Friday, August 6, 2010

Trying to breathe

Last night was uncomfortable for me.  I hate crowds.  I hate being in new places, with people I don't know.  I am really uncomfortable with new social settings...such as "small group" at Celebrate Recovery.  The men and women are separated after a large group meeting (which Tom and I attended together) into these small groups.  Basically, it is a small circle of chairs with a box of Kleenex in the middle.  That can't be good, right?  I am glad that you are given an opportunity to "pass" if you don't want to share anything.  The entire thing had me filled with anxiety and fear.  It wasn't as bad as I anticipated though, and when it was all said and done, a very kind girl sat down next to me and introduced herself.  I shared with her that I wasn't even sure why I was there.  That's not completely true.  I was there to support Tom.  But I know that I have my own "issues" that need to be dealt with and overcome.  However, my intention for going to Celebrate Recovery is to be a source of strength and comfort to Tom.  And now I am faced with having to confront demons I have kept buried.  Do I think it will ultimately be a good experience for me as well?  Yes.  Am I ready to move through the hurt and pain?  Not quite.

The evening ended with Tom excited and hopeful.  This program is going to be so helpful for him.  In fact, as we were sitting there, listening to a testimony, I almost burst into tears, envisioning Tom up there some day, sharing his story of freedom from his addiction.  Tom told me later that evening that he envisioned the same thing, only with me up there, sharing my testimony.  He told me that I am a good writer so writing my testimony would be easy for me.  I said "Sure, but I'd just stand up there and cry."  He told me that would be OK; after all, there was no lack of emotion coming from the person up there.  I just looked at him, completely terrified by that kind of possible eventuality.

I shared with Tom how I wasn't sure how I felt about Celebrate Recovery...FOR ME.  I am not opposed to exposing my own sinful nature and my own hurts, habits and hang ups.  HOWEVER, I think I had hoped that in supporting Tom in this, I would find a support group for myself.  One that I could share all of my pain and hurt and anger and sadness with.  A group of people who knew what I was going through, who could help me move past the pain, and on to forgiveness and hope for a future free from this shadow that hangs over our marriage.  And maybe there is a place for that kind of healing at Celebrate Recovery, but it seems to be more focused on being free from addictions and poor coping habits, while I am open to being changed myself, because I am the first to admit I NEED IT, it just wasn't what I had expected.  So it would take me time to process all of this, and my heart is still so raw.  I shared that with Tom and we drove separately back home (we met at the church after work).

When we got home, I was agitated.  There wasn't any real reason for it.  But Tom was irritating me, and I snapped at him.  In turn, he became upset, as would any normal person.  Needless to say, the night did not end well.  I just couldn't understand why, when I share something so close to my heart, he can't just hold me and assure me that everything will be OK.  Why he can't profess his love to me in those moments and assure me that we'll get through it.  Instead, he just alternates between frustration with me and staring.  He does this a lot.  He stares at me.  And he'll start to speak, or so it seems, and then stop.  Every time I am hopeful that he will just tell me what he is thinking.  That he will open up and share his feelings with me.  That he will tell me that he loves me and that he believes we can make it, and just hold me.  This is NOT easy for him.  And even though I know this, I hope for it anyway.  Every. Single. Time.

Instead of talking it out, which is something that I NEED to do in order to move past something, Tom broke down.  He was sad and hurt and just plain devastated.  At first I didn't know why, and felt so helpless.  Finally he told me that he hated that I was "stuck" with him.  He told me that I shouldn't have to put up with him and all the times he has hurt me.  And instead of seeing his brokenness, I just sat there, agitated and annoyed.  Here I was, hurting and broken and needing him to be strong and assure me of his love and instead, he has turned it back on himself.  And because I am selfish, and I needed it to be about me, it just made me mad.  I sat there knowing no feasible way to be compassionate and selfless and assure him of all the things I myself needed assurance of.  And so we went to bed, leaving all of this emotional turmoil unresolved.

Things were awkward this morning as we got ready for work.  There was little communication, and Tom was still really down.  Normally after a night of sleep, Tom is able to get some perspective and do what he can to make things OK between us.  That was not the case this time.  On the way to work he said "I'm sorry that I'm not over this yet."  I told him that no one said he had to be.  And that was the extent of our communication this morning.  And my heart was broken.  In addition to feeling unworthy of love, and ugly, and as if I have nothing to offer, I am racked with guilt because Tom wishes I hadn't "chosen" him.  Though he is responsible for his own feelings, I blame myself for him feeling this way.  I'm very good at placing blame on myself, whether it belongs at my feet or not.

