I was tired of being drunk. I felt like I’d been drunk for a solid four months.
Truthfully, I had been drunk for the majority of that time because the only way to keep our reconciliation fun-train fueled was with alcohol. Vodka, specifically.
It was my husband’s birthday weekend. As I continued to try to show him how valuable I was, my body got thinner and my personal credit card balance got larger. I’d planned a weekend in a posh, historic town about 45 minutes from where we live.
Far enough away that we wouldn’t run into anyone we knew — God, that would be mortifying — but close enough that if there were a kid or dog emergency I could get home quickly. Another reminder that I was a single mother desperately trying to undo this unwanted label.
I got us a room in a cushy, name-brand hotel, reserved a table at a swanky steakhouse, and gifted him an hour-long massage at the hotel spa to drive home the you’re-so-important-to-me message.
The drinking started immediately after we arrived in the hotel room.
Even though we’d been performing this reconnection dance for nearly four months, I was still on edge, every move carefully considered. Would this be the thing that showed him I was worthy — of him, his investment in me? Would this be enough to earn back my title?
As I prepared for this prove-your-worth weekend, I proudly packed his favorite rum. It would show off a combination of my planning skills and my undying devotion to him. It also ensured we wouldn’t have to waste time being sober.
With too much enthusiasm and pride for my forward-thinking, I told him about the new fizzy water I brought for our carefully packed individual beverage needs. I poured a 3:1 ratio of vodka/water into my cup with a squeeze of lemon — I heard it’s good for the liver — and then prepared his glass of rum, watching his face to make sure he approved of my technique.
We clinked to him and got right to the business of getting drunk. By the time we left for dinner, we were at least two very large drinks in, with to-go cups for our three-minute Uber ride.
My memory of the dinner is fuzzy, filled mostly with regret and embarrassment.
I really wish I would’ve been sober for the steak. A cow gave its life for my dinner. A chef trained for years to make sure that steak was cooked to perfection. The least I could’ve done was truly appreciate the pile of meat on my plate.
I wish I would’ve been my best self for the waiter. An older man who took his job very seriously — a true professional with an aura of kindness. All I offered him were slurred, incomplete sentences with too much laughing. He probably lost his job within the next two weeks because of the shutdown. I hope I tipped him well because he endured us for hours.
I remember the bite I took of my husband’s birthday dessert, a decadent peanut butter ice cream combo. And how it was ruined by watching him drunkenly slurp up every last bite. He performed a borderline-obscene tongue action with the spoon while looking at me and rapidly raising his eyebrows up and down. I became more repulsed with each flick of his tongue.
Between the time spent fawning over him and our drinks in the hotel room to the last spoonful of dessert, everything had changed.
I left that dinner very drunk and crystal clear — I don’t have feelings for this man anymore. I do not find him attractive. He will never be what I want in a partner. And, honestly, I didn’t want to be naked with him anymore.
It had become a chore to have sex with him. I had to perform. He told me what he wanted and how he wanted it and that was the way it was to be done. At the beginning of our reconnection, I was able to justify it as a means to an end. Our life together had been me finding ways to please him. Giving him what he wanted was what I wanted.
In his absence, I could no longer fill my time making his needs my own.
Discovering what I wanted was like the process of becoming un-numb after getting a cavity filled. As the Novocain wears off, this unfeeling blob of flesh goes back to feeling without being able to pinpoint when it happened. It just did, one lessened prickly sensation at a time. These prickles were the beginning of self-worth and now being naked for him was no longer one of my needs.
As we sat in the backseat of the Uber, I dreaded what was next. Sex was inevitable. It was his birthday weekend after all.
To stall, I suggested going out for a couple more drinks and music. He was always down for more alcohol and, if luck were on my side, maybe he’d get so drunk he’d pass out when we got back to the room.
I changed into something too revealing. For him because he wanted to flaunt that he had something other people wanted. And for me, because I wanted to feel what it was like to be wanted by other people.
We headed out to a club within walking distance from the hotel. The drinking continued while I danced with no one and made friends with a flamboyant man named Bernard who told me about his world travels.
I wondered what it would be like to travel the world with stylish, sophisticated Bernard who would ask me which wine I’d like to drink without concern that he would grope me.
My husband sat on a stool in the corner and watched me, watched other people watching me, and when enough eyes were on me, he grabbed me, forcefully pulled me into him, and kissed me. But it wasn’t a kiss, it was a display of dominance. He was saying to everyone looking, you want this thing but I’m the one who has it.
I looked to Bernard for help or, at least, a unified look of “eww.” Bernard did not have time to involve himself in a weird domestic power struggle.
Eventually, the last drinks were served. There was nothing left to help me stall. We put on our coats, and literally stumbled back to the hotel.
He said the words he always said when he wanted to have sex — “Get naked.” I hated those words. They weren’t cute or endearing. They were an order. They were control.
I did get naked. I let him use my body, which is what he really wanted. To use me.
The weekend ended — he went to his place and I returned to our family. Alone, I entered the house we had once called ours and the feeling of relief coated me. There was no epiphany. I didn’t hear a still small voice or see a sign that things would be OK. But the burden of him was loosening.
Fear remained a squatter in my brain — and I would continue to make plenty of decisions from that place of worry and anxiety.
But I no longer would let the fear guide me into trying to earn back my marriage, my husband, and my title.
That was the last time I would let my body be used by him.
It was the beginning of my long goodbye.