I packed my bags not knowing that the adventure I was embarking on was going to be life-changing. This wasn’t my first holiday into foreign lands with the man that I loved. He and I were young, wild and free. Traveling was our norm. We would leave the city for months at a time to explore new cultures while simultaneously discovering ourselves. However, this particular trip allowed me to observe what was truly happening between he and me. Well, actually, I became aware of what I was unconsciously subjecting myself to and why.
He and I were young, wild and free.
The best word to describe the relationship that David* and I shared would have to be tumultuous. The three years we spent together were (to say the least) emotionally draining. There was a constant battle happening between the two of us. The one thing that kept us together for a substantial period of time was the fact that one of us was always madly in love with the other. Yet there were a few times when we both seemed to be on the same page. It was a cat and mouse game. The appeal was being the ability to win the other’s love back. And when this happened it was as if the connection then disappeared into thin air for the one chasing love. Neither of us could ever win.
There were many elements that contributed to the uproarious relationship including the use (and abusing) of drugs and alcohol, fits of jealously, verbal and physical abuse, infidelity, lies, manipulation; and, an extreme lack of self-love. When I look back now I see that there was a huge part of me that thought I deserved to be treated horribly. I didn’t love or respect myself. But this wasn’t completely evident to outsiders because of my confidence, which allowed me to hold my head high and keep the disturbing truth of our relationship a secret.
The weeks leading up to traveling with David I found myself waking up each morning and getting high just to get myself through the day. By the time the sun set, I was usually very lit from alcohol and then, either reaching into our freezer to take a handful of shrooms, or placing a call for a bag of blow. I was miserable, unaware and emotionally unbalanced. David started to see that I was out-of-control but he thought that me falling apart meant that he could keep me under his spell so he said nothing. Instead, he encouraged my self-destructive behavior, which led to my awakening.
I was miserable, unaware and emotionally unbalanced.
By the time we reached Thailand, I felt as if I was completely done with this man. I could barely look at him. I was angry and I was sad. But I was also scared. I didn’t know how to live without complete chaos and I definitely didn’t know how to be alone. So I stayed with him and we traveled around the islands. I, however, allowed myself to truly see what I was putting myself through and knew that if I stayed that I would not survive. I took a vow of sobriety on the flight over so that I could stand behind any decision that I made while abroad. What I saw over those four weeks changed me forever.
It would be easy for me to blame this monster of a man because he crossed some lines and blurred others. But how can one blame another without taking responsibility for being a part of an unhealthy relationship and subjecting oneself to a destructive environment? I was never being held against my will or forced to stay. I chose to stay with David. I wanted to love him and for him to love me. Unfortunately, loving David was impossible because I didn’t love myself. Furthermore, there was a reason why I chose to be a part of the ups and downs that this relationship entailed: I was addicted to pain. I craved the feeling that goes hand-in-hand with heartache. The crushing, stomach turning feeling made me feel alive. It was almost a way for the hate I had inside for myself to be shed upon me by another. This realization was difficult for me to digest but, at the same time, gave me the strength I needed in order to walk away and never see that man again. I left him in Bangkok and began my healing process.
I craved the feeling that goes hand-in-hand with heartache.
The crushing, stomach turning feeling made me feel alive.
There is always a beginning in the end no matter how many times you have to start over. Every experience is a karmic lesson where we must be open and honest in order to discover our truth. The recognition of my fears led me to discover my addiction to pain. This created a starting point for me to find the root of this issue and allowed me to forgive those that wronged me and begin to truly love myself. My journey is vast and the expansion of my consciousness continues to grow daily because I understand that not all lessons are clear in the present moment. Sometimes we need time to get out of the forest to see the trees.
Photographs by Toni Frissell
*The name has been changed in order to protect this individual's identity.