Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Addict and Me: Part III

Some Back-story

I feel that I need to plug in some details here.  How is it that I’m off on a bus with someone I had never met; yet longing for a deep romance even after I had decided (or some part of me had) that was impossible?
(I’m also going to have to give that “someone” a name, for the sake of clarity.  I’ll call him S.)
I first met S on MySpace.  I was dissatisfied with my life and saw MySpace as a way to open it up, to meet new people, to reignite my long dormant writing “career.” Also, though I wasn’t quite aware of it, I had a story to tell that was burning inside of me that was aching to blaze out in the open.  Wow.  I had no idea how transformative this little step would be.  I felt lonely in my pastry career.  I felt lonely in my life.  I had a boyfriend, but I was feeling the limitations of that relationship.  We were companionable, but I couldn’t talk to him about all that interested me.  I needed friends, and there were friends a-plenty awaiting me in cyberspace.

S was one of the first people I met online.  I was immediately fascinated.  He liked my Sarah Vaughan on my page.  I liked his Rachmaninoff.  We were both pastry chefs, voracious in our taste for music and food.  We loved the same movies.  We were addicted to crossword puzzles.  We both wrote poetry.  I could hardly believe it.

Our first phone call was odd.  I felt that there was something wrong with him, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.  He wasn’t connecting with me in conversation.  It was as though he was just talking into space and not to me.  I was relieved, actually.  He was just a guy, a quirky guy whom I could befriend.  It would be all right.  My relationship with my boyfriend wasn’t in danger.  A week later, S told me he was an alcoholic.  Huh.  OK, I knew that there was something awry.  I didn’t exactly know what an alcoholic was, besides someone with a drinking problem, but I accepted it.   Then he got sober.  What a change!  He called me after an extended weekend rehab.  We had a wonderful conversation; he opened up and started sharing with me.  We talked about God, about Jazz, about the Twelve Steps, about being free and living life openly, without fear.  I found myself being drawn closer to him.  I realized that I was hungry for just this kind of connection.  He seemed surprised that I didn’t have this with my boyfriend.  “Is it just about sex, then?”  S asked, and that notion hung in the air and troubled me.  I was afraid of the answer.

Within a few weeks of meeting online, I asked him for an intimate friendship.  As I typed the words, I felt both the danger of it and the improbability.  Could I have what I wanted?  My heart was longing for a confidant, someone to whom I could tell my story, to whom I could show my true self.   I said that I wanted an intimate friendship, and I did, but I didn’t trust that it could be, or if it could be, I feared that it would inevitably be sexual, and I wasn’t looking for sex, I had that, I wanted something more.  He said that he wanted the same.

For me, MySpace was an incredible workshop for poetry writing.  I had felt the interest in writing re-blossoming in me just prior to signing up.  S wanted to read my work.  I began posting poems.  It wasn’t long before I had several regular readers and I had, at one point, about 150 subscriptions.  It was crazy.  It was heady.  It was great.  For the first time I had an audience, for the first time I was in a writing community.  I felt the opening up that I had wanted.  I began to tell my story in poetry and I began to open myself to S in conversation.  I had sincerely hoped that my opening up would open up something in my relationship with my boyfriend.  He was constantly telling me not to cling to him, to find other interests.  I think he thought I would take up knitting, or some other quiet hobby, instead I jumped on MySpace and begin to make friends all over the world.  I couldn’t shut up about it, either.  I told my boyfriend excitedly about all my friends.  I was writing all the time, or reading others’ work.  Boyfriend was not enthused about poetry which to him was just “words on a page” which would never make me any money.  He also feared that I wasn’t writing about him. (And, I wasn’t.)   He was jealous.  He felt the split between us coming long before I could conceive of it, or accept it.  I told boyfriend about S.  I didn’t want to be dishonest.  I didn’t want to cheat.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  Anyway, boyfriend said that S sounded perfect for me.  Yup.  That’s what I thought, too.

