"You'll never meet a good guy in a bar or nightclub." That's what people say, right?
I met my boyfriend of 3.5 years in an after hours club in the resort town of Cancun, Mexico, and we were both wasted. I now realize our case is an extremely rare one. The night we met I never would have guessed this person would become my partner and best friend. In fact, all I really cared about on the night we met was being seen with the DJ (yes my boyfriend was the DJ) and flirting with him as much as I could since he was incredibly good looking. At the end of the night we left together and I met up with some other friends and promptly ditched him, in true Drunk Kelly style.
Dating people wasn't really something I was interested in when I met Fernando. My priorities were using drugs and alcohol and getting attention from casual men. Fernando and I started hanging out as drinking buddies first and it turned romantic after about two months. He clearly didn't know what he was in for when he took up with me. As had become my pattern during my drinking years, I tried my best not to get attached. I pushed him away, I treated him badly, I gave him numerous reasons to leave me in the dust, but he did not. He was totally cramping my style. He would get mad at me for doing cocaine in the bathroom of the nightclubs and be annoyed when I didn't want to leave the nightclub at 3 a.m. so I could continue the party; I mean who did he think he was? Arguments and screaming matches quickly followed.
Eventually he grew on me and we started spending every night together. The fights subsided. He brought his belongings to my apartment and kept them there. I cut back on my drinking and drug use because I thought that's what you did in relationships. I started to like movie nights (caveat: with wine). But once the weekend hit, I was itching to go out and drink heavily again. We continued to go out on the weekends and I think this was when he finally realized that I had no control over my drinking. Now that we were in love, he had no choice but to become my caretaker when I was drunk. And he quickly grew tired of carrying me out of the bar, cleaning up my puke, and explaining to me everything that had happened while I nursed my hangover the day after a binge.
His attempts to bring up the fact that I had a drinking problem didn't go well. Each time we talked about it, I had a plethora of reasons why I didn't have a problem. I pleaded with him and told him that I could control my drinking and would prove it to him. These miserable trial periods were always short-lived. I'd have a month or two of "normal" drinking, which to me meant 12 drinks in a row without blacking out. It wasn't fun. I hated abiding by the rules and later feeling guilt and anxiety when I broke them. I didn't know it then, but that was the beginning of the end.
In May of 2013, I had a trip planned to meet my high school girlfriends in Punta Cana for one of their bachelorette parties. This meant an all-inclusive hotel, unlimited alcohol and beautiful beaches. I told Fernando about it six months ahead of time and he definitely didn't think it was a good idea. I promised that I would be a "good girl," regulate my drinking, and not endanger myself, or others. My wonderful intentions disintegrated as soon as I got there. On the second day, I drank all day and blacked out. I was incapable of operating my iPhone and letting Fer know that I was alive, and not passed out from alcohol poisoning. The next day when I came to, alarming anxiety overwhelmed me. "Oh shit," I said out loud. "I blacked out." I grabbed my phone and checked my messages. There were several from Fer saying that our relationship was over and not to contact him anymore. I was crushed and overwhelmed with guilt, and I continued to drink for the rest of the trip to deal with that. I cried to my friends and though they didn't say anything, I'm sure they weren't surprised why he'd broken up with me.
In the airport on the way home to Cancun, I was a mess. I was doing it again -- screwing up a relationship with a good guy, nursing a nasty hangover and feeling helpless because I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. This was the turning point in my relationship with alcohol and drugs -- and with Fernando. I decided that day in the airport that I had to try something different. Fer picked me up from the airport, despite our breakup. I begged him to forgive me and told him about my plan: I was going to stop drinking. He didn't have much to say, but he had already moved his belongings out of our apartment. He went to stay with his parents while I was left to drown in my misery for the next week. That week from hell was my first week without drugs and alcohol.
After a week, Fer brought his things back to our apartment and we decided to give our relationship another shot. As it turned out, as soon as I got sober, we had nothing left to fight about. Removing alcohol from my life not only removed the immense source of pain that had prevented me from being in a healthy relationship for years but also allowed me to learn how to love and be loved. Who better to do that with than the man who had been there with me through it all?
I'm not going to lie; I had no idea if we would even like each other once we cut out the partying, but it turns out we did. We had a relationship to salvage and the outcome has been a partnership that has transformed both of us. I feel incredibly lucky today because I've never had to date in sobriety. I've been able to skip Tinder, and eHarmony, and stick with the guy that held my hair back and wiped my tears. I haven't had to deal with a first sober date, first sober kiss with a stranger, or weird first sober sex episode. I didn't abstain from a relationship during my first year sober, like so many advise.
In sobriety I watch other sober friends date and try to explain their addiction and recovery to new significant others, and I can't help but feel grateful. Fer has literally seen me at my worst and at my best. Even knowing everything about my ugly past, he still chooses me.
In fact, our relationship is stronger because of it.
This post originally appeared on AfterParty Magazine.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.