Grace

Ugh! Sometimes I think God asks of me things he knows are traditionally very hard. Especially when it comes to the crazy train addiction thing. Today marks three weeks sober for my husband. While I know that it is a good thing, earlier this week I was really questioning if we could actually use the word “sober”. Somewhat sober, pseudo sober sure I would go with that, but actual honest-to-God sobriety from pornography -nope. He blew that on Monday. So here’s the scoop.

I had an opportunity to have coffee with someone and I wouldn’t be quite home when he came home from work. It is important to note here that one of my triggers for anxiety and traumatization is when he is home alone. ESPECIALLY this new into recovery. Coffee date, and I get home and as I was preparing dinner he says “I have a small confession to make.” Here we go. Heart is pounding, I swear my palms are getting sweaty…and I am bracing myself. Do I really want to hear this?

“So as you know I am having a hard time fighting my urges…and I was on my way to the bathroom and I saw this book on our book shelf. I knew it had a rape scene in it so I flipped to where it was and read it. But then I shut the book, and quickly threw it out. I didn’t act out or anything. I just wanted you to know it won’t happen again and I am sorry.”

In my head I was, “You stupid SOB. Now what? I have to move the book shelf because clearly you cannot even walk to the bathroom with out temptation. I have to read every book there, and worse I for sure cannot ever have coffee with any one ever again…because you can’t be trusted to be left alone. Oh, and right now I hate you.”  But what came out was, “Okay, thank you for telling me. I appreciate your honesty. But forgive me for not being all congratulatory.” His response, “So we are cool?”

Really? Really? Are we cool? No, no we are not cool. No you are not cool this is not cool. But I said nothing. You see I put a strict boundary in place when I gave him this last chance. No porn was to enter this home again. If it did, it was an automatic separation for 30 days or until I felt like I was okay to be in his presence. I wanted to scream, what am I supposed to do with grey!? God, I get black and white…but this….this was grey. Needless to say I was pissed.

I was mad because I felt bamboozeled. He found the grey, the fringe where it was questionable, and he put his toe in to see what I would do. And I froze.

Thankfully for me I had my support group meeting that night and resolved to ask the girls. Let me preface something, my husband has been working really hard. He has been going to groups, doing his daily homework assignments from his manual to recovery, and has been calling almost everyday all of his addict peeps for check-ins. And he was genuinely really sorry. He kept apologizing and asking me if I was okay. So I knew he really did feel bad…but I still couldn’t get past the “Are we cool?”

Anyway, like me…the girls also saw the grey and felt my anger. VINDICATION! But at the same time, he was proud of himself for not actually acting out. He stopped the routine mid way through…how do you not reward that a little?  So we thought, you know what I don’t have to decide tonight.

It has been two days, and all I have been hearing is one word. Grace. Like a petulant child I want to kick and scream. I don’t wanna. “Just as I have shown you grace…..” Oh man…God is really good at the guilt trip. He must have taken lessons from my mother. The difference here is he is right. If there had been any other signs of lack of sincerity my justice would have been mighty. But for now, I guess I have to settle for a little bit of grace.

 

 

Is SAA the Answer?

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to reconnect with an old friend. During the course of our conversation she confesses that she too is the spouse of an addict. Fortunately for her, her husband has been working an active recovery plan for a few years now. He has been using a program similar to AA’s twelve steps or SAA, and fortunately for him and her it has mostly been working. She mentioned that for the most part her husband, she believes, has remained sober. She did a acknowledge that he did have a few relapses, but they were far and few between.

The irony here is that my husband went to his first SAA meeting last night. Now, he is also involved in another program. But their regular meeting wasn’t available so he decided it was best to go to any meeting. My husband in his recovery plan has been very open about the processes he experiences. Now I am going to issue a disclaimer here: One, I wasn’t there. Two, I am repeating second hand what I was told by a person who is still early in his recovery. Three, this is only observations on one SAA meeting AND not a reflection on SAA as a whole. He was grateful for the meeting and even had an overall positive experience.

