Part V: Gone In an Instant
We met for dinner at a restaurant near where I work. I knew that something bad was coming… I could just feel it. But I was prepared for anything, because at this point, at the very least, SOME form of communication would be better than what I’d been getting. If he could at least be PARTIALLY honest with me, I might better understand what was going on inside his head.
Dinner was fine; surprisingly calm. But once we started talking about the real stuff, it got tense.
He basically told me that he needed to get treatment for his depression. He said he had not been taking medication for the last couple of months, which floored me. I had no idea that he had just stopped– I thought he was starting new meds and was transitioning to them. He also said that he had thought about drinking again, and that could lead to worse things, so before things got out of hand any further, he needed to get help. He was to leave in two days, and had planned to travel via train.
I asked him where he was going, thinking it would be somewhere in Chicago. But he replied that he needed to go to a center in Houston, Texas. He would be gone for 30 days at least.
I told him he needed to do whatever he needed to get better, and was relieved that he finally shared with me what was going on. We finished dinner and went our separate ways for the night. However, after I got home, I thought more about it, and came to another conclusion.
He had to have been drinking as well. There was no other possible reason for all of this to be happening.
The next day, I called him at work and confronted him with this new hypothesis.
“I am going to ask you this, and I want you to be totally honest with me.”
“OK,” he replied.
“You’ve been drinking again haven’t you?” I asked.
“Yes, I have,” he replied.
After taking a deep breath, I asked him, “And for how long?”
“Since about the time I moved out of my apartment,” he answered.
Suddenly, everything made perfect sense. The giving up of his meds, the lack of communication, the inability to control is finances, the lack of affection, the distance, the “being lost inside himself,” the dodgy answers to my questions… it all equaled him wanting to go back to the bottle. He found a way to do it and did it, and did it for a very long time… all without my ever knowing.
Alcoholics such as he are very good at disguising the fact that they are drinking. They can operate just as well as a sober person because they are skilled at covering up their problem. The timespan from the start of his relapse to the time where he made the decision to get help was approximately 8 months.
Eight months in which I never saw the signs.
Eight months in which I had no clue what was going on.
And in one instant, it all changed. Where at one moment, I thought everything would be OK, suddenly I wasn’t so sure anymore.
He left the next day. I drove him to the train station and saw him off. I did my best not to cry until we said goodbye. And as I turned away and looked back one more time, He mouthed the words “I love you” and boarded the train.
Part VI: The Official End
Thirty days turned into 60 days, which turned into 120 days. He left in October, just before our one-year anniversary. He did not come back to Chicago until the following February.
We talked on the phone many times at first. He would be delirious during the detox process and tell me that I was the “light of his life,” which of course only endeared me to him even more. I sent him cards and letters and tried to encourage him as much as I could. It was the hardest time of my life.
After the initial 30-day detox, he had to transfer to a treatment center. He didn’t want to stay in Houston, so we tried to get him admitted to a gay center in Chicago. I made phone calls and got all of his insurance information on hand and tried to admit him as much as I could… but nothing panned out. Finally, they transferred him to a unit in California. I asked him why he was going all the way to California and he answered “I chose it.” This crushed me even further.
In the meantime, I was spiraling out of control myself. After being so used to intimacy and the closeness of a boyfriend, I suddenly was left on my own. I turned to the Internet and many, many partners for sexual contact. I didn’t seem to care, because I was hurting, and nothing made any sense anyway.
I finally made the decision to join Al-Anon, which is the version of Alcoholics Anonymous that is designed for the friends, family members and people who care about persons with addictions. It was a scary time for me, because I had always been one that didn’t believe in joining support groups to get help… but after my first meeting, I knew I had made the right choice. I found warm and supportive people who listened to me, and let me express my situation without any fear.
The meetings gave me the courage and the understanding to know why he was doing things to himself; why he chose to drink instead of being sober, and why he made the decisions he made. It helped me to cope with myself, and to realize that I was OK, and it was OK for me to BE OK.
He finally came back to Chicago in February of 2002. By that time, he had decided to remain in California to complete his treatment. He still had a lot of things stored at my house, and also had things at our friends’ place where he was living up until he left. We moved the stuff out from our friend’s house and moved everything out from my storage. Unfortunately, he lost the majority of his belongings that were in storage from when he moved out of his own apartment. He ended up defaulting on the bill, and never claimed his things, so they sold them all. A very painful lesson learned, but one that he seemed to have learned before.
I was also still caring for his cats (I had four cats in my house for 5 months. It was long enough.) And upon this decision being made, I told him I would adopt them out. They found a wonderfully loving home in one of the members of the chorus, whose partner had recently passed away.
After he returned to California and his things were moved out of my life, I decided it was time for me to move on as well. I sent him a letter, saying that I did not want to hear from him for a while. It was time for me to finally heal, and for me to get on with my life. I still loved him and still cared about him, but I needed to care about myself as well, because up until that point, I was not doing such a great job of that.
So my first true relationship was officially over, and I was once again single. It felt strange. I didn’t know how to be in a social setting anymore. I was too used to being with someone all the time. I forgot how to flirt with guys. I forgot how to have fun on my own.
It took me quite a while to get over him, but I did. The daily thoughts about him turned into every other day, then a few times a week, and then, hardly at all.
But he would be back… And more than once.
Up next… Part VII: The Final Straw