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, betrayal, My Story, Spiritual

Fool Me Once…

For anyone who has ever been betrayed by a porn/sex addict, it should come as no surprise to learn that this isn’t my first foray into the mind-bending denial of an addict. Once this becomes a part of your life it comes back again and again unless the addict gets serious about making lifelong changes.  The first time (that I am aware of) was 10 years ago, while my Cheater was the Bishop of our LDS Ward. It was just as terrible then as it is now. Believe me. I didn’t think I could handle it then anymore than I feel I can do it now.  It’s a lot like welcoming a death eater to live in your house. All the happiness gets sucked out. Nobody in their right mind would welcome a death eater into their home, even for a few minutes. It sucks all the happiness out. Literally.

It was remarkably different this time. Because I was different. I guess when you have a close encounter with a death eater it changes you. Forever.

Even back then, he did everything he could to wiggle out of committing to any real recovery. He complained about being on medication for anxiety, and OCPD. He fussed endlessly about the cost of therapy. He said he didn’t have an addiction. He didn’t get anything out of 12-steps and it was boring. He convinced me it would never happen again. His explainations (excuses) were relentless. He wore me down. He also convinced the Stake Priesthood leaders that he “just made a mistake.” So his church discipline amounted to a slap on the wrist. I argued with them to the point that I could tell I was about to cross that line.  I might be the one disciplined if I didn’t just be quiet and take their decision to do nothing about my husband’s “mistake” without another complaint. they even threatened to take away my temple recommend if I didn’t comply.  I was told this was for the best and would save our family from embarrassment. I strongly disagreed. Years later, when this happened again, I learned a disciplinary counsel should have been called automatically because he was the Bishop. I was livid.

I still hold these men somewhat accountable for what happened to our family after that. Had they held my husband accountable back then, we might have been spared what we are going through now. Most notability, his insistence that he doesn’t have an addiction.

Had he been properly disciplined and held accountable back then, when I saw true remorse in him, he might have stayed in recovery. As it was, he had zero incentive to continue to recover after the crisis of the initial shame and guilt had past. He was left to his own devices. And we were left to the mercy of his “word” that this would never happen again.

Deep down I knew differently.

So I did what I always do when faced with a problem I know nothing about. I did research. Lots of it, until I became a subject matter expert on sex and porn addiction. I had to know what I was dealing with. Knowledge is power. I knew that if this awfulness ever came back into our home I would need to know what to do to protect myself and our family. So I studied and I worked on my own recovery and let him figure out his (which amounted to nothing of real significance.) After a few months everything seemed to go back to normal. Overtime, he even convinced me that I had “overreacted.”  He said it was an isolated incident and it would never happen again.

I believed him. Because I wanted to believe him.

Even though all the studies, research, and books I read, screamed at me to be careful, it takes hard work and 100% commitment  to overcome an addiction. I threw caution to the wind! After all, he is a good man. Right? He is entitled to make a mistake and repent from it, right? The problem is that I believed we were the exception because he convinced me that all those stats didn’t apply to us. That kind of thinking is never good.

Looking back, I willfully and stupidly ignored all the red flags; His insistence that he didn’t have an addiction, his refusal to stay in counseling, and choosing to not stay on medication were the biggest red flags. I should have set the boundaries that he continue in recovery if he wanted to continue living in the same space with me. But I didn’t. He was stubborn and insistent he could handle this in his own way. So I let him. That was what I was learning about not being an enabler – let him figure it out for himself. He had to choose recovery and do it on his own terms. To make matters worse, was that I was dealing with my own trauma and I didn’t know it. Back then women were enablers not victims themselves. I didn’t know I had the right to feel safe and secure in what he was doing to show me he could be trusted again. You don’t know what you don’t know.

While I could think of little else, He did very little to rebuild trust. He dealt with it by ignoring it. He chose the white-knuckle method of recovery, which is to just decide to never do it again. It would go away. End of story. So I went along with it, knowing that when I least expected it, it would all come crashing down around me again.

