Since I stopped drinking three months ago, I’ve become aware of the delusions in my life, especially with men. In the past, I’ve had a few real romantic relationships that have lasted for several years at a time. In between said relationships, I developed a love of ambiguity and tied myself to men that didn’t want clarity with me. I found it to be much easier to throw myself at someone who wasn’t invested in me than to spend my energy finding someone who liked me back. The faux safety net of ambiguity I kept creating was actually hurting me more in the long run.
I walked on this blurred line for years, primarily with co-workers. I would tell myself (and him, whoever he was that time) that we were “just friends”, but we both knew it wasn’t that simple. In reality, we would talk all day long, sometimes hook up, and pretend we weren’t jealous if the other person liked someone else. These types of connections were easy to find in the restaurant / bar industry. When working late nights with a small group of people, it’s common to get comfortable and even have a “work boyfriend”. But the closer I would get to my “work boyfriend”, the more complicated things would become. Flirting behind the bar would quickly graduate to drinks after work, X-Rated sleepovers, and finding hidden places to make out on the clock. The sneaking around is fun for awhile, then it gets messy. I didn’t like when he would flirt with the girl ordering 6 Jager-bombs. He didn’t like if I didn’t text him back fast enough. These “romances” tended to have a quick expiration date, then one of us would start hooking up with someone else, giving the other person a pass to do the same.
After leaving the restaurant industry and transitioning into retail at lululemon, I still found myself in the same problematic situations. Though I physically left an unhealthy bar scene, I managed to carry over some of my same behaviors to the retail world. I found myself turned on by stimulating conversations with male co-workers. We would share motivational quotes and talk about how we are going to change the world by crushing our goals. Then those talks, too, would carry over to drinks after work and occasional X-Rated sleepovers. I thought that a common interest in sex and personal development was an automatic precursor to love. We liked each other, we motivated each other, we talked everyday, why would I have pursued someone else? They didn’t think that way, because while they saw our interaction for what it was, I remained afloat on my cloud of delusion. Eventually, they would start dating someone else, someone real who could be vulnerable and risk getting hurt, someone who was ready to be in a real relationship. And I would go through break-up type emotions over a relationship that existed mostly in my head.
Until very recently (like…this month), I realized how unhealthy this game was, but man did I love playing it. When it comes down to it, I just can’t handle friendships like that anymore. Just because he flirts with me at work, that doesn’t mean he likes me. Just because we text all the time, that doesn’t mean he’s not texting other girls, too. Just because we hooked up a few times, that doesn’t mean we’re dating. Looking back, I now see a pattern of romanticized friendships that I just read way too much into.
I can’t solely blame alcohol for my problem with men. Sure, a lot of my past hook ups wouldn’t have happened if I was sober, but I’m learning that my problems with men are layered. I drank heavily to avoid reality and create my own distorted version of it. These relationships were often fueled by alcohol, but it was my love of self destruction that kept the fire going. Now, I respect myself enough to know that I deserve something real, too.