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.
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.