Boy did it!

Five years later, my life would change forever. Not in a good way. I guess Mr. Whiteknuckles got tired of holding on. Just when I had just started to believe he was right. Just when I started to believe he had it all under control. At the exact moment I was letting out a sigh of relief, I took a sucker punch to the gut. It knocked all the wind out of me!

In that moment, while I struggled just to keep living, I knew I could never do this again. Ever. Something had to change. The first time, we did it his way. This time I was in a much better position to know what I needed from him to restore and repair our relationship and how to articulate those needs to him. Or so I thought.

Have you ever seen a two year old throw a fit because they don’t get their way? If you give into the child’s demands in that moment then you lose all credibility as a parent for future battles. They learn quickly that if they scream at you loudly enough, embarrass you with tantrums in public, and tell the whole world they hate you that they can shame you into giving into their irrational demands. We’ve all seen it right? My girls were queens of the temper tantrums. But no matter how much they yelled, it was my job to teach them that they cannot behave that way. Right?

You can’t reason with a two-year old. They need boundaries. Guidance.

I believe this is kind of what happened with my husband. He got away with doing things his way the first time, back up by unwitting church leaders. So much so, that the second time he upped the tantrum level to unbearable to get me to give in to him again. I really believe that the tantrums addicts can throw are similar in scope and nature to a two year old. It is quite daunting to see a grown man be so irrational!

What he doesn’t get, and probably never will, is that if he wants me back there must be changes, seen and unseen. I could give him a pass. Once. I can’t do it again. Not because I won’t. I can’t. I can’t go through this again. Ever.

The difference was that this time, I KNEW what had to be done. It couldn’t be ignored again. Not this time! I KNEW I deserved to be treated with respect. This time I KNEW he needed to WORK to rebuild trust. Provide safety. Work to reconnect with me. This time I deserved more than just taking his word for it. I had done my recovery work the first time. This time I KNEW he was an addict and I cannot be talked out if that fact. The evidence was overwhelming and undeniable. I know better this time. Remember what I said about “knowledge is power?”

Getting into recovery for your own trauma gives you the power and knowledge to know what you should and should not have endure. You learn how to protect youself from furture attacks and what to do when they happen. Knowing what to do gives you a level of protection you cannot have if you choose to remain willfully ignorant.

Because I know how an addict behaves; what they do, say and think, it helps me see through the lies and deception to discern what is really happening.

We all know that kids try to get away with lying about something they did that was wrong. And because we were kids ourselves and tried to get away with the same thing, we see through it. We understand, by our own experience, what a lie looks like and how to recognize it. It’s the same thing with an addict. If you refuse to get yourself educated about what addiction looks like and how to overcome it, well, you don’t know what you don’t know. That is a level of ignorance that only hurts you.

For example: my husband’s tantrum is that he is NOT an addict. Quite frankly, I don’t care what you call it. The label makes zero difference. It’s the behavior that is disturbing. His behavior is classic addict behavior. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say for the sake of argument that he is not an addict. His continuing betrayals, caused me to be traumatized by his behavior. Betrayal truama is caused by BETRAYAL. It matters very little how the poison of betrayal was delivered. What matters is how to repair it. And the reparations for one affair or 50 are exactly the same! The same recovery for a marriage damaged by betrayal is the same as the recovery for a marriage damaged by sex addiction. Restoring safety, connection and trust are exactly the SAME!

So when he is stubbornly insisting that he doesn’t have an addiction and thinks he doesn’t have to do recovery to fix our relationship, I have the understanding and wisdom to know better. He just wants me to give him another pass.

This time I can’t.

IMHO women who keep giving into the temper tantrums of the addict are making it harder and harder for him to take her seriously! So set your boundaries ladies! You deserve better! You deserve to have a husband who believes you are worth it to give you his best self and his best efforts!

Don’t settle. Remember –

fool me once shame in you, fool me twice, shame on me.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!