Being sober has given me many highs: freedom, peace, a clear conscience, true happiness, and clarity of mind. I have bumped along some days keeping my head above the water and other days I have dug in deep. One thing remains a constant: my sobriety is in the number one slot every morning when I wake up and every night when I put my head on my pillow. It is so important for me to stay close to my home group in AA, to my sponsor, to my sober friends, and to my HP. For when I am connected, I can get through the fires I have been dealt. When shit gets real, I know where to turn.
And this is precisely what happened Monday. I have been married for nearly 12 years (to my second husband). It has not been marital bliss, but it has been fairly balanced. Ours is a blended family: two daughters from my previous marriage and two sons in my current one. Despite all the ebbs and flows, the counseling, the life experience, the late night talks, etc., nothing and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me for this.
I have had trust issues for as long as I can remember. Much is deep-rooted, some is current, still others are created. Interestingly, I have been working in my AA meetings as well as with my therapist on how I can dispel this demon. I prayed so hard Monday morning for God to relieve me of the obsession of believing my husband was doing something behind my back. I was going crazy, and despite my best human intentions, I needed Divine Intervention.
My husband and I had a pretty heated argument about how he “outed” me to his sister very early on in my sobriety. We had agreed (I thought, anyway) that, in time, I would disclose my alcoholism to each family member when the time was right and as I was making my amends. It turned out, he did this for me behind my back. I only discovered this because ironically his sister was wasted and told me about his disclosure to her had happened well over a year ago. As she was speaking to me, she was telling me how proud she was of me, how I have made such great changes, yadda yadda yadda.
I thought my trust was shattered.
So my husband and I went for a drive to discuss the latest trust problem. I was angry and felt justified. In addition, I recently noticed he was clearing out his phone’s history, his iPad as well as the two home computers. A move, he claimed, was due to his job’s security settings. He told me he would show me the email to prove it. He gave me a list of all of his accounts and passwords and told me I could trust him unconditionally. He even handed me his phone and told me to look through it as he had NOTHING to hide.
Unfortunately, he is not as savvy as he thinks. Deep in the advanced settings was the footprint of all his online activity. The majority included hundreds of pornography sites. Most of which are so repulsive they don’t get to be named on my blog. Oddly enough, it was at that moment of discovery that I felt relief. I AM NOT CRAZY! This has been going on for years and has always been his secret. In my heart, I always felt something was off. He didn’t really ever look me in the eyes. Intimacy was an issue. A simple hug nearly always turned into sex. I tried hard to please him and to keep things “fresh” in the bedroom, convincing myself that sober sex is new territory for me and I had to give time time. Somehow, I always felt bad afterwards as he would snore away like a baby and I was left feeling empty and detached.
My relief is largely due in part that I can quit blaming myself. My instincts were right: something was being hidden from me. Porn is not harmless. Science has proven that the brain is rewired every single time porn is viewed. Being intimate with a real person becomes less and less satisfying. My feelings over the past few days have ranged from rage to despair to loathing to fear. But not once have I wanted to pick up a drink. Not once. Instead, I picked up my phone and called my sponsor. She was kind, loving, supportive and helpful. Her words were gentle as she reminded me just how vulnerable I am to a relapse at this point. My thought is if I drink, I lose any bit of trust I have established with the people I love. The exact issue I have had ripped out from under me.
For this alcoholic, the torment in my heart is real. I do not know if our marriage will sustain this latest blow. Whatever trust I did have in him is completely wiped out. My mind takes me to conversations we’ve had and I realize he was projecting much of his shame and anger onto me. At that time, I blamed myself. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Much like the spouse of an alcoholic, the spouse of a porn addict wonders what she can do to make the connections between her and her husband better. There was nothing I could do.
So now what? Well, I’ve been to a lot of meetings, talked with my sponsor often and have an emergency appointment with my therapist this afternoon. I have prayed not only for myself but also for my husband. It’s killing me to ask God to heal him right now because I want him to suffer in his heart like I am. I have cleaned out any sexy lingerie I have; they are reminders to me of my codependency. Any clothing that he has purchased for me is gone. I cannot stomach the idea that some hot, young sale girl he was attracted to was helping him. I cannot wear my wedding rings because each time I look down at them, I feel like the vows were a joke. We promised to honor and to cherish each other. Porn does not enhance a marriage when BOTH partners are not involved. I am well aware that some couples use porn and that works for them. The difference is that it is out in the open and there is honesty. This was not our case. Every time he looked at porn and masturbated, he was distancing himself from little by little. I was fighting a battle I knew nothing about.
I refuse to feel like I am less of a woman. It’s no secret that most girls in porn are nearly 18. I am 46. I will never have the body of an 18 yo. But I pray for the girls in the porn. Most are abused, have been violated, or are victims of sex-trafficking. They, too, are victims because the industry is making billions of dollars off of them as they perpetuate their inner guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness every time they take their clothes off.
No. I will get through this with or without my husband. He begged me to stay and to help him. For now, I am staying put. He understands there will be no sex, no touching, no kissing and no trust. Not now. I have to learn how to navigate through this one day at a time. Rash, quick decisions are not good for me. It took a long time for him to get to this point in his addiction. I cannot be expected to “get over this” in a week, a month or even a year. I cannot put my younger boys through the pain of a divorce at this moment. However, I am well aware that my husband’s behavior is a family problem. We all need help and we all need to be honest. He needs to work his own program and find his own way to recovery. God knows I pleaded with him to go to Al Anon to help understand my disease. He chose not to. It’s hard not to throw that in his face right now. As much as I’d like to, I have to keep working on myself, filling in the gaps, crying through the pain, and staying sober.
Men (and women) who look at porn in secret have hurts they need to heal. Just like alcoholics who drink numb out their pain. I certainly did. I am trying to show some compassion but the pain is so fresh and so raw right now.
Being sober is what gave me the clarity of mind to keep pushing. God allowed me the time I needed to get to a place in my sobriety where it would not kill me. I’m not holding my head high today and feeling like “I’m all that”, but I am not drinking either. For that, I am grateful.
I am interested in hearing from any of you who have had similar situations. I have learned that when we talk about our fears, they become less frightening and their grip isn’t so hard. I am not open, however, to a discussion on how “All men look at porn” because that is not true. Nor do I want to entertain the idea that I “should” engage in viewing with him. I am not going to further indulge in the shame in order to “please” him. I haven’t asked him to stop drinking since I got sober; therefore, I don’t “owe” him in that department.
Maybe together we can offer support. I certainly know in my experience with AA, I have learned so much from others.