Recovery is a Journey Not an Event

I had a rough childhood. I grew up in a broken family and we were always very poor.  My mother was married multiple times and had children with all of them. The guys were never good role models. I spent many years living with relatives when my mother could no longer take care of us. There was a time we actually lived in a house with no running water and an outhouse. I remember a day when the only thing we had to eat in the house was a half a jar of peanut butter.  Not the best of times for a child.

When I was about 9 I came down with acute appendicitis.  I was rushed to the doctor and sent for emergency surgery. I remember waking up after the surgery and I was in intense pain. The surgery site was still very sore and every time I moved or coughed it was agony.  Even today 30+ years later I still remember the pain of that event. 

In 2008 my wife had an affair.

Intense pain and trauma. I was a basket case for about a year. Lost 30 pounds. Intense triggers, sadness, apathy, rage. I remember thinking how can things ever get better? Will my life be all about pain?

What do all the events have in common? They are all traumas I have faced in my life. At the time all seemed overwhelming. For others it may be a loss of a family member, a physical trauma or financial ruin.

All of these traumas require a recovery journey and not all journeys are the same. The pain of my childhood or the trauma of being betrayed will always be in my life. They will never magically disappear. Today 30+ years after my surgery if I move in just the right way I can feel the scar on my side. Its not painful. It doesn’t overwhelm me. It’s just a reminder of the past. Today I can look back and smile at the Matchbox plane I got as a gift after the surgery. Today 8 years after the betrayal I occasionally will get a minor trigger. They are no longer overwhelming. They are now, mere reminders of something that was devastating and happened in my past. Yet, I’m on the other side of it, healed and restored.

I can now look back at the traumas in my life, especially infidelity and use the experiences to grow and learn. I eventually chose to take the traumas and reach out to others who were struggling. Now, I find I’m able to comfort those who are currently struggling and provide not only empathy but understanding.  I’ve let the traumas mold me into a better Christian and husband and father. I learned more about myself through the trauma than I ever did in the good times. Today I can say without a doubt I’m better off individually than I ever have been. I am grateful that my marriage was indeed restored and it’s better than ever.  For many, that’s not the case, but personal healing is still possible.    

But you know what? I still get sad when I see a movie legitimizing affairs. I still get sad when I see children growing up in broken families. I still can visit the sadness internally and remember the pain, the hurt and the hopelessness. 

We always have a choice how WE respond to the traumas that visit our lives. 

Recovery is a journey, not an event.

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Thank you for sharing

Erik, I am in the initial year of exposing my wife's emotional affair of 2 years (which I discovered and brought to the head pastor at my church July 2015). My wife had been growing deeper in her walk with God, but the unfortunate thing was she was also growing closer to our youth pastor who was helping her on this journey. Since our marriage of 20-plus years had been marred by trials and circumstances that had left me very angry at God, my wife decided over the past 5 to 6 years to disconnect from me instead of standing by me during these times of struggle for better or worse.

Yes, I can see how the first 40-plus years of my life was spent living in the "why me" victim and self-pity mentality and I had put my wife as No. 1 in my life with God as the No. 2. As trials -- especially of unemployment (3 times over an 11-year span and my wife having to be the main bread winner to this day, which left her upset since she couldn't be with our kids at home which was both of our heart's desire) -- mounted, my wife got more disappointed with me and I, in turn, got more angry at God. And my "clingy" and "needy" personality during this time wore my wife out to the point she had to disconnect.

So here we are, nearly a year later. She decided to stick it out with me, but her safety boundaries are still up on high alert as she pursues God and I pursue God individually at this point. She is in individual counseling and we are in weekly Christian marital counseling for the past 6-plus months digging into the triggers and personality styles that have led us to where we are today. She is an "avoider" and I am a "pleaser", which means she is independent and does not have much emotion while I pursue, try to please, avoid confrontation and am full of emotions. So we are both trying to work out our different styles and not get triggered by the other while we both grow stronger in God first and are praying daily (although not together but individually) that God will reconcile and redeem our marriage.

Right now, she says she is only staying in this marriage out of obedience, since she is no longer "in love" with me and has little to no respect for me. I still love her and cherish her with all my heart, which makes it extremely difficult for me because she has borders up that say we cannot pray together (it is too intimate for her), we cannot touch -- like hold hands, kiss, hug, cuddle (which is my main love language -- even though she is gracious enough to allow for sex a couple times a week), and being in a conversation of any type outside of the mundane topics of doing housework, the kids and school, etc., is very difficult. We go long stretches of not talking even while in the same room or in the car together.

So there it is. Please pray that someway, somehow God will bless and honor our obedience to pursue Him, rest in Him and try to make this marriage work. I truly want to spend the rest of my life with my wife, but I am also a realist in thinking that the shoe could drop at any time and that my wife could just throw up her arms and walk out. I just need to be strong enough in God that if that were to happen, that I would still be able to make it on my own. We have three kids (two have graduated high school and are in college) and one more in middle school, and I would HATE to get a divorce just because I know it is such a harmful thing for children no matter what age. Plus, my wife and I prayed to God at the start of our marriage that we would break off from the sins of our parents and that we would start a new Godly legacy. I pray that God will honor that vow we made nearly 22 years ago and allow us to start anew and make this marriage into something even better and stronger that ever before with Christ No. 1 and in the center of everything!

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