And just when I thought I couldn't get through the day, I got an email from Tom.  This is what he had to say:

"I'm sorry that I can't speak everything running through my head.  I know it's not fair to you to have to sit and wonder what I'm thinking about, and while I can come into work and pour myself into work and forget about it all, I know you do not have that luxury.  Normally, I do better at turning things on and off, and I was really surprised to feel all the emotion again so raw this morning.  A night's sleep is normally all I need to just get over it and bring my emotions back into check.

I was hoping that I could express through e-mail what I cannot seem to express verbally.  In geek-speak, I feel like I'm stuck in a perpetual loop.  That is what happens when you write code without an exit condition, and it just keeps running in circles until someone manually kills it.  The only problem is I don't know the kill command, so I'm not sure how to get out of the loop.

Surprisingly, I am not talking about pornography.  I again feel like I am on the right track to overcome that.  God has brought me so close to victory so many times, and seeing the support group that exists alone at CR, I can see God's hand working to rid me of it once and for all.  I'm talking about being the husband you need and deserve.

Last night, it kept playing through my head that you deserved to marry someone who wasn't going to struggle for over 20 years with pornography.  Who was going to pour all his energy and attention into you and make you feel like the beautiful woman you are.  Someone who could verbally make you feel appreciated and affirmed.  Someone who could verbalize how he feels about you, the joy that you give him.  Someone who wouldn't just stare at you not knowing what to say, when you obviously are yearning for words of encouragement, comfort, and appreciation.  Someone who would be a true spiritual leader and bring you closer to God instead of bringing you further away.  And this is where the cycle came in.  Because as my anger and frustration with myself hit and I went down to do the laundry so you wouldn't have to see it, what you said the other day about not knowing if you would marry me again except for the kids kept playing in my head over and over again.  That is why I keep crying.  But the crying just makes it worse, because it makes you feel bad and makes me an even worse husband and support for you.  So it feeds back in, and hence my loop.  I am afraid that just by sharing this with you, I am making things yet worse for you.

I know you were just being honest with me about how you were feeling and in no way want to hurt me.  And the reality is I do not blame you for not wanting to do it again.  Why would you want to be put through all the pain that I have caused you and be in a marriage where you constantly feel undervalued and unaffirmed?  And I know you made your choice and will live by it out of your commitment to me and God.  We have always said that a promise is a promise, and we will not compromise that just because it is hard and difficult.  So I appreciate that, but I hope for a day when I deserve your love and don't just have it because of your determination to keep your commitment to me.

I will try to get over myself and put my focus on you, where it belongs.  After trying to be there for you last night and failing miserably, I turned inwards and my focus shifted from you to me which is the last thing I should ever do.  I watched it happen, and I knew it was a mistake and would only make things worse.  But where normally I can turn it all off and move forward, I just couldn't.

I love you and I would choose you again and again and again.  I want you in my life, and I can't imagine life without you.  Thank you for putting up with me, and I am praying that I can you give you a better life moving forward."

There are two reasons I share this with you.  First, his email is what I needed to soothe my heart.  Second, I think it is important for you to see his heart.  He is so much more than his addiction.  He is a good man, with a good heart, who loves me and knows me.  He knows what I need, and even if he doesn't know how to show me love in the way I will really see it, he wants to.


  1. Wow...that is absolutely heart-wrenching. It is beautiful and heart-breaking all at the same time. I am so impressed with your willingness to share this.

    I think you are an amazing woman. I completely admire your commitment to your marriage before God, and I hope that I would be able to do the same if life put me in the same situation, but I fear that I couldn't. And I guess that would be true...if I tried to do it alone.

    Addiction affects all kinds...even the good men, like your Tom. I will keep you in my prayers as you work to mend your relationship and rebuild that trust.

    Thanks for sharing your heart. (I found you via Follow Me, Chicakdee.)

  2. You blog has touched my heart and resonated with my spirit. I really don't know what to say except that many, many women are going through this same thing and feel like they cannot speak about it. SPEAK for them!!! Praise God for your light shining in darkness. You are giving so many courage and just knowing that you're not alone in this situation is HUGE. Keep up the great work. God can do all things. I can't wait to read about both you and your husband giving your testimonies about the wonderful way God healed your marriage. Praying for you both. We are sisters.

    with lots of love,
    ~ ~

  3. Wow! I have just spent some time reading serveral of your older posts. Isn't blogging awesome, you have an outlet to vent your feelings & possibily connect with someone going through the same thing as you. Thank you so much for sharing your story

  4. Sorry it has been awhile since I stopped by. WOW!!! That is progress and that letter pretty much moved me to tears. He is a good man! I suffer with my husband and his cigarette addiction. He hides it from me but I can always smell it on him..... I understand but in a different way. His addiction doesn't make me feel ugly or unwanted, it just makes me feel sad that he could do something that could take him away from me so much sooner than I'd like that to happen.