What is the good?



I’m going to be one “those” people today. The one who posts on Facebook, “Worst. Day. Ever!” But then never actually tells you what happened when you ask. I’m going to be super vague and share that I had a flashback of a childhood memory over the weekend but I’m not ready to share what that memory was, and honestly I don’t know that I ever will. So, yeah, I’m going to be that chick.

However, I’m not going to be that chick because I’m seeking attention. Rather as a way to say that while I know I have a long journey ahead of me to heal from the memory, I also discovered what a fucking rock star my husband is. Yeah, I said it. A fucking rock star. Because while I was an emotional puddle in the kitchen (again in the kitchen…what is it about that room?), he was my emotional rock.

His recovery has amplified his listening skills and his ability to empathize to such amazing levels, I am truly astounded. And blessed. Not only did he hold my hands, wipe my tears, and listen while I wept and shared my memory; he offered words of wisdom and insight too. Things he’s learned from his own recovery.

For me, it was another reminder of why I stayed with him through all the turmoil of his sex addiction. His recovery, my recovery, and our recovery together was what made this weekend’s discovery a bit easier to navigate.

While it’s easy to say, “what good is it?” because whenever I think I’m done digging through the muck of my traumatized brain another hurt reveals itself, I’d rather say, “What is the good?” And here it’s definitely my husband. My hero. Because this time, I have him here to lean on while I process through all of my emotions. I know I don’t have to go through this hurt alone. How cool is that?

 Who's your hero? Do you know someone on Facebook who posts something dramatic but never tells you what's actually wrong?

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?


Starting Off With A Smile


Happy New Year! 2016. How long will it take for me to stop writing 2015? I’m guessing at least two weeks. I think that’s actually being optimistic. More like February before I’m consistently writing 2016 and not grabbing the ol’ bottle of Wite-Out.

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a good start. Mine has been a bit rocky but I think it’s a matter of perspective. I can frame it to be complete crap or I can look at it through the lens of something more positive and that’s the view I’m choosing. Optimism.

I’ll start with the good first. My ever-patient friend, (and I think undercover angel) Bryan, sent back my self-help book. The critiques weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be.

I anticipated lots of corrections requiring major rewrites but that wasn’t the case at all. Just some suggestions on how to make it really shine. And since my wise and wonderful friend, Robyn along with my blogger buddy Donna have already read the “advicey” portion of the book; it’s almost ready for publication. Now that’s exciting news for 2016! I should have that bad boy to print in a couple of months. Yay for getting to help people soon!

The not-so-good start of the year was the discovery of Devin’s continued slips. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Not in the slips. I don’t care about that. Really, I don’t. It’s his recovery. Not mine.

It’s the lies. Those get to me. No matter how many times I tell him how crazy-making they are, he continues to do it. The slips have been going on for a couple of months and I’ve known it. The red flags have been popping and I left it to him to come to me because it’s his job. I asked twice if he’s slipped and both times he said no.

As an addict, it’s an act of self-preservation. I understand that because I can relate from my days as an active addict. Sometimes an addict has to feel shame and remorse in the moment of acting out to stop the cycle of their addiction. And that’s what happened. I caught him in the act. He was looking at porn.

We talked it out and he figured out why he slipped. He discussed ways to prevent it from happening again and even offered to put a keylogger on his computer. While that is tempting, I don’t think it’s wise. Putting a keylogger on there leaves me responsible for checking up on him and I don’t want to be his accountability partner. If he wants to put some kind of restricter on his computer, that’s on him…not me.

So, again, I choose to frame the beginning of this year in a positive way. I’m going to focus on me. I'm going to work on my book that will help people heal from the trauma of discovering their spouse is sex addict, rather than worry about Devin and his sobriety. I think that’s a much better way to begin the New Year: with a smile on my face.

How about you? Are you starting off the New Year with a smile?




A couple of weeks ago one of my blogger buddies, Graham, sent me an article he saw online written by Brian Whitney, a sex addict. It really got me thinking. I love when someone's writing can make me do that. It made me realize that while we’re all different, couples going through sex addiction can share many similarities. 

The first thing the article said to be on the lookout for is lying. About everything. Yep. Devin fit the bill. He lied to me about the tiniest of things not just the biggies. As Devin worked on his sobriety, the lying continued. It was so engrained in him, he had to make a conscious effort to stop. 

Cheating was the next thing Whitney discussed. Sure, lots of guys cheat, but does that make them sex addicts? In most cases the answer is no. Some are just narcissists. But others are addicts. You have to look for additional signs. In Devin’s case, cheating occurred as his addiction escalated.

