Thanks for your continued support as I write out this disturbingly long story, friends. It’s so lovely to open my e-mail and see your comments and know that you survived the entire post!
Finally, after much ado and entirely too long a break – the story of my engagement.
From the very beginning, my relationship with Steven was dysfunctional. Neither of us was in a place to be even casually dating – he was depressed and drinking too much, I was depressed, drinking too much, and battling the worst (to that point) occurrence of my eating disorder. I wanted very much die, but was quickly intoxicated by his kind words, knowing glances, gentle demeanor, and the fact that he was not at all scared of my crazy. I was his reason to live, he was my reason to eat (and therefore live), and we very suddenly found ourselves enmeshed and codependent.
I say this all very matter-of-factly only because hindsight is 20/20. At the time, I thought this was the healthiest relationship I had ever been in and grew increasingly fond of Steven despite my attempts to never ever ever fall for a boy ever again. I can look back on this beginning time rather fondly and I still very much love that boy.
It was that boy that hooked up a webcam to his computer so we could play Risk once a week, despite living 200 miles apart. It was that boy who cried when he called to tell me that one of our turtles had died. It was that boy who lay next to me in bed and kissed the scars on my abdomen after realizing they were self-inflicted.
Less than two years later, he would be the cause of the open wounds and would barely acknowledge me when I asked if he had butterfly bandages to try and reduce the scarring.
We met through a mutual friend – and when I say “mutual friend,” I mean my best friend, his ex. To be fair, my best friend is the one who introduced me to her ex, in part because I think she was simply tired of hearing the two of us whine to her about our love life woes. She gave us permission to date (and then rescinded it after two months, but that’s a different story) and we did so.
I don’t know that the details are necessary. I loved him fiercely. I gave him everything and trusted him with my entire person. It was months before I could do so and I spent much of the early part of our relationship in tears, sure that he would use me and leave me as was the pattern in my relationships up to that point. It was a risk and one that paid off, at least for a time.
We got engaged quickly, after only six months of dating. In month seven, he withdrew from school due to his depression. In month eight, I dropped all my classes save for one due to a crippling depression that prevented me from moving from the bed. (As it turns out, staying in bed was very, very fun at times. And very, very awkward for the roommate that shared a wall with me.)
I met his family, he met mine. We started planning a wedding to follow a long engagement. In May of 2007, shortly after our one year anniversary, we attended the wedding of a friend of mine and stayed in a hotel in a small town in South Carolina. As we were packing up to leave the morning after the festivities, I found it: a baggie of weed, a lighter, some papers.
Steven thought I was overreacting when I told him how upset I was. Before we ever started dating, I told him that I never again wanted to date someone who did drugs. The guy I “dated” (slept with on a regular basis) before him was a pothead and a drug dealer. I constantly felt like I was playing second fiddle to an addiction. For Steven to start doing drugs felt like a personal attack and betrayal.
The following months are a blur of arguments, deals, more arguments and my move to the city where he lived. Shortly after I moved there, he took me to a party with his friends and then abandoned me to go and smoke with them upstairs. And yet, he was still sweet and loving, curling up next to me as my untreated depression left me in bed for days at a time. Unfortunately, we were both so emotionally stunted that he had no real way to comfort me except physically. While the sex was amazing (Seriously. AMAZING.), it did nothing to comfort the ache of my heart that multiplied by leaps and bounds when I found his profile on a dating site.
Shortly after Christmas, I found e-mails on his computers sending nude or nearly nude photos back and forth between he and other women. It was not the first time. I was heart-broken. This was the man I was sure I would marry. The man that I intended to see at the end of the aisle in a church that was already booked wearing a dress I had already bought.
I left him the ring and a note asking him to call me when he grew up.
We stopped talking for weeks, tried to make it work, had make-up sex and break-up sex and “what the hell do you do when you love the person but can’t figure out how to make it work” sex and eventually called it quits. He was spending more time with his drug dealer than me and I couldn’t do it any longer. I can only assume that it was the Holy Spirit that helped me realize in that moment that I was worth more than what he was giving me.
I never found a church when I moved to his city, and never gave much of a thought to church – until I broke up with him. I was working for a Christian company, where church was part of the culture and regular attendance was practically expected of the employees. Company meetings began with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. I thought about church, about God, about what I had grown up with. I didn’t particularly care about Him, but showed up on Easter Sunday anyway to appease my mother. I didn’t know what God had to do with anything, though I craved the peace and community that I saw amongst my Christian friends.
The truth is I was hurt and I was angry. After finally breaking up with Steven for good, I became so angry that it began to eat at me from the inside out. I drank heavily. I ran mile after mile. I watched more movies on Netflix than I could count. None of made the hurt and anger any better. I couldn’t take it any longer and I had bottles of pills and liquor prepared to take it all away.
I can’t be sure what caused me to pause that night when I came up with my plan – most likely the Holy Spirit again. My hand throbbed from where I punched the wall and bloodied it and I knew I couldn’t live one more day with this anger. The anger had to go or I had to go.
God, I said. IF you exist, you have to take this anger. I can’t do it any more. You have to take it or I am killing myself tomorrow.
It was a ballsy prayer – IF you exist. IF you care. IF you are capable.
He exists. He cares. He is capable.
I woke up the next morning completely at peace. I held no anger toward Steven, no ill will. I wanted him to be happy and I wanted to know this God that cured me of the anger and heartache that no substance could.
I bought a Bible and started reading.
Just one final installment to come: how I found a home.