I have spent months trying to start writing a post, only to throw it out and start it over, repeatedly.
It’s hard to write in a way that won’t make readers think Chef is a bad person or a loser, because he is not. So please try to keep that in mind as you read these two posts.
My summer came to a crashing halt when Chef became very ill in mid-July. At a family party. Because he had been drinking beforehand. And not taking his insulin. I spent a scary afternoon in the ER and watched his parents walk out on him because they found out he’d been drinking. (Leaving me stranded as I’d left my car at the party to go with Chef’s cousin, a doctor, who drove him to the ER.)
The next morning, when the ICU woke him around 7AM to take blood, he looked over and did a double-take when he saw me sleeping on the chair beside his bed. He was still woozy from having his super-high blood sugar brought down carefully overnight, so he went back to sleep for a little bit longer. The next time he woke, he sat up and acknowledged me.
I sat on his hospital bed and held his hands in mine.
Him: I’m sorry. [He probably did not remember how many times he said that over and over, as he cried in the waiting room of the ER.]Me: I needed to hear that. [Deep breath.] Listen, I’m not going anywhere right now, but I’m not going to watch you die. I have enough self-respect not to stay around and watch you kill yourself.Him: I needed to hear that.Me: So, when you leave here, you’re walking out with a plan to manage your diabetes and get help for your addiction.
He agreed. He liked the endocrinologist who’d handled his care in the hospital and made an appointment to see that doctor. His family doctor referred him to an in-patient treatment facility, because he admitted he had been struggling on and off with addiction on his own for nearly TEN YEARS. No wonder he had been able to hide it so well.
He did great in treatment, made amazing progress. I gave up hours at my side job and Pilates classes I’d paid for in advance, because the visiting hours naturally were at the same times as those.
In between visits and two-minute daily phone calls, to keep busy I cleaned out my bedroom closet (which I hadn’t done since the organizer came a few years ago) and donated tons of clothing. I binge-watched Big Love (weird but well-acted).
He’d said a few times towards the end of in-patient treatment that he was afraid of going back out into the “real world.” Shortly after finishing in-patient treatment, he told me that he “wasn’t going back into the kitchen, because it was too stressful.” He’d gotten the idea that he would make a great counselor based on the praise of those around him in treatment but had no real plan for what it would require to take up that kind of career change. And it seemed as if the fact that he was turning his back on his lifelong passion of cooking had no impact on his consciousness whatsoever. He was going to increase his hours at the grocery store and that would be his full-time job. End of discussion.
Of course, he also said that in addition to the outpatient therapy he attended, he was supposed to go to meetings, get a sponsor, and put some space between him and his parents. . . and none of that happened. About a month and a half after returning to life outside treatment, he spent a week barely talking to me. He’d wake up in the morning, text me his standard greeting, go to work (and/or therapy), and then go to sleep. At his parents’ place. I’d try to text back and get no response. Or I’d call and there’d be no answer or return call. It almost felt like when he was using, and it was upsetting.
After a week of that I’d had enough. He got home from work (I didn’t know he was working Sunday but how could I when he wasn’t talking to me?) and was napping at his parents’. I called his mom and got her to wake him up so I could tell him I was coming over to talk.
I met him at his place because there was something of my parents’ my mom had loaned him months ago and she wanted it back. When we sat down to talk, I asked him what was going on. He said he didn’t know but he just didn’t feel well.
For how long? I asked.
About a week and a half, he said.
You let yourself not feel well for over a week? I asked. You can’t mess around like that when you don’t feel well. That’s unacceptable.
He tried to argue that he’d been clean for 79 days—that’s only part of being sober and in recovery, I said—he insisted that I don’t understand it’s really hard. (Maybe I don’t know firsthand, but I had gone to the informational session required before visiting him in treatment. And I been going to Nar-Anon meetings for months.) I said I know how difficult it is and that’s why he needed to do all the other necessary things, to have them in place to support him when it gets hard. I reminded him of my words in his hospital room. “If you’re going to lie around feeling bad for over a week and not do anything about it, you’re passively killing yourself.” Then I asked for a pause in our relationship.
He was quiet for a second, then mumbled something which I asked him to repeat.
I was going to ask for a pause, too, he said dully. Not one part of me believed that.
I told him I’d never asked for something like this before but I told him I loved him and only wanted good for him. I begged him to take the time he would spend worrying about how to please me and use it to give himself the time and attention he needed to get better.
He said O.K. and then asked for some time to be by himself. I said bye, and he said see ya. I walked out.
I found out that night from a friend that he’d changed his Facebook status to Single.
Retaliation, I guess, but I don't understand why. Unless I was the “bad guy” for actually following through on my word. Or he just figured I gave up on him and he might as well break up with me before I did it first.
I went from his place to his parents’ to return a borrowed container from one of those dinners his mom cooked. His mom asked if we could still be friends and I said sure—then she wailed, “We’ve done everything to help him!”
I said, “You want to help him? Set boundaries, go to meetings—don’t enable him!” (Well, those words fell on deaf ears. More on that in Part II.)