Tag Archive | pornography

From Addict to Best Friend

My addict. Those were the words I used to describe my husband in the title of my previous post “Untangling From My Addict.” In the days following the post, I found myself wondering how and why I had so unhesitatingly attached the addict label to him.

In the beginning of our recovery program, it was a relief and validation to be given a name for our crisis. Sexual addiction and sexual betrayal trauma were the answers to the question of “What the heck is wrong with us and our marriage?” Once the problem was identified, our therapist followed through with the solution.

I accepted that my husband was a sex addict. I acknowledged that I was the partner of a sex addict and a victim of his behaviours. The admission was a breath of fresh air to me. Denial was a thing of the past. It was a blow, but not a defeat. It was freeing, promising, life giving to know I wasn’t crazy. It was hard confronting my wounds. Oh, the effort was gruelling. But it is necessary to call it what it is if you truly want to release its power over you.

As I dove further into recovery resources, I began to feel uncomfortable wearing the labels that had been affixed to us. Addict. Yes. Victim. Yes. That was a part of who we were. Of who we still are today. But only one component. It is not the entire picture.

I spent many weeks struggling with our classifications of addict and victim. I was being careful to ensure I wasn’t returning to any state of denial. But I was also gaining an awareness that we were so much more than these labels. This was not my identity, nor his.

For me, wearing a sticker tagging me as a victim, as a partner of a sex addict, only encouraged and validated that role, and I had no intention of giving my husband that much power over me anymore. I was victimized by his addiction, but choosing not to stake the victim claim.

At the same time as God was gently opening my heart to hope and healing, He was showing me how unconditionally and extravagantly He loved me. Revealing to me my value as His beloved daughter, wonderfully created in His image to bring Him delight. I was finding a new identity in Christ.

God also began slowly changing my heart attitudes towards my husband. Uncovering the truth that my husband was also passionately loved and designed by God. Hmmm. If I was more than a victim, then logically my husband was more than an addict. We were both broken humans being called to healing and wholeness.

The check in sheet being used by my recovery group began to trouble me. It didn’t seem right to identify myself as the partner of a sex addict, giving him a label that both of us were required to wear. I suggested a change in wording to our group leader. She agreed. The check in sheet was modified to introduce us as the partner of a man recovering (or not ☹) from sex addiction. It is amazing how such a small transformation and choice of words can make a difference in the views of ourselves and our husbands.

My husband is a new creation. I am a new creation. And so I am still not sure what drew me to using the words “my addict” in the title of my previous post when I was so uncomfortable applying that label to us. Maybe the key is in the “my”. Recovery has become a lifestyle for us now. He will always have to utilize his recovery tools to remain sober. I will always have to rely on God, my Higher Power, for my health and sanity. But we are doing this together. He is mine. My addict. My husband. My best friend.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Untangling From My Addict

I stood in the doorway of my bedroom watching my husband shaking uncontrollably on the bed. His pain and anguish was palpable. This was days after he came to an understanding and acceptance that he was a sex addict, his life had become unmanageable, and his marriage was falling apart. This was the moment he told me he felt suicidal.

I didn’t react immediately. God kept my tongue still until my thoughts and emotions caught up with each other. And then I responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I cannot help you. If you are truly suicidal please call our pastor or your doctor. You need help, but I have nothing I can give you.”

My words surprised me. But then they seemed right. I was in my own emotional turmoil and intense pain and somehow recognized that my first priority was looking after me. Not him. I cared about my husband as a person, as the father of my children. I did not want him to die. But there was nothing within me strong enough to pull him out of his darkness. I needed what little energy I had to keep myself functioning. I was barely doing that.

I was hurting too. For once, this was not going to be all about him. I would not comfort and console him. Try and make him feel better. That’s what our marriage had been for twenty five years. Me receiving and accepting the blame for everything at the expense of my own heart. This time would be different.

