Tag Archives: recovery

Food for thought

Comparing ourselves to others is a fool’s errand. I know MC struggled with this and allowed it to fuel a poisonous self-pity that ruled his heart and mind for too many years. I found after d-day, after so much heart-ache in my life, I struggle with this and with not allowing self-pity to overtake my heart and mind. I hate that feeling, it is not who I want to be. On the other hand, I’ve not found a way to understand and frame all of that pain in a way that allows me to harness it into the tools I need to make a better life going forward. This article really gives me something to think about. Not sure if it is the right framing or not, but simply something I think I need to sit with for a while.

Actors on the Stage of Life by the Schmuz.com

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts

-William Shakespeare

Life brings many questions: Why do some people have such difficult lives, while others have it so easy? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why are there so many tragic deaths?

To make sense out life, we need understanding, to gain understanding we need perspective.  Let’s begin with a parable:

A famous actor receives a call from his agent.

Listen, Jack we just got a great offer. Tons of money, an all cash deal, you get the star role, playing next to the greatest co -stars in the industry. But the best part of it is the plot, it’s great. The story line really clicks, it’s a guaranteed Oscar. I’m sending the script over this morning. Tell me what you think.”

After reading the script Jack calls his agent back.

Listen Bob, forget it, no deal”.

“What do mean?”

“I mean it’s no way, no deal. I won’t do it.”

“Jack what is it? Is it the script?”

“No, the script is fine?

“Is it the other actors?”

“No, they’re fine too.”

“So Jack, what is it?”

“What is it? Bob, don’t you get it? The guy that you want me to play is penniless and not too bright either. More than that, he’s a jerk! I can’t stand anyone seeing me that way.

“But Jack, that’s only the part you are playing, it’s not you.”

“Bob, forget it, doing this production means everyone, I mean millions of people are going to see me as a creep, and a down and out. I can’t stand the embarrassment. Don’t even ask me again, I’m not doing it.” And he hangs up.

Obviously, this conversation never took place. Because any actor, as well as any person going to the theater, understands that those people up there on the stage are there playing their parts. They aren’t judged by how wealthy or poor they are in the play.  They aren’t judged by whether their role portrays a life of success or failure. There is one criterion for judging an actor: how well did he play his part. If his role is to play the part of an Idiot Savant, and he does it convincingly, he will win awards for his performance. If his role is to be the most successful man in the world and he isn’t real, the critics will rip him to shreds. He is there for only one purpose—to play his role. The characters has this type of personality, is from this type of background, has this level of intelligence—now go out there and play the part.

This is a parable to life. Each of us was given an exact set of circumstances, and a specific set of criteria. The backdrop is laid out and we are given the task of playing the role. Born into a particular time period, to a specific family, given an exact set of parameters – you will be so tall, so intelligent, have so much of this talent and so much of this one. Now, go out there and do it!  Live your life, ford those streams, cross those rivers, and sail those seas! Live up to your potential. At the end of your days you will be judged- but not you compared to me—nor me compared to you: you will be judged by a far more demanding yardstick, you will be measured by how close you came to accomplishing all that you were capable of.

The Vilna Gaon, tells us that the most painful moment in a person’s life is after you leave this earth; when you stand before the heavenly tribunal, and they hold up a picture for you to look at; a picture of a truly exceptional individual—a  person of sterling character traits, who shows intelligence, kindliness, and humility – a person of true greatness. And they say, why didn’t you do what he did?

Me?! Little me? What do you want from me? Was I some kind of genius? Was I some kind of powerful leader of men? How could I have done those things?

And they answer the most telling and most troubling line a person will ever hear: that picture is you. Not you, as you stand here now. Not you as you have lived your life. But, that is you had you accomplished what you were put on this earth to do. That is you, had you become what you were destined to be.

They don’t ask how much money you made. How attractive you were. How popular. Those are the stage settings of life—hand chosen by HASHEM as the perfect environment to allow you to reach your potential. Whether you were smarter, or richer, or more talented then the next person is irrelevant, the only issue is: How much did you accomplish compared to—you, compared to what you were capable of.

