I thought I was finally ready to take the plunge into the dating pool. I had exactly eighteen months of sobriety under my belt and my feet were planted firmly in sober ground. I listened to my “sober advisors,” and waited that proverbial year to date. Actually, I waited a little longer. I had a sponsor, I went to meetings regularly, I had a home group, I was moderating and chairing meetings and I was working my twelfth step. In my mind, I was ready….or so I thought.
I have always told my daughters that I wanted to meet my partner in sobriety the old fashioned way-I wanted my Nancy Meyer Movie Moment~you know, like when Jack Nicholson and Diane Keeton met in Something’s Gotta Give? I wanted to be shopping in Whole Foods and have our shopping baskets crash into each other in the produce aisle while we were both reaching for the same bunch of bananas. We could laugh as we told people our story. ‘We met ORGANICALLY.’ Isn’t that how everyone meets their soulmate when they are in their sixties?
Now I can’t say exactly how I met this person here because it would break anonymity, but trust me…it was very much a meeting made for the movies.
That first time we spoke on the phone, I felt I had known him my whole life. We started slowly. We talked on the phone for hours. I would see his number come up on my caller ID and I would smile from the inside. I hadn’t laughed like that in a very long time.
We finally agreed to meet: first, he wanted to take our dogs to the beach and let them run. Sadly, I have two labs who hate the water-I refer to them as the “anti-Labs.” So, we decided to meet for dinner.
I felt sixteen again, yet I was looking at life through a sober lens and I felt empowered. I felt sure of myself. I wasn’t nervous at all.
It was at our first meeting that I realized this could “be the one.” He checked all the boxes. He was five years older than me, a doctor, divorced, loved dogs, loved his grandson and he was a doctor. But more importantly, he was sober. He had over twenty-three years of sobriety and I was floating on Cloud 9. We talked sobriety and shared our stories of getting sober. He listened. I listened. It was magic.
But this story doesn’t have the Nancy Meyer Movie ending…not for this alcoholic.
Our dating turned into early morning phone calls followed by spontaneous meetings for coffee followed by spontaneous lunches. He would call me in between surgeries “just to hear my voice.” More dates followed, but then the cancellations started to occur. I remember the first time he cancelled because it was an important arch to this story and how important this lesson has been for me. When he called to cancel, it was about fifteen minutes before I was supposed to leave to meet him. He sounded different, his voice was low. He slurred his words. I felt like I got kicked in the stomach.
He had told me that he had back surgery a few years back and had to take medication for the pain, so I brushed it off as he must have been on medication. But then the cancelling became chronic. I would meet him for coffee and he would keep his sun glasses on…inside…on a rainy day.
This went on for two months. Looking back on it, I allowed it to go on too long. One Sunday we were supposed to meet for dinner. He called, slurred words, and then an abrupt, “gotta go, my phone needs to be charged.” I didn’t hear from him for five days. When he finally called, I joked and said he needed a new phone. We both laughed. But in light of all of this, I still saw him. Every time we had plans, he had me drive. I started to question this, but I also wanted this so badly. We had plans for a Father’s Day BBQ at my daughter’s house. He was going to meet my family and I had a stomach ache over it. I picked him up and he had his sun glasses on again. This time, I smelled wine on his breath. He stumbled a little getting into the car, but my denial kicked in and I justified it by telling myself his back must have been bothering him.
At my daughter’s home that night, he kept his sun glasses on the whole time. His behavior was so bizarre we were all speechless. That night, after dropping him off, I went home and opened my computer and googled him. I typed his name in the search field and added the word “arrests.” I have no idea why I did this. I guess I just knew. And there it was. He had received a DUI on the same day he had to charge his phone. I think he was being pulled over while on the phone with me.
I immediately called my sponsor and told her. She told me I had to confront him. This was so hard for me. The old me, the one who brushed reality under the rug on a daily basis, didn’t want to do that. It meant that I had to say out loud that I valued myself. But wasn’t that what sobriety is all about? I was finally honest with myself about my drinking and my behavior. I was finally holding myself accountable, shouldn’t I expect that in a partner?
I waited a few days and I finally called him. I asked him if there was something he needed to tell me. He said “no.” I said, “are you sure”? He said, “positive.” Then I said, “I know. I know about the DUI.” At that moment I knew I couldn’t be with this man. If I was going to live a life of honesty, I had to be in a relationship with someone who did the same. I wished him well, I prayed for him for over a month and then I stopped thinking about him. I had dealt with this situation with a sober lens.
Dating is hard. Dating at sixty is hard. Dating sober is hard. But like everything in life, hard things make us grow. We learn lessons and if we are lucky enough, we learn that it is ok to demand being valued.
The old Kathy. The under the influence Kathy would have let this go on for way too long and I would have created a narrative that painted me as the victim. The new Kathy. The sober Kathy has grown and evolved and accepted life on life’s terms-whatever those terms are. And more importantly, I don’t drink over it.