Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lilly's Letter

Lilly had a crush on me in high school. She thought I was innocent and wholesome – good father/husband material – which I was. Her friend Linsey also liked me, but promised to stay away for Lilly's sake.

Linsey honored her promise by sticking her tongue down my throat and her hand in my pants. I guess she was excited by the lure of something she couldn't have. She's still like this today. She's most interested in fucking when I give up, stop trying or caring, and decide to become a kindly and celibate monk. Then she's on fire.

A few years later, Lilly was the Maid of Honor in our wedding. Yeah, it was a little strange. She went on to become Linsey's confidant when I would disappear down the rabbit hole of drugs and porn. Knowing that Lilly knows all my shit makes me uncomfortable around her, but I'm happy Linsey has her as a friend.

Lilly sent me an email a couple of days ago, opening up about her own food addiction and her fears of hurting the man she's in love with. Writing her back this afternoon was a good experience for me:

Hi Lilly-

What a sweet and honest letter this is. I'm honored you would share so much with me. All I've really known is that you've struggled with food. There's been times when I screw up and Linsey heads off to see you, and I feel so ashamed, and Linsey just tells me that you understand me better than I think.

As hard as it's been for me at times, I really do support your loyalty to Linsey. God knows she needs somebody she can talk to about me, and you and her friend Claire are pretty much all she has (outside of her support groups.) Your friendship and support have helped her to stick around and work things out, and for that I'm very thankful.

I definitely do understand the way that addiction is there every single day. I get angry sometimes when I hear people share that God has taken away the desires they used to fight. I just sit there and think, "it must be nice..." But then when I'm honest with myself and look at the big picture, I realize God has taken away much of the constant drives that used to plague me all the time. I guess I offer that to give you hope - with enough time and work, I think any addiction does become easier.

As far as how it affects your boyfriend, I don't think the answers are as easy. I can tell you that what I wanted (prayed for, begged for, cried for) was to be healed from all this crap, to be fixed. I wanted to be able to go to my pastor and say, "I used to have this problem..." I wanted to be able to completely remove the pain and discomfort that my issues have brought into my family.

But I think I'm learning it doesn't work that way. I finally figured out that I had to go to my pastor and say, "I have this problem, now, still, ... and I'm working on it, every day." I had to find the strength to tell Linsey, "I have this problem, I will always have this problem, and because I love you, I want to work on it so we can have a marriage."

And I had to ask for her help. Things didn't really get better for me until she was willing to accept that she couldn't bring home a prescription for codeine and keep it in our medicine cabinet. I've sat through so many family support groups and heard spouses that were angry they couldn't keep alcohol in the house anymore. And this is what it comes down to for me: Real recovery isn't saying "I will have enough willpower to walk past the liquor cabinet every day and ignore it." Real recovery IS having the courage to say: "will you help me by moving the liquor somewhere else?"

I guess I'm just trying to share what I've had to learn, over and over and over, the hard way - that the more isolated I am, the more control the addictions have over me. Of course much of my openness is with recovery friends and groups. But it's unavoidable that some of it has to happen with Linsey. You mentioned the times when you fudge the truth with your boyfriend. Boy does that sound familiar. I still struggle with this, and I know that it wouldn't really be productive for Linsey to hear every little thing that I share with my groups, or therapists, or whoever else helps me out. But the key is, I can't protect her from it completely. I wish so much that she didn't have to look at it, to see this ugly shameful part of me. But the only way to kill the beast (or at least keep it out of my yard) is to have a certain amount of transparency with her. And to let her see how helpless I am against all this without the help of God and recovery people.

I am also sad that a distance has grown between us. But I can live with you being angry at me sometimes. I'm angry at me sometimes. I don't know where you are in terms of recovery "stuff" – you know, groups and books and steps. But I can tell you that for me, trying to fight by myself was an exercise in frustration and disappointment. As busy and exhausted as Linsey and I are, I just started back into a weekly step-study group, because I need other people to stay sober. I hope that it makes you happy to know that your letter, and the time I've spent reading and answering it, were just what I needed right now. You helped me today, and I am grateful for that and for your friendship.



  1. Eli, it makes me glad to know you are doing "Step-study" in a group, and you obviously have a sponsor? and got to meetings? and don't drink, No Matter What?

    My family used to write "KUTGW" "Keep Up The Good Work"!!!

  2. Really nice letter. You shared your experience, strength and hope. That's about all any of us can do. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. What a beautiful response to your friends letter. I mean really, how wonderful for her to be heard and understood. This is a huge part of the recovery process imo. To finally have someone get it, and to be able to share their ES&H....good job Eli. I loved reading this.

  4. I am convinced that it cannot be done alone. Maybe there is the exception, but it is rare.

    I especially like you told her to get honest with her spouse, and enlist his support. Not every little thing, that would just get mean, but the big issues--the elephant in the room--needs to be talked about.

  5. Eli,

    How wonderful that her letter to you and your letter to her will help both of you tremendously.

    Your letter to her was open, honest, and beautiful.

  6. Wonderful post Eli. I also need others to help me stay sober. Step meetings are good too, it's my text book for living.

  7. Amazing letter. Very honest. I hope she gets help.