Week In Review: Heartbreak and Car Trouble
I know I said planned to write more this month, and that clearly hasn’t happened. And the reason is because I’ve been distracted. With “Emma.” Again.
Yes, after 2 weeks of no contact, I caved. I just couldn’t stop worrying about her and seconding-guessing everything I ever said and did with her, and just had to know if she was okay, so I texted her, and she replied. I ended up asking her if she wanted to meet so we could talk. Despite the risk, I wanted to talk in person, not on the phone, so at least I could be sure she was sober and would process everything I said. She agreed and I was going to go pick her up that Saturday, the 5th. I got her to agree to meet at 11am, I wanted it to be early, and originally the plan was to just go somewhere to get coffee and sit and talk. I just hated the way things ended, I didn’t want that to be our last in-person contact with each other, so my plan really was just to hopefully be able to talk things out, explain my feelings and why I did what I had to do after she got drunk on me, and say goodbye on better terms.
I knew this was potentially a mistake though, and felt kind of embarrassed that I was doing it. So I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mother who’d been my biggest confidant and source of consolation and advice during this ordeal. Everyone I’d talked to in those intervening two weeks had told me that I was doing the right thing by walking away, and I figured that most of them would tell me not to go see her, so I just didn’t say anything.
I had an appointment that morning to get an eye exam for some new glasses, which was later than I thought. That delayed me getting to her, so it was after noon when I arrived. Being a little later, I recommended we get lunch, instead of just coffee. So we went back to IHOP. It’s weird, we both basically acted like nothing was different, just had a good lunch, talking about random stuff, Afterward, we went down to her old neighborhood, to the house she and her family used to live in back when she and I used to date as teenagers. That was a fun trip down memory lane. And we ended the day at the local park. That’s where we finally had our talk about everything that happened. I didn’t say everything I wanted to, but we definitely cleared the air on some stuff, with her acknowledging what she did wrong, and I made it clear to her that I could not be around her when she’s drinking, which she agreed to not do around me. She opened up about some of the things she’d been feeling, including some resentment she had from childhood, which I tried to empathize with her about, and told her I’d be available whenever she wanted to talk about this stuff. I took her home by 8pm, as I didn’t want to stay out with her after dark just yet. And we made plans to go out again the next Saturday.
That’s right, I went into this planning just to say one last goodbye, and somehow ended up reconnecting with her again.
Overall, I thought it was good day, and I felt better about things. I wasn’t naïve enough to think everything was perfect now, she was still an alcoholic, with other problems. I knew I had to remain on guard to protect myself, both physically and emotionally. But I was back to thinking I could maybe be a positive influence in her life, I’d take her out on weekends, spend the day with her and she’d see how much fun she could have while sober, which would hopefully encourage her to stay sober. I started reading the Al Anon forum on Reddit, trying to get more ideas on how to be supportive to someone struggling with alcohol.
Admittedly, that forum wasn’t very encouraging, as it seemed like all I read were horror stories. All these people who’d had loved ones who were alcoholics, be they spouses, lovers, parents, children, siblings, or friends, and how they’re constantly being disappointed as the alcoholics never change for good. It made me question if I was doing the right thing or just setting myself up for more heartache. But I couldn’t back out now. I had only one friend I confided in, one of my longtime internet friends, Mimi, who was previously married to an alcoholic, and she was non-judgmental towards me, which I needed.
I started pressing Emma on getting her Covid vaccination, which she’d been avoiding. With some help from her mother, “Jane”, she got her first shot that next Wednesday, she called me while they were at CVS, told me she was doing it, and that she was only doing it for me. She put Jane on the phone, who thanked me for finally convincing her to do that, because she and her husband had been trying to get her vaccinated for months. So I took this as a good sign that Emma was getting serious about taking better care of herself. And, yes, of course, I liked the fact that she was giving me credit for this, it made it feel like my efforts were worthwhile. I was having a positive impact on her, after all.
We went out again last Saturday. I picked her up again at noon, and we went to this place Cafe 50’s, which was a few blocks from her old house. It was a place she and I went to eat a lot when we were younger, so we went back for nostalgia’s sake. She said she did get bad side effects after her shot, and was in bed most of the next day, joking about how she hated me that day for talking her into getting that shot. But it was all in good fun. And then she took me this Hollywood landmark, The Witch’s House of Beverly Hills (aka The Spadena House), and then we went to this nice shopping center in L.A., The Grove. Once again, we had a nice time together. She and I are just so comfortable together, when she’s sober I love spending the day with her. It really is like old times, I feel like a kid again. Once again, I took her home at 8pm.
