Thursday, May 21, 2009


Saturday night, when it happened, the shame was crippling, and I couldn't breathe or think. Everything was a muted wash of gray.

Until the waves of rage and nausea, and the fantasies – beating holes in the wall with a microphone stand, slicing my wrists open, shrieking obscenities into the night. Then the addict, slamming me with euphoric recall. Escape this body, plunge into ecstasy, get what you deserve, Eli. I'm a strong swimmer – I've trained in these waters for years – so why the fuck was I drowning again? I was fighting for breath, but my cognitive and recovery tools were failing me.

I got through the night and slept (eventually), but at 5:00 Sunday morning I was begging Linsey for help. I'm so depressed I can't get out of bed, I told her. I can't do this today. Somehow I found myself leading a worship rehearsal three hours later, and I did fine, because when I'm behind a piano I know what I'm doing. I cried in between lyrics, and thanked my God for this moment of competence and peace. For deliverance.

But all of life is not a song. I went home and curled into the fetal position under my covers, and hated my body for convincing me again to approach her with my guard down. One of the ways I cope when I'm triggered is I step back, out of the moment, and imagine retelling the events at some later time. This way I get some distance and perspective. It usually helps, but not this time. Because it sounded so stupid when it came out like this:

“Saturday night everything was right for sex. We'd flirted and hinted, the kids were in bed, the chores were done. I allowed myself to feel desire. I thought I could handle the risk of being vulnerable. I came up behind her at the table and loved on her with a back rub and gentle kisses. She closed her eyes and sighed. Then she jumped up and started turning off lights and putting things away, and disappeared into the bathroom. I tried to hold on to the moment, but I went numb. We never recovered.”

I told our therapist Heidi what happened, that I was emotionally broken and unsalvageable. You shouldn't descend into despair when your wife has to go to the bathroom. But with work, we isolated this part of the story: I had asked Linsey, “Don't worry about the lights, just come to the bedroom with me. I'm coming back out here later and I'll close up.” But she can't do this. The abused and frightened little girl inside my wife still freaks out when an excited man starts touching her, so she looks for ways to stop the flow of intimacy, and to regain control.

And then I'm triggered.

And I tell myself, she's just turning off the lights, just kissing the kids goodnight, just making a quick phone call, just washing her face, but it's a lie, because these silly little games echo all the way back to our honeymoon. And someday, I'll be strong enough to say “IT'S NOT MY FAULT” instead of “what the hell is wrong with you, Eli?”

Someday I'll say It's not my fault.

It's not my fault.

[Photo by whisperwolf under C.C.License]


  1. Amazing how we internalize everything. Just like when my husband starts drinking again after a short stink with sobriety. My codie self at first wonders what I did wrong. Sigh...

  2. Hiya Eli,

    It's not your fault, and neither is it your wife's fault. The blame lays in some wasteland or other, a place that we cannot revisit or change. In my last post I ended on how I spurn my wife, and how repulsive even a human touch can feel at such times. It's very difficult for all parties, but love will always endure... it w ill always come through for us At least I hope it will...

    You take care & Best Wishes, Shane.

  3. thanks for reading. thanks for this post. i am sorry for what you are hurting from, and want so much to hug you all better. your wife, and kids, and you. thank them for hanging in there with you. it is real, and awful, addiction. i have sat here fetal position, aching for something that i can not have....ouch.

    fragile...hurt....thanks for the friendship here.