Remember the eight-year-old kid from the movie Love Actually who confesses to his father (played by Liam Neeson) that the problem he’s been having isn’t that he’s being bullied or having trouble in school, but the fact of the matter is, he’s in love. With a sigh of relief, Liam Neeson’s character says, “Oh, good. I thought it was something worse.” His son says, “Worse than the total agony of being in love?” To which Liam Neeson agrees, “No, you’re right, total agony.”
Yes, total agony. I experienced this agony a little over three years into sobriety when I found myself falling in love.
I got sober in 2012 and between 2012 and 2015 I can’t tell you how many disastrous dates I went on. Tinder is good like that. There was the guy who got wasted over dinner and repeatedly told me he wanted to “bang” after dropping trow and peeing in the middle of the street. There was the guy who had scheduled back to back dates without giving himself enough time. I was awkwardly trapped in line waiting on my skinny vanilla latte while he walked her out and came back in unaware. And then there were the countless guys who didn’t want to date at all, but would hit me up at 11pm with a charming “sup?” or “wanna hang?” text.It was exhausting, it was miserable, but it was safe. When you go on as many dates as I did with little to no connection with 99% of the guys, it's hard not to feel defeated. I started to believe that maybe sober Allison just simply couldn't connect with guys. I questioned my ability to fall in love and started to come to terms with the fact that maybe it wasn’t in the cards for me. I most certainly wasn’t going to settle for anything less than what I deserved. I did that enough during active addiction. I’m not even sure why I put myself through the torture of all those Tinder dates, but it got to be a bit of a joke to me and my friends who were watching from the sidelines. They encouraged it because it was so ridiculous and provided them with hours of entertainment. I did it because obviously I find comfort in misery. Let’s just chalk that up to the alcoholic in me.I agreed to dates with two more guys over the summer before deleting my Tinder account for the umpteenth time. I met Guy #1 on a Wednesday for coffee at Starbucks. He smacked his coffee. I didn’t even know this was possible but it was annoying. He picked his teeth but we weren’t eating so I don’t know what he was picking. He also used the phrase “taking a dump” in a story he was telling.
I left that date and cancelled the one I had lined up for Friday with Guy #2. I couldn’t do it—I was done. I couldn’t imagine subjecting myself to one more bad date. Plus, I was good at being single. Single was comfortable. Single was fun, familiar. No one could accuse me of not putting myself out there. I was just throwing in my Tinder towel.After a couple of weeks of randomly texting with Guy #2 and cancelling two dates with him, he sent me a text saying he was going to try one more time. He wanted to schedule a date but if I wasn’t interested then it was understood on his end and no worries. I agreed to meet him that following Friday. He seemed very gentlemanly and I had reasoned in my head that going out with the much dreaded “nice guy” wouldn’t kill me. The suppressed hopeless romantic in me thought maybe, just maybe, this date would be different. If not, then I could be back home by 8pm watching Netflix; no harm, no foul. Well, I fell in love. Not on the first date, but after a few weeks we became inseparable. I liked this guy. He was different. I wanted to see him more and more. Making plans for the next week, or next month didn’t freak me out—which freaked me out. I started to care for this guy. The more I spent time with him, the more I liked him. This was not typical. It was usually just the opposite. However, the more I liked him, the more that was at stake.I never experienced such discomfort with my feelings in sobriety as I did while falling in love. I didn't want to drink but I thought about drinking more than ever—about the ease and comfort alcohol once provided me when my mind wouldn’t be quiet. I was feeling insecure and fearing the unknown. My thoughts were obsessive and unhealthy. To top it off, I was running a tad more in self-will than I was used to in sobriety, which was only making it all more difficult. Oh, and I would have rather spent time with my new beau than with my fellow 12-steppers so I was slacking on meetings.
I understood more than ever why it’s suggested to abstain from dating during your first year of sobriety. At three years sober, I had mastered dating. Falling in love sober was an entirely new beast. I don’t know about you, but I have to put forth a lot of effort and work to maintain balance and keep spiritually fit. Some days require more effort than others. Luckily, today I have tools and know how and when to utilize them. I find myself needing them a lot more being in a relationship with someone.I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be in a relationship and do it all sober. Guy #2 (whose name is Jason) would never have been attracted to active addiction Allison. I didn’t love myself enough to let someone like him love me. It’s a good thing we found each other after I found recovery. I still get this pink cloud feeling when I think about the fact I am 100% present for this relationship. That is certainly a first.Over the past few years, I’ve come to understand that feelings will not kill me, nor do I have to drink over them. I know this to be true for feelings of grief, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, anger, depression, fear, and discontentment, just to name a few. I can now add love, or should I say the total agony of falling in love to the list.