When a spouse asks this, what should we recovering addicts say? I don’t know about you, but I feel queasy just reading the question. It sucks. I caused this wound and there’s nothing I can do to make it go away. No matter how good I am, how sober I am, I’m never going to be able to go back in time and not do the things I did. I think most of our spouses know this. But it doesn’t help much when they’re hurting.
Speaking only for myself, it’s not that I’m unable or unwilling to take responsibility for my actions. I do. After all, I was the one who showed up at a residential treatment facility for all intents and purposes turning myself over as an abusive perpetrator who had preyed on a vulnerable priest and ruined his life. Which is funny. Because his life was going along just fine until my husband came back and reported him. If I’d been successful in committing suicide, he’d probably still be seeing clients and saying Mass. I wonder if that’s why he never notified anyone that I was in danger? Who knows. Wondering about whether he wished me dead is just getting back on the hamster wheel. Renting space in my head to a person who never had my best interests at heart. I’m pretty sure if I told my present therapist what I told my previous therapist in our last phone conversation, I’d be hospitalized for my own protection without consent. Of course we wouldn’t have had that conversation since I’m pretty sure that my present therapist isn’t going to be having phone sex with me anytime soon.
But even knowing (some of) the motivations behind my sexual acting out, these were still my actions and the results happened. It is what it is. Part of getting better for me has been assessing fault and blame, trying to make sense of why I did what I did. I know that’s not a big part of 12-step recovery, but it’s been a necessary part of my recovery and obviously I still struggle with letting go.
And why shouldn’t those who love us also struggle with letting go? I don’t think anybody wakes up, decides to be a sex addict, and sets out to sexually betray their partner who loves and trusts them. But that doesn’t take the pain of our betrayal away. When someone is speeding and a child is killed, knowing that the child ran into the road by mistake doesn’t help. Even if we are able to completely absolve the motorist of guilt, the tragedy remains. The hurt and pain remains. Remember the movie “Signs?” Where the vet fell asleep at the wheel and killed the pastor’s wife? It’s like that. But worse. Because the vet wasn’t the pastor’s brother. They didn’t have to see each other.
So what should we say? The short answer is that we should say we’re sorry. Again.
Tune in next week for the long answer.