Inside Every Monster

clareElsaesserThis past week, Dave has been out of town on a backpacking trip with his kids, and I have been taking care of business at home—which has included reorganizing my office (Okay the re part is a lie—it never was organized to begin with).

In the process, in the bottom of a drawer, I came across an old handwritten note from Dave. Normally, I wouldn’t share such a thing on my blog—especially since so many women never receive a single such letter in their lives. I’m aware how fortunate I am.

But I have a reason for sharing this one. Here’s the note—minus some goopy stuff.

This is a love note to you. I love you with my whole heart. You interest me. You interest me more than any other woman. You are a continually unfolding gift to me. …You impress me with your courage to face your life, and live it, and grow it to something you can’t see now or hardly name. Good things are ahead for you and us, let us pursue and wait in faith together. I think a new Heather who was always there is walking out into the Light. It’s not my life or my work, but I’m here—a witness. I’m lucky. Thank you for your love and your beauty. You grace me . . . I love you, Dave

It’s an amazing letter, isn’t it? But here’s the shocking part. Dave always dates his notes—and this one is dated Feb 7, 2007. That’s six weeks before my big surrender in March of that year when I finally did walk into the light, tell the truth about my alcoholism, and reach for help.

How on earth could my husband have written such a note during what were in retrospect the darkest days of our marriage and of my alcoholism? I drank to black out almost every night. I physically attacked Dave in drunken rages and often woke up in the guest room.

How could he have written that I “grace” him? How could I not even remember ever getting this letter?

Seven and a half years later, I think two things are true. Part of Dave must have sensed that I was nearing a breaking point, on the verge of a huge shift. But more important, I now realize that it probably wouldn’t have happened when it did if Dave hadn’t done what he did in this note.

Which was to see past my monsterish behavior to the hurting girl who was trapped inside. Which was to say to me, “I see you, Heather. I know you’re in there. I know this isn’t who you really are or what you really want. I believe in the better you.”

By some miracle, my heart must have heard him, even if my head didn’t know it.

So I guess I’m sharing this note as a way of reminding you, and maybe inspiring you, that if it is at all possible (it might not be for you right now), one of the kindest and most powerful ways you can help an alcoholic or addict—or for that matter, anyone you love—is to look past the ugly actions that come from their wounded places and affirm the goodness of who they really are underneath.

I think that’s what Dave did for me. Of course, loving a broken person toward their better self can seem like a herculean task. I so get that. But I know if Dave was here, and I showed him this note, he’d agree. With God’s help, anything is possible. And inside every monster is a miracle waiting to happen.

P.S. I’d love to hear from you today. I’m not sure if I’m done with summer break, so let’s just agree that while I’m trying to get pregnant with a next book (God’s not really cooperating :)), I’m bound to be sporadic on my blog. Love and miss you guys.  

P.S.S. In case you’re interested, here’s a link to Dave’s Q and A he did for my blog a while back.(Warning: super cute picture of him).


  69 comments for “Inside Every Monster

  1. August 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    thanks for taking the time to post such a wonderful example of unconditional love! I’m sorry the creatie juices are taking their time in coming, but they will when timing is exactly right!

  2. August 11, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    To have someone look beyond our behavior to the hurt is the gift for which we all long – regardless how big or small the monster is. My biggest fear has always been that the monster will just stay around too long or come back to visit in a new form … and that the one who sees beyond the monster will tire of looking.

  3. Butch Maltby
    August 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Heather this blog offering was sent as an attachment to an email I sent to a little over a hundred people around the world (many from my Wheaton College and University of Virginia days) including folks at Intervarsity and a bunch of other mission organizations. Your voice is important. Embrace that.

  4. August 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    “I believe in the better you.” Wonderful! Loved this post.

  5. August 7, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Such a beautiful post, Heather. I needed that reminder today – to look past the wounds and see the beauty. Thanks and great to see you on here! Excited for your next book idea! Yay!

  6. scottsboyd
    August 7, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Wow, I am sharing your story with my men’s group. It is so powerful. So awesome to see what faith looks like, as you think about the man who crafted that letter, that is what faith looks like. And it is so awesome to see how when in faith we offer grace, acceptance and belief to another, how that is water that can cause a flower to bloom. Grace is so powerful.

