This post was originally published on December 16, 2015.
I met Brian through OK Cupid, which is something horrible my married friends talk me into doing every year or so. We met for margaritas at a fancy place near my house and I liked him immediately. He looked like Dennis the Menace and the kind of groovy, NPR boyfriend I always wanted instead of the turnstile of funny but neurotic guys who had shown up in my life so far.
Brian grew up in Seattle and was a production designer for commercials. He went to art school, and his eerie bird paintings hung throughout his haunted house in the part of downtown LA that is on nobody’s radar to gentrify. He rode his old Schwinn bicycle to Dodger games, and the vegetable garden in his backyard was not just for hipster buffalo tomatoes. The dude was so cheap and such a good gardener that he was able to live off his vegetables and frozen tater tots like some upstate New York hippie. I’d go over to his house and find him pulling up romaine lettuce in the backyard and I felt like I was watching Channing Tatum dance in a leather thong. Primal. But I didn’t know any of that on our first date. I knew he could send a wicked dirty email and in LA, the land where romance goes to die, that was a decent enough start.
On our second date Brian and I walked through the USC campus where I went to film school. We wound up at a campus bar and over tumblers of watered down pink cranberry juice and vodka, he leaned in to tell me a secret.
“I’m in SLAA,” he said, explaining that it’s a 12-step program for sex and love addicts. “I’m trying to recover from a three-year relationship with my girlfriend Sarah who was a borderline. I just wanted to be up front with you that this is a very difficult time for me and I probably wouldn’t make a great boyfriend.”
I would come to find out that SLAA is the fastest growing 12-step program in the country, and a borderline personality is basically the most evil type of crazy person because they are as mean as they are loving. They are also, apparently, the hardest people to get over when they invariably leave you because they have major fucking skills that are on a whole other level from the rest of us.
I’d like to say he told me his truth and I walked away like a normal person. But I had about a year in my own 12-step program for the crazy shit I’ve done with money and I immediately believed that our mutual commitment to recovery would be the foundation for the kind of healthy relationship I deserved after all my hard work trying to be a better person. Plus I really wanted to fuck him.
I have always wanted to fuck a sex addict. I figure if you do anything enough that it’s become an issue then you must have some mad skills. (How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice). But seriously…what the fuck was a love addict? That’s really a thing? To be loved by somebody who loved too much sounded pretty amazing. There was simply no way I wasn’t going down this rabbit hole.
Our second date ended with me face down with my pants off on Brian’s bed (which I would later find out was the only way he would have sex). We stayed up all night and he held onto me every single minute and his skin felt like it had never touched the sun. He told me about the time Sarah accused him of leering at her 10-year old daughter and threw her engagement ring out of the car window, and how she always broke up with him whenever he went out of town for work, and that she’d convinced him he was just a piece of shit. And then he man-cried.
“I’m just so grateful that I found this program,” he said. “I just want to understand why I would miss somebody who was so mean to me.”
“It’s very brave of you to do this work.”
“You’re an amazing woman, I’m so lucky I met you.”
I didn’t stand a chance.
For the next six months, I committed myself to being the one person in Brian’s life who would not judge him. I said I understood that he wasn’t emotionally available and that his recovery was the only thing that mattered. It was a manipulative long game I was playing to be the best friend until he was healthy enough for a girlfriend. Meanwhile, my days were measured by the texts and phone calls and invitations I did or did not get from this guy who was so terribly broken and haunted and really not all that committed to his recovery. At night, we drank cheap vodka on his beat up velvet sofa and fooled around while he texted the entire female database of OK Cupid. There was the woman who Last Tango-ed him by showing up at his house to fuck him without telling him her name, the “soulmate” who drove all the way from Oregon but was banished to the guest room for being too horny, and the shrink who made him keep taking the Meyers Briggs test until their personalities matched up. But the worst one was Courtney, the costume designer with a crappy apartment in Atwater Village he said he wasn’t dating for four months, even when he slept over, took her away for the weekend, and met her parents for dinner on her birthday.
I’d love to say that it ended because I got tired of refilling the Xanax I used to manage all the panic attacks, or that I was tired of running eight-minute miles at 5 am just so I could sleep for a few hours. I’d love to say it ended because I got tired of not being loved or fucked by a love and sex addict. I went to SLAA meetings three times a week just to spend time with Brian! It was ridiculous and awful and exhausting for me to sit in those meetings, unable to share about the guy I was pretending to not be in love with because he was sitting next to me. But in the end it was really a dog that pulled me out of the rabbit hole. I fell in love with an old broken dog that wandered into Brian’s backyard and actually loved me back. And when I saw how badly Brian treated the dog, I finally saw what a piece of shit he really was. I offered to take care of the dog when Brian was out of town and when he got back, I said I was keeping the dog and I never heard from him again. The irony wasn’t that it took a dog to save me; it was that for six months, I became a sex and love addict by trying to get one to fall in love with me.