Next on Whitney’s list was the lack of long-term relationships. Here is where Devin differed from the author. Devin’s first marriage lasted eleven years and he never cheated on her. (Yes, I wondered why but that’s a post for another day). After the marriage failed, Devin found online dating and the seed of the addiction was planted.

Excessive masturbation was another red flag. All I can say to this is: Ding, ding, ding! I wasn’t aware how compulsive the behavior was until after disclosure of his sex addiction. He hid it that well. And it’s still something he struggles with when he’s not in a healthy state of mind.

Whitney also warned about kinky stuff in the bedroom. This was never an issue with Devin. I was more into risqué stuff than he was. For him, it was more of a fantasy than reality. I don’t think he wanted to picture his wife, the one woman he didn’t objectify, in that light.

The article also warned about secrecy regarding cell phones and computers. Again, this one hits home when it came to Devin. His phone was never in the house. It was always on the charger in his truck and I didn’t have a key. While his computers weren’t locked down, he did click out of whatever he was looking at when I walked in the room. It took a long time, and his descent into his addiction, before I started catching him closing out porn sites. Thank God those days are over. It took months for me not to trigger when I heard the click of his mouse.

The next warning Whitney discusses is someone who is extremely confident and controlling sexually. Devin doesn’t even come close to this description. His low self-esteem carried itself into the bedroom along with other areas in his life. He was far from confident and continues to be his own worst critic.

Another thing to be aware of is flirtation. I’m not sure Devin fit this bill except when he was at the worst in his addiction. From what I read in his emails to other women, he did not so much master the art of flirtation as he did being just plain blunt and crossing boundaries. And trust me, there are plenty of women out there who don’t mind what kind of attention they’re getting as long as they’re getting something.

Another indicator you're involved with a sex addict Whitney warns against is manipulation. Devin was a master manipulator and was able to turn things around on me in a matter of seconds. Before long I wouldn’t know if I was coming or going and was more than willing to take the blame for whatever was wrong.


Lastly, the article says if you think you’re partner is a sex addict, they may just be. I have to agree with Whitney. Most people don’t wonder if they’re spouse is an addict. Whether it’s porn, masturbation, and/or multiple affairs, if you’re questioning the compulsiveness of it, go with your gut because it’s probably right. 


What have you read lately that really got you thinking? 

How It Develops


Hand in hand, we strolled through the counselor’s front doors.  Two couples ahead of us made their way into the conference room across the way.  I saw the white light of a large projector fill the room.  On the screen were five black words:

Sex Addiction: How it Develops

Devin and I entered the chair-filled room.  We took our seats in the back and made ourselves comfortable.  We had fifteen minutes before the presentation started.  As more people entered the room, Devin held my hand, and nodded to the men he knew.

My stomach tightened.  Why was I so nervous?  These people were here for the same reason we were.  They wanted to learn more about the addiction that plagued our families.  

I took a sip of water from my ice filled Camelbak and looked around.  Just like my husband, they were normal looking people.  You’d never know they all shared the common bond of sex addiction. 

Our counselor walked over and gave us each a hug, then settled into a seat behind us.  The room had the hushed tones of every anon meeting I’d attended. We all waited for the family counselor from Keystone Recovery too arrive.

The moment the doctor walked in, the room fell silent.  Devin’s hand tightened around mine as the counselor spoke.  I felt my head bob up and down as he talked about the similar backgrounds addicts shared; physical and/or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or parents with substance abuse, just to name a few. 

Study after study showed the men and women who suffered from the addiction were unable to connect with anyone on an intimate level.  These addicts had been programmed from infancy to protect themselves by not allowing anyone into their personal thoughts and feelings.    

The addicts struggled with the ability to share their emotions with their partners for fear of rejection.  Their personalities ranged from arrogant, self-assured, or completely withdrawn from those who loved them the most.

When the lecture concluded, questions were asked.  The people in the room wanted to know how to prevent relapses, when it was save to have sex with their partner again, and how to move through their steps properly.

As we filed out of the room, I heard him say he was off to give another lecture the following day.  He’d been around the world, informing people about sex addiction.  It gave me hope that one day it’d make it into the DSM as an addiction and not a personality disorder.  

One day.




Wednesday I’m leaving town for a week to visit with my brother and mother.  Enjoy your week everyone!

Who Cares What People Think? - IWSG Post



Join in on the fun!
Happy Anniversary IWSG!!

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means - it’s time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Our lovely co-hosts are:  Laura at My Baffling Brain, Mark Koopmans, Shah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham.    Be sure and thank them for their hard work.

