Dating in 2015 in NYC while recovering from an eating disorder… even harder.
I could write short stories over the love affairs I’ve had in my life. Spain- Ireland- Germany- UK- Camping- Work Office- Subways- you name it, if I’ve set foot there- I likely have some tale of love and heartache that accompanied that experience.
Airports around the world have been covered in my tears as I’ve stood countlessly in the security line- waving goodbye to the 8-week “love of my life” that was standing on the other end.
2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years- doesn’t matter, I’m a love whore at whatever length of time. *Cringe, sorry Ma*
To be fair, it’s not actually love. It’s idealization, because duh, that’s the best part, right? It’s the non-commital. The daydreaming at your desk, pretending to know the future actions of a person when all you’ve ever spent with them is a night on a tarp.
I crave the heart-pattering, smile-inducing, neuro-transmitting 2am talks. The mutual friends who wink when they pass you talking. It is my personal heroin when I realize that another person is committing their night to being nearby me. I crave the instant attraction- the game of locking eyes till one gives in and comes over.
I love the moment you know it’s something.
And I love the feeling that you are free to leave if it changes.
In other words, I love the beginning of things.
The long-term commitment of relationships are often lost on me. It’s not on purpose (much to the popular belief of my family), but it is sub-conscious.
BUT….BUT… THE VALIDATION* My mind whirls when things get serious. ONE PERSON TO VALIDATE MY EVERY NEED. IMPOSSIBLE, my brain has always panicked.
Recovery is a lifelong process, sure, but what they don’t reiterate is that you’re still going to be the same person once you’re out of rehab. You are not cured of fundamental habits; but more you are just now made aware of them… and it’s your choice how you choose to learn from it.
I’m still not an ideal partner yet- it’s true. But, I also countless times set myself up for emotional tantalizing and torture by becoming involved with someone who I know isn’t going to treat me the way I want.
Some might call it karma (no doubt some exes of mine call it this), but I frankly think it’s me ignoring the reality of the situation… which is almost always ”THEY JUST AREN’T THAT INTO YOU AND YOU CAN’T ACCEPT IT.”
That being stated, here are 4 truths I’ve learned about dating in recovery… They’re honest, blunt, and my mother will likely hate reading this, but recovery is owning your truths and then learning from them. And these are mine:
Ending a relationship is tough- necessary- heartbreaking- and sometimes nobody’s fault.
You wake up and realize that while the love is equal, the paths are different, neither wrong, but neither right for the other at the time.
As I struggle here, trying to healthily grieve and cope through what might just be the first, and only, mature relationship’s halt I’ve ever experienced, it brought me back to the therapy journals I kept in rehab.
Sitting on my childhood bedroom floor this weekend, sniffling and snotting like a baby, I came across a writing we were instructed to do on ”love.” Such a basic word (#basic) but how often do we have the chance (or the time) to define what it represents to us.
This post comes with pain in my fingers as I write. Months ago, as some of you might have seen, we lost one of the women I went to rehab with.
Openly sick, infectiously honest, I wrote the following next to her one day and read it to the group. As I finished and my eyes looked up to the counselor to signal I was done, she raised her little body off the couch (where she loved to rest) and propped herself upright.
Damnit Lindsey, she said, wiping tears from under her eyes. You’re good at this shit.
Can you make me a copy of that? she asked. Just write it down somewhere.
Sure, I smiled.
I didn’t, of course, ever give it to her.
Forgot. Life moved on. I left. She stayed.
But tonight, I’m dedicating this to her memory and her struggle. Corrine, I hope you’re in peace, and thank you for showing me that words matter; and the perspective you choose to take from them is the perspective you’re left with.
I know- This is how I function- spewing multiple things out at one time before going through a sort of self-deprecating writers block- forever certain my abilities to share creatively have been sanctioned.
Alas, I’ve returned though- still as unsure about this post as I felt when I first began to write.
Prefacing this by saying that– MY GOD– Relationships are hard to write about- The end of them harder.
I was going to avoid it to be honest- this whole topic- “the one that got away” and all that
But, as my dear best friend pointed out to me- avoiding that is the same as omitting- the same as lying- which is how I’ve often lived my whole life-
-So no, it’s not easy to write about this- it’s not easy to write about someone not wanting you the way you want them. It’s vulnerable- and it makes you wonder if others around you will look at you and think “Wonder what’s unloveable about her?”
And in retrospect, it seems even harder to write about relationships when you know this other person probably does not perceive it the way that you do now- It’s often harder to be real because at the end of any relationship- you know you both played a role in untangling it- And it’s a vulnerable thing to put your interpretation of it into their hands if they want it-
However, in posting this “rehab truth” I’m delving away from my eating disorder mainly because one of the points I’ve always wanted to make in writing this- is that whatever your addiction or disorder is- you’re still human.
