Manipulative ex’s is a topic everyone seems to have a weakness for and fall prey to at some point. This is a topic repeated endlessly in movies and TV. It tends to show up with talk of ex’s. The prevailing wisdom is to ignore, block, de-friend on all channels of social media. As an infatuation/attachment addict, (not sex/love addict-because I’m not that evolved), I fall prey to this frequently. A friend might say to you when considering a late night encounter with the ex you have parted with 6 months to a year before, “Don’t do it, man. Its not worth it. It’s just gona set you back again. Don’t give in.” He urges. When I see a text from the ex looking to poke her head back into my life.
My first girlfriend, I was obsessed with, more specifically, I was hell bent on possessing like Russia is trying to annex the entirety of Ukraine. I was at my massage therapist the other day, for strictly medical purposes, no happy endings, and narrowly eluded an encounter with the father of an ex whom I had broken up with 3 years ago. He was an outspoken denouncer of my character and integrity, as not being good enough for his daughter. He would expound to anyone who would listen in my hometown about how I was a vapid, good-for-nothing, loser. He spouted off to everyone except me. He had come to for the hour-slot right after me. Lana, my massage therapist, exited the private room to greet him. I was in a semi-dazed state as she was beating me up that day with her strong hands. She informed him briefly outside the room that he had come an hour too early. He apologized and said he would return in an hour. “That was Jim Parsons. Your favorite person.” Lana said, with a toothy grin.
I exhaled noticeably, relieved to have dodged an awkward encounter.
“Oh yeah,” I pursed my lips, “I’m so glad I’m past all that. How is Erin doing?” I said, trying to deflect the conversation away from me.
“Jim doesn’t seem to like any of her boyfriends. I would always tell him to go easy on you.” Lana said, as she dug into my neck.
“I’ve tried hard to move past all that stuff.” I said. I could tell from her jovial chuckle when she first mentioned it, that she wanted to prod me in a teasing way about my drunken antics that she had heard in detail from Ned, within a week of them occurring, a few years back.
“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself, you were just a kid back then, we all make mistakes, you learned from it though.” Lana said.
Pondering the fact that this guy still thought of me as a drunken man-child, not worthy of his daughter prompted the shame to flood into my psyche like Hurricane waves in the ocean, breaking the levee that usually keeps them out. Time heals most wounds, not all, and I consider that a blessing. I find the ones that are the most impactful, in a positive way, are the ones of me humiliating myself. At the same time, I thought, who cares, what’s done is done. I never even disliked the guy, I always wanted to be able to speak his language of outgoing-wise-ass that I could never match, blow for blow in the sparring of sarcasm that so many self-confident people engage in. Now, I don’t beat myself up as much.
There was a night at Erin’s house, I had brought a bottle of this apple cider drink type called Firefly. I drank it like water, because however they made it, it disguised the taste of alcohol, it was nearly undetectable. It was smooth sailing for most of the night, having dinner with her parents and brothers. Then it happened, the alcohol hit me like a sack of bricks, out of nowhere; the familiar blindside. I ended up crying and collapsing into the arms of Erin’s mother, for god knows what reason. I cringe any time I am forced to recall this memory. I am angry that I would ever let that happen, but it is a valuable reminder. Never again, never again, never again, I think. Never again will I disrespect and humiliate myself like that. The reels of shame are cringeworthy and embarrassing to recall, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There was the time Jim had found that I had been sent home from my job for the smell of alcohol coming from the sweat out of my pores, because I worked in the same company and department as a friend of his. I had showered and scrubbed my body that morning, but it was a scorching summer day in Manhattan and the sweat dampened my shirt, with it came the pungent odor of alcohol. There was the time I drove in a blackout, skidding out and leaving tire marks on the front lawn of a house a few blocks away from my house. I had been at the same bar as Erin, the night before Thanksgiving. We had broken up a few months before, and I saw her talking to a guy and remember bits and pieces of feeling stalky and jealous in the bar. Its as if, when reaching the blackout stage, the people manning the controls in my brain, wearing their headsets, say, Commencing stalker mode: all systems go, 5 seconds to launch, get ready people!
I’ve advanced past it, being sober for almost two years can make you think you are immune to these bouts of shame. In terms of “time” in sobriety, it means absolutely nothing to me, I feel as if I could have been drunk yesterday. I can still imagine the feeling and sensation of the hopeful giddy feeling of downing that second beer.
I need to do whatever is necessary to escape the negative feedback loop in my head, it becomes so self-centered that it will collapse on itself and from there I need to dig out of the rubble. I need to reach out to someone every single day or I will stay stuck in this ego-maniacal self-centeredness. I can’t do this alone, as much as I think I can.
I think of the movies Cast Away and I am Legend. They affect me in ways that other movies can’t because they depict the lone ranger, the solitary hero, completely and absolutely responsible for his own salvation. This is my malady, this obsession with me, me, me.