When James was less than a year old, I called 911 because Eli had overdosed on over-the-counter cough syrup. It was something he read about on-line and seemed new and exciting. It was a terrifying day for me. Thankfully the kids didn’t see them roll him away on a stretcher. I put on a video in our bedroom and they remained clueless. I thank God for this every time I remember that day. He came home from the hospital that night and 2 days later did it again. Obviously this was a problem we would have to deal with. We have spent the last 10 years going to support groups, counseling, and rehab to help with this problem. I have also spent a lot of time in prayer.
In addition to overdosing on cough syrup, he looks at pornography to further his high. This hurts me even more deeply. As a woman and as a wife I have had my self-esteem shattered by this habit. He has been seeing a therapist that specializes in this kind of behavior for almost 2 years now. There has been some progress, but I still live a life riddled with lies and deception. There is a double life that he leads that keeps me second-guessing my intuition and sanity. Catching him in the act of using or finding clues that tell me has done it recently make my heart shut down and my mind reel. I feel like a detective in my own house. I have spent many years working on my issues and trying to be the best wife I can be for him. I have committed myself to reading God’s word every day and trying to make his addictions about something other than me. And yet, they feel so personal. Every time. I often remind him that every time I catch him in a lie or high from substances, a little piece of my heart dies and closes off to what we could have as a couple. I long to trust him and share with him, but I feel guarded because of this behavior.
Recently he was caught shoplifting while getting his drug of choice at a Rite-Aid. He is now banned from all Rite-Aid stores and we are paying a fine of $300. I don’t really know that this behavior will ever end. I know that he has struggled with depression all of the years we’ve been together and I have been supportive as much as I know how. His therapist has also added a severe mood disorder to his diagnosis. This means that I live with extremes all of the time. I am exhausted and heart-broken and I don’t know what else to do. When he lost his job 2 years ago, I had him stay at his parents' for 6 weeks while I let my heart mend. God has been so good to me. He softens my heart every time I feel betrayed and gives me a new love for my husband. It has been truly amazing.
At this point, however, I am not willing to wait for the softening of my heart. I am now 40 years old and starving for a marriage that feels real and honest. I want nothing more than to build a life with someone and share all of me. I don’t think this will ever happen for Eli and me. I still love him. I love him desperately. But I can’t live like this anymore. Please forgive me. Please know that I have tried everything to save this relationship. Please support me and support him and support our children. This road will not be easy. It is truly the last thing I want to do.
It's one of the greatest moments in Toy Story. When pressured to take sides in an argument, the T-Rex panics: "Well, I mean, uh...I don't like confrontations!”
This is what I feel: My dad, wonderful person that he is, doesn't do well with confrontations. He appears to have left a trail of messes – at churches, workplaces, family events. I don't know... it's really hard for me to talk about my parents' weaknesses. In each situation, it's hard to tell how much my dad is the problem and how much he's the victim. All I know is that I have a deep-seated fear of repeating his mistakes. So when I have to deal with confrontation at work, I get sick to my stomach.
This is what I've heard: When I think I've lost my temper, that I've shown anger that I'm really going to regret, most people didn't even know I was mad. When they do know, I hear that I didn't come across as a jerk – but as a guy who's showing frustration just like everybody else does. My fear that I'm repeating my dad's mistakes appears to be unfounded.
I guess what I hate the most is being vulnerable. I don't like looking out of control. I'm terrified of being the fool who made a stupid mistake, argued about it with the boss, and got fired. I'm afraid of finding out that I'm my dad.
I took the "Days Sober" widget off my blog. I'm sick of it, and it's become an impediment to writing. In church-ese we say "We count people because people count," and it's the same thing here: While the focus should be on *quality* ("progress not perfection"?), you eventually have to measure some kind of *quantity*. In church-land, that's the size of your congregation compared to last year. In recovery it's how long you've been sober.
A year and a half ago, after everything crashed and burned, I found a counselor who specializes in treating sex addiction. It's been a quite a ride - illuminating and excruciating and encouraging. I feel like I've made progress for the first time in a decade, which isn't true, because that invalidates all the work I did before, which was also exhausting, but not very encouraging. After truly addressing my sex addiction in a structured program with a trained therapist, I made it to fourteen months. In my world, that's relatively awesome.
After a year of working part time, I became over-employed last September. Who complains about having too many opportunities to work? I guess I shifted from a life of recovery (with work on the side) to a life of work (with recovery on the side) and I just can't do that. I relapsed in November, and again last week. This looks depressingly like my old cycle.
That's okay. I have hope. Maybe for the first time in a while. When I would relapse before, people would always say Get a sponsor and work the steps. Get a sponsor and work the steps. Get a sponsor and work the steps. Get a sponsor and blahblahblahBLAHBLAHBLAH
There, I said it. I just lost every single one of my faithful AA readers. (Funny fact: I don't have any more faithful readers!) I know that's blasphemy, and I have the deepest respect for AA. Really - I'm not just saying that. I once read that AA was the most important invention of the 20th century, and I often bring this up to people. For how long have alcoholics faced jails, institutions and death, with no hope at all? Forever, that's how long. 1935 was the first time in history that alcoholics had hope. Ever.
But I kept doing those things and doing those things and I learned incredible things about addiction and recovery, and I still believe that if I'd kept at it I could have found some sobriety in AA - but what an incredible difference to be working with a counselor who truly understands the agony and darkness of my world as a sex addict, and even more so as a sexual anorexic.
But as I was saying earlier I have hope. I'm not going back to the same thing I've done for years, but back to something that really began to change my life in September of 2011. I guess it sounds like I'm proselytizing, but the material put together by Patrick Carnes is the thing I need to get back to. If you happen to be a sex addict who's not sure where to start, www.sexhelp.com is the best place.
Tonight I had another talk with my son James about his success in staying away from internet porn. Not because of some program I installed on his computer - though these can be helpful - or because he's afraid of punishment - though he should be afraid of consequences - but because he's spent the last year learning with me about addiction and healthy sexuality, about managing feelings and urges, about self-care and asking for help, and accountability and "checking in" with other guys. I'm glad that the things I'm learning aren't just for me.
I wish I only had to introduce you to ME: dad, husband, songwriter, pastor. That’s the guy I see in the mirror. I love my kids, I’m good at fixing things, I love to read or chase my dogs around the house. But I lose track of myself sometimes when I’m hurting. That’s when my addict comes around, the bastard who would throw it all away for a moment alone with his drugs and his porn. He cuts me with a razor and he steals things just for the rush. He’s even tried to kill me. But there’s a huge difference between us, and I’ll tell you what it is: He’s a coward. And I’m not. I won’t let him have my kids, my beautiful wife, my job or my home. And since he hates exposure, I’m going to tell you all about him. I’m Eli, and I’m an addict.