“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” –author unknown
An excerpt from the Sexaholics Anonymous 90 Days of Meditations (SA 2013) written by a recovering addict:
SECRETS REVEAL SICKNESS
I’m as sick as my secrets (SA 186)
I used to keep a lot of secrets. I hid my habits of lusting, viewing internet pornography, fantasizing sexual relations, and engaging in adulterous liaisons. I was afraid my wife and children would find out, so I lied. I lied about where I had been; I lied about what I had been doing; and I lied to myself. I rationalized my lustful behavior by believing that all men did what I did. I denied that my secret life prevented me from being intimate with my wife. I told myself that flirting with female coworkers was acceptable behavior.
My illness had progressively worsened by the time I entered SA. Here I learned that the remedy for my lustful secrecy is to practice rigorous honesty. I gradually become honest, first with God and myself, then with others. As I worked the Steps, I quit lying and keeping secrets. I discovered that openness and honesty improved my relationships with family and friends.
In recovery, I found safety in truth. My wife, who is now my strongest supporter in recovery, told me, “I can handle truth, no matter how painful. What I can’t handle are lies and secrets.” And now, neither can I.
God, let me be honest in my thoughts, speech, and action today.
I have written a lot about my marriage since discovery day a little over a year ago. In January 2014, I discovered my husband had been lying to me and cheating on me for years. I also learned that my husband is a sex addict. Although I used journaling as an outlet for my grief, I did not have the strength to blog until October. I made a conscious decision to take my story back to the beginning and blog in chronological order from discovery. The journal entries were mighty painful to write, and edit, and post, but I have deemed this process worth it.
One thing that is obvious when reading back through my entries is that I have been in a lot of pain, and extremely frustrated with my “new” life and I write a lot about that pain and frustration.
Now that my husband is over a year into his recovery, I thought I would talk a little about the progress he has made. When reading materials and books about sex addiction, I learned that the recovery process takes a very long time. They will always be considered a sex addict, but once they have gone through a number of stages, they might call themselves recovered. I have read in a few sources that the second six months for the addict are potentially the worst in terms of withdrawal, self-awareness, and sobriety. Since my husband recently completed the second six months of recovery, I figured this was as good a time as any to document his progress.
Just like every addict, Blue Eyes has a distinct pathology. There were things that would trigger him. There were events in his life that propelled him into his addiction. Once he felt vulnerable, powerless, stressed or anxious enough, his pattern usually commenced with porn. Viewing porn obsessively and sometimes masturbating provided him a high that fed the addiction caused by the negative emotion. When he was younger, earlier in our marriage, he would also regularly flirt with females. All these sexually driven behaviors fed his addiction. As he got older and his addiction escalated, the porn became more ritualistic and when he was away from home, the masturbation was chronic. His flirting turned into grooming and eventually the grooming escalated to extramarital sex. Eventually even the extramarital sex became ritualistic and habitual. His addiction ran in cycles and it seems, at least to me, eventually he did not even need the original triggers, but there may have always been some trigger, in his mind, that he wasn’t good enough. Even planning a business trip could send him into the addictive cycle, or the obsessive sexual thoughts would trigger him and he would plan a business trip so he could complete the secret sex fantasy cycle. For the last eight years of his sex-addicted life, the majority of his addiction was fed with obsessive texting, sexting, emails and phone calls with the other woman. The sex, either at her house or on business trips, would complete the vicious addictive sequence.
In July 2013, he ended the relationship with his affair partner. I believe he was grooming other women to take her place, but he had yet to consummate anything. He says he really did not want to be that man anymore. I believe him, but I do not think he had the power or control to pull it off. In December 2013, he had his last sexual acting out episode on a business trip to Tokyo. He was by himself and he obsessively masturbated to porn. In his manic state, he couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stop masturbating. He lost a night’s sleep and still had to go to numerous business meetings the next day. He swore he would never fall to the evil sexual monster again. That day in December is now his date of sobriety. It is the last time he acted out sexually, but he was not in recovery. Exactly one month later, on January 11, 2014, his ex-affair partner called my phone.
