For six years of marriage, I had shoved down my tears in favor of comforting my husband. And when I hit rock bottom and six years' worth of hot tears came raging to the surface, I couldn't stop. I cried for months. No one knew my pain.
I talked with the Bishop now and then, but kept that relationship as small as possible -stripped it bare of what I was really going through. My own shame kept me from opening up. I didn't talk, I didn't tell... I was married to an addict, a porn addict, and the shame I felt was binding.
But one day I told someone who wasn't on The Shame List of people it was okay to talk to -she wasn't a Bishop.
I didn't want to tell her because the thought of someone else KNOWING made me physically ill. What would Danny say if he found out I had talked about his stuff with someone else? a friend? another woman?
Still, something drove me to open my heart. And I did.
I'm pretty sure it's easier to jump out of a plane with a parachute strapped to your back than it is to take that first plunge.
Why? No parachute.
For days afterward, I felt ill. I shook. I felt deceitful. I felt like I was lying to my husband by not telling him that I had told someone. I was terrified he'd tell me not to tell anyone else, not to talk to her, and at that time... I needed the safety of space, the safety of being able to talk unfiltered, to share my pain and hurt.
And I DID.
For months, she would call.
"How are you?"
I would answer and the answers were never witty or funny or nice in any way. They were riddled with grief, with hopelessness, with false beliefs about my abilities, identity and nature. I would apologize for my negativity, and she would listen and say, "I am so sorry you're going through this."
So many tissues. I used up so many tissues. SIX YEARS of tears came flowing out in six months! Meltdowns were no respecter of persons or holidays or convenience.
The children watched Netflix and sat on clean laundry.
I gained ten pounds.
My dear, sacred friend continued to call. The One Who Knew.
Then came one day in late summer. She called on a bad day. I picked up the phone.
"How are you?" she asked.
And, like I had for many months prior, I told her. I laid bare my soul.
Only this time? I HEARD myself. It was an out-of-body experience. I listened to my depression, I heard my tone of voice... the darkness in my soul.
I hung up the phone and DID something. I did the dishes.
As I washed, I felt the urge and push and desire for something... MORE.
I didn't want tissues anymore.
What did I want?
A life without tissues had seemed impossible, and to find myself wanting to move on? I felt lost. I needed guidance. I needed...
I wanted to WORK at something, I wanted to dig up something, uncover something! But all I had on my side were a pile of tissues and a dirty house!
I had no direction, no one to talk to... the only person I knew who had gone through this had divorced her husband, and I didn't feel that was a path I needed to take.
So I talked again. I TOLD another person. Again, the shame was sickening, but the rewards were worth it. She suggested a support group. I began attending and looking into the eyes of women who understood my pain.
The more support I found, the less pain I felt and the more tools I had!
My soul became a tool box, hungry to be filled. Each meeting, each phone call, each new person I felt prompted to open up to became a stepping stone, a tool, a fresh face in my pathway.
And my tissues.
My sweet, valiant, loyal tissues.
I reserved a drawer in my tool box just for them. Where they were once a lifeline, they did become a enemy to my progression... a trap, so to speak.
For although I needed my time to feel and process the victimization, there came a beautiful and glorious day when I was ready to put my toes into the water of hope.
I just needed someone to take my hand and guide me toward the stream.
And as I filled my toolbox, it was constantly shifting. Is this for me? Is THIS for me?
I rearranged and tried new tools, different brands...
This weekend, I turned and checked my toolbox out to find -most blessedly -that my toolbox is past it's shaping phase. I can now open up shop and fully go hard and fast to work.
- Monthly meeting with my Bishop where I hold NOTHING back but lay aside my shame and open up. My Bishop is safe -my Bishop has not traumatized me. I know I can open fully up to him, and I do. He gives me spiritual guidance and inspired direction from God.
- Regular meetings with a sex addiction therapist. My online meetings with Brannon Patrick have been pivotal in my recovery. Having someone look me in the eyes and say, "Alicia, you have rights. You don't have to live under the thumb of addiction" was freeing and hopeful and validating.
- Education! Support! YOU! I'm looking RIGHT AT YOU! Reading books and blogs and finding true joy in my unending and ever-satisfying quest for truth! The more I know and learn about addiction, vulnerability, truth, transparency, and LOVE... the stronger and more resilient I become.
- Daily work in a 12-step program (s-anon for Yours Truly) with a sponsor who is safe -more concerned about my well-being than my comfort. I can call her and spill it all, and she can lovingly guide me, speak truth when I can't see clearly, and say things like, "Go eat something healthy, okay?" when I'd rather eat cookie dough. Working the steps daily means working surrender daily, and surrender is one of my greatest tools that brings me closer to
- GOD. Each of my tools above brings me closer to God. He is at the center and the outskirts of my recovery. He is in my core and around my being. He IS Alpha and Omega.
My tissues are blessed and sacred.
I don't minimize or downplay the months they camped by my side.
I needed those months, and am FOREVER grateful to my friend who listened without judgement or advice. Without those vital months, I never would have HEARD myself. I never would have come to a point where I was ready to seek out and fill a tool box.
But here I am, tools in hand.
My life is filled with HOPE and LOVE. Because I lived without them, I know and can FEEL the stark difference. So I issue a prayer to my God and to those traveling this path, no matter where they might be on it:
Give me tools. Give me tools. Give me tools.
The tissues will take care of themselves.