My Addictions

One of the commenters on a recent post said it sounds like I have an addiction. This is actually a very insightful observation. I’ve heard affairs discussed as an addiction in several books as well as in therapy, but it’s not necessarily an obvious comparison. So how is an affair like an addiction? Well, lets see…

It’s tempting to start with the physical aspects of the affair, but one common thread I’ve seen is that people who have affairs are usually trying to escape something. Yes, there are people for whom it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right person, but very often the people who have affairs are depressed, lonely, or feeling unfulfilled (aka bored). The affair is both an escape as well as a stimulant for the mind and body. These people might also be having problems with alcohol or other substance abuse (raises hand), addictions to pornography (raises the other hand), or other escapist behaviors.  In other words, cheaters are prone to addiction already whether they have had past addictions or not.

As for the physical, there’s no easy way to say this to someone who’s been cheated on. Affairs are fun. They are exciting and exhilarating. In my case, the sex was not that great for me, but being desired and desiring another person as strongly as one does early in a relationship was a physical high. The anticipation, the flirting, and the explicit fantasies puts one in a hypersexual state that is definitely addictive. As long as I’m writing frankly about the subject, I was very good with her. I don’t say that to brag, I’m just saying as a matter of fact that knowing I was some kind of sexual kung fu master with Scarlet, even if I didn’t get that much physical pleasure back, gave me a confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Emotionally, having an affair means having a new love, with all the excitement that goes with that. Getting to know the affair partner, devoting time and energy to make them happy and feeling a jolt of happiness when you succeed, and having them do the same for you – it’s an emotional high. The affair gives you a reason to get up in the morning or to take care of yourself and your appearance. I had most of my contact with Scarlet through work, so she gave me a reason to not only go to work, but to be excited about it. We emailed a lot, so I was checking my email constantly and every time I saw a message from her it was like taking a hit of something.

Of course, the main reason parallels are drawn between affairs and addictions is not because of how they make you feel while you’re in them, but how you feel when they’re gone. As high as you soar while having an affair, you crash utterly and completely when they’re over. Having your affair discovered is like a junkie hitting rock bottom.

You are physically sick. From the Friday when I decided to tell my wife about the affair on Sunday night until late the following Monday, I didn’t eat anything except a single bag of Fritos. Honestly, I was too sick and numb even to feel suicidal until Tuesday. Oh God, that week was horrible. That was my detox week. Even now, thinking about it in detail makes me ill. I have no idea how I made it through without killing myself and there have been a lot of times I wished I had.

But time moved on and the initial “Oh God, let me just die” phase passed. That’s when the cravings started in earnest. In spite of the pain you’ve just been through, you long for another hit – another email, another IM, another kiss, another time of passing them in the hall and exchanging a meaningful look. Maybe because of the pain you’re going through, you want to return to the bliss of the affair, or at least to have a little taste of pleasure in the midst of the pain. Logically you know that’s crazy, but if you haven’t already figured it out, your heart is your enemy and it is sly and crafty.

If you should fall off the wagon here, it’s going to be so much worse. Any trust you’ve started to earn back, any commitments you’ve remade or ever will make are void and null in the eyes of those who know you. You’re not starting over at square one, you’re starting over at square negative one million.

For the sake of argument, lets say you stay on the wagon. Those cravings will start to fade and life will slowly transition to the new normal – the one you and your spouse have wrought from your horrible mistake. But like the recovering alcoholic, this is always going to have a hold over you. That does not mean you are going to fall back into the affair or even that you are going to fall into another affair. You are still responsible for your actions and I’m not making excuses. However, you and I have tasted the forbidden fruit. We’ve smoked the physical and emotional crystal meth of an affair. And we know, like the alcoholic, where a little taste will lead, both highs and lows, because we’ve been there. We must be cautious.

Whenever things go badly in life, don’t be surprised if you hear the siren song of your addiction singing to you from out of the fog you find yourself in. Don’t listen to it. Run. For God’s sake, run with everything you have as if your life depended on it. Because if you don’t, you’re dead.

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About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
This entry was posted in Teh Crazy, The affair and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My Addictions

  1. Janelle says:

    Recovery is a process, not a destination.