  7. August 7, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Sacred words, thankyou for sharing such a precious gift

  8. Marjie
    August 7, 2014 at 6:08 am

    What a beautiful note from a true soul mate.

  9. Carrie Hillis
    August 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Your so brave Heather. Many lives will be touched through your open and honest heart. Blessings

    • August 7, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Carrie! So cool of you to comment here. Really. I feel like we’re relatives, even if there’s no blood. There is a lot of history and heart, right? I’m so thankful for you and for the loving, wonderful role you’ve played in our family. What a gift. Hugs to you and Sam, too.

  10. Blake
    August 6, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Heather. What an awesome blog entry. I have been sober 1,5 years now and notes like this keep me going.

  11. sam
    August 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I keep copies of the hard written conversations to remind me that this nightmare is not my imagination (I so badly want to believe what is good that I’m willing to believe lies over what I know to be reality). That’s a good recipe for insanity. From now on, I will keep a copy of the good written conversations to remind me that there is hope. Thanks again, Heather.

  12. August 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Beautiful, Heather. I hope I’ve already done this for someone even though I’m unaware. If not, I hope I will someday. You always inspire me to be better. Thank you.

    • August 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Kim, you’re so encouraging to me. From what I know of you, friend, I’m SURE you have done this kind of loving many times. Let’s keep inspiring each other. :)

  13. Dan
    August 6, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing that beautiful story Heather. Sometimes there’s no answer except that God was directing!
    I’ve missed the blog and trusted you were having a great time camping and resting with Dave. I look forward to future posts whenever you are able.

  14. Abigale
    August 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    How lovely to read. I am a quiet drunk, passed out most nights when my husband comes to bed. I told him a few weeks ago that I needed help, he doesn’t think I am a alcoholic because I don’t drink daily. He is such a love & I am beyond blessed to have a man who sees my glory… And honestly I am scared to get sober, how will I deal with the engulfing pain that has shadowed me since I was a child? I went over the cliff two years ago, never liked drinking before then, but my heart was shattered, and I had a glass of wine and it numbed me. All that to say, I do appreciate what you have to say. May I ask you to pray for me?

    • August 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Thanks for sharing so honestly here. I used to be “asleep” before Dave many nights, too. I would go to bed fairly early some night for fear of passing out in my clothes in the living room. It’s ironic and surprising how often I have people say this to me–“My family doesn’t think I am…” Our families don’t want to think we are for numerous reasons which usually have little to do with our own truth. No one wants to be an alcoholic–and anyone willing to admit they have a problem surely has a problem! I love it when people come into recovery before the losses have piled up and their family is begging them to go… You are brave and I sense that you really want to be free. There’s so much good waiting on the other side. I will absolutely pray for you. Right this minute. Please stay in touch and keep me posted. You can always email me at Heather@Soberboots. Best and hugs, H

      • Abigale
        August 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

        Thank-You Heather,

        Your reply means so much, kindness melts my heart. I hide my drinking very well, because shame keeps me in line. I am so ashamed.

        It is so odd, it seems like he didn’t hear me, because he has offered me wine at dinner several times after I bared my soul to him. He can stop after one glass, I can’t.

        It feels really good to be able to share with someone who understands. Thank You again for listening & praying. I will let you know in an e mail if I go into treatment. I have found a treatment center and have called them to check if my insurance would cover. It doesn’t, but we can afford it, if I can stop feeling guilty about spending that much money on me. I suppose after treatment I might value myself again, or so I hope.

        I have been reading your words for several months, and you always touch my heart in a way that feels like God is cradling me in His love.

