Who doesn’t love an embarrassing story from high school? I have plenty. If you have read any of my previous posts, you are familiar with my style of inserting my foot into my mouth and choking. I have stories for days but we have moved on from high school so lets focus on some of my dumber years, college. When I got to college, I thought I had learned my lesson. I decided that public pleas for attention and attempting to spread awareness was a moot point. My peers were too young to care and I was not eloquent enough to capture their understanding. So in college, I decided to cope by not coping.
I was dating someone at the time who wasn’t good for me and really brought down my self-esteem, let’s call him Tom. Tom turned out to have a substance use problem himself, I know…the irony. As you can imagine, not the perfect person to help support me through my family’s substance abuse. I ignored the signs though. I decided to just not deal with it. I didn’t worry about his substance use, I pretended my family didn’t exist, and I swam around in my denial until it started pulling me under.
Burying the denial was affecting me in ways I couldn’t see clearly until the end. I was eating my feelings and slowly gaining that memorable “freshman 15” except it was more like the sophomore 20. I had pushed myself away from my friends, such as those two guys I brought up in previous posts. We completely lost touch during this time period and I only have myself to blame for that. Tom contributed to alienating me from others because of his own insecurities as well. I started dressing differently, drinking more, and was just over all not healthy-physically and emotionally. I refused to acknowledge how lonely and sad I was because it was college! This isn’t a time to be lonely and sad. This is the time to party, dress a little provocatively, and wake up confused about the night before. To be honest, this is the perfect time to live in denial. Nobody notices.
I had one friend that noticed though. We went to high school together and he had always kept in touch. Tom hated him because he was such a genuinely nice guy, clearly not someone your boyfriend wants you around. When I would be swimming too deep in my denial, he would put me in my place. He would ask about my parents or remind me that I deserved better than my boyfriend. I wasn’t ready to face those things though. I didn’t want to believe him. I couldn’t imagine what my life would look life if I accepted that I was heading down a path to turn out exactly like my parents. I couldn’t confront it. It hurt too much.
I blew up at this friend multiple times. I told him he was stupid. I would ignore him. I would yell at him. I would tell him to go away. I put all of my anger that I was feeling towards myself, towards my family, and towards my POS boyfriend towards this wonderful friend. And he would just take it. He would always do what I asked. He would leave me alone for a few weeks or he would stop saying things for a few days. He would change the subject. He would do what I wanted until it was time to do what I needed, which usually entailed calling me out. It was almost as if he was my conscience and he just sat there on my shoulder no matter how many times I would swat him away.
One particular weekend, I went camping with Tom and a few friends. It went about as expected. Tom blew up at me over nothing and would sneak off to use whatever drug he was into that week. By the end of the weekend, he had embarrassed me ten times over. The cherry on top was that my friend, the angel on my shoulder, texted me to see how I was doing. That pushed Tom over the edge. He hated it that this person was checking in on me. He screamed at me and made me sleep in the car instead of in the tent. I was humiliated in front of our friends.
All of my denial caught up with me while I tried to sleep in that car.
Everything I had been running from just dumped all over me in that backseat. I was chubby. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was stupid. I needed to focus on my classes. I needed to see how my family was. I needed to feel things again and not just party the thoughts away. I needed to cope with my parents alcoholism affecting me and them. I needed to get rid of this terrible anchor of a boyfriend. Most importantly, I needed me back. I missed me. I liked me. I hadn’t been me in a long time.
That car ride home from the camping trip was perfect for self reflection. I hated myself and I hated Tom. He had apologized and was being overly nice because he knew he crossed a line. I was going over every step and decision I had made to get myself where I was at that point. The only person I really wanted to talk to about any of this was that annoying friend who kept reminding me of who I was. I realized that was a problem. I tried to break up with Tom that night when we finally got home. He didn’t let me…
How does that work? That’s a great question. Looking back, I don’t quite understand it myself. He screamed at me. He cried. He made himself throw up because he was “so heartbroken”. He threatened to kill himself. And by the end of it, we were still together. I remember sitting there confused as to how it all worked out. I remember aching to talk with my annoying friend. Tom was too suspicious though and even more insecure. I couldn’t talk to anybody.
I spent the next six months trying to break up with Tom with similar endings. Threats to kill himself, crying, and vomit. In the very end, we were able to break up when he started sleeping with someone else. He needed someone to make himself feel important otherwise I was going to be stuck in that position as his girlfriend. The girl he cheated on me with is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wish her a lifetime full of happiness…not him. Tom, you suck.
That annoying friend is what helped me get away from Tom and stay away from him. He helped me see that Tom was just manipulating me and was not actually going to kill himself. He was a great friend those next few months and boy did I need one. Even though Tom let me break up with him, he still kept an eye on me and he let me know that. He had friends check up on me. People would tell him where I would go and what I would be doing. He would show up outside of my classes and he would sleep in his car outside my apartment. With time, it faded. He moved on to obsessing over someone new and I was able to heal and grow from it.
And as for that annoying friend, I now call him my husband. He waited until I was ready to start dating again, which took some time after Tom. While he waited, he showed me what a real friendship and a real man was like. He was supportive, he was kind, he was loving, and he was the best friend I ever had. He never gave up on me. Its been six years since that stupid camping trip and my husband still is all of those wonderful things. I cringe thinking about how my life would have turned out had I stayed with Tom or ended up with any kind of “Tom”. But it didn’t. I haven’t turned out like my mother and my husband did not turn out to be like my father. Instead, I got to marry my best friend.
I guess to sum up this post, don’t let go of the people who don’t give up on you. You are better than the “Toms” of this world. The Toms may help distract you for a period but you can’t be distracted from who you are for long. You have to deal with your feelings. You have to feel your pain. Facing your fears is better than drowning in denial…and a bunch of other cliché phrases that all mean the same thing.
My next post will be about introducing my husband, then boyfriend, into the world of my family’s dysfunction. Even though he has always been incredibly supportive, it is something you never really get used to and he had quite an uphill battle. If you are interested in reading more, please subscribe! Share my blog with your friends. I want to fight the stigma of what people think addiction looks like and spread a little laughter along the way. Thanks for reading!