the reality of life, addiction, and recovery... at this moment
I believe in sharing one's story, living a life of authenticity. Brene Brown speaks truth to me. However, she also talks about the need to not necessarily share in the moment and to share with those who are 'safe'. To that end, I have been debating what to say, and when, about some of the things that have been going on here. However, as I was on my knees last night, weeping to my Father in Heaven, I had the impression I needed to write and needed to share.
A couple of weeks ago I had recently returned from a 10 day trip with my kids. My husband had joined us during the two weekends that our trip overlapped. Dear friends were there with us and it was a glorious time. We were sitting on our bed discussing our daughter's upcoming birthday and what she wanted to do with her birthday party. My phone was in another room and I wanted to look up an idea, so I asked to use his phone. No big deal, to he or I. While I was on the browser on his phone I thought I would just take a quick peek at his history. I do that on the rare occasion still. He knows and supports that action. He's had six years of recovery, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still need accountability. I was completely surprised by what I saw. No, he hadn't been looking at porn while I was away (though there was a time where I would've at least half expected to find that). In fact, he generally makes a concerted effort to stay away from the internet more than usual while I am out of town. However, there was one particular day (a day I knew that he had been running on extremely little sleep) that he had been doing some searches and clicking that was really troublesome to me. I asked him about it and he explained it related to some dumb game they played at his office in passing. He wasn't defensive and I had no reason to feel he was being 'fishy' about it at all. Still, I just had the feeling that this was not okay. A particular couple of clicks really were especially not okay with me and those he denied. He couldn't remember clicking on them and 'wasn't sure where they came from'. Oh how familiar this sounded. Oh how many years it has been!
I struggled because I didn't know what to call this. It wasn't porn. But it sure was getting damn close. And, yes, I swore at him and in my head. I went to the temple the following day, where I received a reassurance that I wasn't crazy or overreacting. I knew he wasn't being honest, but I wasn't sure if that was just with me or also with himself. I've mentioned here that we were going through a period of hard. I saw things coming. Or the potential for them, I should say. I made suggestions and warnings and had conversations where I thought he was listening and later thought maybe he wasn't. And, yet, I had such clarity at the feelings of not feeling seen and of feeling like some things were unnecessarily hard and feeling a little crazy. I know those feelings mean my husband is in addict mode. I wanted to deny it, but as I sat at the temple it was just so clear. I confronted him again that evening, telling him these feelings and that I was unwilling to tolerate living with someone in addict mode, and denial, again. I did that far too many years of our marriage and I knew we could do better. I've enjoyed these difficult but beautiful six years of repair and recovery. It's a far better way to live. He went for a drive to think and then we didn't talk, in part due to time circumstances but also because we were both so flooded, for two days. When we finally did talk he explained that he had gone to the mountains to pray and that no sooner had he got on his knees than he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had indeed clicked those things. He still had no recollection of the action, but he recalled the feelings associated... he knew that he had been warned and sensed that what he was doing was not okay... and he did it anyway. That hurt. How did he get there? He was doing so well.
Several months ago, when some of the trials began, I felt God giving me many tender mercies in showing me real recovery and changed personality and responses in him. It was beautiful. They were frequent and I believe God made my eyes to see and recognize those moments because He knew I needed them to help me see and believe that the struggles we were dealing with at the moment were NOT related to my husband's addiction, but were something else. I had to be very careful and mindful because the possibilities for being triggered and spiraling into betrayal trauma were real. I'm so grateful for that. I know that it was God showing me that He has me and helps me make sense of situations. I also know that those moments gradually became less over the next couple of months.
I sat with my husband last weekend and told him of my frustrations with not knowing what to call what happened or where we are, because he called it a slip but I wasn't sure if that was it since he didn't actually look at, or read, porn. His explanation was precisely what I needed. He told me he had come to realize that he might as well have looked at stuff, because what he did was akin to an alcoholic just hanging out and sitting in a bar. It wasn't okay. That he wasn't sure how he got there was not okay. He came to realize that he hasn't felt like himself for a while, but there is still work to be done.
So what have I learned from this? Well, I'm still working through the waves of trauma and doubt that come and go. I'm struggling with a lot of "I told you so's". I'm struggling with feeling like I saw it coming, at the same time not, and that he didn't seem to hear or heed my warnings. Some moments I feel the clarity that those responsibilities are on God, not me, and some moments I feel that as a couple, particularly a couple in recovery, there should have been more of that working together. I'm fighting off the "what if I hadn't caught you when I did" feelings and wondering if it was God's hand that I did. I've been overwhelmed with a witness of my trust in God. This has been surprising as it's been one of the hard things for me. Trusting in God also requires trusting in self, because it necessitates trusting one's ability to hear, heed, and believe in feelings of promptings from God. He has showered me with that witness and I cannot express my gratitude. He has been quick to run to me, something I don't feel I have always experienced. I desperately long to curl up in His lap and cry upon His shoulder. It's a very childlike feeling and it feels so uncomfortable that it feels so impossible. So I cry on my knees and then my tears stop. Or I sit in my Sacrament Meeting, looking at my church leaders looking at me....knowing I am barely keeping it together, mostly I am not... and I long for them to actually see my heartache and care and be safe for me. But they don't and they aren't and that makes me sad. However, God does, and He prompts a friend to send me a message about her own husband with many many years of recovery having an inexplicably hard time at the moment. I am not alone. I can trust God. He sees me and He knows the longings of my heart. He loves me. That's a beautiful thing to learn. Know what else is beautiful? The realization that I have my own back. That I actually CAN trust myself. I was so grateful to a friend for commenting that she admired that in me as I was processing through some of this stuff. I hadn't even seen it. However, the clarity and security of having and enforcing boundaries, of having eyes to see the patterns and the need for my own extra buffering these last few months, the boundaries I had already felt the need to implement... it brings me peace. I have tools and I have used them like I should. Go me!
I don't love the place we are in right now. I don't love the doubts that have creeped back in. I don't love the trust that had been so delicately rebuilt that has now been chipped back away at. I don't love that this situation isn't like previous ones and so I don't have precedent to work with. Darn that sense of control that I want so much! I don't like that I feel like I can't be so open about this because so many women (and men) feel so little hope and I have felt so much to provide that for them. But I guess this is the reality of addiction... that many years of sobriety, and legit recovery, do not mean you are in the clear. My husband has always stressed that to me, that he worried about feeling 'safe' in his recovery because he believed he would always struggle with this. I didn't want to believe that but I'm seeing more truth to that than I wanted to believe. I believe God changes us. I don't believe this changes that. However, I can see how this can be an opportunity for tremendous good and growth if my husband chooses it. He has shared with me how the temptation has been there, but the desire has not. That's the Atonement in action. However, maybe God allows these addictions to remain so that we have cause to regularly turn to Him and let Him help us be even better versions of our selves. I think that if we see ourselves as that old analogy of being layered onions, then we are peeling back and chipping away at the layers. Those first layers may peel back easily. They become increasingly tight and difficult to peel back, and so we need tools. As we have those tools, we can get more easily, albeit painfully, to our cores. We change, our hearts change, and then we break and get to work on the next layer. When you sand a piece of wood, you work in increasingly fine grit, beginning with a coarse grit and working to finer grit, in order to achieve the prettiest and most thorough sheen.
So I don't love the place we are in right now.... but I do love the possibility of the place I know that we can get to from here and know that one day I will look back with gratitude on this point in time. I have the hope that we can be somewhere even better than where we've been as a result of this setback. I have that hope because it's been my experience over the last six years. I also know that if my husband chooses not to continue to take that opportunity, then I will still be okay, because God's got me.