Monthly Archives: April 2016

Lost and Found

When going through healing and recovery, they recommend making a list of all your losses as a result of being married to an addict. It’s important to acknowledge them so that you can grieve and process them (as opposed to ignoring, denying, or being oblivious to them). What they don’t tell you when you’re making this list is that you will eventually have to then list how all those perceived losses could, with time, be restored. This exercise was an extremely powerful tool for me, and I thought I’d share my experience with you:

Outside of my freedom from the STDs I got, I was unsuccessful in identifying any of my losses that are unable to be restored, at some point, in my future. Of note, my personal power is the biggest. I may have felt like a powerless victim, but the fact is I always did, and still do have a choice in everything and every situation. In victim-mode I was more focused on not having a choice in the things that were out of my control. This is true and remains true. I do not have a choice in his behavior and acting out. I did not cause his addictions, I cannot prevent his addictive behavior, and I cannot cure it. I do not have a choice in how he does his recovery. But the fact is, I never lost that control because I never had it to begin with. Although it was occasionally surrendered, I had, and continue to have, a voice and a choice in my marriage. That was never lost.

I could argue that I “lost” my husband, but if I were to be brutally honest, I never “had” him in the first place. He was, and still is, his own person. And although I could say I “lost my partner”, even that would be untrue. When he left, every night in my anguish, shock, and pain, I fell to my knees and prayed. I am not a religious person, nor do I ever pray. But this got me on my knees praying and I prayed for him. I prayed for us. I prayed for our family.  Through the time I spent in prayer (and not getting any of those things I was asking for) I unexpectedly fell into a new partnership – a partnership with God.

Another perceived loss was my hope in my marriage, my relationship with men, and in my ability to trust myself and my intuition. While I still do not have “hope” in any of these, I do know that they can be rebuilt – even the marriage- if that is in God’s will. My hope right now, as I have slowly learned, is that, one day at a time, my Higher Power is walking with me and giving me the courage and wisdom I need to make it through these difficult times. This gives me hope for my future. I know I will make it out alright. My perceived loss of “hope” has developed into a new found “faith” and my “faith” has been strengthened exponentially all because of my initial loss of hope.

Some things that appear lost, apparently,
transform themselves into new bigger and better things.

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I also thought I had lost my smile, my inner light, joy, and brightness. I have found that I may have lost it at a moment, but that moment was not the first time. I have lost it several times in my life and through time got it back.

This too, shall pass.

Interestingly, I also listed that I had lost my friends, family, and people that matter most. I had put the spotlight on my husband as having this role as all of those people, not realizing that there are tons of other people that fill those roles in my life. Not only that, but I’ve come to find that they have always been there for me, even in my darkest moments, even when I’ve made bad decisions that could have sent them running. I don’t know where my husband falls into this equation yet, but I do know that I never lost my friends, family, or the people that matter the most. If anything, their commitment to me through this whole ordeal has been a sign of their unconditional love, acceptance, and importance in my life, as well as my significance in their life.

I thought I had lost my ability to trust, but I realize that I actually trust a lot of people. In fact, there are some people that I didn’t trust at one time and trust them now. I realized that trust comes and goes. It is lost and gained again. It is possible that my trust for my husband is gone now and can come back later. It is also possible that my trust for my husband will never return. The reality is I don’t know. I never questioned or worried about him or his behavior in the past and now that is all that I do. This may last for a while and go away, or it may stay forever. I don’t know. The truth is, though, that I never lost my ability to trust. It’s largely dependent on time and the relationship evolution. I also realized that although I don’t trust him on some things, there are things that I do trust him on: he’s a hard worker, he loves his son, he has the capability of being honest, good, and genuine (he just chooses not to be sometimes). So while it is true that I lost trust in him, I have to admit that it hasn’t been lost completely. Is that enough to stay in the marriage? Of course not! But I’m not going to blind myself with this false belief that he is completely untrustworthy, because that simply is not the case.

I also thought that I had lost my confidence, but that, like trust, was not completely lost. I may have lost confidence in how my husband feels about me, but I never lost confidence in how I feel about me. I really like who I am and what I bring to the table. I see my flaws, know I’m not perfect, but still feel that I am a person worthy of love, admiration, affection, and loyalty. I believe I am valuable, beautiful, and wanted. I believe my opinions matter, that I am smart, and worth fighting for (even if he chose not to). I believe that I am capable of doing anything, even if I have to do it alone. I believe I have it in me to overcome any hardship and that I am resilient and wonderful. I have no confidence that my husband sees that in me, but I see it in me, and I think that’s all that matters. Maybe one day he will see it. Maybe he never will. But that, apparently, was never enough to affect how I see myself.

