“Many roads, my choice: My journey through discovery and recovery”.

I will never forget the day when I discovered the dark secrets my husband kept away from me for many years. It was a sunny Friday afternoon in early December in 2011. I logged onto my Facebook account only to be directed to my husband’s Facebook page to discover the chat histories with two of his “affairs” from which he had forgotten to log out. When I confronted my husband, he admitted. My world as I knew it collapsed right in from of my eyes. My body shook uncontrollably and I could not breathe. I cried like I have never done before sounding like a wounded wolf. Not knowing what to do, I called a trusted friend who helped calm me down and plan the next move. This friend to this day stands by my side without judging me or my husband. With somewhat regained composure, I started to gather information from my husband. What I learned in the next few days, weeks and months was a rude awaking from my perception of nice cozy strong happy marriage of 18 years with two beautiful young children to icy cold reality of living with a sex addict.

Disclosure:

Disclosure by a sex addict can be confusing and extremely painful. They lived in a deluded world of addiction for so long that their judgment is skewed by their addict brain. They may have no feeling of guilt nor can they recall time frames of their “acting out”. To a spouse this is extremely devastating. On top of it, the fear of losing their family often makes it impossible for them to admit their lies once and for all. Our case was no exception. Over the next few months, I slowly put each piece together through my husband’s stories. My husband’s first extra-marital affair was with a flight attendant 6 years ago when my younger child was only 6 month old. He completely fell in “love” with the affair even though it only lasted for a few months. He was “devastated” with the break-up and decided never again to fall for someone else and to work on the marriage. After some therapy sessions, he felt he was completely ready to commit to me once again. Soon however he started experimenting with prostitutes to avoid the risk of being emotionally involved. This loosening of boundaries led to a downward spiral into the destructive world of sex addiction over the next few years.

Like other addicts, my husband became extremely skilled in compartmentalizing different parts of his life. The box which had our two children and me in it was never to mix with the box with his extra-marital sexual encounters. Sometimes, he would keep multiple relationships at the same time, and he had to keep them completely separate as well. Over time, he became such a skillful liar that neither I nor any of our friends suspected that my husband was committing such awful acts of betrayal behind my back. To my old friends from back home, my husband still is the most devoted, caring and understanding husband they ever met. I do not have the heart to break the news to them and shatter their image of my husband who also became their good friend. I had no idea that something was not right until few months before the “discovery.”

Seven months before the discovery, he met a prostitute half his age in Manila whom he fell in “love” with after a few nights with her. Over the next few months, their toxic relationship grew to the point that my husband flew to Manila to bring her to Singapore, help her find an apartment and a job at a KTV lounge. Because of their huge age gap, he was contemplating to keep the relationship going for another 7 years or so behind my back so he could evaluate whether their relationship was going anywhere. He increasingly grew distant, cold and resentful towards me during this time, and I told my friends about our discords. A few weeks before the discovery, I had a talk with my husband. I told him that I was unhappy with the marriage and I wanted us to see a marriage counselor. He coldly rejected. I was so blinded with my faith in our marriage and love that I couldn’t consider that my husband could be having an affair, let alone be a sex addict. Much later, we learned through literature and the SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) support group that these types of toxic relationships are common for the sex addicts.

To stay or not to stay:

My first impulse was to divorce him as soon as possible. I told him to stop any communication with his affair until our divorce is finalized to respect me and the children. I also asked him to move out or stay in a different room. He rejected every single request I made to keep myself sane since he felt entitled to everything. In the next few days, my husband decided to leave the affair and try to work things out with me and the family. However, it took him much longer to let go of her emotionally.

During a phone conversation with the friend, she reminded me that we had been doing a lot of self development study together. She said studying through books is one thing but what I am going through is the opportunity to test whether I can really practice what I learned in theory. This helped me to realize that no matter what decision I make about our marriage, I will still need to work on forgiving my husband since holding onto resentment will only poison me. I decided that it would be easier to work on forgiveness if we are both working on the relationship. I also decided that even if my husband may not deserve a second chance, our marriage of 18 years deserved some chance. I perceived our marriage as a separate entity from my husband or me as an individual. So I made a decision to postpone the decision for one year.

Initial Reactions:

During the initial phase, I experienced depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, panic attacks, fear and shame. I wondered what was wrong with me to cause my husband to seek prostitutes for years. I could not function normally. Simple tasks such as planning a meal or cooking for the family became extremely difficult. I could not eat or sleep properly. Sometimes, I became immobile. I would wake up feeling calm and peaceful as the reality completely escaped my consciousness, then I would remember everything and sob uncontrollably. Instead of waking up from a nightmare to peaceful reality, my reality became the nightmare.

I had to work on accepting the death of the relationship as I knew it. There are days that the thought of my husband with other women pervaded my mind almost every minute of the day. Sense of betrayal, disbelief and disgust were so powerful that I sometimes felt that there is no way that I want to waste my life on him. I yearned for the return of my old faithful husband but I realized that I would never get him back. What I had next to me now was a different man who was battling his inner monster. I still needed to make a choice whether I wanted to accept this new man as my lifelong partner. The man I thought I married and spent 20 years with was now a different person in my mind. Either way, I needed to mourn and accept the death of my old husband in order for me to move on. I could not keep dwelling on the past. Some days I felt hopeful and full of love towards my husband. I was happy that he was back and trying to rebuild his love towards me. I would do anything to make our marriage work. His kind gestures gave me an illusion that he still loved me the way he used to. When I remembered that he loved someone else intensely and did not care if he lost me, I felt absolutely shattered. I was on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I felt that the only way for me to feel safe and loved again is to find someone else who would love me and cherish me the way I deserve.

Resources:

I was blessed with many resources I had. My caring and wise friends were my first line of defense to battle the worst nightmare of my entire life. One of them introduced us to a very good therapist who specializes in sex addiction. He was instrumental in keeping us on track with our recoveries. The books on sex addiction and traumas of sex addicts’ partners gave me deeper understanding of this illness as well as the tools for me to survive the traumatic experience. Therapy sessions called Systemic (Family) Constellation facilitated by a Singaporean lady brought huge changes to both of us. I attended a 5-week workshop at a counseling center in Toa Payoh for people impacted by a cheating spouse. We also had a few Skype sessions with an energy healer based in Hong Kong. When my daily short meditation became impossible after discovery, it was replaced with desperate dialogue with a “Higher Being” which became my first experience with the daily prayers.

The most precious gift of all is meeting fellow members in the PoSA group. Even with all the wonderful resources I at my disposal and a husband diligently working towards his own recovery, I was still immensely miserable and suicidal at times. He reached out to fellow support group members whether any of their partners are willing to meet up with me. Only one came forward. When I talked to his wife for the first time, the relief I felt within was tremendous. I did not have to explain any of the emotions I felt. She lived through them. Within 6 months of our first meeting, our group size grew to ten. When most members were too weak and shattered to have focused minds, our first angel of the group persevered and helped us decide structure and locate a free meeting room. I am extremely grateful to our living guardian angel and her brave husband. Without both of you, none of us would be where we are right now. I am also grateful to everyone who touched my life including my dear addict husband for making me who I am today.

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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.