We are in a hard place right now. We are in desperate need of some "real" recovery--for each of us individually and within our relationship.
To experience the fullest healing, there are three aspects of recovery that must be addressed: his, mine, and ours. I've learned through this whole journey that without each of these elements in recovery, healing won't come in its fullest capacity. These three elements all depend and build upon one another.
If he is not in real recovery (or at least attempting effort), my recovery (and I know that sounds co-dependent) is at stake. That is because of betrayal trauma. If he is not in recovery, or attempting recovery, the relapses, lies, and disclosures will become too much. I know they make me feel crazy, even when I am really working on my healing. Think of it this way: it's hard to recover from any kind of injury when someone keeps re-breaking it every time it starts to heal. Once re-broken, the wound becomes fresh. Thus, the process of healing must start over. With that perspective, it seems to me that no matter what, an addict's lack of recovery will have an impact on the spouse and their relationship together. That doesn't necessarily mean if the addict isn't in recovery, the spouse can't find healing. But it may delay her healing, cause strict boundaries to be put in place, and possibly prevent the relationship from healing.
The same thing goes for if I am not in recovery. If I am not recovery, even if he is, it will have a huge impact on him and us. If I decided not to work on my healing, despite his own recovery efforts (for whatever reason, although I'd probably claim anger and resentment as a main cause), I wouldn't be able to forgive or trust again. Forgiveness and trust are key elements for healing in a broken marriage. And I'd certainly classify my marriage as broken right now.
With that said, I will now begin a three-part series about each aspect of recovery: His Recovery, My Recovery, and Our Recovery.
His recovery is vital. I could in no way describe what the addict's recovery entails, so I've asked Ben to take over this part of my post. And now I step down and let him do the talking.
The basis of my recovery must be the antithesis of the life I have lead thus far. Pride, selfishness, shame, and dishonesty all have to go--and not just pertaining to the addiction. Recovery must become my way of life. For example, being honest about when I relapse is an essential component of my recovery, but if I am dishonest with my wife about how I spend our money, I am not living in recovery.
The same goes for pride, selfishness and shame. If I’m not seeking to be humble, selfless and forgiving of myself and others in every aspect of my life, I’m never going to reach my goal.
This is something that has, sadly, taken me years to realize--but learning it has made all the difference in how I approach recovery. While attended an ARP group in Arkansas, I heard over and over again from one of the missionaries that every member of the church should be working the 12 steps, because the pattern of the 12 steps is really the pattern we must follow to come unto Christ.
Each step, though the wording is directed to those in addiction, is indeed essential to the repentance of any one of us, whether our sins be great or small.
Another important aspect of my recovery is the motivation behind it. Am I doing this for my wife? Am I doing it because I know it’s bad? Or am I doing it because I love the Lord and am desperate to live my life in a way to show Him that? I have tried all three approaches, and the only one that has had any lasting effect on me is the third. The reason is because that is the only motivation that actually leads me to seek healing for the underlying causes of my addiction. It’s also the only one that has the power to give that healing.
That being said, I am still motivated to overcome this for Kilee’s sake and for the sake of our marriage. I have learned, though, that if I do this for the Lord, He will take care of our marriage as long as we are both working recovery.
Knowledge is another key to working true recovery.
In order to start a true recovery, a thorough understanding of the addiction, as well as your relationship with Heavenly Father, are completely essential. Step 4 gives you a chance to do an inventory and go back in time and dig deep into the root causes of your addiction. You come to know what triggers you emotionally and why. For me, the physical and emotional triggers began when I was only 6 or 7 years old, long before I could cognitively understand the consequences and effects of my actions. It’s hard for me now, then, if I am being completely honest with myself, to allow the shame cycle to go too far, because this is definitely not something I voluntarily started into with full knowledge. And even when I had full knowledge of the consequences of my actions, it was still years before I finally had the proper tools to work recovery.
You then come to understand the physiological aspects of addiction--the things that go on inside your brain that have been repeated so much that it’s no longer a matter of willpower to overcome. This has also been a huge weapon for me in combating my addiction because I know much better now what I can do to overcome it. If I give in, I can trace back to why and I can put things in place to prevent it from happening again.
Beyond those basics, it is difficult for me to prescribe a certain set of rules to live by while working your own recovery. In my experience, each and every one of us is different. I have read that the only common attribute among those who have overcome their addiction is that they never gave up.
There are some things I do in my recovery that other people don’t think are necessary. However, there are also things I don’t do in my recovery that others wouldn’t be able to survive without. So the most important thing, in my mind, is that you strive to make your recovery Christ-focused and that you base it on the principles outlined in the 12 steps. In all of this, honesty must reign supreme. Honesty with your spouse is important, but even more important is honesty with yourself. Are there some things you aren’t doing because they don’t help you? Or is it simply because you don’t want to? Are you really working recovery to the best of your ability? Or are you holding back? Are you living your life conscious of what’s at stake? Or are you trying to fly by the seat of your pants?
Recovery is powerful, but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are times when I feel like I want to give up, but in those times, I am grateful to have the Spirit whisper truth to my heart, and that truth is that I will never find joy in the same capacity as I can know it through recovery. I will never find the happiness I know is available for those who keep God’s commandments if I give in. This weakness is something that has pushed me to my emotional and spiritual limits, but it’s also the one thing that has brought me closer to God than anything else in my life, and the more I work recovery, the more that becomes apparent to me.
Read Part 2: My Recovery, here
Read Part 3: Our Recovery, here