Is it better to have loved and lost…?

GriefNeverEnds

My exboyfriend arrived back in our town on Thursday.  He rented an apartment less than two miles from my house.  He was supposed to stop by with the dog around 5 pm, but texted me the move was taking longer than expected and he would either come later or over the weekend.  I did not hear from him again until 9:30 pm.  I was already in bed, so I put his call to voicemail.  He immediately called back again and I answered.

“I think the dog is dead.”

I knew our dog was not doing well and was suffering.  I had said my bittersweet goodbyes to her two weeks ago when he left and took her with him to visit his parents.  I believed that she would live out her remaining days down there, in the sunshine and warmth of the South.

“What? Are you sure?”

I had been nervous about seeing him all day.  I felt so many different emotions.  Resentment for him moving so close to me without even asking how I felt about it.  Worry about how his health is and that he hasn’t gotten any professional help yet.  I missed him, I wanted to see him, I never wanted to see him again…I was all over the place.  I sort of just needed to get the first time seeing him over with.

“I left for 20 minutes and when I got back she was lying against the door.  She’s not moving.  Her eyes are open.”

I took control.  It is what I always did.  It was why he called me.  He knew I would know what to do.  Regardless of what happened between us and my demand for more space and time from him, this was something I knew he couldn’t do alone.  And I didn’t want him to.  I called the emergency vet and arranged to bring her in.

“Get her to the truck and come pick me up…we will bring her in together.”

I got into his truck, the backseat was dark and I couldn’t see her lifeless body.  I didn’t want to.  He was trying to keep it together.  He called his parents to tell them and failed to mention I was with him.  I let that go- not important.  They did not show much acknowledgment or appreciation for the 26 days of my devotion to him in the hospital (or the 8 years throughout our relationship), so I wouldn’t expect it now.  It was so hard not to reach over and take his hand.  I stuck mine deep into the sleeves of my sweatshirt and crossed my arms.  We spoke very little on the way there.

We both got a chance to say goodbye to her in a private room.  Even though my already broken heart shattered into more slivers as I kissed her nose and whispered into her soft ear, I was more worried about him.  I left him so he could have some time alone with her.  Walking out of the office, I turned to hug him in the parking lot.  He was stiff and patted my back and I could tell he did not want to be touched.  It felt like a rejection, but I know he was just trying to hold it together.  When he dropped me off, I tried to get him to come in and talk and he refused, but I know that my ulterior motive was that I wanted to prevent him from drinking if he was planning to.

I couldn’t stop him from drinking when we lived together and I saw him every day.  I certainly cannot control him now.  I am just SO SAD all the time.  It is like one thing after another.  Just last week, my mother had a cat scan of her lungs and they found a nodule in each one.  I can’t even think about it.  It’s just too much.  My therapist said that I am focusing on him so much so I don’t have to deal with how I feel and my own pain.  It is just too overwhelming and I do not know how to even begin to process everything that happened.  I am genuinely worried about him, too.  I know I “shouldn’t” be and he “isn’t my problem anymore”, but how do I just stop? When he is sick or depressed, how do I not check on him? I feel angry and frustrated because after everything his body went through, he is not taking care of himself.

I am consumed by so much grief and so much loss.

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone… but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.”
― Kahlil Gibran

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Need vs. Want

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I have always had a hard time putting my own needs first and I am also too much of a people pleaser.  When my exboyfriend left a little over a week ago to stay with his parents, I was so devastated to say goodbye, but I have to admit that I felt a little relief.  Relief that the ordeal in the hospital was over and relief that I no longer had to live with an alcoholic.  Once he was gone, I thought that I would be able to start dealing with everything that happened- the endless hours in the hospital, fearing he would die, learning about another woman, adjusting to living alone again.  Yet, once he was gone, I continued talking and texting with him.  Part of it was that I missed him.  Even though things were not good with us for a while and his alcoholism had taken over, I still truly loved him and we were together for almost nine years.  But the other part of it was that I felt a sense of responsibility for him and I was invested in his health and his recovery process.  Looking back on it, I probably should have cut off or limited our communication when he left.  I realize now that all I was doing was continuing to dwell in the trauma of what happened.  As long as I focused on him, I did not have to address my own feelings of sadness and anger and loneliness. I assumed as long as he was 750 miles away, it was “safe” to continue talking to him.

