Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Forgiveness Really Possible?



“Excuse me, I didn’t mean to bump into you.” Says the random stranger.

“No problem.” We answer, their clumsiness easy for us to understand because we’ve done it ourselves.

“I’m not able to give you that day off, I’m sorry.”  Your supervisor says.

“I understand.” You respond, and, you do understand because sometimes these things happen at work.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you mom and dad.  I thought you’d be mad so I lied.  I didn’t want to disappoint you.  I knew what I did was wrong but I didn’t think you’d find out.  I’m sorry.”  Says your teenage child who you raised to know the difference between right and wrong and still chose the wrong path.

Disappointed you answer, “We forgive you but you need to understand the lies hurt us more than what you did.  You’re grounded.”  You hope they’ve learned from their mistake.
 no source-got this from Facebook forever ago
“I’m sorry I betrayed you, Elsie.  I’m sorry I lied.  I’m sorry I broke our marriage vows.  Please forgive me.” Devin said months after Disclosure Week.

“I’m working on it.” Was all I could promise him at the time.

It took me over a year to feel a full and complete forgiveness for what Devin had done during the course of our marriage because I had yet to forgive myself for what I had done so how could I forgive him?  It took my rockin’ counselor to point that out.

When she did, the seed was planted and I eventually cultivated it enough to realize I truly had to stop feeling shame, guilt and anger for what I had done during our marriage; i.e. not leaving when I said I would, participating in things that made me uncomfortable. 

Ultimately, I forgave myself.  I came to realize I was a product of my environment.  I had been thrown into a situation I had not been prepared for and did what I had to do, one that came shrouded in many labels, none of which I wanted to hear; co-dependent, co-addict, enabler.  I prefer the one I dubbed myself: survivor.  I shrug off the rest.

After picking myself apart piece by broken piece during my fourth step, it was then that I found I had truly forgiven my husband along the way.  It was during that difficult process of self-examination I found myself, my true self, flaws and all.  It’s what helped me understand my husband is no different than me.  He simply encountered his addiction later in life.  Mine occurred in my teens and I got sober over twenty years ago.  His occurred in his thirties and he’s sober, struggling at times, but sober.  He’s remorseful, he’s empathic, he’s working his program, he’s learning communication and stopping protective responses. 

So, what made it so hard to forgive him in the beginning?  The addiction itself is personal.  It’s something that comes up at our S-Anon meetings from time to time.  How personally devastating this particular disease is to the partners of the addicts.  We have a hard time remembering “It’s not about us.”, “It’s not our fault.”, “It’s not about sex.”, “The women/men are just objects.”; because we’ve had our self-esteem trampled upon. We’ve been personally and usually sexually betrayed.

After forgiving myself, seeing my own personal flaws and imperfections I was truly able to forgive him too.  I could once and for all say with honesty, “I forgive you now.  I know your addiction made you cheat.  You didn’t wake wondering how to hurt me.  Your disease caused you to do it.”  I finally understood.

From there, I was also able to release my anger at the women he cheated on me with and replace it with a sense of compassion instead.  Imagine the pain they have inside them too?  Much like Devin, they too are hurting inside.  

Once the forgiveness happened, the trust also began to build too.  Will I ever have 100% trust in him?  No.  He promises me his addiction will never go to that depth again, porn and masturbation he can’t promise, but cheating of any sort he can because he knows the consequence – loss of me.  Yet, I still withhold my full trust because the damage was too severe. 

Yet, I trust him more now than I ever thought possible.  Enough to not laugh in disbelief when he speaks of renewing our vows on our tenth anniversary and lighting a sky candle to begin anew again.
 This is written to let you know, yes, you can forgive. You know who you are.

