January 13, 2017

Five Lessons on Love from a Survivor.

I fell in love with a heroin addict.

We were together for five years.

Often, there was poison in the pocket of his hand. And if it didn’t kill him outright in a hotel room somewhere, it would seep into his life, until it poisoned every breathing second of it.

He is still caught in the ravel of it all today. He is one of my greatest teachers, and I will never forget the lessons I learned while loving and being loved by him.

1. Loving someone who is in constant threat of death, puts perspective on what matters.

If the person you love was going to die today, you wouldn’t want to spend that day fighting about something little.

If he showed up late, if I messed up, if I forgot to help out, we got over it quickly. I don’t believe we had a real fight in at least the first two years of our relationship. There was always a bigger goal or problem that united us—his sobriety being the major one.

We were kind to each other. We spent a lot of our time snuggling up and being loving. Of course, often he was stoned out of his mind. And I was terrified and grieving. But love was at the root.

Learning that he relapsed was always shocking. It didn’t matter how many times it happened—the truth was deafening. And I was forced to sink into the truth of our impermanence.

I carry that with me now to all of my relationships. I say what I mean when I need to say it.

I don’t let things boil up. I lay it on the table. Living with the threat of immortality for so long allowed me to truly embody that.

2. Care must be equal.

I do believe he cared—about himself and me.

But the high always mattered more. He wanted the drug.

The hunger for oblivion, and a painless, guiltless resistance shot strait from his spine into the thick healthy veins down his arms.

You can’t care more about your relationship than your partner does.

It won’t work. You end up disappointed. You aren’t on the same page. And eventually, you start feeling violated.

Your heart is sacred. Be with someone who understands the gravity of that.

3. Don’t resist the flow.

I can often feel the tide of fate, or god, or whatever, pulling me or pushing me towards my life. If I resist that ebb and flow, life gets bad, quickly.

And boy, did I fight, kick, scream and resist life during this relationship.

I would come home and see the focus spilling from the ocean of his blue-green eyes. There was never any sign of drugs anywhere but his eyes were contracted to pinpoints. He would mumble a short “I love you” before nodding back off.

And I would deny that it happened.

I would argue with God, fighting with facts and evidence. I would tell myself that he was just tired. That it’s just how he is. I tried to fight the past for the two of us.

I knew that I would live and die for that love. And he knew it too. No amount of truths would run me off.

Facts matter.

What you’re seeing is real. Doubting yourself, denying reality, is such a subtle action, but it will slowly drown you.

The person I loved was messed up. And coming to peace with that needed to happen before I could live my life. It took me getting sick and spending some time in a hospital before I could finally admit to myself what was going on.

It turned out, my life mattered too. My flow, my plan, my future was calling me. And if I didn’t answer that call I would die.

5. What are you willing to suffer for?

The big question that it all came down to for me was this. What am I willing to suffer for? Am I willing to spend my life caught up in this drama? Or holding the space so that the drama and chaos could stop?

I loved to travel. I planted new seeds and beginnings everywhere. But I never could fully follow them through. With every new bright beginning, the stain of the end would sweep through, cutting into my heart. He moved from Durango, to jail, to rehab, to a halfway house, to jail, to a meditation center. It never stopped.

He had a simple definition of suffering. Suffering is when you’re hungry for something.

When you’re not hungry, you’re whole. I was hungry for stability. I was hungry for love. For silence. And with him, that would never come.

And so, after learning these painful lessons, answering these questions, getting untangled from this karmic web we created, I moved on.

I finally had the courage to let him go. I had grieved enough.


Author: Shelby Robbins 

Image: Flickr/DaniBrownPhotography

Editor: Erin Lawson

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Shelby Robbins