I thought I had lost the ability to protect my baby, my kids’ future, and my ability to do good parenting. I thought that my choices had caused such irreparable damage that I had somehow scarred their adulthood. My hypervigilance and controlling behavior for sure, had gotten the best of me, and took my attention and energy away from them, and that has definitely affected them. But my ability to right the wrongs and turn our lives down a different path, for sure, has not been lost.

I thought I had lost the ability to feel comfort, security, and peace in my own home. Everything had become a trigger: our bed, our T.V., etc. After the separation, however, I moved some things around, changed a few rituals and rules, made some space for myself and am starting to feel at home (maybe even more so than before). My sons and I enjoy the space and the loss I felt was only there because I was connecting my marriage to my home. A home is just a physical place- it was the meaning I put on it that made me feel suffering.

Finally, I thought that I had lost my belief in love. I thought that everything I thought about love and marriage had been wrong. After the betrayal I began to believe that maybe there is no such thing as “real love” and that maybe every man cheats on his wife and every marriage will suffer these wounds. I thought that love meant being loyal and honest and committed. I began to believe that the past we had was all a lie. I have since learned that our past was not a lie. I do not know how he really felt or even how he feels now, but I do know that my love for him was true. I also have learned that love is still what I thought it was, but it’s also something MORE. Love is freedom. I have learned that it is not easy, as I had believed, to love another. Love is very difficult because it means allowing the person to be free to make his/her own choices, to walk his/her own path, and to find his/her own way in life. It is the greatest sign of love, to let go of another and let them be free. Anything else would be selfish, and selfish is the opposite of love.

At the end of the exercise, I learned I lost nothing but gained everything.

So what’s up with all these sad crappy feelings and emotions? It’s called grief. It’s normal, it’s good, and will pass.

Fear and Insecurity- How It Lead Me to Being Fearless and Less Insecure

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When I was six years old, I remember getting the training wheels off my Rainbow Bright bicycle and riding alone for the first time. The feeling was exhilarating and the fact that my bike was Rainbow Bright made it magical. What a glorious moment for a six-year old. I was fearless.

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Needless to say, the bike apparently wasn’t that magical as I fell off and scraped my knee. My father ran to me, scooped me up, and took me to the house. Although I was hurt, I hadn’t cried until I looked down and saw the blood. The blood horrified me. Just the look of it made the pain grow exponentially. “The blood! The blood!” I screamed. The pain, not from falling, but from seeing the blood, was unbearable. My father never let me live that down…

Now I’m 34 years old and still sensitive to the sight of blood, but it doesn’t intensify the pain. I’ve since learned that neither blood or riding a bike equals pain. I can enjoy a bike ride without fear of falling off. I can see blood and not feel immense pain.

But when we are traumatized with other horrific events, such as being betrayed by a spouse’s infidelity, everything that is connected with the infidelity becomes the “blood” that intensifies our fear. Now, whenever I pass a massage parlor, I feel pain. My emotional pain increases and I experience tension, anxiety, fear, sadness…(the list could go on). Whenever I hear my husband’s phone go off, I experience the same feelings. Whenever I am triggered (my triggers are numerous!) I fall into great despair. My emotions go into a downward negative spiral and my creativity peaks as I start envisioning all the times he acted out and was unfaithful. I create stories that may have never even happened, and somehow manage to make it the worst possible scenario imaginable. I then relive those events in my mind and heart, over and over. While the betrayal was real, and the emotional turmoil and trauma I experienced was real, the pain wasn’t something I needed to hold on to. It is natural to grieve and feel “broken-hearted”. All those feelings are natural and should be appreciated. You’ve been hurt! Hurt hurts! It’s supposed to! But it doesn’t have to last, and it doesn’t have to be recreated or tightly held on to. Even now, as we pick up the pieces of a shattered dream, there are days when I feel paralyzed by my fear of him acting out again, of being betrayed again.. and I am totally justified to feel that fear. I could even let that fear control my entire day.

It’s fear. Fear of the unknown.
Fear of ambiguity.
Fear of being hurt again.
It is insecurity.

The feeling is real, for sure.
But it doesn’t have to affect me unless I let it.

