The sickening reality of betrayal can feel hopeless. After years of living in fear and anxiety, connected to my husband’s addiction, I became exhausted. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
The very last time I discovered that my husband had acted out and lied about it, I felt completely defeated. I could no longer stay in the dysfunctional cycle that my marriage was in. And my husband was just as miserable and frustrated.
IF NOTHING CHANGES, NOTHING CHANGES
My second-to-last-stop before recovery was a visit to the therapist we had seen as a couple for several years. At my last session with him, his advice to me was to divorce. I remember saying to him, “But I don’t want to leave. That’s why I’m here.” The therapist was annoyed. That was when I realized there is such a thing as an “unsafe” therapist. I begin to think of all the times we went to see him and how—after many sessions—nothing had changed. His advice had always been to have more sex, which left me confused and agitated. It was never a topic of our sessions to look into my lack of trust, anger, or victimization. Despite all this, I followed his advice to stay with a family member until things otherwise “smoothed over.”
A GIFT FROM GOD
Somewhere in between the bad counseling session and me moving in with my family member, an AL.com article surfaced on my Facebook newsfeed. This timely article discussed a wife and her husband who had walked through sexual sin, addiction, and infidelity. Their story had led to a ministry to help others with similar experiences; and it seemed different than the Bible studies and “surface” talk I had grown familiar with in church. They were honest about what had happened to them. They were being real.
In desperation, I called the wife and told her my story. She listened to me patiently, and invited me to come to a recovery group for spouses. The chips were down and it looked like my only option. My husband agreed to attend a meeting for sexually addicted men as well.
When I walked into my first Awaken meeting, I was terrified and shut off. My defensive mechanisms were on full alert. The women in the group were laughing and relaxed. The structure was loose and laidback. I remember thinking, “How could they be so happy—weren’t they mad at their husbands? How could they have such close relationships with one another—weren’t they afraid of getting hurt?”
But then as the women in that room began to share, I could relate to every word. I listened as they shared about betrayal, tears, depression, and anger.
I continued to attend the meetings, and I heard other women tell their stories, piece-by-piece. They were vulnerable and I remember thinking, “I want what they have.” I started hearing words that deeply resonated with me, words that I hadn’t heard in church. There were three key terms that were pivotal in my life in those early days:
Trauma: Many women – when describing their experiences with their spouse – used the word traumatic. They talked about the symptoms they felt, and they were similar to those of a patient with PTSD. “Is this what I had been going through? Is this why I felt so nuts?” My pain finally felt validated.
Safe People: I had never before been taught that there are people who are appropriate to talk to about hurts, but also people who are not appropriate. And I’ve never learned to trust my gut about who to talk to or not talk to. I learned slowly that the women at Awaken were safe. I also learned that I have the choice to decide who I talk to about personal things and who I don’t.
Sanctification: The process of sanctification is still a hard one to wrap my head around. So far, this is the way I have understood it: The Lord loves me so much that he is willing to allow me to go through pain, so that I can come out of it on the other side more like him. It’s a long-term, ongoing process of actually becoming holy. It’s a process that takes our deepest wounds and glorifies God through His restorative healing. I felt like I was being “sanctified” each time I felt deep pain.
The Awaken meeting was just what I needed every week. But even as I went, I still had a lot of unresolved emotion and post-traumatic stress, so I grabbed as many tools as I could carry. Even months into recovery, I was still struggling daily with a fear of being rejected or hurt again. I didn’t know how not to control, care-take, and obsess. I drove myself up the wall with worst case scenarios. Here are a four things I did on a regular basis (and still do!) to begin healing my mind and heart:
- Reach Out to Another Person—Picking up the phone to call or text another woman was tough and scary at first. I was afraid to be vulnerable, but I needed help. I began reaching out to one women, then another, then another. I was no longer alone.
- Relationship Coaching—My husband and I started our Awaken journey with relationship coaching. Similar to therapy, coaching gave us an opportunity – among other things -for me to understand why he acted out and for him to understand what it did to me. It helped set us up to receive true healing and recovery.
- Daily Devotions—I read The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie and New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I try to read them daily, but part of my recovery and healing is not beating myself up if I miss a day.
- Individual Counseling—I was hesitant to seek an individual counselor at first. We had wasted so much time with an “unsafe” therapist that it was hard to trust I would find the right one. But as I was patient with the process, six months into recovery God introduced me to a therapist who has changed my life.
As I began using these tools consistently, my mind and my heart began to shift to a different place. God chipped away at the bitterness in my heart, and allowed me to begin seeing things about myself that I would have never dreamed I could know. To be sure, there have still been difficult, sad days in recovery. But now there are also days of joy and peace. In taking it one day at a time, one situation at a time, and sometimes one (OMG) moment at a time, God is carrying me into a new way of living.
I’m excited for this opportunity to share with you some of the restoration and healing that has taken place (and is still taking place) over the past year in recovery. Check back for the next blog post, in which I’ll talk about what it’s like now! If you missed the first post on what life was like before finding Awaken, you can read that here.
If you are walking through the devastation of betrayal, you are not alone. There is a community of hope and resources for healing. If you need immediate resources, please reach out to Awaken.
This post was written by an anonymous contributor who is part of an Awaken group in Birmingham, AL, for women who have been affected by their husbands’ or boyfriends’ sexual addiction. She is reaching for authenticity and vulnerability in recovery. Through community and therapy, the Lord is teaching her that her identity is covered in grace, not shame. For the first time in her life, she is learning who God designed her to be.
We’re excited that she is bringing us into her journey of healing & recovery, and our prayer is that through her journey, you’ll find hope and encouragement for your own.
Awaken also offers groups in Birmingham for men and women who struggle with sexual addiction. Additionally, we have Twelve Step groups dealing with issues of addiction and control. CLICK HERE to get information on all of our group offerings. Or contact us with any questions you have.