addiction, My Story, Uncategorized

One Year Ago…

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.

“Danger! Danger!”

Danger.jpg

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.

1111111breaking-up

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.

choose

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.

0ffcb5f41f50a765de554d1fae8aaf82.jpg

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.

break-free-logo

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.

Thoughtful businesswoman facing and leaning against a wall
“I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind of rejection.”

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.

photo-4-3.jpg

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.

lady-demostrating-spiritual-grounding

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”

Silhouette Studio Designer Edition: Paper Cupcake Warrior Logo

 

betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Trauma Response Rescues

Do you know what a “Trigger” is?

A “Trigger” is any event that brings up old feelings of panic and danger even if there is no danger around.  It is a PTSD response very similar to what war veterans experience.  One minute you are fine and the next you are not.  the emotional response happens immediately and without warning when a Trigger presents it’s self. Triggers can be places, people, times of year, events, holidays, weather, smells, sounds, music, memories; anything can be a Trigger. And because of this it is nearly impossible to avoid your Triggers! Triggers bring up past trauma unexpectedly and with such force that often it can feel like you are actually reliving a traumatic experience. This really sucks!

The part about my Triggers that angers me off the most is my ex-husband doesn’t give a flying flip that he has done this to me or his family.  He doesnt care in the least.  If he did care at all then he would be working to alleviate the triggers and the pain that comes with it.  Instead, he is off chasing his new girlfriend because he “deserves some happiness.”  I know I am not alone in this.  My kids suffer, and my grandkids suffer.  We all suffer the devastation while all he cares about is his own happiness.  So here we are having to deal with these difficult emotional responses without any assistance (even financial assistance) from the perpetrator. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I have a triggered response everytime I drive by the hotel where my daughter caught my husband in a hotel room with another woman.  When I drive by this hotel I burst into tears and re-live the whole ugly experience again and again.  Because of a series of business meeting I have had this week I have had to drive by this particular hotel 6 times this week. It has been brutal!  I could have gone out of my way to avoid it, gone another way, but I am determined not to let these experiences run me or my life.  So I chose to just power through it this week. But how do you do that?  How do you face something so painful head on?

dissociation-triggersI have learned that when triggers come it is because your pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain) has been hijacked by your limbic brain (emotional brain).  To beat back the trigger you must access the  pre-frontal cortex and put it back and charge.  As you learn to do this you can quickly disarm the lymbic brain, redirect the thought patterns, and put the pre-frontal cortex back in charge.  This works for any kind of panic or anxiety response.  The idea “control your thoughts, control your destiny” is really very true.  Gaining power over Triggers is getting back the power over your mind.  Triggers won’t go away, but you can lessen their effects, and with practice, stop them as they are happening.

 

dementors-dudley-615x356
My ex-husband is a dementor. He sucks all the happiness out of his family members and leaves them for dead.

I was reminded of what triggers are like while watching Harry Potter with my daughter last week.  Triggers are like Boggarts, they are not real, they look real and they feel real, but they are just your worst fears manifest. The students of Hogwarts were able to fight them with a spell… “expecto patronum!”  The Boggart was vanquished and thrown back into the box by most of the students.  Except some Boggarts are scarier than others.  Demetors are the scariest. I have come to think of Triggers as Dementors, they suck all the happiness right out of you! For a while Harry had to have help fighting against the Dementors.  At first, he couldn’t do it alone.  It took practice!  But when he eventually needed to rely on himself to do it, he was able to becuase he practiced. Beating back Triggers, especially the scariest ones, is a lot like that, it will take practice and patience with yourself.

So here are a few tips and tricks for putting your thinking brain back in charge:

Breathe – deep, mindful breathing. Breathe in, hold it for the count of four. Breathe out slowly whild counting to four.

Affirmations – Repeat your affirmations over and over until the trigger subsides. Make sure you have a list of daily affirmations that support areas where you are struggling.

Count and tap – cross your arms over your chest and touch your hands to your shoulders.  Begin counting.  As you count tap every other shoulder.  Do this for a count of six and then start over.  Continue until the fear and panic subside.  It will usually take about 15 to 20 sets of these.  It also really helps if you deep breathe with tap.  Breathe in , 1, Breathe out, 2, and so on.

Count your blessings – it is surprising how simple this is and how well it works.

Prayer – Prayer is a powerful antidote to Triggers.  Use it to pour your heart out to your Heavenly Father  and ask for help in overcoming your Triggers. He will tell you what will work best for you!

Read an interesting book –Keep a book around for this purpose.  In times of triggers I often open up my scriptures.  Its the book that works the best for me!

Work on a project – keep a craft or other project handy you can work on.  Crocheting, knitting or cross-stitch are all great for anxiety because of the counting aspects to them.

Workout – working out does wonders for releasing endorphines that will lift your spirit and improve your mood and outlook.

Go for a Walk – Walking outdoors and breathing in fresh air does wonders for the mind and the soul!

Mindful Meditations – there are a number of Apps that will help you with this.  Search the app store for mindful meditations, self hypnosis and meditation.  You will find plenty of free and paid apps.  Some of them you can try before you buy.  I have used Surf City apps, Happify and Head Space with lots of success.

Call a friend – sometimes you just need to talk things out with a trusted friend.  Call her. It will help.

Call your sponsor – if you are in a 12-step program then you will have a sponsor you can call when you are having a tough time. She will be a great listening ear and resource.  Your sponsor often understands in ways a friend can’t because she has traveled the road you are now on.

You can see that these remedies for trigger responses are also self care.  As you make an effort to do your “dailies” of self care you will build up a muscle memory response to triggers.  Over time you will automatically start to respond to the triggers in more helpful and healthy ways.  This is one of the reasons that self care is so important to do everyday!

What are some of the things you do to help overcome your triggers?

Silhouette Studio Designer Edition: Paper Cupcake Warrior Logo

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

The Cupcake Warrior