Five More Minutes

Five More Minutes. That was my mantra when I quit smoking 8 months ago. I can make it five more minutes without a cigarette and counting down five minutes at a time I became a non-smoker after 30 years of being a slave to that addiction. I had quit and failed at least 5 times throughout my smoking life and in all honestly I never thought I would have the discipline or commitment to succeed.

I had a stop date in mind, but life kept happening and I kept extending that date to next week, and the next, and the next…

Life kept happening though and it became clear I would never stop smoking. This caused major conflict in my relationship, yet I could not give up my cigarettes. My cigarettes were not just cigarettes, they were a companion to me during times of deep and sorrowful loneliness, a comfort to ease the constant anxiety, an anxiety so great that it dictated my life, crippled my relationships, and crushed my soul.

During a phone interview in April 2015 I was walking around my house answering and asking questions and all of a sudden I was breathless. Walking and talking were not something I could sustain for 20 minutes without losing my breath. In that moment I realized that these companions, these aides, would kill me and I would drown in my own fluids. Not the way I wanted to die. And not the way I wanted to live. So I quit. On April 27th I quit cold turkey, no patch, no gum, no vapor pen, nothing. I wanted the nicotine out of my system and knew my fight would be psychological. I did it. I did what I never thought I would be able to do and became a non-smoker.

On this new day of this new year I find I have turned to my trusty mantra to get me through another addiction; the end to my relationship.

Past me would be in a ball on the floor howling like a wild animal – I would break, scream, yell, hit, hurt. Ugliness, plain ugliness. But it was all I knew and all I could do to run from that emptiness crawling and scratching its way through my mind. I just didn’t want to feel.

I don’t want to feel now. Every second I am stopping myself from ripping up photos, setting fire to the bed, breaking the memories of us until they turn to dust and blow away. I can make it five more minutes through this hurt. I can make it five more minutes through this loss. I can and will exhibit self-control, composure, and acceptance. I can. I must.

I smoked today. It did not make me feel better or comfort me in any way. Instead, I feel guilt and disappointment in myself that I would throw away all my hard work and injure myself over a man that isn’t worth it. Now I have to remember that returning to him would be like returning to smoking, a false sense of comfort.

We love our poisons. They do NOT love us back. The next five minutes will eventually lead to a new life and I know without doubt that I will look back someday and wonder how I ever felt despair over losing a man that I believed was the antidote but is in fact poison.

 

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The Story of Us

With 2015 now in the rearview mirror I am reconsidering my adversity to the NY resolution since I find myself staring down the barrel of a life I never expected to be living. After 8 years of sharing a life and what I thought was a shared dream for a future together I find myself upended in the most unexpected way. The man I love told me he does not love me anymore.

The 20 pound turkey which should be filling my home with the comforting scent of a holiday meal remains cold and untouched in my fridge. He left me. After 8 and a half years of living life one way, feeling one way, it just ended in a sentence.

Our relationship has been on life support for a while now, we both knew this. But I never expected this – that the door would close forever and he would walk out of my life. I have always, always, always believed in us, believed in his love for me, and believed that we would overcome our issues.

Our story, the story of how we met, is one we have always loved to tell when people ask. It is a great story. When we tell it together everyone always smiles, laughs, and tells us how romantic it is.

So, this is our story.

I had relocated to Sonoma County for work in 2006 and had the good fortune to meet a great group of people through a mutual acquaintance. That first year was amazing and I will never forget the good times I had. Yet, I forgot the first and even second time, which I was introduced to Alan. Which he loves to tell people and also tease me about. It was maybe the 3rd time our paths crossed that he kinda stuck in my mind. My girlfriend was trying to get me “back in the saddle” and was determined that I enjoy a little sport sex. Not my style really but once she gets an idea in her head there isn’t much one can do to deter her efforts. Enter MMA Guy – she found him in the bar and invited him to hang out with us, obviously pushing for us to “hook up”. I love my girlfriend dearly, but this guy was just ridiculous. First, he had braces on his teeth and looked to be about 18 years old (I was mid-30’s then) and second, his job was MMA Fighter, and last but not least was asking ME to buy him drinks. He turned into a serious Hanger-on’er and I couldn’t get rid of the kid, even when I very directly told him to go away. Alan happens upon our little party that night and was keen to pick up on my desperation to get rid of the MMA Guy. We were all hanging out on the boat docks, jumping in and out of Alan’s boat to grab a drink or play with his dog. Then Alan suggested we all go for a moonlit boat ride and we all happily started to pile into the boat one by one – till MMA Guy started to board. Alan just held his hand out in a stopping motion and looked straight at the guy and say “Not You”. MMA Guy looked at me for support and I just waved bye-bye. MMA Guy ended up leaving his MMA baseball cap behind on the boat and we still have that cap around somewhere as it always provides a good laugh when we come across it. Alan also loves to tease me about being a “Cougar” on the prowl for young unsuspecting MMA hopefuls…you know, one of those inside kind of jokes.