    A couple very close to us (I am married and content with my DH) are going through a separation/divorce due to the husband’s affair. While we were devastated by his behavior, we have tried to stay calm and remain neutral, condemn the poor choices and try to understand the why of it all. He is deeply regretful and remorseful, the reasons for the betrayal running the gamut of the very complicated to the extremely ridiculous. As for the wife, her white-hot anger, rage, pain flares so unceasingly it scorches those of us on the sidelines who wish to be supportive, and in so many ways I cannot blame her. It’s just what has happened throughout the past year since the big reveal is that her direct, indirect, and mostly shrill demands that we shun and “punish” him for wronging her this way has the effect of driving us away, draining our sympathy and our compassion, and further isolating her when she needs friends and compassionate support. It is exhausting and makes me feel terribly guilty.

    I find your entries intriguing and hopeful, that perhaps there are those who heal and continue their union, or heal and pursue separate happiness. Thank you for sharing so openly.

    Like

    • Anonyman says:

      The way I see it, the loyal spouse is not required to make it work. If they want to walk away, they are justified in doing so. However, they have to forgive even if reconciliation isn’t possible. As long as they hold onto that anger, they are hurting themselves and driving other people, such as yourselves, away. It’s like the proverb about the poison we drink hoping to kill another. Of course, she’s also going through hell, so I don’t really know what the right answer is. Not that I think you’re asking for advice, I’m just thinking out loud (?) here.
      I wouldn’t feel guilty though. You can’t make her give up her hatred and you can’t hold yourself hostage to her demands. Sometimes loving someone means being there for them, but also not supporting their self-destructive behavior.
      I’m sharing openly because I don’t know what else to do. I’m a sinner, worse than most, but I’m also forgiven. What should I do? Pretend to be some saint? Hold in what I’m really thinking and feeling, censor myself because I’m not perfect yet? Living in denial doesn’t help me or anyone else. Still, you’ve welcome. I do hope others find hope here in my honest ramblings or at least realize they aren’t alone in this messed up world in which we live.

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      • Janelle says:

        Wow … your response to my thanks came across as surprisingly heated. I find your blog helpful, particularly your response to comments. That’s all I meant.

        Like

  2. Anonyman says:

    Oops, that’s not at all what I was trying to convey! Looking back I can see how it looked. Those questions are all rhetorical and directed at myself. Your thanks was very welcome.
    I’m just so sick of who I used to be – the self-righteousness, the pretending to be better than I am, the refusing to share what I’m really thinking and feeling. I’m being open because I’m backed against a wall and I can’t pretend anymore. The only way out of the mess I’m in is to be open and honest. I am glad you appreciate my openness because if people can learn from my failure then maybe some other couple won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.

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  3. My husband explained it to me as an addiction too, it was those words that made me finally see it for what it was, an escape. He even told ‘the whore’ (sorry she is called that for a reason, not because I didn’t try to see her as a nice wronged girl going down the wrong path) she was like a drug and he couldn’t let her go. Losing me and his children when the affair was first discovered was all the detox he needed.

    I haven’t forgiven my husband, I have shown mercy, but forgiveness still isn’t found. I think because I have problems accepting that he did what he did. I do strive to someday forgive him, because I believe he deserves it.

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    • Anonyman says:

      As I’ve said before, forgiveness is a process, and it’s one that progresses alongside the grieving and healing processes. Showing mercy is a good step in all three, but I can understand having a hard time accepting what he did.
      I don’t know, I’m just talking (typing) here, but I don’t think you have to accept what he did, except in the sense of accepting it as a historical fact. I don’t think you even need to understand why, although that’s undoubtedly helpful. True forgiveness comes from recognizing the full depth of hurt and betrayal in what he did, and then choosing to be merciful and gracious. If he also recognizes what he did, repents, and asks for forgiveness, then you have a chance at restoring the relationship. You may never get the emotions back, and it may be that the hurt is too deep to save the marriage (I hope not), but you can still forgive. Obviously that’s easier said than done, especially when there is so much to forgive.

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      • All of us are different, which is why I don’t think the same methods work on everyone. I have to still find a way to accept and come to terms with the choices he made and the man he was , then I believe I will be able to forgive him, and move on with the man he has become. That man is a better man. I talked about Mercy on my blog, and why I think it’s the best path for me. I am also still in mourning, I lost the man I loved for 20 years, and while I like and love the ‘new’ man in my life, I still grieve for the one I knew.

        Crazy? Yep but the affair and his choices made me this way. I’m just trying to find a way to make my family whole and the hurt go away

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        • Anonyman says:

          If it’s crazy, then all of us walking this road are crazy. The crazy ones are the people who refuse to change or refuse to acknowledge the change. Grieving is an important part of not going crazy, in my opinion.

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