Although he was pretty immediately diagnosed as a sex addict, he still was not in recovery. Eventually, he found a sex addiction specialist, and then another, and another (sometimes it takes a few therapists before a great match is made) and he entered the SA 12 step program in late January. After nine months of preparation, he completed his first step in the program. He is now working on his fourth step. He has a sponsor and program friends he can count on when he is having a bad day. He attends multiple meetings weekly. He has received his 12-month chip. He has not acted out sexually for 13 ½ months. He went through an intensive 9-day program for sex addicts in June. We attend couple’s therapy once a week. He attends personal therapy twice a week.
But even more important than all of the tools listed above, Blue Eyes was ready to acknowledge that he no longer wanted to live the life he was living. When his ex-affair partner called his phone that fateful January day, he could have done what he had been doing for years… he could have answered his phone and shut her up. He could have fallen into the cycle again by starting up communication with her and then giving himself over to his secret sexual fantasy, but he didn’t want to. HE REALLY DID NOT WANT TO. She finally got through to me and his secret life was revealed, and a part of him was relieved.
I have read numerous stories, articles and blogs that talk about the unrecovered sex addict. There is a page in the Sexaholics Anonymous white book that speaks to sexual sobriety:
WHAT IS A SEXAHOLIC AND WHAT IS SEXUAL SOBRIETY?
We can only speak for ourselves. The specialized nature of Sexaholics Anonymous can best be understood in terms of what we call the sexaholic. The sexaholic has taken himself or herself out of the whole context of what is right or wrong. He or she has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop. Lust has become an addiction. Our situation is like that of the alcoholic who can no longer tolerate alcohol and must stop drinking altogether but is hooked and cannot stop. So it is with the sexaholic, or sex drunk, who can no longer tolerate lust but cannot stop.
Thus, for the sexaholic, any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive. We also see that lust is the driving force behind our sexual acting out, and true sobriety includes progressive victory over lust. These conclusions were forced upon us in the crucible of our experiences and recovery; we have no other options. But we have found that acceptance of these facts is the key to a happy and joyous freedom we could otherwise never know.
This will and should discourage many inquirers who admit to sexual obsession or compulsion but who simply want to control and enjoy it, much as the alcoholic would like to control and enjoy drinking. Until we had been driven to the point of despair, until we really wanted to stop but could not, we did not give ourselves to this program of recovery. Sexaholics Anonymous is for those who know they have no other option but to stop, and their own enlightened self-interest must tell them this.
If my husband had been found out after his first short term affair, when we were all about 35 years old (me, Blue Eyes, Ashley and Mr. Ashley) and with small children, I do not think my husband would have been diagnosed as a sex addict. I do not think anyone at the time would have said that a short term affair with an unhappily married woman while he was alone and traveling (I am sure he would not have copped to his porn and masturbation habits), with all the stress of running his company, of keeping all his clients happy, and orchestrating a venture start up… was sex addiction. I think we all would have said it was stress, and that he had made a very serious mistake, and I’m sure I would have forgiven him and believed he would never do it again. And it would have hurt like hell, but life goes on.
Without a proper diagnosis, and proper treatment programs, and therapy and 12-step, he would not have recovered, and he would have done it again. I do not even think that the horrifying affair with the slutty secretary would have been enough to send him into recovery. I think it took years of my husband living in his addiction, and believing that balancing those two lives, while he was in the addiction, was a very manageable way to handle his desire to have his career, wife and children along with his secret fantasy obsessed sex life. As long as he could keep everything separate, compartmentalized, and keep all the balls in the air, it was all good. Sure the price being paid was the shame, and remorse, and regret, but he had been living with those emotions his whole life. I think as he got older, and things got easier, and he distanced himself from his family, and we were empty nesters, and business was good, he took stock in his life and realized he really hated compromising his values and living a lie. He realized he really did hate the negative emotions that swirled around his sexual acting out behavior, and he really was ready to admit he was powerless.
