Relationship Hindsight in Recovery

By Gia 03/10/16

As I have developed and grown spiritually in my recovery and taken time to discover my true self, my perspective has changed for the better. 

Sad woman in a bubble

Relationships can build us, define us, sustain us and conversely also have the power to be equally destructive. Not everyone emerges from their first love unscathed, and I was no exception.

My first ever break up sent me into a drug-soaked spiral. There was no hard fast science to fix my broken heart, there was no doctor. I just had to feel my way through.

The words: "It’s over" flashed up on my mobile. I saw it as the beginning of the end. I felt as though a part of me had gone, a Loss of Self. Suddenly, my whole being was filled with excruciating, razor sharp pain. I felt as though I had been winded as my heart shattered into tiny pieces. 

Three hours prior to the unexpected text, my boyfriend had taken and paid for me to have an abortion. I was left physically and emotionally exhausted from the procedure. I felt hopeless, lonely, and ashamed, as if a heavy black cloud had just arrived in my head. I chose to numb the heartache; I drank a bottle of whiskey and took some pills to help me sleep. This is where I found myself—or rather, sought out—the home of the ongoing self-pity night party, a place where I turned my days into nights and nights into days.

I was locked up in the world's most brutal prison for what seemed like a life sentence. The prison of my mind. My very lacking self was firmly in the grips of my addiction and self-loathing. During this process, I thoroughly managed to brainwash myself. Over time, my mind rewrote the narrative, deselecting my memories of the past, censoring the unacceptable and burying it somewhere in the depths of my psyche. This is where my own cognitive dissonance kicked in. Every time I recalled a memory about my relationship with this individual, I did not just remember it, I overwrote it with my own very carefully created image of an ideal him. This enabled me to reconcile myself to the reality that we were wrong for each other.

Over a period of time, I was effectively reinventing the narrative to make it more palatable to myself. For what seemed like a lifetime, no one came close to living up to this man because I had idealized him. When I did eventually encounter him sometime later, it was self-evident that I had idealized him and that he patently was not the person I had constructed in my own head. As soon as I had this realization, I started to let go.

Ten years have passed since we split. Active addiction enabled me to forget the physical and emotional trauma of the abortion as I was destructively working through it. As my mind suppressed the emotional and physical horror that my body endured in the trauma, it compounded and replaced it with even more horrific trauma—specifically the hamster wheel of addiction, Groundhog's Day and the never-ending cycle of active addiction.

However, having moved some distance away from where I was then, and engaging in a plethora of discussions with my therapist Chip Somers and likeminded healthy people in recovery, my perspective on my relationship with my first boyfriend has changed at certain points. I have felt momentary inclinations, fantasies to return to a relationship with this man who at one time I did feel I loved.

As I have developed and grown spiritually in my recovery, and taken time to discover my true self, I also learnt that there had actually been six people in this relationship the day we drove to the clinic.

1. Who I thought he was

I thought he was 32 years old and ridiculously arrogant. I thought he was my best friend. Someone who I thought I would spend forever with. Someone who I could tell everything and anything to without feeling judged. I thought he was someone who was as in love with me as I was with him. Someone who would never hurt me. 

2. Who he thought he was

He thought he was 26 and far superior to others. Someone impressed with his own magnetism, and thought he had a thrusting personality that made people aware of him regardless of what they were doing. He thought he had a tremendous amount of self-confidence, self-belief and determination to triumph over anything.  

3. Who he really was

A misogynist, but also a young boy who struggled to trust women because his mother emotionally and physically abandoned him as a child. A 30-year-old man with a silent scream coming from the depths of his inner child.

4. Who he thought I was

He thought I was 23 years old and someone he did not intend to have in his life forever. A sexual object, someone he thought would just have to get over it. Someone who was resilient and would eventually recover, and bounce back.

5. Who I thought I was

I thought I was a cool cat who could just rock up anywhere she pleased and call it home. Someone with an indomitable spirit, wise beyond her years. Someone who loved life and knew the ways of the world. Someone who was always having a good time with her life. Someone who was happy-go-lucky and took each day as it came.

6. Who I really was

A troubled 20-year-old woman who needed help and was looking for it in all the wrong places. I was a woman who had sustained physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries as a child. I had no concept of healthy boundaries, and no idea how to protect myself from danger. I suffered from naivety, my own innocence and a degree of magical thinking in a Piaget sense. I was incongruent. I was a silent scream. 

Today, armed with the knowledge and work that I have done on myself in my recovery and by applying Dr. Eric Berne's Three Ego Stages, taken from his 1964 publication Games People Play, to this relationship, I have learnt that the power dynamics in the relationship were skewed in favor of him. They were parent-child and therefore predatory, exploitative and abusive because of the gap in chronological age, status, emotional maturity and development. However, in hindsight, if I had not been with him I would have been with someone else who had dark triad personality traits—it was what I attracted because of the energy that I put out. It was also what I was attracted to. 

I have also learnt that I am not who I thought I was, and what I presented to the world was not an accurate portrait either. Recovery has taught me that I am responsible for my own feelings, which include falling in love and choosing to stay in love with a man who had very clearly walked out of my life. I am also responsible for letting another person make life changing decisions for me.

At times I have been a figment of my own imagination in a literal sense, and my own present existence could be tossed up in question too. I have learnt that my ego created and had me hide behind masks because my once very low self-esteem made me feel vulnerable, exposed, rejected and ashamed.  

Today, I am grateful to my past. I have been given the gift of recovery. I am able to be of service and valuable to others by sharing my experiences as others have done so for me. Recovery has taught me that successful people want others to succeed and will empower others to do so.

I believe most of us are all damaged in one way or another. I think that if we could get the most troubled and damaged people in the right situation, they would all say that they just want to be loved. Today, I believe that we are all just looking for love. I know I was.

Recovery has taught me that life is too short to hold on to hate and resentments. None of us are here for very long, so we should just enjoy life while we can and be kind to each other. Because none of us really know what anyone else has been through. Hurt just causes more hurt.

Today, I choose love and nothing today would make me turn my back on my heart.

Today, I am not my past. 

Gia is a writer from London, England. Gia enjoys living life to its fullest and encouraging others to do the same.

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