I’ve had a lot of addicts in my life.
A LOT of addicts. That was the only way I knew life could be growing up and I came to expect that as the normal in my life. I knew it was wrong. I could tell people I wasn’t ok with the behavior. But I couldn’t expect people over the long term to be better. Over the long term, there’s a lot of bargaining and maneuvering.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend. A good guy. He tells me about a night when someone he was dating said “I love you” for the first time and how excited he was to hear it. And then how he proceeded to get drunk and royally sabotage the whole thing in three hours. That was back in August. Since then he’s been trying to make it up to this girl and get back to the good days when she looked at him like he was golden.
Ooof that hit hard. It was like watching every guy I’ve ever dated…my father…my grandfather. He thinks that if he can make it up to her–show her he’s not that guy, maybe get her out of their environment and away for a day so she can see who he really is–that he can win her back and get redemption. That’s all that matters. That he wins her back.
I told him a few things, but I made sure that he heard this one: your growth shouldn’t be her trauma. But he’s not ready to hear it. He’s desperate for validation that he’s not a bad guy at the expense of someone who was kind enough to love him and strong enough to kick him to the curb when he hurt her. He thinks his gestures are acts of kindness towards her but they’re just more infliction of cruelty. He’s not doing it for her. He’s doing it for himself. He’s lying to himself about it.
I was standing there hearing him and FINALLY seeing the faces of all the addicts I had in my life who self-sabotaged and then came back looking for redemption when what they needed was recovery.
My friend last night wasn’t going to hear anything I had to say. He has a very specific story in his head. I listened. I showed compassion. I didn’t once give him any hope. I was honest. I didn’t try to convince him of anything. I’ve been around long enough to know that my advice can rattle around in the brain of another person for weeks/months/years until it finally makes sense.
And as for me, if I needed a reminder of why I don’t feel comfortable dating there it was. Because addiction and home are encoded as one and the same to me. I don’t trust myself to not pick a sensitive addict 10 out of 10 times and fall into codependency like it’s my job. I’m going to bottle that conversation from last night and just take a whiff anytime I even think about dating anyone.