality, it was never between her and me. He and I broke up a long time ago, and remained apart for good reason. We’re not right for each other. He’s still one of my best friends, and sometimes that friendship messes with my head. I get mixed up because at the point I met him no one had ever shown sweetness towards me the way he had. His Asperger’s way of overthinking dating behavior, and his awkward, yet sweet demeanor caused me to fall in love with him soon after we met. Only years after we broke up did I realize that I loved him so because no one had ever shown me such pure kindness with a dash of sweetness. Part of me wanted to bottle it up forever in the fear that it would never again appear from anyone else.

He knows I don’t do well with surprises, and that, as much as possible, I like to know what to expect. Even the task of removing my huge tube tv from my third floor apartment was stressful for me, and he knew this without me even saying so. He appeared at my apartment with a dolly and rope. As I opened the door I just said, “I”m freaked out about this.”

He said, “I know. It’s okay. No big deal. Put on some gloves if you have some, they will give you better grip. We are going to lift this tv together. Let me know when you think you have a good grip, and we will lift together. We only have to go a few inches. It will be over before you know it.”

I appreciate all the over explanation that he has a tendency to give in almost any situation. It’s his signature, over explanation. My signature is anxiety about nearly everything. Over explanation is welcome for someone who likes to know what to expect at every juncture.

I have to let him go. I can still be his friend, but my heart has to trust that I can find that kindness and sweetness in the right person. And even if I don’t, he’s not the right one, in spite of the fact that I wanted him to be.

Ex-husband, I cannot reply

Two years ago we reconnected when your father passed away. I happened to find his obituary on the internet a mere month after his passing. That led me to search for an email address for you. When I sent you a message of condolences I wasn’t even sure if the email would reach you. Much to my surprise, it was, indeed, your email address. Even more surprising, you replied. I still recall the first line from that first reply after 20 years, “My, my … isn’t that a pretty name I haven’t seen in a long time.” 

Suddenly, twenty years after our divorce we found ourselves communicating on a daily basis much like the way we got to know each other through marathon phone calls when we were in high school.  All the familiar laughter and banter easily came back between the two of us. You will always make the best cat voices in the universe. Your signature cat voice conjures up a vision of a handsome debonair Latino alley cat, which is a bit odd since you’re most definitely not Latino, but you can play one on the radio. Now that I think about it, this particular cat voice of yours is a holdover from our college days in the 90’s when you would take on the voice of Ren (from Ren & Stimpy) for sport. You would even refer to me as Stimpy. I strangely did not mind. Not then, and not two years ago.

Two years ago you were on the heels of losing your dad, the one parent that was always on your side, always had your back. You also declared that your marriage had long been over, and you were waiting for your daughter to reach a certain age before you made your move to split, though I can’t recall now what magical age you waiting for. And talking to you brought such a treasure trove of memories that are still out of the reach of my own brain because of my own DID. Though it was sad to not recall some of what you were relaying to me, it was still fun to listen to you. You were just as shocked as I was that I did not recall imploring you to go dumpster diving for my coupons when you accidentally threw them out. You were only a Private in the Army and I was in college. We did not have a lot of money, and I took coupon clipping very seriously.

It was comforting talking to someone who knew me as a kid, knew my family mess, knew my past and current struggles, yet accepted me as I was and as I am.

We both fell hard for each other. I was over the moon, goofy, happy like a teenage girl. I told the universe that I was getting back together with my ex-husband. No matter that you had a family, and a life several states away. Why should reason and logic factor in when you fall in love again? I naively believed you when you said you would move and uproot yourself to be with me.

Sometime after you told your wife your plans there was a meltdown of some sort on your end. The details are still sketchy to me, but this sums it up: your wife admitted she also wanted out of the marriage, and told you to do what you needed to do, but then changed her mind and begged you stay; a series of days ensued where you said you were still coming, suddenly communication became very sporadic with an eventual short apology email ending things followed up with an epic drunken letter that will go down in history as the greatest combination of crazy love ever jumbled into correspondence. I was simultaneously heartened and disturbed by that letter, and I’m still haunted by this line, “I’ll carry you in my heart for the rest of my days, every day without you is a wasted day.”

This next part is hard, very hard. But it must be said.

You proposed to me when we were riding in the trunk of your friend’s car my senior year of high school. I said no, and continued to say no to you. Then one day you said to me (as best as I can recall), “Let me do this for you. Let me get you away from your crazy parents. I know you love me, and I love you. And I know you wish you were going to college like all the rest of your friends. Marry me. You can go to college if we’re married. Your stupid stepfather’s salary will no longer count against you, and I love you. Let me do this for you.” 

