addiction, addiction recovery, betrayal, divorce, Trauma Recovery

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

 

Can we talk frankly?  Just us girls?  I am going to tell you what to expect from your husband after you discovery your husband’s addiction or affair, otherwise known as D-day. Why? Because I didn’t get the straight scoop when I was going through this, not from anyone.  Not from my Bishop, not from my therapists, not from my family, or my friends.  Not from anybody! Nobody wants to sit you down and tell you that your husband is acting like a douche and you should seriously consider leaving.

I get it, this is one of the most gut wrenching, hard, mind bending decisions that you will EVER make in your life! This is the mother of all difficult decisions – to leave a cheating, porn addicted, sex addicted spouse – or stay.  The Church is not helpful either, it teaches you from infancy that your family is everything and you should sacrifice everything for your marriage, and rightly so.  All true, and I still believe that with all of my heart. But your Bishop is NOT ALLOWED to tell you to leave your husband! It’s something about being held responsible legally.

Heck, if my ex-husband would show up tomorrow with his hat in hand and showed me he was truly sorry and repenting with an “Alma the Younger” kind of attitude, and I could see he was in some hardcore, serious recovery, I would consider taking him back to save our family.  I would.  I know I would.  I think about it everyday.  But he is not going to do that, and I know he is not going to do that. He is so happy with his wifestress! So I don’t think dream about it much anymore. He ran off and cheated got married without a backwards glance towards me, so I got my answer, I meant nothing to him in the end. That is the ultimate example of helplessness, the choice to save my family is completely out of my hands. My family is toast because of my Ex’s choices. But what about yours?  How do you know if you should trust your addict? How do you know if you should give him, yet another, chance? How do you know that he will be serious about recovery?

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This question has plagued me like no other question in this hailstorm known as porn and sex addiction. I nearly took my own life over this question. I wanted to save my family so badly that I nearly lost my own soul in the attempt to save his, subjecting myself to two whole years of  pure torture. So how do you keep from experiencing the same devastatingly shattering heartbreak and not making the same mistakes that I did? Where is the balance between saving yourself from drowning in the depths of despair and saving your marriage and family?

Addicts are just that, addicts, and they cannot be trusted. Not even a little bit, and not for a long, long, long time.  And by the time you figure out you should not trust them anymore, you are already behind the eight ball.  Your looks are gone, you are older, chances are he has depleted your finances, mortgaged your house, he doesn’t have a job, or he is hiding what little money the two of you had left, and you are stuck with no way out and no way to support yourself and your children.  Trust me, I see this play out over and over everyday with every new post on my support group pages.  I took me a long time to figure out that my addict was just the same guy as all the other addicts, and the wonderful man I married was long gone, leaving a sad, sorry, shell of a man I never knew behind. The stories are all the same.  I want to throw up every time I hear another woman say she stayed and believed him, and he left her with nothing.  I seriously read another 10 stories just like this every.single.day. It is nauseating how trusting all these women are, and that includes me too!  I get it!  I fell for it, the same as you! If I had a dollar for everytime he said he would “do anything to get my family back,” I’d be a wealthy woman.  So that is why I want to give you some heart-to-heart advice I wish I had gotten, but never did.  You may or may not believe me, but you cannot say I didn’t tell you. What you do after this is totally up to you.

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When you discover your husband has a porn/sex addiction or he is cheating on you, now is the time for some serious tough love!  Someone told me recently that if your addict still likes you, that you are probably  doing something wrong and enabling him. Now is NOT the time to be all understanding and kind, even though every single person in your life will tell you that it is!  NO!  Do not fall for it!  You, YOU… have just been cheated on.  What you need are some serious assurances.  Do not let him turn himself into the victim by giving you the ‘you need to support me’ routine.  Ummm…no! Just no!  That is not how this scenario should go.  And if you let it go that way, you are just setting yourself (and him) up for more heartbreak. And heartbreak doesn’t even begin to describe how it feels.  Imagine your heart being ripped out of your chest and shredded in a meat grinder and then eaten, by your addict.  Yeah, it’s gruesome.  It’s still doesn’t come close to describing how awful it feels.

So here is the thing.  If all of these recovery and addiction clinics work so well, then they are keeping their success records a closely guarded secret.  I have yet to find any definitive stats on how well they work, and I have looked.  I know they are successful, I have seen some of the success in person and in stories, but to what extent?  What is the success rates, in percentages, of people who come into their programs and stay sober, long-term?  I would really like to know!  So if you know, please tell me, because I am starting to think it’s not that good, given how closely guarded a secret it is. Just guessing here.