Nothing happen between Alan and I that night and as grateful as I was for his intervention we parted ways and I went on living my life without giving him much thought really. We crossed paths a few more times over the months and exchanged friendly hellos here and there but he still wasn’t on my mind past our brief meetings. I think Alan was interested in me though after that night, though he would not likely admit that to anyone other than me. Boys can be so silly about those types of things.

My sister came for a visit that summer and she and I and our youngest sibling decided to have a girl’s night out while she was in town and hit the main hangout on the lake for a night of hearty drinking and fun. As luck would have it, we ran into some friends from Sonoma County and had a wild night. I remember laughing so hard I was in pain, it was one of those nights you don’t forget and everyone was having a great time. Our group was sitting near the pool, talking and laughing, dancing and drinking, and then there was Alan and his friend. They joined our little party and laughed and drank along with the rest of us.

I cannot remember what we were talking about or why, but I remember clear as day looking to Alan and saying these exact words: “You’ve been divorced, so you know what I mean, right?”

He looked at me blankly and said in a flat voice – Um, no, she died.

Cue humiliation and horror. I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.

10,000 apologies later Alan treated with me absolute kindness and graciousness. Afterward, always afterward right, I had a faint memory of Angel telling me about a friends friend whose girlfriend had passed away and the guy was having a rough time. That guy was Alan and I was the ASSHOLE who didn’t make the connection.

So later while standing in line at the bar to order drinks when my sister said “Alan seems great, why don’t you date him?” Well, I said, I am pretty sure he hates me now and must think that I am the most vapid and horrible person ever. Besides, I added, he is too short. I could have never guessed what would happen a few months later.

September 21, 2007. The day my life changed forever. Angel, God love her, was hosting a themed costume party. Battle of the Network Stars. There was an Incredible Hulk, a Gilligan, and Hot Lips Hulahan, a Wonder Woman, Magnum PI, the Skipper, Wednesday Adams, and 2 Mr. T’s, among others. One Mr. T really went all out, gluing a faux-hawk to his bald head and covering his body in grease paint. That Mr. T was Alan. And I was some random character from 3’s Company. And something just happened; it just clicked, for us both. We talked and laughed for hours. When he finally jumped in the shower to wash off the paint I was like a silly girl teasing him by taking pictures of him in the shower, giggling and laughing. This led to flirtation. Then kissing. And then, I went home with him that night.

Once we got to his house and it became pretty clear very quickly that we wanted each other things became very still and quiet. He had not been with another woman since Danielle had passed and I had not been with anyone in more years than I care to count. It was a significant moment for both of us, highly charged, emotionally and physically, and sexually powerful. We fell asleep holding each other tightly, neither ready in that moment to go any farther than that comforting embrace.

Morning came too quickly and I did not want to even consider leaving his side. Happily, Alan felt exactly the same. I was happy for it, the effects of the alcohol had long faded and we lay there together talking softly, laughing, comforting each other’s fears and we made love for the first time. And then the second and probably a third. After which he drove me home, we showered up, spent the day together and he showed me Sonoma County in a whole new way. We went to the ocean, we drove around all day talking and talking, and had our first date that night at a little Italian restaurant that was rustic and romantic. He told me about Danielle. I told him about my heartbreaks. We listened, we laughed, we cried, and we held on tight.

That following week he had already booked a 10+ day trip to New York and Memphis to visit friends and I ached at the thought of being separated for so long. He must have too because he bought me a ticket straight away to join him and whisked me away to New York City. That was October. By April the following year we were living together.

September 21, 2007 was the day my life changed. From that day till yesterday we were us, we have never been apart since that first night all those years ago. And now I am just me again with another sad story to tell.