He just told me a couple of days ago that he is already coming back this week and rented an apartment about two miles from my house.  I am anxious about this for so many different reasons.  Obviously, I feel like he made this decision with me in mind.  I have not given him any false hope that we will be together again.  In fact, I have expressed my concerns that he hasn’t done anything related to recovery since he left the hospital and it is too soon for him to come back and to live alone.  I am nervous and paranoid that I am going to run into him every time I leave my house.  That is not a comfortable feeling for someone who suffers from anxiety.

I thought about it overnight and called him back and told him that we need to stop communicating.  He needs to focus on himself and I need to start focusing on myself and dealing with everything that happened.  The key word is “need”.  I keep trying to make him understand that this is what I truly NEED.  Of course I WANT to support him and help him and be there for him and even spend time with him…but I know if that happens, I will get sucked back into his problems and continue to enable him.  He basically told me that he understands what I am telling him, but that he doesn’t know if he can not speak to me or have me be a part of his life.  I realized I have to be much more firm and told him that if he does not give me the space I NEED, that I will end up resenting him.  The more he tries to force and push himself into my life, the more I feel scared and anxious. He just does not seem to be accepting the fact that our relationship is over.  It is not what I wanted…I never wanted ANY of this.  But I know, without a doubt, that I have to put myself first and that I am not ready to forgive him for the way he hurt me and affected our relationship.  I cannot revolve my life around his recovery journey.  Our relationship has been about him for so long.  I just need space and time to figure things out for myself and work through everything that happened.  I just wish I didn’t have to do that with him living down the street.

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Is sexting cheating?

My ex-boyfriend and I seem to be having a disagreement about whether or not sexting is considered cheating. He keeps saying that it is not, whereas I believe it is. Full disclosure…he was the one who was texting another woman. I feel like he betrayed my trust and I am very hurt by not only the explicitness of the texts, but also by their emotional connection. He thinks that because “nothing actually happened”, it is not technically cheating.

My codependency

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Throughout the entire month my boyfriend was in ICU, I focused pretty much all of my energy, time and attention on him and his recovery.  Now that he is at his parent’s house, I am realizing that it was easier for me to do that than to look at myself in the mirror and reflect on my own behavior.  I feel like such a cliche…the daughter of an alcoholic who ends up dating an alcoholic.  As a child, I felt like I had no control over my father and his drinking problem, yet there was always that part of me that felt like if I was “good” or did not give him a reason, he would stop.  I knew deep down it was not my fault, but I consistently found myself playing the role of peacekeeper in my family and I was always the only one to try to placate him, hoping it would calm him down or avoid an altercation.  I did not feel during my relationship with my boyfriend that I was enabling him, but I have started to realize that I was definitely codependent.  Below I listed the top ten signs of codependency and they literally describe me to a T.  My boyfriend (I guess I should be writing ex-boyfriend, really) and I have been having a lot of heart-to-heart, honest conversations and he recently said something that really made me think.  He said that in some ways drinking was easy for him because he knew that I was responsible and would take care of everything.  It is really so true.  He knew that he could drink and pass out and I would feed the dog and let her out.  I catered to him so much, did so many things for him that my sister would joke that I was his secretary.  I know that was fulfilling some kind of void in my life, some desire to please other people, to feel needed and in control.  I constantly had expectations and was mostly always disappointed.  I would create scenarios in my head of us both getting off work and going to the mall and then out to dinner and then coming home and watching a movie.  And more often than not, he would be drunk or sleeping.  I would be upset and make excuses for him…he was stressed at work, his depression was kicking in, the dog was sick.

I knew deep down that he loved me- truly loved me.  I think he still does.  However, I felt unloved and unwanted and lonely a lot.  I was deprived of affection and of intimacy for so long.  I think that is why finding out he was unfaithful by texting another woman was so hurtful.  The attention and interest that I so desperately wanted from him for years he so easily bestowed on someone else.

