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April 10, 2014

Unconditional Love and Support or Destructive Enabling?

I recently became a sponsor and it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It has been an amazing turbo-boost to my recovery and to my spiritual growth and I encourage each of you to work hard to get to the point where you can start sponsoring.

I had an epiphany recently as I was preparing to sleep. Earlier in the day, I had been going over the step work of one of my sponsees and was thinking about it when it hit me. I noticed that my sponsee's work had been filled with very sincere sounding desires and intentions to overcome his addiction and lots of praise and thanksgiving for his wife and kids. He talked about how his wife was so loving and supportive of him, and how grateful he was that she wanted to help him overcome his addiction.

After he relapsed, and then relapsed again, he kept talking about how his wife was so supportive of him no matter what and how much he loved her and his kids and how grateful he was that she still loved him. While pondering on this I was struck by the thought that what this guy really NEEDED was for his wife to kick his butt to the curb or SOMETHING. He was so comfortable in his addiction, and she was so supportive of him no matter what, that the pain of his addiction most definitely wasn't greater than the solution. It seemed to me that in her desire to be a loving, supportive wife, she was enabling him to continue acting out because she was continuing to put up with it.

While I was thinking about all this, I suddenly realized that this was EXACTLY how things had with me and my wife. I felt sick! I had for YEARS continued to act out in my addiction, all the time feeling (very sincerely, it seemed to me) like I desperately wanted to stop and overcome my addiction. The whole time, my wife continued to be patient and loving and understanding with me as she thought a good wife should do, while at the same time she was being slowly destroyed by my addiction, losing her sense of self, her self-esteem crushed, taking unearned guilt every time I acted out thinking that maybe she wasn't being a good enough wife, etc. I know she didn't intend to do it, but she was enabling me to continue in my addiction by putting up with it.

Even after the last time she caught me in the act and told me she had had enough, I still didn't really change. Oh, I started going to PASG meetings and it was there that I started to feel an inkling of hope that I could recovery, but I wasn't truly committed to working the program at that time. I think I still believed that as long as I showed my wife that I was 'in recovery' by going to meetings, that she would continue to love and support me even if I continued to struggle with relapses. I was in such denial and when my wife got upset at me and told me that it seemed to her that I wasn't really working the steps, I became angry with her and I played the victim, telling her that I was doing my best and that it would take some time and couldn't she just love and support me and let me do this in my own timetable?

Well, I write to you today, my heart filled to overflowing with thanksgiving to my wife that she did NOT continue to put up with me and my half-hearted 'efforts' to change. I was deceiving myself and attempting to deceive her into believing that I was in recovery and that I truly wanted to overcome my addiction when I most definitely was not. I was putting on a good show and certainly had myself convinced that I was finally changing, but it was all lies.

It wasn't until my wife took our children and moved back in with her parents, who live several states away, that I finally realized that I couldn't keep pretending to myself or to her. I believe that it was at this moment that I was finally ready to overcome my addiction.

Exactly at this time in my life, I was informed about a program that would assign me a sponsor and that would require me to commit to 90 days of sobriety while I worked through the 12 steps. I immediately signed up made the commitment and started working the steps in earnest. I made it to the middle of Step 4 before I had a relapse. But, because I was truly ready this time, I didn't experience the normal feelings of despair and the binging that normally took place when I relapsed. Instead, I examined the reasons why it had happened and realized that I had stopped practicing steps 1-3. I started the steps over and as I write this today, I have worked through all 12 steps and am now in my maintenance phase with 127 days of sobriety. More importantly, I feel that I am finally on the road to true, lasting, permanent recovery through the atonement of my Savior.

I don't know for sure, but right now, I honestly don't think I would have ever been ready to overcome this addiction if I hadn't had a wife who was brave enough to finally say, “Enough is enough!” Thanks to her courage, I have found my Savior's love and experienced a redemption of my sins. We are still separated at this time, but I am filled with peace because I have surrendered my will to God and know that whatever happens, He is in control and He will work things out for my good. I love my wife more today than I ever thought possible and hope she will one day come back to me, but I would never even THINK of blaming her if she chooses otherwise.

I believe that there are many other men out there who are currently in the same place I was. They are putting on a good show in order to convince themselves or others, including their wives, that they are 'in recovery', but they are just fooling themselves. Many, if not most, of us NEED tough love from the people who love us in order to be ready to really recovery. We NEED to be uncomfortable. We NEED to experience pain. Some of us, such as myself, NEED to experience very serious consequences. I pray that God will be merciful to you, as he has been to me, and give you what YOU need to finally be ready to change.