I hope all of you that celebrated Thanksgiving, had a wonderful day. We did. It was full of lots of laughter and way too much food. Best of all, I heard from a family member and friend that I hadn’t heard from in a long time, that I thought were lost to me, and I’m very thankful for that.
Last week I found that I did a lot of service work. Not unusual around this time of year. The holidays can be difficult for many people. The common theme was anger and questions of why. Why did the addict betray me by looking at pictures of other women or having online affairs or worse?
I remember the anger, the rage, I felt. I also remember the relentless questions that circled around my brain. The insecurities that they brought to the surface of my brain. They seemed endless. They also seemed unanswerable.
Then a few days after disclosure we were going over a spreadsheet I’d dubbed “The List,” I had an epiphany. As I was entering each person’s name, what happened between them and Devin, and other information I thought I needed to know (trust me, I didn't); Devin said he couldn’t remember a woman even though they’d exchanged emails back and forth for months. Lengthy, detailed, emails that I had imprinted in my brain. It wasn’t until I read her screen name to him that he recalled who she was.
That was a profound moment for me. I finally understood what he’d been trying to explain in the preceding days: he had no emotional connection to these women. No attachment to them whatsoever. She was simply an address to him. Nothing more. An email for his mailbox. It was more about filling an emotional void within him, an emptiness, than it was anything else. It really did have nothing to do with me.
There was nothing I could’ve done to change the outcome. And I had tried just about everything from trying to control him to changing my personality to something I thought would catch his attention...and it never would. And there is nothing that I can do now to change what he does. He is his own person responsible for his own actions.
While the words I had read in those emails crushed my heart and his actions felt like something I’d never heal from, that understanding provided me with a new way of looking at the whys.
It helped me begin to stop taking the addiction so personally. That didn’t mean the hurt went away overnight. It didn’t. Neither did the anger. It did, however give me the gift of a new perspective. And because I’m also a recovering addict, I was able to empathize with his addiction too. I understood the complexities of not being able to “just say no” or “if you loved me you’d stop” because those guilt tactics don’t work, not nearly as well as detaching with love.
The anger took longer for me to resolve. I was angry with a lot of things. It took help from my counselor to see that I was angry with myself and needed to forgive myself before I could even think about forgiving Devin so those feelings of resentment and anger would stop rearing their ugly heads. What I found after those feelings of anger went away was my self-esteem.
Than I found inner-peace and while I want nothing more than to tell people that these things happened quickly, for me they didn’t. For me it took a few years. I was bullheaded, stubborn, and refused to reach out for the help that was out there. My hope is that people I talk to or people who read my book, Steps Along My Shore, won’t make the same the mistakes I did.
How was your Thanksgiving? Do you hold on to anger or do let things slide off your back?