And even though I was trying not to, I began a courtship with S.  I had never been in a situation like this before.  I had never met someone so perfectly matched to me with whom I could talk and talk for hours.  We had so much in common and so much to learn about each other.  So, I strayed.  It seemed inevitable.  And after my boyfriend broke up with me (Surprise!  I was shocked.  I didn’t see it coming at all. ),  S and I began to talk openly about love.  It was bumpy, but the beauty of it all for me is that I was able to practice being in a relationship the way that I wanted to be.  I found out that I was able to address issues as they came up.  Each time something uncomfortable came between us, we were able to talk it out.  I had so much fear of rejection, of doing, or saying the wrong thing.  S let me say what I had to and then took time to process it and then talk it out with me.  It blew my mind.  I kept thinking that each revelation would be the deal-breaker—my attraction to women, my ill-tempered ways at work—that something ugly or incomprehensible in me would make him turn away, but what I found was myself growing stronger in each instance I had to speak my truth, even with my fear of rejection shaking strongly inside of me.  I was coming into myself.

In the autumn of that year, S and I started to make plans to meet in the spring. I knew that I wanted to have sex with him and I had to tell him my big, bad secret:  herpes.   Even typing it now makes me anxious.  OK, I spilled it out.  I told him straight up and he handled it beautifully.  He thanked me for my honesty.  He told me that he loved me.  He told me that he would have to get back to me, because he had never had to deal with something like this before.  I let him go and process it.  I was ecstatic.  I had faced my big, bad secret and it was accepted.  I was still loved!   Or so I thought. 

Was this the deal-breaker at last?  S got back to me:  How would herpes affect my ability to have children?  Wow.  Would this be the deal-breaker for me?  Children?  I was almost 46 at the time.  I had never considered having children in my life.  I didn’t think that was likely to change.  I felt my beautiful dreams of my perfect romance crashing.  I crashed.  I couldn’t be his perfect woman.  I couldn’t give him what he wanted—children—and I didn’t know why.  It just wasn’t inside of me.  I didn’t have the desire.  My fledgling sense of self crashed into the rocks.  I cried and cried and hated myself for not being “womanly.”  What was wrong with me?  Suddenly pregnant couples appeared everywhere I went—many of them Asian women with quiet careful white males shepherding them. They were so smug and so perfect in their little precious cocoons.  And I was stung over and over by the sight of them:  You’ll never have this.  This will never be you. 

A few weeks went by.  I processed my stuff with the help of my therapist.  She helped me see the situation more clearly with the drama toned down.  I was who I was.  There were things I could not change.  So many times in relationships I had tried to remake myself to please the other.  This time I just couldn’t.  S was who he was.  Alcoholism was a big deal.  Like herpes, it wasn’t going to go away.  It had to be faced, too.  Even if I had wanted to have children, did I want to have children with an alcoholic?  We didn’t match up.  We had both met our deal-breakers.  What did my truth tell me?  I said it quietly in my session:  I cannot have a romantic relationship with S.

S and I talked a few days later.  He told me more about his alcoholism.  I didn’t know how serious it was, how he was near to checking out of life a few times.  He told me he couldn’t have a romantic relationship with anyone at this point in his life.  I nodded.  We were honest with each other and it felt good.   We decided to be friends.  I had a funny feeling inside of me that I would have trouble keeping that distance, but, at the moment, all was well.  I had made it through.  All was not lost.  But I still hung on.  I couldn’t let go of the connection.


  1. i see you.

    thank you, brave and honest you.


  2. Thank you, Erin.

    This is turning into quite the saga!
    My main purpose was to figure out "how I got here."
    I think I keep hoping for something definitive, but I may be asking too much of myself and the task in that.

    I'm gaining insight and clarity, certainly.

    I was hoping that this section would explain the lure of the online romance/friendship. Again, perhaps too big a topic to address in one post. MySpace showed up in my life at a time when I was ripe and hungry for it. I think my approach to online connections would be much more measured and, perhaps, cynical, now.
    I am curious about the quick and deep intimacies that transact online. I was never one to make fast friends with anyone, or maintain long term connections with people I knew in High School or College. But the anonymity of the online world made revealing oneself easy and hearts were unveiled all over the world. That, I think, was the lure for me. I was able to see into others souls and they into mine.
    Meeting someone only through their words makes for a very deep connection. I enjoyed the courtship, the furthering of relationships through messaging and posting poetry. I had so often rushed into sexual relationships, and here, I was held in check, slowly savoring the knowing of someone from the heart out. It made for a very deep connection and one I couldn't easily give up.

    At the same time, MySpace was a crazy-maker. It seemed that everyone inevitably had a freak-out. I was hungry for love/affection/connection. MySpace gave that as long as I kept giving out posts and messages. It was exhausting. My whole life began to revolve around it. Everything happened so quickly, too. A few days away felt like months had elapsed.

