I’ve heard people talk about the stages of grief before, and I’m pretty sure I studied the Kübler-Ross grief cycle in a college psychology course.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I thought I would experience these in order; I thought that’s what this cycle meant. But for me, I can experience them all in one day. Or one for three days, and then another, out of order, for an hour, or maybe a week. I feel like I’m not in control of my brain anymore… to the point where I found myself googling “brain tumor symptoms” last night.  Yes– I have a history of mental illness, but I’ve certainly never felt like this before. It’s like my whole body is rebelling against me, and while the person I was before any of this happened is trying to claw her way to the surface, she is crushed by the weight of shock and grief every. single. time.

Some mornings, I wake up feeling like I’m two people at once. The physical me– brushing my teeth and getting ready for work– and the me that is in this constant dream-like state, living out the same morning, but in a different way. I don’t know how to describe that part of all of this. I wish I could though, because I’m desperate to talk to someone who can relate. It scares me, and I no longer have a best friend to work through it with me.

Then there are moments in the day that I think to myself, “if I just keep waiting, he’ll come back.” Or, “if I send this text, maybe he’ll answer today.”
I never send the text, but I think I’ll always be waiting for him to come back. There is a part of me that’s almost expecting him to. A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I ran into Dave at a gas station. With a big grin, he told me he was in witness protection. While it was nice to see him even if only in a dream, I wish I wouldn’t have. Because even though it’s irrational, that dream gave me some kind of false hope that I can’t seem to let go of.

And no one tells you that the “anger” part of this cycle doesn’t limit itself to just being angry that someone is dead. I’m angry at everything now. Restaurant waits, loud noises, slow drivers. Since the moment I found out he died, I wanted to do nothing but scream. I couldn’t though, and I still haven’t. Whenever I have a moment alone to do it… to let all of this rage escape my body… it’s like someone has stolen my voice. My grief counselor told me to let it out. She said it’s healthy, and I know it is, but no one understands that I physically can’t.

Lately it’s been manifesting itself in physical ways. Splitting headaches and blurry vision and a heart that beats out of my chest to the point where catching my breath seems impossible. I’m exhausted, because sorrow is exhausting.

I just want to talk about him forever. I want to tell someone every story and every feeling I ever had about him. I want to tell someone what an amazing person he was. But who would listen for that long?

I don’t know how to do this anymore.


Addiction Killed My Best Friend.

Dave was my best friend.

I was supposed to have lunch with him on February second. It was a Saturday, and we hadn’t seen each other in months. We made those plans on the Wednesday prior. He died the day before on Friday, alone in his basement. We never had our Saturday lunch.

I knew Dave had a history with heroin. In fact, it was one of the very first things he ever told me about himself. He was a felon. He used to be a dealer. He used to be a user. Everything he said was in the past tense, and I didn’t have a problem with it. Everything he said dripped like honey out of his mouth, over his straight white teeth, into his perfectly maintained beard, down his muscular body. He was a personal trainer before I met him, and it showed. I had never been friends with someone so handsome, but that’s not what drew me to him.

Dave looked excited about everything he said. That’s what hooked me in initially- his contagious enthusiasm, even about the shittiest things. We worked together, and I saw him more than my girlfriend, my family, or anyone else. We had only known each other a couple of weeks before having a really awkward discussion about whether or not it was ok to refer to one another as best friends in conversations with other people.

“I consider you one of my best friends, is that weird? It’s like we share the same mind.”
He was serious when he said that. His eyes didn’t light up with bullshit enthusiasm. He meant it, and he wanted me to know he did. I shared the sentiment, and thanked the universe for sending me someone who didn’t have a problem being honest during a time I really needed someone to be honest with.

That was May, and the next two months flew by. We told everyone we encountered that we were siblings. They always believed it. “I can see it! You two look alike,” they’d say. Every. Single. Time.

In mid July, I was out of town for work. While I was gone, Dave was arrested at our workplace. He said it was for an old charge, which proved to be true. I was his first phone call when he got out of jail, and he asked me if I thought that was weird. I was glad he knew I loved him. I was glad to be his first call.

Our boss fired him the next day. I was devastated. I knew how ashamed Dave would be, and I also knew what shame could to do one’s sobriety. He was doing so well… at that time I didn’t doubt that for a second.