I could have decided, at six years old, that considering the pain involved, riding a bike was way too risky and not worth the effort, but I didn’t. My desire to experience life and all it had to offer- especially on an awesome Rainbow Bright bike (did I mention the rainbow streamers on the handle bars?) with the wind blowing through my hair as I rode down the street- was stronger than the fear of experiencing that pain ever again.

It took me a while to finally understand that massage parlors, prostitutes, other women, porn, and sex were not my enemy. They were doing what they were supposed to do. They were doing their job. It’s a reality I could not fight. To deny their existence would be a battle I was sure to lose, every single time. Every time I tried to fight that battle, I would feel more pain and more fear.

What I did learn was that not even my husband was my enemy. He was just doing what he does. He was “doing his job” too. That was his reality at the time, on his path in his life. It was his choice and there was nothing I could do to prevent that from happening, and nothing I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. In fact, even if I decided to get a new husband, lover, or partner, there’s still nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again. People will make their choices whether or not I like them, because that is reality.

Emotional and physical pain sucks. Betrayal sucks. Infidelity sucks. Lies suck. Liars suck. Reality can really suck. But in the end, it’s still reality and whether or not I fear all of that, it’s still a reality.  I can choose to remain resentful, mad, angry, sad, depressed, insecure and fearful, but the crappiest reality about that is that it will only affect me in the end. Me staying resentful, mad or angry and depressed won’t affect anyone else but me. And why would I want that? Life will still play out in unpredictable ways. It will bring joy and it will bring sadness.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of bikes and I’ve fallen down a lot as well. I chose to ride again, despite the numerous crashes. I’ve learned that some falls I could learn from and take certain measures to prevent similar crashes. But there were other falls that were completely out of my control.

I can let that insecurity ruin my day, month, year, and even life. Or, I can let it go.

I’m  not saying don’t feel your pain. I’m not saying don’t process your pain or deny your pain. I’m saying don’t dwell on it.

Feel it, acknowledge it, AND…MOVE…ON.

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Healing: Keeping an Eye on the Long-Term Goal

In a matter of seconds, we went from “married with issues” to “separated with issues”. Ugly words were spat. Threats were made. Reactive and hostile nonsense flooded the air, and suddenly things went silent. He was gone. We had both had it. Even our marriage therapist said we were toxic for each other and wondered why we were together.

I blamed my husband for everything. He was an addict and his compulsive behavior had shattered my trust in him and ruined my life. Staying with him was, to me, a risky option but something I had chose to do because I wanted to believe there was hope in his recovery. As we began the recovery and healing process together (him as bad guy and me as “victim”), although certain relationship dynamics changed, things didn’t get better. He still was compulsive and made bad decisions, and although I was supposed to “work my side” as a partner, things that upset and triggered me still upset and triggered me. As much as I tried to “work the steps” my pain was so deep that my triggers never got any easier to manage.

I was so obsessed with how his recovery was going, and if he was making progress (i.e., getting better so that I could be sure he wouldn’t hurt me anymore) that I lost sight of what the real issue was. I was hyperfocused on what his problems were (and the recurrence of them) because I thought if only that were to change, all of our marriage problems would finally be solved.

The separation was that slap in the face that graciously showed me how much I actually contributed to the breakdown in the relationship.

It’s not easy to admit that I was controlling. I preferred to call it “organized” and “well prepared”. I liked the feeling of being able to “bring stability to the home” in the midst of “his” chaos. All my husband (and children) had to do was to do what I say. Simple, right?

This denial cost me my marriage.

What I hadn’t accepted, realized, and was completely blind to was the fact that I used my pain and status as “victim” to make me feel safe and in control. I was perfectly justified and my husband had wracked up enough guilt and shame for his transgressions to allow me to take the reigns. What neither of us had realized, though, was that I had now become the addict. I was addicted to control. It was my drug of choice. I needed it just to get through my day. Without it I had great anxiety and my triggers got the best of me every single time. Control was the only thing to soothe my fears.

While I had a sense of complete control over our marriage, however, I had completely lost control over myself.

Eye-On-The-Goal

Being married to an addict is hard, but being an addict is even harder. This separation has shined a light on some pretty big piles of “poo” that I need to work on and clean up in my own life. I hadn’t realized until now what my real goals were. They were never to fix my husband or save our marriage. It was about me and recovering from the poor choices I had made. It was about my healing. It wasn’t about getting my husband sober, but keeping myself “sober” from controlling, hypervigilant, and codependent behavior. After three years of this behavior, I had finally realized it never worked. It not only tore us further apart from each other, but it made things so much worse. My goal now, even if my marriage ends, is about repairing the damage I have caused myself and others in all of my relationships, past, present, and future.

Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t make it any easier to communicate with my husband. But now when we disagree (which is VERY often), I have to constantly remind myself: What is my long-term goal here?

The answer is: my own sobriety.

goal

 

What Am I Really Feeling? Using Intellectualization to Cope.

The other day, my sponsee told me something that caught me totally off guard. She said, “when you talk about your problems, you seem so emotionally distant from them.” Part of me wanted to get defensive, rationalizing how I am a logical, educated woman who has already processed the pain and no longer feel the need to get super emotional about it. But part of me sat and tasted her words… “emotionally distant from my own feelings.” WTF does that mean?

I took that comment with me all week and decided I had to, no, I wanted to see what more I could gain from it. It really struck a sensitive place and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I even went to church (I’m not a church-goer) to see if I could get some kind of take-away message. Surprisingly, I did. The pastor spoke about genuine prayer. He said that sometimes we say prayers about things that we feel like we “should” say prayers about, but never actually pray and ask for help with the things that are really bothering us. For example, we pray about our spouses changing so that our marriages can get better, but we don’t actually acknowledge that maybe the real issue is that we need help healing our personal need to control, or our personal feelings of inadequacy.

“What’s really going on here?” I asked myself. What am I really feeling? What is it that I really need? I started making a list of all the feelings that I was having but had never vocalized:

I am feeling: Pain, loneliness, sadness, rejection, neglected, abandoned, ignored, invaluable, unwanted, unloved, stupid, ignorant, hurt, betrayed, helpless, torn, broken, tired, exhausted, denied, inadequate, unimportant, replaceable, used, shocked, unprepared, abused, lost, scared, confused, sad, unworthy, unnecessary, useless, powerless…

I realized that whenever I got upset with someone, rather than feel the pain or even understand what it was I was feeling, I would try to rationalize the event and “rise above it” without ever having to actually “deal” with it.

Problem: So my husband acted out again?
My response: That sucks, but that’s what addicts do. He’s sick and I can’t do anything about that.
Problem: My colleague got that promotion I really wanted.
My response: Well, she was more qualified. I should have seen that coming…

Where were the feelings in there? Where are my emotions? Rather than acknowledging a real feeling that happened as a result of me experiencing a real event, I was subconsciously avoiding having to “feel” the feeling. Part of me wanted to just rationalize it as useless. What was the point in feeling bad if it wasn’t going to change the situation?

What’s more interesting was, when and why did I start doing this kind of evading of emotions?

I was intellectualizing everything as a way of coping with my pain.

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A classic defense mechanism I never knew I was doing.

That day my husband and I had spent a few hours together so he could see the kids. The kids enjoyed it. It was awkward for us, but I secretly enjoyed seeing him and being near him again. That evening, after living separate from my husband for 3 weeks, he suddenly texted me at 10pm (way past my bedtime) and asked me, “how do you feel?”

He never texts me or asks how I feel. My immediate reaction would normally be to respond, “fine.” But I decided to respond differently this time and typed, “I feel scared. Insecure. Exhausted. Lonely and inadequate…”

He replied, “me too…”

Of our 3 years together, this is the first time I had heard him acknowledge having any kind of feeling. Unfortunately, it was probably the first time he had heard me acknowledge any of my feelings as well. Instead of nagging, controlling, counter-blaming, or intellectualizing our unfortunate situation, we connected.

The unfortunate truth is, that one-time connection won’t be strong enough to save our marriage, and it for sure won’t cure any disease or addiction, but the peace and serenity that comes with just being real with the emotions, allowing them to be acknowledged, and letting them be, was truly healing and far less painful than the anxiety, resentment, and hurt feelings that come with denying them and intellectualizing them away.

 

The Only Way Out is Through

When we are faced with the truth and the truth hurts, the courage to sit and feel those emotions fully is required in order to process it and let it go.
I have learned that it hurts less in the long run to sit in that pain, than to avoid it. The more we deny it, resent someone else for it, ignore it, numb it out with drugs, sex, parties, distractions, and sometimes  blaming someone else for it, the longer it hurts, the more intense the pain becomes, and the more often it comes back into our lives repeating itself.
But even knowing this, doesn’t take the pain away. Knowing I’m brave and courageous doesn’t take the pain away. Knowing that it won’t last forever and that it will be over soon doesn’t make the pain less. Knowing that I’ll be okay and come out stronger doesn’t take the pain away. Knowing I will find peace, and maybe even a rainbow after the storm doesn’t ease the pain…
It hurts a lot. In this dark, lonely, and cold place, all I want to do is to reach out and grab for anything that can ease this pain- anything or anyone to release me from this suffering.
But the only way out is through
and that is where the answers are.
only way out is through
I must weather this storm. I must open my heart and mind to this: feel it, learn from it, and grow from it.