I was the one responsible for no longer allowing the invasion of pornography in our marriage. I was the one refusing to continue living in a sexless marriage. I was the one that said I am worth more than this. I was the one who shook up the status quo.

But he was the one who brought the addiction into our marriage. And fed it every day. It was he who caused this pain. Mine and his. I had finally found the courage within me to say “No more.” He was going to have to find his own strength. I had no intention of giving him an opening to steal mine away. I needed every bit of it for myself. Besides, the physical manifestation of my husband’s pain was evidence that God was breaking him. The best thing for me to do was stand aside and let God do His work.

This was a significant turning point for me. Looking back now, it was the unofficial beginning of Step One. I admitted that I was powerless over the sex addict and my life had become unmanageable.

I somehow intuitively knew that I was gaining back control of my life from the sex addict. I was broken, and the first step in my healing and rebuilding had been laid before me. I was valuing myself over the addict.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.                                              2 Samuel 22:17-20 and Psalm 18:16-19

(Mis)Adventures in Joining a Recovery Support Group

So much about recovery involves scary leaps out of your comfort zone. That safe place you are in is likely unhealthy, but it is where you are, and what you know, and that can count for an awful lot of points when your life is falling apart around you. Maybe I should be a little more personal here and replace these “you” and “your” words with “I” and “my” because it is me that I am really talking about.

Knowing how to quietly walk on eggshells and when to tiptoe around the perimeter. When to keep my mouth shut. Which is almost always because everything will come out wrong or stupidly. Learning how to camouflage into the background. Trying so hard to be unnoticed. By everyone.

This was my comfort zone. The isolation and security of me. Not letting anyone see the dark places of my soul, but also not the unique beauty of it either. Certain that it would be rejected and ridiculed. Because it was. Daily. By the person who I freely and trustingly gave it to. If my husband so thoroughly disliked me, logically, everyone else would as well. I lived in constant fear of being humiliated and rejected by everyone.

And there was my problem with embracing a recovery program. Recovery is not a “me” journey to be taken alone. At my first counselling session, my therapist introduced me to the five vital components to treatment and recovery for partners of sex addicts.

Number one, one on one counselling. I could do that. I was cautious, but desperate for guidance. It was his paid job to sit and listen to me without fleeing from the room repulsed by my thoughts and emotions. I trusted this counsellor who validated my pain and offered me hope and practical ways to achieve healing. He thought I was worth it and I began to believe that too.

Number four, reading. I was encouraged to read sex addiction recovery resources for partners and other personal growth books. Again, a reasonable suggestion. Especially with a list of recommended materials provided to me.

Number five, prayer. In the words of my counsellor, “When God is at the center of your life, long-term health and maintenance is much more likely. You can be okay no matter what happens in your relationship.” Nothing much to argue there. I believed in God so talking to Him wasn’t a stretch.

But ah, yes. Components two and three. For me, the tough, scary ones that I was inclined to skip over. The people ones. The relationships. The ones where other women will look me in the eyes, and listen to my wobbly, foolish words, and recognize instantly that I am a waste of their time.

Number two, participate in a recovery group. I was told that I would receive support, validation and strategies for recovery. That I was not alone. My counsellor’s wife, herself a recovering partner, led a weekly teleconference group that I was welcome and encouraged to join.

Number three, accountability. Meeting other women who have gone through what I am going through will help me stay accountable to a recovery and healing process. Okay. Doubtful, but maybe. But then my counsellor lost me completely by suggesting these women would become my friends. I was unconvinced. And saddened that he would say something so outlandish to me.

Nevertheless, out of my comfort zone I stumbled. Literally. On my first attempt to connect with my counsellor’s wife, (after staring at the phone in my hand for several minutes beforehand), I panicked and hung up the phone when I heard my counsellor’s voice on the line. Ridiculous, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Only minutes later, after a few deep breaths, I dialled again wondering if they had call display. He answered again. This time I identified myself. With my real name.

