Sunday, April 18, 2010


This blog needs to be about sex. But, like my life, it has constantly been sidetracked by my addiction.

I live with an emotional abuse and incest survivor. This fact colors every single day of my life. It taints and poisons the most basic and honest of my human impulses – love, affection, intimacy. I need to be growing in patience and love for my wife, learning how to meet her needs and open her heart. I need to be nurturing a place where she can redefine sensuality, in her own time, with someone who loves and cherishes her. This can't happen when she can't trust me.

Shortly after therapy uncovered my wife's abuse, I bought the book Ghosts in the Bedroom, subtitled “A Guide for the Partners of Incest Survivors.” I was desperately looking for help for ME, the guy who felt like a rapist every time he tried to make love to the woman he adored. Instead, one of the first things I read was that most survivors marry people with serious core issues like addiction. The author didn't know me, but he already knew I was an alcoholic.

I was frustrated and angry. I wanted to get to the part that told me how to FIX my wife so she would have sex with me. Instead, I read that our situation could not improve until I took care of my own core issues. I had to deal with my alcoholism before we could learn intimacy.

Here's why this made me mad: because I believed that my drinking problem was her fault. The reason I drank myself to sleep every night on the living room couch was that she was doing her avoidance thing: falling asleep in the kids' rooms, getting a stomach ache, suddenly remembering unfinished paperwork, getting stuck on the phone with a friend. (Her demons were remarkably creative.)

I began the journey of recovery, only to find it much more complex than I'd anticipated. My addiction was “cunning, baffling, powerful.” And it was permanent. I would either be actively working to beat it, or painfully succumbing to it, for the rest of my life. I also learned that it was not Linsey's fault. She could not stop it nor could she cure it. My addiction was, and is, mine.

I never really read beyond chapter three, titled “My Core Issues.” I had a book about supporting an incest survivor, a book that was supposed to help me be the kind of husband who could love her through her hurts and rebuild her understanding of intimacy. But I got hung up on the chapter about MY problems, MY addiction.

And that's what my life feels like. I am angry and disappointed in my marriage. My sexuality and my adoration of my wife feel like heavy, frustrating liabilities. And our progress as a healing couple is repeatedly trashed by my slips.

You might find it really arrogant for me to be complaining. I know I've been the bastard that keeps fucking up. I'd like to stop now. I'd like to allow the books and marriage therapy to work in our lives. There is no shortcut to get there, just a daily choice to stay sober.

[Photo by oba-bobalina under C.C.License]


  1. wow, i feel like jeff probst from survivor telling the losing team...'i got nothing for ya'..

    but the truth is you got a lot going for you, this level of honesty is beautiful and raw, it is what you choose to do with this awareness that will make the difference you both your lives.

    apply the spiritual principles of the program and focus on you, that will make everything else fall into place, even if she doesn't change, it is not about her, it is about you, how you feel inside, your happiness, you are powerless over her and you cannot make her happy, she has to do that for herself.

    i guarantee you this if you focus on you and work your program of recovery and stop worrying about the things you cannot change, i.e. her, the past... then you start changing what you can, your attitude, and you will feel better, you will one day wake up with a smile and less worries and know that you are right where you are supposed to be.

  2. Thanks C&C - You've been around for a while, and watched me struggle, and I always appreciate your input. Good advice in your comment - it makes me breathe deeply and get back to the basics.

  3. I hope that Linsey is getting help for herself also through a 12 step program such as Al-Anon. Trust is a big issue for me. It takes time and action to rebuild trust. And working my own program of recovery to change my behavior so that I understand the resentments that crop up. I believe that even in the worst of circumstances there is hope.

  4. This is a difficult and complex issue, but if you are 10 days sober as the counter at the top suggests, your priority is figuring out how to not drink a day at a time. Yes this issue can be addressed, but you have more important fish to fry regarding how not to drink. If you carry on drinking all else will suffer. Including this difficult relationship issue you describe here.

  5. I am with Syd on this one. Your wife needs to be meeting her own recovery needs.

    What I hate to point out in a comment, though, is the reality that while you may achieve sustained sobriety, that is no gurantee that your sexual relationship with your wife will improve. You have to be willing to strive for and stick with sobriety because you want matter what.

    You're in my thoughts, Eli. I know the pain of not being ale to stay sober. Please don't give up.

  6. Eli, I am a survivor of sexual abuse and the road to recovery has been a roller coaster ride for both of us. Trust is a big issue. My husband is not an alcoholic or addict, yet I have a hard time trusting in intamacy. As an alcoholic myself, I do not know how to be intimate sober. I could have sex till the cows came home when I was drinking, but when I got sober it was too much for me. Too real. I have been in counseling for over two years. During those two years there have been spurts of really good sex. It has been kind of like working the steps, you take one forward and then two back.

    I guess the best advice I can give you is put sex on the back burner indefinitely. That probably sounds like a tall order, kind of like someone telling you that you can never drink again for the rest of your life. Let your wife be the one to broach the subject. If you are capable, (and I know some men are not w/o becoming aroused,) you may want to ask her if she would like you to just hold her. Love and intimacy without sex is the only way you regain her trust and help her to grow. This is not about you. It is really not even about sex that much. It is about healing and learning to trust.

