How I Told My Boyfriend I Cheated on Him

By Hannah Sward 08/04/17

When he’d fall asleep I’d go to the Murphy bed walk in closet, crouch down, reach my hand into the pocket of my red raincoat and take out a white baggie of crystals. Crush. Snort, snort.

woman speaking to man passionately
When this recovering addict reaches the ninth step, she is finally able to come clean to her boyfriend.

When I first got sober, the meetings and the steps listed behind the speakers were a blur. I remember the day the words started to come into focus. I was at a meeting in West Hollywood at The Log Cabin. I was sitting in the front row. Between two moose heads mounted on the wall hung a scroll. The Twelve Steps it read in bold lettering. I read the list. None of it made any sense. But what was clear to me when I read the ninth step, "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others" was that I feared this step the most.

At the time, I had a boyfriend. We had been together for six years and the whole time I had been using drugs. I also cheated on him. He knew about the drinking, but not anything else.

“How could he not know about the drugs?” people would ask me.

I asked myself the same thing, over and over. I still do.

I pictured sitting down with him to make an amends. I couldn’t imagine it. I was scared that when the time came to do it, he would walk out and I would fall apart. That I would drink and use.

“That’s why the steps are in order,” my sponsor had told me. “You’re not there yet. You’re on step one. And there’s no rush. The important thing is to be rigorously honest, thorough and willing.”

“When do you get to the amends part?” my boyfriend would ask lightheartedly as I’d go to meet my sponsor.

I could never look him in the eye when he asked this.

It wasn’t until I was a year and a half sober that I got to the ninth step. My amends list was long. Very long. Six months later, after checking many people off the list, I came to him. We had now been together for eight years. I had just taken a two-year cake. I had made sobriety, as I continue to do now, my priority. I had cultivated friendships and a community that I felt nurtured by. I never thought that was possible. I had people I called for help. I had exercised the muscle of picking up the phone, getting to meetings even when I didn’t want to, being of service and actively working the steps.

I am grateful the steps are in the order they are. I could not have made the amends any sooner. There were times when I struggled with the willingness to do it.

“Pray for the willingness to be willing,” I was told.

The week leading up to my amends to him my landlord cut down the fig tree in the yard. I came home from work and it was gone. I broke down right there on the cement path leading up to the house. I had loved that tree. How could I live there without it? That night I started looking for places to live on Craigslist. They all seemed to have views of parking lots or the Dollar Store. Everything in my life seemed just horrible. I knew it wasn’t about the tree. It was the anticipation of making amends to my boyfriend.

The first night I tried to make an amends to him, I came home from work to him strumming his guitar.

“I’m writing a song for you,” he said.

My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t do it that night.

Music and writing were his passion. When I met him, he delivered flowers for a living.

“My dream is to build a cabin in the mountains and live there,” he had told me years earlier. “And not work for the man. Hermit life.”

That was not my dream. But we were in love and sometimes people’s dreams change. His didn’t. When I got sober I began to see that our life desires were leading us in different directions but I couldn’t picture my life without him. I was too attached and full of fear. Fear of what life would look like without him. He was my best friend. I was so used to sleeping next to him curled into his warm back. Making tortillas on the open flame of the stove, the love of his big Mexican family, the comfort of him being there when I came home.

I’ll never forget the night I did it. The wood floors, large French windows open to the sound of crickets in the garden, his gray socks in the left hand corner of the room, books stacked on the floor, his acoustic guitar that he had bought on a Sunday afternoon at the Fairfax Flea Market. The same market he had bought me a Royal typewriter as a gift when I took my first year cake.

The night I made the amends, I went to a meeting before.

“Bookend it with me,” my sponsor told me.

When I got home, he was watching a Laker game.

“They are tearing the other team apart,” he said, sitting on the edge of the couch.

I went into the kitchen. The game was in the forth quarter. I knew I needed to wait until it was over. I distracted myself for a little while. I started cutting onions, washing a chicken to put in the oven, adding spices that I had never used.

“What are you doing in there?” he asked from the other room.

“I’m making dinner.”

“Wow, you never do that. What’s the occasion?”

I didn’t answer. I put the chicken in the oven. Then I waited, looking out the kitchen window into the dark. It didn’t seem to me there was a moon that night. The sky was too black.

“They won!” I heard him yell. “Kick ass night.”

I picked up my phone.

“I can’t do it now,” I told my sponsor. “The Lakers just won and it will ruin his night.”

“You will be okay,” she said.

Nothing in me felt like I was going to be okay. I went into the living room. He was playing his guitar.

“I have something to tell you,” I said.

I wasn’t sure if I should sit close to him or give some space between us. I chose close, but not too close.

“Is it my turn?” he asked. “This is that big amends step?”

I stared at the wool blanket his mom had knitted for me. My heart beat so fast. I could smell the chicken in the oven.

“I’ve got to check the chicken first,” I told him, running to the kitchen.

I opened the oven door, stared at the string that tied the legs together. I went back to the bedroom, sat beside him. I took a breath, looked into his eyes. The brown, sleepy eyes I had grown to know, to find comfort in for eight years. The lids that I kissed goodnight.

“Sleep with the angels,” I would say.

When he’d fall asleep I’d go to the Murphy bed walk in closet, place a hardcover copy of The Sun Also Rises on the floor, crouch down, reach my hand into the pocket of my red raincoat and take out a white baggie of crystals. Crush. Snort, snort.

“The whole time we were together,” I told him, “I was using drugs.”

I asked what I could do to make amends. He stared at me.

“What kind of drugs?” he asked.

“Crystal meth.”

“The very whole time?”

I looked down, nodded.

“That explains the color coding the closet and taking apart the bathroom door knobs.”

He didn’t seem angry. I didn’t understand why.

“Is that all?”

For the past two years I had feared this question the most.

“He won’t ask,” people told me.

“How could he not?” I’d ask. “If I was lying and hiding the drugs from him he’ll know I lied about other things.”

“Did you cheat on me?” he asked.

I played with the yellow yarn that was coming apart on the knitted blanket. I looked at him.

“Yes,” I said.

I felt my face turn white. He got up, slid his bare feet into his shoes, picked up his guitar and walked out.

I stared at his sad socks in the corner. They had holes in them. I cried. Ultimately, I knew this was what needed to happen. I felt my HP was doing for me what I could not do for myself to move on. I called my sponsor and friends in the program. Cried some more. But I didn’t fall apart. I even ate part of the chicken that night.

I couldn’t believe I was okay. It doesn’t mean the following months weren’t hard. They were. We weren’t living together anymore. I felt panicked when I went home. I wasn’t used to all that empty space. I missed him and felt that hole so deep within me that I had been trying to fill with someone, something, anything.

I learned to sit with myself. When I felt the impulse to call him my friends talked me through. I wrote and shared about it in meetings. I cried a lot. But I didn’t fall apart. I was okay.

Today, five years later, we are on good terms. He lives in the mountains in a cabin he built and I am sober and can sit in the hours of the day without feeling panicked without him. We email silly things to each other once in awhile. I send him birthday cards. He even forgave me.

“I know what that’s like to cheat on somebody you love and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone,” he wrote in an email.

I have saved that email. I had never had a relationship end where, after time passed, we were able to keep in contact and tell each other that we still cared for one another. That is more than I can ask for.

Tomorrow morning, I have been asked to speak at the Log Cabin meeting. The same meeting I first saw the 9th Step and was gripped with fear. I imagine myself seated at the front, the scroll of the Twelve Steps framed by the two moose heads mounted on the wall and me sharing my story.

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