This is not about me being strong; it's to help someone else.  I hope you're reading today.  Love you hard!

~~~

To update on a post from last week about communication for those of you interested:  Devin is back to his old “new” self again.  He had a great counseling session and was even able to come to terms with the issue was having with religion.  I’m so happy for him.

65 comments:

  1. So true! You can't forgive someone until you can forgive yourself. I learned this recently...learned reading this blog if I'm not mistaken.

    So yes, you have helped me and I hope this post can help others as well. I've actually learned a great deal about myself coming here and that's why I keep coming back. Not to just give your one eye and your turtle hell but to learn more about me...and when needed, help you by offering words of encouragement or to point things out that you may not see for yourself.

    Thanks for sharing Elsie! For being a complete stranger, you sure do mean a great deal to me and I'm thankful to have "met" you!

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    1. Thanks, Dan, that's good to know and it helps me to know too. I write not just for myself but for others too. This particular person is a lurker and I respect that completely. Without giving away to much, they contacted me by email a bit ago and asked about this subject so I thought I'd address it.

      I didn't want this to be a comment section of "You're so awesome, Elsie" because that's not what this is about. Not today anyway LOL

      I feel the same about you and your wife, Dan. I know for certain if we lived by each other, our families would be BBQing steaks (cheap steaks) together...watching football and drinking a few beers. I'm grateful to have met you too!

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    2. Sorry, didn't mean my comment to come off as an "You're so awesome Elsie"

      If anything, it was to be helpful to those who are seeking help through this blog. Kinda like "She helped me and she can help you too"

      Now completely off topic, visit my blog...testing to make sure my comment moderation is working properly. Shameful of me, I know but that is Workingdan for ya! lol

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    3. Oh, no, your comment wasn't an "You're so awesome" comment at all (hey, WTF? ha ha ha) that's why I appreciated it so much. It was exactly what I was hoping for. One that showed me I was helping people. Perfecto!

      Okay, headed over now....why moderating?

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  2. Forgiveness is the toughest thing in the world to do because it's really about ourselves and our ability to detach, let go and move on. It can be done but it can't be rushed, that's my experience of it.

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    1. I agree with you, Debra. It is about being able to let go and move on. For me, it was about putting a period at the end of the sentence and beginning a new chapter instead of rereading the same chapter over and over. It certainly can't be rushed.

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  3. You have handled this issue with sensitivity and empathy ~ Its hard to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply but you are right, we can't move forward if we still carry this hurt inside us ~

    The personal share makes this even more powerful and heart felt ~ Happy Sunday to you ~

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    1. It was a difficult concept to understand at first; having to forgive myself and also love myself before I could do the same for him after he had done so much damage.

      I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, Heaven.

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  4. Forgiveness isn't easy, of ourselves or of those who have hurt us, but when we finally are able to reach that point it is so very freeing! People misunderstand, thinking forgiveness is a form of absolution - of washing what happened away, it is not, it is saying that what occured is in the past and no longer has the power to hurt me. It is the ability to put things in perspective and let go of the emotional pain. I have come a long way in this process, sometimes I surprise myself at all that I have forgiven, even me. :-)

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    1. The feeling of a weight being lifted off of our shoulders is amazing. I agree, people confuse forgiveness not only with absolution but with permission to allow permission for the transgressions to happen again. That's not the case at all. I know I've forgiven him and I also know if it happens again, I will walk away from the marriage.

      Freeing oneself from that emotional pain frees yourself from all that negative mind chatter too. I love hearing you've been able to do the same thing, Josie. Especially the self forgiveness because that can be the most difficult. Go You!!!

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  5. So that is what lead to the one eye. You picked up the pieces and forgot one, or were you clumsy and stepped on the piece? Forever stuck with one eye thanks to being clumsy hahaha now the cat knows the truth.

    I can forgive most everything eventually. But once someone does something to screw with my, no way ever I will trust them 100% again, just not going to happen. But I don't bother holding too much of a grudge because that just bothers you, while they are out doing their thing not giving a shit, so the only one you'd be bothering by holding a grudge is you, so I avoid that crap best I can. But even if I forgive I will never ever forget. Just going with the never trusting 100%.

