Looking for the Wrong Addiction
- Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Growing up in a family touched by addiction changed my worldview. I remember one scene in particular as a teen, in which I heard several adults discussing a family member.
"We talked to all the local liquor stores and asked them not to sell it to her."
"I found vodka hidden in perfume and other household bottles."
"I'm not sure what else we can do. She's been checked into treatment facilities before."
As they reviewed all of the tactics they had tried and failed, the futility of their efforts was not lost on me. I realized there was nothing they could do, but I vowed my adult life would be different.
A few short years later, I married, Dave, and because of similar backgrounds, we decided to keep alcohol to a minimum. We occasionally had a drink but carefully toed the line of caution. This went on for years. I felt a smug satisfaction that alcoholism had not touched our home. We had two beautiful daughters, attended a wonderful church, Dave was a successful salesman and we were living the American dream.
Then after seventeen years of marriage the façade, like a curtain, came falling down around me. Dave came to me and confessed his addiction to Internet pornography. I was stunned-ashamed-frozen. My life as I knew it changed in an instant. I reached out to one friend I knew had been through this. She encouraged me and pointed me to other resources. I read . . . and read . . . but absorbing was a challenge. Clinical definitions of this new term, "Sexual Addiction" (SA), didn't bring me much hope or comfort. I wanted to understand this new land, a place where I was lost in dark feelings.
Then I found some footing; the old Meg took over. I began to deal with my shame and sadness as I had in the past, by dragging myself back into the world of delusion. I stuffed, denied, and prayed the problem away. After all, my husband was sorry. His library of books on recovering from SA grew, and he seemed to be spending more time reading the Bible.
I thanked God it was only pornography and for the amazing healing of my husband. Life was back to normal. I knew about addictions and I was going to be there for my husband.
Two years later, I got a message that my husband was coming home early from a business trip to talk. The message made it clear that he hadn't lost his job. The day dragged on until he walked in holding a rolled up journal. The look on his face reflected the pain that was about to be splashed all over me. He spoke first.
Suddenly, nothing else existed except for the drumming of my husband's voice and the journal he was holding—the pages that were about to indelibly change my life. There was nothing to grab onto and nothing I could control.
I knew from Dave's first disclosure two years prior that his compulsion started when he was only eleven years old, when he found pornographic material in his home. Porn became a coping mechanism for his feelings of low self-worth. Because he feared that I'd leave, Dave had not been completely honest in his first disclosure.
For over seventeen years his being unfaithful had been inconceivable to me, and though his desire to be free and healed was sincere, his conscious exclusion of pertinent information left just enough for the Enemy to get a handhold. Satan waited for the right moment, grabbed it, and dragged Dave even deeper into the addiction. His addiction had progressed, and he crossed the line from fantasy to reality by being with another woman.
This time, my husband hit bottom. He described how, after this sexual encounter, he felt God had turned His back on him. Loneliness had been a lifelong companion, but this feeling of being estranged from God was darker still. His desperation to be free of his addiction was so great that he was willing to forfeit our now nineteen-year marriage. As he read from his journal, determined now not to omit anything, he confessed every betrayal over the course of our lives together.
Life as I defined it vanished. Reality no longer existed. Dreams died and were buried out of reach. All that remained was one large, black hole with a huge question mark in the middle.
Amazingly void of emotion, all I remember were my legs shaking. As I tried to get my brain to engage, I sensed God setting the guidelines for me. I heard myself speak in a normal tone, like I was listening to a stranger read a list. Shock is God's wonderful design.
Slowly, the pain seeped in. All I could pray was, "Why?" Still, it was no surprise to God that we were here. He had prepared me for this moment and He was carrying me through it. I knew enough not to make any rash decisions. I waited to hear from God. The first scripture I read was Isaiah 54:5 "The Lord is your husband . . ."
Over the course of the weeks and months that followed, God gently walked me through pain, fear and devastation. It continues to be a slow process, but it's work worth doing. God showed me a great deal about myself, He even answered the "why." He allowed the pain of betrayal to refine me and draw me to Himself. It took something major for me to stop trying to be in control. Thankfully, Dave too is doing the work and our family is stronger.
Both Dave and I have addiction and codependency in our backgrounds. I thought the inevitable could be sidestepped simply by avoiding alcohol. Instead of seeing our unhealthy behaviors and working on my own growth, I spent all my energy looking at the outside--looking for the wrong addiction.
Originally posted in July 2008.
Crosswalk.com welcome's Meg Wilson as the newest contributor to our Marriage channel. Watch for Meg's article next month as she shares more about healing from codependency.
Meg is a regular speaker to women's groups, Bible studies, and conferences. Five years ago she founded the Healing Hearts Ministry to offer help and hope to women whose husbands are caught in the web of sexual addiction. Her book Hope After Betrayel: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage (Kregel Publishers) was released last year. You can visit her website at www.hopeafterbetrayal.com
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