I am thankful for…a new tradition

When I first found out about my husband’s affair it was early November 2007 and Thanksgiving was just a few weeks away.  I made the declaration there was no way in hell that I was going to celebrate that holiday with him.  I told him – and myself – that I had nothing to be thankful for.  Since we live far away from our families, it meant that even if we weren’t eating turkey, we were still stuck with each other for the day.  Luckily, we live in a city that doesn’t shut down for the holiday so I decided that in lieu of a traditional celebration, we should instead go to the LA Auto Show – it seemed like a good distraction.  

Cut to 2013, my husband and I just got back from the annual auto show and are joyously preparing our holiday meal for 2.  How funny that all these years later, we still go to the car show every year on Thanksgiving morning.  It’s become a part of our holiday tradition, just another example of the power of love and forgiveness.

To those who are struggling with not wanted to acknowledge this day or it’s meaning…I hope you can find your way through it with some sense of grace and thankfulness.

A Momentary Loss Of Control

It’s Friday at 6:30 PM and my husband is working late.  Not significantly late.  Just a few minutes past his normal quitting time – maybe 45 minutes – but later than usual.  My logical brain understands why he needs to stay.  But the irrational part of my imagination starts rippling and then, like a tidal wave it crashes onto me with overwhelming power.
This big wave of memories brings back all of those horrible thoughts about the not so distant past and my mind immediately tries to convince me he is lying again.  Is he on the internet cruising adult friend finder?  Is he creating a false email account?  Instant messaging with one of his old acting out partners?  His computer has parental controls on it, but his employees computers don’t.  If they left and he stayed then he has access to an unprotected computer.  Maybe he isn’t on the computer at all for fear of it showing up in someone’s history.  Maybe he had an “in call” gal come by or went to the bar nearby for a drink with someone with loose boundaries.  From here I spiral into where he was yesterday morning.  I forgot to check the GPS/find my iPhone to make sure he went to work when he said he did.  He mentioned that he had gone to the hardware store on the way in – I didn’t know that because I wasn’t paying close attention.  I think about the dinner I had with 2 of my friends the other night – what was to stop him from going to the strip club that is literally 5 minutes away from our house while I was out?  He says that the risk of running into a guy from his SAA meetings is the deterrent to walking into a strip club.  I’d like to believe that protecting our marriage would be all he needs to stay out of those clubs – but apparently the risk of losing me takes a back seat to that of being found out by someone in his program.  Reality check.
All of these scenario’s are possible, which is what makes it so incredibly scary.  It’s not just a case of an imagination gone wild –  all of these things HAVE happened before.  So how do I refocus and trust that it isn’t happening today.  Truth be told, it could be, but program says “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it and I can’t control it”.  So what would my therapist tell me to do in this situation?  Self Care, Self Care, Self Care.  I never really knew what that was before, or at least I didn’t have any concrete way to practice it.  But now I do.  Now I write down these sometimes crazy thoughts and feelings and allow the process to ground me. This blog is such a safe and calming place to “go” in these moments.  In writing this I am not alone while I wait for him to get home, I am part of something much bigger than my fear fueled imagination.

Practicing Gratitude

When there is so much debris from a marital nightmare floating around, it is really easy to get stuck in negative thoughts.  When you get stuck in these thoughts, you can spiral into depression really quickly.   On my bad days – I force myself to list at least 3 things that I am grateful for.  Doing this exercise helps shift our perspective away from the negative, it reduces my stress and forces me to be in the moment.  It is a healthy way to break out of an obsessive thought pattern.  For some people it’s the very thing that helps them get out of bed in the morning.

 
Sometimes the list is very basic 
 
– I am grateful I have use of my arms and legs
– I am grateful I have a job
– I am grateful that my parents are both alive and healthy 
 
But even on a good day it is wonderful habit to practice gratefulness.  Here is a list of 20 random things I am grateful for today.
 
I am grateful that there is a Starbucks next to my work
I am grateful I discovered Almond Milk
I am grateful that I can afford a health club membership 
I am grateful that my hair isn’t falling out from stress
I am grateful that no one in my family is incarcerated 
I am grateful that I slept well last night
I am grateful that my skinny jeans fit today
I am grateful that I can go home for Christmas
I am grateful that I heard the song from The Band Perry on the way to work today
I am grateful that my niece asked me to be her confirmation sponsor
I am grateful that I am comfortable expressing my anger 
I am grateful that I don’t have a cold
I am grateful that my A**hole neighbor is out of town
I am grateful that I discovered an amazing therapist
I am grateful that the new ELLE showed up today
I am grateful that I get a 4 day weekend next week
I am grateful that my dad completely recovered from his stroke last month
I am grateful that noise under my car was just a stuck piece of junk
I am grateful that I have friends who want to spend their birthday’s with me
I am grateful that we don’t have to visit any in-laws during the holidays
I am grateful to be married to a wonderful and sober man
I am grateful that I lost count and went over 20 without even trying!

 It’s almost Thanksgiving…what a good time to try starting a gratitude practice.

You can’t keep it unless you give it away…why I started this blog.

It’s a pretty universal feeling that when we see a great movie, read a moving book or hear an exceptional song we can’t wait to share it with friends and colleagues.  Multiply that feeling by 100…that is how much I want to share the experience of growth, forgiveness, hope and recovery with those around me.   
 
