Hello, old friend.
Do you mind if I call you “EE,” for short? Of course you don’t. We’re old friends. Thanks, EE.
We’ve been together a long time, my sweet, secret friend. We’ve seen some things. I remember when we first met; I was so small, maybe three, and Mom and Dad were really fighting before the first divorce. You quietly suggested a few cookies might make me feel better. Remember how they didn’t even see as we took the cookies and hid under the bed, using the flashlight to read books? It was so much better. Thank you for reminding me to hide the wrappers before anyone came to help me clean up my room. You were always so smart, always thinking for me.
After the divorce, you were just so good to me. Looking back on all those moments when I was scared, you suddenly remembered where the ice cream was, or how we’d sneak extra buttered popcorn for the movies for later, because we knew that something bad would probably happen. I don’t know how I would have survived without you. After the abuse started, we grabbed all the chips and soda, eaten by the window on top of my toy chest late at night when everyone was asleep. I told you every secret that I was warned never to tell, and with every bite of cake, each swallow of soda, you kept my confidence and helped wash away the stains on my heart, soothing my wounded little soul. You helped me pack down all the scary, painful things into a knot way down deep within, where no one — not even I — could find it. You helped me build a barrier around my body, where I could hide safely inside. Even though I couldn’t always understand your methods, like eating tablespoons of butter when nobody was looking, I always felt safe with you.
I know we had a rough time in high school when I decided we didn’t want to be friends anymore. I discovered alcohol, so I didn’t think I needed you. But you waited for me to come around, and when I was sexually assaulted junior year of college, you were right there when I needed you. The days and nights that followed…wow, I don’t know how I would have survived if you and Alcohol hadn’t barricaded me from that horrible experience. For decades after that, the two of you kept me secretly safe, and as our friendship grew, so did the layers of protection between me and the outside world. I remember asking why we had to hide our relationship, but you whispered that no one would really understand. Ours was a secret friendship that escalated into a love affair: sexy, dirty, hidden from the prying eyes. The things we used to do. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Good times, yeah?
But I was good. I kept hiding the wrappers. I never forgot about that.
As you know, a little over four years ago, I broke up with Alcohol. You were there; you remember. Damn, that was a rough time. It cost me everything, and he just kept calling and calling me. You know about that because you were there, and as I rebuilt my life, you ensured that every night I was rewarded with chips, ice cream, cake and candy as substitutes for the cravings left behind by my former, toxic lover. Our nightly rituals continued without me thinking too much about it, as they always did, with all evidence of our trysts promptly thrown in the trash the minute they were over.
I know watching me get healthy has been frightening for you. I can tell because I’m about 30 lbs. away from hitting that goal weight, and I feel you fighting me tooth and nail. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why you were battling me so hard, why those nightly cravings were so intense. Anytime work stress or personal strife has happened over the past year or so, you’ve practically been screaming in my ear. I could feel you standing over my shoulder every time I got on the scale, waiting to see how much it would take to negate every pound lost. But, finally, after years of yoga, meditation, hard work, and some serious prayer, I realize why you’re fighting me so hard on this goal…
You’re trying to protect me. Because somewhere, very close to my body, is that first barrier of defense you set up all those years ago. It’s the very place where you and I became friends, a pinky swear crafted in processed food, bound and wrapped in secrecy and tied with shame.
This barrier to success is you, EE, protecting that nugget of abuse, pain and fear. You’re just doing what you’ve always done, and I’m challenging our decades-long pact by tearing down those bricks to that final interior crafted when I was tiny and afraid. You don’t want me to go in there and break all that open; you’d rather I stay safely behind a barrier where no one can truly touch me…where I can’t even reach myself.
I know you only want to help, EE. I know. I love you for everything you’ve done. I thank you for every moment you dulled the pain that might have ripped me in two. You’re the best. You really are.
But — and I think you know where this is going — I’m going to have to break up with you, too. I know you thought you were safe when Alcohol was kicked to the curb, but…yeah, it’s time for you to go, too.
Because while you were sleeping, I’ve been digging down there to break that hard nugget apart, to come to grips with all the things that have happened to me. Slowly, carefully, painstakingly, I’ve gone back to that rock of agony in that shrouded place we never let anyone in, and I’ve chipped at it bit by bit. I’ve realized hurt people do hurtful things, and that in order for me to be free, I have to let them go. I have to forgive everyone everything. I did that, EE. Everyone who ever did anything to me is free. I didn’t do that for them, EE. I did that for me. Because I can’t be free living behind that wall we’ve built. There are so many things I want to do, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve had to make a choice: quite literally die behind this wall, or break free and figure out how to live.
I choose life. That’s where our relationship must end.
I want to thank you for everything that you’ve done, EE. I want you to know that I am so incredibly grateful to you for forty-plus years of service. You were there when nothing and no one else seemed to be for so long. But you can rest now.
I’ll take it from here.
Goodbye, old friend. I’ll miss you. Well, actually, I won’t, but isn’t that what we always say to the ones we love that we shouldn’t anymore? I know, it’s getting awkward. Let’s just hold onto the memories that we made, and realize that it’s best we don’t speak anymore.
I’ll always be grateful for everything you’ve done.