Excerpt from “Running Through Quicksand”
Below is an excerpt from a book I’m writing about the 4 years I spent in an off-and-on relationship with an alcoholic in denial.
It’s Christmas day, and I’m alone and crying. I was watching the movie Scrooged, and there’s a scene where Bill Murray is being guided by Buster Poindexter as the ghost of Christmas Past, and he looks on as he and his girlfriend whom he had lost years ago are exchanging presents Christmas day. Something about that image — of two lovers cuddling on Christmas morning — flooded my mind with memories of MY past Christmases and reminded me of everything I’ve lost and how alone I feel.
I remember the Christmases I spent with my family when I was a kid. My sisters and brothers, who were all older than me and adults with their own families, would come over. My mom would make her famous fried chicken and chocolate chip cookies. My parents were so kind and generous to everyone. My family had a lot of dysfunctional elements, but that didn’t keep us from sharing a lot of love during the holidays.
I think about my first serious boyfriend, Rob, and the holidays we spent with his sweet family. His parents and siblings would always give me wonderful gifts that showed they knew me and understood what I liked.
I also remembered the Christmases my ex-husband Scott and I would spend with his mother in Arizona. I remember that one year, Scott suffered a horrible bout of food poisoning, but I stayed by his side all night in the ER, as the doctors ran test after test. He said no one had ever done that for him before — to me, this was just natural. I couldn’t imagine leaving him in his frightened, painful state.
I had flashbacks to my worst Christmas ever, in 2005. I had just been released from the hospital, where I had been treated for a near-fatal drug reaction that landed me in a semi-coma for over two weeks. My sister, who was completely delusional and had helped destroy my relationship with my husband, was my only relative in the area, and the hospital unfortunately released me into her care.
At that point, I had no idea what had happened to me. All I knew was that my husband, despite being in the same city as me at the time, wasn’t returning my frantic calls. I felt completely and totally abandoned.
During that horrible week, my sister and I did nothing but fight. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from nearly DYING, and she kept trying to drag me out of bed, when all I needed was rest. She subjected me to her strange delusions about my marriage (including her assertion that my husband had, a la Linda Lovelace, forced me into filming porn). No matter how many times I tried to tell her that no, Scott never forced me into porn, or beat me, or any of the things she had mysteriously convinced herself were true, she was not swayed. All we did was argue. At one point, I wanted to hit her. I ended up throwing a plate on the floor, and that was it. That was the breaking point that forced my brother and father to fly out to California to rescue me from this harmful, volatile situation.
This Christmas I CHOSE to isolate myself because yet again I felt hurt by Justin’s behavior. The prior week, we were setting up a new TV I bought. Out of nowhere, he told me “you stifle me.” Instead of trying to figure out where that was coming from, I got huffy. A little later, he said we were invited to a birthday party at Dan’s.
“Do you want to go?” He asked.
“I don’t know..not if I STIFLE you.”
Later, we were cuddling on the couch, watching the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down”, and there was a scene where Douglas’s character yells at his wife to just shut up for once. Justin burst out laughing. “I’ve wanted to do that to you SO many times!”
I paused the movie and pouted a little. “What? Aw what’s wrong baby?” He seemed so eager to please sometimes, and so rebellious other times. I could never understand him.
“I don’t know, I guess I feel a little hurt by that remark.”
He hugged me. “I’m sorry!”
I forgave him, and we moved on. But I could feel things piling up.
Then Derick came back into town. I knew he was arriving right before Christmas, and I was dreading it. All of the things Justin had told me about him — the drinking, the pill-popping, the PTSD..I was afraid he’d be a bad influence on Justin, and Justin would not be strong enough to say, ‘hey, I’m trying to save my relationship here by staying away from the bar.’
I probably should have had an adult conversation with Justin about it, but I was so sensitive at that point to being accused of “mothering.” Nor did I want to seem like I was being controlling and telling Justin that he couldn’t hang out with his friend.
I tried to come up with a creative solution — maybe have Justin bring Derrick over, so I could meet him. Maybe Justin could then merge the relationship with his friendship, and I could establish some boundaries.
I had already been thawing out chicken to make Justin’s favorite chicken masala that night. I told him, if he wanted to invite Derrick over for dinner, that would be fine. I just needed to know, so I could start marinating the chicken.
Justin said he would ask him.
Time passed. It started getting late, and I knew Justin was probably leaving work, so I called him.
“Hey what’s up?” I may have sounded a little bit annoyed.
“Uh, I’m waiting for Derrick to pick me up.”
“What?” my voice got heated. “Justin, you were supposed to let me know about dinner.”
“We decided to go out instead.”
