You see this picture and think, “How cute?!” Right?
But when I saw this picture on my Facebook memories this morning, it gave me a chill.
Because those cupcakes were a damn lie.
I didn’t post the truth surrounding those cupcakes because I was in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship with an alcoholic. And if you don’t know what that looks like, it’s looks just like those beautiful cupcakes.
My boyfriend at the time wanted to have a 4th of July cookout at his house that year and invited his family to come over. I was excited to spend the weekend at his house and helped out as best I could, including making those cupcakes.
It’s important to remember that this cookout was his idea.
My boyfriend had spent the last week preparing for the cookout by hand-making a picnic table, cleaning up outside and going to the local butcher shop for meat to BBQ.
But the morning of the cookout, his mood had turned.
He was mad. He was sweating. He was damn near pacing and I could tell that it was going to be (another) bad day.
Because what the rest of the world didn’t know, was that he was trying to stay sober. I didn’t realize that he was an alcoholic when I started dating him. In fact, he was the first guy that I had dated that everyone liked. It was the first relationship that everyone supported and as a young, naive girl who had never known an alcoholic, I didn’t see the signs for 6 months.
Sure, he liked to drink beer. What country guy didn’t?
Sure, he drank every single weekend, but he’s a hard working man. What’s wrong with that?
Sure, he would have a beer at lunch time before he went in to work, but it was just one!
He kept it under wraps. He drank as little as possible until he felt comfortable enough to stop limiting himself. And then all hell broke loose.
I remember the first weekend that I was at his house when he got drunk. I laughed. He stumbled around and passed out in his clothes and I thought it was funny that he had gotten a little carried away. It was the first time that I’d seen him like this and I didn’t realize that he was setting the tone for the next 8 months.
The next day we laughed about him trying to shut a door when his boot was crossing the threshold; he lightly apologized for passing out and it wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes people have a little too much. It happens.
But, then the next weekend, it happened again. And not just Saturday night but Sunday night, too. I had packed up all of my stuff, drove an hour to spend the weekend with him and he had pretty well stayed drunk all weekend- passing out with his boots still on and getting increasingly mean.
When he passed out Sunday night, I grabbed all of my stuff, got into my car and left without saying a word or leaving a note.
This was not okay. I wasn’t going to come visit him every weekend if this was how it was going to be. I was mad, but I thought this was just a boundary setting issue. I just needed to draw my line, and then we could move on.
He called me the next day and couldn’t remember what had happened. And he was so sorry. He was genuinely upset that he had run me off. He came over to my house and apologized profusely. He admitted that sometimes he didn’t know when to stop but that it wouldn’t happen again.
And I accepted his apology. I didn’t want to leave him. I was “in love” and I just wanted this problem fixed so that we could move on.
And for the next few weeks, we did.
And he didn’t stop drinking- that wasn’t a requirement from me. I just didn’t want him getting drunk all the time. So he kept drinking and before I knew it, he was drunk again for an entire weekend. I packed up my things and went home again.
But this time it was different. I was mad. Why was he doing this? I had made myself perfectly clear. I didn’t want to stop him from relaxing and having a good time on the weekends, but the drunk version of him was very, very different.
For one, the drunk him wasn’t hungry. He’d spend all day drinking and not eating and he’d be passed out, fully dressed, on the couch by 10PM. There was no getting him to go out to dinner and there was hardly any food to eat in his house.
The drunk him was sloppy and arrogant and hateful. He was quick to call someone a bitch. He was quick to put someone down. He was quick to get mad and start throwing stuff outside.
It was a surreal experience to learn this other side of a person that I thought I loved, because I did not love this version.
As time went on, he drank more and more; got drunk more and more and apologized less and less, to the point where he wasn’t even sorry anymore. I’d break up with him, he’d promise to quit drinking, I’d take him back and he wouldn’t drink for a while, until he did again.
It was a toxic cycle and every time we got to the drinking again part, he would be less and less concerned about me.
“I know you only think I’m saying this because I’m drunk, but I’m not. It’s the truth.” He said one time, after calling me names.
By the time 4th of July rolled around, things had seemed to settle down. I had recently broken up with him (again) and when I stood my ground that time for a month, he did actually try to get sober. He went to a doctor who prescribed him antidepressants and anxiety medication and he quit drinking. I appreciated the effort and tried like hell to be supportive of his decision.
But, if you’ve ever known an alcoholic then you know that the only thing worse than being around an alcoholic is being around an alcoholic who is reluctantly sober.
I would’ve rather him just drink because he was an angry, irritated man now. He was constantly sweating profusely and agitated all the time. I was trying to stick it out- after all, I was the one who pushed him to get sober- but it was too hard. And that day, on the Fourth of July, I’d finally had enough.
I had just finished up these cupcakes when he stormed into his house, obviously annoyed. I tried to talk to him to figure out what was wrong, but he was clearly mad at me. For what? I don’t know. His unwarranted anger towards me made me angry. I hadn’t done anything wrong! He wanted to have a cookout, so I made these festive cupcakes and now he’s mad at me?!
“What is your problem?!” I asked him.
And he replied, “I don’t know why but I really just can’t stand you and I wish you weren’t even here right now.” And he slammed the door behind him.
I stood there in shock. He didn’t call me any names; he didn’t hit me or slap me, but, man, did those words hurt. He was so callous about it and didn’t seem to care about my feelings or the fact that he had made me cry.
It was really clear in that moment that he was picking sides. It was me or alcohol, and he was too weak to put the bottle down. He wished I wasn’t there because he’d rather be home alone, drinking.
And although he didn’t say out loud that he was picking, I heard him loud and clear. I packed up my things, put the cupcakes in my front seat and I left for the last time.
Don’t wait for the next 4th of July to set yourself free.