Beyond all the therapy and 12-step, and disclosures to me and living with my trauma, Blue Eyes has also managed to:
-Acknowledge that he is an addict and that he needs help and he cannot do it alone
-Accept the fact that his actions desperately hurt people and he needs to be accountable
-Have no contact with any of his prior acting out partners, and maturely protect me during the stalker whore scare last month at the airport
-Stop grooming women for sex, stop flirting, stop holding eye contact or staring at women
-Stop viewing porn of any kind and stop masturbating
-Stop blaming his parents and realize he is exclusively responsible for all of his actions
-Become more empathetic to my needs and emotions
-Provide me with, some of the time, the kind of emotional support I need from a partner
-Proactively do household chores like laundry and dishes and not be resentful
-Be honest and open with me, and our boys about his feelings and his needs
-Get back to work part time in 2015 without relying on addictive behaviors and unrealistic goals for the business or his time
-Realize that sobriety is not the goal; the goal is being honest and in touch with his thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Sobriety is a happy side effect of being aware and properly managing his life
Most encouraging of all is that he knows he has a long, long way to go and that living honestly and with integrity is the way he wants to live for the rest of his life.
I also realize the recovery path is a long and difficult one and I sincerely hope Blue Eyes is able to continue maintaining the boundaries he has set for himself, and respect the boundaries I have set for him for my own safety and well-being.
I am pretty darned happy with his progress so far and I am thankful that he has chosen recovery for himself and for our marriage. We are into year two, and our journey continues…
2 thoughts on “The year that felt like a lifetime”
After binge reading all of your archived blogs, and having my husband read them, I am finally taking the time to comment and write you. As arduous as this journey has been, and lonely, I am grateful for finding your words. Your relationship, your story, every grueling detail, your husband’s story—is our story. Our romance also started in college (24 years ago) and the sweetness of my story ended on D day, April 2015. We share the same therapists in LA it seems; However, I am eternally grateful for the “Director” and hold no disdain for his recommendations. In our case, my body has not been ready to be touched and my husband has a lot of fear around “opening pandoras” box (so to speak). Celibacy has been a necessary evil right now. Absolutely the path has been lonely and difficult over the last 8 months, but another story for another time…My husband’s recovery seems also to mirror “Blue Eyes”. He even loves the Buddhist teachings/mindfulness, and is using Podcast as a vehicle to deal with his triggers and pain. His shame and the lack of compassion that has come with it- has been his biggest struggle to date. Obviously, this has been the most difficult thing to experience, as my new reality emerged and unbelievable details came to light of our decade’s of courtship. I too feel as if my life has been the Truman Show. Our children are younger 13 and 10, so my tears and PTSD has been hard to manage, but we have tried our best to be discreet about the root of our struggles. Our LA trips were strategically organized, and while it has been disclosed that therapy sessions are involved, we do not believe that our 13 year old son is ready to hear any of the diagnosis. When my husband went to 9 day in LA, we referenced family issues, his narcissist /borderline mom and absentee dad, and my husband’s often selfish, disconnected behavior to my son. My husband surprised me back in July when he told our son that he had “treated mom badly” . My son is intuitive and bright, but absolutely not ready to hear these pieces of the story (WHO is?????). Our disclosure was done in LA with Dr. Omar and T, and thankfully involved the polygraph. Intense is an understatement of this horrific journey; from the depths of hell to a place of ambiguity. I often feel like I am a stranger in my own play. Prior to D day, I did not know of such an addiction. I was aware of the chronic masturbation (this became a convenient cover for lack of desire after his “lonely” business trips), dysfunctional family history, inability to FEEL feelings and a lack of presence from my husband sometimes. He too traveled a shit load, but checked in often, and I gave him a long lease. I was keenly aware that he had the ability to break my heart as it was clear that he could say hurtful things without regard for how it felt to him or me, but NEVER believed that he was capable of cheating or lying to me. We shared an intimacy and history that I felt was unique, and special in its longevity. He was my best friend, soul mate, and college heart throb. Surely the signs were there that he was a sex addict when I met him, in hindsight. I knew of his sexual conquests back in college, but after all he was a “fraternity boy” (not an excuse but the Greek life and college we went to had a culture that promoted partying and minimized one -night stands). I believed back then that he “changed” his cheating ways once he met me. We were inseparable. According to disclosure he did not have any acting out partners until a couple of years after we graduated (8 years). Acting out for 12 plus years after that and chronic porn to self medicate since middle school. Ugh….