A big thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for making it happen, you rock, Alex!

Funny how things show up in my email just when I need to read them.  As most of you know, I’ve been working on a self-help book about recovering from finding out your partner is a sex addict. I want spouses to avoid making the same mistakes I did after I found out about my husband’s addiction.  I provide tips and coping mechanisms to get through the relational trauma that comes from the discovery of the addiction.

As I write, there is this lingering doubt in the back of my head that this book will help anyone or turn out the way I want it to.  I fear what other people will think about the advice I give or how well the book is written.

The other day, I was letting those insecurities creep in when I came across this in my email:


You’re right, Kristen Wiig, it is dangerous to worry what other people think (and you were great in my favorite comedy, Bridesmaids!). 

I need to remember why I started this book - I couldn’t find anyone who’d written anything like it four years ago except doctors and counselors.  I figured who better to share advice than someone who has been through it?  

Recently, I found a couple of books on Amazon written by the spouses of sex addicts and I am excited.  It means that we are starting to have a voice, that the addiction is being taken seriously, and that gives me hope.  


I can’t wait until I have finished writing my book so I can join them on Amazon!
I couldn't help but post this.  It cracks me up.

I is for Image(s): A-Z Challenge

I is for Image(s)

Images almost destroyed my marriage.




My husband was addicted to looking at pornographic images.


My self-image was shot when I compared myself to those women.



The image of my marriage was shot down after his diagnosis as a sex addict.


I chose to focus on happier images.


The beach was a calming image stored in my head.


My self-image was restored because I no longer compared myself to others.







This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?




 (all photos from Bing or me)

"B" is for Boundaries: A-Z Challenge

B is for Boundaries


Illustrated by Rob Z Tobor

Boundaries are one of those topics I could write about almost every day.  I’m that passionate about them.  Probably because I allowed mine to get crossed a few years ago.  Who am I kidding?  Crossed doesn’t even come close to what I allowed.  More like stomped on then lit on fire.

I’ve always been aware of my boundaries even though I didn’t know what that meant at the time.  I’m not one to shy away from letting someone know they are invading my space, or making me uncomfortable.  Granted, I’ve toned down how I react now. But, there was a time when I didn’t hesitate to tell someone to get bent, only in much harsher language.

My boundaries slowly but surely eroded the first few years of marriage to Devin.  It began as denial.  I knew my husband was looking at porn but was afraid to admit to how much time he wasted on it.  

I thought I could control it if I agreed to look with him.  Soon porn wasn’t a rush for him anymore.  He couldn’t get that high he needed to feel if I was agreeing to it.  Devin suggested what I should wear to turn him on.  Rather than vocalize how uncomfortable I was, I dressed how he wanted.

It went on like this for almost a year.  I permitted myself to feel like crap because his happiness had become more important than my own.  I was completely enmeshed in him.  I had no healthy boundaries anymore.

from Bing
Finally, God stepped in and did for me what I could not do for myself.  He provided me with the truth.  And, what a truth it was. I learned he's a sex addict and  I found out about Devin's affairs and was devastated.  

But, I was also renewed.

Never again would I allow myself to feel like dirt in my own marriage.  I’d rather walk out the door than go through another disclosure day.  I discovered the significance of personal boundaries.  I understood the importance of saying, “If you want to stay married to me, this is how this marriage is gonna work.”

I created my first boundary agreement.  A document that could have been written by Hitler, it was so dictative.  (Yes, I made up my own word).  Anyone familiar with computer code knows about the “if else” statement.  That’s what my boundary agreement is similar too now. It contains things like, “If you cheat on me, I will divorce you” and “If you have a slip, you must tell me, or else I feel threatened.”

Some people find boundary agreements as a form of trying to control someone.  I don't.  It’s a way of letting an addict know what you will and will not tolerate in their behavior in order to safeguard yourself.  It’s a tangible means of protecting yourself and your family.  As long as your boundaries are coming from a healthy place, not from fear or control, it’s a great tool to have when married to an addict. 

