Note from the author: When I first wrote this post, I was not thinking about Covenant Eyes. I was simply journaling my feelings. My paralyzed feeling wasn’t about my husband’s addiction, but my frustration and helplessness over what is going on around me today. But I quickly realized how familiar these feelings are to what I did feel then, after the discovery of my husband’s addiction.
The next day, I added to what I wrote, trying to tie it in to what I’m seeing my clients experience today, as they go through the initial months after discovery. The isolation is adding so much to their anxiety and uncertainty. In spite of the darkness I felt as I wrote this and the darkness you may be feeling now, I want to emphasize God’s truth and the hope we can find only in Him.
“You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”—Psalm 18:28
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”—John 1:5
As the partner of a sex addict, do you ever feel rendered unable to think or act normally? Are you brought to a standstill due to panic and fear? Does the pain, the betrayal, and the ache in your heart make even moving feel like too much effort? Is today’s climate brought on by lock downs, shut downs, and slow downs adding to your desperation? Is it further affecting your ability to see a way out?
Today, I feel paralyzed.
My body feels heavy. Just lifting myself out of bed is an almost painful feat. Today I’m lonely, but isolating from friends who have reached out. I have responsibilities to take care of. Emails to return. Content to write. But the words won’t come. Today I am worried for my country, my nation.
I see the metaphorical masks so many of us wear everyday to cover our true pain and make others think we have it all together, preventing connection. But now, I also see literal masks covering the warm smiles I crave to give and receive, further disconnecting us all. I want to go to church and sing praises to my Father, in unison with fellow believers. I want to wrap my arms around my friends and cry on their shoulders.
Dr. Henry Cloud, coauthor of the classic book, Boundaries, that has been such a benefit to so many partners, recently tweeted, “Experiencing many truths going through a difficult surgery: Dependence on God and others is key; isolation in pain is hell; severe pain takes us in a dark hole where we can’t see much else; seeing a bigger picture brings power/hope; every step forward requires steps that hurt also.”
That “isolation in pain”, whether literal or brought on by your circumstances, indeed feels like hell. I know. I’ve been there. And many of my clients are there right now.
I don’t understand this world today.
I don’t know who to believe about anything. I feel like I can’t trust anyone. I don’t know what the future holds for myself, my children, and my grandchildren. In what kind of world will they live and grow up? I think about not only how my mental health is being affected, but that of the children who can’t socialize with their peers.
I think of the people who have lost their jobs or businesses, who don’t know from where their next paycheck will come. I think of the battered and abused women and children imprisoned with spouses and parents working from home. No reprieve. No temporary escape from the hell in which they are living.
I think of recovering addicts, struggling to stay sober in these uncertain times. Many failing in their quest. I think of the sick and the elderly, not able to receive the care and attention they need, and not able to hold their loved one’s hand when they do.
I also think of partners of sex addicts having to deal with this on top of all the other pain they are suffering. For some, they can’t see past the betrayal to even have the energy to notice what’s going on outside of their home. Maybe that’s a good thing right now. For others, they may not have a safe place to escape their sexually addicted spouse when they need separation or simply a little space. And they don’t have the support previously available to those in their position.
As humans, we crave relationships.
Research shows how crucial touch and connection is to our mental and physical well-being. In his article, Intimacy Is A Necessity, Not A Luxury, Dr. Henry Cloud writes, “We were created to need a close and intimate relationship with others. Relationships are the fuel of life. They provide us with acceptance, encouragement, empathy, wisdom, and a host of other relational nutrients. These nutrients keep us healthy and growing. In fact, many studies have shown that people without enough intimate relationships in life have more medical and psychological problems, as well as a higher mortality rate.”
So today, I lie here feeling paralyzed. Helpless. In some ways it reminds me of what I felt after the discovery of my husband’s sex addiction. Not knowing who to trust or what my future held. Not knowing my truth or my reality. Loneliness. Isolation. Confusion. Fear. Helpless and out of control.
God’s truth keeps me grounded.
At times like this, I try to think of what I do know. I know God’s truth. I remind myself to be grateful for this beautiful reminder that doesn’t feel beautiful at all, that I am not in control of anything and I never was, but with Him I can find the strength I need (Philippians 4:13). I know God tells me He will never leave or withdraw from me (Hebrews 13:5). I know He tells me not to rely on my own understanding, but to trust Him and He will set me on the right path (Proverbs 3:5-6). I have to trust this, because I don’t understand anything right now.
So today, I’ll wallow. I’ll let myself give in to the sadness and the grief. I’ll let the tears flow and cry out to God even when the only words I can find are, “Jesus, help me.” Because sometimes it’s okay to give in to the weakness we feel and just rest. Because sometimes entering into our pain and just letting ourselves feel takes more strength than anything else.
Tomorrow is a new day!
Tomorrow, I’ll read my bible and pray God’s Word, even if the best I can do is recite a prayer from Psalms that speaks to me. I’ll watch church on TV, even as I feel disconnected from my church community. I’ll try to get some sunlight by taking a walk. I’ll call a friend. I’ll journal. And if I don’t get past the prayer that may come out as nothing more than, “Jesus, please…just please…,” and I fail at everything else, I’ll forgive myself and try again the next day.
Most importantly, I’ll remember, there is only one thing I can control. That is my choice to cast my burdens upon the Lord and surrender all to Him (Psalm 55:22), over and over again. And as I have seen countless times before, He will lift me up, out of the mud and the mire, the pit of despair that threatens to suck me under like quicksand, suffocating my will to go on, and set me on solid ground (Psalm 40:2).
In spite of the current condition of our world, support is out there. It may just be a little harder to find. If you don’t feel comfortable visiting a counselor in person, or if your counselor isn’t offering that option, therapists and coaches are seeing clients virtually through platforms like Zoom web conferencing.
Support groups are available online. It isn’t the same, and there is an indescribable energy that I feel is lacking when you can’t be in the physical presence of others. But when you are able to find the strength to do so, please reach out instead of isolating. It makes all the difference.
In the meantime, turn to your Savior who is always right there with you, waiting with open arms to hold you, and will carry you through until you can walk again.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”—Hebrews 10:24-25
Ella is currently seeing clients in person in her Houston office, as well as offering the option of sessions through Zoom web conferencing. She and her husband, Jeff, also continue to offer in-person couple’s intensives which include a full therapeutic disclosure and polygraph. You may visit their website to learn more.