Understanding life

Most of the serious life questions we ask come from the assumption that this life we now lead is the end all and be all of existence. As if my station now in this world is the reason for creation.

From that perspective very little in life makes sense. Certainly not pain, suffering, or the inequitable distribution of talent and opportunity.  However, once a person widens their perspective, to understand that we were created, to grow, to accomplish, and in the end we will be rewarded – judged by only one criterion: how much I grew, in relation to my potential—then life begins to make sense.

HASHEM custom designed a set of circumstances for each individual to give him the ultimate setting for his growth and perfection.  Not every situation is pleasant – but they are needed to shape us, or give us the opportunity to grow. Once we understand this point, life itself takes on a very different meaning and a person can focus on the purpose of life: fulfilling our mission and purpose in existence.

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Mom

My mother was an addict. She was addicted to prescription opiates, before it was so widely talked about. She kept a shoebox full of other prescription drugs as well. In addition to her opiate based painkillers she took ever increasing doses of Elavil. Different doctors, different pills. At 12 years old, I knew more drug names than any 12-year old should know.

My mom’s addiction overtook her body and mind. The addiction escalated requiring more and more drugs to achieve her desired affect. In the mornings, she would follow me around as I got ready for school, non-stop talking at me. By the time I got home from school, she was groggy and slurring her words. She seemed to go back and forth between those two states. There were times she attempted to manage the addiction. She would reduce dosage, gain some clarity, and pull me in with hope that it would now be better. It never lasted long and the drugs were back.

Her mind and body rotted before our eyes. When I would question her use of these drugs, she claimed she was sick and that I just didn’t understand her sickness, that she needed those drugs. She would go to Canada whenever she could, so she could stock-up,  as they sold Tylenol with Codeine over-the-counter. I was called selfish and uncaring for not “understanding” her sickness.

She used fake suicide attempts to gain sympathy and attention, to manipulate our sympathies. We moved to another state for a few years. When I was in jr. high school, she swallowed some pills and told me I needed to call an ambulance. I didn’t believe her. We had been down that road too many times before. She called the ambulance for herself. They pumped her stomach, they found nothing, but my Dad could have her observed overnight if he chose. We had no health insurance. She begged him not to let them keep her for observation, he acquiesced. We moved back “home” not long after. I remember when I was 20 years old, a junior in college in my hometown, she did it again. She ended up in the hospital. I went to visit her, at my Aunt and Grandpa’s request, and her doctor mentioned the situation as being her first suicide attempt. I was floored, what?

Her father and sister (my Grandpa and Aunt who I love dearly) protected mom from the consequences of her actions. They knew better, but let her create her own narrative. I explained her past to the doctor. He told me he would have her put in a facility to help her. I was so happy, she was finally going to get help. She threw a fit. My Grandpa stepped in. It so happens that my Grandma’s brother was a highly respected attorney and founding partner of the most distinguished firm in town. Grandpa dropped his name and threatened to sue. My mom was not sent to the facility. I was so disappointed. Her doctor suggested I learn about how to set boundaries with her and my family to protect myself emotionally and referred me to my college counseling clinic. I went.

Eventually, I came to understand that I could not save her. Though, I think until the day she died, I held a tiny piece of hope that she would eventually come to save herself. Of course, it never happened. After years of escalating drug use, my mom died at 65 years old from heart failure.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a very long time. Not sure why? I know it is part of who I am and how I relate to my world. I know it. I lost my mom to addiction, long before she ever died, I lost my mom to addiction. Deep breath.

 

Intimacy

How the fuck do we find passion and intimacy (not just physical, but emotional) in our marriage? I just cannot stop thinking about how MC used other woman like they were simply means to achieve an end. And, I know I was no different to him. And, even with all the actions and work he does, how can I believe that I am not just some blow-up doll. I don’t feel intimacy when we are intimate.

