Imaginary Boyfriends


When I say “they say” it’s safe to say that “they” are friends in the program. They say that my only job in the first year is to not drink. No one said anything, not a word, about having to be nice. So, I am going to squeeze as much mean as I can into the next 15 days. So, out come the bloody claws of the Slushkitty. Just kidding. Well, I’ll do my best to be nice anyway – progress not perfection, right?

Perhaps you think you know where my first stop on Mean Street will be? No! I am not going to be mean at all, nope. Not in the slightest. I’m not going to mention CM again, except as a reference for what to avoid. There – that is as mean as I will get… especially because, in the spirit of trying to be nice, I just had to scrap another 45 pages of Hell Hath No Fury blog material aimed at CM!!! (Shakes fist at sky).

Anyway, I am so confused by all of this love bullshit. I can’t get out of my own way – I feel like I am stuck in glue. I’m so discouraged, and I feel like I haven’t learned a thing about having healthy relationships. Not true, they say! They say I learned about what I need and what I want because I wasn’t getting it. Yeah, I guess. Whatever you say. Those red flags that I didn’t see with CM (sorry) that normal people, or even abnormal people with marginal self-esteem, do see, were, to me, ticker-tape in my One Woman Parade of Crazy, celebrating the fact that my heart isn’t cold and dead – it’s just retarded. But because of all this whining (when I raise my hand in meetings lately, people roll their eyes and get up and go to the bathroom or take a smoke break), I am getting remarkable amounts of tough love from everyone. I feel like it’s a badge of honor, this tough love. I’m almost at the one year line, and people have stopped pussyfooting around me, they call it like they see it now. They think I am fearless and bulletproof, a COOL KIDS badass who can bravely navigate through life’s hazards, scathed but stronger, tougher, hard as nails. It makes me want to jump up and down and clap, and hug everyone, and put a gold star on my forehead!

But yeah, I’m not going to talk about CM anymore for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that I am getting creepy(er). Also, because every second I spend making myself crazy trying to understand what I did wrong is a second I am closing my heart to someone who deserves and will appreciate this hot mess of love. And also because I fell in love with a heroin addict at a commitment on Tuesday night. …

Besides the abscess on the back of his elbow, he was SO CUTE! What a looker! A dreamboat really! We didn’t waste any time. We were outside during the break and talked under the canopy of what I understand to be a pretty swank detox. This was our conversation:

What he said: Do you have an extra cigarette?
What I said: Of course! Here you go.
What I thought: I’ve been waiting all my life to give you this “extra” cigarette, this one I wasn’t planning to smoke, because it belongs to you, just like my heart.

What he said: You’re really beautiful.
What I said: That is so nice of you! Thank you!
What I thought: I love you. We’ll beat this.

What he said: I can’t believe I am here.
What I said: Have you been sober before?
What I thought: You know our love is forbidden, right?

What he said: Yes, I had about 7 years, then I relapsed after my ex-girlfriend picked up again.
What I said: I’m sorry. That must have been terrible, really hard.
What I thought: So, you’re single?

I actually did not sign up for COOL KIDS to find a boyfriend. I actually signed up for COOL KIDS to get rid of a boyfriend, among other reasons. Over the course of this past year, I’ve had a lot of imaginary boyfriends. By this, I mean imaginary romances with real guys. Our love so complete and subtle, they often are unaware that these love affairs are happening, so I am always dramatically mourning some unrequited love. But lately, these relationships seem to be materializing in reality and spouting red flags which I am reeeeeeallllllly going to try to see from now on. I admit I like the attention – I mean, this is what happens when you’re sexy. Hmmm. I am probably not ready to date. I am probably really not ready to date when my imaginary conversation with my imaginary boyfriend goes something like this:

What he says: I love you.
What I say: You need help.
What I think: You need help.




When exactly did being sensitive become the emotional equivalent of having herpes? What kind of world would it be if everyone was frigid and pragmatic? That’d be like if everyone in the world exclusively wore earth tones. I’m going to try not to bore you with my self-indulgent love woes re: CM. CM was just my first sober relationship, so CM could really have been any adorable ice cube. My emotional vulnerability has very little to do with him. CM and I simply wanted different things. He just wanted what he wanted when he wanted it without having to deal with the “tiresome” regard for my feelings. I just wanted a boyfriend with a soul. Totally incompatible. Anyway, my sensitive nature is organic and seasoned – people have been complaining about it since forever, and 20 years of substance abuse likely didn’t help. So, it is not entirely CM’s fault that things didn’t work out. (Well well! Would you look at who’s taking some responsibility!!!).

