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.

it’s not an option

No question, yesterday’s post was tough.

I woke up today with that familiar stuck-to-the-bed feeling, but this time with darkness and a despair that gripped me enough that it evoked the sensation of heightened loneliness. In the midst of that feeling, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across the articles from the Fix, and this one in particular about relapse with alcohol caught my eye. Essentially, the author conveyed that even with working the 12 steps, sponsoring people, doing service work, and going to meetings the author still relapsed with some regularity. He realized that his sobriety did not stick when alcohol was still an option. When he finally took alcohol off the table for good as an option his sobriety found the stability that was previously elusive for him.

After I read that article I realized that my sexual assault went a long way in taking alcohol off the table permanently. Without the assault I probably would have tinkered with moderation and/or going in and out of “the rooms” as AA is often called. I could envision the alternate universe scenario with me going in and out of sobriety while my life bobbed along at a slow but steady descent into eventual disaster from alcohol dependence.

Few things would have been as bad or worse as what happened. My excess drinking put me in vulnerable situations, and the bill came due on that day. Aside from the physical and emotional pain from the experience, my job was adversely affected by what happened. Yes, my employer handled it properly, but it was obvious that I was damaged goods for a fair amount of time after the assault in that it was very clear I was suffering in trying to find my footing in the recovery process. Out of all the consequences suffered, the fact that I could sense my reputation changing at work was the hardest one to take. I always prided myself in doing a good job, and having a fine reputation. I loved my job, loved doing it well, and I got satisfaction from being seen as a credible professional.

That’s how I got into sobriety. I wanted to be a credible again, and I was willing to go to any lengths to keep my job. To be clear, no one ever threatened taking my job away. They knew they had to tread carefully there, especially with the whole sexual assault situation. But I knew I was under the microscope, and I could tell I was being sized up frequently to assess as to whether I was fit for duty. If I had not stopped drinking when I did it would have been a long bumpy road into deterioration.

This is why I can be a complete freak about my sobriety. I hold on to it like a life preserver, and woe to you if you try to interfere with it because losing it is not an option.

upon reflection …

I’ve had second thoughts since my last post. You’ll notice I altered the original post a bit. It was presumptuous of me to paint a brush and declare that reporting sexual assault is the best thing a person can do. It was the best thing I could do for myself, and the prime reason it was the best thing for me was the fact that I had an impartial investigator, and an employer that was committed to doing the right thing. Without those elements, a person can find themselves in a precarious situation. By no means am I saying that a person should not report in the face of a less than ethical employer, just that I understand when the situation is too difficult or too risky to one’s life or livelihood to report.

In the early days after the assault I spent a great amount of time vowing to the few people around me that I let in on my secret that I was never going to report what happened. My therapist was slowly trying to convey to me that even if I decided not to report what happened that there were other ways I could speak my truth. I think she was actually close to mentioning the possibility of confronting my director with the truth. She never said this, but I had a strong instinct she was headed in this direction.

It’s hard for me to opine on what would have happened to me had I not reported it. Three weeks after the assault I reported it, though it was not planned, even in that instant of reporting. I was found out, and outed. My Assistant Director announced to me that he would not be able to accompany me on the upcoming business trip, and that the Director was going to accompany me instead. I started shaking, and walked away from him in that instant. He then followed me into my office, closed the door, and said, “What the hell is going on?”

“I’m just over reacting, ” I said to him as I tried to pay attention to the nothingness on my computer screen.

“Bullshit. I’ve seen you overreact, and that was the real thing. What the hell is going on? Don’t think I don’t know that something is going on. You have not been yourself for weeks. You’re making mistakes that you would never make. What the hell is going on?”

Through my tears I said to him, “Please just give me half an hour. In half an hour I will do the right thing. Until then please leave me be.” We both looked at each other, and I knew he knew by the look on his face. With that moment the entire trajectory changed in that instant. My world was forever altered the very moment I filed my report. A domino effect was put in motion that’s still going to this very day. Sometimes I can see the division in the universe between today and what would have been had I not reported it. Then there’s another universe that exists in the neverlands if this thing had never happened in the first place. But then I get annoyed at myself when I start thinking about these alternate universes because in many ways I’m better off than I was then. The person I am today is more authentic, less of a bullshitter to myself, and more accepting of others.

Still though, there’s part of me that pines for that time when I was the noncontroversial gal in the workplace, the new promising recruit with nothing but a stellar reputation. We have such a new recruit in our current ranks, and she reminds me of the me back then in a number of ways. She’s well-liked, has a lot of promise, and possesses oodles of self-confidence. Unlike me, she likely does not have an underlying problem with alcohol, co-dependency, PTSD, DID, and sex and love addiction. Something bad was bound to happen in my life with that combination of struggles I brought to the table. I did not start working on any of these issues until the sexual assault. Strangely enough, it seems I have my assault to thank for the progress I’ve made thus far because I’m certain I would not have stopped my addictive behavior without something big and awful happening.

Bottom lining it: I’m glad I’m working on my shit, but I still wish it never happened. Sometimes, as shallow as this sounds, I wish I could just be the pretty popular girl I was back then. Not so much for the popularity, but for the ability have plans any day of the week I wanted. I miss having people in my life on a regular basis. Truly, that’s been the biggest casualty of this whole thing. That day in 2008 unmoored me to such an extent that my friendships suffered or just ghosted out for a handful of different reasons.

This post certainly went in a different direction from what I intended. Another abrupt ending, I can’t write any further on this tonight.