  15. Elizabeth
    August 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Had a horrible conversation with my addicted adult daughter last night. I, the one she loves, the one that she says (to everyone she knows) loves her more than anyone else, the one who always tells the truth, the one who “rocks” in her eyes because I have forgiven 70 x 7 (and will continue to)…I told her last night that I have to put up a virtual wall to/with her – after eight years of trying to get her help, through two grand girls and all that goes along with raising them, in and out of jail, rehab, my ‘retirement’ savings gone from paying counselors, rehabs and attorneys, I told her that my grace has hit an empty place and I could not give nay more, that I had nothing left TO give; I am depleted. Not such a great thing to tell an addict. I felt terrible all day (and I can’t call her in the rehab she is currently in) and was just searching for something, anything, to refuel and refill me since my prayers are seemingly being bounced back like a bad check…and I come across your blog in my inbox. What else can I say but thank you for being obedient to the Holy Spirit to share this. While some of my/our boundaries have been reset due to natural consequences, I need to remember to continue to hope. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life….God grant me the grace to keep believing.

    • August 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Oh my, you’re comment goes straight to my gut. I am so sorry for all you have been through. It’s such a delicate balance when it comes to helping without hurting an alcoholic. How to love in ways that don’t enable… I wish I understood it all better. I do know that it sounds like you’re so worn out and like you’re best role now is to love without “striving” or “helping” or “rescuing.” The great thing about love is that we can do it with detachment and self-compassion and sometimes seeing their “caretaker” begin to care for themselves in new ways is just what the alcoholic/addict needs. I’m praying for your daughter, Elizabeth. I’m so grateful that you took my post the way you did–some in your position might have just got pissed off because you’ve been doing what I’m talking about the best you know how–and the outcome hasn’t been what you hoped for. How wonderful that you won’t give up hope even if you do give up trying to fix this or save your daughter. I hope you have a recovery community of your own like Alanon. Hugs, Heather

  16. August 6, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Whoa Girl, this hit my square between the eyes! What a gift for Dave to have written this before/during your surrendering process. He saw the hope you couldn’t. You encourage me Heather. I look forward to your book pregnancy, but until then…blessings to you sister!

    • August 7, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Thanks so much, Stacey! Oh it’s so good to know there are people like you out there, doing what you can to help others. You encourage me, too. :)

  17. August 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Amazing – what a beautiful and tender reminder. Thank you.

  18. August 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    We were just having this discussion at work! (I work at a rescue mission.) We were talking about the fact that what we need more than anything else is simply people who are willing to stand beside us in our messiness. “Come stand by me…” is what our heart is crying out for, at the very time our behavior may be sending the exact opposite emotion. This morning I walked into the middle of an argument between one young man in a wheel chair (losing his feet to diabetes), and another young man trying to give that man a blanket. The young man in the wheel chair rapidly spewed profanity and spit. The second young man continued beside him, getting him in to breakfast, regardless of the abuse. Thank you for your vulnerability, and for the clear reminder of what we all need from each other!

  19. August 6, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Oh, Heather…I love this. Thanks for sharing your heart and story like this. Seeing through the fault/wound to the hurt…I needed this today…and every day. Thank you.

    • August 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Yeah, I need this every day, too. So easy to lose sight of the fact that all of us are doing the best we possibly can right not given what’s happened and what we know and how we’re wounded. My soul in another person’s life and body and circumstance wouldn’t do any better. Why can’t I remember that? Hugs to you, friend.

  20. Michelle M.
    August 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Inspirational …just want I needed to hear today.

  21. August 6, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    wow… How cool Dave dated that the note. I have been dealing with keeping my heart soft, its been a struggle lately. That was really encouraging today.

    • August 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      I know it! I don’t generally date things, but this reminds me what a good idea it is. Love that you’re struggling to keep a soft heart. You must be such a good man.

  22. August 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    One of the hardest things for me to see is a man who was in our doors, cleaned up, filled up, looking healthy, leave on another run and now stands holding a cardboard sign on the exit ramp. Just 1 block from the place they took refuge. My heart breaks. You have reminded me of the beauty and possibility God still sees. Not pity but hope. Promise. As always, Heather, good post.

    • August 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Debby, Oh yes. So heartbreaking. Astonishing that once free we return to the cage for the few crumbs left on the bottom. (Rumi or Hafiz says something like this much better). Few things sadder. But if God can save us once he can save us again–if we’re willing to let him. Thanks for sharing this poignant reminder that this thing is never licked forever until we’re home with God.