Another thing that is worrisome to me is the number of my Sisters in my various support groups who are going on 10, 15, and 20 years with a husband who is still relapsing.  I give these wonderful, saintly, longsuffering women all my love and support, but I couldn’t do it! I refuse!!! I gave my addict 9 years and that is 4 years too many. So with hindsight being 20/20 here is what I would do, if I had to go back and do it all over again:

I would give him 1 year to get into solid recovery.  That means;

  • He is seeing his Bishop weekly
  • Going to 12 steps and has a sponsor that he is checking in with daily
  • Reading books, articles, and anything he can get his hands on, about addiction,  recovery, and betrayal trauma
  • Is in an addiction recovery program
  • And he is seeing a therapist who is trained in sex addiction
  • Lastly, his relapses are getting less, by a lot!

This list is the bare minimum.  What is as important as the list, is his attitude. His attitude should be stellar!  He should be falling all over himself to make all of it up to you, not the other way around.  And if he completes the first year successfully then, you give him another year.  If at anytime he flips back into full addiction mode (full relapse), then you need to get the hell out! Run as fast as you can, while you still can. How do you know he has flipped back into full addiction mode?  That is simple – lying.  If he is lying to you then he is not committed! Period.  Transparency is paramount.  If he is hiding…anything, he is not serious!

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And here is why I think this way:

It takes 5 years to successfully beat a porn sex addiction. Minimum. That is the one statistic that I could find!  Yes, you read that right!  5 years! That is a lot of years! Here is how my therapist broke it down for me;

In the first year they are not even sure they have an addiction, but they will go through the motions because you want and need them to.  This is where my red flag came up.  Mind would not even do this for me!  He refused.  Said he didn’t have an addiction.  If yours says this, it’s game over. You cannot fix a problem that they think does not exist.

The second year is the year they start to see some benefits to living a life of an addict in recovery.  They see their life is better, but the “buy in” still isn’t 100% there. The reason for this is because it take 2 years of sobriety for the brain to heal enough to start thinking clearly again!  The addiction kills their prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is where reason, logic, empathy, connection are housed All of these traits, and others most be present for addiction recovery.  With a brain that looks like swiss cheese, it is impossible for them to recover.  And sadly, they won’t get this part of their brain back for at least two years of solid sobrity,  and that is if there are no slips…no relapses.  This is why they need to get into recovery and stay there, because you will not see any results for at least two-three years! Every slip and relapse, sets the 2-year clock back to zero.

The third year is when their brain finally heals enough to KNOW they were an addict all along.  This is the year they finally wake up to their awful situation.  If you can survive it until year three, then you have a fighting chance! Keep going, as long as he continues to do his part. This is the year that you can finally start to have hope that your marriage and family can be saved.  Most therapist will not tell you this up front, not unless you press them, like I did.

Years 4-5 is when he finally gets it!  Whew!  He is sold on recovery and he is committed, and you will see it, loud and clear!  There is a saying that you can tell when a man is in recovery because he won’t shut up about how great his life is in recovery.  Conversely, if a man is not in recovery then you can’t get him to tell you anything about it.

Are you starting to get an idea about what you are in for?  5 years. 5 long, hard, hard,  years of crying your eyes out, and that is IF he is committed from the very beginning.  If he isn’t committed then you will suffer an additional year, for every year that he continues to slip up and relapse.  And in the meantime, your life is also slipping away from you, with no guarantees that it will get any better.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody in your inner circle is going to tell you any of this.  They can’t, because they probably don’t know enough about addiction or how your husband will respond.  But you know.  Deep down inside you know. You know your husband, you know what his committment level is, you also know how determined he is, you will know all of this by how fast he gets into recovery and how hard he works at it to stay there! I can tell you all of this because I lived it, and so has every other addict’s wife.  I cannot tell you definitively when to leave him, but I can tell you how you will know when it’s time to leave.  Don’t give him decades of your life to fix this problem.  He hasn’t earned that right if he isn’t invested in fighting for you. I knew.  Deep down inside, I knew from the beginning, he wasn’t going to fight for me.  My gut was screaming at me to kick him to the curb.  He was never going to fight for me, no matter how much he said he would. In the end, nothing he said matched up to what he did.

