We all need a path out

lost_and_alone__by_bayauss-d50ph24

The reason I know I cannot change my husband, I cannot make him better, I cannot heal him in any way, is because I have been here all along. If it was my job to heal him, I would have done it already. If my presence was enough to make him the man he wants to be, it would be so. I have said this all along… I wasn’t enough before, and I won’t be enough going forward. That doesn’t mean he cannot heal. That does not mean he is not a worthy life partner. It only means that he will have to do the hard work, by himself, for himself. This is a lesson we must all learn. But if he finds himself wandering, lost and alone, I will go to meet him. I always have, and I always will.

From the moment my husband’s secret life was revealed, I innately understood. When he said those words, “if you knew the truth about me, you couldn’t love me,” I knew. I knew he was an addict. I have known addicts before. I know this is their mantra. I did not stop to question what his drug was, I merely knew, at that moment, that he was broken, and he needed a drug to cope with life. I had to learn about sex addiction first hand. So did my husband. As the secrets spilled out, we learned together how insidious his disease.

I am here to walk beside him on his journey. I am here to love him unconditionally, to love him in all the ways he wasn’t loved before. I can understand him, but I cannot change him. I can help him understand me, but I cannot change the way he behaves towards me or anyone else. Those are lessons he must learn on his own. I know he is worth the effort. He is working so hard at his recovery. It is not easy, for either of us.

There is a commenter on my blog. She has been here for quite some time. In the beginning, she did not really understand. I don’t know how anyone could understand sex addiction if they had no experience with it. It sounds so hedonistic, on the surface. But really, all addictions do… until we know the truth. Sitting around drinking all day, or engaging in illicit drugs, living life high on meth or heroine. These addictions were initially sensationalized. Addicts were lazy. They had control, they just refused to use it. They were self indulgent. Now we know the truth. Addicts use drugs to medicate wounds, to fill empty spaces, to cope with a life that has most often shown them loneliness, abuse, neglect, and trauma. After watching my husband, someone I had known for 30 years at the point of discovery, spill his pain all over me, all over our life, I knew this wasn’t about some flirty, sexy, titillating roll in the hay. He wasn’t looking for a new wife, for a new life. I knew he was living a dirty, filthy, deceitful existence and he hated himself for it. He lived that life right along side his successful, fulfilling, happy, devoted life with the rest of us. He was living a symbiotic existence. The happy life fed off of the addicted one. It had always been so for him.

Three years into recovery, he has made significant changes. He has a long way to go. Nothing worthwhile is easy, as they say. He has years of abuse, neglect, and addictive behaviors to overcome.

Now, the reason for this blog entry. I received a comment to my recent post titled ‘Anonymous.’ As I was writing one of my marathon responses, I realized I just needed more space, so I brought the whole thing here.

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My response:

Thanks, Moi. I guess the thing that warms my heart here, is that you now get it. I know at the beginning we definitely had our differences. Sex addiction is like any other addiction and with my husband, yes, his addiction grew out of childhood wounds, specifically neglect and abuse. From adolescence forward, he really believed he needed his drug to survive, and maybe he did. After dozens of hours of therapy, the specialists do believe he was neglected and abused from the crib. He is only in therapy because he wants to be able to overcome his childhood abuse and be happy. After knowing my husband for 33 years, I still cannot begin to understand how he feels. But I do understand that he pretended at being happy and it was all based on having a drug to cope. I think he desperately wanted to believe in himself, in the good in him, but he was beaten down for so many years… more than 50 years! He still harbors those deep feelings of not being good enough, of being a bad person, of not being worthy of love. You are correct, the abuse was endless… even to the point of the last communication his father sent him, which stated that “they were so disappointed in him as a son and as a person that they would take his name away from him if they could.” They said this to a successful 50 year old man, married for 25 years with two grown sons. They were still trying to strip him of any happiness he might have garnered over his life. They could no longer control him with money, or anything else material that they had, so they just continued to abuse him emotionally, like they had always done. There were no genuine hugs, no “I love you’s.” The last time he saw his parents in person, they wouldn’t even give him a perfunctory hug good-bye. His father physically turned away from him. All just because he was no longer playing the game by their rules. He really hadn’t done anything to them other than not go see them on their terms, on their schedule.

