All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is damnation.
-W.H. Auden, Poet
He was my escape. A world within my world only I could reach.
My hiding place. My own oasis, cut off from the world. Nobody could tell me how to live; what I should or shouldn’t be doing. He was a speck of freedom.
I met him on a Saturday night. Some friends visiting town invited a few of us to go get drinks. I declined the alcohol – having been too drunk the night before – but said I’d still meet up. In the wake of an emotional hangover, I was feeling confused and empty, sinking a little further into darkness. A little more willing to cave.
When he arrived I watched him slightly nod, his hand holding his tie at his stomach, as he greeted our friend. Something about him seemed kind, gentle, and captivating. His laugh was contagious. He was a mystery of something I wanted to know more. Throughout the night we were the only two not drinking, so we were sober pals. As we corralled our drunk friends to Steak ‘n Shake at 1 am, we exchanged contact info.
After a week of lots of texting, we finally hung out. I was under the impression he was a Christian, but by the time he told me he didn’t really believe in God, I was already hooked. And frankly, I didn’t care. The faintest flicker of wisdom still burning in my heart cautioned me to walk away. So we met up one day, and I told him I couldn’t date him. But I already didn’t want to leave him. So I asked if we could continue to hang out anyway.
His presence in my life was like gulping salt water. A drink that left me coming back, over and over, to quench an insatiable thirst.
But nonetheless, he was my hiding place. My refuge.
Him and the child-like wonder in his eyes, his playful attitude, and his humor melted my walls more rapidly than I knew how to handle.
He became my escape. In the most stressful, anxiety-ridden times, I would snuggle up next to him. And for a moment, I could breathe. For a moment, I wasn’t alone. For a moment, someone else held me, and the heaviness of my heart eased.
His past made way for him to wholeheartedly understand my life. Not once did he judge me or think my life was a mess. No matter how many shots or bad words, he was there.
We watched movies. His favorite movies, even. But he usually wanted to talk to me instead. We went to the mall. We played basketball, all the time. We went to the gym everyday. We fought. We went to the store. We went to his family’s. We texted heart eye emojis and we had nicknames. I took care of him when he was sick. I got to hold his hand whenever I wanted. And we laughed a lot.
He was eager to hold me, eager to make me laugh, and eager to let me be part of his life. But I wouldn’t allow it be more than a secret hideaway.
I told him that one day I would have to choose between he and God. I knew, in a deep part of my soul, that I could not and would not stay forever.
I tried to end it 4 times over the course of 7 months. Each time, I felt an ache at the thought of not having him in my life. I tried to dial back. Make it uncomplicated. I didn’t talk to him for a month once, but then he quietly walked back into my life, and saying no was impossible.
We kept falling deeper into a, “We’re not dating but we act like we’re dating and your mom wants us to date and you don’t love God and I don’t know what’s going on with my life and you want me to commit and I can’t commit but I’m too selfish and I need you to hold me,” relationship.
One day, about 6 months into our non-relationship, he started telling me about how he was getting on dating apps and all the girls he was talking to. He would ask me my opinion about them. I’m pretty sure I even helped him craft texts to a girl on several occasions. I knew his efforts were his way of trying to make me jealous, get me to commit. I closed my eyes to it, not wanting to let him go quite yet.
One day it was snowy, so we snuggled up to drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies. He was texting a girl from one of the sites as I sat there, able to read the entire conversation. He told me he was going to go meet her in Indianapolis some weekend soon.
My heart was throbbing as an ache clawed inside. But I had no right to tell him he couldn’t, because I wouldn’t date him. As this fierce jealousy welled up inside, I began to think of all I could do to keep him. I began dancing around ideas of sacrificing the most sacred thing so he would keep choosing me.
Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance. You are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.
-Susan Cheever, Author
It was Thanksgiving break, and I was supposed to go to an event with some friends that Saturday, then head back to school. But he texted me and told me he wouldn’t be around on Saturday night, so I left Friday night to go see him.
It was dark, rainy, foggy, my air conditioning didn’t work, and my windshield wipers didn’t work over 30mph. About 15 minutes after I left my parents’ house I called my mom and told her I could hardly see. She asked me to turn around and come home.
When I got back to the house I went to my room. I was livid. I laid there, the emptiness and anger like lava settling over my heart. Tears streamed down my face relentlessly. My family kept coming in to see what was up, and I just laid there stoic. I couldn’t have him. I realized that what I wanted was overtaking me as the sticky tar of addiction spread across my heart.
I saw him that Sunday, and I spent the entire day clung to him. Knowing soon I would have to let him go. Before I left that day we made plans to hang out on Wednesday.
I walked to the door, walked back to him, kissed him on his forehead, and I left.
On Tuesday I went to my counselor. He told me I was neither saying “yes” nor saying “no.” I lived in an in-between. He said, his words full of grace and compassion for me, “Kami, that’s not living. It seems like that is hurting you more than anything. I want more for you than this pain.”
Hope started growing, courage began to drip into my veins.
That same night I called my mom and opened up about all that had been going on in my life and with him. I talked about what my counselor said, and about how I viewed this boy as an addiction. She said to me, “Kami. If this is an addiction, you need to cut it off. You need to cut him out of your life as soon as you can. Now.”
In that very moment I knew. I knew I had to leave. For the first time in over a year, I felt the presence of God course through me. It was as if I had come up from underwater, heaving for air as he urgently whispered in my heart:
Kami, you can no longer have both. It is either me or him. If you choose him, you will forfeit the small space you have left for me.
That night I asked my roommates to drive me to his place. I could hear the TV behind the door playing Spongebob. I stood there for 3 minutes shaking, wishing I could go in just one last time.
I stuck the good bye note on his door. Got in the car and cut off every contact I had with him. And I sobbed.
I may have been a disaster in life – confused and turned upside down – but I would not forfeit my Jesus.
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