Last night Pete and I were lying in bed and discussing the past. Specifically I was telling him about the times when his cycle was so predictable I would almost just wish he would look at the damn porn and then get on with it. Because after the relapse was always the honeymoon phase of the humble and repentant husband.
But right before the relapse, that was when he was cruel and irrational and would criticize and blame me.
Last night I was telling him how difficult those times were, the fear I lived in and the hurt and the frustration at the predictability of his addiction. I sighed and said
“It was so hard.”
“Yeah” he said “2013 was hell.”
I thought about that for a minute and responded “2013 was hard for sure, but in a different way. In 2013 I was the master of detachment and I at least knew how to keep myself safe and removed from your cycle. It was lonely, but it wasn’t nearly as frightening or hurtful or confusing. It was the years before that, those were hell.”
In the darkness it was quiet for a moment and Pete said “If you were hurting you didn’t show it.”
I laughed a kind of half-hearted, ironic laugh. “No. You just didn’t notice it.”
Then my mind took me back and painful memories started to play out in my mind, like flashbacks. It wasn’t like a trigger, where the pain and feelings come rushing in whether you want them or not. It was more deliberate and I let myself go there, to that place in the dark recesses of my memory. Then I started to cry.
Pete could tell my mood had shifted and said “Years? You make it sound like…”
But I interrupted him. This was my moment to open his eyes to my memory. Because all of the sudden it occurred to me that he really didn’t notice my grief during all that time. He was totally living in his own head, devoid of empathy as most addicts are.
“It was just a couple years. It started that weekend we were at your grandparents house when you had your new smartphone and you looked at porn in the bathroom and then told me about. [Our baby] was only a few weeks old and that night I slept, but mostly cried, on a recliner in the basement with [baby] in my arms.”
Then I started to cry more and couldn’t stop or talk.
I wish I could go back to that night, and hug and hold the me of those years. This is what I would say.
Dear dear Jane. I’m so sorry for your pain. I wish I could take away the breathtaking fear and the debilitating hurt. But there are things in store for you. You are going to learn. So much. People: therapists, experts, friends and strangers are going to come into your life and teach you just what you need to cope and thrive. You will become more familiar with your own character and inadequacies but also your potential and worth. You are going to become stronger and more confident. You are going to practice bravery and courage. You are going to make and nurture amazing friendships; that will make your heart GROW with new levels of love and compassion. You are going to change. And you are going to look back at how far you’ve come, even in the face of what is still ahead of you, and feel proud and grateful.