LETTER TO MY FORMER SELF ON THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF RECOVERY by Elizabeth Muller

Letter to My Former Self on the 20th Anniversary of Recovery:

Hey, kid. Yes, you. You don’t think this term applies to you anymore—you’re fifteen, after all—but believe me, it does. I wish you knew how much. 

You’re about to leave the dusty hellscape you’ve called home for the last two months, relearning how to eat so that your weight can go from 85 to 90 to 100. It cost $80,000 and your father won’t let you forget it. You’ll feel much better about the barbed wire fence once it’s behind you. You’ll keep a little barbed wire in your heart.

You’ll marry the boy who’s been writing to you since March. You won’t be happy. One day, in the dead of winter, when you’re nursing a six-month-old baby and ten pounds of postpartum weight, he will drop a pair of running shoes at your feet. 

“Just a suggestion.” 

You’ll learn to run.

You’ll try so hard to do everything right and the stress will break you. Bell’s Palsy will turn your face into a Picasso painting. Your smile will never be the same.

When you eventually serve him the divorce papers, he will accuse you of running from the marriage. You will laugh at the irony. 

You’ll keep on running.

You’ll speak into a microphone when a judge asks for your name. Your mouth will go dry as a desert when she orders you to speak up. When you get home, newly divorced, two kids waiting for you in the living room, your father will not hug you. 

Someday you’ll board a plane to Paris on your own. You’ll sip champagne at take-off because you’re scared, you’ll cry during My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 because you’re a cheap drunk and a bleeding heart. You’ll tip-toe through a French graveyard finding headstones of writers you admire. You’ll stand in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. 

You’ll stand in the shadow of your insecurities and wonder if you’ll ever find the sun. 

Your body will crack open a total of three times to bear children. Each time you will marvel at your strength. Each time you will forget the pain and your ability to bear it. 

You’ll keep running, not because you’re good at it, but because you won’t have a choice. Your ass will become tiger-striped with stretch marks and sometimes you’ll feel like your body is composed of melting wax. You’ll do all that you can to hold the wax together. 

You’ll go down to the basement and board the rickety elliptical you get for free off Craigslist. You’ll hold back tears as you push your tired body forward and nowhere, in the company of dirty clothes and spiders. One will toil a web just in front of you, its legs spinning furious with purpose. 

Each bead of sweat on your body will be an offering into the coffer, a double sided coin. One side says, “you’ve earned this.” The other says you will never be enough.

You’ll check your watch to see how much time has passed to serve your sentence and realize it’s been twenty years. The spider will swing closer to your face. You’ll twist your finger in the gossamer and pull it down. 

You’ll both begin again tomorrow.


Elizabeth Muller is a writer living in New Jersey with her husband and three kids. Her work has appeared in MUTHA Magazine and Longridge Review. She is a reader for Pidgeonholes and was a finalist for the Barnhill Prize in Creative Nonfiction. You can find her on Twitter @eawrites. If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, NEDA is a great place to find help.
 

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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