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I was 22 when I had my first alcoholic beverage. I can’t tell you what was in that cup, but I can tell you I was wearing a black slinky tank top, snug dark washed jeans, stiletto heels and a chain belt. I remember because when you’ve frantically tried on six different outfits in an attempt to achieve the I’ve-been-wearing-this-all-day-and-therefore-not-trying-too-hard look, then you remember what you finally decided on.

It was one of those “let’s hang out at my apartment” dates that I have come to loathe over the years; but at that time, I would have happily met him at a landfill to eat day old Waffle House grits if it meant being around him. Going to his house was perfectly fine with me because I had his undivided attention there and it was nice to see him in his element. You can tell a lot about a guy from the way he lives and, besides the framed picture of an ex-girlfriend I spied in his home office (laying picture side down for my benefit at least), I liked what I saw. This particular apartment hangout session was different though and marks the beginning of the span of regrettable months that I willfully ignored red flags.

I was perched on the stool at his kitchen counter while we talked about everything and nothing like we always did when somehow the topic of drinking came up. I was in college at this point and more than a year past the 21st birthday party at which I’d horrified my friends by informing them I was still not interested in drinking any alcohol. Who doesn’t drink at the number one party school in the country where the bars in that college town outnumber classroom buildings? Me.

I’d seen people drunk and had no desire to be that idiot (granted, I realize that drinking doesn’t mean you have to get drunk or be an idiot, but I suspected I’d certainly be both if given the chance). I’d also seen otherwise healthy female classmates gain an extraordinary amount of weight as a result of consuming copious amounts of alcohol and I spent too much time in the gym to undermine my efforts with a 500-calorie glass of Long Island Iced Tea. My main objection though was that drinking caused people to stop being in complete control of themselves and I didn’t want to lose control – not even a little bit. I could still let loose and have fun with friends at a party, but I could also drive everybody home at the end of the night.

My well-rehearsed objections were easily silenced in the presence of this man though. Initially, I laughed at how incredulous he was about my having never tasted alcohol as though it were a kindergarten rite of passage. He joked about my being the last sober girl on Earth and I laughed about him stocking beer in his fridge like normal people stock Pepsi. We were talking and laughing about it and I’ve blocked out exactly how that turned into him pouring me a cup of “grape juice” and essentially pouring my strong personality into a puddle on the floor. But that’s what happened. That night, I had my first drink.

To be fair, he didn’t pressure me into drinking alcohol. I’d love to blame him, but if I’m being honest then I have to admit that I wanted to. I wanted to because I was dangerously infatuated with him and thus more than willing to share in his bad habits. We weren’t even officially “together” at that point (or any point actually), but in the bizarre logic that guided my every foolish move with that guy I figured compromising in that area would somehow increase his desire for me. Delusional, I know but I’d already taken an Olympian high-dive off the balcony of common sense weeks prior.

When I was able to look back at that relationship objectively after it ended, I realized that throughout our time together he ultimately brought out the worst in me. Drinking alcohol certainly didn’t make me a bad person by any means, but that was only one example of my changing who I was for want of his unconquerable heart. If I felt I’d changed for the better by the end of whatever that relationship was then I could deal with that, but the girl I barely recognized in the mirror was a girl I didn’t like at all.

People change in relationships and adapt to each other’s personalities, but after that I’ve always been careful to observe if I like the person I’m changing into and the compromises I’ve made. It’s easy to be completely caught up in a guy and abandon all sorts of reason, standards and intelligence while picking up his bad habits or faulty personality traits and keeping them as your own. After we ended, I had to do a thorough inventory of my life and figure out what was me for real and what was something I’d picked up from or laid aside for him.

I don’t believe we can go back to the person we used to be, because time only moves forward. However, I do think we can become a better version of ourselves and choose to only be with people who bring out our best and not people who bring out our worst.

Have you ever compromised your standards for a relationship? Have you noticed a relationship change you for the worst?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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