The interesting thing about BE is that he seems to be the opposite of the man you describe above. BE has some distinctive happy childhood memories (that generally don’t involve his parents) and he tends to blow those out of proportion. He inflates the happy trying to convince himself, I think, that he was happy or that he is happy, when deep down he most likely believes he doesn’t deserve happiness. I think it is a subconscious feeling left over from the beat downs of his parents. People that know him as an adult think he is an incredibly happy, albeit quirky, person. Thus the happy memories of the spot in Tokyo. He wraps a lot of happy memories around food. Food being a tangible thing that brings him comfort. I guess for me I wished he had pulled out a happy memory where we had been together, versus one where he was with the other woman. I know he doesn’t really differentiate when he is in that place in his head. That place of trying to cope by exaggerating memories and feelings. Although the therapy BE has received has been crucial to pulling those memories of abuse out of the hidden recesses of his stunted mind, and he needed to bring them out into the light, his recovery path also includes 12 step and mindfulness meditation/Buddhism and both of these help him stay grounded and in the moment. He is still learning, but I believe the most important facet of his recovery is not denying his own history, his abuse. When we push those things down, basically when people tell us that we are adults now and we should just be able to get over it, it causes us to find other ways to cope. We are not all addicts, but those of us who are need to learn to validate ourselves. To let ourselves grieve and heal from what was done to us.

We all need a path out.

25 thoughts on “We all need a path out

  1. I don’t normally leave any replies, but have been reading your blog from the beginning. I sympathize with you in every way! Been through the cheating, and it hurts in a very raw way! However on this post one of the comments you posted from another talks about addiction and how it is the parents fault, and a terrible childhood. That rocked me to the core, and I just had to write this! Not all addicts come from a terrible childhood! I had 3 children, 1 a doctor, 1 a psychologists (and owns a management company), and 1 left us in May of this year due to alcohol! My son the youngest became an alcoholic his senior year in high school. He was a straight A student and a loving caring child! What happened? Unfortunately we may never know? I put him through Rehabs, counseling, tough love, the whole 9 yards that I was told was the way to go! Nothing would beat his terrible addiction. He was loved unconditionally until the very end, but unfortunately at 27 his pancreas just couldn’t take it anymore and he died of a heart attack. I just need to make sure other parents out there that read this know that sometimes there is just nothing you can do, and I don’t want them blaming themselves like I did after his death. It is hard to overcome such a tragedy of losing a child, let alone having to carry guilt of what did I do wrong, what could I have done different. Yes, I have went to AL anon, and that is what finally gave me the peace I needed to know that sometime addicts are just addicts for no reason than it is in their chemistry. They may have anxiety that nobody knew about, they may have a chemical imbalance that wasn’t known. There are several reasons on how someone becomes an addict including a bad childhood. But, to say that is the only reason is really putting a very bad message out there to people like me that did everything I could to show my son how much I loved him, but yet it wasn’t enough! To end this I just want to say, I am very proud of you for telling your story and your raw emotions! I don’t judge anyone that has went through dealing with any type of addiction. I have seen first hand what it does to a family, and holding that family together takes a very strong woman! Keep up being that strong woman!

