Remember those old commercials about drinking and driving, where they would stack one empty glass in front of another to simulate some of the impairment that occurs while under the influence of alcohol? It doesn’t take long before everything becomes blurry and out-of-focus, does it? If you don’t know what I am talking about, it’s an experiment you can easily try at home.
Blurry. Out-of-focus. Hard to see. Head in a fog. Ever been there? I know that I have. But in some ways, I think I would compare where I was at the height of my addiction to the condition of a race horse: Primed, full of energy and vigour, but exclusively, even obsessively focused on one thing, one goal – fulfillment of my addictions’ desires. Yes, like a thoroughbred, with its blinders on.
While I was so intensely focused on this one thing, what was I missing? Almost everything else.
So, how in a just couple paragraphs, am I going to tackle talking about the 99% I overlooked? Well, I am not. My focus is to talk about a few very specific things that are related to a specific person:My spouse. My life partner. My confidant. The person I chose to spend the rest of my life with.
Through my recovery journey, the top 3 relationships I have damaged are; the one with my Higher Power, the one with myself, and the one with my spouse. There are common themes to what hurt each of these important relationships. Honesty. Integrity. Trust. Misplaced worship. Dishonourable priorities.
My addiction, the acts, behaviours, and attitudes had direct impacts on these connections. Some of them were devastating. But, the more insidious damage, I believe, was caused indirectly.
Focusing on the connection with my spouse: What were the impacts? What have I discovered through exercises like a 4th Step inventory?
1. Honesty and Lies. My spouse, as I believe it, is one of the people whom I am supposed to be able to rely on, no matter what. The same is expected in turn by them. But, if there is a lack of honesty, or deception, or even a withholding of the truth, how can we really be there for one another? This factor, above all the others, destroys trust and in my experience is the hardest to recover from.
2. Neglect and absence. This is a person whom I have chosen, with my own values and beliefs in marriage as an institution, to spend the rest of my life with. Yet, in my addiction, isolation was one of the key requirements to feed my addictive behaviours. I excluded my spouse regularly, or excluded myself from them and their life. This was not only in a physical sense, of being present for events and gatherings, but in presence, of not being involved or interested in their life, their growth, and day-to-day happenings.
3. Integrity. My favourite definition of integrity is “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I believe that the values and morals that were instilled in me as I was growing up have always remained a part of me, but that there were certainly periods where they were not the dominant forces for my moral compass. Having been disingenuous, or simply not being my true self, dishonoured me as well as my spouse.
4. Responsibility. Being part of a couple is a partnership. There are roles to be played, and there are tasks and chores to share. My addiction competed with my time and energy, and I often fell short of the mark keeping up my end of the bargain. I unfairly left things for the other person to do and take care of, which by all rights, were mine to deal with.
5. Emotional availability. I often use the term “pleasure deaf” to describe how I felt when I was at the bottom of my addiction. I had skewed the scale of pleasure so that hardly anything registered any longer. In truth, I was more than pleasure deaf, I was emotionally deaf. I had escaped the reality of experiencing and dealing with any significant feelings for years, preferring to hide in my addictive patterns. None of this is conducive to a healthy connection with another person, especially not my spouse.
6. Vulnerability. If you’ve never heard of Bréné Brown, you might want to check out some of her talks around this subject. As for me, if I look at how I was, how I acted during those periods in my active addiction, I was covered head-to-toe in Teflon-coated armour. Nothing stuck to me, nothing could penetrate my shell. And in kind, nothing got out. I denied the very essence of being human – that I am flawed. Far from perfect. I make mistakes. But, I can’t let others near me see the scars.
Take those six items above, wrap them up in a box with a nice bow, and you have a perfect recipe to destroy intimacy. Not just to ignore it. Not hurt it. Outright destroy it. Possibly beyond repair. I know. It happened to me.
I’m extremely fortunate to have found a new relationship – a new partner. Even with that second chance, there are enough remnants of my old behaviours that linger at times one or more of those six elements have been present. But, I have new tools and coping methods. I have awareness. I have a renewed sense of my values, morals and beliefs. I have recovery. I have humility. And, above all else, I have my humanity, as I am no longer the blind slave to that illness called sex addiction.
Until next time,