I’m at my counselor’s office. He’s in the same practice as my wife’s counselor, so she’s in there with her counselor as well. This is our first joint counseling session. It’s about three weeks since I was found out, what those in recovery call “discovery.” My counselor wants to share with my wife’s counselor where we are in the counseling process. He told me that they want to talk about our “situation” together in front of us, to make sure we are all “on the same page.” I. Am. Petrified. This is a potentially dangerous situation for my own well-being.
When I first “came clean” (without really coming clean), my wife’s counselor told my wife that there was more I wasn’t telling her. That I was not being forthcoming--you know, lying. My wife didn’t want to hear it or deal with it, which allowed me to avoid disclosure. I knew she was concerned about money. I knew she wanted everything to be OK and for me to love her and treat her well and make her feel special. I wanted that, too, and I also didn’t want anyone to know the depth of my depravity. I was able to convince her and her counselor that there wasn’t anything else and that I was sorry and that was it and I was okay. Or so I thought.
But now here we, and I’m in real trouble. My counselor knows things about me that I have never told anyone else. He knows there is more to it than my wife or her counselor know. He holds my future in his notes. I am sure this is going to be him telling them both what they don’t know. This is going to be an overview of what all I have lied about and how much there is that she doesn’t know. I may not walk out of here still having a spouse.
That isn’t what is happening. This is the most surreal experience of my life. My counselor is laying bare the roots of my addiction as he describes it. He is telling my wife and her counselor that it isn’t as simple as sex addiction. He believes there are love and fantasy issues along with abandonment and loneliness. Probably even depression as well. Ok, let’s stop right here. Who exactly is he talking about? He hasn’t told me any of this. How dare he say all of this without discussing with me? He works for me! First of all, how does he know all that and why haven’t we talked about it? I didn’t tell him he could say any of this. I didn’t KNOW any of this.
My wife, her counselor and my counselor are discussing treatment options, talking about next steps. Her counselor is stating that disclosure with a polygraph is the only way my wife will consider staying married to me. She is asking if my counselor agrees, which he does. Wait, what? I didn’t say I 100% wanted disclosure. I thought we could talk about it. I don’t think that is the only way. I still don’t think that she can handle knowing everything. Isn’t the purpose of this to SAVE our marriage? That will destroy it!
Her counselor says that she she thinks this is the best course of action. They’re all talking around me. I want to raise my hand and say, “HELLO, I AM RIGHT HERE!” They both ask my wife if she is ok with this course of action. She won’t look at me, she doesn’t even acknowledge I’m in the room. It’s like I’m watching through a two way mirror, looking in on a private conversation about me. She says that a polygraph and disclosure are the only options. She won’t consider talking to me again without them. She doesn’t speak to me now except to scream so how will that be different?
My counselor then says to my wife and her counselor that my case is very complex. That my recovery is not an easy one. He states that I will require lots of therapy and psychological counseling. At least two to three years….wait, what? Did he just say that? Two to three years? Is he joking? He hasn’t said this to me! Again, does he not know he works for ME?!
What is going on here? I thought this was just about covering up my infidelity. I thought this was about my sexual acting out. I thought this was about me trying to protect my wife from what all I had done. I mean, I just am trying to keep her from being destroyed. I don’t understand what he means by all this talk of love and fantasy addiction? I am not depressed. I am anxious, yes. Wouldn’t he be anxious as well, walking into a war zone every time I open the door at home?
At our counseling session the next day, I ask him what he means about my needing deep counseling for a long period of time. What is he talking about? How could this take that long?
So he said, OK let’s do a little exercise. Let’s talk about your past. How old were you when you had your first sexual experience? I answered that I was 14 or 15 when I first had sex with a girl. He said, no. I mean your first sexual experience. I said that was it, I told you that. Then I remembered what he meant.
Damn. Damn, damn, damn.
When I was eleven or twelve, I was spending the night with a friend who was a little younger than me. He started touching me sexually. He was someone I had known most of my life. I didn’t stop him. It happened several times. Why didn’t I stop him? Was something wrong with me? Obviously there was or I would have stopped him. I let it happen and I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell anyone. I was older than him. They would have thought I started it. See, I grew up in an ultra conservative Southern Baptist area. A small town. Someone would have found out. They would have thought I was homosexual. I would have been kicked out of my house. My parents would have sent me away like they did later in life when I had become sexually active with a girl that wasn’t acceptable. They sent me away for a summer to keep me from seeing her. I can’t even imagine what they would have done if I had told them what happened and that I didn’t stop it.
My counselor just sat there and listened to me recount all of that. I was shaking and starting to weep. I felt overwhelmed with sin and shame. I was dirty all over again. I couldn’t bear to think of that. I didn’t want to think of that. I haven’t admitted that to anyone ever. I haven’t told anyone that. I haven’t admitted it to myself. Ever.
So he let me finish, then asked me how my anxiety was. I said it was through the roof. He told me to stop and listen to him. He asked me how old I was when this happened with my friend. Twelve I said. Eleven or twelve. He asked if I knew what was going to happen, what my friend was going to do. No, of course I didn’t. Right, he said. You didn’t. He asked if I asked my friend to do that to me. No, of course I didn’t.
“Right,” he said. “Right, you didn’t. You were twelve years old.”
He knows I have a child not far from that age. He asked did I think my child could handle that if it happened. No, I said. No.
Exactly. Right. Neither could you. And you couldn’t talk to anyone about it. You just internalized it. You kept it inside. It became a source of shame for you. It was probably one of the roots, one of the sources. You didn’t know how to handle it because you were twelve. A child. And you didn’t know how to handle it.
Sitting there...in my counselor’s office...I realized something. I had a moment of clarity. I realized at that moment that I am broken. God, how did you let this happen to me? I am broken. Can I ever be whole again? I just at that moment got it. I had a realization that I was not okay.
Almost one year later, I am still not okay. I am still broken. But I know that. And so does my wife. In fact she knows everything about me. We did a three day “intensive” where a therapist helped me disclose all of my history to her and then helped her try to begin to comprehend my lifetime of lying and manipulation. And for the first time in my life and the first time in our marriage, someone else saw all of me. She didn’t leave. She could have. She probably should have. She didn’t.
I live one day at a time. I never understood what that meant until now. I see value in every day. Living a life of recovery for me means continuing to uncover how I got to where I was and how to dig out of those flaws and character defects with the help of my counselor. It means working through the twelve steps of recovery with a sponsor. It means building intimate relationships with other men in a recovery group. It means being rigorously honest with my wife. Most of all it means turning my life and will over to the care of God … and then doing the same thing again tomorrow. A day at a time.
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."