  23. August 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Wow. I took a similar action with my boys this morning. It worked so much better. I can’t yell somebody out of bad behavior but I can love them while they’re on their way to someplace better. I love your beautiful honesty. Thank you. I will treasure this post.

  24. Lynda
    August 6, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you Heather. I am a first time reader, shared by a friend. Only thru the grace of God and working MY program was the true soul of my alcoholic revealed to me. I remembered the kind gentle caring soul he was before the disease took over. I recognized the fight in him that would only be won by he and his Higher Power working together. I chose to love the man, not the disease. God has graced us with sobriety today and I am eternally grateful. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • August 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Oh so nice to meet you! I love first time readers. :) Hope you’ll turn into a regular at this gathering. You sound like you have so much wisdom and I just love hearing about miracles like your husband. And you too! So encouraging. What you said here is so KEY–thank you for mentioning the importance of working your own program. HUGE. That’s even harder and probably more important than writing a loving note. :) Let’s all do both and.

  25. August 6, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    My first thought about that beautiful note from Dave is- he had a premonition that something was about to happen. Whether he was fully conscious of it or not, it was the grace of God.
    I truly believe that people who walk a spiritual path are open to God’s direction; they often show His guidance in acts and words and these acts of course, have a significant effect on those around them.
    Thanky you for sharing this Heather. I am going to pass it along to a few of my Lois W. friends. It’s a good one.
    xo Joanne

  26. August 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I really do believe everything starts with love. It just doesn’t work to be good first and be loved as a reward. Love brings out the good that’s already there. The note from Dave is an amazing example of this. And you’re always amazing! Many thanks for sharing this lovely and inspiring story. xo

  27. catymorris
    August 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I have missed you!
    I recently began group and my husband has gone with me a couple of times. I am still in a fragile state of newly sober but I am beginning to see and feel HOPE, not only for my sobriety but for healing of my brokenness as well as breaking the generational brokenness that has continued into my marriage.
    God is bringing so many caring people into my world and I am grateful!
    Blessings as you continue your summer break and I am sure God will birth in you your next book and I will be anxiously waiting to read it!

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Oh how wonderful to hear this! Yay! I love the sound of hope in your voice. You are wise to know you’re fragile, but you seem on a good track. I remember that feeling when all these new people started entering my life and something clicked inside that said, Yes! That’s what you really long for–connection! To be of service… I’m cheering you on today.

  28. August 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Today my son is walking around the house, crying. Things look pretty bleak for him–he’s in trouble with the law, with our family, with himself. He has put himself on a waiting list for inpatient treatment (again) but all he can see is the monster. How I long for him to see that the only one he’s not in trouble with is a God who loves him, courts him, waits for him at every turn. “Where can I go to escape Thy presence?” May every addict everywhere know exactly where he stands today, and as you said so well, Heather, find the courage to reach for help. Love & miss you tons. ~Linda

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Oh, Linda. Oh my. I’m so sorry. I’m not sure there’s anything harder than watching your son hate himself to death. You have such a great perspective. Oh thank God for mothers!! If our kids could only grasp that our love for them is no measure against God’s. But maybe that’s our job, to try our best to communicate God’s love in whatever we can, even if it’s in letting go. I know you know how this goes and there are no magic bullets. I am praying for you, Linda. And for your son to crash into God’s compassion one way or another. Miss you too, friend. I’m not making it OR this year. So far, anyway. Hugs.

  29. Becky
    August 6, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I love that! What a huge blessing you are to each other! My question- how long do we long do we look past the ugly before we have to move on? My hubsand has gone through the motions of getting sober from a different kind of addiction for 4 years. Into our second seperation and seeing a counselor together this afternoon. I honestly believe that this will be a make or break appointment. I’ve tried my best with God’s help to look beyond the ugly for this long and can do it no more. Thanks for letting me vent. If anyone has any thoughts with in the next two hours I would appreciate it!

