“So how often are you reaching out to the guys in your recovery groups?,” my counselor asked me.
“Reaching out? Like actually talking to them or just being in group?”
“No, he said, “actually texting and calling other men to talk.”
There was just one thing my counselor didn’t know. I don’t know how to reach out and actually talk to men. Which ones do I reach out to? None of them are like me. These are guys who have problems. They have issues and they share them openly so I know what they are struggling with. They have pornography addictions and struggle to not act out. Why would I want to reach out to them and talk to them? I ‘m not like them. At least, not exactly like them. But after attending a few meetings, I wasn’t so sure.
I ‘m not really sure what I’m like. I just know that I am unsettled and very uncomfortable being alone. I don’t know what to do with that alone time. Mostly I just try to tiptoe around the house since I am staying upstairs. Sometimes I am not staying at home and am at a friend’s house. It really depends on her mood and level of anger. She wants to know that I am not off doing something I am not supposed to be doing but she doesn’t know everything that I was doing yet. Does that make sense? It does to her. And it is the source of constant anger. I feel like I am walking into hostile territory every time I come home from work. I don’t know what it will be like. Whether there will be a cease fire or an all-out attack. I just don’t know what to do.
My counselor tells me I should stay engaged when she is angry or talking to me at all. It’s difficult. I am used to retreating, to saying whatever I have to say to agree with her and end the conflict. Now, I am supposed to listen, to stay present and engaged. And yet I constantly have her asking if I did something specific. I have to respond that I can’t answer that because we both know that our counselors and the therapist doing our disclosure has made it very clear that I am not to disclose anything else. That’s when she gets very angry, saying that I am using that as a crutch and a shield to keep from answering anything. She tells me that I should want to put her mind at ease if I haven’t done anything more than she knows. That’s the problem: I have. And once she knows, I don’t know what will happen. That terrifies me.
“You need to start working on building intimacy with other men,” my counselor continues. “It’s how you learn to build an intimate relationship with other people, including your wife.”
Seriously? What am I supposed to talk about? And to whom? Right now I am just trying to survive. I am finding out that I really don’t have a lot of friends to talk with. How do I tell my friends that I do have about this? The answer is I don’t. I am sure that if I did, they would recoil in horror. Point out what a sicko I am and tell me to stay away from their families.
I know they pass a phone list around during the meetings that people sign up on and then copy other guys’ numbers. I even hear guys talking about how much this helps them to talk to each other when they are struggling or arguing with their wives or even when they have something good to share. I just don’t know how to do that. How can I reach out to someone else when I can’t even be honest with myself or my friends or family?
There is so much I don’t want to face. Talking to someone else is terrifying. I struggled to just tell my counselor most of what I had done. I have shared in group which fortunately is just talking for three to five minutes without interruption. Now he wants me to talk to other people? I really just want to protect myself and isolate back into the quiet of my own lies. At least there I am safe.
So I went to the next twelve-step meeting. I like the smaller ones where there are only 6 to 8 people. I have actually had some casual conversations with guys in the group. They seem genuinely interested in how I am doing, without being intrusive or really pushy. They ask me how I am coping in my “recovery.” I am not sure what that means completely yet so I just say I am trying to survive. The guys actually seem to know what I mean when I say I am trying to survive.
I copied down a few numbers of guys who seemed approachable and honest. I texted a guy from group who was several months ahead of me in time since he had been discovered. He has done his disclosure. He actually responded and wanted to know how my day was, when was my disclosure (hopefully I can still avoid that!) and how was my wife handling things right now. He and his wife are doing something called intimacy exercises that he said I would find out about soon enough. Yeah, he doesn’t know my situation. I will be fortunate if my wife doesn’t melt down on me and just say she is done before then.
Ok, that was one. I responded and answered his questions and even checked on him. He has been in recovery for almost a year. He was out of the house for seven months before his wife said she wanted him to come back home. He told me that the only way it happened was that she saw him practicing being what she had always wanted, a loving and honest husband. How do I do that? I don’t understand how I can ever show her that I can be that. I don’t know if I can ever be that, a loving and honest husband. I want that I just am not sure I can BE that.
One of the guys I knew from our previous church. We were actually in a small group Bible study together a few years ago. We had great conversations then about who knew more scripture and who was more intelligent. To be honest, we were pretty full of ourselves, always trying to one up each other with our wit and wisdom. But he’s not the same anymore. He’s not who I remember. His compassion seems real and his words are full of honesty and not arrogance. I have a lot to learn. I had to apologize to him.
When I first came to a meeting last year, while I was still able to hide everything, I told him I didn’t think I belonged here. That I wasn’t like other people and had only had one affair. That I didn’t think I fit here. I lied. He said he expected me to lie. Lying is part of being an addict so he wasn’t surprised. I finally understood that old joke of how you can tell when an addict is lying; it’s when his lips were moving. I perfected that and improved upon it: I was lying with my inner thoughts as well.
The other night when my wife was overwhelmed with sadness from the depth of my betrayal towards her, I went and stayed with a friend. I was scared. I didn’t think she would want to talk to me again. I didn’t think God would want me because of how dirty I am. I was really deep in my shame. I was telling myself that I wasn’t redeemable.
I remembered what my friend from church told me about how he was only able to get through some of the worst times by actually reaching out to others just to voice what his thoughts were to take away their power and hold on him. I reached out and told one of the guys that I was sinking. That I didn’t think God could hear me or want me after what I had done and what I am. He pointed me toward this line from Psalm 25:
“He hears you when you cry out to Him and is with you.”
Reaching out to other guys, being honest in my struggles, in my shame, has been hard. I automatically revert to isolation and self-loathing. I am discovering that sharing is painful and necessary and healing and encouraging. It’s a lifeline. I heard this statement in group: Isolation for the addict is death. I agree. Reaching out for this addict is life.
Next time … Joint 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."