I was feeling good about everything, although knowing I still had to keep my guard up. As such, beyond my one friend Mimi, and Jane, I still didn’t let anyone know I was seeing Emma again. When I posted pictures online of being out that Saturday, I just posted pictures of myself, none of me and her together.
We were set to go out again yesterday. I’d called Jane on Thursday, asking if she and her husband wanted to join us for lunch. Jane could make it but her husband had to stay home to watch their cat, who just got out of surgery. So yesterday I picked Emma up, she was carrying a plastic cup with what she said was ice tea in it. She even held it out to me, said it’s just tea, offering me a sip to check it out myself, but I declined. She’d been sober the last two times, and with her offering to let me sip it, I figured I could trust her, right?
As we got in the car and started driving to IHOP, it quickly became clear to me that Emma had been drinking, or at least had had a drink, before I picked her up. The signs are easier for me to see now, she wasn’t drunk, but she has a way of speaking when she’s tipsy (there’s certain jokes and comments that she repeats), and it was apparent. She was acting the same way the first time we went to IHOP with her mother, which was the day she later got really drunk on me. I was disappointed, but I thought, okay now I can make sure she doesn’t drink anymore today, she should have time to sober up during lunch, and we’ll be fine the rest of the day. She also had a Fiji water bottle, which I’ll blame myself for not immediately suspecting. I swear when she opened it, it was full, and looked brand new like it hadn’t been opened before. So I thought the water would help.
Yeah, I’m a sap.
Well, we had a decent lunch, I loved seeing Jane again, but Emma’s questionable behavior continued throughout. It got to the point where it was clear to me that I did not want to spend the rest of the day with her, as planned. So as the lunch was winding down, I subtly texted my mother, asking her to call me in 10 minutes, and when she did I said I had to take the call and went outside for a few minutes, and came back claiming that my mother needed me so I had cancel our plans. Emma was disappointed but seemed to understand. I said maybe we could could go out tomorrow (today). Yeah, at this point, I was still thinking this whole “relationship” was salvageable. Clearly, going out with her parents is some kind of trigger for her, & it caused her to drink that morning, I thought I should let her sleep it off and with it just being the two of us again the next day hopefully she’d be sober again when I saw her. I’d already planned to ask her to spend this day with me, and was also thinking ahead to next Saturday, as Fast 9 is coming out in theaters and I thought it could be fun for us to go to the movies again like we used to as kids.
But then Emma had to use the bathroom, so I brought this up to Jane, who also noted Emma’s suspicious behavior during the lunch. She wanted to check Emma’s bag, which she’d left behind, and pulled out the water bottle, I said it’s just water, but Jane, who’s clearly wiser to Emma’s tricks, took a sip of the water and said there was something else mixed in with it. She suspected vodka.
Something about actually getting that confirmed changed things for me. It was bad enough that Emma drank before I picked her up, but the idea that she was continuing to drink while with me, just like she did that last time with the Gatorade bottles, made me angry. She was putting me at risk AGAIN. Now I wasn’t sure that I should keep spending time with her at all.
I didn’t want to confront her in the restaurant or the car, I still needed to get her home first, and didn’t want to risk her acting up in public (again, a drunk White woman can be dangerous for a Black man) As we were driving, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, leaning towards just dropping her off and acting like everything was fine (so at least my last memory of seeing her in person would be pleasant) and maybe call her later to confront her. But when we got to her apartment building, and we were on the front stoop, she couldn’t get in because her roommate wasn’t home and she didn’t have a key, so she’d have to wait outside. She mentioned how she didn’t plan to be back so soon, she thought she’d be out until night-time with me, I said sorry, she said it’s not your fault, you have to go see your mother. And that’s when I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.
I basically went off on her. Told her that no I didn’t actually have to go see my mother, that I just didn’t want to spend time with her since she’s been drinking. She seemed surprised and tried to deny it at first, but then admitted it, first saying there was something in that tea, and also in the water. She said she was “nervous” and that’s why she drank. But I didn’t let that go. I told her she promised not to drink around me, that I couldn’t believe she’d do this after what she put me through last time, how she needs to understand that her actions affect the people, like me, who actually care about her. She got real apologetic and begged me for a second chance, but I said this, us going out the past two weeks, was her second chance, that’s what I agreed to two weeks ago. She pointed out how she was “stone sober” the last two times we spent the day together as proof that she could do it again, but I told her I just can’t live like this, always having to wonder what she’ll be like when I see her. I told her of everything I went through, the lack of appetite and trouble sleeping and constant worrying about her, during the two weeks we didn’t talk after the first time she got drunk on me, and that I can’t put myself in risk of going through that again.
