It’s twenty weeks into the pandemic, and I’m sitting on my new roommate’s old couch in Brooklyn, trying to figure out how I went from Buddhism to Boozhism.
We were a match made in heaven, a heaven with an open bar.
I can’t remember which therapist recommended Melanie Beattie’s Codependent No More, but the book was a gentle way of (correctly) diagnosing what I have in spades. You see, I’m not at the open bar because I drink, I’m there because I love to take care of every conceivable need of men who do. Well, part of me does and another part of me doesn’t. I’m not sure what Melanie would say about that, but my pattern is to get into intensely close relationships with alcoholic men, and then leave them because of their alcohol abuse (and all the attendant ills).
If you’re wondering why I was in therapy in the first place, I grew up with an alcoholic parent. I was younger than five years old when I learned the mirror trick — I’d put a mirror under my mother’s passed out nose to make sure it fogged up.
My sister found Al-Anon, I found Buddhism. After five years of Buddhist self-study, I upped my commitment. I made a three year vow of celibacy and swore off all intoxicants. Without disparaging sex and drug or alcohol use, I did this because I wanted to delve into what Buddhism is also called, “the great path of purification.” In the last year of my vow, I meditated and studied the Dharma with a former Buddhist monk, and separately earned a meditation teacher training certification from a secular outfit in New York City. In the last six months of this exciting period of spiritual growth, I lost 52 pounds. I felt so great by time my vow was set to expire (August 2019), I went out and fell in the love with the cutest, sweetest problem drinker I could find! Nine months later, I dragged my battered heart out of his life and started a new one for myself.
So here is one lesson learned: taking a break, even a three-year one, and even stuffing that break time with esteemed Buddhist teachings, teachers, and retreats, didn’t “cure” my codependency.
It’s now twenty weeks into the pandemic Pause in NYC, and I’m sitting on my new roommate’s old couch in Brooklyn, trying to figure out how I went from Buddhism to Boozhism.
After three years of total sobriety under my vow (and no personal history of alcohol abuse), I went to a bar three to four nights a week with “Las Vegas” (If you can’t be honest when you write, it’s not worth it to write, so fyi, my nickname for my ex is “Leaving Las Vegas,” which I’ve shortened to “Las Vegas”). For the first few months, I drank excessively and only stopped myself from drinking more each night because I didn’t want to imbibe too many calories. But around month five, I had a panic attack at a tacky open mic night in a dive bar.
The next week NYC went on Pause because of the pandemic. My drinking nights out ended, and I soon realized I wanted to keep bars on Phase 1 lockdown for the rest of my life. Las Vegas, however, mourned the loss of his social drinking. He was always very clear that he did not have a drinking problem. Rather his drinking friends were surrogate family members, since he was estranged from his own, so he really just missed spending time with his family. Hmm.
I would like to believe that we planned to get married because we were in love, but I think we were just co-fantasizing. I know that my codependency did as much harm to our relationship as his drinking. If he feels I bait and switched him, he’s right. If I feel like he chose drinking over me, I’m right (he did, without my having to ask, he told me as much).
Remember Carrie from Sex and the City? She wrote her column in every episode to exorcise her deep inner sadness, and also to bridge the anonymous gulf between her and the people she knew were out there in the city, also hurting. My clothes aren’t as nice, but I’m your Carrie tonight. I want you to know that you can have the best intentions for yourself, commit so much time, money, and energy to self-love, and still land up in an old pattern.
I don’t have new wisdom for you, but sometimes we just need to be exposed to the same old wisdom again and again until we can hear it. I have nothing to sell you, or convince you of. I am as lonely as the next person, I am as fearful and anxious as the most fearful and anxious among us, and yet there is a loving operator in me who stood up and not only left Las Vegas, but kicked a good sized hole in my co-dependency pattern.
Maybe it’s all the Buddhist philosophy I’ve read and practiced, but I don’t berate myself for the months I spent engrossed in my codependency. Rather, I congratulate myself for the years I’m not going to spend in a marriage where I pathologically subsume my needs to another’s (and one who so rudely and continuously ignored my needs at that).
I was a neglected child, but I don’t need to be a neglected adult.