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Becky. Oh I so understand your anguish. And yes, there comes a time when the greatest gift you can give someone is to say, “I know there’s a better you in there. I love you. But I can’t bear this and I respect myself enough to trust God enough to protect my heart and life.” The astonishingly difficult thing about this is that no one knows when it’s time to do that–except for God and the person. We have to “hit bottom” just like the addict does, in many cases. Other times, God invites us to wait for the miracle. In any case, the person attached to the addict needs as much help as the addict does–and so I hope you are getting support yourself, friend. We get so sucked in by the combination of desperate love and total despair that we don’t know how to do the next right thing sometimes. I am praying hard for you to have wisdom and to love your husband even as or if you let go. It’s honestly possible, I believe. This doesn’t mean there’s not still a miracle still possible and waiting for your husband to be ready, it just might mean you don’t get to experience it with him. I”m so sorry. Life is so hard. But it’s so good, too, you know? Hugging you. H

  30. August 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    It’s so good to see your blog again! It is always such an inspiration to me. You have a special man there and yes, you are very lucky in that regard. He also is filled with the spirit, because I believe he was God’s agent in helping you help yourself out of your personal hell. Jesus was perfect and we, of course, aren’t. He faced all the temptations as a man, so He is compassionate to what we go through. He chose the person who loved you most on the earth to help you discover the light. What a blessing that is! Thank you for sharing! :)

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Rebecca, oh so good to see you here, friend. Your right that Dave was God’s agent. I love your words and perspective here. Thanks for taking the time. You always bless me.

  31. August 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Okay. I think this is my NEW favorite Heather Kopp blog post (they are ALL so good…) This really speaks to my heart. Having a husband who believes in the better me – against all reason – and inspires the best in me as a result. We are very, very blessed by this grace! I cannot WAIT to see what God births in you (and your writing) next!

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Your new favorite? Yay! Thanks for the encouraging words. I have felt pretty empty of words for a long time. And who knows when or if more will come. I’m learning to surrender that, too–even the expectation I should get to keep writing. It’s a safe, peaceful place for the most part.

  32. Butch Maltby
    August 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Heather your words are rich…raw and palpable. Thanks for being real and not frightened or reticent to offer righteously blessed prose to the tribe of those wanting to have a hearing… so as to help others…just as you do. You honor Dave in ways that most men never experience and it is one of many reasons (I suspect) the storied steely stuff of your beautifully broken relationship will last…but more….grow…like the recently discovered plants in the Amazon which defy all botanical descriptions. Both of you have rare caring hearts…and when some feel impossibly lost in green dark forests many feel somehow… they are not walking alone. I know I do. Pax Christi.

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      Butch, thank you so much! I am one of the most fortunate wives on the planet, I know. I love your metaphor about the Amazon plants. Your kinds words always hit the mark. H

      • Butch Maltby
        August 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        By the way and for whatever it is worth the noted sculpting genius Mies Vander Roh (I believe) coined the phrase…”Form follows function” and then some unnamed maverick whose name I forget …no doubt from early onset dementia wrote… “creative minds are rarely tidy.” I guess I’m encouraging you to relax about the home office.

  33. August 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Heather! What a beautiful “remember when” for me as I sit here today in the Toronto airport, about to embark on a beautiful vacation with the man who saw past MY monsterish alcoholic behavior for many years, and waited for the real me to emerge. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face as I read Dave’s letter and your post, and people are staring a little, but I don’t care! God is good. Be patient & quiet, and I’m sure your next book will soon make itself known to you.

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Lois, I love hearing from a fellow female monster in recovery. Tears are so good. And thanks so much for you the advice on the book. I totally agree. H

  34. Anonymous
    August 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Wow, just WOW! I needed to read this today. Struggling to see past the “uglies” in myself and my husband. Stress always seems to bring out the worst in us doesn’t it?

    • August 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad this spoke to you. Stress does bring out the worst. I always look for a way to laugh at us when we’re bugging about something important that actually isn’t all that important in light of eternity and in light of our love. Hugs to you, friend.

  35. August 6, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Love that Dave believed in you before you could give yourself the same consideration. I also love that he was dead-on~ more good things are ahead for you.

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