You’re still human and it doesn’t mean you’re living your every day life like an episode of “Intervention.”- You’re functioning- maybe not well- but you’re still a human. You still love- You still get left.
So with that–
“Everybody Plays The Fool: An Ode To The One That Got Away-“
So this person, your therapist says– your Achilles Heel.
Tell me about them.
No– you’ve told me what happened -not what happened.
You shrug. Met them when I was young- you say- shifting in your chair. And I just had that feeling. Like I saw them- And I knew you know?
Where were you?
A party- you say. We were in the backyard and this person put their drink on a table and it shattered– you grin. The whole table just shattered and everyone was staring.
I don’t know what happened after that, you pause– I just remember seeing their face– I looked over from where I was and they were standing there with this shattered table- looking so pathetic– I wanted to help– had this really weird maternal feeling. I remember my boyfriend at the time grabbing my arm and being like ‘You don’t have to go over there– they’re fine,’ you say. But something about them you know– I wanted to know this person– wanted to talk to them–
Okay, she says–So how’d you end up dating?
Took awhile, you say. Took a lot of time– They weren’t the type of person to warm up easily– All foreign and everything, you smile. But then one night they called, sitting in my room doing my homework– you say. We talked till 5am and everything changed after that–
She nods. And how did it end?
They left– you say– They had to– their visa was up- they had to go back.
You look at your therapist now– we’ve stayed in each other’s lives all these years since then- you say. I feel like if things had been different-
They weren’t, she says.
Right– yeah, you say– But I think about it.
Everyone does- everyone wonders how something goes wrong when it worked before– And oftentimes it’s in retrospect you realize it was never going to work at all.
But I don’t know, you say. It was working. It was– you pause. And I think it would’ve eventually, when we were older.
No, not in theory. We talked about it- You sigh. I mean I don’t understand how you get over someone that you never had a chance to get tired of.
What do you mean?
I just mean we didn’t butcher our relationship when we were together- you pause. Life butchered it. Distance butchered it- everything else. We had to keep going– keep existing– and years went by before I realized that this person was moving on from me and I wasn’t.
She nods her head. How did they tell you?
They didn’t have to, you say- We weren’t in the same place- we weren’t together–hadn’t been for a long time–They never had to tell me it was over, they just started dating someone else.
But you still went back and saw them? She asks, her brow furrowed.
Yeah, you say. I don’t know why- thought I could get them back- or just make them see, you cringe. Seems pathetic in retrospect.
And obviously that didn’t happen?
You almost laugh- No. I thought they’d come back after school was over and all that ended up happening was them moving to Thailand for a year.
How’d you handle that?
How anyone does- you say, sinking into the couch. Drank- cried- dated- stalked- binged, you pause. Read Thought Catalog pieces.
I used all of it as a reason to get sicker, you admit. I thought if I looked perfect- if I tried harder.
Time just kept going though- you say- And they never came back– never needed me. And yet I still come crawling back every time they talk to me.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t know– you say. I think even now I still believe they’ll realize it, you say. That maybe they’ll wake up and think ‘Oh shit, this girl. That’s my best friend– I need her.’ you pause. We used to joke about it, you know? Finding each other down the road– how we knew we’d never sit in a room together and not wonder.
Alright, she says. But if what you’re telling me here is true– the two of you were never going to want the same things.
I don’t know, you say. I think there was hope of it changing.
You mean, hopes of you changing? She asks. Cause that’s what I’m hearing- that if this person came and begged you, you’d go running off to wherever they were.
I wouldn’t now, you say defensively. I mean back then it seemed more realistic– I always adjusted well to different places and I liked their life and-
Lindsey, she says- pointedly. Do you hear your own bullshit?
You make a face.
Do you realize you’ve sat in here with me for 3 weeks now talking about how much you need your family- how much you need your friends– how you ultimately want stability- and yet you’re telling me you really think you would’ve been happy leaving all of that to go be with someone halfway across the world that you knew didn’t love you as much as you loved them?
Okay look– I know that, you say. But once you’re in something– you’re in it and how do you know when it’s over? You sigh. I just thought they’d move back here eventually– that they had to.
So have you told them this now? She asks. I’m just curious– In all these years, have you ever once said any of this so you know where you stand?
No– you say, indignant. How horrifically pathetic to go on telling someone you love them when they don’t say it back.
Why talk to them then? She asks. Why keep them this close?
I don’t know, you sigh. I’ve tried not to– It’s just when–
You want to make sure you still have some part of them-
Alright- well explain to me how you think that’s fair to anyone you’re with in the future?
It’s not, you admit. But I don’t know why things have to be final. You can’t just put a stamp on something.