I want to experience intimacy and passion with him, but just feel dead inside. And, I believe sex is sex to him. He doesn’t really feel a difference within himself in the emotional component of our sexual life from before d-day to now. He says he knows he loves me. He says he knows that sex with me is more physically fulfilling than it was with others and always was. Emotionally, however, he really cannot express or find any differences in the emotions he experiences during sex with me since d-day, versus pre d-day. Isn’t there supposed to be an emotional difference in our intimate life? I do know it is not all him on this issue.

My heart is still too often filled with anger and resentment. I’m trying to find my footing. I still contemplate anti-depressants, but I don’t want to turn into my mom and, frankly, in our current location access doesn’t seem likely. And, here I am not wanting to be my mom and, yet, I often spend half my day in pjs (unpacking boxes from our move, but in pjs). I haven’t really gone to gym or pool in a long while. I am just tired of being knocked down AGAIN and again in my life and the thought of lifting myself up AGAIN to yet AGAIN be knocked down by the next something else unknown in the future (likely not even related to MC) is not really enticing. I’m so tired of being knocked down, so I am having a hard time just standing back up.

 

Bottom lines

I just read a post called “Recovery Tool: Bottom Lines” on a site called himynameismike.org. It’s one of the most practical things I’ve read in a long time.  I think I have some bottom lines: basically red lines, boundaries I won’t allow myself to cross.  I also think the red lines I developed shortly after D-day are becoming second nature for me.  However, as the author suggests, I could probably benefit from consciously developing and listing a few high priority red lines that could use my full attention right now.

Shortly after D-day I used the following red lines:

1. Don’t be alone with a woman who is not my wife, unless it is an obviously safe and necessary situation involving professional or family responsibilities.
2. Don’t look at porn or masturbate, at all.
3. Don’t communicate electronically with anyone in a way I would be afraid to show my wife.

I still adhere to those red lines.  But, have recently added a few more:

1. Do not click on suggested internet links that are accompanied by alluring pictures of women.
2. Do not visit any internet site that I would be afraid or ashamed to explain to my wife.
3. Do not eat alone with a woman, even in a public place such as an airport, even as a chance encounter that appears innocent, and even with a woman whose relationship with me appears only professional.

That’s a start.  I do think I’ll give this question more thought, to see if I can brainstorm any additional necessary, helpful, or timely red lines for my current focus.

Bleeding out

The kids and I are huge Imagine Dragon fans. I cannot help but think of the song “I’m bleeding out. . .” If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that over the last few days, we’ve been dealing with something of which I am trying to figure out how best to move forward. Here is my thinking today. . .

I do think MC really wants to change, I think he is trying to change, but the thing is that if I don’t feel safe in my present and future, I cannot heal. That’s how it is. We are set to move overseas this summer. All of us were/are so excited about that.

I know MC wants to be healthy, I know he wants to be a man of integrity. The question is, is he capable? If he can be healthy, then I can be with him. If not, then I just can’t be with him.

Then I wonder, am I just delaying the inevitable? Perhaps just taking the kids HOME this summer, getting a place near family, and starting over would just get this show on the road.

Since D-day, MC is so involved with the kids, with me, and home life and family, in a way he never was before. He is an active present participant in our lives and we love that, all of us love that! And, the kids and I going HOME means we really won’t see MC but once/year for a few weeks at a time. That makes me so very sad. So, I have this scale in my head. On one side is the sadness of being away from MC. On the other side is my fear of staying and being hurt. And, I don’t just mean hurt from if he cheated again – that would be such a clear done deal. But, the hurt that comes from the fact that he is still learning, making mistakes, fumbling the ball and each time that happens my wounds that may be in the healing stages, get picked at and begin to bleed. I’m tired of bleeding!

Pet Peeves

There seems to be this grand divide among those of us who attempt to reconcile and those who don’t. In fact, it reminds me of the same type of divide between stay-at-home-moms and working moms.

If we are confident in our decision for ourselves, then I do believe such acrimony would not exist. But, that’s just it, isn’t it? None of us knows what the future holds and that is scary. And, questioning ourselves is part of the process of choosing the best path forward.

