I have been a hot mess this week. Lot’s of crying, anxiety, panic, and fear. I feel as if I have been sent back to where I was over a year ago, to relive it all over again. I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped to think about it. You may not remember traumatic events, but your body knows. Your body remembers EVERYTHING that ever happened to you. I am learning this from doing emotional healing through the “Emotion Code.” (BTW, I highly recommend it!) My body remembered it was the 1st Anniversary of my divorce long before my mind remembered it, and my body has been sending out distress signals.
This is so distressing to remember because it is something I never wanted. I would have never imagined that I would ever file for a divorce. Ever! I loved my husband. I still do, the old him, anyway, the him he was before he cheated on me.
I hated it that he cheated on me and kept his addiction hidden for so long, it had been going on for over a year before I discovered it. I hated it that he lied to me, over and over and over and over. I hated it that he pretended to be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t. I hated everything about what happened after I discovered his multiple online affairs. But I learned enough from when he did this the first time, yes it happened more than once, that he had an addiction. So I was “prepared” somewhat, and it was always in my mindset, after I got over the inital hurt and shock, that we would work it out, and, eventually, we would be back together. I love him. I want him back. I will always love him and want him back. When I married him he was the choice of my heart and the love of my life! He was everything to me! Not the “him” he is today, but the “him” he was before all of this happened. I want my family back. I will never stop wanting my family back together. That is who I am. My family means everything to me! It always will. If I could have my heart’s desire, it would to be with him again. I will always wish that. He is NOT who his addiction has made him to be. I am not angry with him for having an addiction. I am angry with him for not admitting it and getting help. I am angry he refused to fix himself! Had he done that, he would still be married to me.
This is the thing about these addicted men that I do not get! Most wives are so willing to forgive! Too willing sometimes. They want to work it out. I have only personally met one woman who did not. Guys! Your wives are more forgiving than you could ever imagine! For crying out loud, give us a chance! All you have to do is admit you have a problem and get help, and you could have everything you ever wanted. Why in the world would you not choose to get into recovery and stay there?
Therein is the real tragedy of addiction! Sadly, my story is not unique. It plays out in the same way in thousands of marriages and families all over the world. Addicts simply do not see they have a problem! The denial is slaying the hearts of wives and destroying families right and left! My story is only one of many. What makes me unique is that I am among the few who are willing, or able, to step out into the sunlight and expose our common experiences for all those women who cannot because of shame, guilt, or to protect themselves. their children, or their husbands. My ex-husband lost my protection when he withdrew his protection from me.
The two years we were separated were nothing short of a neverending nightmare I could not wake up from. His infidelities pale in comparison to what he did to me during those next two years. The several therapists I have seen all say, I was emotionally tortured. The same way a POW is tortured when captured by the enemy. So much so that I ended up with PTSD, or betrayal trauma. Mine is a pretty severe case. I suppose that is partly my fault, because I let him torture me far longer than I should have. I wanted to give him every opportunity, every chance I could, to come back. I wanted him to choose me. I wanted him to fight for me, for our family. I had EVERY faith in him that he would…eventually…If I just gave him enough time…I told myself. Boy, was I ever wrong. This time, being wrong, nearly cost me my life.
That is the funny thing about agency, no matter what you want, you cannot make another person want the same thing. I could not make him choose me. He had to decide that for himself. And I had to decide how long I would allow him to abuse me over it. He had the power to make his own choices, but I learned that I could choose too. I could choose how long I would allow him to continue to cheat, lie, and abuse me. Over those two years, I begged him to get into recovery. He would not. He said he would. But it never materialized into anything other than words. I used to be able to take him at his word, so it was hard for me to understand why this time was any different. I wanted so much to believe him! I even set up appointments, I paid for his counseling, I followed up with his Bishop, I tried talking to his counselors. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing worked. His final analysis was that he did not have an addiction, and I was crazy for thinking he did. He was even angry at me for trying to seek help for us, and he drug his feet and belittled me for my efforts. But, in spite of his resentment of me, I would put myself out there for him to come back to me again and again, and each time I would discover another affair.