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    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Tori. I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through. Please understand that I, in no way, believe that the actions of parents, any parents, are solely to blame for their child’s addiction. Even with my husband I know that abuse and neglect contributed to his feelings of low self worth, but that he has the brain of an addict. He turned to a drug to cope and eventually his brain needed that high in order to handle the simplest facets of his life. There are people who have profoundly more traumatic childhoods than my husbands who do not struggle with addiction. I consider my childhood happy and joy filled. However, my younger sister struggled with our parents’ divorce, exhibited by separation anxiety, paranoia, and severe mood swings. She has borderline personality disorder. No doubt it is in her brain chemistry and the divorce/separation anxiety were the trauma events by which she manifested the first signs of her illness. I get it. I have written about the fact that my younger son struggles with depression and addiction, and he is likewise loved with everything we have to give him, and always has been. It breaks my heart, but he is an adult now. We participate in open dialogue about his struggles. I am grateful he is able to do that. I completely agree that there is brain chemistry and genetics involved. In my family there are multiple addicts and also multiple people with mental illness. There are likewise those in my husband’s family that struggle, but no one I know of in that family has acknowledged their own illness. It simply is not done, admitting there is something they need to work on. That kind of hiding behind a “perfect facade” contributed to my husband believing he was worthless, because he knew there was something wrong with him. I think what has been discussed here is that if a child was not given unconditional love, it is difficult for them to believe they deserve it as an adult. Addiction can live in that place, but that is not the only place addiction lives, and addiction does not always live in that place. I don’t think anyone here has said a bad childhood is the only route to addiction. It just happens to be so for my husband. Moi, the commenter from this blog post, has been reading and commenting on my blog for some time. She used to use a different name. Early on, she flat out denied sex addiction was real and on another blog/website, she insinuated I was miserable and would always be miserable because I was in denial of the fact that my husband was just a cheater and I had bought into this big lie. She has since decided for herself (at least that is what I read from her comments) that sex addiction is a real, and basically comes from the same place as other addictions. Whether or not other people believe in sex addiction really has no bearing on my husband’s addiction and recovery, but it is nice when people understand and stop denying someone else’s reality. I hope you and everyone else reading this understands I am only talking about me and my husband here on this blog. There are as many unique stories as there are human beings on this planet. Thank you for sharing a little of your story, and for your very kind comments. I hope you feel like this is a loving and understanding place to share. xoxo

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  2. This post is – once again – exceptionally beautiful. And made me feel terribly, terribly sad for myself. Another small pity party being held over here! Because although addiction is an utterly devastating and needy bitch, I guess there is tiny solace in understanding that this is not personal. I know you will argue that affairs are not personal. Bit when the cheater is not an addict – of any kind – it means they just chose to break the person who loved them more than anyone ever has, or quite probably ever will’s, heart. Because they don’t reciprocate that love in the same way. And yeah, I thought we had it all. That we loved fiercely. That we shared everything. And learning that was not true continues to break my heart every single minute of every single day. Life is hard. You said it sister 😚

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    • Ack, NO! You know I don’t want anything I write to elicit bad feelings for you. I believe it is all personal (regardless of the existence of addiction, or not) and not personal at the same time. It is personal in how we view what they did, and not personal in the reasons why they did what they did. I see similarities in stories realizing that BE’s brokenness and indiscretions were chronic and long term and Rog’s situational and short term. I totally understand and still feel that deep pain. The pain of how could they break something that was so beautiful. The why’s perhaps are different, but are still rooted in a brokenness inside themselves and a huge error in judgment of how to go about mending the brokenness. How did we become part of their problem and not the solution. I mean we were loving, devoted, passionate women, from the beginning. How could they shove that aside? I don’t know. But that does not change who we are. xoxo

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  3. I am bowing out of future comments but will continue to read your blog.
    I just looked at the pictures of your beach house again. If you ever decide to name it it would be wonderful if you could call it The Healing Place. I picture you and BE sitting outside, holding hands, watching the waves come to shore. The design has all the elements needed for peace and stillness. Water. Wood. Earth. You incorporated strength in the steel door. You left the clutter outside. It is beautiful.
    I wish for you and your family a mantle of joy and hope and laughter and love to settle on you in your new place, in your new life.

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  4. Thank you very much for this post. Like so many others, I see my husband’s story in BE’s. I know that there are so many commonalities for sex addicts, and I believe that their childhood experiences often lays the foundation for their addictions later in life. It is incredibly sad to think of my husband as a little boy, suffering so much at the hands of his parents. When I think of my own kids and how I protected them and tried to give them the very best childhood possible, I can’t imagine abusing them in any way at all. It horrifies me to know what my husband had to deal with as a child.

    I am always impressed with your ability to express such deep compassion for BE without diminishing your own feelings and experience. I am struggling with this now. I know that my husband is working hard and does not want to live that double life any more. I see a lot of commitment from him to working his program and trying to change. However, it is only 7 months since he went to inpatient treatment, and our disclosure is still a month away. We have a long way to go, and I need to stay focused on my own feelings and experiences for now.

