Last year, around this time, on this day, Robert and I were breaking up. We were rounding day 8 or 9 of a 10-day trip through Utah and Arizona, seeing all the National Parks, and he'd gotten sick around Day 3. He'd rallied every day, hiking and sightseeing in every location, but would crash at night, not speaking much to me and rolling over to the far side of the bed. I stayed awake every night wondering what it meant; was it just his illness causing his silence, breaking our connection, or was there no connection at all anymore, and he was just trying to get through the trip without breaking up with me? It ate at me every day, and by the time we got to New Year's Eve, I was majorly on edge.
That morning, our plans to see Antelope Canyon got rained out. We went to the supermarket, the only place that served Starbucks in town, and I considered getting a bottle of wine for later. The hotel had hot tubs, and Robert had said that his idea of a perfect New Year's Eve was sipping wine in a hot tub. As I circled the wine aisle, though, I considered that he hadn't drinken nearly at all on the trip, and worried he'd think less of me if I arrived at the check-out with a random bottle.
We arrived in Sedona with little to do until our dinner reservations, and went for a walk in town. We'd broken up in Sedona eight months before - that time was my choice - and I was excited to think we had a fresh start. But he was being moody and kind of mean, telling me I walked too fast but seeming to walk extra slow just to get on my nerves. We passed a wine store offering tastings, and I suggested getting one - there was nothing else to do, and that would kill half an hour. Maybe some alcohol would loosen him up, and we could rekindle the connection that seemed to have withered between us. But he wasn't in the mood. I just want a boyfriend I can drink with, I thought. And then immediately flushed with shame. I loved that he didn't drink much, that so much of our time together was sober. What was wrong with me that I wanted to drink it away?
Finally, the dam burst. I don't like the way you speak to me, I cried, after something he said hit a nerve. I was just trying to lighten the mood, since we weren't connecting, he explained; and then I spat out that we hadn't been connecting the whole trip, and I don't remember the rest of the dialogue, but it was a quick agreement that we should break up. I wished I'd had that bottle of wine, then.
We went out to dinner together, still, because we needed to eat, and it seemed better than sitting together, sad, in our small hotel room. By the next day, my feelings had softened, and actually managed to have a decent time on our two-hour drive to the Phoenix airport, and the flight we ended up taking together back to LA. I was kind of annoyed that he was on that flight - that meant I couldn't drink in the airport or on the plane - but I figured I'd have the rest of the day and day after to drink, no rush in starting now.
And of course I did drink that day, and the 11 days that followed, but literally 12 days later I got sober. And when Robert and I got back together in August, I considered that it was all part of a bigger plan, that we needed to break up in order for me to heal, and that getting back together was the natural reward for working on myself and getting sober. It seemed destined, full-circle, if a little too neat and perfect.
And here I am, on New Year's Eve day a year later, fresh from another breakup with Robert. This time it was all him, and he did me the courtesy of breaking up a week ago, before our planned trip, but it happened nearly the exact same way. He got sick, I felt neglected, and basically told him that I didn't like the way he spoke to me. I said it differently this time, and it was a different set of circumstances, but it made him realize that we are too different for him to see a future with me. And it hurts - not just the breakup, but the idea that my pattern of relationship failure is continuing into yet another year. I think they're deeply tied - as much as I cared for Robert, I was also very happy to buy into the story that getting sober = problems solved.
Part of me wonders if anything has changed, if sobriety and therapy even made a dent in my relationship issues, given how the situation so similarly repeated itself. But then I know that part of the reason we broke up last year was because I'd been holding everything in, not telling him how I felt or talking about hard things. This year, I did the opposite of that. I told him when things he did bothered me, and I brought up conversations that were hard for me to start. We may have ended up in the same place, but the journey was very different.
It feels shitty to be starting 2018 the same way I started 2017, but I have to remember that 2017 was actually one of my most game-changing years. This was the year I got sober. That's possibly the single biggest achievement of my life, even though it didn't feel like it much of the time. Sobriety opened my eyes and my heart and quieted my mind and let me feel more connected to the Universe than I have been in years. I had no inkling, when I flew home on January 1st and holed myself up with bottles of Chardonnay, that less than two weeks later I'd already have started to change my life. Even though my life doesn't look or feel all that different right now, I know I have a strength and a clarity and a peace that I didn't have a year ago. I have a major project in the works that has the potential to significantly change everything, for the better, and I wouldn't have had the idea for any of it had the last two years not happened.
It's been a windy road, for sure, but such are the most interesting journeys.