All in all, six women, contacted me (there were others I didn’t know about at the time) during those two years to let me know he was cheating on me with them. Why? Because he was cheating on them too! It seems cheaters don’t like to be cheated on, so they’ll go tell the wife to get back at them. These contacts were humiliating and excruciating. I learned, over time, I couldn’t trust ANYTHING he said to me. It is horrific not to be able to trust the one man you relied on to protect you from all harm. He became so unsafe for me because of his lying. I could deal with the truth easier than the lies. A lie comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, you do not see it coming. When the truth is exposed and out in the open, you can see it and deal with it. With truth you can fix any problem. When there is no truth, it becomes impossible to fix anything.
My therapist told me at the time, that a man has two tongues, one in his mouth and one on his shoes. He advised me that I was to stop listening to the one in his mouth, and just pay attention to the one on his shoes. In other words, I needed to just watch what he does. I needed to see if his walk matched his talk. It did not. The proof was in his actions not his words. It took paying attention to his actions, and not listening to him, for me to really see what was in his heart. It was shocking for me to wake up to the reality that he did not really want me anymore. He liked his life of addiction more than he wanted me. That was something that had never crossed my mind before, and it was devasating to see the truth of it.
This is where I found myself last April. Between the man I love, and his lies. There is no more unsettling or profound “rock and a hard place” scenario. I was already unbelievably fragile. The October before, I was so messed up from his crazymaking that I could see no way out, other than to take my own life. Luckily, I took myself to the hospital instead, where the doctor said I needed a long vacation, so I took a cruise. That turned out to be the best advice I had ever gotten from a doctor. It saved me and gave me some peace and perspective I so desperately needed. My husband never believed I was in such a dire situation. He still doesn’t. He was mad at me for going on the cruise over his birthday. Nevermind that my life hung in the balance. He has no clue what his addiction has done to my mental, emotional, or physical health. He doesn’t care either. Someday, probably judgment day, he will know, and he will care. That day is a day of clarity that I am looking forward to witnessing.
The impact of the behaviors of my husband’s addiction left me in “fight, flight or freeze” mode 24/7. I lived, trapped, in this space for those two years we were separated as I was being whipped around between lies and more lies, deceit and what someone referred to as the “mindf**kery” (sorry, there is no other way to describe it) that comes from constant gaslighting. My adrenal glands were shot. I lived in a heightened state of danger that never eased up. Imagine being caged with a hungry lion that you know wants to eat you, it’s only a matter of time, you don’t know how or when, but you know you will be eaten alive eventually, that is the kind of fear I am talking about. “Fight for your life” kind of fear!
I never knew when another woman would come out of the woodwork. I never knew when he was seeing someone else or sleeping with them when he should have been with me. My heart raced. My mind was in hyper-drive. My breathing was shallow or heavy, my resting pulse was 107, I couldn’t eat or sleep, throwing up and diarrhea were constant companions. In short, I was a wreck. I could not calm my body down! A person cannot survive in this condition for very long. I am surprised I survived two years of it. My reserves were, by now, past empty, and I knew I could not go on like this for much longer. So I finally laid down a strong boundary. I asked my husband to come up with a plan for how he was going to provide me with enough safety and connection so that I could move back home with him. I knew if we were going to save our marriage and family we needed a plan. I wanted to move back in with him and it was taking way too long! He didn’t like any of my plans and refused to even entertain them, so the most logical thing to do was for him to come up with his own plan. I was prepared to do whatever he decided, within reason. I gave him 3 weeks to come up with a plan. If, after 3 weeks, he still did not have a plan, then I would file for a divorce. I was done being the mouse in his endless game of cat and mouse.
Three weeks passed. There was no plan. I knew I couldn’t keep giving him chances that he only squandered, I didn’t have the bandwidth, so I filed for the divorce. I was heartbroken. Inconsoleable. It is the most devastating feeling I will ever know – having my husband, with 38 years of life, love, and history together, not choose me. I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind or rejection. It is a betrayal of love that was worse than his cheating on me. Pure anguish of body, mind, and spirit.