My daily, hourly, struggle since D day, has been giving myself permission to make it OK to stay with my husband, knowing what I know. Well meaning friends will never really understand. Some nay-sayers and readers of your blog will never understand. To be frank, after the support group I went to , I never returned after the first meeting, as I too FELT judgemental of the women in that group. Hypocritical I know. I do not have a history of abuse in my family and I am not a co-dependent. We are very close with my parents who are local (yet I can not get myself to tell them what is REALLY going on with their son-in-law). I spent all of my time reading blogs online, and looking for different communities. However, after most of this posts I read, with the exception of yours, I find myself judgemental about the betrayed spouse’s level of tolerance… I know this is NOT OK but perhaps my pain is too raw and I am admittedly feeling too selfish to take-in others pain that doesn’t mirror mine at this time. Historically, I have been a great listener and an empathetic friend to people. Ironically, I prided myself on my intuition and ability to read people. Gas lighting is very effective, isn’t it? My husband is in recovery, but the path towards empathy and redemption is very long. Reading your blog however, has freed me of most of my self-flagellation. I finally read a story of my parallel life, and UNDERSTOOD, why a woman would fight for her best friend, and family in the face of all of this. Walking away is easier surely, but the pain and betrayal will always be there. As will the father of our children. Perhaps and likely a new beautiful relationship with a stranger will surface, but surely that man will have a history of his own? Likely no addiction piece, but an x- wife, children and skeletons in the closet? If my husband follows through with his recovery path, IF he can be there for my physically and emotionally, and IF he is a better version of the man that I thought he was, how do you walk away from that? If there is relapse and continued cheating- staying is not an option. But in the face of his current recovery? A good friend of mine recently said to me ” I wish that _ (my husband) would be an asshole again and just leave you alone…I want him to walk away and get out of your life, as you would all be better off without him.” Wow. That stung.
Prior to D day, I never got sick of this person, even on the worst of days, we never went to bed angry and talked through everything. The man that I knew shared the same values as I and wanted to same things in life from his family. I was wrong about that man. Still impossible to make sense of while I see him on the couch with our children, even understanding and knowing what I know now. Really? How do you make peace of ALL of the betrayal and lies, and duality that unbeknownst to me existed? Do you ever make peace with it in your heart? I am no stranger to tragedy- we suffered through a full term still birth, and more recently, a house fire that destroyed all of our stuff and new home. WE have been rebuilding every since. The fire erupted from an oven that was off- clearly that explosion was a metaphor for our life. I could not make sense of it at the time, but now it all seems like a necessary purge. The rebuilding of our home and lives with the children- has been traumatic, but clearly was just a foreshadowing of what happened to our relationship 1 year later. We are set to move in Feb. What a journey of recovery this is…
I am feeling stronger after reading your words, and believe that the camaraderie of our shared experiences has the power to give me a break from myself. From my own head, from my constant ruminating, and second guessing why I am fighting for this relationship, and why I stay. I have tried to go on this journey with grace, of course stumbling along the way. I have been in the abyss and I am trying to find my way. For anyone who is lucky enough to not be in our shoes, my only request is that you listen to our struggles and see while we are still moving forward with our spouses, the path is not straight, and we are not giving free passes to our mates. They have imprisoned themselves over their lifetime, and they are paying penance everyday for the abuse they gave us. Thank you for your words and I look forward to connecting again with you.
PS My husband is reading Blue Eye’s blog too.