I couldn’t go away to any college because of my stepfather’s salary, and he and my mother made it clear that they weren’t going to help me go away to college. They wanted me to live at home. I wasn’t kidding when I said to people that my choices after graduation were my own place, a homeless shelter or death. There was no way I was staying in my childhood home after graduation. I had to make daily commitments to myself not to run away while I lived there. If it hadn’t been for you I likely would have run away while in high school.

As happy as I was to marry you, we both know that would not have happened if I had the opportunity to go away to college like the rest of our peers.

We did not choose each other out of any mutuality. We found each other out of a desire for a connection. We needed each other for the sake of being needed and needing someone.

And here’s the hardest thing of all to say: We were and are not soul mates.

We are two people who were there for each other as kids, and were there for each other 20 years later. But our connection is a love addiction, at least it is for me. I love the way you love me. You love me intensely, wholly and completely. It’s a crazy burning love that is hard to walk away from. It’s a drug I want more than you know, but I know it’s the feeling I want. I thirst for the intensity of your feelings for me. Hell, in that drunken letter you sent me you were quoting lines from Adele songs and Christopher Cross’ song The Best That You Can Do, all the while telling me that you measure all women against me.

But we are not sustainable on a long term basis. We both yearned for an intense love, and that is why we wound up together in high school.

I do love you, but it’s out of gratitude for everything you did for me when we were kids. It’s not love that can sustain us as a couple.

I got your email last night. Yes, I want to reply to it, but I cannot for all the reasons stated above.

Deconstructed cranberry apple pie

pie

I had just one job for Thanksgiving, and that was to make the pie, my apple cranberry pie. Coincidentally, we had a white Thanksgiving in the northeastern United States, and the snow along with the baking brought me back to my short time with you. For our first date we met right after a snow storm at the lovely French cafe in town. As I walked into the cafe on that fateful January Sunday nearly 4 years ago, I noticed that you already ordered croissants for us, and I believe you also had my Earl Grey tea ready for me. At first the quick-to-jump-to-conclusions-feminist in me was a teeny bit annoyed, but then I quickly realized it was just your way of being thoughtful.

The night before Thanksgiving I had planned on prepping the pie crust, and making the cranberry jam that makes up the bottom layer of the pie. But the snow outside my window just kept bringing me back to that first walk we took in the park right after we finished breakfast at the French cafe. I wish I could recall the conversation. What I do remember is that this was the first time you took my hand in yours, and my heart just sailed with our gloved hands hanging on to each other as we circled the snowed in park. I could sense you were nervous with the way you would glance at me sideways, which made me like you even more. Usually on a date I’m the one who is the most nervous. It was a nice switch.

I glance at the clock, realize it is nearly midnight, and I’ve not made the cranberry jam, nor have I started the dough for the pie crust. I decide that I need to do something before I go to bed, and the cranberry jam is easy enough to make. How hard can it be? It’s just cranberries, sugar, orange juice, water and salt. But the cranberry jam purplish red hue reminds me of the Valentine’s Day we spent together cooking and baking. We made my favorite red velvet cake recipe. I wish I could ask you if my memory is correct in recalling that we also made a key lime chiffon pie as well. One dessert per person? We were indulgent, weren’t we …

I fall asleep on the couch in this state of remembering that will not quit. I wake up the next day in a pained fog when I realize that the memories are a dream, and the reality of our ending is lived every day in our separate lives.

Eventually I drag myself into the kitchen to mix the pie crust dough. As I separate the dough into two halves with my hands I close my eyes and remember how you would take one hand and rub the back of my head. You would do this to tell me you loved me, and you would also do it as a way to reassure me when I’m feeling anxious. Sometimes when I miss you too much I put my own hand on top of my head the way you used to place yours on mine.

The real slog in making this pie is peeling, coring and slicing all 7 apples. The big heaping glass bowl of apple slices with cinnamon, sugar and cornstarch is stirred over a pot of simmering water. I taste the apples, and realize that they could use more spice, perhaps some cardamom or allspice. If we were making this pie together you would likely advocate for more spice, and the ardent rule follower that I tend to be would argue for leaving the pie as it is since I get nervous veering off a recipe. You would be right, the apples could use more spice, and because of that fact the apples will remain as they are.

At last the pie is ready to go. I get in the car, and look in the rearview mirror as I back out of my parking space. For just a moment I see you in the rearview mirror the way you used to watch me drive off after our weekends together. You would stand there and watch me drive away, and I would see you eventually turn into a mere speck in the rearview mirror. Just for today you will remain a speck in my rearview mirror.