What does “fighting for you” look like?  Well, two words…SAFETY and TRUST.  Safety means that he will make it safe for you to be in his life.  He will go out of his way to show you that you can count on his to be where he says he will be, doing what he says he is doing.  He will show you his phone when you ask, give you his passwords, delete all of his cheater accounts, he will work his recovery program and make sure you know he is doing what he promised you will do.  Over time, as he is providing you safety, it will build up trust again.  You will start to feel like you can count on him again, what he does and says will match, this is what it means to have integrity. And, if he is really good at it, he will tell you what you need to know before you ask him. This is what it means when he says he will do ANYTHING to get you back! He literally, will do ANYTHING to provide you with safety and to re-build trust.

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On the other hand, if your addict is doing any number of these things, then it is time to seriously make the hard choice to go:

  • He won’t stop cheating.  After d-day I had at least 6 more d-days as women he was cheating with came forward to tell me he was cheating on them! If you are “finding out” more cheating then he isn’t serious about recovery.
  • He won’t stop lying.  Even when I would ask him about things he knew I knew, seeing, he would lie.  He would even lie about things he didn’t need to lie about like if he was going to church or not. Addiction = lying.  Recovery =transparency.
  • He has secret phone numbers, apps, or accounts that you did not know about and you discover them much later after d-day. If he hides anything from you that is a huge red flag.
  • He won’t give you the money you need to live on.  Hiding money  or not taking care of you is a red flag that he is planning to exit.
  • He won’t take responsibility for his actions.  Being in denial about his addiction shows up in a number of manipulation techniques like, blame shifting, lying, crazymaking, gaslighting, turning the tables, or playing the victim.  You will know if this is happening because any conversation about him and his addiction will be suddenly shifted to be about you. Active addicts are experts at placing the blame on you.
  • He refuses to admit he is an addict.  If this is the case – game over.  Nobody can fix a problem if they will not even admit there is a problem.  If this happens, get an attorney and walk away.
  • He won’t take recovery seriously.  If he is only half-hearted about recovery then the likelihood that he is still cheating is very high.  he should be doing the minimum as outlined above.  If he is really serious then he will go above and beyond the minimum.
  • He will not provide safety and trust.  My Ex wouldn’t even try to do this for me.  He did everything BUT…in fact, he took it to the next level by ignoring me, he wouldn’t answer my texts to phone calls for days at a time.  Ignoring is a huge red flag, it’s just another form of hiding.
  • He refuses to do a full disclosure.  An addict should be willing to fully disclose everything he has done to you in the spirit of starting fresh with nothing to hide and no more secrets. If he won’t disclose his actions to you then he isn’t ready to give up his addiction.

Lastly, I know how hard it is to hear these things, but it is harder in the long run not to hear them.  Nothing in your life experience up until now will have ever prepared you for going through being cheated on.  It just isn’t something people talk about, much less prepare you for.  Most of the people you know, your friends, your family, your church family, will not know how to advise you.  This will be something that will make you feel hopelessly and totally alone.  It will feel like nobody knows what you are going through.  For a while you will feel untethered from everything you thought was your life.  It will take you some time to get your bearings.  This is why it is so important that you start to build yourself a support system as soon as possible. You are going to need all the help you can get.  Here is where to get started on building your support system.

The biggest thing you should try to wrap your brain around is that there is nothing you can do about your husband and his addiction, he is going to have to choose to do his own recovery work.  All you can do is to take care of you.  Focus on taking care of yourself so you will be ready for what comes next in your life.  Know this, you are not alone.  There are many other women who know and understand what you are going through.  Nothing about this is fair. The only control you have now is how you choose to respond to one of the worst injustices that anyone can experience in life.  You will have a lot of big decisions to face in the coming months and years.  Taking care of you and learning all you can about addiction will be the best way to prepare for how you will respond to the question of to stay or leave.

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

 

 

 

abuse, addiction, addiction recovery, Choices, denial, infidelity, lying, Narcissist, repentance

A Man in Recovery

My Cheater keeps trying to bully me into believing he is in recovery. But he isn’t.  It is clear to everyone, except him. What he doesn’t understand is it is not up to me to believe him or not to believe him.  Truth is truth. People who are much smarter than I am have developed programs that work and provide the most effective way to overcome this public health crisis. When he is actually in recovery his actions will be unmistakable.  They will be undeniable because he will act differently. He will speak differently.  And he will look differently. It will show in his countenance.