It is really difficult to objectively look at our relationship since it just ended and the heartache is still so fresh.  He has a lot of work to do in order to get healthy and sober and I accept the fact that I cannot be responsible for him anymore.  It is time to focus on myself so I can become a stronger person.  I also know that I cannot hide behind him and his problems anymore as a way of avoiding my own.

TEN SIGNS OF CODEPENDENCY

From: https://www.recoveryconnection.com/top-ten-indicators-suffer-codependency/

  1. Feeling responsible for solving others’ problems. The codependent feels the need to solve another’s problems. They feel that the person in need cannot manage to make the right decisions or take the right actions to solve his or her own problem.
  2. Offering advice to others whether it is asked for or not. The codependent jumps at the opportunity to provide “much-needed” advice. 
  3. Expecting others to do what the codependent says.  Codependents often do not understand boundaries.
  4. The codependent feels used and underappreciated. The codependent will expend enormous amounts of energy to take charge of another’s life. This is all under the guise of sincerely wanting to help. When the help or advice is ignored or rejected, the codependent feels angry, abused, and unappreciated.
  5. Trying to please people so others will like or love the codependent. Codependents will go out of their way to please another person. They hope to receive love, approval or be accepted and liked. If the approval is not given, the codependent will feel victimized.
  6. Taking everything personally. Because there are little to no boundaries, any remark, comment or action is a reflection back upon the codependent. This makes the need to feel in control paramount.
  7. Feeling like a victim. Everything that happens either to the codependent or the loved one is a reflection on the codependent. Such people usually feel victimized and powerless and do not understand their role in creating their own reality.
  8. Using manipulation, shame, or guilt to control others’ behavior. Codependents will respond in a fashion that will force compliance by others. These tactics may be unconscious and it is important that the codependent feel in control.
  9. Lying to themselves and making excuses for others’ bad behavior. Because codependents do not deal directly with their feelings, they develop techniques to lie to themselves about others’ behaviors. Because they feel responsible for others’ behaviors, they will rationalize and blame others for their loved one’s poor behavior, seeking to maintain control.
  10. Fearing rejection and being unlovable. The codependent fears that if he or she is not successful at everything, or indeed expresses his/her feelings or needs, they will be rejected. In a codependent’s way of thinking, he or she will be unlovable. 

Loving and letting go

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Throughout this past month, I kept updating my opinion on what was the “hardest part”.  First it was when you were in the coma, then it was when I found those text messages, then it was all the medical complications, then it was the week you woke up and struggled with sedation, then it was the day I had to tell you I knew the truth and our relationship was over, then it was the days afterward when I did not hear from you or see you.  But now that it is “over”, I know without a doubt the past 24 hours were the hardest part.

I knew when you were discharged from the hospital you would be coming to the house, both to see the dog and to get your belongings I packed for you.  I was so anxious…I had no idea what was going to happen.  You could have literally picked everything up and left in ten minutes.  The minute you walked in the door, all my anxiety melted away.  You looked so feeble and weak, moving so slowly.  You hugged me and my face pressed against your neck, just like it did the other day, except this time it was your skin and not your central line I felt.  All I wanted was to be with you and take care of you.  I know those feelings were supposed to be “wrong”, but throughout this whole nightmare, I have followed my heart with no regrets.  I knew you needed me more than I needed to be angry with you.  I can say it is the first time in my life that I know I had to be and was completely selfless.  Nothing mattered more than you surviving and getting better.

You staying overnight just felt natural.  I thought it would be awkward, but it wasn’t.  Even though it was maybe not the smartest move in the world for us, it just felt right.  I think we held each other more in 24 hours than we did in the entire previous year.  We have both always wanted our space in bed when sleeping, but I don’t think there was a time the entire night that we didn’t touch each other.  It was not sexual at all, it was just so comforting.  I woke up before you and just stared at your face.  I wanted to memorize every single thing, to burn the image into my brain.  I have always loved your nose and the shape of your lips.  My favorite part of your face is under you eyes by the bridge of your nose.

