"There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other." ~ Douglas H. Everett (Author)
When everything went to shit, and it did go to shit, I fondly remembered those times that were so influenced by my dreams. Well, when I wasn't wishing myself or him dead. And I say that not because I am one of those loony ex-girlfriends who wishes all past partners dead - not at all. I say that because the circumstances that involved the end felt like the literal end in how traumatic they were. The transition between him being present in my dreams and being startlingly absent from them was difficult. Difficult being defined in this particular juncture as: spontaneously crying all the time, missing work, not eating, and isolating myself....for months upon months.
To explain what happened, I feel the need to describe an imaginary situation that you can apply to your own life, in hopes of you possibly "getting it" in your heart instead of your head. Intellectually, I know what I should have done.....emotionally, that was impossible. This is pretty personal...so, here we go.....
I want you to imagine the love of your life. The one and only person you have ever dreamed of spending a lifetime with. The one and only person you have ever considered joining with in a union that represents "forever." The one and only person you have ever considered having children with.
Go that? Ok.....
I want you to imagine that one day you wake up and, spontaneously, that person has disappeared with no explanation. He or she is gone. Their side of the bed is empty. You call their family and you call the hospitals and no one knows what happened to them. They are gone.
For days and then weeks, you do not hear from him or her. You are frantic and sleep deprived. Eventually, you get in your car and drive the streets looking, searching. All you think is, "how could this be?" You drive and drive until your eyes hurt from looking so hard. And, one day, you see a person that resembles your love, that has all the features of the person you've been looking for, yet looks empty. Like a ghost. And when you run to them, when you embrace him or her, they are only the shell of the person you once knew. Regardless of the fact that you have found them, they are still gone.
Bringing it home now....
This continues for months. At times, you are able to bring him or her home and restore some of what you have lost, but only for short periods of time and it never feels quite the same again. Having your love around has become equally as difficult as having them absent, which they frequently are for weeks or months at a time. Eventually, your devastation, your heartbreak, your sorrow turns into a hardened bitterness of what should have been. You become just as hollow as they are. Your sleeplessness becomes chronic. You are drowning in dreams that haunt you.
Imagery complete. This is what it is like to be in a relationship with a recovering addict who suddenly becomes "not so recovered." A relapsing addict is not a pretty sight. What might make my story - this story - unique from other similar stories lies in the severity of the transition between sober and not sober. Going from having employment, living with me, and weighing in at 225lbs to living on the streets, smoking crack and injecting other choice drugs, and weighing in approximately 70lbs less took about four to five weeks in total, with very little in between. Living on the streets was immediate, as was the drug use; the weight loss took a little longer. Think back to an episode of COPS - one where it showed the mug shot of a crack addict coming in off the streets. That's basically what I was dealing with. And I did not deal with it well.
As an aside, I figure you might be wondering what in the hell all this blabbering has to do with Africa. It is significant in the sense that this experience contributed to changes that would come later on in life, which had a direct impact on turning Africa from a dream into a reality that's happening in less than a year. Prior to this relationship, I had done a lot of damage to myself as a individual; however, I can honestly say that I had never experienced that much damage from being with another person. I'm sure there are other women out there who would have handled it differently, better than I did. I am not those women and I dealt with it in the only way I knew how - survival.
I remember my wonderful women colleagues (and friends) asking me how it was possible that I was at work with all of this stuff going on. If I wasn't at work, I was in my apartment, lying in my bed, sobbing; therefore, work seemed like the more productive option. One thing I hugely regret from this time was how absent I became in my job - not just physically, but mentally. I can recall a certain female youth I was working with telling me something about me had changed and that I wasn't the same person anymore. This was confusing and frightening for her, as the therapist should be human, but more importantly reliable and attentive. I was neither. And that feeling, or lack thereof, stayed with me (on and off, but mostly on) for a very long time.
I tried going to see my own therapist during those couple of years. It was pointless. He was wonderful, a social worker like me, but I was unable to engage in the process due to being too lost within myself. I didn't know myself any more and I wasn't in a place where he could help me find that missing person. I cancelled a lot of sessions before finally giving up and letting myself try (in futility) to forget. In trying to forget, something I know from my line of work isn't effective, I forgot who I was. And, in doing that, Africa got forgotten as well. In fact, it was grieved and then forgotten, as were most things that once held endless possibilities. Ultimately, at some point I had to move on and face the reality that we (him and I) would not be working together, him building things and me working with children, youth and adults living in poverty with HIV/AIDS. That dream was ooooooover with a capital O.
What followed was "radio silence," a virtual lapse in dreaming of anything, especially Africa.