Ready.

Yesterday I turned 29 years old. I had a wonderful birthday weekend, filled with friends and fun and love and delicious food and great music. I am full of gratitude.

In a week, I’ll be celebrating 2 full years of sustained sobriety. I don’t know that it’s fully registered with me, or if sobriety has become such a norm that it feels natural to be at this point, but I’m feeling really content about it. At peace, really. My boyfriend suggested we celebrate with kombucha and tacos. Sounds like a perfect celebration to me.

My visit to Indiana last weekend with the boyfriend went really well. I mean, really well. I met his 13-year-old son and his step-kids and his ex-wife and his parents. There was this odd sense of peace I found in the small town where they live. I felt comfortable and welcomed and relaxed. Strangely enough, I’m already looking forward to the idea of going back.

The trip itself seemed to bring my boyfriend I closer than we ever have been. That I got along well with his son and parents seemed to be a huge relief to both of us. That his ex-wife was not only cordial toward me but actually friendly and engaging was surprising and comforting. It all felt really good and affirming.

Where I was once feeling uncertain about the future of the relationship, I now find myself wondering what it might be like to stop joking about the idea of moving in together and actually doing it. I’ve been feeling ready to integrate my life with a partner again, for quite some time. I’ve been feeling ready to find a place to really set down some roots. I am starting to tire of wondering where I’m going to be, who I’m going to be with, and if it’s got any chance at lasting. I’ve been drawn more and more to the idea of really building a home with a partner again, for the first time since my marriage fell apart in 2014.

Not just any partner, of course. I was close to settling in with my last boyfriend before I finally came to terms with how little we actually had in common, how unsatisfied I was with our relationship, and how alone I felt with him, despite having considerable stability and reliability. He was (is) a drinker, though not a heavy one like me. He didn’t seem to have much understanding or appreciation for the kind of work it takes to reach and maintain sobriety. He wasn’t really interested in integrating our lives or taking steps toward getting closer to one another. I always felt a little on the periphery of his life, competing with his friends and video games for attention. I tried to accept it for a long time until I just couldn’t anymore. I left him, as well as my hopes of building a home with him, behind.

But with my current partner, a lot of things feel more “right” and make more sense now than they have with any other person I’ve dated since my divorce. Even though he’s 13 years older than me and has a whole ‘nother life with people he loves and misses in Indiana, and even though I’ve historically been very hesitant to hand out my heart in the way I’ve been attempting with him, the relationship feels good. We enjoy a certain magnetism between us, our humor is aligned, our philosophies on life are similar, and we have a shared understanding of the importance of sobriety and recovery. We’ve both had hard, painful stumbles away from long-term relationships, and we’ve both had traumas that have left us bruised and more introspective about how we operate in the world. We live our own separate lives and come together to share our experiences with each other. There is no desperate dependence or manipulation or lying. We’re both learning what it means to be open, vulnerable people in sobriety, while protecting ourselves at the same time.

I am grateful for this relationship in a way I haven’t felt in such a long time. It’s not perfect but it’s been better than I could’ve or would’ve imagined at the start. Still, I’ve had my fears. I’ve been trying to keep myself at a safe yet intimate distance from him until recently, because there may come a time when he decides he needs to move back home to Indiana to be with his son, and I might not be in the place or frame of mind to join him. It’s something we’ve discussed at length since the beginning of our relationship and I find it hard to separate that hypothetical reality from the reality of what’s happening between us right now.

But I’m tired of framing my relationship as something that will eventually, inevitably dissolve. I’m tired of believing that I won’t be able to find a longer-term partner with whom I feel safe, seen, & heard. I’m tired of wondering how my sobriety fits into the larger story of my romantic life. With my boyfriend now, I don’t have all the answers, but I feel safer than I have in a long time. I want to feel comfortable with that; I want to start having more conversations around what a longer-term future might look like, hypotheticals-be-damned.

In this 29th year of mine, I want to focus myself toward a greater appreciation for intimacy and vulnerability. I want to spend my third year of sobriety learning what it means to really open my heart, even with the knowledge that I’m not immune from being hurt again. I want to re-learn the art of sharing a life, while avoiding the mistakes I’ve made in the past of over-sharing, over-depending, and over-needing my significant other. I want to start building a home, whatever that looks like, whatever that means.

I dream of a home filled with plants, minimalist art, books, and sleepy animals. I dream of a home—even if it’s a single bedroom apartment—lined from floor to ceiling with love and appreciation. I dream of a home where the kitchen is well-loved and the bedroom is sanctuary. I dream of a home where there is no need to escape into drugs or alcohol, where disagreements are fair and respectful, where space is equally granted and shared, and where there is room to both entertain and slip away for a breath. I dream of a home with morning sunlight and a patio or nook where we can drink coffee, tea, or homemade kombucha. I dream of a home that is less about the location and more about the intention contained within.

I don’t know if that home will happen soon, or if it will happen with my boyfriend. I hope it will. I feel ready now—in this last year of my 20s and in my 3rd year of sobriety—to find fertile soil for these tired roots I’ve been carefully carrying around.

I hope I can.

❤ Em

6 thoughts on “Ready.

  1. Lily 🌷 says:

    Happy Birthday Em, from my advanced age (53) I think this sounds like a relationship that could go the distance… the building blocks are all in place. And you sound like YOU personally can recognise what is right and healthy for you… that’s key, and so important … 😊 sending you hugs 🌷🌷

    Liked by 1 person

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