It’s 3:00 am.
I have to get up in less than 4 hours.
And, yet, here I am. Ready and willing to tell you a story – a bedtime story, if you will.
Once upon a time, I thought I was in love.
It turns out, I was actually experiencing an artificially induced high from a chemical cocktail made of a mix of antidepressants, cigarettes, and caffeine.
It turns out that the two feel nearly identical.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way suggesting that you try and replace finding a good match in life with psych drugs, caffeine, and nicotine. I am merely making an observation for the point of the story.
At 19, from a broken family, and riddled with self esteem and identity issues, I had no real way of knowing what a healthy relationship looked like, let alone love. And yet, at the time, I would have sworn to you that I had found exactly that. The story as you know it left off with me – after months of unrecognized tension – hooking up with my then therapist. It quickly avalanched into a series of hot and heavy make out sessions disguised as much-needed counseling.
She was fairly careful not to let the relationship get too physical – it was like being fifteen and not knowing hat to do except kiss and blindly grope. Skin never touched skin.
On some level I knew that if things didn’t move to the next level, they would eventually fizzle out. Looking back, I’m still not sure why it was important to me to control the chain of events that happened next, or why I took it upon myself to ensure that things moved forward in a physical manner – perhaps it was an avoidance tactic, after all, I really didn’t want to deal with the issues that were being raised for the few minutes that therapy was ‘real.’ Perhaps it was that, at that time, I didn’t know how else to relate to people about whom I cared except for to give them what I thought they wanted.
Either way, I found myself entangled in the standard make out session that Super Bowl Sunday, while the rest of everyone that we knew was at the church watching the game on the big screen and being generally sociable, when I got myself to my knees on to ottoman in front of her chair and undid the button on my jeans. When she slid down the zipper with little more than an encouraging smile, I knew we had crossed the next line.
I laid on my back on the ottoman – head hung over the side of it – and she went down on me for the first time. I could see the television from where I was lying. Aerosmith was playing the half time show. I came. Steven Tyler screamed.
My first significant sexual experience with another person was promptly interrupted by a phone call from my parents – just checking to see if we were coming back to church.
The entire car ride back, she hurdled back and forth from apologizing for taking advantage of me to planning the next time – when we would “do it right.”
There was something terrifying about what we had done. And yet it was equally as thrilling, moving, and profound. At that point I had never been with another person, let alone another woman. I gave part of myself to her, she took it and did not hurt me. In my limited interpretation of love, that seemed as good a reason as any to fall. At the same time, I had been raised in a very strict, Christian home, and taught to believe that having the type of encounter that I just had was a sure ticket to hell. And part of the thrill was knowing that the woman I was sleeping with was the person entrusted to bring me back from the emotional edge.
As all of those feelings converged in my mind, playing backdrop to her voice recounting the things that she wanted to do to me and then immediately apologizing, over and over, I was grateful for the chemical cocktail that owned my bloodstream.
I didn’t know that it would get worse.
I never thought it would end.
I didn’t know that the meds would eventually turn on me – a few chemicals too many in the wrong combination would incite side effects that I had never experienced before and would never want to experience again.
I didn’t know that she was just as emotionally unstable as I was, and that her bad decisions surrounded everything we did in a very real and tangible way.
I didn’t know I would hurt so many people. Or that it would hurt me so badly.
Else, perhaps Super Bowl Sunday would have been the end of it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have met her at her parents house a week later for what would turn into a night-long physical encounter that would loop on repeat for an entire year. Perhaps I would have opted for a cup of coffee and another cigarette and come to the slow realization that I was just a kid with a few issues that were potentially manageable – without the antidepressants, the therapist, or the relationship.
Perhaps knowing that I’m okay either way was the point of the whole mess anyway.