My heart sank when your parents arrived an hour early- I felt robbed of 60 more minutes of being with you, of us being together.  That last hour was so rushed.  I made sure to take some time to take the dog into the other room alone so I could say goodbye to her.  Every time I walk into the house now, it feels so weird to not have her there by the door.  I kept thinking today I needed to run home to let her out and then would remember with a sinking heart that she was no longer there.  I don’t know how I managed to say goodbye to you without collapsing.  I had to lie on the bed after I came back inside the house.  Your car was still in front of the house.  My tears were silent so I could hear the exact moment you drove away.  It reminded me of when we were dating long distance and you would leave at the end of the weekend and I would feel my heart sink knowing I would not see you for a full week.  This was that times one million.

I am aware of the fact that I am mourning our relationship and focusing only on the things I will miss.  I will miss you so much.  I start to feel normal, forget for one split second, and then it is like a wave washes over me and I remember you are gone.  Really, really gone.  I realize right now that I am only thinking about the good parts of our relationship and the fact that you are a truly a good person with a very bad problem. I know that I am going to have to go through all the different emotions at some point.  I deserve to feel the anger about your betrayal.  There’s a part of me that is relieved that my life will not be affected every day by your drinking.  I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future- to see if you are going to be sober, to find out if you will be a part of my life again.  However, I know with complete certainty that I love you, and yet I also know with equal confidence that I had to let you go.  For you and for me.

I haven’t even begun to process the trauma, the hurt, the heartbreak, the loss from this past month.  I tried to stay busy all day so I didn’t think about how every minute, you were another mile farther away.  We talked on the phone and at the end of the conversation you said “I love you” and I said “I love you, too”.  It did not feel like simply habit, although we always said that when we hung up the phone.  I know the love we have for each other is genuine and I am not going to deny my feelings for you because of the negative things that have happened.  I just know that love is not enough and some things are just not meant to be.  I am letting you go because this is a journey you have to take yourself and I need to carve a new path for myself, too.  I spend too much time wishing that none of this ever happened and torturing myself about what I could have done differently.  But deep down, I knew that my love would never be enough and that you have to learn to love yourself first.  And I have to start putting myself first and that begins with letting you go.

Withdrawing

26. That’s how many days I went to the hospital to be with you. 26 days where I put you and your medical needs first. Not only because I love you, but because it was the right thing to do. For 26 days I knew in the back of my mind that eventually I was going to have to tell you our relationship was over. I dreaded the day, felt immeasurable guilt. Why? I didn’t lie. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t ruin our relationship. That was all you. But I was so scared of hurting you, of how our break up would go. I ran through every possible scenario in my mind, drafted what I wanted to say, tried to predict your reaction. As the day got closer, my anxiety built. I didn’t WANT to do it. I didn’t want to let you go. I wanted to keep supporting you, helping you, touching you, loving you. I never wanted any of this.

With all the preparations I made, I never expected the response you had. I sat, crying, pouring my heart out, asking questions, telling you how hurt I was. You sat in silence, looking at the TV and sometimes your phone. You only said you were sorry when I asked you to apologize. You only said you loved me when I said it first. I hugged you goodbye, expecting some emotion (from you…I was sobbing). There was none. I pressed my face against your neck, my cheek rubbing your central line, I left tear stains on your gown. I never wanted to let go. Your reaction hurt so bad- it was another piece of my heart broken. It felt like you just dismissed me, didn’t even want me there, didn’t want to look at me. When you were in the coma, I kissed you 100 times, held you hand for hours, told you I loved you over and over. I never knew when would be the last time. I didn’t know a heart could break more than once, but mine broke over and over throughout those 26 days. I only went food shopping once and saw the blue Powerade you like and had to leave the store.

Afterwards, I spoke with your father. He told me (not in a mean way) that I had had a month to adjust to things and you were just finding it all out. I told him respectfully that simply wasn’t true. For 26 days, I put all of my emotions- sadness, anger, betrayal- aside and focused 100 percent on your recovery. At night I would sleep in the guest room bed and was so overwhelmed and exhausted from the day, I would not even be able to process thoughts. My mind was in a constant fog. I would talk and not make sense. I would order food at the hospital cafe and zone out and someone would have to snap me out of it by nudging me.