The day I found out about my husband’s betrayals was one of the worst days of my life.  His being disloyal was unfathomable to me because I believed that we were so in love – I adored him, I admired him, we spent all of our free time together and I felt completely safe and cared for.  In one horrible moment I went from feeling that I lived in a big beautiful world filled with trust and love to trying to survive in a tiny dark cage with no one to protect me from the pain another caused me….or from my own mind.   It was my imagination that convinced me that I was unworthy, unlovable & unattractive.  In my mind’s eye his affairs were romantic, intimate moments filled with passion, love and (worst of all) laughing at me and my stupidity.  None of this was true – but my mind could be very convincing.  I have come so far in the past years.  I am now more in love with my husband than I ever was before – it’s a truer and more powerful love – one that I didn’t believe could exist after such trauma.
 
My desire to provide some sort of relief or comfort to other women who have just lost their footing in a similar way (and to enlighten those who have no concept that the twelve step principles could apply to them) became very pressing over the past few months.    Of course, my own insecurities temporarily stopped me from acting on this desire.  I told myself that I am such a novice in the ‘program world’ that I don’t have the authority to be sharing my limited knowledge and I should wait until I can prove that I am qualified to offer some sort of help.   I certainly didn’t want to invade another’s privacy, overstep my boundaries or intrude on their personal lives without an invitation to do so.  
 
This is exactly the reason why I started this blog.  It’s an unobtrusive way to (hopefully) help others who are suffering through the pain and confusion of betrayal.   After all, isn’t the biggest qualifier to being able to help others the fact that I have lived through it, I can relate, and I care?   It’s not about giving unwanted advice – it’s simply about sharing what this experience has been like for me in hopes that my example can help another.   It is incredibly satisfying to have a dialog with people who are already on this journey…it’s a give and take of profound importance.  But to offer solace to someone who has just had their world turned upside down, that is the true service I would like to offer.
 
The 12th step specifically says “…we tried to carry this message to others.”.  If you have ever read the big book you may have noticed that the majority of the book is spent on step 12.  I am guessing that means it’s a really important part of the process!    When I first discovered the devastating betrayals in my marriage I went into a cave of my own making – with no one to turn to and an unwillingness to reach out I isolated from my friends and family.  How I wish someone (anyone) had approached me with an extended hand.  
 
I understand logically that it is simply not possible to carry any message to someone who can’t yet hear it, so perhaps it is through the power of example that I will most have the ability to help.  By living within the principles of service I will be available to others, so when they ask for help, I will be there.
 
I think there is a space in time in which people become ready to learn.  Those of us who have already walked this path have a special capacity to empathize with them.  I believe it is our duty and privilege to do so.I will continue to work my own program and to be available in S-Anon, in life and through this blog.
 
 

A Love Letter

My amazing husband rises early many mornings and leaves the house before I get up.  He reads his 12 step literature, prays and meditates before leaving for his SAA meeting.  He is working so hard to be the man that he wants to be – one who is present, anxiety free, loyal and brave.  

About a month ago, he started a new habit of leaving me a love letter to read when I wake up.  The notes are sometimes short, sometimes long, they are usually romantic, sometimes erotic but always beautiful.  I am so lucky.

This is the letter he left for me the Monday following my disclosure:

 

Image 

We are only as sick as our secrets

Yesterday, I shared a full disclosure with my husband about the ways that I had acted out in response to his cheating.  I wrote about the fear I had going into the disclosure in my post “the more you look the more you see”

https://recoveredwife.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/the-more-you-look-the-more-you-see/

It was exactly as hard as I knew it would be.  I was crying before we even entered my therapists office…and sobbing uncontrollably by the time we settled in and were ready for my confession.  Somehow I managed to read aloud the list of the sins I had committed.  I didn’t expect my husband to be so surprised by what I had done.  It makes me wonder if a man’s sixth sense differs from the female’s sense.  I always knew in the back of my mind that he had acted out with this one or that one – but he seemed utterly shocked by the things I told him.  I had told him bits and pieces over the years about how I had reached out to my ex-boyfriend for comfort when I felt scared, hurt and alone.  He knew that I emailed and texted with my ex, he even knew we talked about reuniting if we had ever decided to divorce.  He knew all of that for all these years but apparently he never considered that maybe I had seen him.  Perhaps he was just in denial all that time, or maybe he was so caught up in his own acting out and addiction that what I did just wasn’t on his radar.  Or maybe (and this hurts) he thought I was better than that.

It’s amazing to me that I was lost for so long – and was willing to do things that so severely went against my nature.  I said to my husband yesterday that in those fearful and lonely moments I wanted to return to someone who knew me before I was changed by my husbands betrayal.  I think that hit the nail on the head.  The discovery of my husbands betrayal changed me into someone I didn’t even recognize.  I started to dress differently, act differently, walked on eggshells, stopped being sexual.  I buried myself under a pile of shame.    When I saw my ex it was like a turning back of time to a person I used to be before I married an addict, before my world crumbled down in front of me.  But all of that was a fantasy.  We are who we are because of our life experiences.  I could spend the rest of my life with the ex and not really ever be that carefree girl that I was before I was betrayed.   My husbands behavior changed me in dozens of ways – as I’m sure my disclosure with change him.  But here we are – for better or for worse – supporting one another in our own personal recovery.  We are moving beyond…