Dear Me

I wish in several years ago when my world had collapsed upon itself someone could have sat me down and said, “Elsie, I know what you went through sucked but you are one tough chick and a shit storm is headed your way and you need to surround yourself with people who understand it not people who are toxic.”  I wish someone had done that.  Instead, God sent me a guardian angel and she sent me on the right path but I still strayed, I still went on my own stubborn headed agenda. I’m here to set the record straight and also try to help others avoid making the same mistakes:

Dear Me,

I’m sorry you just found about Devin’s online affair.  I'm sorry it wasn't just porn. But I’m glad you found that backbone of yours again because unfortunately you’re going to need it again soon.  Please listen to your guardian angel when she says Devin is a sex addict because he is, I’m so sorry. Elsie your world is about to be turned upside down but know you can handle it, you’ve been through some tough shit in your life but now is the time to stand strong and focus on you and your children.

Listen to your guardian angel, she’s been put in your life for a reason and won't be here long.  She is telling you about COSA and S-Anon for a reason.  Every fiber of your being wants to focus on Devin and his behaviors, his problems, soon you will want to focus on his affairs, yes there are more.  You’ll want to focus on the women too. Trust me, they aren’t worth your time and they sure aren’t worth neglecting time away from your kids.  They were objects to Devin, nothing more, nothing less and it is you that is making them larger than life while damaging yourself in the process.  Trust me, the images you see will come back to haunt you along with all the words and details you will learn.  They will pop up when you least expect it and at the most intimate moments and ruin far to many days ahead.

There is a piece of wisdom you don’t hesitate to share with Devin yet you don’t seem to see the wisdom in it for yourself.  You tell Devin if he spent as much time on his recovery as he did on his addiction he’d be so much further along by now.  Take a look in the mirror, Elsie.  After your second disclosure day, again, I’m sorry you’ll have another, you spend far to much time obsessing on the other women, then you move on to obsessing over Devin’s recovery.  If you spent that time working on YOU, you yourself would be a healthier person too.

I beg of you, give one of the 12 step programs a chance.  You walked in with such a chip on your shoulder despite your relationship with God.  You couldn’t admit your life was also out of control, you couldn’t admit you needed outside help from others because your massive pride was in the way – take help from others.  These women will help you.  They understand like no others can.  The programs work.  It’s not about “their” religion, it’s not a cult, there’s not some bizarre motive.  It just works. 

If you don't reach out to a program, reach out to a healthy place like church, a counselor or someone who doesn't bash your husband or being a sex addict.  He's a sick person, not a bad person.  Don't let people tell you otherwise.

Trust me.  I’m not going to lie, you’re in for some pretty fucked up times, but you’ll get through it and I think if you had a better network of friends, like COSA or S-Anon, you’d get through it much better.  Oh, and one last tid bit of advice…don’t tell your friends or your family.  You think it’s a great idea.  I assure you, it’s not.  It changes everything, even years later.

I'm happy to say things do get so much better!  You become a much emotionally, healthier person - through the help of a 12 step program.  As they say, it works if you work it.



As The Clutter Clears

“Here are the stack of Christmas cards from the last few years.” Devin said, as he handed me the large pile. “I kept a few from my Nan and Mom. Do you want to go through the rest and see if there are any you want to keep?”

I was impressed by this small step in progress.  Devin was taking another inch forward of letting go of clutter and paper. Weighing the difference between sentimental and not. His medicine really seemed to be working.  I continued to remain cautiously optimistic.

I laughed as I found my mom’s card from last year.  Her handwriting done, best she could manage, an incomplete sentence and “Love Mom” at the bottom.  Best card ever!  I kept another from an aunt who recently got some disturbing news on the health front and put a few others aside as I divvied up the pile.

I came across a small, black Christmas card signed “Merry Christmas! then her name.  (Her husband's and children have been omitted).  I read the card again.  All of our names were listed and all of their names listed then the flood of memories came rushing back. 

She was Devin’s first affair partner.  The first person he crossed the physical line with.  No sex was involved, not even kissing. A flash and a touch but you don't do such things when you are married, sorry folks.

The memories of disclosure came flooding back.  The memories of Jessie and her family spending the night in my home as they traveled down the east coast flashed through my mind.  Her kids playing with mine, me cooking for her family while being deceived the entire time. 

Quickly, I took some deep, calming breaths.  I thought of the present, the here and now and took a mental inventory of where I was. I remembered all of the progress Devin and I had made in the  time since the disclosure, his remorse, his empathy and it grounded me.

I handed the card to Devin and asked, “Why is this in here?”  My heart still beating like a drum but calming just a bit, but no tears were nearby.  Then couldn’t help but snap, “Really?”