My relationship with CM (that could have been with anyone really) was not born under a bad star – it was born under an entire rotten galaxy, a galaxy not far far away, but close close clooooooooooose up, threatening my sometimes slippery grip on sobriety. From the very beginning, I was on pins and needles just being across the room from him. I wanted to be pressed up against him, wrapped around him, in a Kung Fu death grip of hugs. I wanted to curl up inside him and nap there forever (my fair blond angel.. sigh…). Maybe it was that I didn’t want him to see me, literally and figuratively see me, from a little distance. He might be able to see how awkward I was – not knowing even basic stuff like when a dreamy gaze becomes a creepy stare, or at roughly what time during that first date should ask for the keys to his apartment. I didn’t want him to be able to sense my exposed nerves, or to be able to see how uncomfortable and anxious I was at the thought of letting him (or anyone) maybe get to know this sober me [and here’s where I start descending the self-defeatist spiral: and therefore opening up the possibility of him (or anyone) rejecting me or just not finding this sober me attractive, this sincere me who really is trying to appear normal. If sincere, sober me got rejected, then what? It’s all I have. If that is not enough, why bother go on living in this cruel cruel world? But really, would it ever be enough for anyone? They say yes, of course, in time, when you’re ready. I want to know when and I want to know when now]. But then again, maybe I wanted to always be glued to him so that I wouldn’t be able to see him. Oh, CM, CM, how perfect you were! I would hold my breath before you would speak because I didn’t want you to ruin everything. I would hold my breath and not speak at all because I didn’t want to ruin everything (until I spoke and ruined everything). I didn’t want you (or us) to smudge. You (and we) smudged, oh yeah, baby. You (and we, but mostly you) smudged to the tune and birth of 23 (and counting!) resentments – 23 resentments with their deafening screams of “DANGER!!! DANGER!!!” that were so deafening, that I was, in fact, deaf to them.

Despite sounding lovelorn, I’m not really that sad – 1% homicidal, 9% sad, 15% angry, 20% disappointed, and 55% discouraged. One of a handful of absolute impossibilities that miraculously was realized as very possible in sobriety was the shattering of my certainty that, without a partner and children, life would be meaningless. I had absolutely gone and done it this time, ruined my life for sure. Why bother getting sober when there’s no chance of happiness ahead. Being drunk had never equaled happiness, but being sober and therefore keenly aware of how badly polluted my past was, as well as the assumption that I’d pollute my future, too, would surely be too painful to bare sober. It may have been that time that the small human on the T with it’s huge intrusive transportation vehicle opened it’s face and made this horrible, horrible shrill that made my skin crawl, and ruined the rest of my afternoon – I don’t know. But seemingly out of the blue, I thought, “Maybe I don’t even want children? Could this be??”. I felt like a boulder was lifted off my arm, like that movie with my boyfriend James Franco. Tears streaming down my face, kissing strangers on the Red Line, I wanted to praise God, and scream from the mountaintops, “I DON’T WANT KIDS! I DON’T WANT KIDS!”. Cut to: a few weeks later, in bed with CM (could have been anyone really), I was daydreaming about how our kids would look – my curls but his color hair, his lips, his is kind of weird, so my , it’s a toss-up on the eyes. I asked him how many vacation days he had because I had a few weeks (amazing what being sober does to one’s vacation and sick days – so many!!) and we should spend them in bed, just like this, two peas in a pod, two pieces of a puzzle. He said he was allergic to cats, and I said, “You can get allergy shots for that”, but what I was thinking was, “You’ll need to get allergy shots for that”. Cut to: a couple months later, CVS. I’m buying tampons and randomly on the shelf was a book of baby names, Roberta Flack singing our romantic love joke song, I started crying and had to leave the store. So much for having a fulfilling and happy life without a partner and children. Back to Square One.

Everyone told me, or “suggested”, that it was a really bad and risky idea getting into a relationship in early sobriety. I did anyway, and I can live with that. I thought maybe it was because the focus would become the relationship and not my sobriety, so my program would not get my attention, which I agree, it really needs. What’s the big deal? I’m in this for forever, and you know how I feel about being rushed. Maybe someone in the distance was yack yack yacking about how it is like pouring Miracle Grow on your character defects, exposing all your insecurities, uncovering yet more insecurities you didn’t even know you had (Oh, God, are you kidding me? There are more??? Possible?). I didn’t listen, and I can live with that, but it makes me 100% not want to leave the house. I might look at another boy, well, I can practically guarantee that I will look at another boy (it could be anyone really), and ask him about those vacation days…



Picture it: South Boston, 2012. A 40-year-old recovering alcoholic and drug addict sits in front of her Mac (which she still doesn’t know how to use), one hand trying to type something kicky and interesting, the other hand holding her cat’s head like a softball. This girl has the material – 20 solid years of bad ideas to cringe and laugh and write and learn about. This girl has the time – being a grouchy, disgruntled, and just generally bad employee during the day, and, unexpectedly in sobriety, a night owl. This girl is poised to write – finally, after decades of having the “pause” button stuck on any creative expression. This girl, however, did not count on her goddamn cat having other plans for her hands and concentration. This girl is me.

So, I’m Cara. A pleasure! I believe the best way to make my acquaintance is to dive on in to Caraland! Welcome to present day! Sunday was a hell of a day – let’s start there.