“Would have been nice if you had let me know. Well HAVE FUN.” I hung up the phone. I knew I was being passive aggressive, but I didn’t care. I knew they were going to the bar.
Justin called me around midnight, when they returned. He didn’t sound drunk, but he told me that Derrick had wanted to go to a bar, and that he’d had a “couple of beers.”
“Justin, I don’t get you. You have this girlfriend who wants to be nice to your friend, and cook him a really good meal, and you guys just decide to blow me off?”
“We didn’t blow you off,” he sighed. “I just forgot to get back to you.”
“Well, that’s just thoughtless and disrespectful. Look, I think I’m going to just spend Christmas with my family in Palm Springs,” I said, being passive aggressive again.
“OH, okay, well, I guess I’ll talk to you when you get back then.”
“Yeah, okay. Have a good weekend.”
I start thinking about how it’s going to be, now that his friend is back in town. There will probably be many more arguments about going to the bar. His friend sounds like an alcoholic, with a Xanax/Oxycotin problem to boot.
I just felt like I was tired. SO tired of competing with Justin’s party friends. Why should I have to?
I was sexy. I cooked for him. I gave him tons of affection.. I tried to love him as best I could. But I obviously wasn’t what he wanted.
How was I supposed to feel like it was ok for Justin to go to the bar when, so many times in the past, I got back with him based on a promise that he would stop going, or stop drinking, only to have that promise broken, again and again?
Maybe he never wanted to go to counseling because he didn’t really see this as a serious longterm relationship.
After everything we went through, I decided I didn’t think I could have ever felt okay about him going to a bar.
Getting over these things was not as simple as being told “Just trust me.” This is why it’s so important to never lie to someone you love. When they’re conditioned to learn to deal with dishonesty, it’s very hard to be re-conditioned to expect truth.
So I spent Christmas, alone, by choice…crying and watching sad movies like Moulin Rouge.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” That line made me sob uncontrollably.
It’s the day after New Year’s. I’m watching this show about a crackhouse surveillance operation. After busting the crack dealers, the police lead a couple of scrawny, wild-haired young women out of the house. The women are carrying screaming, crying babies, clad only in saggy diapers. I think, these poor little children who have to deal with their parents in prison, or on drugs…people go into the hood from all walks of life to buy drugs…those people, who bring their drug money into bad neighborhoods to fuel their own addiction, are also fueling violence, poverty, and pain.
And it’s all under the guise of some big party world where no one takes any responsibility and everyone is trying to escape their bad childhood or some deep psychic pain — I think about the young girls in the Liquid Kitty bathroom, holding out their little coke mirror to me. They didn’t even know me, and they were offering me a bump. “It’s all good..it’s all fun and games”..til someone loses their fucking job, relationship, health, or life.
How many more lives have to be ruined by this shit before society wakes up??
I end up bawling my eyes out, feeling a deep cavern in my soul and a pressure on my chest. Am I crying for these poor, fatherless children, trying to come to terms with the abandonment they feel? Or am I crying for myself and how abandoned I feel? Or am I crying for my ex, who is hopelessly addicted and in denial?
Switching the channel only makes it more clear how full of pain the world is. North Korea-its leader the epitome of corrupt, absolute, nutso power-is on the news, threatening that the world will go down in a nuclear holocaust. Sometimes I wish it would. I wish, like Jim Morrison said, that the whole shithouse would go down in flames. Most people are selfish assholes.
Justin had texted me the night before: “Happy New Year. There was always something special. You showered me with love. Here’s to a new page and good health and everything in between.”
All I could think was, I don’t even want to know what he’s doing or how much he’s drinking tonight. I was sitting at the Tattletale with a couple of friends, mulling over how sick I was of bars.
January 3rd — he sends me this:
“This poem, I’ve read several times. I didn’t want to send it you, I didn’t think it would help.
I think now that I’ve read it so many times, I should just share it. I don’t know what the links are.
‘If I could write a song, it would be for you. Every crescendo an argument, every rest contentment. Fermatas that tell the story of our love and how we thought it would never end and conductors that decided we were wrong. The chorus would never get the chance to breathe, if only because I’ve never been able to with you. The symphony would fluctuate, in and out, in and out with every breath you took and every beat of your heart. Long drawn, minor keyed legatos would paint pictures of our downfalls while tiny accidentals would prove that we can solve them together. If I could write a song, parts of it would be syncopated.
The notes would be skipping, not just running. They would be laughing and smiling and crying and doing everything I wish I could do with you. But mezzo piano knows. It knows how far away you are, how muffled my joy can be. If I could write a song, every black mark, every line every bit of white space and every single joule spent would be for you. I would write it to see you smile, to see you be happy. I only want you to be happy. You deserve it more than anyone I know.”
copyright Sandra Wade
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