I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I never intended it to be anything serious. I found her social media profile online and was blown away by her pictures. She was absolutely stunning and actually had amazing taste in music. But I could tell she wasn’t the kind of woman who would be satisfied with a guy like me. So many of them like to think I am this intense rager that is constantly out at clubs and bars, but the truth is, I would much rather be in sweatpants, cuddled up with cats watching my stories than anywhere else.
We flirted on and off for a couple weeks. I kept asking her to get coffee and she kept blowing me off. One night she hit me up out of nowhere and invited me over. She sounded lonely and horny and I was not in the mood to let her down. I mean, she had made me laugh on a number of occasions but we both mentioned that we were not looking for anything serious. Neither one of us were opposed to a purely sexual encounter so when she told me to drop by at midnight, I was more than excited. We pretended to watch some movie for a bit while I got closer to her on the couch and eventually that led to the bedroom.
Afterward, she put a translucent scarf over her bedside light that gave the room a soft maroon glow. Her body was ridiculously insane and I couldn’t stop staring at it. She just laid there talking to me, completely naked. And it was crazy how I couldn’t stop staring. Instead of making my normal exit, I stayed and we laughed and asked questions about each other. The next thing I knew, I woke up spooning her. People have rolled their eyes when I say this, but I truly fell in love that morning with what was supposed to be my one-night-stand.
One of the things she let me know early on was that she was a recovering addict. I asked a few questions and she told me she was clean for six months but that her sobriety was always on the verge of collapse. I said something to the effect of, “Well, we will deal with it day by day.” And just moved on. I was excited about the potential of this new and amazing woman in my life and I didn’t want the what-if of reality to come in and ruin my budding fantasy.
But it did. And I had to learn about addiction the hard way.
I had grown up with addiction all around me. Alcoholism, drug use, gambling, sociopaths, gangs, murderers – and that was just family. I saw what it did to my family and I wanted nothing to do with it so I made the choice at an early age to stay away from what I knew wasn’t good for me. And while I saw the impact drugs and alcohol had on my close family, I was almost unaffected. Oh sure, my college education was stolen to buy drugs and prostitutes, we lost our house because of my fathers addiction debt, and I was the victim of sexual abuse from drunk relatives. But I guess when I was a kid I just turned off. It was like those things happened to things, not me personally. My bank account, my mom, my body – those were things and it was easy to shut down for self-preservation. But when I began dating her, I couldn’t shut down because she had breached the gates. She was already inside. So when her addiction came back, I couldn’t close my eyes or walk away or pretend it was happening to someone else. I had to learn more than I ever wanted to know about addiction when she handed me a bottle of Oxycontin and Vicodin and told me to ration what she had left and that she would be detoxing in my bed.
It was an ugly weekend full of violence and shouting. Tears and vomiting. Begging and threats. Everything I saw in the movies was true. The mood swings. The blame. The awful and terrible words doing their best to burrow into my insecure heart in order to get their way. All coming from the person you love the most. It was brutal and painful and tore me apart. But in the end, she came out sober. She was clean but she was raw and vulnerable. She told me that using prevented her heart from the hurt and now that she wasn’t using, she couldn’t hide from the memories. And they came rushing back in and she was forced to confront all of the shocking and atrocious abuse she had lived through. And it went from holding her hand in a bedroom while she begged for more pills to holding her hand through the nightmares while she cried over her lost innocence. None of it was easy. For either of us.
Years later, we ended our time together.
Everyone you meet is a resource. Every single time you let your guard down, invested into another person, and truly listened to their pain, part of you evolves. People filter their pain through you. Sometimes in small unnoticeable doses, sometimes with a heavy black fog through your head and heart. But listening makes all the difference, not only to them, but to us as well.
I never would have had the ability to empathize the way I do with addicts today if I didn’t spend that time locked in that room with the evils men put inside of her. If I didn’t hold her hand while tears streamed down both of our cheeks, I would never have the ability to understand the pain of another. And I certainly wouldn’t know what it’s like to truly fight for the happiness of someone I loved.
I learned a lot in that room. I learned that life isn’t fair. I learned that villainous adults will take advantage of the innocence of children, and I learned that some people aren’t taught the same coping mechanisms as others. But mostly, I learned how to listen. I learned when and how to put someone’s happiness before my own and I learned why that is important.
Everyone you meet is a resource in varying weights. And it isn’t always the most obvious person. So don’t dismiss the gravity of another person simply because of the way you met. Because sometimes you meet a one-night-stand on a website and they become one of the greatest teachers you have ever had.