The Gift of a New Perspective


 

I hope all of you that celebrated Thanksgiving, had a wonderful day. We did. It was full of lots of laughter and way too much food. Best of all, I heard from a family member and friend that I hadn’t heard from in a long time, that I thought were lost to me, and I’m very thankful for that.

Last week I found that I did a lot of service work. Not unusual around this time of year. The holidays can be difficult for many people. The common theme was anger and questions of why. Why did the addict betray me by looking at pictures of other women or having online affairs or worse?

I remember the anger, the rage, I felt. I also remember the relentless questions that circled around my brain. The insecurities that they brought to the surface of my brain. They seemed endless. They also seemed unanswerable.

Then a few days after disclosure we were going over a spreadsheet I’d dubbed “The List,” I had an epiphany. As I was entering each person’s name, what happened between them and Devin, and other information I thought I needed to know (trust me, I didn't); Devin said he couldn’t remember a woman even though they’d exchanged emails back and forth for months. Lengthy, detailed, emails that I had imprinted in my brain. It wasn’t until I read her screen name to him that he recalled who she was.

That was a profound moment for me. I finally understood what he’d been trying to explain in the preceding days: he had no emotional connection to these women. No attachment to them whatsoever. She was simply an address to him. Nothing more. An email for his mailbox. It was more about filling an emotional void within him, an emptiness, than it was anything else. It really did have nothing to do with me.

There was nothing I could’ve done to change the outcome. And I had tried just about everything from trying to control him to changing my personality to something I thought would catch his attention...and it never would. And there is nothing that I can do now to change what he does. He is his own person responsible for his own actions.

While the words I had read in those emails crushed my heart and his actions felt like something I’d never heal from, that understanding provided me with a new way of looking at the whys.

It helped me begin to stop taking the addiction so personally. That didn’t mean the hurt went away overnight. It didn’t. Neither did the anger. It did, however give me the gift of a new perspective. And because I’m also a recovering addict, I was able to empathize with his addiction too. I understood the complexities of not being able to “just say no” or “if you loved me you’d stop” because those guilt tactics don’t work, not nearly as well as detaching with love.

The anger took longer for me to resolve. I was angry with a lot of things. It took help from my counselor to see that I was angry with myself and needed to forgive myself before I could even think about forgiving Devin so those feelings of resentment and anger would stop rearing their ugly heads. What I found after those feelings of anger went away was my self-esteem.

Than I found inner-peace and while I want nothing more than to tell people that these things happened quickly, for me they didn’t. For me it took a few years. I was bullheaded, stubborn, and refused to reach out for the help that was out there. My hope is that people I talk to or people who read my book, Steps Along My Shore, won’t make the same the mistakes I did.

How was your Thanksgiving? Do you hold on to anger or do let things slide off your back?


Saying the Right Thing

from Google
So, yeah, if you guys didn’t already know, I like to ramble. Some days I go on and on and on and well, you get the idea. Many of you recall the days before I learned how to edit myself. When I used to post long word vomits. Paragraph after paragraph filled with emotional rants and raves that really didn’t do much for the reader, but it sure helped me get through the emotional turmoil of finding out my husband was a sex addict. (Thank you for sticking around during those dark times!)

You can imagine how hard it is in real life for me to contain myself once I really get on a roll. Here I can hit the delete button when I think a post has gotten too long. Too TMIey. But in real life, not so much.

When a person in crisis from my program calls me, my instinct is to gush out all sorts of information. I want to fill their traumatized brain with as much valuable stuff as I can because who knows if they’ll ever have the courage to pick up that 500lb phone again?

I remember not knowing what to ask the person who answered my first phone call. I could barely speak through my tears. I was petrified. I felt alone.

I’ve come up with the basics I try to bring up during our initial conversation if the person is a newbie to the program and has an interest (and time) to listen:

1.      You’re not as alone as you feel. There are a ton of us out there. We might not have the exact same story, but we understand your pain like no one else can. And there's no one right way to do this.
2.      Boundaries. Odds are you need to set some, so start thinking about some reasonable ones. It’s time to protect your emotions and your wellbeing. Boundaries can help you do that.
3.      Don’t make any rash decisions right now. Unless there is physical abuse, you don’t have to decide what to do about your relationship this very second. Take some time to think first. My counselor suggested a year. Things are very fluid in the beginning and emotions are raw.
4.      Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: Yes, sex addiction sucks ass. It’s not for every couple. However, some couples, myself included, make it. Not only that, like Devin and I, through hard work and determination, they come out stronger. There is hope although right now things seem so hopeless.
5.      Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. One day you’ll feel like total and absolute crap. You’ll hate the addict. The next, you’ll love them and feel like you can conquer the world. Heck, sometimes it’s not daily; it’s hourly. Hang in there, with time, those emotions can settle down.
6.      Unfortunately not all addicts are immediately forthcoming. Many of them stay in some form of denial in the beginning. However, if the addict is willing to commit to their recovery/counseling, the denial can subside.
7.      The program worked for me and I wasn’t exactly a willing participant…at least not at first. I walked into the rooms with a chip on my shoulder just wanting to be around people who’d been through what I’d been through. Not only were the people kind and receptive, they shared their experience, strength, and hope with me and helped me get back on my feet. I’m stronger now because of it. So, if it can work for me, it can work for you too. Attend at least six meetings. Each one has a different vibe, so be sure and give them a fair shot.
8.      Don’t be afraid to try different ways to heal. Counseling, twelve-steps, journaling, yoga, etc. Whatever works, do it. And if it didn’t work the first time, go back and try it again later. You’d be surprised.
9.      Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone again. One of the biggest fears I had was reaching out to others for help. I didn’t want to be burden or a bother. In our program, there are people available for those in crisis for a reason. We get it. We want to be there for you. Let us.
10.   Be patient and kind to yourself. Make some “me” time. You deserve it. If you need a nap, take it. If you want to take a warm bath, do it. Maybe you enjoy reading, if so, than take the time to so. The important thing is that you’re doing something other than focusing on the addiction. Give yourself and your brain a rest.
from Google

Do you tend to be a verbal gusher or are you more reserved?