Heartbreak and Recovery – Singapore Style: A member’s story

Unlike some who did not know that their husbands or partners were living a secret life, I always had a feeling that there was something wrong with my husband’s sexual behaviour from the outset. At the time I just thought he was a handsome serial cheat and that marriage would help him change his ways.

We married in 1997 and it was slightly over 2 years later that I found out he was having sex with my domestic helper. His explanation when I found out was that he was doing that because it was cheaper than going to prostitutes!

Devastated, I kicked him out of the house and during that time scoured the internet and came across a book by Patrick Carnes which I purchased through Amazon and sent to him.  He told me later he threw it away without reading it and rubbished any suggestion that he had a “problem” (I believe that many men here in Singapore think this is not a problem).

Three months after this incident we “reconciled”.  The following years were a series of heaven and hell and I always believed him when he said he had “slipped” just once and was going to stop doing that.

In 2006 I could no longer bear the ups and downs and I asked him to take a test for sex addiction which I found on the internet. The results startled even him and he agreed to do something about his “problem”.

We found a SLAA group here.  There were about 5 members back then, no structured program and from what I gathered none of them were in recovery.  Somehow, my husband on his own, with no step work or sponsor managed a year of sobriety in 2008 after attending those meeting for almost 2 years.

That was the most loving and peaceful year we had in our entire relationship and I thought everything was behind us. How wrong I was since the worst was yet to come.  When he broke his sobriety, he went into a downward spiral.

I knew things were turning bad and this time I could not face it so I went to a psychiatrist for help and he gave me 4 types of medications that kept me doped up and numb – which is exactly how I wanted it since I could not cope with the situation.  I worked very little, slept a lot but the “best” part was that it was hard to cry with all that medication.

After a year on it I realized I could no longer afford the monthly cost of the psychiatrist and the medication so I just stopped taking them.  This of course was also not a good idea because I became all too aware of the situation and became filled with all kinds of emotions, especially anger.

By this time my husband had spiraled so badly downward that his business took a dive, he was maxed out on credit cards and was totally uncommunicative with me except when we were arguing.

At around this time also, our new flat was finally ready after 7 years of waiting.  With my husband so out of control, he was unable to help me with the renovations or the move and my brother, who had been silently witnessing my steady decline, came to visit me to try to talk some sense into me.

He said that all he wanted was the best for me and that he would take good care of me, I didn’t have to work and could just take things easy until I could regain my strength.  He advised me to consider a separation from my husband so I could see if this is the life I wanted to continue living.  Somewhere from deep inside me came the words “I don’t think I know what’s best for me anymore so I will do as you suggest”.

When I suggested the separation to my husband he was more than agreeable and told me not to worry, that “he’d make a come back”.  It became very clear that he had no intention of reconciling with me and a couple of months into the separation he asked me to get out of his car and leave him alone – he told me he had given up on himself and was resigned to his fate of being a sex addict.

This time I knew that I had done everything I could for almost 20 years and all that was left was to walk away and stop doing anything at all for him.

I went on a little trip so I could grieve but I also found it impossible to move on – I was in a kind of limbo – no going back and no going forward either but that was still better than being caught in what I can only describe as the eye of the storm of addiction.

A month later, my husband came to my door and asked me to let him move in.  Deep in my heart I knew it was because he just needed someone to take care of him and all the bills.  Yet,  all I wanted to do was to scream with joy and say yes but instead I collapsed in tears and a small voice from inside me said “no”.

He later told me that was a turning point when he decided to do something about his addiction.  He found a place nearby mine and visited me everyday after work.  We could barely speak as we didn’t know what to say and he seemed to be in a fog.  He was definitely not the same person I once knew.

On one of the days he came by after work, he walked in on me lying on my bed crying. He had seen me cry plenty of times before so I don’t know what was different about this time but he said in that moment seeing me on the bed, he told himself he could not do this to me anymore and that if he could not do it for himself, he wanted to do it for me. He said something inside him turned, and he wanted to really change.

We had just started going back to church and he had signed up to sing in the worship team.  He asked his music ministry leader for help and she got us a church counselor as by then he could not afford private counseling. He started attending SLAA meetings again – this time it was different. There were people in recovery and he got himself a sponsor who turned out to be a great blessing in our lives.  He started to work the program and with the guidance of his sponsor was able to turn his sobriety from days into months.

He did many things while this time I did nothing because I had already tried all those things before and I realized they had to be at his initiative rather than my suggestion. Today he is exactly 21 months sober and he is becoming a pillar of recovery for his group.

Yes I am happy today.  But today I am also still aware that this is one day at a time.  I know I am happy because he is doing well and I am also aware that I will be devastated once again should he slip or relapse. This is why I decided to seek help from PoSA with the aim of creating a PoSA group and working towards healing the past as well as trying to work on being a whole person, regardless of how the marriage turns out.

Seeing how a support group was such an integral part of his recovery, I wondered if it could work for me too so I asked my husband to see if any of the partners from his group would like to meet to share our stories and support each other.  One of the guys approached my husband and said his wife also needed to talk to someone and asked if he could arrange for us to meet. We met and shared for hours and hours – and it felt really very good to finally have a chance to speak to someone who’s going through a similar experience.  From there, more ladies started to join our group and we continue to find healing through the sharing our pain and experiences.

We soon added the PoSA structure to our meetings as we realized that we needed to do more than just share but also find ways to heal.  The PoSA structure keeps the focus on ourselves, our feelings and our healing from the pain and devastation of betrayal.

In my case, my husband’s addiction I believed was fueled by the sheer availability of the sex trade here, given that prostitution is legal.  There are numerous avenues for acting out from girly bars, to KTV’s, licensed brothels and online brothels available all over the island.  What bothers me most is to hear that men think that such activities are “normal” because all their friends are doing it.  Addiction is not normal, being unable to stop destructive behaviours is not normal and certainly engaging in activities that hurt your partner, your children and your family is not normal.

We do not have to accept this today though.  There are men who do not think that frequenting places offering sexual services or that engaging in multiple affairs is acceptable.  There are also men out there who have realized that the promiscuous life they were living was causing pain, trauma and destruction, to themselves and others, and they are now doing something to change.

As partners we are now also taking action. I am taking action. We, as a group, have started working on the steps to examine ourselves, as we move forward from our pain. The PoSA Singapore group is in its infancy but it is growing and it is providing support. My life today is better, I still have my triggers but I am moving further away from the immense pain I used to feel each day.

I now believe that healing and a joyful, happy life and marriage are possible. I am starting to experience them.  Today I am full of hope – it’s true. I have never seen my husband so happy and so present.  He is now a sponsor for others and is learning how serving others brings a fullness to his life he has not experienced before. I hope that PoSA will also bring healing and recovery to the many women whose lives have been affected by the pain of sex addiction/compulsion.

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