I am neither scholarly, nor a particular fan, but I am finding Dante’s Inferno keeps coming to mind when I think about Blue Eyes’ ninth step, which he presented to me in Ms. Honey’s office, last Thursday.
He was thirty five years old when he began his journey through hell, Dante that is. Mid way through life, or an approximation of such, or so it might have been at that time. Blue Eyes was 36 years old when he entered the slippery slope of adultery and invited his first extramarital lover to his hotel room in Santa Clara, California some 17 years ago now. I only bring up Santa Clara because it is smack in Silicon Valley, and in a way, Silicon Valley represents a kind of hell to me. Don’t get me wrong, Silicon Valley is home to a lot of wonderful people, inventions, etc… both historically and in the present, but it is also the home of the dot com bubble. Blue Eyes lived in Silicon Valley during the boom and traveled there often post collapse and he watched it all. The executives of the companies he consulted for frivolously squandered millions of investor dollars on fancy cars and motorcycles, luxurious homes, nightly parties, prostitutes, you name it and although Blue Eyes was already broken, this environment became part and parcel to his madness. Blue Eyes watched as simple office space and modest apartments rented for thousands and thousands of dollars a month and then later he drove through what seemed like a virtual ghost town, empty buildings, shuttered windows and for rent signs everywhere. Greed and moral corruption were the name of the game, and in his own little way, Blue Eyes played that game.
I had faithfully dedicated 15 years of my life to Blue Eyes and to our relationship at this point, back in 1999. That point when he crossed over to the dark side. Although the journey that would lead Blue Eyes to this place began at his birth, the choice to turn his back on good and fully embrace evil, falls solely on Blue Eyes’ shoulders. Just as Dante finds himself lost in a dark place, forsaking salvation, conscious that he is ruining himself, Blue Eyes found himself passing through the gates of hell on that night. Blue Eyes had forsaken all that was good in order to dip his feet in that dark pool of infidelity. Later he would full on swim in those mirky waters, over and over, embracing a darkness in himself, accessing a level of deceit I couldn’t have believed possible, eventually unleashing a hatred in the last other woman that would threaten my livelihood, and my life. Both of them were covered in a filth that cannot easily be wiped away. What would have happened on that night all those years ago if Blue Eyes had actually faced himself, faced who he really was, traveled through the depths of hell to see how far he was sinking. If he could have seen the future, the toll his actions that night and in many many nights to follow would take on the people who loved him, would he have done it anyway?
Although Dante’s Inferno is a religious allegory and I am not a religious person, the lessons learned transcend their metaphoric state. At some point we cannot deny that our acts are hurting people. We cannot ignore our bad deeds, we cannot rationalize away the pain of others. I do not associate with the term sin in the religious context of doing wrong in the eyes of god or being absolved of said sin through religious means, but I do believe we all make promises and we do all, at some point in time, break promises either to ourselves or others. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to evaluate why we do the things we do and to do our best not to hurt other people. This is what I was taught. I never knew I could be hurt so deeply, because I never knew it was possible for the person I loved most to inflict such blatant, conscious, horrifying pain. I never contemplated something so unbelievable. Likewise I don’t believe in redemption, but I do believe, for ourselves, that we must release unhealthy emotions in order to live life in it’s fullest form. Blue Eyes is still working on releasing his feelings of shame, humiliation, guilt, and most of all fear. He built a cocoon to protect himself from abuse and rejection. This cocoon, which sounds soft and nurturing, was actually hard and unforgiving and was built of rationalizations and destructive coping behaviors. I on the other hand have had to learn what forgiveness means to me. I have to regularly face my own bitterness and contempt if I am going to create from this mess a future with someone who harmed me. I chose to give him the chance to heal himself and in so doing, he could earn back some of those deep feelings I once felt for him. I am not sure he truly understands the fragile nature of the gift I have given him.
Indeed, after listening to Blue Eyes present his ninth step to me, I felt like once again I had been cast into Dante’s Inferno. Me, the person who did not commit the acts of lust, or fraud, or treachery. I feel like I am being punished for the traitorous acts of a person I so wholly dedicated my life to. As I sat and listened to Blue Eyes talk about all his bad acts of the past three decades, my resolve crumbled. How in the world does a betrayer, a sex addict, make amends for what he has done. Taking responsibility for and apologizing for all those bad acts is overwhelming, but taking responsibility for and making amends for those acts are two different things. On one of the AA websites there is a little blurb about making amends. Say you borrow $20 from a friend telling them you need it for groceries and instead you use it for drugs. During your amends, you go back and you take responsibility for your actions, telling the truth about what you did with the money, but to truly make amends, you pay them back their 20 bucks. Okay, great. WTF? How in the world does that translate at all into making amends for 30 years of lying, cheating, and humiliating the “person you love the most.”