Perhaps it is scary when someone chooses a different path. I do believe that criticizing another’s choice is actually nothing more than us questioning our own choices. No matter the choice made, we each need to know that we can and will be ok within ourselves, no matter what comes our way in this life.  And, perhaps focusing such evaluations on ourselves, as opposed to on another, could actually help us to reach that personal goal.

Here’s the thing, the goal of being ok within ourselves, does not happen just because one seeks divorce. How many times have I seen those in the divorce camp encouraging someone to leave to find someone new, because they deserve a healthy loving partner. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t really think that is healthy either. It still seems to be encouraging seeking happiness through another. If divorce is chosen, shouldn’t it  be the goal to be ok within ourselves, regardless of any partner that may or may not exist? If reconciliation is chosen, shouldn’t it be the goal to be ok within ourselves, regardless of our partner?

The way I see it, the end-goal is not different, it is simply the path chosen that is different. This applies to the decision to divorce or reconcile, but equally applies to diagnosis and treatment options as well. Like the stay-at-home-mom or the working-mom, we all want the best path forward for ourselves and our family. I don’t see why choosing a different path to get there should hinder our ability to understand, learn from and support each other.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel, learning from others that have faced these choices before us. But, at the same time, attempting to destroy another’s newly built wheel because it looks a bit different from our own, says more about our lack of confidence in our own wheel than it says about anything or anyone else.

TL: “A beautiful day”

Today has been an absolutely beautiful day.

It started off with an informational interview with someone who has a successful business within my field of study. I will be done with my Masters in a few months and I wanted to understand what real-world possibilities existed for me within the field. I am so very scared, and excited, to once again return to the professional world of work. When we return to the US, I now have a solid idea of something feasible that I can make happen. Until that time, I have some objectives to make myself more competitive, including what type of work experience to pursue when we get to our next destination.

Mindless has the day off and the kids do not. So, after the informational interview, we grabbed one of our kayaks and headed to water. We picked up these kayaks a few months ago, looking for activities for our family. We live near some beautiful places to kayak. Usually, the kids come with, but today it was just Mindless and me. It was absolutely beautiful.

We are home now, sitting on our back porch sipping coffee in this beautiful weather before the chaos of “kids home from school” activities begin. It does seem like we are seeing more and more flowers blooming in our garden.

I think it is helpful to know that if I need to process anything from the past, that Mindless is there with me to do it. We continue to work on ourselves and our marriage. But, it is also reassuring and refreshing to have moments where we can relax and just enjoy the garden as a family, on our own or as a couple.

MC: “State of our union”

I don’t really have anything compelling to say today.  I take that as good news.  This morning I remarked at how much better I feel about us compared to two or three years ago.  Even a year ago, we had some desperate, painful episodes that kept us awake several nights in a row and seared like wounds for weeks at a time.

There are still moments when TL is overcome by fear, anger, or pain about our relationship.  But, now those moments last several minutes or a few hours.  They used to last entire days or several days.  Now those moments come every couple of weeks or so.  They used to come several times a week.

We still blog, pray, attend counseling, talk about accountability and fears, and remain cognizant of where we’ve been in our relationship.  But, today at least, I feel free of that serious doubt that we could ever again be happy.  Today at least, I feel I can relate to my wife with regard to sex, friendship, money, work, parenting, and many things like “normal couples,” without everything being tinged by the infidelity.

The toxic waste that I buried in our garden is still there.  It will forever be there.  We’ll never forget it’s there.  But, even in Chernobyl, flowers now bloom and animals now thrive.  Today I see some flowers in our garden.  Instead of fearing the next radiation warning, today I’m just going to smell the flowers.  I’m already past my half-life.

Beyond twelve-step programs

I’m not against 12-step programs for addictions or compulsions.  As I’ve said, I wasn’t addicted to sex itself.  I was simply pathologically self-centered and selfish as well as seduced by, even addicted to, self-pity.  I’ve spoken to TL and each of our therapists about 12-step programs.  When I look at it closely, I see that for me at least, there are really more than 12-steps to take toward mental health.

