How I became a drunken, cheating swine who destroyed his marriage
The year is 2011. It’s 8:30am. I am in the lounge, staring out of the window.
“How do I look?” her words make me turn back.
There she is, all ready to go to work. She is 33 but looks much younger and she looks beautiful in the blue suit she is wearing today.
“You look lovely,” I respond, stating an obvious truth.
“Do you love me?” is inevitably the next question.
“Of course I do,” I respond trying to sound as convincing I can.
I have to make an effort here because although this is true, it cannot be called an “obvious” truth as the reality is complicated, painted in various shades of grey.
Just at the same moment, as if destined by fate, I feel a vibration in my left pocket which contains a cheap Nokia phone. A message has arrived. I don’t have to pull out the phone to know who the sender is. That phone, whose existence my wife is blissfully unaware of, is dedicated to communicating with only one person.
My wife looks at me, smiling after hearing my response. If she has detected that subtle guilt and slight slur, both emanating from two different reasons, she does not show it. She turns back and walks out to the garage. I see her leave for her office in her car. A strange and rather paradoxical mix of relief and guilt momentarily overwhelms me. Before I see the message, I need another drink to numb my nerves. I am already intoxicated, though not to the level which I usually am at this time in the morning.
I mix Diet Pepsi with vodka, as usual maintaining the ratio of two to three and start gulping it down. After a few sips, I pull out the other phone, which is dedicated to the other woman in my life, to see the message, which reads:
“I will be reaching the hotel around 10am. Make sure you come around 10:15am. After you enter the hotel, come straight to room number 540.”
The lingering pangs of guilt quickly give way to rising excitement. Guilt will return later because it is also a permanent part of the double life I am living, but right now, its rising excitement which is defining my mental state.
It’s 9:50am and I am all dressed up. I am going to the hotel, supposedly to attend a three-hour event organised by the company I work for; at least this is what I have told my wife.
Of course, the real reason is something else.
The rendezvous lasts for two hours. At 12:30pm, I am out of the hotel. I am supposed to go to my office and therefore start my journey towards it. My office is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. As I drive towards it, the euphoria is quickly subsiding and is being replaced by guilt. Ten minutes into my journey, as the guilt becomes overwhelming, I start to have an intense craving for alcohol. I turn back towards my house. Today, I will not go to the office as I have to go home and drink.
As I start downing drink after drink, I start to think. Why are we both doing it?
She has a lovely daughter and a better-looking husband, who also happens to be more successful and earns way more than I do. I am just a middle manager in a corporate, whereas he is a senior executive in another firm. Moreover, she is a highly educated woman with a higher rank than me and rational enough to understand that this is dangerous. She knows that if it becomes common knowledge, her life will be completely destroyed.
What is in her mind, I do not know. But she is responsible for her acts.
The real questions are those which I ask myself. How did I get here? How did I become a cheating swine who is blatantly destroying the trust of his loving wife? How did a friendship with an older and married woman, turn into this? Why am I doing it?
My mind wanders back to 2005 when I joined my company. I was a young rookie, fresh after completing my MBA from abroad. A bit arrogant and cocky like an alpha male back in those days. She was three years older than me and one rank above me, married with a kid.
In those early years, we hit off well. Since she was also my senior and of higher rank, she became a kind of mentor in those early days. Nothing at the time indicated that this would transform into something completely different some years later. She was a friend and yet there was always a distance which comes because of gender, and in this case, age and rank difference as well. Whenever we talked, we always talked in the office.
She even invited my wife and I to her daughter's birthday once and commented that we made a great couple.
And then things began to change. From 2009, I started to drink and became addicted to alcohol. Slowly and gradually, the bottle was engulfing my life. While drunk, I started to call or message people. One evening in a drunken state, I texted her. She promptly replied.
So the out-of-office communication started.
I would text her daily, often when intoxicated. But the exchange was always harmless and on mundane matters. At times, I would text her in a sober state also. Gradually, the office acquaintance was changing into a slightly more frank friendship. However, I never crossed that line.
Then, occasionally, we started to talk on the phone also. Initially, I made sure never to call her in a drunken state. Then came late night online chats, often on Facebook Messenger, in which I was frequently drunk yet tried my level best to act “normal”. We would chat about various topics. At some point, the topic of marriage and love also crept in. In a very subtle, and perhaps at that time unconscious manner, we were drifting towards another direction.
I remember when my messages became flirtatious, always sent in a drunken state, and how she ignored them initially. Our friendship had become so deep that even if she was feeling uncomfortable, she did not want to lose me as a friend. Gradually, I became bolder. At some point, I started to feel that she was warming up towards me.
Then one day, finally, I made a drunken call and crossed that line. She did not put the phone down and listened to me, tried to make me understand that I was going towards the wrong direction. However, she did not do it sternly or give me any indication that she was feeling offended and uncomfortable. Once she tolerated that transgression, there was no stopping me.
I relentlessly pursued, calling her whenever I could. Alcohol had completely lowered my inhibitions. In my sober hours, I would often convince myself not to call, but was not able to resist as soon as I started to drink.
Eventually, she yielded.
The affair started and with it a strange guilt erupted too. Previously, since the final line had not been crossed, there was no guilt. Now it was there and yet, I was unable to end the affair. I was shamelessly cheating on my wife and in order to cope with the accompanying guilt, drinking even more heavily.
I am not a believer in the romantic and frankly unrealistic belief that once you love a person, you don’t find anyone else attractive. The reality is that even if you love your spouse, you continue to feel attracted towards other members of the opposite gender. However, love does demand commitment and assurance that even if you find someone else attractive, you will not pursue that person. To feel attraction is perhaps not in your control, but to pursue is an informed and deliberate decision. To take a friendship to another level, while being married, is a selfish decision. I made that decision and hence, I am fully responsible for the betrayal.
Alcoholism has been the vice which has destroyed me not just physically but also morally. Once it takes over you, betrayal and sin are not far behind. Why? Because alcoholics become liars, even if they used to be honest. You lie to your family and loved ones about the amount of alcohol you are consuming and the level of your addiction. Most importantly, you lie to yourself. Alcoholism transforms you because you become careless about everything except the need to satisfy the intense craving.
I will maintain that I loved my wife during that affair (which ended a couple of years ago when the woman left Pakistan with her family) and I still do. But it was and is the love of a selfish person. One of my very close friends, who knows about my vices and transgressions, advised me that I should tell everything to my wife if I really loved her.
“Don’t you think she deserves to know and should get a choice? Be an honourable gentleman and own up to both the affair and your alcoholism. Love is after all trust and selflessness.”
He is absolutley right, I should show honourable behaviour and tell her. But I have become so selfish and weak that I can’t take the risk of her leaving me. So here I am, desperately clinging on to her, afraid to own up to my failings. All the while she is innocently unaware of my betrayal.
Yes, love is selflessness, but love is selfish also. It demands sacrifice but is possessive also. Nothing is simple. Realities of life are in fact in various shades of grey.
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