The next time I saw him, he came to see me at work. He was high, and I knew it. He told me he snorted some Xanax. I gave him shit for it, but I told him I was only upset because I loved him. It was after that I started distancing myself from him a little; but he got back on track, he was doing well, and we started talking again.

A few weeks later, we went to dinner. He started dating someone and was excited to tell me about her. I shared with him some struggles I was having with my crazy brain, and he listened to me and validated my feelings like no other friend in my life had ever been able to. He understood, because like he said, we shared a brain. When we left the restaurant, he awkwardly threw a card into my car. I read it when he pulled away, and I cried big ugly tears. In it, he thanked me for always having his back.  A few days later I went to his house so he could meet my new dog. That was the last time I would ever see him alive.
I wish I would have saved that card.

I checked in with him daily. After work he either called me on my drive home, or we would text for hours when I settled in for the evening. He got a new job that he enjoyed, and he encouraged me to apply for a position with a company I didn’t think I was qualified to work for– my dream job. He was insistent, and he was my biggest cheerleader.

In early December, he told me about his upcoming court date that was scheduled shortly after Christmas. It was only a few days after that conversation that he stopped replying when I messaged him. He stopped checking in on me. There was nothing but silence, and I knew why,  so I went silent, too. He rarely reached out to me, and one of the few times he did I told him how angry I was. I told him he was better than to be using. Now I wish I would have taken the time to ask him why he started using again in the first place.

At his sentencing in court, he was given probation. A chance he didn’t think he would get. He took this new opportunity to turn things around again. He wanted to patch things up with his girlfriend, who had been distant because of his recent use. He also wanted to patch things up with me– so we did. In true Ali and Dave fashion, we had big life talks at 4am when neither of us could sleep.  We talked about everything again. I asked a lot of questions, but didn’t get many answers like I used to. I was just happy he was coherent enough to hold a conversation. I was selfish. That was good enough for me.

Then, in late January, there was the best news. That dream job he had been encouraging me to apply for? I got it. I fucking got it. And I couldn’t wait to tell him. So he called me on a Wednesday. He sounded like the excited guy I met in June. We celebrated, we laughed, we reminisced. We talked for almost two hours. I soaked in every word, and I was so excited about life. My best friend was clean, and happy, and hopeful. He was going to counseling. He was looking forward to the future. He was positive. We talked about how much we had missed each other, and we planned a Saturday lunch. I had never looked forward to anything as much as I looked forward to seeing him again.

12:45am… Early Saturday morning. His girlfriend called me. I didn’t answer it. I figured they were out and just wanted to call to BS and tell me they were getting back together officially. I figured Dave would give me all the details at lunch, and I wanted to hear it from him, so I could watch his eyes light up when he told me. But that morning, he didn’t answer my texts about lunch.  His girlfriend called me again, this time later in the morning. I wish I wouldn’t have answered. Because maybe if I didn’t answer, Dave would have just texted me back about when and where to meet. I wish life could work that way.

She told me he was gone. “Passed away” is the term she used. And I wish she would have just said died. Why try to make such an awful thing sound delicate? I remember asking what happened, but I already knew. Heroin happened.

I’m not really sure how the rest of the conversation went. Afterwards I remember going to the bathroom and throwing up. I remember wanting to run as far as my legs would carry me. I remember wanting to scream, but feeling as if someone had stolen my voice.
I still want to scream. I never have.

It felt like I had to wait a lifetime to go to his funeral. When someone dies at home there has to be an autopsy. When someone dies at home on a Friday, the autopsy takes a really long time to happen, because coroners get weekends off, too. The obituary said accidental overdose. An accident sounds like something that can be fixed… who can fix this? I wish the obituary would have said he died from addiction. That’s what it was. It wasn’t this one accident. It was a culmination of the struggle and the triumph and the final setback. A vicious cycle that, like all things, must end somehow.

I’ve been to plenty of funerals, the most recent being my grandmother’s in May. Yes…I’ve been to plenty of funerals, but those were all for older people who lived great lives who weren’t my best friend. Those people knew the end was near. Those people didn’t sound hopeful and full of life on the phone two days prior to their death. Those people weren’t supposed to have lunch with me on the day I found out they were dead. So, the funeral was awful. But Dave looked just like Dave. Muscular and handsome and like he would stand up and walk out of the casket at any moment. I was so grateful for that.