Devin read the card, his expression one of confusion and worry and then it clicked, he realized who the card was from.  I could tell from his reaction he assumed the card was someone from my side of the family, someone he didn’t know.

“I didn’t know, I’m so sorry.”  He got up and threw the card into the kitchen garbage and came back and hugged me tightly.

“I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.” Was all I could muster for the time being.  I went into the bedroom and prayed for strength.  I grabbed my affirmation cards and read them several times until I remember just how damn strong I am.  I am stronger than my triggers. 

Ten minutes later, I was back in the living room and feeling just fine.  I let him know I was doing great and thanked him for doing the right thing and let him know I knew he probably thought it someone from my family which made me feel better, it showed she meant nothing to him.

Then it was Devin’s turn to hit his emotional rock bottom.

It wouldn’t hit him for another twenty-four hours and as I type this, I am grateful he was able to find the strength to overcome it.  I have never seen my husband so hopeless before, so emotionally broken.  It was scary.  It had me frightened enough to call our counselor on Monday, the day of his appointment and share my concern with her.

I was concerned his recent increase in his medication had caused this depressive state.  The things he was saying he hadn’t said since disclosure week and no matter how much I tried to support and love him, he was still sinking into a pit of despair. 

It wasn’t until after his appointment with our counselor, I realized his meds might actually be allowing him to reflect, to think, now that the confusion has died down.  Seeing me trigger, without having that noise in his head, may have really caused him to focus on the core issue:  his addiction, which he’s been avoiding lately.

Either way, after his appointment, he came home and we talked for a very, very long time.  He admitted he has a lot to think about and he needs to communicate better with me, the kids and his sponsor.  He’s been happier ever since.  So, my rockin’ counselor – thank you!

Finding Inner Peace

Armed with the latest revisions to my common sense boundary agreement, I walked into my counselor’s office wanting her opinion to make sure I was being fair to Devin and myself.

The last few months in our home have become increasingly difficult and I have used all of the recovery tools I have at my disposal but still, my patience was wearing thin and I needed help finding my inner peace, detaching with love, and focusing on me.

Instead, I found I was engaging in petty arguments, worried about the mess in the spare room again, the papers in the bedroom, his hobby.  I couldn’t let go.

I knew resentment was building within me as he sold one item then bought another.  I felt the anger within me rise when he would bring home more DVDs or books or magazines and put them in the spare room then speak of money woes.

I wanted to set boundaries on transparency about his spending habits and broken promises about cleaning up the clutter, which is becoming a mess again.  My counselor quickly advised me against it once I told her about the purchases in greater detail.

Our last session with her had been a marriage counseling session.  Devin and I were able to discuss what I had just dumped in her lap and she had already seen pictures I had taken of the spare room and our bedroom.  While we were both in the session, Devin said he could see how the spending could become a problem but didn’t think it was at this time.  He could see procrastinating getting the rooms cleaned up becoming a problem but didn’t think it was at this time.  Sunshine and rainbows.

My counselor said the words I’ve said on here countless times and it has boggled my mind ever since she said them: "Denial" and "Shifted Addiction".  I knew it already but I suppose when it comes out of a professional’s mouth, well, it becomes real.  She feels he is having a problem living sober, like a dry drunk.  Without a good recovery in place he’s lost and has shifted his addiction and may be, Dear God this pains me to write but I know he can get help, OCD with the beginning signs of hoarding.  It’s attributed to depression, ADD, and FOO issues – all of which he has.  She feels he is in a precarious place right now.

The good news?  He started a medication last week and our counselor thinks this may help with the OCD in conjunction with his recovery.  She asked me to give him a few months before I make any decisions and that is what I will do. 

I will continue to go to counseling and my S-Anon meetings.  I will focus on my recovery work.  I will write my novel and work on not feeling guilty for not being able to work.  I will allow myself ME time.  I will continue to love Devin and remember I am not responsible for his recovery and I am free to leave at anytime if it doesn’t improve. 

As of now, I am finding my inner peace again, I am finding laughter and joy with my kids and with Devin, I am reaching out to friends and remembering, it’s one day at a time.  Progress, not perfection. 

Forgiveness & A Strong Heart

It was a long rough path to find my way towards finding forgiveness.  It's something I've written about before and I find it's still a work in progress for me.  I sway in the breeze of forgiveness both for myself and for Devin.  I still find anger at people for small things they might do, promises they may make in passing and then fail to keep.  My expectations can be held to high at times.  I've had to examine the reasons why I've allowed them to become this way.  Why I've allowed myself to be let down by others time and time again.  When a person says they are a friend but then their actions show me otherwise.  I must learn to release that anger, to forgive, to let go.  Once I do that, I can find that place of compassion for them as I did for myself and Devin and even the affair parters.