    Anyway, what comes up for me in this entry, is that my therapist had asked me to do this long ago:
    "What parts of you persist in pursuing a romantic relationship even when faced with the truth that you don't match up with someone?"
    Oy, I didn't want to do that assignment. I felt that ALL of me was bent in this direction. It seemed to be my whole raison d'être.
    I want love. I want romance. I'll do anything to make it happen.
    And, here I am again, saying the truth out loud ("I can't have a relationship . . . .") and then, not believing it? Pretending it could all work out, "if only" . . .?

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  4. I think I keep hoping for something definitive,.

    i woke up thinking about this even before knowing you wrote it. i imagined a meeting between my (ex)husband's girlfriend and i. i imagined her telling me truths as though to reveal to me that which underlays all. ironically i'm about to tell you the same, even though i laughed at her upon waking, even though what i am about to say will also negate it all.

    perhaps i should back up...

    i fell madly in love online. in truth, i woke up online and fell in love with being myself, discovering who that might be in spite of perhaps not liking/loving me. but rather, i was suddenly driven to be me, shocked that i had been living a kind of constructed life inside of my marriage that didn't have much to do with the core of me. shocking. it was all shocking. and of course my husband could not understand. tore at the fabric of the universe in what? - angst, ego, hurt because he could not understand such transgression. they fell outside of morality and he was moral. (heh. i can laugh a little now as we are so far on the other side of this and i most definitely had great empathy for him and took on the guilt and pain and did believe i was acting immorally as well, but i began to recognize morality as a social construct to protect property. again a shocking revelation for me.) oh, i am getting lost in it. so on marches time and i am bent and crooked carrying my self doled and husband doled load of responsibility when he fell in love online with a married woman. can you imagine? how perfect, really. and from the outside of it all and through my experience i could see a great deal that he could not. and too, looking at my own experiences i see all of the truths along the way that have changed along the way and i now can have a new respect for revelation. i don't trust revelation, not in a definitive manner. it can change, this thing of revelation. it can become something new at any time. and so i live almost laughing at the seriousness of how we are in determining the definitives. i'm not sure there are any definitives but for momentary situations. (i'm not sure that discovery would be very popular with your therapist.) and so this: i try for humility. i fail. god, how the ego continually rises. and then i try for humility again. i try to determine truths still, but i don't believe they are eternal. rather i act as though they themselves are in flux, or certainly everything around them. what am i saying? this is for me, right, this explanation of where i have been, am now - we are pulsing things, knowable, unknowable, with great need to understand. so we grow like this, tiny toads pulsing, trying to hold, and then letting go so that we can know the next thing.

    but online love! what an experience! there is nothing quite like it. and so i fell in love online again. and again and again. of course i have chosen to be with one person now, a good person, a person who loves and respects me, cheriches me, and i him. i widen my eyes and try to understand the allure of falling in love online. and i have recognized (with me) that a great big ole fat part of falling in love online is ego. and how humbling/deflating is that? and so i try to not take myself too seriously.

    i hope i've not rattled on without point even though i very well might have. either way, here, jane, here i am.

    and who am i to tell you anything? i have to laugh again.


  5. Thank you so much for your comments, erin.
    I think my therapist would be fine with me letting go of the need for absolutes.
    I like what you have to say about life being in flux, as a defining quality. That makes sense to me.
    And it seems that our experiences mirror each other somewhat. Very interesting to me to think about online love being ego-love. Hmmmm. There is a lot of fantasy, as in making up the parts you don't know, can't see about the other.
    Thanks for sharing your story with me. It gives me much to think on.

  6. I think it’s completely understandable to grow attached to someone online. Finding the strong points of commonality can make connections almost instantaneous. Wanting a witness of one’s life, into the intimacy of oneself, is a deep desire for me too. And then when you find someone who seems to mirror your best self, why resist? Your growing into your best self was bound to make you feel a strong bond with S.

    I appreciate your openness, and erin's. I truly do think this online stuff is about ego at its core. But so is it about the essential self. It's like they arise in such stark relief! Both/And. I have fallen in love with myself too, as erin says she did. I've grown stronger and more confident. But I have also seen my ego come alive like never before. It seems that these online interplays are condensed and intense in ways everyday life in the 'real world' isn't, with its toilet seats.

  7. Well, I didn't finish after my question Why resist? . . . of course there are reasons to resist, multitudinal. And so our stories go ...