April 17, 2014
“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” Lao Tzu
We returned home yesterday from our cruise. My husband is sick with a throat infection and we are both exhausted. The trip was like a roller coaster ride. One day to the next, emotions running the gamut from high to low and back to high again, then low. All in all, the lows probably outnumbered the highs, but there were highs, so that was better than expected. A 15-day vacation three months from D-Day was not recommended by either of our therapists. I think they thought we were going to be one of those stories. You know the stories that play out on murder mystery TV shows. The loving couple takes a cruise (usually newlyweds) for a special occasion and either the husband or wife goes missing, presumably pushed over the balcony at some point in the journey by a murderous spouse. Therapists can be so melodramatic. If we were going to die of anything, it would be heart attacks from the overexcitement caused by the hysterical bonding sex we were having. There is just something about the rocking of a ship in the ocean…
So here we are, back home, and the day is full of appointments, including two therapy sessions.
It is beautiful out, so I decide to go with my husband to his therapy appointment and wait in his car with the top down and read a book. Towards the end of his appointment time, my husband texts me and asks if I can come inside because his therapist wants to meet me. Geez. I am wearing tennis shorts as we had just come from our tennis lesson. I kind of look like crap, but I guess, who cares. It’s not like I am interviewing for a job or something. I go into the building and I meet this specialist who diagnosed my husband as a sex addict. He is supposed to be the best in town. My husband needs the best. He has a long road ahead of him. The guy is not what I am expecting. He is kind of short, barely taller than my 5’5” (not that there is anything wrong with that). He has kind of crazy Gene Wilder hair and is soft-spoken, a little too soft spoken for my taste. Bells are going off all over the place for me. I immediately become anxious. Even though I am standing next to my husband, who has his arm around me, this guy is staring at my legs. Now, my tennis shorts are short, and my legs are really tan from our recent trips to Hawaii and Arizona, and also our cruise, unseasonably tan, but seriously! I am so uncomfortable, and then, and THEN, he LIES TO ME! I kid you not! He tells me how sorry my husband is for betraying me, and the only reason he kept it a secret all these years was to protect MY FEELINGS! WTF!!! My husband lied all these years to protect himself, to protect his secret life. Even I know and accept this (although it is not fun or easy). Why lie to me? It has sort of been beaten into my head that my husband had to compartmentalize out my feelings in order to do the things he did. Now, all of the sudden this jerk is telling me he was lying to PROTECT me. What is it with these therapists? Are they all quacks??? My frustration and anxiety get the better of me. I start to cry. I don’t want to be here in his office. I ask to leave, and we do.
In the car, my husband can tell that I am really upset. We talk. I am not someone who thinks people are staring at my body parts. I am no supermodel that is for sure. But I know when a man is staring at my legs. My husband informs me that his therapist is a “recovered” sex addict. Yuck! My guess is he is not as recovered as he thinks he is. My gut tells me this therapist is not going to work out for my husband, but I keep my mouth shut. This is not my journey. My husband needs to make these kinds of decisions for himself. But I do not want to ever see that man again.
As the day wears on, my anxiety mounts. Later in the evening I will attend my first group meeting for wives of sex addicts. I am worn down from all the travel and it seems I now have my husband’s sore throat. Actually, I can barely talk. I really need to go to the group therapy anyway, and I do. I sit in the therapist’s office with six other women, sip herbal tea, pop throat lozenges like they are going out of style, and hope I am strong enough to make it through this 90-minute session. The first order of business is some mindfulness meditation. Next is the extremely difficult task of telling our stories. By the time the first three women have gone, I am feeling drained. Emotionally I realize I am not up for this. Two more women tell their stories. I can feel my heart racing. I do not want to have to speak. I am not sure I will be able to speak. There are only two of us left. The other woman starts to tell her story. Her voice breaks. She is so scared. Her story is unbelievably heartbreaking. Her husband was an alcoholic when she met him 21 years ago (a common co-addiction to sex addiction). She married him 10 years ago after he had gone through AA and gained his sobriety and stayed clean for more than five years. They have an eight-year-old daughter. She was chaperoning her daughter’s field trip to the local art museum when she got a call from a neighbor saying there was a SWAT van parked outside her house. She thought the neighbor must be mistaken, or the van was for someone else’s house. She left the field trip and went home. She was shocked to find men swarming her house going through absolutely everything in their home and garage. They were looking for electronics of any kind. They had her husband at the police station and this was a formality. Evidence gathering. She had no idea what was going on. Child Protective Services was waiting to interview her young daughter. They warned her that depending on how the interview went, they might need to take her daughter. She had a panic attack, which further prolonged the inevitable. She still had no idea what was going on and now she might lose her daughter. In the end, she found out her husband is a porn addict. He had been obsessively downloading porn basically day and night. He had downloaded a lot of child porn. He was out of control. She had no idea. She got to meet with him briefly before the court mandated him to attend the inpatient program at the Meadows in Arizona. He told her he had no idea he had downloaded child porn. He was horrified. He said he was so out of control he was oblivious to the details of what he was seeing on the screen. She finished her share by saying she had no idea when and if her husband would be home. When he did return home, he was not allowed to be in a room with his daughter unless there was a Child Protective Services agent present. Her story still makes me shiver.
The other stories were just as heartbreaking in their own right. I sat there feeling like my story paled in comparison to these other women’s tragedies. As tears streamed down my face, I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. My throat ached. I looked in the eyes of the other women and finally gathered the courage to tell my story. I felt like I might collapse in the process. I felt like my body had been drained of all its energy. I wanted to disappear.
I left the group meeting with an overwhelming sense of sadness and despair. I wanted never to return to that place. I had enough sadness in my life. I drove home in a daze and went immediately to bed.
I am not a quitter, but if there is anything I have learned over the past three months it is that I need to take better care of myself. So what to do now?