Finding forgiveness replaces those feelings of anger, resentment, hatred and bitterness with peace, empathy and love.  It's like a breath of fresh air after having lived in such a deep turmoil for so long.  At least it was for me.

I saw this floating around Facebook today and I thought, hell yeah, I'm strong.  I may have had a rough trigger the other day but I am one tough chick.  I have been hurt like nobody's business and now I appreciate my marriage even more and so does Devin.  We are by each other's side this weekend making sure we are replacing the crappy memories from disclosure week with better memories.  

After his doctor appointment yesterday, we went out to lunch and then went Christmas shopping and then spent the afternoon wrapping gifts and watching movies.  Today we took the kids out to lunch and he fixed the key fob on my car - Go Him!  On tap for tomorrow - duh...Football!!!  

As for our anniversary - we haven't gotten that far yet.....

Tools in my Toolbox

I walked into the familiar room and began setting up.  The smell of stale coffee hung in the air, paperwork from yesterday’s meeting from a different group laid upon the table.  I picked it up and placed it neatly back in it’s display rack for them.  I grabbed our group’s cloth bag and walked over to the small wooden table located in the center of the room.  The table was surrounded by a tiny, worn loveseat, a matching equally worn chair and half dozen metal chairs.

I laid out the brochures, as I had done week after week, month after month, adding to the stacks as our little S-Anon group had grown in size, and one brochure caught my eye.  It was about a sponsoring and being sponsored.  I picked it up and re-read it. 

I ran through its message in my mind about paying it forward, being a service to others and allowing others to be a service to you.  One person helping another person. Being instruments of God and being a helpful tool in someone’s toolbox.   

As I read through the literature again, the door opened and a new person walked through.  I welcomed her, showed her the brochures and listened to her story until other members arrived and we began our meeting.  The topic for the meeting was taken from the daily reader: the gift of sponsorship, the gift of service, the gift of having tools in your toolbox.

I shared that I had just been reading through sponsorship material before the meeting started and as I spoke I realized that wasn’t what I was meant to be sharing.  I knew I was meant to share my need for my tools in my toolbox instead.  That although I was one of the veteran members of the group, I still had a need to reach into my toolbox and use those tools; my sense of humor, my blog, a journal entry, phone calls to S-Anon members, service work, prayer, talking to Devin, Affirmation Cards, Steps, just to name a few, when my life became unmanageable because of triggers.

I had become complacent and hadn’t set up my own precautions for the upcoming passing of the two-year mark since my Disclosure Week. I have changed that now and I will keep working on not becoming complacent again.  I reached out to friends, family, God and most of all, Devin.  We spent another weekend communicating by our chiminea.

To Let Go

Hello my friends.  I write today from my original blogging roots, a need to write to exorcise the demons that have crept inside my head.  It will be a journal entry, long and windy and probably not very well put together.  Will I even publish it?  Probably.  I always have in the past.
H.A.L.T. has gotten to me (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired).  I’m exhausted…I was hungry but I’m eating right now.  Some things are easily fixed.  I’m also angry although I’m not quite sure why.  I have some ideas and I think once I begin writing (aka rambling) I’ll have a firmer grasp on the real reason.

I had to reread some sections in my well-worn book, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse again.  Especially about detaching with love because I am struggling with it.  I am finding it easier to either erect a wall and retreat into silence so I don’t say something I’ll regret or go in the opposite direction and make sharp comments. 

I have lost my ability to remain neutral the last few days.  I have lost my ability to remain patient for an entire conversation.  I am tired.

I feel like I am engaged in a bizarre waiting game with Devin.  Only, it’s not Devin I’m in the waiting game with, it’s the not-so-new aspect of his disease.  He’s not acting out in a sexual way, of that I’m certain.  There is no porn, no cheating, no masturbation…instead, the red flags are showing themselves in other places. 

Now that I have chosen this mode of detachment, I can see it clearly, as an outsider looking in, and I see his life is unmanageable.  I think this is why I am angry.  I can’t decide if I’m angry at myself for wanting to reach in and help him or I’m angry at him for not seeing it for himself.

We sat down the other night and had a heart to heart talk about my fears regarding his buying habits.  I was careful not to use the term “shifting addictions” but I did ask if he saw it as a problem.  He feels he is better than he was a few months ago then I let him know that he wasn’t forthcoming with me about how much he’s spending on his gaming hobby each month.

He explained his reasons for his hobby and why he continues to buy the models/figures although he doesn’t play anymore.  He feels he has lost so much of his identity over the last few years, this is the last piece of himself he has left and by visiting gaming sites and buying figures, this makes him feel connected to the gaming world. 

This explanation did two things for me.  First, it helped me understand he is in denial about how much he spends moneywise and timewise on gaming or that he has a problem at all and second, he’s not ready to face it yet.