I can’t go word for word what we said to each other, but it was a thorough confrontation, to the point where she had nothing left that she could even say, and was just left sitting on the stoop with her head down. I ended with taking her face in my hands so I could look her in the eye, I told her I’ll always love her and care about her, and hope that she gets motivated to help herself. Then I kissed her goodbye and got in my car and drove away.
I got home, called my mother and told her everything. Also called my friend Mimi and talked her, and then called and talked to Jane. I noted how I felt different this time than I did after my last “final” meeting with Emma. As I said, despite my mild optimism, I had been on guard. I knew the minute I contacted her again and asked to meet that this could go wrong, that things could end badly. So even as each day we spent together went well, there was still part of me that prepared for the fact that the next time might not. So this wasn’t the complete shock that the last time was. Plus, this time, there was nothing (much) left unsaid. I think I got the chance, both that first time we reconnected and then at the end yesterday, to say everything I wanted to say to her. I’d let her know clearly how I felt, why I was trying to be in her life, and where I stood, including that for this to continue she simply could never drink around me again. But she made her choice, and she did it anyway. And I know it’s not entirely her fault, alcoholism is a disease, but still.
So this time I wasn’t feeling the guilt that I felt before. This time I honestly felt like I did the best I could, it just wasn’t enough. And my anger at her drinking was blotting out any sadness. I said to Mimi that this time I’m more mentally prepared for it being over, but she said she doubted it was really “over” for me just yet, because of what she calls my big heart.
And, well, I think she may be right. Today hasn’t been totally easy. The anger has subsided and been replaced by sadness and regret. I’m a lot less confidant today about everything, and I’m still worried about her. I don’t think that’s ever going to fully go away unless and until I hear that she’s turned her life around. I told Jane I’d like to stay in touch with her, check in with her from time to time to ask about Emma, and for her to please let me know if anything major, good or bad, happens to her, and she said she would. Jane also encouraged me to keep writing, and that’s my motivation for writing this update.
Plus, there’s the fact that today is Father’s Day. That’s never a good day for me, due to my own lack of relationship with my biological father, something that has affected me in many ways. Checking social media today and seeing so many of my friends posting about and celebrating with their fathers always tends to bring me down, which is why I’d hoped that I’d be spending today out with Emma, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. It’s a little after 5pm as I’m finishing this post, and I’ve barely eaten today, due to lack of appetite, which I attribute to my feelings about both my father and Emma.
So yes I’m sad. At one point Emma said she wanted me to take care of her and make her better and I said that I wished that I could. I said I’d marry her right now if I really thought that would cure her of her addictions, but I know that’s not how it works. She needs to get better for herself. And maybe when she finally realizes how her actions also affect others, she’ll start to do what she has to? I’d love if my walking away like I did, after telling her WHY I’m walking away, could be an incident that sparks some positive change in her, not only for her sake but also for those who are still in her life. I mean, as bad as I feel, I think about how it must have been a bajillion times harder for her family, especially her poor parents, dealing with her for all of these years, nay decades. I know it’s heartbreaking for them. And it’s all the more reason why I hope and pray that Emma gets better before it’s too late.
But, as of now, for me, life goes on.
Sorry to hear this did not turn out like you wanted it to but all I can say from my own experience with dealing with alcoholics is that drinking is their way of dealing with problems. It numbs the pain of whatever they are dealing with. We all deal with pain but some like to deal with it by turning to liquor and other drugs or activities that don’t do them any good. And no matter how many times you may talk to them (been there and done that) unless these folks see the need to stop drinking they will continue to do so because they know of no other way to dealing with the pain. The best thing for you to do at this point is to walk away even though you don’t want to and I know you want to help her but she has to see the need to help herself first. You nor her family can do that for her. Best of luck to you as work your way through this. Believe me I know it is tough but you have to look out for yourself as well.
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Thanks, man. I appreciate this.
Hey man, I really appreciate you sharing your story. As another black dude who’s been considering reaching out to his white ex after 20+ years, your experience resonated with me and has given me a lot to think about. Her issue was mental illness and I truly fear what I’ll find after all this time, if I ever manage to get in touch. Same, same, but different I guess.
It’s damn hard knowing that life often doesn’t turn out well for people you once cared about, and that people can and will change over time, often to the point where you don’t really know them anymore. I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you with Emma, and I hope knowing that you did everything you could to help her gives you some comfort in the end. Please hang in there and be well as you move forward in life.
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Hey, thanks for reading, and for the kind words. If you do decide to reach out to your ex, I hope it works out better.
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