I am sorry to say that Blue Eyes’ ninth step fell flat for me. Well, not only did it fall flat, if I am being honest, it sort of devastated me. Perhaps my expectations got me again. I didn’t consciously realize I had any expectations, but in hindsight, I think I was expecting him to tell me how great I am. To thank me for being by his side and for not abandoning him, or abusing him, or mistreating him like so many people have done in his life. I think I thought he would express to me verbally and in front of a witness why he feels so bad about his past acts. I thought he would intricately carve out his plan for the future. He would explain how he was going to behave going forward and what his goals are for being a worthy partner to me, and also for being a contributing member of the community. It is time to start giving instead of taking. If these were my subconscious expectations, as I believe they were, I was very wrong.
Blue Eyes has made an immense amount of progress during the 27 months since d-day and the 28 months since he promised himself that he was never going to use hidden sexual acting out behaviors to medicate or cope with his life. These month anniversaries are actually today. December 11, 2013 was the day Blue Eyes swore to stop all porn and masturbation. He had already stopped the illicit sex with the other woman months before. January 11, 2014 was the day I was blind sided by a phone call from the last other woman. Their relationship was over. Had been over for months. She had tried to reach me for months. She called because she wanted to punish me. She blamed me for everything. She blamed me for the lies my husband told her. She blamed me because she assumed I was a bad wife, otherwise why would my husband need to have sex with her. She blamed me for him ending things with her and for my winning a game I didn’t know I was playing. The feelings of how unfair this whole thing is still swirl around in my head on a daily basis. That is my burden to carry. I have to remind myself constantly that I cannot change the past, I cannot change the mind of this unstable woman, but I do have control over my future. What has become quite obvious over the past two years is that the sexual acting out behaviors my husband used to medicate his wounds, to cope with life, are really very much the tip of the iceberg, as he likes to say. He must keep working on the underlying brokenness, the destructive emotions that drive bad behavior, and he must learn to be open in a way that nurtures human relationships versus destroys them.
What he did do during his ninth step is go back to the beginning of our relationship and he verbally took responsibility for many, many of the things he has done to betray and abuse me. One by one he went through his bad acts. He took responsibility, he talked about the pain and suffering I have endured since discovery, and he repeatedly expressed to me how he knows that all the things he has done were his choices alone and had nothing to do with me in any way. The thing is, I know all this. Having to hear over and over all of the things he has done for 30 years, I was not prepared for it, it was devastating. I thought I had metabolized everything and I maintained my composure while he was just talking about me, but as soon as he talked about things he had done to harm my family, I lost it. I cried multiple times during his ninth step. I wanted it to all be over so we could get on to the real heartfelt words of encouragement for me, the words of love and devotion, the words of how our future will look as he carves his path right on through recovery. I didn’t get it. I got a big long list of the bad things he did, the unloving, unkind, humiliating things he did, but none of the loving words I was hoping for. I know he loves me. I know that I am an awesome person. I wanted to hear it from his mouth.
I guess this is why they say the 12 steps are an ongoing way of life. They are never complete, but always a work in progress. Making amends is not an exact science. I was pretty down for a couple days. I know Blue Eyes was confused that I had such an awful reaction to his ninth step presentation to me. I know he feels bad about it and it was certainly not his intention to upset me. Blue Eyes has a shitty past and he is an addict and he did a bunch of bad things. He is working through all that. In the meantime, I have been through a lot at the hands of Blue Eyes. I want to hear how thankful he is that after all that he has done, I am still here, I am still by his side. I am still loving him. I want to hear it every day, even when it seems counterintuitive. When I am sobbing, or yelling, or even when I am not upset at all, I want to hear those words. And, those words are more than a simple ‘I am sorry,’ and much more than ‘I Love You.’ I want to know why he loves me. I want the words expressed not so he can hear a ‘good boy’ from his buddies or his therapist, or so he can pat himself on the back. I want him to say it because he knows he is making me feel good and because he really wants me to feel good.