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    1. ahhh, cat, you just wait for what I have in store for you. I came up with the best tale (tail) yesterday. Stay tuned!!

      I have a hard time with trusting anyone initially anyway. So, once it's broken by someone it's hard to give it back, especially at this magnitude. Grudges are a waste of energy except in the case of Valerie cause she deserves it LOL

      Forgetting is nearly impossible once you've been hurt by someone. The only thing you can do is let that hurt go and move on.

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    2. Something for me? Oh this should cause glee.

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    3. Oh yeah, you and Dan. Maybe, just maybe, next week sometime.

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  6. But what if, for some reason, we can't forgive ourselves? What if we can't look back and say that we are a product of what happened to us, what became of us. What if we're too weak to fight those addictions, fight that shit, and move on? What if we can never be forgiven for the things we've done? I'm truly glad that you've come to trust and love Devin again, and I think you should renew your vows. You can even make different ones, ones that you know the two of you will be able to keep. A fresh start is nice but some people just can't have that. I wish I could forgive myself, and for some things I might be able to, but true forgiveness is a near impossibility, and the reason I'll never be able to move on, and be happy.

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    1. You've known me for a long time, Mark. So, you know I'm only going to say this with respect and experience. Bear with me because I'm typing with a Migraine.

      First, you need to accept that you're not weak. I know it sounds cheesy as hell but if you need to write down some affirmations about yourself and read them every morning and night to remind yourself how strong you are - then go for it. They really do work. If you need an example, search "affirmations" in my search box.

      If you don't feel you're a product of you're environment, then perhaps you're a product of what has happened to you along the path of your life. There is a reason we are who we are, and, even if you can't find it, that's okay, once you start examining yourself, you'll forgive yourself and fight those addictions and move on. That's just my opinion from my own experiences from what I've seen.

      My wish for you, Mark, is happiness. True happiness. What happened to you was not your fault.

      It's to bad you couldn't work the same book I did, Blueprint for Progress. It really challenged me and helped me. I had to replace the words "alcohol" for what suited me, maybe you could do the same?

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  7. we are all products of our environments, that's true. This is why our childhoods are so important (as you've seen on Devin) and later on in life the environment also changes everything. It can make you miserable or happy, no matter what your own personality is.

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    1. Exactly. My childhood was great until my teen years which resulted in my drug use. I recovered but then got blindsided by Devin's addiction and tried to adapt. Devin lacked emotional connection in his childhood and in his first marriage and when he found it, the seeds that had been a garden rapidly turned into farm.

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  8. I'm glad to hear that Devin has overcame that last stumbling block and I'm equally glad to hear that you've found it in yourself to forgive him. This was a beautifully written post Elsie, from building up the things you must forgive for to show the magnitude of Devin's actions and how they affected you. I think you're right to forgive though, Devin has been incredibly sorry and has done everything he can to atone and doesn't stray any more, I think you guys having a vow renewal on your tenth anniversary is a great idea.

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    1. I was amazed when he came home the other day just gushing with excitement about being able to move on to his next step, having had talked to his sponsor and his counselor about God - it was like the floodgates had been opened for him. It was wonderful!!!

      Who knows, maybe by the time we renew our vows I won't be hiding behind a fake identity and I can share the photos but I doubt it LOL

      You're right, Matthew, he has been working his ass off and hasn't strayed.

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  9. I think is really difficul Elsie and is not cause we dont want forgive is when we aare so hurt we cant! normally when you live others things and is really not MATTER TO YOU you notice you forgive this person but the funny is not important to you sometimes LOL
    I think forgiveness is healthy and important to cure yor soul when I have some sorrows I said " Please God cure my soul to canforgive and live well) is difficult! but is the better thing!!

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    1. You bring up a very good point, Gloria, as always =)

      When you are busy doing other things and focus on yourself, it's like you are giving your mind time to rest and process on it's own. And, not to get to preachy, but, during my most difficult times, I always turn to God and pray. I read Footsteps, Serenity Prayer and it helps keep me calm.

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  10. Always think if God forgive me always!! why I cannot?