I met his mom for the first time at his funeral.  I walked up to her and introduced myself. She said, “I know who you are. You were so good for Dave.” And after hearing that I lost all ability to speak rational thoughts. I remember saying “I just loved him,” over and over and over, like a sad, broken record. Was I really good for Dave? If I had been, wouldn’t he still be here and not in that box we stood in front of?  I said goodbye to his mom. She wished me luck at my new job. His whole family, who I never met, knew about my new job. He must have been so proud of me.

But I’d give up my job if I could have him back. Because new jobs aren’t important. Because this is awful, and after 19 days it still hurts so much I can’t breathe sometimes. So now I have this new job, and a new grief counselor, and this feeling of trying to delicately hold everything together even though I still just want to scream until I’m hoarse. How do people live like this? The only person who would understand is the same person who caused all of this pain.

I hate drugs, and I miss my best friend.




307 Days

We moved in together after only two months. In hindsight, we realize someone should have told us we were absolutely insane, but no one did. No one tried to stop us.

The ups outweigh the downs. My downs outweigh hers, but they’re mine, and she pulls me up. Her ups are mighty; she’s the person I’ve always needed.  I can count on one hand the number of arguments we’ve had, but I don’t need any digits to count the number of times she’s called me crazy, or used my brain against me. I need more arms and legs and hands and feet to count the times she’s made me laugh when I didn’t feel like laughing.

Tt 32 and 39 we are both learning how to adult, and how to be in a relationship. I am learning how to enjoy being at home, and letting go of the desire to be in constant motion. For the first time, I don’t have anything to escape from, because she is my escape.

I’ll revisit this at 365 days. I forgot I had a blog. I’m just checking in with my little corner of the internet.

This is a Love Letter


I want to write you a beautiful, poetic letter detailing every single reason why I love you, but sometimes in trying to be beautiful and poetic, the most important parts of what I want to say are lost. I promise down the road I’ll give you something beautiful. For now, though, here’s an average letter from an average girl who loves you deeply.

Let me start by telling you this– you’re fucking gorgeous. Like really, super pretty. Let’s be honest, that’s why I hit the “I want to meet you” button on that stupid dating app. That mirror picture of you holding your hair back? I was so into it. I’m still into it. I saved it on my phone and I look at it when we’re not together, and I feel the same longing I felt the very first time I saw it.

When we are together, I stare at you like I’m some kind of creep because I still can’t believe I get to kiss you and touch you and fall asleep next to you. And when we wake up in the morning and your hair is falling out of your ponytail and you try to hide your face and tell me you look disgusting, my stomach does this little summersault because I swear to God each day you are more beautiful than you were the day before.

When I tell you you’re beautiful, I’m not just talking about your perfect body or all things physical. I’m also talking about your mind, and the way it’s on a constant quest for knowledge; I already see things differently because of you. I’m talking about the way you would do anything for your friends, the way you love your family, and the many ways you show me you love me– none of those things go unnoticed, I promise. I’m talking about the way your laugh is magic, the way you love animals, and the way you don’t speak poorly of people you know, even if they hurt you. You radiate goodness, Tina. I’ve never met anyone else who shines like you.

There are a lot of firsts in my relationship with you. Most importantly, this is the first time I’ve ever connected with someone else’s heart, and it’s intense and intimidating and so magnificent. (If no one else ever understands this, I know you always will). This is also the first time I’ve been shown such a magnitude of respect and admiration, and God I’m so glad it’s from you, because there is no one on this earth I respect more. And this is the first time I’ve ever spoken freely around anyone, without fear or hesitation. My mind is no longer writing a script before I speak. I’ve never felt so at ease; accepted and understood. There are not enough ways to thank you for that.

Thanks for being a cool girl and making me chase you a little in the beginning. I love you for that, too, and I hope you know I will chase you forever, should your ego ever need another boost. I hope it won’t, though–I want to make sure it’s never bruised again. I want you to know how highly I think of you and how much I care about you. Every. Single. Day. Because I love that you aren’t afraid to be who you are, and give no fucks about what anyone else thinks. I love that you were brave enough to end something really big and really good to be yourself and find exactly what you wanted. Your authenticity is rare, and I love it. I just love you. I love you so fucking much.

