In every addict’s life, friends and family play predictable roles or parts; some more or less and often flexing between them. (Please, don’t use this info to start labeling yourself or each other. But if it makes you curious to look it up and you notice some behaviors, talk to a professional and see if there are any positive steps you can take.)
Being single, there’s vacancies in my life for some of these personalities. Today, I present to you…… “Dan”! Auditioning for the role of:
Dan’s profile caught my eye because of his kind face (it’s all he showed in his pics) and really cool job as Director of Product at “Well Known Fancy Media Company”. In texting, he was intelligent and paid attention to me in a way that confirmed life really is all about me. He spoke: my ego swooned. To say he flattered me is an understatement. He seemed captivated by me; I wouldn’t be surprised if he took notes as we texted.
Fun example of his charm: This was during my “toast and cocoa” era. Living sans alcohol has given me a serious sweet tooth and I undergo phases of dessert, craving sugar’s dopamine rush. (true story – sugar increases dopamine more than cocaine.)
Every night I had two pieces of toast and a mug of hot chocolate, topped with giant marshmallows (childhood comfort food that Grandma used to make after school). I texted Dan a description of my love for this carb filled delight and he drooled “You make toast sound pornographic. I love listening to you…Can’t wait to meet you. I’m going to make myself toast right now”. It’s like he saw into my soul how much this dessert meant to me. I sent him a (not pornographic!) selfie of me eating toast. I felt desired. I felt giggly and excited and told myself stories of how great this would turn out.
(1: can you believe I texted these to him? B: can you believe I still have them and showed them to you????)
This attention came on the heels of Lyle saying “I just want to get laid”. Dan made me feel like a woman to be worshiped, not a body to relieve him of boredom or satisfy basic needs. But it sounds too good to be true because it was. Our first date quashed my optimism.
Picture this in slow motion movie-style – A classic blind date moment:
Me -polished, walking down a city sidewalk: messy updo, slightly see through yet super classy blouse, skinny jeans, heels. The lunch spot was hipster posh and in my mind I was about to meet a dream guy off the set of Mad Men (minus the smoking, day drinking and misogyny).
Two deep breaths and I opened the double doors, spotting him across the room. He stood to greet me…
And it was all I could do to ensure he didn’t see my faltered steps and fallen face. I wasn’t on a date with Jon Hamm….more like a very timid, taller, more overweight silver haired Rich Sommer.
I wished for invisible superpowers, so I could turn around and go home.
Dan is very tall, but hunches when he stands as if he doesn’t have the right to take up so much space. He appeared apologetic, like he was sorry I had to meet him. We started chatting and it was obvious he’d spent a long time being emotionally beaten up by others or himself. His self deprecating humor defeated him before he had a chance.
Caveat: a tiny part of me thinks Dan might follow this blog. I only have compassion for him, and this is merely my side of this story. I’ll leave out most of his details, but for context, he was in an emotionally abusive marriage for waaayyyy too long, and still in the middle of the mess, taking care of her during this time. His divorce was unraveling and he had caretaker withdrawals. He needed a project, and boy do I make a great one.
I questioned the emotional safety of our budding relationship when he started drinking coffee at 5pm to stay up and keep me company (via text) while I worked night shift. “I feel terrible you work all night. I can bring you cookies! I can bring your whole department cookies! It’s ok if it’s 2am!” We’d known each other just 5 days.
He would text me, and then apologize for texting, and then apologize for apologizing.
The initial excitement had drained away, and I felt sad for him. Since there was no physical attraction on my part, we had very little to go on.
However….my own codependent personality is alive and well, so I agreed to a second date. Those sheepish eyes, that hunched posture….my heart hurt for him. He knew that no other guy had yet crossed the 2nd date threshold, so I offered that as a gift. I also knew I’d use the date to let him down. “It’s me, not you.” And really, it is. I practiced my speech at home:
“I’m sorry Dan, I’m an addict. You’ve got children to protect from women like me, opportunities ahead of you. My situation will only hold you back. I could relapse! Dating me means high risk of drama and disappointment. You have so much to offer. I know “friend zone” is the kiss of death but….It’s for your own good.”
Our 2nd date started out fine, playing cribbage on the deck of a local public house as the sun went down. (Storing idea for future date with dude that has potential).
I procrastinated… why didn’t I do this over the phone?!! Dinner ended, the sun set and we moved our card game inside for dessert.
I ordered bread pudding which I LOVE. It came to the table in all its bubbly brown gorgeousness, and I used a giant spoon to scoop up a bite covered in dark golden sauce.
Then immediately choked as a mouthful of bourbon went down my throat. Yep. Straight Bourbon.
Dan was a little shocked when I about spit out my food on the table, but it gave me the perfect lead in for my speech. “I don’t drink. I’m an ….alcoholic….(see rehearsed speech above)….”It’s not you, It’s me.”
Mr. Caretaker was not to be deterred.
“Tiffany – It’s ok! I’m not judging. I can help! I’m the perfect person to get you through this. I’ll never drink around you…you can come to me with anything…I’m great support….”
Dan’s lack of self preservation was alarming. This guy should NOT want to date me. I couldn’t have made it more clear. Except obviously I could have, because he still needed follow up texts explaining that for MY sake, MY recovery, we couldn’t date.
Enablers are dangerous because they wear pretty costumes that look like love and feel like support. But there’s a big difference between caring about someone, and ignoring the issue in favor of keeping the peace.
- “I see there’s a problem here. I love you enough to talk about it, to support you getting help, and to walk away if you’re a threat to my well being.”
- “I see there’s a problem here, but if we talk about it, you might leave me, I might feel guilty, or someone might find out. So I’ll ignore it. And if it serves my needs, prevents conflict, or keeps you with me, I’ll even help ….get drugs, buy alcohol, make you more food, hide the problem, avoid treatment…. (fill in harmful blank here).
Its often more subtle and compassionate than “I’ll buy you drugs and alcohol”. In the beginning stage of my heavy drinking, someone took care of me during hangovers. They stroked my hair, brought water and Excedrin, and whispered “It’s ok, I’ll do the dishes. Just sleep. Don’t feel bad.” I’d wake up to Odwalla Blueberry B on the nightstand.
That feels loving, but it’s not love. I’m learning to differentiate. My addict personality definitely wants the enabler who instantly forgives and takes over when I screw up. But the healthier, recovering me, smells that s#!% for the toxic goo it is.
Sorry, Dan. I wanted to help you too….but I’m looking for something healthier, cleaner, more honest. I wish you well… I hope you find confidence in yourself because you deserve it. And for Pete’s sake, stand up straight, you deserve that too.
Currently there are no openings in my life for the role of “enabler”. I’m thinking of writing that part out completely. I’m due for a re-write anyway.
By the way, if you were wondering…I DON’T consider that mouthful of Bourbon sauce a relapse…I don’t care what proof it was. Dan, gentleman that he is, traded me his not- as-delicious but alcohol free berry cobbler. Pretty sure I followed it up at home with toast and cocoa.
Until next time, still trying to beat the sugar cravings….
Cheers and Gratitude,
Tiffany and her toast