In Sickness and In Health

Posted on Tuesday 20 March 2012

I’ve been thinking about Gee and Ellie a lot recently. It is strange to think about the two women I love most. In many ways, the relationships I have with them are very different—yet in some ways they share a lot of similarities.

When I first spoke with Gee, I knew I was going to marry her. This was a certainty to me, though we had not yet met. Eight months after we met for the very first time, she was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Out of the twenty-three months and one day we were together, she was ill for almost two-thirds of it. Yet, in some ways, her illness was far easier to deal with than Ellie’s drug addiction and alcoholism.

Gee’s illness didn’t affect who she was to any real degree. It did not make her change her behavior in radical and unexpected ways. It did not affect our relationship in any significant way. We loved each other and we took care of each other. Granted, the relationship probably wasn’t as balanced as it would have been if she had been healthy, but it was still amazing.

Ellie’s illness has changed who she is in many fundamental ways. Her addictions have caused the huge rift between us and caused Ellie to lie about who I am and what we are to each other. I would have thought that the fact that we have known each other for almost twenty years, and been very close friends for almost seven of that twenty years would have given our relationship more resilience. Even though she has been drinking since she was 14 by her own admission—her illness really didn’t manifest itself in any significant way until last summer—where it spiraled out of control.

Right now, I find myself in an unusual position—I am having to grieve for someone I love very much though she hasn’t physically died. Ellie is dead in almost every way that matters, since she has become a casualty of her drug and alcohol addictions. In many ways, the woman I love so very much no longer exists because of those same addictions. She was one of the most honest and caring people I know before her illness took over her life. Now, she thinks nothing of lying to protect her addictions and from what I can tell, she cares little for anything besides her next drink or joint.

It is hard to grieve for her, since I can’t be positive that she is really gone—she may yet survive somewhere beneath her addictions. But, if she does, I have seen no evidence of that. I know the truth of who Ellie was and I was dazzled by it. It amazes me that she did not see how amazing she really was. Ellie was an incredibly beautiful, strong, smart, stubborn and lovable young woman. She had the most amazing hopes and dreams for herself—most of which have probably died with her true self.

I have told her that I would accompany her on her long road to recovery if she asked me to do so—it is what I have promised her—to be beside her in sickness and in health. Unlike so many of the other people in her life, I believe in keeping my commitments and honoring the vows I make. She and her family should know this from our almost 30 years of friendship, but they are in denial.

If she makes her amends and asks me for my helpknowing that I won’t settle for anything less than a central place beside her in her lifeI will help her.

But, she will have to prove to me that she wants me beside her—that she wants me to be a central part of her life and is as committed to keeping me there as I have been to her these past nine months—if she wants my help in her recovery. I doubt that will ever come to pass at this point and I am moving on as she would have wanted me to if she had died—because, in most of the important ways, the woman who said she loves me and “Sarangheyo” is gone.

I still mean to keep the commitment to Ellie—the one I made her on June 22, when I asked her to marry me and she told me she loved me, at least for a while longer. In walking away, I am not abandoning her, though she may think I am—I am not breaking my vows or commitments to her, though she may think I have.

Whether she knows it or not—if she asks me for my help, makes her amends to me and shows me that she wants me in her life before I have moved on completely—I will be there for her as I have promised her and her mother so many times.

I decided to walk away from Ellie two months ago. The decision was not one that was easy to make, because she is someone I have loved, cared for and considered a part of my family for almost 20 years—all of her life. However, she has chosen to stay a drug-addicted alcoholic that lies about so many things.

She has allowed her illness to destroy almost everything that was worth loving about her—her honesty, her beauty, her feisty spirit, her self-confidence, her compassionate and caring nature, and her intelligence. She has become little more than the feral cunning beast that is all her addictions truly allow her to be—she has become dishonest, cowardly, stupid, selfish and does not care who she hurts. She has become a debased creature that I believe the woman I love would despise and loathe.

She has basically prostituted herself last summer and fall because of her addictions over the past nine months—trading sex for alcohol and drugs and thought nothing wrong of it—after all, that was apparently the entire basis for her relationship with Jarrod. And he threw her away like trash when he finally tired of her. This is a far cry from the devout, smart, beautiful, and good Irish Catholic woman I love or what she truly deserves.

While she seems to have given her education the priority it really deserves, she still appears to be drinking and doing drugs, though on a much more limited basis than she was doing last semester. I do not know if it will be enough for her to save her scholarship—which she really put at risk with her abysmal grades last semester.

If she loses her scholarship, it may be the best thing for her—as it may be the safest and softest way of her hitting rock bottom and making her realize that she does really have a problem with alcohol and drugs. While, I really hope she doesn’t lose her scholarship, because I love her and only want for her to succeed—there is a part of me does realize that she needs to hit rock bottom before she will ever seek the help she needs and hopes she loses her scholarship.

I hope someday she finally learns that she is worth loving and learns to love herself enough to want to be more than a slave to drugs and alcohol. I hope someday that she is strong enough, smart enough and brave enough to fight her addictions and admit the truth to herself—both about her illness and about us. This is what I pray for everyday. Her family’s denial of her illness, mostly because her father suffers from the same disease himself, is not helping her.

I know she is strong enough, stubborn enough, and smart enough to beat her addictions should she want to do so. But, before she can do that, she must must admit the truth about her addictions and choose to fight them. I hope she realizes this before much more time passes—the longer she stays the drug-addicted alcoholic she has been for the past nine months—the less likely she will ever make a full recovery and the more unlikely all those hopes and dreams she had will ever come to pass. Until she is willing to take full responsibility for her illness and what her illness has made her do, she will never get better.

Ellie knows where to find me and how to reach me. She knows she will need to make amends and prove to me that she truly wants me back in her life before I will help her. Whether I will be here if and when she asks for my help, I can not say. I am moving on, as I think she would have wanted me to do. The longer it takes for her to ask for help, the less likely I will be here to help her—I hope she realizes that.

I doubt that her family or current friends will be of any real help if and when she hits rock bottom and needs help. None of them cared enough about her to see what she was doing to herself last summer—none of them cared enough to try and get her help. Most of them are part of her current problems, and aren’t capable of being part of her recovery because of that.

May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.

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