There were things he observed that appeared to treat sexual addiction like other addictions. First was that there was not much in the way of accountability. Sponsors, yes. But little talk of what had prevented sobriety today or that week. Many of the guys were not even “sober” for more than a day or two. In addition, if they were sober many seem to be in abstaining mode…not addressing the heart of their issues. An example  was a guy spoke of another group that was co-ed and that there was a lot of hugging. This man bearing his heart remarked that he found this co-ed group triggering. Another spoke up and said with much laughter…”where is this group?” Much laughter ensued, but to his surprise no one said….perhaps that is not appropriate. It was almost too accepting. Each person at their own rate at their own time will move forward when or if ever they decide to do so. In the mean time keep coming, and eventually they might realize that this floating through will cause them to dig deeper. My question to my husband then was, where are the steps? A clear cut plan to move forward to gain freedom? His answer, “I don’t know. I thought perhaps they would have talked about that, but they really didn’t.”

I was crushed. I had high hopes for my spouse and this group. They had an opportunity to help a man seeking freedom in their midst and were so wrapped in their own boys hour to care or notice.

It feels to me that at least this group missed the big difference between other addictions and sex addiction. And that is it really isn’t an addiction. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem; an attachment disorder. At some point in their early years these men failed to learn how to attach healthily. Now there are a myriad of reasons for that, and that is a subject for another day. But they never grow emotionally as a result. They chose to attach to themselves as a way of coping.

The real key for getting clean and staying clean is relationships. Healthy, positive, affirming relationships. Isn’t that what the AA/SAA model is all about? Help me understand. Can’t one be affirming and still hold people accountable? We do it with children all the time. And let’s be real, all addicts are infants. I don’t say this to be demeaning. I say it because their relational capabilities is on par with an infant/toddler. It is demand, after demand, center of attention, me focused, petulance, and downright selfishness. Was that harsh? Sorry, but the truth hurts.

I guess my question is, can this model work if you have toddlers leading infants? Who holds them accountable? And is there a group leader that is at least past his pre-pubescent stage emotionally facilitating the group?

I think, as a wife who’s own emotional security actually hinges on these groups…I have a right to know and understand the process. Somebody please give me a clue here.

 

 

 

Bombs Away

Bombs Away

I have been down the road of traumitization after traumitization so many times I cannot even count. I have read books, studied medical journals, read statistics all in an effort to heal myself from the hurt caused by his addiction. When I started a 12 week course with another friend on healing….I kinda thought I knew it all.  I even fancied myself somewhat an expert on the subject. But this one, this course took me by surprise. I explored hurt I thought was well done and buried. I learned for the first time why it was important to have emotional safety plans and how to take care of mysel in the process. Yeah, what? Seriously, I am not kidding.

First of all, emotional safety. The very nature of his actions consistently puts me in emotional harm. Even when he wasn’t acting out the memories of the past hurts kept triggering new trauma. I almost laughed out loud at the concept. There is no way, I could be emotionally safe. Okay, I will acknowledge that healthy boundaries can help with trauma moving forward….but what about the hurts of the past? How pray tell, when those experiences creep up am I supposed to protect myself from them? Besides stuffing them deep down somewhere in an abyss of emotional crap or avoiding any potential situation that could possibly be a trigger…like going to the mall. (Ladies you know what store I am talking about.) What on earth could possibly cause me to feel emotionally safe?

Well the first part was figuring out that emotional safety isn’t not feeling the pain. It was feeling the pain in a time and space where I was safe. Safe from ridicule or memory of additional trauma. So let me suggest that your bedroom may not be the place for this. And a sister who is or has walked this road is a great place to start. Not necessarily the answer…but a place to start.

Second was taking care of myself while experiencing the trauma whether old or new. This was even a tougher concept. I am a notorious self sacrificer. Yep it’s a word, I just made it up and now you have permission to use it. I would sacrifice my body, my money, my time, my heart, and my energy for my friends, my family, my spouse, my job & bosses with out so much as batting an eye. It made me feel good. At least until I would collapse…usually physically. And then, start again. The real pain is that I was actually killing myself slowly, and it was okay with me as long as everyone else around me was happy and well adjusted. I actually saw that as taking care of me…no boat rocking here.