Later that week I bravely called in to the teleconference recovery group for the first time. It was awful. I said two words. “Cynthia” when I had to identify myself as the caller. And “no” when I was asked if I wanted to do a check-in. It was overwhelming, confusing, discouraging. It was quickly evident that I had no idea what was ahead of me. This was an unknown culture with an entirely new vocabulary. Triggers. Disclosures. Polygraphs. Boundaries. What?!?!

I hung up the phone that night and sobbed. Crushed by the overpowering raw emotions of myself and the other women I heard. Too much pain.

As my tears turned to stillness, I heard a tiny whisper. I called the group leader. Explained how much the call had distressed me. Through her words and beautiful spirit, God deeply ministered to my brokenness. A calm settled over my heart that could only come from my Abba Daddy.

I would like to say that my second time participating in group went more smoothly. But that would be untrue. I did hobble through a partial check in. Choked on the words, “Hi my name is Cynthia and I am the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic.” The foreign recovery lingo was still there. I hung up in a worse state than I was in an hour earlier.

It distressed my husband to see me so upset with my recovery group. He was finding life and freedom in his support group and thought I should quit mine if it was making me miserable. He handed me an out. I was in enough pain as it was. We both wondered why I would intentionally add to it.

But I heard that tiny whisper again that refused to let my flickering hope be snuffed out. God gently nudged me forward. Drawing me through. Asking me to trust the process and path laid before me. Giving me the courage to do it. Making me brave.

The next week I walked into an in person recovery group and said “Hi, my name is Cynthia. The thing I like about myself today is that I am here.”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Finding Me in Telling the Truth

I told my parents the truth about my marriage. Not all of it. But enough. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe because I had rehearsed my words and my parents’ reactions so many times it was playing in a loop through my mind. The tears of sorrow. The tears of joy. A group hug. Someone running through a meadow, arms outstretched, hair blowing in the breeze…… Well, you get the idea.

And so the response I received to what I thought would be a startling confession and revelation of my pornography ravaged and emotionally abusive marriage was rather anti climactic. As was my testimony of how God’s grace was restoring and carrying my husband and myself through it.

My nervousness only showed itself through the rabbit trails I led my parents along thinking maybe this addition to the story will elicit a comment, a question, a nod of the head, or something…… If not immediately, perhaps in the following days.

My mother did seem to be listening and following along with me. Closely watching my face the whole time. She did make one or two mostly innocuous comments. She gave me a hug afterwards and said it must have been hard for me to share with them.

My father was silent. Not only were no words spoken, but his body remained motionless. He did not look at me, fidget in his chair, clear his throat. He seemed to be making his best effort to be unnoticed, and so his silence did speak to me. Just not entirely sure what it was saying.

I chose not to share the details of either mine or my husband’s sexual sins, other than to mention the pornography addiction.  I did not mention the resulting compulsive masturbation, the twenty long years of being in a sexless marriage, the affair. Some things a girl just doesn’t want to share with her parents about her sex life.

Instead I highlighted the recovery process our sex addiction recovery therapist has guided each of us through. I told of our involvement in support groups and my working a 12 step program adapted for partners of sex addicts. I shared about our participation and commitment to the “Dailies” explaining why I was on my phone talking or emailing my husband every night. (In the Dailies we identify and share feelings from our day unrelated to our relationship or each other, give each other two praises, and pray together. We also share scripture or read a passage from the Bible together. It is a very important time of connection for people also healing from intimacy anorexia.)

Most importantly, I described the story of my husband’s salvation two months into his recovery from sex addiction, and of my own deeper and closer relationship with God. I emphasized God’s hand in the tremendous healing we have received individually and in our marriage. They needed to know that we, that I, am only where I am today because of God’s extravagant love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and redemption.

My parents needed to hear this part of the story even more than the other. I grew up in a Christian home, attending church regularly as a family until I married and moved away. Shortly after this, on a return visit home, I discovered that my parents no longer went to church. And sadly, that has been the case for the last 27 years. But maybe, just maybe, voicing God’s miracle in our home will ignite a new light and life in theirs.

