When Relationships Looks Different in the Light of Sobriety

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I wondered if the bitter taste of the endings would overpower all the other memories of my first sober loves.

I met C at the most inopportune moment imaginable: I was a full-blown heroin addict. He was not.

We met on a video chat website called ChatRoulette, both of us drunk with our respective friends; he lived in California, I in New York. After a few months of daily phone calls and video chats I was head-over-heels in love and flew out to San Diego to meet him, doing my best to appear healthy and normal. I hadn’t told him and didn’t plan to.

C was less a boyfriend than a hostage, an innocent pulled onto a rollercoaster he didn’t yet realize was brakeless. The only reason I was able to hide my addiction from him for a while was because he was so impossibly normal—he surfed, played guitar, had a tight-knit group of equally normal friends. What he saw in me, tattooed and cynical, I still don’t know; perhaps, like me, he needed something different. He’d never known any heroin addicts in his idyllic suburban life, so he missed all the tell-tale signs. Naturally he would think the marks on my arms were inflamed mosquito bites and not track marks, because who would lie about something like that?

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he finally caught me. I get why using heroin would be unfathomable to someone who has never tried it. It must be near impossible to understand the kind of pain and self-loathing that makes heroin seem like a viable solution. By the time he’d caught me I had been making half-assed attempts to get clean for months, but the look on his face was the final push I needed. I left New York and moved in with him in California and despite some false starts, despite the odds, I got better.

In the cold hard light of my fledgling sobriety, the fantasy guy I’d created in my mind began to crumble the way real-estate euphemisms do when you see the actual apartment. You really want to believe that they actually meant cozy and not suffocatingly claustrophobic, but they never do. Never. In my heroin haze I’d romanticized all his flaws: instead of being emotionally repressed with awful communication skills, he was pensive and mysterious. He wasn’t living at home to save money, he was too cheap and emotionally enmeshed with his mother to move out. I loved him even so, tenaciously, holding onto him with white knuckles as the relationship unraveled over the next few years.

The night it finally ended, I felt like I’d been thrown off a cliff. I’d gone straight from drugs to love and for the first time it was just me, unadulterated, crying alone in my car in an empty parking lot.

For the first time, I was really, truly sober…

Find out what Katrina did with that really, truly sober reality in the original article The Magic and the Tragic: Falling in Love in Recovery at The Fix.

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