So when the most recent discovery day happened (number 10 million give or take a few), my dear friend said…”I want to make sure you are taking care of yourself.” I about died. Seriously, what the heck does that mean? And then it hit, going back to one of our previous lessons. Doing something strictly for me that is healthy, soothing and restores my soul. I knew just the thing…and it meant a trip to the mall.

My self care plan looks something like this….first a Venti Fully Fatted Extra Caramel Drizzel Caramel Machiatto from Starbucks. Second, either bath salts from Bath and Body Works or my personal fave…the Lush bath bomb, and you know what? Despite the pain, despite the crap fest happening….all is right with the world in those moments. So today, Bombs Away!

 

In the Quiet of the Morning

In the Quiet of the Morning

It is early in the morning and I am sitting on my couch with my sweet dog. We have already taken my husband to work, had a cup of joe, and gone for a walk. I live in an area where there is such beauty and a strong sense of historical preservation. Surrounded by Victorian homes it is awe inspiring to see their granduer. It got me thinking how these edifices have withstood time. Some show their age more than others, but in the quiet of the morning they all look beautiful and flawless. But as the sun rises, their age begins to show.

Honestly, that is how I feel today. In the quiet of the morning I feel beautiful. It feels safe, the sun has not risen and it is hard to see the cracks and the chipping paint. Like the houses, in the shadows of the street lamps I stand tall, unaffected by time and abuse. I wear a mask of strength and peace.

But I know I cannot stop the sun from rising and the world from seeing the bags around my eyes or fine lines from years of stress and pain. Then I will feel exposed. Laid bare for all the world to see and that is a place I have never wanted to be. I have spent years blaming my “unattractiveness” as the reason my husband has chosen pornography over me. I even had a counselor once suggest that if I just lost a little weight, my husband wouldn’t feel compelled to use his fantasy life. I have scrutinized my hair color, eye color, stretch marks, surgical scars all with shame. Shame begat helplessness, begat more shame, a spiraling downward into a place where all I could feel and see was despair.

Twice today I have been drawn to 1 Peter 3:3-4.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

As I reflected on these verses I was blessed with this overwhelming sense of YES I AM BEAUTIFUL! God in the quiet of the morning said, “my precious daughter you are of great worth in MY eyes.” And I feel peace.

 

 

Okay, so not a good start.

Okay, so not a good start.

 

So I am a bad blogger. I did the unthinkable. I started a blog, yes two years ago, wrote my first post and fear gripped my heart. I couldn’t post it. Not because it wasn’t how I felt, but because I was afraid of what the world wide web would think. I don’t know what I am doing. I can barely figure this thing out. It’s a miracle I got this far and let’s be frank….the subject matter is depressing and deeply personal. However, here I am again at the precipice of trying to navigate the world of blogging. Reader, I write for you and for me. Simply to have you know you are not alone, and for me to not go all Lorena Bobbit. I beg your grace.

Let me start by saying, two years ago I thought I was okay. I really thought that despite his lack of recovery….I was in a good place. I thought, hey he’s not dead. He still has his man parts, and that is a good day any day when dealing with this crazy train. I even thought I was prepared to really tell you how I got there. Looking back, man was I dead wrong. Perhaps a part of me knew that, and that is why I never had the nerve to publish that first post. P.S. I did finally post it earlier today. Last thing I want to seem is phony. So here it is, you get me being real and often raw. Spelling and grammar mistakes, and truth. Nothing glossy or poetic…as I think I attempted back then. Just the real deal.