Then, to my shock and amazement, he turned around and blamed it ALL on me! He said, I am the one who wanted the divorce, I filed for it, it was my choice. He really thinks this. Talk about adding insult to injury? How he could come to this conclusion is a mystery to me, and always will be. All I can do is to chalk it up to “addict brain.” Addicts have no ability to employ logic or reason, that part of their brain is swiss cheese. You know what I mean if you have ever talked to an addict for more than 5 minutes. Their grasp of reality is just nonexistent. It’s pure nonsense!
Not wanting to really give up on him, I continued to give him even more chances that he refused to take. There was a part of me that kept believing that he would come around. I would go through with the divorce, but I was also willing to work on our relationship while we went through the 90-day waiting period, but I needed to see real improvement! It was my intention to stop the divorce if he showed any real progress, and I told him this. I learned later that he had already just moved on. He was dating other women and going to singles activities before the divorce was even final. Not knowing what he was really doing, I even felt that if he got into recovery that I would, and could, marry him again! However, he never had any intention of choosing me or our family. I was to find out how totally he was willing to toss us all aside when he remarried 6 months later. It seems I made the right decision, as excruciating as it was at the time. His addiction killed any love or connection he may have had for me and our children. He never really tried. It was easier for him to go find someone else than to do the work to save his life-long marriage. Porn really does kill love. That is not some cutsie slogan. It’s real.
As for me, I have been in an emotional and relational “time out” for the last 2 1/2 years. I need to be healthy enough, and recovered enough, to even consider being in a stable relationship with anyone. When all of this began I believed that I would never marry again. I still do not know if I will. But now I am at a place in my healing where I am willing to entertain the idea. I started going to single adult activities in my church, at least. I even signed up for an online dating site. I am slightly overwhelmed by the reaction I got. Within the first 2 hours I had over 250 views on my profile and 65 messages in my inbox. It seems that some men, think I am a catch! It was a much-needed boost to my self-esteem. I have yet to go on any dates, not that I haven’t been asked. ( One guy even wanted to take me to Italy to meet his Mom!) I figure I can afford to be very, very picky. When the right man comes along, I will know it.
A sign that I was healing is that I have gotten my intuition back, I missed being able to trust my instincts. It serves me well. I am still working my recovery everyday; I see a therapist weekly, have EMDR sessions, I go to 12-steps, I attend classes, and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes. I am moving towards becoming the person I was always meant to be. I study my scripture daily and pray earnestly, relying solely on Him who is mighty to save. Little by little, I am healing. (One day I will write a book about my experiences.) Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward, and one step backward, but the direction is what matters, not the speed. I am still working hard at self-care. I need to be gentle with myself. I have been in an emotional war for my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am battle weary. I still get bombed by my ex from time to time, but he no longer has the power over me he used to enjoy. I mostly feel sorry for him that he is still stuck in his unhealthy behaviors, and an unhealthy relationship.
Ultimately, what I am most proud of myself for, during this experience, is that I never lost my core values or beliefs. I stayed true to myself. I stayed true to the Lord. I stayed true to the church. I kept my covenants. And, to me, those are the greatest accomplishments of all! Too many women do not make it out of the hell-hole of addiction with their integrity intact. I am one of the lucky ones, and I understand this. I used to want to just wash away all of the pain in drugs or drinking, but I knew if I went there it would never stop, and ultimately, it would not slove anything. But I get it. I get why addiction destroys both the husband and the wife. It is devastating for families, and children are the ulitmate victims.
Once I realized what was happening to my body this week, I was able to employ my tools of recovery and get my emotions, and my body back on track. “Earth body – Body body – Mind body” as my yoga instructor likes to say – all in alignment. I will be forever grateful that I chose recovery for myself, and for those people who helped me, and continue to help me, you know who you are! It has made all the difference in my healing. The next step on my journey is to recover my physical health. I am looking forward to being a much smaller, healthier version of myself this time next year! Best of all, I have a swelling of optimism growing in my heart. I am starting to look forward to the next day, and what the future might hold. That is a new thing for me. Good things are starting to happen! I am reclaiming myself. I am reclaiming my life. Addiction may have destroyed my husband and our marriage, but it did not destroy me. Here is to a better year! It is more than about time, it’s past due.
“Stay Sweet, Be Strong”