We have reviewed the 12-steps several times. I think it is helpful to evaluate and learn from a variety of sources, incorporating what fits into my program, but also recognizing the elements that may be counter to my overall treatment strategy. For those who have asked about or recommended the 12-step program as the course forward for my situation, I would just like to explain my thinking on the 12-steps and how they fit and don’t fit into my treatment strategy:

One.  We admitted that we were powerless over lust — that our lives had become unmanageable.  Yes, I did that.  I do, however, have some reservations about the word “powerless.”  In my case, I’m working with my wife and my therapist and taking responsibility for the fact that I do have, and did have, power to control my terrible behavior.  I simply chose, selfishly and childishly, to relinquish that power and give myself an excuse to cheat and lie.  I can reform, and I gladly seek and accept help from many sources as I do reform, including from God.

Also, in my case, the word “lust” is not appropriate here.  My view is that all men experience lust to some degree.  Lust was not my problem.  My problem was that I had constructed a sick justification for cheating and lying.  That justification was self-pity and a misplaced sense of injustice about my life.  I blamed God and others for my unhappiness and I gave myself permission to cheat and lie.  Maybe other men have a problem with an addiction to lust.  My problem was deeper than that.

Two.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Yes, one of the earliest things that I recognized after d-day is that my motivation for doing such terrible things had required a complete neglect of God. In fact, it wasn’t just a neglect of God, it was an abuse of the idea of God. Instead of being grateful to God for my wife, family, and many gifts, I was angry at God for not giving me more. Now, I spend time daily thanking God for my blessings and trying to treat those blessings and God with respect.

Three.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  Yes, since D-day I’ve successfully undertaken a complete religious conversion which required months of study and several religious rituals, as well as an ongoing commitment to continue growing and improving in my religious observations and in my life. Focusing on God is something I needed to do, and I now do, to remember the people I love and the consequences of my actions.

Four.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Yes, I did that. I also took and passed a polygraph to confirm, for TL, that this inventory included ALL of the physical manifestations of my moral failings.  Still, as TL and I work on this blog and other things, I find I’m doing this again, aiming for a deeper understanding of myself and my motivations.  This ties into work with our therapist.  In my case it includes using psychoanalytical psychotherapy to try to more fully and precisely identify why I did the terrible things I did. 

Five.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  Yes, I do this often, with TL, with therapists, and with other sufferers we reach through social media.

Six.  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  Yes.  But, I recall that God helps those who help themselves.  That’s a fact I neglected before D-day, when I was doing wrong, and blaming God for my defects rather than taking responsibility for addressing them.  Now, I am revising my world view to eliminate the original moral and psychological failings that motivated me to sin in the first place.

Seven.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Yes, but again I’m remembering I also need to help myself.  With all due reverence to God, I’m now working to help God by developing strategies to prevent myself from doing those terrible things again.  The strategies include transparency with my wife and others; accountability for my time, money, location, communications, interactions, and actions; and reducing or eliminating tempting or uncontrolled environments in my life.

Eight.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Yes, my list started with my wife and kids.

Nine.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  Yes, I’m working on that.  Given the extent of the harm I caused TL and my kids, I may be working on that for quite some time.  It’s work that may never be finished.

Ten.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.  Yes, I work on this every day.

Eleven.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  Yes, this is also work that will take a lifetime.

Twelve.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sexaholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Yes, writing this blog is just one small example of how I’m doing this.  No, I’m not carrying a 12-step message.  My message is that each cheater can find a way to become a good person, if wanting to do so.  There are lots of different ways, and each couple can find the way that works for them.  The hardest part, I think, is for the couple to know that the cheater has truly come clean, is truly trying to reform, and has truly changed their world view.

The thirteenth step seems to be sponsorship and support.  We did have a support group when taking the AffairRecovery class. Due to unique circumstances, I’m looking for that with extreme care.  This blog is one attempt for me to find that support.  TL and I are trying to discover other ways as well.  In the meantime, my wife and my therapist are very supportive, and I am very grateful.