Back to the Begining

I have known about this damned addiction of his  10 1/2 years. Yep, that long. We have been married for just over 12 1/2 years. I knew something was up when we got married, but never in my wildest dreams thought it would be porn addiction. Really I just thought he was a bit of a man-child that needed a little extra hand holding. Truth be told, I was madly in love-still am. I was willing to overlook a few things, especially when I was bringing my own complicated baggage to the party as well. So when I had my first discovery day…forever known as D-Day, my world shattered. It broke into tiny little pieces, scattered about on the ground, stomped on, and placed in a bag to be all shook up. Then it was handed back to me to make sense of it all and to be put back together with out a picture of what my new normal should look like. Doing all of this while not telling a soul of my secret pain and shame, and somehow pretend that I was all right. Does any of this sound familiar?  I have this mind image of some poor old woman, who looks a lot like Alice in the Brady Bunch sweeping up the pieces of my life while Marsha, Jan & Cindy are smiling completely oblivious to the ruin around them. I will write more about that fateful day in another post, but for now know it was the first time I couldn’t breathe.

My baggage was a failed marriage that brought into the world amazing three children. That marriage ended because of pornography/sex addiction, and the mess it made of our life. Because my kids may someday read this, I will under no circumstances discuss the horror I lived with and through while married to him. I want them to know their dad for he is to them, not to me. But let’s just say, the last 10 1/2 years are still preferable to the 5 years I was married to my ex. However as a result I had a strict rule, and was very vocal prior to my second marriage that porn WAS NOT going to be welcome in my home.

I cannot even begin to describe the pain, the betrayal, the disheartening sinking feeling. By rights, he is lucky I stuck it out after that. But alas…we begin. I am really on the path to actual healing. He, supposedly is taking recovery seriously and getting started. I could write a whole lot more, but it seems it will be better if I save it for future posts.

 

Changing the Tide

 

Psalm 23 (NIV)

A psalm of David.

“1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.”

I have found myself pondering these verses for the last few weeks.  Particularly the word image of being lead beside quiet water. I live near the Great Lakes and it is a rare thing to see the lakes “quiet.”  They seem to be always in a state of hustle and bustle.  Whether there are whitecaps on the waves, ships, boats, jet skis, etc..they are in constant motion.  Even on a sailboat in the middle of Lake Michigan, the chop of small waves indicates action.  Of course, there are still areas that do appear.  A small thin section of water that can stretch hundreds of feet like glass seemly undisturbed by anything the outside world could throw at it.  Honestly it is mesmerizing to see the sun dance on the surface. Beautiful and peaceful ; serenity at its best.  I have often thought I could reach out my hand and smooth it more with a slow and steady motion & the water would not waiver or ripple.  It just is.

However, growing up with the Lakes like I did we learned as children that the still part was to be feared & most certainly not to be entered.  I didn’t understand. As a child I thought it was because the grown ups didn’t want the glass water to break or some other nonsensical reasoning adults have when they don’t want you to have fun. Although any good 4th grader in a state with five giant lakes can tell you, the quiet water on the big lakes is a rip tide.  Tides that are so fierce and quick they literally rip you away and into the under-toe.  Even advance swimmers have been known to not be able to break its grasp and ultimately lose a deadly battle with the lake as a result of the tide’s siren song.

As I pondered the Psalm, and the image of Lake Michigan firmly in my mind, I realized my life is just like the Lake.  Ships passing in and out, children like jet skis on the water zipping here and there (they even whine like kids too). At times beautiful moments like the sunrise or sunset on the water, waves that batter me sometimes big and sometimes small.  The occasional boater that stays for a while to drop anchor near the sand bar, friends and family.  Sadly even the rip tide is present.  Although on the surface it all looked  so smooth & unphased, the rip tide of my life has a nasty under-toe.

My husband is a porn addict.  It’s insidious nature was just like the rip tide.  His addiction was hidden from me for years.  However even after it was revealed We really had no idea the impact of the addiction to our marriage, in his relationship with my children and of course him.  It took 10 1/2 years of living in this valley to even begin to understand the lengths his addiction would go to pull this family under.

God is bringing us through the toughest valley of our lives.  It is a dark & lonely journey.  I endeavor to find true quiet water in Him.  He is my resting place, my green pasture.  This is my story. One wave, one seemingly peaceful momen at a time.