Whether or not sharing my marriage crisis and its reconciliation changes anything in the hearts of my parents, it has shifted something within me. It truly did free me. Not necessarily from big things, but the small, simple every day life things. I am recognizing that conversation and relationship is becoming much easier and healthier now that I don’t have to sidestep questions, hide my whereabouts and activities, or worry about saying something that may reveal my secrets. Previously, my mother asking a seemingly straightforward and normal question about what I did on my trip to the city would cause panic and feelings of guilt within me. Sure I could tell her the truth that I went shopping or had lunch with my daughter, but when the primary reason was to attend a counselling session or support group it felt like lying by omission. And it was. And I don’t have to do that anymore!

Removing masks, being vulnerable and learning to be authentic is hard. And scary. But each time I do it I am amazed by the beautiful woman I see emerging. And the best part is that beautiful woman is me. And I like her more and more every day.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:5

The Gift of Pain

We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. – Dr. Henry Cloud

I love this quote. It speaks truth. This was me the day I resolved that although pornography had its insidious grip on my husband and marriage, it was no longer going to ruin me. This has been me every day since as I walk in the newfound confidence of my worthiness and purpose.

When that pivotal time came, there were so many overwhelming, unrelenting, unanswerable questions. It took every ounce of strength I could muster to remind my body that it needed to both inhale and exhale, all the while holding back tears that were ready to escape at any moment.

Anger is a typical, common response to sexual betrayal. Often escalating to rage. I did not experience anger or rage. I felt a profound sense of sorrow, loss and grief.  I had been betrayed and neglected for the duration of my marriage. It had become my normal. And now that I was no longer able to function in my normal, it was extreme pain and sadness that enveloped me.

Oh, the questions. What do I do now? Will I ever stop hurting? Is this the end of my marriage? Has he done anything illegal? Where will I live? Should I purchase new underwear and socks while I still have money? Will the police show up at my door one day? Who will get the dog? Will anyone ever love me? What will our children think? Why is this happening to me? Am I crazy?

It really did feel as if my head might explode. I always thought that expression was rather embellished until the despair and pressure became so intense that it was not possible to contain it. The exaggerated cartoon image of steam erupting from the character’s ears and head suddenly became plausible. I took a deep breath, and with shaking hands, a churning stomach and unexpected courage, picked up the phone and made a counselling appointment.

There is no shame or disgrace in seeking professional help from a qualified therapist. It is not a sign of weakness. Admitting that our pain is more than we can handle on our own, and being willing to face it head on requires uncommon strength, courage and bravery. It is much more difficult to be vulnerable and ask for help than it is to run and hide from your anguish.

Most family members, friends and pastors are not able to deal with the adverse and explosive effects of sexual betrayal trauma. These people can be a wonderful support system, but are generally ill equipped to offer the assistance necessary to lead you through a true healing and recovery process. It is important to find a counsellor trained and experienced in the partner’s sexual betrayal trauma as well as sex and pornography addiction. At this point, it is you, the partner, who matters most. Not the addict. Not the marriage. You. It is essential to begin healing, changing your behaviours, and becoming healthy individually before making any attempt to rebuild your marriage. Jumping straight into marriage counselling is largely ineffective. The expectation of a healthy, thriving marriage consisting of two hurting, unhealthy people is somewhat baffling.

No one wants pain. And most of us fear change. But often the transformation compelled by pain becomes an incredibly precious gift. Our very own miracle.

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Things I Didn’t Know About Being Married to a Sex Addict

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know.

I did not know the destructive nature of pornography and its far reaching, devastating effects on the lives, families, homes, churches, places it touches.

I did not know that the presence of pornography in my home had invaded my husband’s soul, and was a root cause of our damaged marriage and my utter brokenness.

I did not know that my husband had chosen pornography, masturbation and fantasy over intimacy with me.

I did not know that pornography was a form of betrayal.

