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Connected. Part Two.

After the beach, all I could think about was the charming guy I met from Atlanta...Eric. The anticipation to see him again was grand. Although, I let him come to me. I was never one to chase after a man. I grew up in the South where I expected a true gentleman. We never talked on the phone. We would send flirty texts back and forth. A few weeks later he traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to see me the Friday before the 4th of July weekend. I was leaving the next day to go to the beach with my friend and he planned on visiting friends in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He mentioned finding a hotel room, of course; I implied he could stay with me and sleep on the couch. He walked into my work that Friday evening and was so dreamy. Tall and handsome. He made me forget about anyone I had ever dated before. I was nervous and excited. I ordered him a gyro and a beer. I thought he was perfect. He was so appealing that him having an ignition interlock in his vehicle for multiple DUI did not phase me one bit. I understood things happen in life. What I did not see or had blinders to is that he was a very functional alcoholic. Eric was older. Eleven years older and I admired that he seemed to have his sh*t together. What I would find out sooner than later is that he drank a lot in an abnormal way I was not accustomed to. We became like two peas in a pod, and I adopted his heavy drinking habits a couple of years later that changed my life forever.

When I got off from my shift, he left his vehicle at the restaurant. Obviously, his car would not start if alcohol was detected when he blew in the breathalyzer. He jumped in the car with me. I lived five minutes away in a nice area in a townhome my daddy had bought for me while I was going to school. As I drove my normal way of driving, I thought he was going to pee himself. I scared him to death! I thought it was hilarious. He brought his own cooler with him full of beer and a bottle of vodka. I changed clothes and asked what he wanted to do. I poured me a whiskey mix drink. Back then, I loved whiskey and barely drank vodka. Honestly, I did not drink a lot of liquor. I preferred red wine. We sat out on my back patio talking, smoking cigarettes, and drinking. After about an hour I decided we should go out to a local bar. I did not take him to my watering hole, but I did take him to one I visited occasionally that was lowkey, close by, and a chill environment. I do not remember much about our visit there. All I remember it was like we were the only two in the room. After a few shots, beers, and kisses we returned home. We connected intimately. He slept with me that evening and for once I felt satisfied with that decision. The next morning, we woke early and returned to my work for a tasty breakfast of omelets and coffee. He left for Tuscaloosa as I left for Gulf Shores. That was the beginning of our courtship.

The weeks to follow we made arrangements to see each other. Before I knew it, I was driving to Atlanta every other weekend on Saturday after my morning shift to have a few hours with him and then return on Sunday for class and work the week ahead. The weekends in between he came to me. We enjoyed each other's company. Eric always had fun dates planned. We stayed in hotels downtown where we visited his brother's night club. All of our time spent together prior to my pregnancy with Bentley we spent drunk and high. If we were not drinking, I supplied us with pain pills. We were falling head over heels in love with each other while our dopamine neurotransmitters stayed sky high! The only thing I disliked about him was his lack of communication. I was not used to not talking to the guy I was dating on the phone and his lack of affection (cuddling) excluding sex. When we were a part, I sometimes had my doubts, but when we were together everything was pretty perfect. And while I had my uncertainty, Eric did too. He would receive phone calls at two am in the morning from me high from cocaine. I admit, I was wild under the influence of substances. And while that wild, carefree spirit is fun, for a man dating me a state away started alerting red flags. It is all fun until you catch feelings and want to control the outcome or person. Then, it becomes exhausting as Eric has told me. He said he constantly worried about me because I was naive and trusted everyone.

All things considered; our year of dating was absolutely wonderful. Drinking and pills was a normal activity in our lives. I was introduced to many people and spent many hours with them at the local bar and I began to think it was a normal way to live. God would tug at my heart while I was sober of mind, but I shortly drowned him out with another pill or drink. In my heart, I felt guilt especially when my older brother Dex had an accident with a shake and bake error. He burned his whole arm and other parts. I hated meth. I thought I was better than him. I was not. I believed Meth was a nasty, redneck, low-class drug while cocaine was the classy people substance used on the weekends. I visited him in the burn unit at UAB. I had one rule back then concerning Dex, I do not use drugs with him. There were a couple of occasions we spent snorting powder in a bathroom after getting drunk at the bar. I did not like getting high with him. I placed him in another category because Dex was reckless. Then, I was not. I worked and attended class. "I was a good girl that enjoyed partying with my friends."

I will never forget visiting Dex at the burn unit and him high out of his mind from someone dropping off a bag of cocaine in the hospital! My mama stayed with him. It was a comical show watching them two. Dex was pulling out wires wanting to go outside and have a cigarette while offering me cocaine. I declined.

He literally was at deaths doorstep. The power of addiction is cunning, baffling and does not judge upon ethnicity, race, status, or power. I was quick to judge his behavior. And happy he was alive. I did not understand how he continued to use when it was destroying him, our family, and every relationship he had.

I declined his offer of cocaine. I did not decline cocaine after I was back in my town with my friends. I could not wait to leave and have a drink! Dex always stressed me out with his high energy. I stayed up all night drinking and drugging. The following day, my roommate and me had already planned for her to ride with me back to UAB for Dex's surgery. They had to remove skin graphs from his leg to replenish his arm. I had not slept. My nervous system was out of whack. I had chills and my body would randomly tremble. As I sat at the hospital cafeteria for lunch, with my family talking about Dex's addiction and how "he will never learn", I felt nothing but guilt and shame. My roommate at the time, was aware I drank but not so much the drugs. I kept that part of my life hidden.

Back to our love story.

Eric and I visited Panama City Beach June 2012 at the Casablanca hotel. It is called week "23." The same people go every year at the same time in his group of family and friends. We met there in 2011, returned there a year later in 2012, and the following year was married with our sweet angel Bentley Rose in 2013. For me, the beach reminds me of God's love, beauty and grace along with mine and Eric's love. Without the struggle I would not appreciate the life we have now like I do.

With God, all things are possible. Apart from him it is like chasing after the wind. Everything is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 2:10,11

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my labor,

and this was the reward for all my toil.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun.

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