Do you have strong boundaries?

~~~

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?  Click the link below. 




"A" Is For Addiction: A-Z Challenge

A is for Addiction




“Read this, Elsie,” the counselor said. 

I read the sheet of paper he handed me and knew immediately this counselor wasn’t a good fit for someone in my position.  The paper was titled, “How To Move On After Betrayal.”  It went on to describe the healthy ways to leave your partner after they committed adultery.

This counselor, just like the three before him, just didn’t get it.  Sure, my husband had an affair.  In fact, he had multiple affairs – online, through a webcam, on the phone, and even two in person – but it wasn’t because he was a sex craved manic who didn’t care about his wife and kids. 

Nope.  Quite the opposite.  It was because he cared so much about our marriage that he had affairs.

Wait.

What?

I know what you’re thinking, “Elsie, that makes no dang sense!  If he loves you so much, why’d he run around on you?”

Because he’s a sex addict. 

My kids and I were the first real family he had and it freaked him out.  The seeds of addiction that were planted in childhood came to fruition once we got married. 

From where else?  Bing!
Since I’m a recovering drug addict, I had a unique perspective on addiction that most partners in my position didn't.  I’d been sober over twenty years and felt if I could be sober, so could he.

Rather than kick him to the curb, I chose to stay by his side while he walked on his path to sobriety.  It’s been a rough but rewarding journey.  I’ve learned so much about myself over the last three years.  And, our marriage has been completely transformed.  We’re not just physically intimate; we’re emotionally intimate too.

I’m now at a point in my recovery from his addiction, that I can truly say I’m grateful it happened.  If it hadn’t, I’d never have taken a good look in the mirror and made the improvements I needed to make.

I did find a counselor who didn't advise me to run.  He said, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater then recommended a specialist.   Thankfully, I found that specialist and she rocks!  How awesome is that?

Do you know anyone with an addiction?

~~~

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?

Click this for the list of participants.

Thanks For Sharing

“Thanks for letting me share.”

“Thanks for sharing.”


 Anyone familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon, or any of the numerous twelve-step programs out there, have heard those words.  Even people not in the rooms have heard them. 

And, that’s a great thing.

It means twelve-steppers, such as myself, are accepted in society.  We are not outcasts.  Well, most of us.  I pop into AA meetings when I’m in need of some emotional sobriety.  There’s nothing like a good meeting to fill up the ol’ emotional cup.

But, AA is not my core group.  The meetings I attend every week are ones that aren’t quite accepted in our culture just yet.  Mine is S-Anon.  It’s a program for partners, families, and friends of sex addicts.  It’s a lot harder to tell someone what my meetings are about without them casting judgment. 

If my neighbor asked where I was headed with my book bag every week, and I told them, “I’m just hitting an AA meeting.”  They’d probably say something about how proud they are of me, or wish me well.  If I said, “I’m attending S-Anon because my hubby’s a sex addict.”  Their response would probably be more like, “I thought that was just an excuse to cheat on your spouse.”  Or, “Why are you still with him?”

Sex addiction hasn’t reached the understanding in our culture like alcoholism, drug addiction, or even food addiction, have done.  It’s still taboo.  I’m hopeful with movies like, Thanks for Sharing, the public will understand just how real the disease is, and how much it affects the addict and their family.

Thanks for Sharing is the best movie I’ve seen about sex addiction.  It had almost every element of the disease covered.  Of course, I would have liked to have seen a partner after disclosure. But, hey, it’s not about us. It’s about the addict…keep your side of the street clean, Elsie!

The movie follows three sex addicts on their journeys of recovery.  Tim Robbins’ character plays a married addict who has been in solid recovery for a long time from alcoholism and sex addiction. (These two addictions often coincide).  

Mark Ruffalo is a sex addict who has been sober for five years.  He feels ready for a relationship, and dates Gwyneth Paltrow.  Her character was very reminiscent of me when I first met Devin.  There was a line when she said, “You’re not an alcoholic are you?  I just dated two in a row, and I don’t want to date another addict," that nailed it for me.  I said the same thing to Devin. *ahem*  

The third character, played by Josh Gad, is new into the world of recovery. He lies about his day count in the beginning of his recovery. Then, he meets Pink. Together they navigate the rough seas of sobriety.

I was so grateful I found this movie.  It didn’t paint sex addiction in a horrible light. It didn't portray the addicts as monsters.  Rather, the disease was represented with profound respect and understanding.  I can’t tell you if the scenes about the SA meetings were accurate, (I didn’t feel it was right to ask Devin), but from the way the rest of the movie depicted everything, I’m sure it was. 

I think this is a safe movie for a sex addict and their partner to watch if they are on solid ground in their recoveries. I don’t think there will be any triggers.  I feel this was done intentionally so sex addicts could see the movie.  There is blurred nudity, scenes with Paltrow in lingerie, and some acting out behaviors are alluded to, but not shown.

As much as I would love to tell you guys what happens in the movie, I’ll refrain.  I don’t want to spoil it.  Instead, I’ll just say, if you’re interested in understanding sex addiction, watch this movie.


I’m glad I did.

What was a good movie find for you?