Part One: Crisis
“Call me right now! I can’t believe you lied to me AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!”
It was Friday at 3:42 pm. I was in a meeting when I felt my phone vibrate. Sheer panic is a very appropriate descriptor of my emotions at that exact time. Mix in a healthy dose of shame, disgust, self-loathing and add a bit of self-preservation. She knew. I had contacted the woman I cheated with after promising I would never do so again. And now she found out. How could I mitigate this? And could I lie to cover it up? Only to protect her, of course.
Again. Yes again. So nine months ago, I had told her the truth. Well, part of the truth. I told her I was leaving her. I told her that I was seeing someone else and was going to move out. I told her all this by text. I figured that was easier. Well, it was easier for me. Then something remarkable happened. Something I didn’t expect and didn’t know how to handle. She told me two days later that she still loved me. I was speechless and didn’t know what to do. I thought I was stuck in my affair and had no other choice. I thought I had to stay in it and that when my wife found out what I was doing, she would not want me back. But she did. So I ran. I ran back home. I only outran my lying and my addiction for a short time. Nine months.
So here I am, nine months later. I promised myself I had changed. After several years of making excuses for not practicing my Christian faith, I got involved in church again. I spent time with my wife, we went on dates. We took a vacation alone together. That was the first time in almost 20 years we had done so. I even got baptized. I dove into our marriage. I had stopped. She didn’t need to know everything else. That would only cause hurt and pain. I had truly changed. Only….I hadn’t. I reached out again. I reached out to that affair partner. I just wanted to make sure she was Ok. That I hadn’t damaged her life too much. I swore I was just being thoughtful. I even disguised and hid my contact information for my new phone so she wouldn’t know. That wasn’t enough. The affair partner wanted to “help me” end my marriage so she texted my wife.
Now, nine months later, she sends my wife a text message. I had lied to her and had reached out to the “other woman.” My wife wouldn’t be lied to again. She was in full anger and panic and close to a nervous breakdown. I could feel it through the text. I rushed home to find her in shock and tears. The shame was overwhelming. I couldn’t breathe. I wish I could say I was ready to “come clean” and tell her everything. I wasn’t. I wanted to lie and lessen it. I wanted to say, “No that was just the woman you knew about trying to hurt you again. Of course I didn’t contact her after I said I wouldn’t.” I knew quickly I couldn’t do that. The woman I cheated with had already told me she was going to send her copies of my messages.
I was cornered. This was most likely the end of my marriage. I would lose 26 years of marriage, probably a real relationship with my children, and more than likely my sanity. This was what rock bottom feels like. I didn’t have any more options for lying, even though my self-preservation tools had kicked in hard. She wanted me out. I went to a friend’s house. I was having trouble focusing and still…..trying to find a way out.
She saw her counselor the next morning. She wouldn’t talk to me. Her counselor texted me with three non-negotiable requirements for even continuing a conversation together:
Immediately meet with a counselor that she recommends
Enroll in a 12 step program for sexual addiction
Full disclosure of all sexual history and polygraph examination to verify I wasn’t holding anything back.
Ok, a counselor I can handle. Program - I have been to a 12 step program before. After the first time. That wasn’t for me. I didn’t fit in that group. Those guys had issues that I didn’t have, or so I told them. Of course I didn’t tell them everything.
Full disclosure of all sexual history. A polygraph. My thoughts were: “Oh, God save me. How do I get around this? Can I manipulate this situation? I am sure I can change her mind. Can’t I?” I had before. Her counselor had recommended full disclosure and a polygraph after the first time. Nine months ago. I had convinced my wife it was too expensive and unnecessary. Of course this was all there was. I will go to counseling, we can go to marriage counseling. I am a changed man!
