It turns out that getting my heart smashed into a million tiny shards ended up being one of the greatest gifts of my life. Yup, I’m serious. Nope, this is not an angry rant. The phrase, “Rejection is God’s protection,” has always made my skin crawl. But godDAMN, it has always been right on point in my experience. So, obviously, this story ends with me getting dumped. But, unbeknownst to me at the time, this was just the beginning of a new story, the best chapter of my life (a chapter that I’m still in the midst of writing).
A few summers ago, I was in Atlanta for an international gathering of over 60,000 people who had all come together for a common purpose. The gathering itself was a magical experience, but that’s a story for another day. The last night of the event fell on the 4th of July, and the hosts put on a giant dance party. I reluctantly agreed to go with a few friends and wanted nothing more than to turn around and head back to my hotel as soon as I saw the masses popping bottles of Monster energy drinks, waving glow sticks, and vaping like the Armageddon was upon us. But I went anyway, because…YOLO?
I wasn’t on the dancefloor for 10 minutes when I ran into a strikingly handsome man with a huge smile, tons of ink, and an Australian accent. Picture an image of me with googly heart-shaped eyes popping out of my head – that’s basically what happened. Oz and I hit it off immediately and left the party to grab tea and continue talking. We talked for hours about everything – our stories of addiction and how we found recovery, what our lives look like today, our homes, our pets, our families. We stayed up all night long just talking, laughing, connecting. It was one of those very rare perfect nights where I was CONVINCED that fate existed, that Oz was put into my life at that exact place and time for a reason, that there was a greater purpose for all of this to have happened. Translated: I was CONVINCED we were meant to end up together.
Oz and I both had to leave the following day to go to our respective homes – Boston and Australia – we couldn’t have been further apart. But he kept his promise about keeping in touch. We texted ravenously until he left the States. Once he was back in Australia, we skyped and talked on the phone every single day. This went on for weeks, and then months, and the far-fetched seed that had been planted in Atlanta was developing into something that both of us had to consider might be the real thing. A couple of weeks into this thing, like a good impulsive alcoholic, I bought a plane ticket to Melbourne for a three-week stay that was 5 months away. I was sure that we had fallen in love with each other’s minds, souls, whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t wait to come home at the end of my day to talk to Oz, I wanted to tell him everything. It began to feel like such a real relationship, and I started to wonder if maybe this really could work, as ridiculous or challenging as it seemed. And I kept thinking it would be the coolest story in the history of stories – it was as if it was too good to be true.
And, of course, it was. One evening in early October, Oz called me and sounded off. With no warning or buildup, he told me that he had met someone, they had fallen in love, and that he was sorry, but he couldn’t talk to me anymore. He then defriended me on social media, and that was it. Gone in an instant.
I was the only one who had not seen this coming, and I was shattered. A little piece of me felt like it died that night. The whole time Oz and I had been talking, we had set expectations that if one of us met someone else, we should go for it, so I didn’t have the right to be angry with him. Except I was. I felt so misled, so betrayed, then ridiculously foolish for even thinking this could have worked out. It had just seemed so meant to be. And, to rub salt in the gaping wound, I now had this stupid expensive plane ticket to Australia that was two months away! I didn’t want to tell any of my friends what had happened because I knew in the back of my mind that they had been right all along about this, and I didn’t want to admit it. I was so embarrassed. They had all warned me that I was moving too fast, had my head in the clouds, was putting all my eggs in the Oz basket. I had jumped in head-first with no thought and let the train get so carried away that it derailed and plunged to the bottom of a jagged ravine and exploded into a fiery mess. I hadn’t protected my heart at all. I had left practical Alison in Atlanta on July 4.
After a couple of days of being inconsolable, I dragged myself out of the ravine. I had been praying and meditating A LOT during those couple of days right after the breakup, and all at once, three days later, it hit me square between the eyes – if this dude could turn on a dime and completely change his mind like he just did, he was not the man for me. And if he wasn’t the man for me, I had nothing to worry or be sad about. And just like that, I felt okay. I had never had an epiphany like this before, and I haven’t had one since – nor have I ever hurdled a breakup as quickly as this one. I’m convinced that something bigger than me was at work and helped me through this. It was a lesson in showing up and working through the agony of the situation and finding peace and acceptance with the outcome, even though it was not the outcome that I wanted at all. And it was a lesson in believing that there was another plan for me, a plan which I had no business in managing or creating or controlling. These concepts of acceptance and letting go of the outcome were foreign to me until I entered recovery. And, today, they remain the key to my serenity (when I choose to use them).
And now, having a couple of years of space, time, and growth between me and this experience, I can see that this was infatuation and impulse. You are probably all thinking “duh,” but I swear it is so hard to see when it is your own situation! I got carried away with and fell head over heels for an IDEA. And I can now recognize that buying an uber-expensive plane ticket to see someone that I had only met for one day was…I’m just going to say it…bananas. And this was the exact type of behavior that I exhibited CONSTANTLY when I was in active addiction. There was no thought before I acted, there was only impulse and/or kneejerk reaction. I wanted what I wanted in that moment and would do anything to get it, and I didn’t even know or care what the word “consequence” meant. But this had happened when I was almost 3 years sober! Which just goes to show me that sometimes I think I know exactly what I’m doing, yet I’m still just a human being who needs a lot of help and a lot of reminders. The good news is that I did not drink, nor even want to drink, over this experience – that in itself is a freakin’ miracle.
Some things have come more easily in sobriety to me than others. Today at five and a half years sober, I do not struggle with the thought of drinking 99.9% of the time. I have rebuilt my career and finances so that these are not about to go up in flames like there were back then. Friendships have been rebuilt, new relationships have developed, and I am able to be present for my friends and family today. However, the realm of romantic relationships still trips me up from time to time. But I now believe that no matter what, I am held, I am protected, and I will be okay - in this, I have blind faith. And that is a 180-degree difference from what I believed before I got sober - an unmerited gift.
So, remember at the beginning of this story where I said that I was CONVINCED that fate existed, that Oz was put into my life at that exact place and time for a reason, that there was a greater purpose for all of this to have happened? Well, I was right. Stay tuned for my next post “Thank You For Dumping Me Part 2: Australia” where I will share about my first-ever solo trip to the land down under, the trip that ignited my passion for solo travel!
Peace out, America - Hello, Australia!