“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Alma 5:14

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A man who wants to recover from a sex addiction has to be prepared for the long haul.  Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  And running in a marathon takes training.  It means running everyday and training everyday, pushing through the pain, and to keep going even when you feel like giving up.  It is work.  It is long-term.  And most importantly, it is a LIFESTYLE change.  It is like being diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. There are just some things you cannot do anymore, because to do them is dangerous to your health.  If you are a diabetic you have to change your diet.  If you have lung cancer you have to stop smoking.  If you don’t do these things then you will die.  If you are a sex addict it is the same thing,  you have to make changes to get your life back and become whole again.  It is a process and it takes time.

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How much time?

You may be surprised to know it takes 3 – 5 years of concerted recovery work to be able to say that you have overcome pornography. Five Years. And that is only if he is ALL IN from the beginning. Not only that, but after you have achieved sobriety and recovery, you must MAINTAIN recovery for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!  You can never go back to doing the things the way you did them before the addiction.  You must be ever vigilant and aware of your actions.

In the first year of recovery a man will constantly insist that he is in recovery.  He will try to convince everyone that it’s not a big deal and he has it under control.  He does this because he is really still having trouble maintaining consistent sobriety.  He isn’t convinced he can do it, so he works hard to make you believe he is.  I am sure it’s painful to keep having slips and relapses.  But he still doesn’t want to face that he is really an addict, but his personal behavior shows him he cannot control himself,  fact he cannot continue to deny. He is angry. He fights recovery.  He believes himself to be an exception to the rules or addiction recovery. He thinks he doesn’t have to do all the recovery steps.  He may think he doesn’t need 12-Steps or Counseling.  He may tell you that he can get over this by just talking to his Bishop.  The reality is that his ability to overcome the addiction is directly related to his willingness to do ALL the parts of addiction recovery.  My ex-husband is one of these men and because of it, he has been stuck in this space of stagnation for two years and he doesn’t even realize it.  He is stuck in denial to the point that he has become so unsafe to his family that we cannot even be around him.  It is very sad. We want to be around him, but we just can’t until he comes to himself and realizes what he does to us. We have to come to accept that he may never change.

What are the steps of addiction recovery?  SALifeline has done an excellent job of laying those out.  If your man isn’t doing one or more of these, he will have a tougher time at recovering.

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A Man Not in Recovery

  • Is self-absorbed.
  • Is prideful.
  • Is unaccountable.
  • Is hard-hearted.
  • Is dishonest.

All of these feelings and attitudes lead to feelings of victim, withdrawal, manipulation, resentment, lies, lust, acting out, anger, fear, shame, fantasy, and loneliness…this is a good description of the behavior our family has experienced from our addict.

It’s a vicious cycle that just keeps spinning and spinning until he in a hole so deep he doesn’t know where to even go.

Recovery

A Man in Recovery

  • He is connected with the God of his understanding.
  • He practices self-care.
  • He is honest about needs and emotions.
  • He is connected with God and others.
  • He has set healthy boundaries.

In addition to this he will work ALL 4 key components of real recovery:

  1. Education – he educates himself of the harmful effects of addiction and how to overcome it
  2. Spiritual Guidance – he is doing spiritual work and meeting with his church leaders regularly
  3. Qualified Therapy – he is willingly seeing a therapist who is experienced in sex addiction
  4. Working the 12 Steps with a Sponsor – he goes to these meetings and is accountable to his sponsor

Here are the cycles of addiction and trauma in an infographic and how addiction and trauma impact a marriage and family.

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A year after fighting, even the idea of, having an addiction, the addict will usually move into acceptance of the addiction.  This is the point where he is getting serious about recovery.  He will buy into what he needs to do as outlined above and he will start working on recovery diligently.  This is a rough year because he will be doing the work, but he doesn’t yet have it down to the point it becomes a part of him, so slips and relapses still happen, but he has the tools to work through them.  This is the critical point that determines if he will continue on, or give up. This is the turning point because it take 2 years of constant sobriety for the brain to begin to heal from the effects of the addiction.  So the addict will only make good choices during this time if he is being guided by a church leader, a sponsor, and a support group.  NOT his wife!  He cannot and should not expect his wife to help him during this time.  She is experiencing her own trauma and working her own recovery. If anything, he should be helping her by providing safety, accountability, honesty, and transparency, to her.

If an addict can make it through the first 2-years, which are very rough for him, and everyone around him, he will move into year three.  This is where the real change will happen.  This is where you will notice the real changes in his behavior.  He has become accountable, transparent, empathetic, and safe.  But this is not the end.

It takes two more years of serious recovery work to see the most growth in the addict.  This is where he will see the changes he is making in his life finally stick to him; to become a part of him. This is where he actually becomes the person he is meant to be.