I know in my heart he heard me.  He understood what I was telling him when we spoke that night at our kitchen table because he asked if we could go see our rockin’ counselor together next time.  Unfortunately, she cancelled both of our appointments this week and we don’t see her until December but that’s okay.  We’ll survive.

Since I started detaching from him a few weeks ago, he’s done the storm door, did a small (very small) amount of work in the spare room, helped in son's room, and then after the discussion about him spending money on his hobby he went out and bought a new bed set for son…I had to think about that one for awhile. 

My first impulse was to be angry but once he put it together he spoke about how happy son will be he said, “Plus, when I snore, you can sleep in here and I’m going to get a better mattress for it too.”  So, I think it was his way of showing me he doesn’t just buy stuff for him?  I don’t know…either way, it’s a great bed set.

So, why am I angry?  After typing this out…I’m not anymore.  I am married to an addict.  This is part of the addict special package (it’s in the fine print on the marriage contract) and if I am going to stay then this is the kind of stuff I need to work through – on my own and with him. 

Or, maybe I’m all angry inside because I’ve been away from Blogger for so long?

Communication Derailment

It’s no wonder I love to blog.  I’m a talker.  Look at the length of my posts.  It’s rare you’ll find one under six hundred words.  Communication is vital to me.  It’s why I created family meetings when the kids were younger.  They needed to know they had a safe place to talk when things were on their mind.  This past weekend was one of communication.

No, wait, allow me to rephrase that.  It was one of heartbreak.  It was one of constant derailment.  It was one of teaching and one of learning.

My husband fails at communication.  This is of no surprise to me.  It is also no surprise to him.  It is something he is working on and he has made significant progress but something he needs constant improvement upon.  No, it’s not because he’s a man.  It’s because of how he was raised.  FOO issues.  “Children should be seen and not heard.” – That’s what he was taught. 

Over the last couple of months I’ve noticed he’s begun to withdraw inside himself.  I thought it was stress from school; his term lasts five weeks and the classes he was taking were difficult but the last term wasn’t as stressful and the term he’s in now isn’t causing as much stress as the previous term.  I married a very smart man.

Of course the doubt and fear set in for me.  The withdrawal equated to the old days.  My increase in Migraines, my inability to work, led me to wonder if he was slipping again.  I counted the months since his last relapse with porn and knew he was at a crucial point in his sobriety; I worried about his problem with his step work and it kept leading me to believe a slip must have occurred or was about to happen.

I decided to dig my heels in and really talk to him after he came home from his meeting the other night.  It began as it always does between the two of us.  Me letting him know “reason for the talk”.  Him “denying any problems”. I do my best to remain patient but it’s hard because of the nagging fear he’s had a relapse and hasn’t told me.

We derail from our point of conversation by discussing my own withdrawal away from him when he comes home.  I admit he’s right and tell him why; because when this topic came up a week ago we agreed to touch base every night before sitting in front of the television, opening up laptops or even getting involved with the kids’ day.  We agreed to spend just fifteen minutes of “us” time.  The very next day after we had that talk, he came home and turned on the television and ignored me.  I was pissed and withdrew.  I let him know I was tired of being the one to make the effort of communicating all the time.

In that same conversation last week, we agreed to get back to FANOS two or three times a week.  We didn’t FANOS one time.  He blamed me because I didn’t initiate it.  He explained he is afraid to initiate FANOS because he lied to me during it and it pissed me off.  Fair enough, I can see how this would cause him to hesitate beginning the conversation.

However, we were still diverting away from the original topic at hand – his withdrawal and his lack of communication.

I tried again.  He blamed school.  I tried again.  He blamed something else.  Until finally, after derailing half a dozen times, we got to the heart of the matter:

Self esteem.

The man I am so proud of lacks self esteem and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.  To hear the things he said about himself broke my heart.  As I pointed out all of the good qualities he had, he countered with something bad.  The uniform he wore so proudly for twenty-four years is now hanging in the closet collecting dust and he lives in the past.  Instead of holding his head high for the medals and ribbons he earned while serving his country, he focuses on having to start over in his forties and the hatred people feel for America and the military.  It brings tears to my eyes just to type it because he’s right.  We hear it and see it every day.

I am left to wonder if he is unable to forgive himself for what he did during our marriage although I have forgiven him. Or was his upbringing lacking the love he needed, now that he’s sober and working on his steps, facing his demons he’s lost.  Perhaps that’s why he’s having such a hard time allowing God to help him?  He kept telling me he couldn’t release anything to God because it was his responsibility, his burden to carry.  God didn’t do it, God gave him free will and he took it and fucked it up all on his own and to let it go would be the coward’s way.

Somehow, I think the low self-esteem and his step work go hand in hand.  I just wish I knew how to help him aside from reminding him how much I love him and appreciate him.