A guest blog post written by “KatieDid”
When I was a girl, I would often dream about love and romance. I looked forward to the time when I would fall in love and get married. I wanted to meet someone with whom I could share my true self. We would share everything about ourselves: our hopes, joys, dreams, work and sorrows. I knew marriage wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but I believed it would be worth the effort. Eventually I found that special someone and we began our life together. He was my best friend and greatest supporter. We worked, played, cried and laughed together.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, over the next few years that relationship changed. We still lived and worked together, but that closeness was gone. I felt the loss, but assumed it was due to the stress of having children and still being in school. Not everything can last forever. One evening my husband came to me looking very uncomfortable. He confessed that he had been using pornography. I was very surprised and caught off guard. He quickly assured me he was very sorry and would never do it again. I believed him and we went on with our lives. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of his ongoing relationship with pornography. Unbeknownst to me, it got much worse. Eventually I found out that this was something he had struggled with since he was 12. He had a few periods where he had been able to stop, but it always came back.
I was devastated. I thought maybe it was my fault. I lost 40 lbs. I struggled with deep, dark depression. I tried to please him and keep him from getting angry, but our relationship got worse and worse. Soon I found myself married to a man who only physically resembled the man I fell in love with. He was angry, critical of me and distant. It was like there was an invisible wall between us. Nothing I could do would make him happy with me.
I spent nine years struggling to fix our marriage, mostly alone. I tried to be patient, support him and help him, but things only got worse. I finally reached my breaking point. I reached out and got help. I found resources and began 12-step, therapy and group therapy. I set boundaries and he had to choose between me and the addiction. He chose to pursue recovery and we began the long and painful process of trying to piece together our shattered marriage.
We have spent almost four years working on recovery–both individually and for our marriage. What we found is that his pornography addiction really wasn’t about sex at all. It was a coping mechanism–a way of dealing with difficult emotions. It was easier to turn inward and use pornography as a drug to cope than to risk being vulnerable with other people. Recovery is essentially a process of restoring connection–connection with yourself, others and God. To summarize our 3 1/2 years of marriage counseling, individual therapy and 12-step work: Addiction is about isolation. Recovery is about connection.
As we have traveled the road to restoring connection in our relationships we have encountered many other people who are dealing with similar issues. Pornography is only one manifestation of a widespread deeper problem with intimacy. People can use food, drugs, work, alcohol, facebook, video games, house-cleaning, or any other number of things as their coping mechanism. It seems easier to turn inward and use an activity or substance to numb our pain, rather than doing the difficult work of opening ourselves up to other people, feeling our feelings and sharing our emotions. But it is through taking that risk to open ourselves to others that we can find true intimacy and connection and overcome our need to numb.
We have spent several extremely difficult years facing these issues head-on. For a long time I did not know whether my marriage would survive. But as my husband and I walk the road of recovery together, I am finding that the man I fell in love with is still there. He was buried beneath layers of shame and addiction–and was very nearly destroyed by it–but that man who was my best friend is gradually returning as my husband and I build the kind of intimacy in our marriage that I always wanted.
We have joined with other concerned citizens who are trying to share this message with others to form the Northwest Coaltion for Healthy Intimacy. Our 2014 conference, “Restoring Intimacy,” will be held on Saturday, September 13, 2014 from 9 am to 7 pm at the Doubletree Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon. Speakers will include Douglas Weiss, Ph.D; Donald L. Hilton, M.D.; Geoff Steurer, LMFT; Rhyll and Steve Croshaw; and LaVarr McBride, instructor of criminology at Penn State University. The conference will include an exclusive pre-screening of the forthcoming documentary The Heart of the Matter: Finding Light in the Darkness of Pornography Addiction (formerly titled Shamed). Find more information or register at www.nwchi.org.