15 December 2013

Disclaimer about Disclaimers

Disclaimer- I'm writing a post without disclaimers.

I am the queen of disclaimers. I use them all the time to quantify things, to put a lid on something, to excuse myself.  Aren't we always putting a caveat on our good news?

"Things are going well.  I'm sure tomorrow will be back to hell. But today I'm doing better."

Well I want to write something without any qualifiers.  Hopefully you know I live in reality too. But for now I'm going to relish this.

I'm doing well.  I am feeling genuine, deep, happiness.  I am reconnecting with my husband. I am feeling gratitude for his changes.  I am noticing things about him that are appealing, and even safe.  I am hopeful.  I am experimenting with vulnerability. I am opening doors to my heart. I am sharing feelings.  I am swallowing my pride.  I am forgiving. I am loving.  I am being affectionate.  I am hugging and holding.  I am feeling really good. 

One of the things that Pete has really resented was a fear that I no longer admired him.  It was a little egotistical, but genuine too.  He knew in the past I admired him, he is so hurt when he thinks I no longer do. 

But now, I have moments where I see admirable things in him.

Something is coming alive again in our relationship.

It feels really good.

10 December 2013

Progress Not Perfection And those Damn Meetings!

The Sobriety Chip

Pete just finished his second 90 in 90.  That makes 180 meetings in 180 days.  During round one he had trouble maintaining sobriety.  He was dealing with my emotional withdrawal, he hadn’t found a good therapist, and he was probably overwhelmed by the SA program.  He did a lot of phone meetings, and I could tell that many times he was just going through the motions.  When he started seeing his new therapist (sex addiction specialist) they put together a recovery plan, which included the second 90 in 90.   I had mixed feelings, our emotional distance made it so that I wasn’t exactly missing his company while he was at meetings, and I felt strong and independent taking care of everything on my own.  (Can you say martyr?)  But that was getting old.  He was stretched to his limits with his work and church responsibilities and a meeting every day which left me a little worn out with parenting.

But the second round was different.  He had good relationships with his SA friends. He loved the meetings. I don’t think he ever did a phone meeting, they were all actual butt-in-seat meetings. Sometimes he would miss one, so he would do two in one day, or do a fellowship.  (Or in the case of the SA retreat, like 6-8 meetings a day for two days.) 

The weekend of Thanksgiving he went four days without a meeting.  On Sunday night we were talking about it and he said

“I can’t do that. I can’t go four days without a meeting yet.” 

“But you didn’t act out, did you?” I asked.

“Yeah, but that’s not the point.”

I wish he could write this post and explain it better than I can.  But it was a big moment for me.  A trust building moment.  Something to the effect of this.  (These are MY words to his message.)

“Acting out starts long before I open the browser or pull my pants down.  It starts when I get mad at the guy who cut me off on my way to work.  It starts when I’m stressed out and I mistreat a coworker.  It starts when I snap at the kids.  It starts when I lay in bed in the mornings long after I should.  It starts when I’m bored, hurt or restless.  I need meetings to keep me accountable for all those things.  I need to own them and surrender them.  I need to ‘get current’ with my guys.  I need to be honest and I need to reach out. “

Now that Pete’s 90 in 90 is over he’s had to make a long-term plan for meetings.  I have moments where I resent recovery meetings.  They are so much time.  This isn’t the life I planned at all.  Combined with meetings, appointments with his therapist and time spent reading recovery materials; sometimes this feels like a part-time job.  That he’s not getting paid for.  That if he had done the right thing in the first place he would never need to have. 

But the reward is that I’m living with a guy who rarely gets mad at the guy who cuts him off on the road.  Or who tries really hard not to snap at the kids, and apologizes when he does.  A guy who is learning not to take responsibility for my bad days, but offer me compassion. 


I was reading back over my blog and realized that it’s been three years since Pete and I used the word addiction.  First he got a therapist.  Then he reached out to his dad.  Two years ago he started attending 12-step meetings.  Then he quit going to his therapist.  And he quit going to his meetings.  In January of 2013 I packed the kids and left town in the middle of a snow storm because I’d had it.  I thought that would be rock bottom but it got worse.  2013 has been the unluckiest of years.  I’ll never forget it, and I’ll probably hate it for a long time.  I’m so ready to be done with it.  But it has been a year of change, and I feel so much new hope going into 2014.  Sex addiction sucks.  It feels so consuming and devastating and hopeless.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse it would.  And just when I think I’m doing better I melt down again.

But I don't need to let tomorrow's despair ruin today's happiness. And I don't have to let today's despair destroy my hope for tomorrow's happiness.

04 December 2013

Lying to Myself

Honesty is such a big deal in this whole mess of pornography addiction.  But for a really long time all "honesty" meant to me was that my husband was giving an accurate reporting of the facts.  That was honesty. 