    It is very difficult at the moment, but I hope to one day arrive at the place you are where your self-care is as much a priority as being there for your husband. I truly appreciate your sharing your experience, strength and hope.

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    • At one point, when were about as far into this healing/recovery process as you and your husband, I was having a rough day. I was feeling sick, still having trouble eating right, and trouble sleeping. We were sitting in a restaurant and my husband was just talking. I looked at his blue eyes and it made me think of a picture we have of him when he was one year old. He has a huge smile on his face and those big blue eyes just shone. Despite what was being done to him and what would be done to him, he was happy and smiling. I saw that same little boy sitting across from and I just burst into tears. Who would hurt such a beautiful and innocent little being. I couldn’t handle it. I was choking down the sobs. We can take care of ourselves in all this, but we don’t have to lose our empathy. There IS a reason they behaved the way they did, and they cannot just change over night. It is not possible. It is a long, hard-fought battle for all involved. I love my husband as much today as I did the day I married him, the days on which our precious sons were born, the day they each graduated high school. We share those wonderful and happy memories and there are many more to come. Way back when, I wrote about how as I really started to heal myself, my husband’s recovery took off. He unloaded a little of that shame as he saw me forgiving and surviving what he had done. I think it gave him a special kind of hope. So, three years in, he’s still working on it. Sometimes it still hurts. It’s all part of the process. To me, it’s worth it. Remember to be true to yourself first, your needs, your joy, your peace. From there, beautiful things will grow. ❤

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  5. When I talk about happiness or sadness I am talking about transitory emotions. I do believe even the most damaged people can find joy in things. What I refer to is shame. It is imposed on us until we have absorbed it as how begin to define ourselves……..as worthless, not lovable, in the way. Those feelings can be buried deeply but they are there. I equate it to having an internal pilot light. If it goes out a self actuated person can relight it on their own. A person with poor self esteem(shame) needs outside help to relight it. Psychologists often refer to the building blocks of childhood as being sturdy or weakened. The sturdy ones allow the child to develop good coping skills as they grow. The damaged ones hinder that. Anything that interferes with emotional growth often results in self medication. Those coping mechanisms are distorted but the child is doing the best he can with the few skills he has. Remember that he only had one childhood so to him the behaviors he saw every day seemed normal. We don’t know what we don’t know.
    In an odd sort of way I am proud of your BE. He has a wife and children who love him. He has provided a good life for you and he has slogged up a huge mountain of regret with a thousand pounds of shame on his back. It means he is relearning a whole new set of life skills.
    Happy Hannukkah!!

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    • Thanks, Moi. We do tend to normalize the behaviors around us. Growing up with a sister who had borderline personality disorder, with her trauma and symptoms starting as a toddler (divorce, being ripped from my mother’s arms, severe separation anxiety, the ability to make herself sick, etc… ) and escalating through adolescence (three separate sexual molestations by three different males by the time she was 11, then promiscuity, rule breaking, drugs & alcohol) some of the behaviors that swirled around her in our family were normalized by me and my parents. The physical abuse I endured from my very aggressive younger sister had other people astonished, while I just said my mom called her a “spirited teen.” She didn’t get psychological help until she attempted suicide at nearly 30 years old. Through all of that, however, my sister helped me understand how difficult coping with life can be. Even when I was suffering trauma from the discovery of my husband’s betrayal, I could see similar behaviors in me that I had seen in my sister, but I was unable to stop them. The brain is a powerful thing. It is also incredibly complicated to deal with some of what life throws at us. Indeed, I am proud of BE too. You paint an accurate analogous picture, huge mountain… thousands of pounds of shame. Thanks for the Hanukah wishes. We were just discussing having latkes for Christmas dinner. Ha, we are a truly blended family.

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  6. Thank you for your insightful story. I don’t know if I completely agree with Moi, though. I believe that you can feel happiness and still have an addiction. I see this all the time as a college student. Of course, it is difficult to determine what is and what is not an addiction. Some addictions are more accepted by society- like obsessions with fitness, physical appearance, working out, or not eating…It’s incredible that one could be married to someone and find out about an addiction years into the relationship. I will definitely have to read more about this, because it is so eye opening. And I hope to be married one day as well!

