"Carolyn's stories are like a cozy blanket, a pair of stretchy pants, a lifetime movie, and a pint of ice cream to come home to after a DUMB! dating experience. It makes you breathe a sigh of relief and think "Phew! Its NOT just me!!!!!!". -- Ozlem (my hairdresser)

Love the blog Carolyn!! Just read every entry - it's all great! really interesting and a lot I could relate to-- it's hard for me to imagine you having any trouble meeting guys, but I love the honesty and openness of your voice.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What's The Catch?

I went on a couple of dates with Mike. He was cute and fun, but not ideal boyfriend material, so we ended up becoming friends. One night before we went to dinner, he showed me a picture of his younger brother Keith, who has dark, wavy hair, strong features, muscular arms, and lines in his cheeks from his natural smile. "Everyone says he looks like a Brazilian soccer player," said Mike.

A second photo showed Keith with his shirt off. He clearly worked out at the gym regularly. "You would like him. You should go out with him." I downplayed my interest, "Ok, if you think so."

The first time I heard Keith's voice on the phone, I could not tell the difference between his voice and Mike's. At first, I thought Mike was playing a joke on me, but thirty seconds into our conversation, I understood exactly how different these two brothers are.

Keith is a deep and soulful guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is present and wonderfully open and honest. Our conversations travel to many destinations. I understand his thought patterns, which are clear, connected and similar to mine. No subject is taboo. He makes no pretense about his life, who he is or where he's been. So, what's the catch?

He was addicted to drugs for half his life and has been sober for just the past two years. If I have any interest in dating Keith, I know what my friends will say, "Really? After all the time you've been looking for a solid relationship, you're really considering dating a former drug addict? Are you nuts?"

I attended twelve years of Catholic school. The old nuns, dressed in their habits, constantly drilled into our skulls "sex and drugs are bad for you and are the devil's way into your soul." However, the older we got, and the more our hormones raged, we of course had to discover why everyone is going to hell for having sex and doing drugs.

The first time I smoked pot was after school my junior year in high school. I was with Mary and Maggie, driving around in Maggie's parent's car, an old silver Ford Granada that we nicknamed, "The Grenade". One of Maggie's older (and really cute) brothers gave us a skinny, little joint. We smoked it, and went to visit him and his friends at the local University. We thought we were really cool and giggled all afternoon long, until we got paranoid, thinking someone may have seen us smoking pot in our school uniforms and report us to the principal.

We drove back to Molly's house with the windows down in freezing cold weather to rid the car of any residual smell. With 10 kids in her family, Maggie's parents were savvy to drug use and none of us wanted to get grounded or expelled.

When I was 21, I moved from my provincial, mid-western hometown to New York City, where drugs were readily available. I tried most recreational drugs. I didn't like coke. I didn't like feeling edgy and wired and I never understood its appeal. However, in order to avoid any pressure from my peers, I rubbed it on my gums, which increased my appetite for cigarettes all night long. My hair soaked up the smoke like a sponge and stunk so bad that I had to pull my curls into a bun on my head just so I could fall asleep. The next morning I inevitably looked and felt like crap. My teeth were fuzzy and I reeked of smoke.

Cocaine was Keith's drug of choice. "What's the difference between drug addicts and people who do drugs but don't become addicted?" I asked Keith. "Genetic predisposition," was his response. "But that is not an excuse," he continued. "There are no excuses." Is it really genetics? Some people must have the genes but don't become addicts for 17 years. "I had a problem and I had no choice other than to become strong enough to deal with it," he said. "It's been a very un-shallowing and humbling experience every step of the way."

Clearly Keith's drug story is much more intense than my G-rated initiation. "Addiction is the devil controlling you when you have no faith in anything else," he said. "As soon as I developed an ounce of faith in my higher power and in myself, I started the fight to get my life back." Maybe those old, mean, sexually frustrated nuns actually knew a thing or two.

I've never been married, have no kids, no skeletons in the closet, and not so much as an outstanding parking ticket. I have designed my life to be as drama free as possible. Should I even toy with the idea of dating Keith, knowing his history and the imminent reactions from my family and friends? "You will face that type of ridicule," he says, "which is what I hate about all this. I want to protect you from it, but I can’t."

At this stage in my life, is it possible to meet a man who doesn't have some type of baggage? We all have different challenges and issues-- some of us confront our issues, learn and grow from them-- and others don't. With Keith, I know what his baggage is upfront. With any other man, I could spend years only to discover his 'demon' is something worse.

I flipped open a copy of the new Vanity Fair today and saw a picture of Cary Grant running on the beach. His quote read, "All my life, I've been going around in a fog. You're just a bunch of molecules until you know who you are." -- Hollywood's Glory Daze, LSD aficionado Cary Grant, circa 1952.

I have always stated I want to be with a man who is honest, knows who he is and is comfortable in his own skin. However, I never thought a sordid, drug-filled past could be a potential tool, and part of the package of a man I might develop a relationship with.

"I don't struggle with drugs anymore," said Keith, who has devoted his life to helping others stay sober and educating people about addiction. "My soul wants continued peace and my heart wants to be content and happy."

Isn't that what we all want?


  1. A past drug addiction is a warning sign, but in my opinion, not a deal breaker yet. It's important when you start dating someone, to be aware of those warning signs and keep your eyes open for more, but if he really has cleaned up and turned his life around, and is the right person for you in every other way, then the other lesson I'm sure you've had grilled into you as a catholic, forgiveness and second chances, are important to remember too.

    In my opinion, addiction is more than just genetic predisposition (though I'm sure that plays a role). It's also life circumstance (when you first tried drugs, what sort of place were you in mentally?) and choice. Though I am sure the "choice" part is harder for those with genetic predisposition and who are in difficult life circumstances.

    17 years of drug addiction could be an indication of a weak person with too much baggage to handle a serious relationship and be a good mate... or it could be an indication of someone who's been through a lot, learned a lot, and is maybe a better person for it. You'd have to spend more time with the person to know which it is.

    Good luck!

  2. Sandra, Thank you so much for such a clear, concise, kind and non-judgmental comment.

    You obviously know a lot about addiction, so I take your words to heart. Thank you for reading my story and for taking the time to respond. I am grateful. Best, Carolyn

  3. I think it is very genetic and life's circumstances. I have a very good friend whose brilliant sister has lost it all to drug abuse and has been near death many times and every time she has been close to beating it, it beats her. My dear friend even though he himself has pulled his sister out of the gutter many times, found himself in the same situation but was able to come clean and has been clean for a long time now he says thanks to faith and God, something his sister has never found. I cannot understand it myself, how a person can beat years of addiction, but I certainly admire it....