But I don’t think that’s what your problem is, she says. I think you’re scared– Scared because you know if you did say it then it’d probably be done– you wouldn’t have the option of hoping anymore. And it hurts when people let you go.
I mean yeah- you say- But I’ve dealt with worse.
Death isn’t the same.
I know– you say- it matters more.
It’s not about which matters more- she says. Ending relationships is a death.
It’s not though, you disagree. You choose to do it– and I don’t see why I have to do that.
No one’s telling you that you have to– but at what price are you going to pay to keep yourself 20% attached to someone that isn’t going to want you the same.
Well, that hurts– you say– flattened.
I don’t mean to hurt you–
I know, you say. It’s just that this person’s out there- living their life, you know- this person gets up on the left side of the bed every morning- watches BBC when they get dressed– drinks Diet Coke from the can- you pause. I can hear this person in my head– Can hear their response to something I do.
I know it’s painful, she says.
I think it’s just surreal mostly–That you can know the moles of someone else, and then are meant to wander around the earth with this useless knowledge of one person – you pause. It’s hard for me- because it all seems sad doesn’t it? Letting go-You never love someone half as much as you miss them- and I think that’s the real tragedy- maybe the saddest part of all.
It is sad, she says. And you can let it be that– No one’s telling you it’s not. There is value in sitting here right now, being sad– And when you try to minimize pain you’re doing yourself a disservice- You make it worse.
It is trivial though, you say. Someone wanting you or not. There’s so much other pain that matters more-
It’s not about mattering, she says again. I think you know that the truth is that no pain is trivial- because it’s real.Maybe the only emotion that is real–And no one’s telling you it didn’t matter or that what you’re feeling isn’t ‘right.’ You’re not ready to forget this person– the way you saw them at least– And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t– Letting go comes when you start changing the definition you place on an event. Looking at the same event with a different meaning- and that can take a long time.
It’s never made sense to me though, you say. Hundreds of messages, thousands of words, and the whole time you think you’re creating this thing- this massive tapestry- and all of a sudden it just unravels from a single frayed thread and falls apart– And you’re left sitting there with a half undone blanket being like ‘What the hell do I do with this now?’–
Nothing comes undone in one sitting, she says. It unravels quietly- with one string pulling away from another, she pauses. You’ll see that someday.
You wanna know the truth? You say– pausing. When I lose them, the entire joy of remembering that part of my life will feel like it’s been taken from me– And it’ll feel like losing the memory itself, as if the things I did then are less real- like I’m watching a movie that cuts out before the end.
I get that, she says. But just because your finale didn’t get wrapped up with the credits running doesn’t mean it’s not already over– she pauses. Life happens this way–You know this. It ends and it begins in the middle of a sentence– It’s rare people get the satisfaction of playing out a whole story to its finish– It’s why they end up on Oprah, she says.
And you smile.
You think that everything has to happen perfectly and when you think it’s going to happen– and that’s not how things go- And you’re going to be unable to go on with life until you realize that things don’t happen the way you think they’re going to, she pauses.
You can’t hold onto something that wants to leave- you can only love what you have while you have it–
And you have a ton of love Lindsey- I see a lot of families come in and out of here- Girls in here that don’t have friends, don’t have anybody-
I know– you say.
You do though- she says. You have people that love you whether you’re 95lbs or 115- that love you even after you think you’ve done the most unforgivable thing in the world. You just get so preoccupied trying to make yourself matter to everyone that you misplace what really does.
You make a face–
You, yourself, you’ll matter, she says. And you’ll leave little speckles wherever you roam– but you won’t matter in the way that you’re searching for now–she says. People leave. We can’t stay indebted to everyone– we drift in and out of each other’s lives all the time.
You nod. You know this–
You gotta matter to yourself– she says. So you can stop trying to always matter to everyone else and be a more genuine version of you.
So what do I do with this person, then? With all these years?
Forgive them, she says. Forgive them for not loving you enough– but forgive yourself first- And then forgive both of you together because it’s sad, she pauses– Do this so you can be free to someone else– Figure out how forgiveness feels best for you-And then wait till you matter more to yourself so that when you tell them you forgive them, you don’t need them to tell you the same.
You are going to have to leave, you know– she says. To actually step out of their life- You can’t keep people that don’t want to be in your life as much as you want to be in theirs– You’ll know it, she says. You’ll always know it and you’ll never be happy doing it–
I know, you say– standing up- tying your sweatshirt around your waist. But what if I’m not ready? What if I don’t know how yet?
Then you’re not ready– she shrugs.
Will they be okay? You wonder. Do you think they’ll be okay.
I think they’ll know- she says. I think somehow- they’ll already know- she pauses-
And if they ever loved you- the day that you tell them-