It is painful… but I will live. I will live through this. “Nothing lasts forever, including this…, and the sooner I allow it to flow through me, the sooner it will go away…” I remind myself. “The more I avoid the pain, or try to control the outcome, the longer, stronger, and harder the pain will remain.

Let it go… Let it flow…
So I offer this to you as well. You aren’t alone. You are strong.You are brave. You can handle this. If anyone can handle this, it is YOU! YOU are a winner. YOU are a survivor. YOU will overcome this. You don’t have to envision the future, or try harder, or even pretend everything is okay. All you have to do is let this experience flow through your life like clouds on a rainy day. Breathe it in and breathe it out.
Mourn your loss and move forward. 
There is no other direction but forward.

When Trusting Another Violates Trusting Yourself

After continued affairs, my sex addict husband would come back every time with remorse, regret, and even confidence that “this was the last time”. Every time I wanted to trust he was telling the truth. Every time I was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t the last time. And it hurt to believe there may never be a “last time”.

The person I wanted and needed to trust more than anyone else had betrayed my trust time, after time, after time. He had put my emotional, physical, and financial safety at risk repeatedly. Deep down inside I knew I could not trust him. It was not safe to trust him. Every year a new STD. Every month a new “disclosure”. Every apology forgiven.

I did my best to trust him. I needed him to be trustworthy. So I  tried to convince myself that he was trustworthy- he was just making bad decisions. It was a disease. It took time. Things would be okay…eventually…

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Looking back, I realize that the problem was never about trusting him. It was about violating the trust I had in myself, my ability to connect with my intuition, and listen to my gut. Yes, I knew he was not trustworthy. I knew that the first, second, and 12th time he acted out, and each and every time he hid things and lied about it.

With the facts staring me in the face, the problem was no longer about him. It was me. I was the one not acting on the messages my heart and soul were trying to send me. I was ignoring myself. It was not safe to trust him, for sure. But it was no longer safe to trust myself. I failed to trust my own judgment of when it is not safe to trust another.

I mistook “trust” with “obligation”. I thought that if I forgave him, it meant I had to forget about what happened. I had to continue on as if nothing had happened and just “trust” that things would be okay. I was mistaken. A hard lesson learned:

IT’S OK NOT TO TRUST SOMEONE.

Even when trust is broken, it’s ok to have boundaries. It is ok not to fully trust them right away (or ever). It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It doesn’t mean the relationship is over. It doesn’t mean that you have to sit  back and allow this relationship to continue as an untrustworthy relationship. You don’t have to be naive. You don’t have to pretend things are ok. If you’ve been hurt, traumatized, and betrayed once (or even several times), know it’s ok to be a little cautious moving forward.

Granted, you don’t have to be rude, condescending, or remind the person that you don’t trust him/her. You don’t have to keep living in the past and holding them accountable for the pain you are feeling.

You have to own your own healing and recovery,
regardless of who did what to who.

What you do have to do is start being honest with yourself. What do YOU want? What do YOU need? Really dig and do an internal inventory of yourself, your emotions, your role in all of this. Once you realize that although this person may not be trustworthy, you have (and always had) options. Allow yourself to trust your instincts. You can then make a decision to either leave, or finally make some healthy boundaries (and stick to them!) If you cannot start making and maintaining healthy boundaries with people whom we know we cannot trust, how can we ever begin experiencing real trust – the trust we have in ourselves: the trust that we will protect ourselves and take care of ourselves when we sense that we are not safe.

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You can’t make the other person change to become more trustworthy (say that to yourself a hundred times if you must), but YOU have what it takes to deal with it and move forward. You have the resources inside you to make good decisions for YOU. So start being rigorously honest with yourself. Make decisions that keep you safe and healthy. Stop putting yourself in situations that are not good for you.

Dig deep because the roots are long, thick, and covered in mud.

But through this practice, eventually, you will regain your own trust back. You will learn to trust yourself again. It will be very clear what you need to do, how you need to do it, and when.