Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Charlie Brown's Football

Who's the fool, Charlie Brown or Lucy?

My therapist Heidi wants me to stop kicking myself when Lucy pulls the football away. She says we're making progress. That each of us is working through our “stuff” and that I should go ahead and let myself get aroused. That I should jump in, sink or swim, then journal about what happens.

But how many times do you feel sorry for Charlie Brown before you think, why did he believe her again? Why did he run for that football again, only to fall on his ass when Lucy pulled it away?

You codies have to help me here. I hate being on this end of the equation. I'm more comfortable writing about the times when it's me screwing up. Linsey and I like this arrangement. I'm the sick one. I'm introspective and self-critical. I'm good at apologizing.

Linsey's not good at apologizing. She only has two modes: 1) “It's your fault Eli,” and 2) “I don't feel like talking about it.” Our therapist helps with this, if she can shut me up for long enough.

So things seem okay, even good, and I love my Linsey, and I look at her curves and feel her softness and fall in love with her raspy voice. And I tell her I adore her, and help out with the house, and take Ashley to buy boots and to her horseback riding lesson. And it's noisy and busy and there's a bunch of little boys swimming in my pool for the J-man's seventh birthday party, but it's alright. Because we love each other, and we'll have our time tonight.

We'll have our time tonight. I keep checking. Carefully rationing my excitement. Making sure the lane next to me is clear so I can make a quick escape if things slow down too fast. And my neural computer starts to believe it's solved the equation, that I've finally cataloged all the warning signs.

Those warning signs aren't here this time. None of them. She's happy and reciprocally tender. We talk and narrate. We're therapy veterans who know that you have to say what you're feeling, and kill your paranoia with supportive verbal cues.

So Charlie Brown is thinking it's a good day to kick that football. He straightens up the bedroom and turns down the bed. He brushes his teeth and sets the alarm. But when he locks the door, Lucy becomes quiet and withdrawn because she remembers an argument from earlier in the day. She pulls up the ball. And it's too late, because Charlie Brown's already running.

It wasn't some misunderstanding, or some crazy over-reactive trigger, like last time. It was: I know I said things were good and I wanted you, but now I don't, so leave me alone.

So I don't know what to say. I really like this person. I care about her and we have a million things in common, plus there's these kids, and I'm not going to flake on them. And I made vows when we got married. So I'm not going to leave, or cheat, or get high, or stop breathing.

It feels like the only option is to play those tapes in my head again, the ones that tell me: It's gonna be okay - we can be friends but not lovers. I don't get everything I want. Some people have incurable diseases or crushing poverty, I will have a sexless marriage. I will find a way to live with that.

Years of cognitive therapy tells me I'm engaging in “black and white thinking.” At least I've learned to recognize that. And I've learned in recovery that I don't have to do anything stupid. So God, I'm powerless and my life is unmanageable, and I can't fix this.


  1. Oh Eli. I don't even know where to start. I am Charlie Brown in my relationship. How many times before I finally realize I can't trust "Lucy" when he says he's going to stop drinking. How many times will I fall for it when he tells me we will be a normal family again?

    I don't know how to explain it. I am not in the exact same situation as you and your wife, but I can only imagine your difficulties and frustrations. They are shared on my end just in different ways. Many times when I am in need of affection or attention my husband's is elsewhere, i.e. the bottle.

    Your post shows me that even when the addictive behavior ends there is still so much for both parties involved to sort through. In some ways, that is what scares me the most.

    I am thinking of you. Hang in there.

  2. Gin, I thanked everybody over at the Second Road and I didn't want to leave you out. I feel really blessed to have the support I find here and it's good to know I'm not alone. Yes, once the addictive behaviors stop, you're left with everything you were trying to cover up in the first place!

  3. Eli,

    Just so you know, I'm pimping my favorite posts over at theotherbed.

    Hope to hear more from you soon.