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    • I agree, Jess. I think addicts can still be happy while exhibiting signs of low self worth. The low parts, low self esteem etc… create those obsessions you speak of. Even in my husband’s life, I know he was often very happy. He loved coaching our boys’ sports teams, and traveling the world as a family, chaperoning their class trips to Japan, just watching a simple sci-fi movie with them. He introduced them to all his childhood favorites, like Speed Racer and Batman. They were like three little peas in a pod, which allowed me to pursue my own, and much coveted, free time on some days. But many times I was the only parent. It was like I had three kids. My husband traveled a lot and being successful in business for him was a sickness. Being financially successful was a huge part of what he was taught as a child. If you had money, you were a better person. Really, really broken. I didn’t think he agreed with his parents, but I obviously didn’t realize how they had broken him. I knew they were verbally abusive and demeaning, but I thought he was like me, I thought he let it roll off his back. I had no idea that they had created an addict. He did have to pretend a lot of the time. Pretend that he felt good about himself. Pretend that he was confident. He was really good at pretending, but that was on the back of his addiction. Who knew? We never really know what is inside another person, however, when you meet that special someone, look at how their parents treat them. Look at how your loved one treats other people, especially those with less than him/her. Sometimes we look the other way at signs that were there all along. In hindsight, the signs to me were how my husband interacted with his parents. He never stood up for himself. He always did as he was told and no matter how disrespectfully they treated him, he allowed it, and apparently absorbed it… all the way through his 40’s. All along I thought he was maturing, instead he was keeping a secret life in order to cope. His secret life escalated until it threatened to destroy him. I am really very grateful he is in recovery. Thanks for reading and good luck with college. Enjoy that time! I have the fondest memories of my 20’s in the 1980’s! ❤

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  7. I love how you write about being there for BE, this is a deep pure love that goes beyond romance. He is a very blessed man, when I meet him I will remind him 😜
    I know very little about sex addiction except from reading your blog, what I do know is how important it is to being open to understanding, keeping an open mind. Before a sex addict can be helped, they probably need to feel understood and safe. I think you are very rare to be able to look behind your own hurt and to see his.
    ❤❤❤

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    • Hopefully you will meet him in person soon. Sex addiction is like any other addiction… I see that because I know other addicts. What I have never known before, however, is an addict that so desperately wanted to be free of his demons, his secret. For that I am truly grateful. I was always here, and I was always safe. Unfortunately a person who has been hurt like BE, and who is trained to believe no one can really love him because he is unlovable… well, it doesn’t much matter what I say or do. Only he can convince himself he is worth it. I’m here. And, he’s working on it! xoxo

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  8. Kat,
    I walk in your shoes. BE’s is my husband’s story. We will b married 40 years in 2017. Since my discovery 3 1/2 years ago I have read every book, reached out to anyone I could to gain a better understanding of the “Whys”. You have helped me to view this addiction in a way I could never before. I stay with my H, because I do believe he is a good man. Now from everything you have posted I understand broken. I have felt shame for the decision I made to stay, but thru your insight I feel whole again. I see the hard work, I see the pain, shame and determination never to go back to that life style that he feels. My H has come to an understanding that the drug will no longer work.
    Not to say I have come to terms with all of this, I haven’t. I still cry, I still question why me. It still hurts. Not a day goes by where I am not reminded of the life that was stolen from me. I am hopeful that our new marriage based on honesty will make it all worth it.
    Thank you again for all of your help and I too, sorry for your pain.

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    • Welcome to this little corner of the world. Your comment gave me the chills. Just knowing one person could find some solace in knowing that they are not alone in this struggle makes it worth it. I think the longer we are with our partners, the more there is to the story (naturally) and the more difficult it is to understand and metabolize it all. And yet, on the other hand, the stronger the bond we have to this broken person we thought we knew. For me, personally, even though it is dark some days, and difficult, and painful, and I also still cry, I still want to know more. I still want my husband to be able to turn to me, if only to get that deep hug he needs, because I need it too. I do experience a lot of joy in my marriage. Most days I still see the same person I met 33 years ago. Thank you for your lovely comment. ❤

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