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At 3:00 a.m. I awoke from the noise of someone walking up the steps. This is not really all that strange. Not in my case. Why is Yonkel coming up from the basement so late, again? Was he trying for hours to find a pornography channel that we do not have? Maybe he was just reading a book because he couldn’t sleep. My therapist taught me never to wonder but always to find out directly.
So I asked him. “I was doing that destructive behavior again,” was his reply. Expressing my annoyance was getting tiresome, but it was important to let him know in no uncertain terms that I will not tolerate this.
It is painful. I feel worthless as an intimate partner and I lose interest in him in that way. Then when he is overcome with guilt, I am even more reluctant to voice my indignation.
My thoughts weigh me down. I feel alone, like I am carrying a secret that I cannot share with anyone. I shoved it under the rug for long enough, until deciding that I cannot go on accepting it. I now confront it with him and in therapy.
But it is so painful. I wish I had a support network of Jewish women who understood. I am sure there are others who cope with this in some way, and I plead with the Jewish community services organizations not to ignore this. You have confronted domestic violence, drugs, alcoholism and gambling. What about acknowledging that many men view pornography as a pastime to cope with stress and frustrations and that their wives suffer in silence? This is not just a problem for the addictive men. It is a problem for their wives!
I am tired of suffering alone. I do not want to give up on my marriage, because deep down I love my husband and he has many good qualities. I think it would be more difficult to leave him at this point than to try to deal with this. Yet dealing with it is no easy feat.
A support network in the Jewish community would benefit many who suffer in silence. If mental health organizations, professionals and sufferers could join together to bring this problem to the table, the lives of many families could be vastly improved.
Help us, please!
The subject of porn addiction was addressed in this column (specifically in Chronicles of July 8, Aug. 6 and Sept. 2 in 2005). The author who first introduced this subject matter to this column (Trying not to lose it) just recently submitted the following letter, which may offer you solace and hope for a brighter future.
It’s been a long time since I’ve last been in touch. So much has changed that I felt the need to update and to thank you. With Hashem’s help I found the answers that I was desperately seeking − as soon as I was ready to come out of denial.
Our story has a happy ending, although the journey has just begun. Basically, my husband and I are both strongly committed to recovery. To get healthy at all costs is a top priority in our home. I feel like a new person, who married the man I had hoped for after all.
The 12-step program of S-Anon is healing beyond words. It works on the spiritual void created by the addict and the subsequent effects of the addiction on his partner. It came as a big surprise to me that I had my own set of dysfunctional patterns, and as I became able to see myself as I truly am, my denial melted away.
Through the structure of this therapy program and the safety and comfort I experienced there, I was finally able to open up to myself. The more I focus inside, the healthier I am. Focusing on others too much or too critically alerts me that something’s not right with ME! I need to let go and allow Hashem to do the rest.
My husband is now also fully committed to recovery, attending two to three meetings a week and one group therapy called LifeSTAR. This amazing therapy explores core beliefs, what kind of family we grew up in, how the void was created, and finally, how to heal it.
I must admit that it took kicking my husband out for him to hit rock bottom and to realize how serious I really was. I was no longer willing to be the victim and was choosing to be healthy. He had a choice: to be healthy with me or to leave. Thank G-d, he chose to become healthy!
Finally, I understand the meaning of unconditional love. I wanted my husband to provide it for me, but I had never truly experienced it and did not know how to ask for it in a healthy way. My co-dependant characteristics would have had me choosing a mate who would have been equally unavailable to me, even if he had not been a sex addict. So we both work hard every day to follow the serenity prayer − to accept the things we cannot change, and to have the courage to change the things we can.
I only wish that the frum world would be more open to attending the S-Anon program, to get the healing they need, and I really want to raise awareness about addictions in general. My husband was an addict for so many years and did not know that he had an addiction. People don’t know what being an addict means and have no idea how to treat addicts. Anger, manipulation and threats are not the answer. The way to heal the spiritual emptiness an addict feels is through unconditional love and support, and appropriate group therapy.
Thank you again, Rachel, for being there when I was so desperate. Your column is a real blessing for us, and Hashem must love you for being His partner in healing His children.