It’s been two days since I told you I knew everything and it feels like I’m just starting to deal with it. Not seeing you for two days has been so difficult. I want to be there with you. I’m back at work just to distract myself, but all I think about is you. Everyone keeps saying I need to focus on myself. I know that’s true, but I don’t even know how to start. I guess time heals all wounds, but I feel like this is just something that will fester inside of me forever. I knew if you didn’t stop drinking, our relationship was going to inevitably end. I just can’t believe you almost died and it had to get to the point it did. I’m trying to step back from the whole thing, give up control, let your parents take over. It’s so hard because I still want to take care of you. I realize now how codependent I became in our relationship. I know I have to move on. I know I have to relinquish the responsibility I feel for you. I know I need to allow myself to go through the grieving process of our breakup. I know I need to deal with the trauma of seeing you in a coma and you almost dying.

But I just don’t know how to let you go…

keep f**king going…

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I am here, my love.  I am sitting next to you as you lie motionless in your hospital bed.  Tomorrow will officially be two weeks that you have been in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube.  I keep thinking to myself, “but we were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.”  You always hear about people’s lives changing overnight, you just never expect it to happen to you.  I am listening to the steady breathing coming from your lungs, but I know it is a machine doing the work for you.  I am wearing a plastic gown that has become a part of my daily wardrobe.  The sounds of the ICU has become just background noise.  The first few days I would jump every time an alarm went off.  Now, I can identify which IV drip is running low and I know medical terms that are 15 letters long (and can pronounce them).  I have a newfound respect for nurses, who have treated your body with such respect and have treated my broken heart with such kindness.

An hour ago, you opened your eyes, staring at nothing.  I tried to make eye contact, but you are so sedated, I doubt you are seeing anything.  I put on a latex glove and held your hand.  I asked you to squeeze it and you did.  But like a baby who smiles when they have gas, I wonder if it was just a reflex or if you could really feel me touching you.  I hate not being able to touch your skin without plastic between us.

I miss you so much, but you are right here.  I go through so many emotions every day, I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  When I am home, I feel guilty that I am not with you.  When I leave the hospital, I feel guilty to feel relief.  Why do I feel so much guilt? I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have always tried not to play the victim card when it came to my dad’s alcoholism, but I was a victim of it, just like I was a victim of yours.  I have to take responsibility, though, because I didn’t have a choice with my father.  I did have a choice when it came to you.  But, honestly, given another chance, I would still choose you.  You were worth the risk.  I saw all the good in you…so much good.  People always say they have no regrets and wouldn’t change things in their lives because they learned from mistakes.  I have regrets- I regret marrying my exhusband…I would have preferred to miss those hard lessons.  I will never regret you, though, my love.

I tried to pour my heart out to your mother.  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  One thing I tried to explain to her is that when all of this is over, she will still have you as her son.  When this is all over, I lose you.  I will have to start picking up the pieces and find a new life for myself.  I know it is the right thing to do, though.  We could not have continued living the way we were.  Well, I couldn’t.  I just would not be able to see you do this to yourself again.  Please don’t let this be in vain.  I wish I believed in god so I could pray for you to survive, to get better, to get sober, to be happy.  Other people who are religious are praying for you- that makes me grateful.  I have asked my Mama for help.  I talk to her and ask her to watch over you and to protect you.  She was the toughest woman I know, but she had the biggest heart.  She would say to you, “oh phooey- you wake up and get off those machines!”.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop loving you?  Maybe never.  Maybe it will just be a part of who I am.  Right now it is hard to be angry with you for your lies and your betrayal because you look so weak, so helpless.  But it’s not fair- I have a right to be angry with you.  It has to wait.  I feel like all I have been doing for the past two weeks is waiting (and you know I am not the most patient person).  But I need to see this through- for you and for myself.  Jess bought me a bangle bracelet as a gift that is just silver on the outside but on the inside it says, “keep fucking going…” And that is what I am going to do.