April 10, 2011

Balancing- Veronica

*****I preface this entry with the notion that I can't write everything I'm thinking otherwise posts would be three miles long. For this blog you should know: I am married. I am insanely happy. I love my life. I love my work. I feel this way 98% of the time. What you are reading is the other 2% of stuff that I reflect on and life questions I ask myself. *******

Before Mr Veronica, I had a light switch relationship (on/off/on/off) with a guy I'll call Sam. Our relationship developed over several months. I can't say we were ever a "couple," although I think many people saw us that way. Sometimes, I wanted us to be a couple. I loved talking with him about a million different things. He would cook us dinner and we'd smoke and drink long into the night. On one occasion he said he had considered asking me to marry him but didn't ask for fear of what the answer would be...and I told him he was right to be worried. Sam was an alcoholic and drug addict, and despite some very strong feelings for him, I wouldn't marry a known disaster.

Here would be a good place to note my first husband also had drug/alcohol issues that he eventually overcame; underlying those issues were the reasons he was self-medicating, and those he could not overcome. During one of our post-divorce arguments he screamed down the phone line that I had abandoned a sick spouse. He said, "That's the kind of woman you are - you abandoned me when I needed you most."

I think about that accusation, about Sam, and I think: where are those boundaries?

I used to think I was the Florence Nightingale of dating. The guys I attracted were the underdogs in some way. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, loneliness, despair, so many broken hearts and lives...all mine for the fixing. And, I thought I could do it! Then they'd be so happy and then I'd be so happy and then we'd be loving partners and dance off into the sunshiney rainbow world drinking 7 UP and flowers would bloom under our bare feet.

Then I got married and as previewed in the above paragraph, it ended in divorce about 12 years later. By the end, I was an emotional disaster. Exhausted, fragile and turned inside out, I didn't know anything other than I felt like I escaped with my life. Nine years later the Universe checked in to see if I had learned anything about myself. And I had! I learned to recognize lecherous men within the first three or four sentences they spoke. I learned to say no when I needed to and I was still tempted by the good-but-troubled man. I like to feel needed, necessary, motherly.

Eventually Sam's life came crashing down around him. I know he's sober now, day by day, via Facebook. There is a part of me that wants to reach out to him, to tell him I still care about him, that I worry about him, that I wish I could be a part of his world in which he feels my support and love. This is where I wonder: what is anyone's role in another person's mental health care and does one do more good or damage by fulfilling their own needs when contemplating a relationship with someone with serious addiction issues?

I would have liked the chance to meet the real Sam, not Sam the addict, Sam the manipulator, Sam the liar. I would have, maybe not married him, but certainly explored a committed relationship with him. It might have led to marriage. There are people that get sober and stay sober. But that seems like a crap shoot. But don't addicts have a right to happiness, love, ...I'm arguing in my head. My other voice, the one that kept me from making this leap says, "They do have rights! But those rights - to be in a romantic relationship, to be intimate with someone's feelings - come when they can prove they can take care of themselves." (Am I just trying to make myself feel better?) Is it right to want a friendship with someone because that's the best I can do? Sam has the same right I do to say "no" to someone or something. I can offer friendship, he can say no, and there we are. I go my way, he goes his way, and I learn a little more about recognizing when things are finished, no tags attached, just finished.

I didn't abandon my spouse. I left because I couldn't take care of myself. I didn't marry Sam because I knew he couldn't take care of himself. People need to be loved and cared for, and it takes a person with a different kind of strength to marry a known addict. I think of a couple I know, not well, and both are recovering addicts. They've been married for many years, now. I often wonder how they keep their balance.

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