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    1. That's right because if we can't forgive ourselves then we are essentially putting ourselves above God, huh?

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  11. Forgiveness is always possible with a Christian who has bible doctrine. The ability to forgive reflects the integrity of the person doing the forgiving-not the personal integrity of the person who needs forgiving.

    In time, forgetting has to come or a person can stay locked in an ugly past. That is neither a healthy nor desirable place to live. Live today and look forward to tomorrow.

    Glad you two are doing better

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    1. I always thought I had a strong relationship with God but the more work I did on myself, the stronger the relationship has become. It's pretty cool, actually.

      Forgetting is something that will be difficult, especially with reminders (triggers) still occurring when I least expect them. I am still a work in progress in that regard. And yes, there is post coming up on that one =P

      I miss you my friend!!! So good to get an email from you!

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  12. Very happy to hear that you both are working hard on your marriage, forgiveness and the issues. I forgive fairly easily. It's the forgetting that's the hard part....

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    1. Forgetting is very hard, JoJo. As I said to Anne, it's something that I need to keep working on. Thank you!!

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  13. Perhaps as a condition of the horror that was my childhood, I never trust anyone fully. I trust as much as I can. I try to avoid jumping to conclusions but it isn't always possible.

    That said, a little distrust is a good thing. But like so much in life, its all about moderation.

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    1. I think I hesitate to trust anyone because of my drug days. I'm the same as you, Monkey, I trust as best I can when I first meet people but it takes awhile for people to earn my trust. Moderation, in all things, is best.

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  14. That's.. beautiful. I'll always remember this, Elsie.

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    1. Thank you, D4, that means so much to me. It really does.

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  15. Forgiving is always hard, but forgetting is even harder.

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    1. Forgetting something so painful takes a person much stronger than me, at least now....

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    1. Thank you, Cindy! Love and hugs back xoxo

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  17. This is amazing. I'm happy for you, and more than anything, I'm just impressed. I'm one to hold grudges, even over the smallest things, so I can only imagine how much strength it takes to forgive someone when it comes to something of this magnitude.

    Also, not to let this undermine the seriousness of the comment, but I've had a really busy weekend with a pair of faulty phones getting replaced (my wife got an Apple iPhone, and I got an Android phone - a modern day Romeo and Juliet, we are!) but I got around to reading your post about my caricature, and I threw a few comments on there. Not sure if you check old posts, but just wanted to let you know.

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    1. I used to hold grudges and at times I find I still do. It's something I'm constantly working on and I guess I always will. Forgiving him was not something I was able to do right away. The affairs took place, the "real" ones, (*eyeroll*) in 2009 and I was able to forgive this year. Almost two years after finding out.

      I'm glad you saw, and commented on, the other post!!! I commented back. I always check any comment made, even on old posts. I'm so grateful for my caricature, Bryan. And, happy to hear your wife got the iPhone - ha ha ha!!!! In YOUR face!!!

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  18. I have always just moved on when I was cheated on. Forgiveness can be a tough thing. XO

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    1. I completely understand that, Bama. It is a very tough thing!

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  19. Beautiful post Elsie. You made me cry in the morning. Forgive and forget is what I hear nowadays from every direction but I am not able to.
    First I want an apology and need trust and confidence to forgive, forget and move on. hmmm, sorry for hijacking your post.
    You are a wonderful person and this post has so much to teach and lot to learn from this. Thanks Elsie.

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    1. Thank you, MaMTC, don't cry early in the morning - smile! You have beautiful boys to help keep your spirits up =)

      No need for you to forgive and forget if you don't want to or if you're not ready to. You do what you want when you are ready to, not when everyone else is ready for you to do it. Screw them. Listen to YOUR gut and what it's telling you.

      xoxoxo

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  20. I think it's easy for people to laugh at sex addiction these days. It really does go deeper than just wanting to have sex with someone.

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    1. Unfortunately, it's a disease that is not taken very seriously yet but, thankfully, it is beginning to and that's a good thing for people like me and my husband. It means there are support groups and trained counselors out there who "get it."

