I used to say that I'd never experienced triggers. I hadn't experienced them in the way I had originally thought of them. As trauma-inducing reminders of past despair.
But then I started hearing the word trigger in other contexts. A trigger was an annoying observation that might remind me of my husband's addiction. Or a trigger might be something that causes me to slip back into codependency. Some other triggers were things that were bothersome because they were temptations for my husband, or situations that portray happiness and joy that I find lacking in my own life.
Those were the things I began to accept as triggers, and cope with them accordingly. It was manageable.
Then on Friday night I experienced a trigger that was in fact like a tidal wave from the past, of the feelings from my moments of deepest anguish. It was overwhelming. It lasted all evening. And the moment I was able to, I burst into tears, reliving the grief of disclosures, the shame, the fear, the embarrassment and the desperate longing to believe that it wasn't true.
I can't share the details of the trigger. It involves personal details about a family member, and even though this blog is anonymous the internet is a sneaky place, and I really don't feel like throwing this person to the wolves in the off chance someone I actually know reads this.
But I mostly worked through the feelings. Pete was supportive and kind. I don't think he understood, but he knew he didn't understand, and that helped.
A couple days passed and last night the subject came up. Pete went from being supportive to being a man. It's hard to explain without offering details, but the conversation ended with me screaming these words at him. (Or something to this effect, I can't quite recall what I actually said in the moment.)
"I'm so tired of living in a man's world! Where men keep other men's secrets. Where someone is always there to hold the hand of the addict, pat him on the back, encourage him along his way. Meanwhile the woman is in the dark, oblivious to the trauma that awaits her, and then "hushed" into secrecy as she tries to cope! If it's none of my business, then it's none of your business! And we can all go on our way, ignoring it, brushing it under the rug, letting it thrive in its taboo-induced silence where things will never change!"
This time the trigger wasn't sadness. It was all-out rage. I was on fire. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I grabbed the car keys and drove away vacillating between sobs and shouts of fury. It felt like the same hellish nightmare that I'd endured on my bathroom floor, time and time again two or three years ago. I felt trapped. Alone. Desperate.
With the help of good friends I'm finding sanity again. But I'm also giving myself a day to be angry. Because the truth is, TRIGGERS SUCK. And sex addiction is everywhere, and so painful. And change is slow. And men have fear too.
And it is tormenting to feel unheard and unseen.