The Fine Art of Learning Who to Trust…



Ellie and I were having a text conversation, about what’s been going on since her dad died. She was talking about what her expectations had been – how she’d wished we would all get to know each other better – maybe even become a family. Ellie and I talk about a lot of things, but I was hit by the similarity in her writing style to her father’s. I was hit by the fact she thinks like him – expresses herself just like him. Sometimes I forget who I am communicating with, as if she is channeling Nick’s thoughts from the great beyond. Sometimes I worry that my words won’t be enough – that I am not qualified to handle this degree of vulnerability, and that reminds me of her father too.


When I first met Nick a year ago, while I was hiding out in the Georgia mountains, he was suspicious of my motives. He was wary that I was in cahoots with his court appointed therapist or that I was going to judge him or try to get him to stop drinking when he wasn’t ready. He didn’t want to trust anyone. He didn’t know where to begin to put his life back together and he wasn’t sure I was a safe haven for his most tender feelings.


I told him he reminded me of the wild deer in my backyard. Most mornings when I got up, there was a skittish herd of white tails nibbling on the greenery. It was usually still dark, and I’d peek out the kitchen window because they were so beautiful…  so rare and fleeting. But if I made any kind of noise, their heads would raise, eyes filled with fear and they’d run up the hill and away, leaving the forest as if they’d never been. I always opened the door and said aloud, “I’m sorry. Don’t go. Come back,” and I’d wonder if that was the last time I was going to see them.


Sometimes the people who write to me are thinking about quitting drinking. Therapists call them “pre-contemplative” and I call them “fence sitters” – those skittish folks who come into my yard tentatively and run at the slightest threat. Others are working through some of the most shameful aspects of their addiction and are looking for comfort or advice. Still others are the family members of addicts, trying to understand their loved one’s impossible ways. Sometimes we continue to communicate and become friends, or I suggest someone for them to call for professional help, or they run away and I never hear from them again.


I think it all comes down to trust. Deciding who to trust. Nick was the inspiration for many of my best blog posts; he learned to trust me, but there was always a bit of hesitation, a filtering of his past, a little bit of jitter. Like his daughter, he was smart and deep thinking and challenging. Here are two of my favorites I wrote after conversations with Nick. These are for you Ellie. And for anyone else who is thinking too hard about running or staying – about who to dare to trust when the windows rattle and the sun comes up to burn the mist off a brand new day…



 The Panther in the Yard



 maninforestWho Do You Trust?





Today I’m not drinking because I’m peeking out the window quietly…


How come you’re not drinking?