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Wow. I had chills the entire time reading your comment. Tears are streaming down my face. I know most people cannot understand what we are going through and so reading your words, and knowing you really really get it, makes me feel less alone. This blog has been a blessing most of the time. I want to clarify first, I do not hold any lasting disdain towards Omar Minwalla. I respect that man immensely and my husband and I are both grateful for him, his institute, and for me personally, T. She saved my life. I believe Omar was caught up in a very unique situation with the intensive and he is human after all. He really wants these guys to get it and to heal. He did back off his year of celibacy recommendation when he had some time to think on it away from the intensive. Honestly, I think he is brilliant. His understanding of the trauma the spouses go through is nothing less than astonishing. I have recommended him numerous times to all who will listen to me. In the summer of 2014, he was going through a big transition period. We were a bit in the middle of that, but nonetheless, he was instrumental in where we are today, both of us. I loved talking with him and found him highly entertaining in amongst the trauma. I wanted to get that out. It was a difficult transition when it was time for us to bid farewell to Omar and T, but it was a necessary step for us. If we lived in LA, we might still be seeing all of them.
Also, I completely understand your need, and your husband’s need, for celibacy. I am actually quite shocked much of the time that I have not had issues with sexual intimacy since d-day. Somehow, I am able to separate cleanly his acting out behaviors from what we had and what we have. I know others who are not. There is need for honesty and openness when dealing with it, for us, but celibacy was more destructive than helpful. That being said, I completely understand celibacy as a required element for healing for both partners. Each individual and each couple must make decisions based on their own needs and their feelings. In hindsight, since our children are grown, I do believe a period of separation and complete celibacy would have been the most mature and effective way to handle the initial stages of his recovery. Unfortunately, as you say as well, I was completely unfamiliar with sex addiction and everything we have done has been trial and error. We never had a formal disclosure with properly trained CSATs and there never was a polygraph. On many days, I feel I was robbed of what was mine and what is clearly part of a well defined process. Unfortunately, by the time we had spent hours and hours with Omar and T, and thousands and thousands of dollars, it was time to part ways. They never pushed for the disclosure. T never discussed BE with me as she had no information from Omar. She only focused on me and that was the best thing for me. I am always putting others’ needs first. She helped me understand why I was hurting myself. I wouldn’t trade my time with her for anything.
Thank you so much for validating my words, and I do hope you are giving yourself a break from blame, or shame, or guilt, or responsibility for what they have done, and indeed, how we handle being married to a sex addict. The most difficult realization for me has been the one that has been said to me so many times… this is not about me. This is not about us, the spouses. They were never going to be the men we thought they were. They were broken when we fell in love with them. It hurts, badly, to realize their addiction was stronger than their love and respect for us, but it was. The only way we can move forward from this is to realize that is not our fault. Please feel free to contact me any time. I have really enjoyed meeting people here. I am Facebook friends (and belong to a private FB group for spouses of sex addicts), and I am email friends with a few other bloggers I have met here. I also have met up with a couple lovely women who follow my blog. It helps me, a lot. I do have a small support network among friends and family, but even though they do the best they can, they do not really understand. I would imagine it would hurt badly for someone you care about to express their desire for us to be separated from our partner. I have only had that happen here on my blog, but it makes me feel bad, not that I stay, but that people don’t understand why I stay. I feel like there are only so many times I can write about it and sex addiction without sounding like a crusader. Some people will never understand, and I need to learn to let it go.
I was so sorry to read about the other tragedies in your life. Hold those precious children close… 10 & 13, a very vulnerable age group. Ten is the age my husband started really acting out. It breaks my heart. They are too young to understand what is going on, but not too young to see their parents treating each other with respect and kindness. We are all human beings, doing the best we can with what we were given. We do need to let our trauma play out, but it cannot destroy us or change those good things about us. Much love to you, and respect for how you are handling your journey. Please, feel free to contact me anytime. email@example.com
Also, disclaimer. I have not gone back and read through all my posts, so when people come on now, I cringe a little thinking about what I wrote, way back then. Hopefully people can see a progression, like with Omar. At the time, I was flabbergasted with his behavior, but as a mature adult I have been able to metabolize where I was, and where he was, and where BE was, and realize, we all did the best we could with what we were faced with at that moment. The same with my life. I try to always be kind and compassionate, but sometimes I fail. I feel safe venting here, something I cannot do in most facets of my life. ❤