As I have ventured into the realms of recovery, and dug up a little self-awareness,  I've realized that honesty is more than just an accurate reporting of facts.  Someone at group meeting once sharing some research she'd heard of about how many times a day we lie to ourselves.  It was some ridiculous amount and I tried to Google it just now, but instead found this insightful quote.

"Often we lie to ourselves in order to preserve the face or self-image we want to maintain. We block out face-threatening messages, especially when they require backing down or changing our original position. Fear of embarrassment motivates many not to face reality, where we don't want to admit we goofed up, were selfish jerks, or lacked self-control. In short, we lie to ourselves to avoid an ugly truth. In confirmation, defense-mechanism researchers ... point out, self-deception is a mental process that operates unconsciously to reduce painful emotions."

At a therapy appointment recently I was talking about how I had made a decision (after thoughtful consideration and prayerful diligence) to share my story - and therefore indirectly Pete's story- with a family member.  I told my therapist that before I decided it was the right thing to do I had carefully considered the fall-out.  I convinced myself I would be okay (LIE) with whatever consequences came from my choice, but I really needed to do it. 

Unfortunately, after I shared with the family member, I found myself on my therapist's couch pouring out my heart about how UNFAIR the consequences of my choice were.  The most difficult consequence being Pete's absolute conviction that what I had done was wrong. 

"I HAVE to make him agree with me about this." I sobbed.  "We need to be united about it." I whined. 

Gently he said to me

"But you said you were going to be okay with the fall-out of your choice." 

"Well yeah."

Bracing himself for a fight, he responded

"But it kinda seems like you're not."

I started laughing. 

"You totally just called me out?! So does this mean that I was wrong to do what I did because I am NOT in fact properly coping with the outcome?"

"No." He said. "Not at all.  It just means you weren't honest with yourself." 

In other words- if I had been totally honest with myself I could have said "This is going to be hard. It is going to be really painful to do something my husband doesn't agree with.  We might never reconcile about this issue. I might need to see my therapist to help me cope with the fall-out of this choice.  But it's the right thing to do.  So I'll do it, knowing full well that I'm not as strong as I wish I was, and owning the consequences of my choice." 

The truth is- self-awareness and personal honesty DO subject me to painful emotions.  It's hard to acknowledge that I'm not what I want to be or where I want to be.  But painful emotions are no longer the enemy.  Self-deception is the enemy.  Believing I am right, when I am wrong.  Refusing to acknowledge my own inadequacy to protect an image.  Deliberately ignoring relationships with people who know about my character defects.  All of those things prevent me from really healing. 

Because there is nothing wrong with being imperfect.  There is nothing to be ashamed of about making a mistake. There is freedom in accepting that I don't always have to be right.  What pressure I've put on myself! I've found it both painful and liberating to get out from beneath the lies I tell myself.


03 December 2013

You Don't Need No Man

My Dear Friend-

I'm going to go out on a limb here and share my story in the hope that it will be helpful to you.  As I always like to say- take what you want and leave the rest.

I want to challenge you on something.  I want to question your statement that you "need" your husband to offer daily manifestations of his love, help you around the house, and be a leader for your children.  Those things are all keys to a healthy marriage and a successful family life, but I know you, and I know you are strong, and I think right now that you can find peace and happiness without them.

I used to be a sponge for Pete's love, desperately seeking approval and validation from him, longing for his attention.  Eventually his addiction became so unmanageable that he was incapable of offering me those things.  In fact, he usually did the opposite.  Made me doubt myself, left me emotionally alone, withheld his love. 

As long as I continued to expect Pete to meet my needs, I felt disappointed and angry.  I was oozing with resentment toward him.  He failed and failed over and over and it was making me miserable.  Eventually I had to let him go. I had to find happiness and personal worth outside of my relationship with him.  I didn't say so to him, but maybe I could have said something like this.

"I'm relinquishing you from the obligations I've imposed upon you to make me happy.  To fill my cup.  To meet my needs.  I'm letting you go.  For the time being I'm determined to be dependent on myself for those things.  I have good people to love and support me.  I have children to fill my cup.  I don't NEED you right now.  You are free to find recovery, or not. But I'm going to let you off the hook.  For now.  I'm willing to let our marriage fall apart for awhile, with the hope that it will give you the space you need to join me in fixing it down the road." 

It's just a kill your own damn buffalo concept.  If you want to have family prayer, initate it.  If the garbage is full, take it out. 

I know it sounds so fiery feminist, maybe because it is,  but


When I did this at first I was just being a martyr.  I was vindictive, and determined to guilt him into change. "I hope he feels like crap when he sees that I mowed the lawn" - type feelings.  But eventually it became an empowering and liberating way to live.  I DON'T need no man. 

I know that in the big picture husband and wife are one.  It's a relationship that enhances our joy.  But that wasn't/isn't the reality I'm living in. 

I love you friend- I know you are strong and you can find the emotional place you are searching for even if your husband never becomes the man he can become.