Against the recommendation of EVERY SINGLE PERSON in COOL KIDS, I got into a relationship in my first year of sobriety. I didn’t even want to meet this guy, let alone have a relationship with him, but some fucked up g-force thrust us together. In my romantic delusion, when telling the tale, I say it was all over after that first introduction – I’m a goner, lovesick, smitten. A timeless, whirlwind and endless romance would ensue. Love at first smile – o! The face on this one! You should see him! My darling, my sweet baby, at last we meet, hand in glove, hand in hand. Blah fuckedy blah blah. It ended on Sunday. I spent all day yesterday drafting the first entry for my Slushkitty. It was all about my disemboweled bliss. The draft was practically dripping blood, as I danced on it in hiking boots (which are, you may not know, considered a lethal weapon in Massachusetts), googling painful ways for him to die (being stung by 1000 jellyfish made me smile). But then I had to reevaluate what this blog is about, which is love and recovery. Had to set the jellyfish free and start from scratch. No jellyfish in this tank. No, sir.

I got an obnoxious dose of reality and recovery on Sunday – just because someone is in recovery, doesn’t mean they’re not an insufferable asshole (just kidding – oooooo feel the sting of the jellyfish!). But really, I’m not ready for a lovey-dovey relationship. It’s like trying to run a marathon when you just learned to tie your shoelaces. And about love, (get your barf bags out – I think this is going to be much too sweet for anyone’s stomach), I learned I have gobs to give. In this relationship, my gobs bounced right off him – he didn’t want them. I am very sad although it was only really a brief time that we did whatever the hell it was we were doing together. (And a girl doesn’t live on Steps alone, if you know what I mean, so there’s that – I am depressed about that, too). I reached out on Sunday and yesterday to my friends in and out of the fellowship, and the love was there. It was just there and I did not question it. I didn’t even think about it. It was there above all else. It was the center. It’s the foundation of every friendship I have. Love’s where it’s at. Word. Why would I want to be in a loveless relationship anyway? It would seem unnatural, really. Yet I know all of this and still, ten minutes ago I was weeping in CVS because our romantic inside joke Roberta Flack song was playing.

ANYway… Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day, and the parade was Sunday. For those of you not familiar with South Boston, it’s historically a sort of gritty, working-class Irish section of Boston, and where I call home. People flock to Southie for the parade every year so they can throw up on streets outside their own goddamn zip code. I was in a panic about being home on Sunday – not fearing I’d drink (what authentic alcoholic would EVER go to the Southie parade?? The bars are so packed, you’d seriously never get served, if you even got in. Good alcoholics stock up days in advance, and sit on their stoop, or stock up days in advance and sit on their couch and watch re-run after re-run of “Law and Order”) – but instead fearing I’d mouth off and tell the wrong townie chick to shut up and end up getting pummeled. At one point, there was such a hullabaloo outside that I pressed my face against my bedroom window and looked down to the street to see some drunk jackass on a skateboard with a beer in each hand, giving another drunk jackass with a beer in each hand a piggyback a ride down the street on said skateboard. They kept falling, howling, getting up, then trying again. I bet you they’re still wicked sore today. My house is two blocks from the parade route, close enough to clearly hear The Call of The Meathead.

I ended up sleeping until 2:00 and spent a while writing a thoughtful email to – we’ll call him “CM”. CM did not care to read the email, and with a very brief and sarcastic reply, we were over, just over, lickety-split, just like that! Whimpering and crushed, I find a Cool Kids meeting in Southie that started at 7:30 – I think the parade ended around 4:00. I ventured out into the post-apocalyptic parade streets – barf everywhere, beer cans and big red plastic cups everywhere, surprisingly pizza everywhere, people passed out in doorways and stumbling down the streets and off sidewalks, paddy wagons and cop cars with their constant flashing blue lights, some fights but fewer than I recall from previous years, people holding each-other up as they walked into traffic, cars barreling by, way over the speed limit to get the hell away from this post-parade holy nightmare.

The meeting was OK. There was one drunk lady, a whole bunch of 20-somethings in wife-beaters and sideways baseball hats, and a bunch of heroin addicts. T’was a balmy evening, so they kept the church door open. The juxtaposition was funny – the police sirens and Calls of the Meatheads outside, the alkies and addicts inside talking about how grateful they are not to be outside, getting stabbed or arrested. And then there’s me, weepy me, the first one with my hand up, saying I wish I was Drunk Girl on the Corner. We’d both have a debilitating and green (get it?) hangover the next day, but at least she’d be too physically sick to be able to feel the debilitating, green, emotional hangover. But I didn’t want to drink and I didn’t want to kill myself. For so long, these were my only options. Everyone in the meeting raised their hands and spoke after I did, and holy hell! These poor bastards! So many stories of deaths, accidentally clubbing old ladies, and mugging priests! Jesus!!! I’m just moping about my broken heart! Pain is pain, but still – mugging a priest? So, I leave the meeting, wade through the same St. Patrick’s Day road kill, traffic and hostile drivers. But can’t they see I am coming from a Cool Kids meeting? Can’t they see that I am at the crosswalk obeying traffic rules, walking a straight line? Can’t they see my shiny new liver? Why aren’t they applauding me for being sober this year? I stayed sober despite being alone and broken-hearted. This is a feat worth recognizing, Southie, my friend. You have my address. I’ll keep an eye out for the fruit basket.