At 30 years old, 16 months clean and sober, and eleven weeks into the love of my life, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. In January I may have hit a ten-year high, but nothing could prepare me for the changes March and April would bring. Not only am I happier, but it feels like my very capacity for happiness has increased.
I credit my time in recovery for a large part of this change, while a smaller but still significant part comes from attending to my psychiatric needs. But the element that has pushed it to full fruition is the relationship that has consumed the past eleven weeks of my life.
Throughout my twenties, playing out a series of variations on the theme of self destruction, I abandoned the ambitious dreams of my teenage years. Forget becoming an important writer or a successful academic—suddenly just being a reasonably happy and stable adult seemed like a loft goal. I slowly and fitfully resigned myself to the fact that even the idea of being a normal, happy person might be too much to achieve. I finally accepted the stark reality: I’d never be normal.
But that didn’t mean I’d never be happy.
Despite a soft spot for stories about enduring partnership, I had a sneaking suspicion (and in my mind, mounting evidence) that I was the kind of person who was happiest without the hassle of romantic love. My therapist told me that was not a kind of person. But I never understood the seemingly ubiquitous fear of “winding up alone,” which to me sounded like nothing so much as a relief. Living alone had always seemed like the ideal state. And while I did it, finally, it was great. But that was because I hadn’t yet gotten involved with the man who transformed me. People around me are alarmed by how quickly I packet my bags and moved in with my partner. But they can’t feel the radical sea change in my spirit he has triggered. I have a place I belong. I have a home. Intimacy with him feels natural, emotional, and unguarded to the point where the shame I felt for years has been turned inside out.
Also, thanks to recovery, my relationship with the universe is much less contentious than it used to be. I no longer feel like hiking 211 miles by myself proves much about my worth as a person, nor do I feel like I have much to prove in the first place. I won’t feel like a failure if I fail to complete the JMT. And doing it alone doesn’t seem as symbolic or necessary—though I’m still going to try. But if it turns out that I have to leave the trail early, I don’t know if I’d necessarily insist on a second solo attempt. I can’t go with my partner, who lacks the fitness or experience, but I could see myself recruiting a friend or family member for the next undertaking. I’m comfortable enough in my own skin now that I can finally shed some of the armor I’ve been hiding out in.