I began praying. I wish I could say I began praying for her primarily. I didn’t. I began praying for me. I was terrified, anxious and panicked. “God, you don’t really want her to know all this, do you? I mean, all it will do is hurt her. I am just trying to protect her. I will change, with YOUR help!” Notice how I shifted it to God? How if He would just help me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
Ok, no need to panic. Agree to everything. You can handle this. It won’t be different than before. You can wear her down and things will be ok. Right? I am sure that is right. It’s worked before. I am smart enough to make this work. I will agree to it all and then just slow play it. I have a good excuse. I was just checking on that previous affair partner. I knew I had hurt her and just wanted to make sure she was ok. That was admirable of me! When I explain it to everyone, it will be ok and I won’t need to do any disclosing of things that are better left hidden. I am SURE that will work!
How did I get here? As a “professed” follower of Christ, how did I end up here? I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Christian home in the Deep South. My father was the chairman of the deacon body at the church and a practicing Christian. My mother made sure all four of us kids were at church on Sunday mornings and nights, Wednesday nights for bible study. Small town south Mississippi in the late 70’s was all about the local church as the center of social and economic life. Problems didn’t exist and if they did, they belonged to other people. We didn’t talk about them. Questioning what was taught in a segregated church and still segregated society led to discipline from parents and ostracizing from friends.
The only problem was, I had questions. I read a lot and what I read led to more and more questions. How could we say that drinking any at all was sinful as it would lead someone to sin who couldn’t handle it, but yet I saw my parents and others drink when no one was looking. Wasn’t that hypocrisy? We were taught compassion and forgiveness in church each Sunday but constantly pointed out that those that didn’t believe what we believed were wrong and to be pitied. That it was our job to “win” them to Christ and we were not “good Christians” if we didn’t. Wasn’t that judgment?
I asked these questions as a pre-teen and then quickly learned that asking questions incurred direction to “just spend more time with your youth group reaching out and praying for others.” I didn’t understand how the God we read about aligned with the God we were representing in our actions. They didn’t align. I understood what it meant to accept that Christ was God in man form sent to atone for my own personal sins and provide me a path to forgiveness. Why did I feel it wasn’t enough? That is wasn’t that easy? That despite that forgiveness, I didn’t know how to take that and incorporate that forgiveness into my life? That I hadn’t earned it.
I didn’t think that I was worthy of forgiveness. I didn’t think I was worthy period. I was the third of four kids. Somehow I was always in the middle, always alone. My older brother and sister were were close in age and didn’t have much in common with a five years younger sibling, especially one who was small, introverted, and lacking any modicum of self-confidence. My younger sister was entrusted to my grandmother and other cousins of the same age. During summers, my parents would send me to my aunt and uncle’s house. Their kids were older, so I was left at their large empty house alone. They had a library, a game room. I wiled away hours in both. In that isolation, I remember making a vow to myself. I could only depend on myself for value, for encouragement, for confidence, for love. I didn’t know that anyone else could give that to me so I would make sure I took care of myself. Being alone was punishment. I would not be alone if I could help it, but it would be on my own terms.
And there was the shame. The shame that I couldn’t speak of or admit. If someone knew what I had done, then there is no way they could forgive me. If my parents knew what I had done, wouldn’t they judge me like I had heard them talk about our neighbor who tried to force himself on my sister? I was even worse. I had let someone sexually touch me. One of my friends. Another boy. What did that make me? I didn’t make him stop. I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t really think about it very much because the shame was overpowering. I knew I wasn’t homosexual but how did I explain what happened and how I had let it happen, even at twelve years of age.
Now here I am 30 years later. I haven’t been able to stop seeking out other relationships, other sexual partners, women other than my wife. Trying to make sure I am loved. I have prayed, gotten more involved in church, and attended men’s Bible studies. Become a husband, a father, and sabotaged my career and my marriage through my inability to stop what I was doing. I begged God to change me. I know God says he forgives me but can he really? Why can’t I stop, and why hasn’t God helped me stop before now?
Next time: Counseling
K. LeVeq is a Christ-follower, husband, father, writer, sponsor, and corporate flunky living with his wife and two boys in a suburb of Houston, TX. Writing is an important part of his recovery from addiction as is counseling, accountability, sponsoring, and working the 12 steps. He is working on a new blog entitled IsolationSucks.com and is working on a book tentatively titled "Lazarus People."