“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6

The road to recovery must start with a willing heart.  The addict must accept he is an addict, and then work with all his heart, might, mind and strength to overcome his addiction.  It is possible and doable, but it isn’t easy. You MUST do the WORK to reap the reward!

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For the traumatized spouse it is hard to know what recovery looks like unless someone shows you. My ex-husband points out how he is in recovery anytime he has contact with me! He isn’t.  If he was in real recovery, he wouldnt need to point it out, it would be evident in his behavior. You will not likely see real recovery in your spouse at the beginning of this journey, no matter what he tells you. He will have to “wake up” to his addiction first!  He will tell you he is in recovery, even when he isn’t, mostly because he doesn’t even know what real recovery looks like either. (That is where addiction education comes in.) The disconnect between his words and his actions will be confusing.  Most wives want to believe their husbands, but it will not be wise to believe what he says, until you see the above actions take place. So now you know, this is what a man in recovery will look like.  If your man’s behavior doesn’t look like this then you can know he is NOT in recovery.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

addiction, addiction recovery, betrayal

Two Ways to Tell If Someone Is Really is Serious About Recovery

I came across this article today. I thought it was fantastic because it lays out the problem I had with my husband’s refusal to get into recovery very susinctly.  This article gets right to the heart of the matter and is super easy to understand!  It makes perfect sense too! See the whole article here.

Call me cynical, but I have learned not to trust what clients say about their commitment to recovery. 

News flash: addicts have been known to lie. In fact, you may have heard the old joke: “How can you tell if an addict is lying? His/her lips are moving.”

But I think that’s only part of the issue. Addicts aren’t simply trying to deceive you when they express commitment to change, but don’t follow through. They really believe – in that moment – that they are committed to change. But later, they will not be committed to change.

This drives spouses crazy. The most common question I hear from the spouses of sex addicts is this:  “How can I trust that my husband is getting better?” Another way of phrasing that might be: “How can I trust that my husband is really serious about recovery?”

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Conventional wisdom is that you can’t. You just have to hope that if your spouse expresses commitment to recovery, that this commitment will last. But it’s time to challenge conventional wisdom. Of course we can’t know anything with absolute certainty – we can’t predict the future. But there are two things we can look at to determine whether or not someone means what they say.

1. Calendars never lie

If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at how they spend their time. If you want to know whether recovery is important to someone, consider how much time they commit to recovery actions (going to support groups, doing recovery reading, making contacts with recovery friends, etc.). It’s as simple as that.

Recovery takes time. The pattern of addiction developed over years – even decades. Countless hours have been spent over the years in fantasy and various acting out behaviors. Habits were formed, neural pathways were forged. These processes will not be changed without diligent, ongoing effort.

If someone claims commitment to recovery, but isn’t willing to make time for it, they are not being honest with themselves or you. If someone claims commitment to recovery, and skips (or drops out of) their support groups, slacks off their recovery work, stops seeing their therapist after a few months, they are kidding themselves.

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Recovery will take huge amounts of effort – read “time” – and during the first year it’s always too soon to take your foot off the gas pedal. There might be exceptions to this, but they would be exceedingly rare. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone I have ever observed who went to too many meetings, made too many phone calls, or spent too much time doing recovery work during their first year. It just doesn’t happen.

So stop wondering if your husband “has what it takes” to recover. If you’re an addict, stop worrying about whether you’ve “hit bottom” or whether you’re “really ready” to recover. Just look at your calendar. How much time are you spending doing recovery work?

If you are not making enough time for recovery work, then change your commitments. Make sure you schedule the rest of your life around recovery, instead of scheduling recovery around the rest of your life. Put your recovery commitments in first, then build the rest of your schedule around them.

This might raise the question for someone: how much is “enough time” for recovery work?

That’s impossible to answer for a general audience. It depends on a host of factors. It’s best to talk this through with a counselor who knows about addiction, and/or someone who is further along in recovery than you.

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Do not ask fellow group members who are struggling themselves with recovery whether or not it makes sense for you to back out of some recovery involvements because you are too busy or don’t need it anymore. They will most likely sympathize with you, remind you how busy you are, and commiserate with you about how hard recovery is to fit into our crowded lives. Talk instead with someone who has built significant, long term recovery.

Continue Reading…

I hope this helps! It’s the only thing I’ve read that gives me any hope about taking a chance on an addict.

The Cupcake Warrior

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!