    I am so blessed to have a husband who has stood by my side during this and loved me through it all, not perfectly, but the best he could. Turn your marriage over to your higher power and watch what miracles can happen.
    God Bless, Patty

  7. Syd brought up my exact question....does Lindsey pursue any sort of recovery for herself? Trust is huge. So freaking huge. I recently heard about a marriage counselor who has his clients go to a ropes course know those team building activities? My first reaction was how stupid that was for a marriage in trouble....but then I began thinking about it. Gosh, learning to trust your partner to have your back in a very physical sense would be huge. Conquering something together like a ropes course together would be very bonding. I am not suggesting that you and Lindsey find your nearest ropes But the whole idea did make me realize that trust can be built in many many ways and those feelings of trust will filter down into all areas of our relationships. I always think "therapy" but getting out and "living" would create some amazing opportunities for trust to be nurtured too.

  8. Man, this actually made me well up a little. This could be the story of my life, right here.

    I was desperately looking for help for ME, the guy who felt like a rapist every time he tried to make love to the woman he adored.

    I don't discuss it on my blog, but my wife too is a rape survivor. That line about feeling like a rapist hit so close to home I forgot to breathe for a sec.

    I believed that my drinking problem was her fault.

    I feel you there. I think (and I'm no expert) that the key here is remembering that the betterment of ourselves is just for the sake of our partners. The betterment of ourselves is about improving our relationship WITH ourselves, and with God. Sure, her behavior makes it so easy to rationalize and even justify your own destructive behavior. But in the end, when you have to account for your life, you'll find you either had the faith to overcome or you didn't. And when I think about that, the mitigating circumstances seem so insignificant.

    But hey, if a guy like you can't overcome, I don't know what hope a guy like me has. I totally understand all those frustrations about your marriage, and I don't think anyone in the world has the answer. So it's up to people like us, people who know we're vile but sincerely want to be better, to figure out these answers for ourselves I suppose.

  9. Sorry, should have read "the key here is remembering that the betterment of ourselves is NOT just for the sake of our partners."

  10. i have been thinking of you so much these past few weeks as new memories of my own abuse have been surfacing. watching my husband have to go back to square one as i deal with "surrogate abuser" junk again has been so hard for both of us.

    i don't know if it would help, but i processed a ton of it on my last blog post. i have been praying for you both as i have both the survivor and the addict within me.

  11. Syd- Yes, she is working a program - in her time, not mine, and that's difficult sometimes but as it should be. And hope is, I think, the key for us at a time like this. Thanks.

    Irish Friend- You're right, that's all I can, or should, think about right now. The relationship stuff is a nagging voice in the background that I have to deal with, and it helps to put it here.

    Kristin- Right on both points. I think I'm not off track in saying that Linsey's not sufficiently meeting her recovery needs at this point, but that's not really my business. And most importantly, I can't base my sobriety on whether or not our relationship improves. Can't, can't can't. My sobriety is for me, regardless.

    Patty- Thanks so much for your honest sharing. This is very difficult stuff, as you well know. It has been my life's goal to put sex on the back burner - I've come to have an unhealthy hatred of my needs, because without them, Linsey and I would get along so much better. My challenge is to find a way to set aside those needs for intimacy because I love her, rather than out of anger or despair.

    Annette- What a refreshing idea - growing through real life experiences instead of therapy! :) But how appealing. I think we both want this, and I come back to the point of this post - it will sure be easier to actually do things like that (rope course, etc.) when I can consistently stay sober.!

    Diner- You're a lot more intuitively good than you portray in your bio :) For me, I think that absolutely nothing is as helpful, in a sexually frustrated relationship like mine, as hearing from somebody else who really gets it. Who really gets the intense pain of being the "surrogate abuser" to someone you love. (See below for explanation of that term...) Your responses remind me of my own when I read about others in my boat - almost too much to handle at times.

    Bobbie- Great new term for me, "surrogate abuser." Wow, that really sums it up - my love & my affection getting interpreted through the eyes of a victim. It hurts. Both of us. I'll definitely stop by your blog, when I feel I can handle it without triggering.

    Thanks all for the emotionally honest and thoughtful input. It's good to not be alone.

  12. Thanks, I do that on purpose :-) All my life I've done horrible things, and all my friends and confidants are so ready to excuse it with "But you're such a nice guy! Don't be too hard on yourself." And I needed a place where I could really take an unbiased look at my actions, without people who are used to me being the good guy clouding my judgement.

    Also, because I don't want the addicts I follow coming on to my blog and triggering because they thought it was a journal about recovery. At this time it most certainly isn't; just one of reflection.

    I do have some questions about sexual addiction though, and I was wondering if it would be alright if I emailed you though your profile address?

  13. Makes sense, Diner. My wife and I also put out an image of perfection, and it's easy to start believing your own press. A place of honest reflection can't be a bad thing.

    Any email, or discussion in comments or posts, would be welcome. In an effort to allow candid conversation here, I try my best to keep this identity separate from my real name. I wouldn't consider myself any kind of authority on sex addiction though, just a soldier on the front lines.

  14. Good stuff here. It's honest. Thank you. Write more. I need to see others working it, stumbling forward imperfectly.

  15. Eli -- so good to read this post. Thanks for your level of honesty and for sharing how "Ghosts in the Bedroom" impacted you. It's a book I often recommend to the partners of incest survivors, as I found it to do a good job of describing so many of the ways I felt. It doesn't surprise me that you would find some things to sidetrack you there as well.
    I want to give you a kudos though -- getting sidetracked on your own issues while TRYING to understand how to help your wife and improve the chances of the two of you sharing a healthy sexual future is better than putting your head in the sand and never trying to understand her or yourself. Good for you.