by Kevie Simon on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
Imagine this scene with me: A woman walks into the office of a counselor. This woman has recently found out that her spouse is struggling with sexual addiction. She does not want to walk into the office, but knows something has to change in order for her to stay in this relationship. Thinking to herself “I should have known something like this was happening in my marriage,” she tries to move past her anxiety and open the door. In this moment, her emotions range from extreme rage to deep sadness to complete numbness. She feels betrayed and shocked and ashamed. She just wants these feelings to go away. It didn’t feel like this before finding out that her spouse was an addict, and she just wants to go back to feeling safe. When she sits down with her counselor, she says that she just wants to be “fixed”, but she’s not sure if hope even exists.
This scenario is one we often encounter in our practice. Many men and women who are partners of addicts come into our office completely overwhelmed with how to move forward. Most of the time, they have been working so hard to keep their marriage and family thriving, they completely ignored their own needs, and now feels like their world it is completely falling apart. As counselors, it is unbelievably discouraging to sit across from someone who is hurting so deeply and tell them that there is no quick fix. Recovering from a trauma as large as the infidelity of a partner takes time and hard work. When I learned this through my own journey as a partner of an addict, I was furious. How could someone else’s actions cause me years upon years of work and therapy to recover? I could not imagine a day when I would be happy again.
It took awhile for me to see any light at the end of the tunnel. Along the way, I learned to celebrate every tiny moment when the pain lifted. I began to see the small challenges that I overcame as sweet victories in the battle for healing. To the horror of my parents, I got a tattoo a few years ago of the infinity symbol with the word hope written into it. The tattoo was not a spur of the moment impulse, but a purposeful decision to put a stamp on my body to remind me of a particular moment – the moment I realized that I was going to be okay. Ironically, this moment did not come until I was 18 months into my recovery journey.
What I learned through my own journey is this: my recovery process as the partner of an addict was worth every difficult moment. My journey gave me an opportunity to work through my own shame. I learned to love the person who I was, not waiting to love the person I hoped to become. Here’s the hard truth I’ll share with you: this process is the most difficult process I have ever endured. As I look at my tattoo now, I am reminded of that moment I realized there was always hope. It is a wonderful reminder of the tears, the fights, the stumbling I walk through to live the wholehearted life I have today.
If you are this person walking into the counselor’s office today, I give you a standing ovation. You have taken a courageous step in recovering your identity and purpose. I encourage you enter into this process with your entire self. You will see as much change in yourself as you put into the process. For now, wrestle with the fact that there is no quick fix for how you are feeling, but know that this will not last forever. There is always hope.