I did not know that my husband was able to blatantly lie to me.

I did not know that the rejection of my heart, soul and body was not my fault.

I did not know that my body was fine just the way it was.

I did not know that I was likeable, desirable or loveable.

I did not know that I was deserving and worthy of a husband who loved and cherished me emotionally, spiritually and physically.

I did not know that God’s heart was breaking to see me, His beloved daughter, mistreated and broken.

I did not know that God was waiting to draw me close, hold me in His arms, and wipe the tears from my eyes.

I did not know that God created and designed me intentionally, wonderfully, perfectly.

I did not know that there was beauty within me to rise from the ashes.

I did not know that the blood of Jesus washed away my shame as well as my sin.

I did not know that God had a plan to redeem and restore myself, my husband and our marriage.

I did not know that my story would be filled with God’s wonders and miracles.

I did not know that God’s goodness and healing power in recovery would fill me with gratitude and joy.

I did not know that I would fall as deeply in love with my Abba Father as He has always been with me.

I did not know that my heart would be filled to overflowing with God’s love and a desire to share it with others.

I did not know that I would.

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know about myself, my husband or God. Now I do. And my heart sings a victorious song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s gift of recovery.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

Uncovering Betrayal

Knowledge. Awareness. Understanding. I needed to identify what had caused my marriage to go so very wrong. I couldn’t fix any of it, including myself, until I had the answer.

I began gathering information. Quietly donned my W5 investigator’s hat. Wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but I had an idea.

Pornography.

But honestly, in my naivety, this was only a whisper of suspicion. Because I had learned out of necessity to suppress my own sexuality, I simply assumed that my husband had also. I believed that if I was no longer having sex, then logically, neither was he.

There were signs throughout the years that I chose to ignore or didn’t recognize. I was colour blind to the flapping flags. Or in some cases did not have the knowledge to understand or distinguish the different hues and patterns on those flags.

When we married, I was aware that my husband had a couple of porn magazines. Not a stash. It didn’t bother me. Just something normal that men did. I didn’t even consider this to be a bad habit. And although we never viewed porn together, admittedly, out of curiosity, I did look at the magazines occasionally when he wasn’t around. I believed it to be harmless for both of us.

Before I continue with my story, I implore you to resist opening computer files and sites you discover and suspect your partner of viewing. If the name is suspect, the content is. You don’t need to know for sure. You don’t need to see what was viewed. Protect yourself from those disturbing images. They will stay burned in your memory. I can describe to you today every sickening image that I was exposed to in the last fifteen years as vividly as a room in my house.

Fast forward to the advent of home computers and a non-techie wife (me) who one day accidentally discovers unsettling file names. And opens them to confirm that the titles were indeed what they indicated.  I was stunned. Disbelieving. Confused.  Felt sick to my stomach. Why was he looking at porn when he scorned all things sexual?! Or was it just my sexuality that he shunned?

I confronted my husband. Most of what he said didn’t make sense whatsoever. His responses confused me even more. Left me questioning myself. The outcome was that he needed to be more careful with his computer activity so that our children didn’t accidentally happen upon porn. I essentially gave him permission to continue. If it was out of sight, I could willingly bury my head in the sand.

Several years later, I walked into our home office and stumbled upon pornography staring back at me from the monitor. This time I did not have the choice to look or not to look. The excuses and feigned surprise he offered over their presence were just as ridiculous as before. I didn’t swallow them as easily, but I did. I wanted to so I wouldn’t have to admit that my husband had viewed porn twice now during our marriage.

Another three years passed before I took a deep breath, broke through my denial, and began searching my husband’s computer history. To say I found what I was looking for is a mild understatement. As I tracked his activity over the next few weeks, it was impossible to overlook the irrefutable evidence that this was more than a bad habit. It was a pornography addiction.

And yet, what unhinged me as much as the extent of his porn usage was uncovering the magnitude of his lies and deception. My feelings of foolishness and stupidity. The unearthing of betrayal.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28