      Sex addiction has nothing to do with sex. It's all about intimacy. Some people have a hard time seeing past that. I'm glad you don't. Thanks for that!!

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  21. Elsie,
    You sure are awesome. Sorry I've been scarce lately. Stuff going on.

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    1. Oh no, I don't like the sound of "stuff going on". I hope all is okay. I haven't been on blogger all that much either, Barfly. I'm on twice a week, maybe three times a week now, depending on what's going on here too.

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    2. Going to Florida tomorrow because my mom is having a pretty invasive surgery. It will probably be ok.

      (p.s. it's my birthday - that's definitely not bragging lol)

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    3. Good luck to your mom - I hope all goes well for her. Safe travels and um, Happy Birthday?

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  22. Forgiveness is often not easy to achieve but if and when we get there we should feel better in ourselves because of it but as you pointed out you have to be able to forgive yourself for things before you can forgive others.

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    1. It's not easy, JoAnne, it's a long journey and a long road. It was one I was glad I travelled though. Forgiving myself was actually harder than it was to forgive him, go figure LOL

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  23. Wow, this is such a powerful post! I can't even imagine going through what you did - and to be able to forgive! That's amazing! You're a good woman!

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    1. Thanks, Sherry. Forgiveness is just a matter of perspective, I think and being able to realize the circumstances surrounding the event. But, geez, look how long it took me =P

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  24. I wasn't able to forgive people when I was younger. I liked holding a grudge. I think you learn as you get older that it's just too much baggage to carry around. You set yourself free more than anything else by forgiving someone else.

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    1. I think you have a very valid point. As we get older I think we realize it's just not worth our time and more importantly the energy to carry around that negative energy. It's so very draining.

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  25. Great post! Yes, I do believe it's possible :) I'm a new GFC follower :)
    xo
    www.domesticsweetheart.com

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  26. Thanks Elsie...joint recovering addicts in a relationship is tough. Sometimes I think I am so hard on him, because I am in recovery to and I made the "right" decisions. I was able to stick it through...but that was years ago and his only just began to confront his demons now...

    I just struggle with the trust thing you know...and I think I if I could just reach the bar where you are, that I don't laugh at him when he wants to do something nice, because I think his full of shit...I could live with that...

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    1. Oh my gosh! This is one of the last topics my rockin' counselor and I talked about months ago. I was frustrated because I was able to just say, "I'm done. I'm never doing coke again." And, I haven't for over 20 years. It took her pointing out how deeply emotionally and psychologically embedded this disease, this addiction is and how many other addicts I was around that couldn't do what I did - just walk away. Then it made more sense to understand. My hubby is like yours, just facing his addiction now, his just cropped up in his 30's.

      I don't have complete trust in him and I don't think I ever will but it was his actions that got me there. He was always empathetic when I triggered. He was always remorseful for what he had done. He accepted my boundary agreement without to much complaint =P So, over time, the trust began to build - that dreaded word time. Ugh!!

      Don't worry, you'll get there too!!

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  27. Well this just proves my girl is awsome and Devon is on his way. You should be very proud, I know I am of you two.

    Love,
    Meemaw

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    1. Meemaw!!! My cyber grandma!! I hope you are doing well and not getting to cold in the bleachers - I'm guessing the grandkids are still playing some sort of sport??

      xoxoxo

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    2. Yes we are now on Soccer. It's still pretty warm here so I don't need to keep warm yet.

      Love,
      Meemaw

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    3. Yes we are now on Soccer. It's still pretty warm here so I don't need to keep warm yet.

      Love,
      Meemaw

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    4. I figured you were doing another sport with them. Lucky, still warm!! Of course, we were in the high 70's yesterday LOL

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  28. In all practical purpose (or rather as per the human nature) forgiveness comes in due course of time. It may take some time, but eventually one forgives.

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    1. And once forgiveness happens, it frees the soul. I had to learn the hard way just how long it can take and it can't be forced.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.