Thanks for showing up now. I know we came from the same place, and I know we will be together again when we get to the next one, but I’m stoked to be sharing this time with you now. I’m stoked to get a place and make it ours, and be your wife, and hold your hand in public forever. For the trips we will take and the movies we’ll see and the grocery shopping and the arguments and abundance of laughter and all of the joy we will leave wherever we go.

You’re the coolest person I know. I’m so lucky to love you.



Worth the 32 Year Wait

Everyone has always said to me, “When you meet the right person, you’ll know.”
I held on to this advice, and in the past I tried to convince myself that other people were the right ones. I tried to trick myself into the “knowing.”
It never worked. There was always a part of me that thought maybe I was settling, but I told myself I was being selfish.

“You can’t have it all,” I’d think.

But you can, and I know this now because I do. I genuinely have it all.

I love a woman who loves me fiercely and shows it. A woman who is close to her family– her accepting, loving family–whose nephews call me “Aunt Ali” and make my heart sing. My family loves her. Even my mom acknowledges her as my partner, instead of just a friend. That’s never happened before, but maybe Mom always knew I hadn’t found the right one yet.

She doesn’t mind moving the mattress to the living room floor for a slumber party because I think it will be fun. She is wickedly intelligent, and opens my mind to all kinds of new things to which I’d never previously given any thought. She’s wild, and restless, and on a constant quest for knowledge. She makes me feel like I am the best thing in the world… and for her, I want to be.  More than anything, though, she’s familiar. Like an extension of myself I never knew I was missing. I’m sorry, I don’t think it can be adequately described. It must be felt.

When you meet the right person, you know. Loving them is instant and effortless, and the thought of a future without them is agonizing, not just a little bit scary. I knew her before I met her, in all of my lives before this one. And when we get to the next place, there’s no doubt we’ll find each other there, too.  This is what it’s like. This is the “knowing.”

I hope everyone gets to know.

19 days.

Since she kissed me, I haven’t had to take a pill to sleep at night, or make my hands stop shaking during the day.

She calls me Ali, like everyone familiar. I hear her tell her family about me while she’s on the phone (and I’m in the living room, listening for her laugh.)

We haven’t been in a car together, or been in the world at all. We are enjoying this phase to the fullest, with no distractions from the outside world. We talk. We laugh. We sleep.

I sleep. I sleep with her next to me like she’s been there forever. And when I trace her face with my fingertips, my hands are still.

That’s important.

We’re Ready.

I went to breakfast with a woman on New Years Eve, and this weekend I found myself sitting in the same spot on her couch for two and a half days.

I admitted things to her I never wanted to say out loud, and she called me baby in a way that felt like I’d known her for years. We talked about God and past lives, and she touched me like she had the blueprint to my body. There were hours of intense conversation that seemed to span years, and moments of complete silence in which we did nothing but stare out the window looking at the trees.

Neither of us want to be put in a box and expected to grow. That’s important. She’s a true Sagittarius like me, and we both want to do everything, including relationships, a little differently.  These conversations wouldn’t have happened with her a year ago– I’m not who I was then, and I’m not going to stay who I am now.

“I want being in a relationship with me to open doors for you, not close them.”

Thank you for getting it. 

The Fourteenth

I’ve lost the little black notebook in which I chronicled the ups and downs of our years long relationship. It’s probably for the best.

I documented every emotional breakdown. Every dream, every nightmare. I saved bits of paper that meant something. Flower petals, perfume sample cards from Sephora, Metro cards and fortunes. It was as much a story of where I had been and who I used to be as it was of love.

I’m not sure where I left it. It was one of my few possessions which made it to Ohio with me when I moved back from the Carolinas. I made sure to bring it with me, only to haphazardly leave it sitting on a table in a coffee shop, or a bench in the park. I only realized it was gone last night, when I was feeling all of the feelings and wanted to write them down in a place no one else would ever see them.

I hope whoever found it read every word. That would make its loss a little easier to swallow– knowing someone else got to peek in through the window of happiness and anguish.  The window of what will forever be the best of times, even when they were the worst.

It’s time to start over.