This was the question I asked repeatedly of my husband and every therapist we encountered for the first year of recovery. Why, after all these years and all his destructive behavior, can he change now when he never was able to before. He says he wanted to. He says he hated himself. He says he hated what he was doing, the lying, the cheating. Knowing what he was doing was wrong and hurtful, which he did know, why would he just be able to stop all of it and change now? How is a guy who every time the chips were down, every time he felt the least bit burdened, or even a little bit stressed, he conjured a sexual image, or viewed a bit of porn, or strolled the streets looking for women to groom, or emailed his acting out partner… how is he able to just stop!
For months and months I felt like I was being led into a trap. I felt like as soon as I opened myself back up to him again, as soon as I started to trust again, he would hurt me again.
Finding out what I did post discovery, about Blue Eyes’ childhood, his wounds, his habits, his slow and methodical escalation from masturbation to porn to grooming to short term sexually-based relationships, to a long term acting out partner, left me feeling defeated and alone and with the distinct belief that a person with 40 years of crazy making couldn’t possibly change. People don’t change, right? Well, I have thought about that statement a lot over the past two years. It is true, people don’t really change, deep down in there, who they always wanted to be or thought they were, that’s still there. They can, however, change their behaviors and habits. But, in order to to do that, at least in the case of Blue Eyes and everything we have learned about sex addiction, they need resources. That place they go inside to look for comfort and self awareness and confidence, is broken.
In my mind, it’s not merely about convincing themselves that they want to change, perhaps that is the easy part. People finding out about their secrets, their having to live openly in their shame and humiliation and guilt, no longer able to hide behind the mask of rationalizations, excuses, and lies, is a whole new way of life to them. When the secret is revealed, there may be a weight lifted. The years of keeping their secrets can be over then, if they choose it to be. However, once the novelty of the truth being revealed wears off, and in Blue Eyes’ case the realization that no one who really cared about him was going to abandon him, we all stayed, we all still wanted to be part of his life, the burden then becomes, living in this new reality. Attempting to live a life of truth, honesty, integrity, a life without his drug. This may sound easy to those of us who live by the golden rule, but this is the hard part for Blue Eyes. He is an addict.
The truth is, he wasn’t able to stop all his behavior on a dime. Nor was he able to just change. It doesn’t work that way. Addicts don’t wake up one day and say, whoa, what I was doing was wrong, and bad for me and bad for everyone else. I think I’ll just stop all that today. The brain has been altered to believe it needs the drug to survive. Sometimes I think the term ‘sex addict’ is too limiting. Any number of behaviors seem to be able to produce a hit when needed. For example with Blue Eyes, sometimes viewing pornographic images was enough, other days it was strolling the streets and thinking about women, smiling at women and getting a smile back, his feeling wanted or needed, sometimes it was a simple text to the acting out partner knowing she was thinking about him. Of all the behaviors he engaged in, actual sexual orgasm or intercourse happened far less than numerous other behaviors, but they were all a drug. These habits are formed from years of repeated behaviors. And the lies are honed too. The lies to us, but also the lies to themselves. I was NOT in denial people. Let me say that again, I WAS NOT IN DENIAL. Blue Eyes had become so skilled at lying and he had convinced me he was actually quite horrible at it. I believed I knew when he was lying, that’s how good he was at convincing me he was a bad liar. That being said, there was also the fact that our marriage functioned because we each did our own thing. I handled the house, the bills, the kids, extended family, holidays, gifts, travel plans. I handled the business while he was away. I never snooped. I trusted him. He was in charge of himself and his job. That is pretty much it, but due to his wounds, that was enough to keep him mired in his dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, after all, they had ALWAYS been there. They were his best friend since the time he was ten.
The answer to the question, “why now?” has become much clearer to me. I wish someone had been able to explain it to me from the beginning, but I see now why they didn’t. The reasons and the process are not so easily definable. Each person, each addict, each partner, each partnership, is different. Paths to healing are unique. Some do not heal, some do not recover. The answer to how it is possible to heal once the truth is revealed is multi-faceted and for a person like Blue Eyes, it includes facing who he was and who he truly wants to be. Awareness was the first step. Awareness that his condition was definable and that he was not alone. Awareness that he could not heal alone. Awareness of some of the less obvious behaviors that could potentially destroy his chance at success in his sobriety. Awareness that as a human being, he was salvageable and there were many people in his life who wanted to see him succeed in being the man he had pretended to be, the man he knew he was. That awareness, however, is not enough to keep him on the straight and narrow path. Recovery also includes being honest and truthful with himself and others every single day. It includes replacing old bad habits with new healthy ones and doing that is not so easy. This is where support comes in. For Blue Eyes, this support has come through 12 step, therapy, buddhist meditation, and being open and honest with a select group of friends and family.
So, why now? Because Blue Eyes no longer lives in darkness. He no longer lives in denial. He no longer lives mired in a web of lies and deceit. He has embraced who and what he is and is actively engaged in healing and recovery. He has faced his childhood demons and is, day by day, conquering them. He has opened up and shared his deepest darkest secrets with strangers and they have in turn done the same with him. He has forged a bond with others who share the same destructive habits and behaviors and he has learned to tell the truth, no matter how shameful, painful, or heart wrenching. Blue Eyes has laid himself bare in front of me and I have not walked away. His worst nightmare did not come true. He wants a better life and he is willing to work every day towards that goal.