Are We There Yet? Patience in the Process of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

This week our post comes from Cindy, who shares how her perspective and expectations have shifted as she has worked the 12 steps. Thank you Cindy, for sharing your growth and experience with us in such a beautiful way. 

I am a task oriented, “finish line” kind of person. I like to make checklists, and I find satisfaction in crossing items off my list. I have even occasionally re-written my to-do list just so I could add a previously unwritten task and mark it complete.

I don’t like the unknown. I crave predictability and knowing what the goal is so I can keep my eye on the prize. I also want to know the detailed plan of how I’m going to get there. As much as I wanted to reach the light at the “end” of the betrayal trauma tunnel, my recovery journey has not proven to be an “arrive at a destination/reach the finish line/make a bunch of checklists” type of path.

After disclosure, I initially spent quite some time spinning aimlessly on my personal hamster wheel, but once I accepted the fact that I needed help, I was determined to check “sex addiction” off my list once and for all. I was willing to do all the work, read the SAL materials, attend therapy, complete step work, listen to podcasts, and go to the meetings. I was ready to do whatever was needed to “get it done”. I was determined to get it over with, put all this behind me and move on.

I bought books, read them and then rushed to answer all the appropriate questions at the end of each chapter. I planned a timeline of reaching different milestones along the way. I set reminders on my phone and scheduled appointments on my calendar for each threshold I wanted to achieve in my marriage. Then my spouse and I would be considered “recovered” once and for all. We could simultaneously receive our “SAL Diplomas” and life would return to normal.

However, my recovery journey has not at all turned out as I had so carefully planned. I have encountered many roadblocks and detours along the way. I often return to old habits and get in my own way of healing. Just like my children used to repeatedly ask on road trips when they were small, I often find myself impatiently and repeatedly asking “are we there yet?”

Four years into our disclosure and betrayal trauma journey, I have made progress, but it hasn’t been as direct of a path as I had anticipated. I have often gone off course and had to recalculate my location on the map and retrace my steps to go back once again to the beginning. I once thought I could graduate from the 12 steps after completing each step in a linear, organized plan. However, I have repeatedly found myself back at Step 1. I’ve mistakenly allowed my pride to convince me that I could manage this on my own. I have rediscovered my powerlessness and my reliance on my Higher Power multiple times.

I have stopped, started, run out of gas, gotten lost, and found myself idling in the same spot for weeks at a time. I’ve taken my eyes off the road and occasionally put recovery on the back burner. However, sooner or later I get back on the path and try to move forward. I resist recovery work even when I know it will help me. I repeatedly struggle in a spiritual tug-of-war with my Higher Power as I try to re-learn Steps 1, 2, and 3 every day. I keep coming back to this program because the reality is that it does work IF I work it.

Recovery is NOT an event or a destination.

It is not a sprint to be finished quickly and furiously. There is no 12-step fast-track plan. This is not the 50-yard (or 12 Step) dash. It is more like running the same marathon every single day. The recovery I seek is no longer a “breaking through the tape at the finish line” moment of arrival so life can return to normal. I have tossed all my lists, because right now my to-do list is brief.

When I am feeling frustrated in the process and wonder if I will ever “get there”, I ask myself, “What can I do to find peace today?” Every day my answer is different. Some days I keep myself busy and distracted. Some days I focus on self care and write personal surrender prayers. Some days I read all the recovery materials I can get my hands on. Other times I spend quiet time alone, talking to my Creator. I occasionally return to old habits of denial, white knuckling, and isolating. Sometimes I reach out to my sponsor while other times I put up my carefully constructed emotional walls of protection. Some days I’m invigorated. Other days I am exhausted. Some nights I wait until everyone is asleep so I can cry into my pillow. Occasionally I forget I was ever hurt by betrayal and feel spontaneous joy.

I continue to learn the concept of surrender. It is a constant struggle to set aside my will and accept God’s will for me. It has not been perfect. Triggers are real, relapse is real, and addiction is relentless. Betrayal trauma is raw and painful and grueling, but I am learning to take it as it comes and embrace the adventure of it all.

I’m still working to see the gifts of recovery. I’m not quite ready to say I am glad for this experience, but I am grateful for the beautiful women I have met along the way (including myself). I have finally put “ME” at the top of my daily task list, I accept myself (imperfections and all), and I like the person I am becoming. I have learned that I am stronger and more capable than I ever realized and I do find peace amidst this storm. That’s as close to “getting there” as I’m worried about these days. And I consider that a win.


5 thoughts on “Are We There Yet? Patience in the Process of Betrayal Trauma Recovery”

  1. Running the same marathon daily is going to burn you out! There are many great things taught in this community, but 12 steps shifts the burden back on the spouses who are victims of abuse. We read the books, work on communication, try to figure out why we feel so crazy only to feel exhausted by the marathon we are running.

    The entitlement, denying, lies – including omission deceit, lack of transparency, stonewalling, gaslighting, not to mention the sexually acting out, and many more abusive patters that have occurred in our relationships, often over decades, has shaped our thinking and groomed us into adapting to his world of darkness, incorrect thinking errors and has suppressed our innate, God given spiritual gifts and power. This is certainly abuse.

    If it is not are fault, we didn’t cause this, and we can’t “cure” it why does it seem that the spouses are doing most of the work to try and hold our marriages together? Why should we have to toss our “to do lists”? Why should we have to put our dreams on hold because we can barely survive?

    We can read our recovery material every day, but if we are still be abused the ONLY thing that will work is putting a BOUNDARY in place, something that STOPS the hurt.

    Why can’t we run through the red tape at the finish line?

    Is it because we haven’t done enough? No!
    Is it because we haven’t surrendered enough? No!
    Is it because we haven’t taken moral inventory of our life and corrected that behavior? No!
    Is it because we haven’t turned our life over to God? No!
    Is it because we haven’t made a fearless moral inventory of ourselves or made a list of ALLLLL the character defects that more likely than not have be caused by being in the abuse cycle? No!
    Is is because we haven’t taken personal inventory of ourselves and when we are wrong promptly admit it? No!

    Why can’t we seem to run through the finish line? Why can’t we “get there”. It seems perfectly logical that we could. My thought is that we can’t run through the finish line because we continue to be ABUSED and who can finish a race when we are CONSTANTLY being battered.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We would certainly agree that if you are continually being abused by your addicted partner without any indication that they are working their own recovery, at the very least stronger boundaries are needed or you might want to consider removing yourself from the situation entirely. We do not condone abuse in any of its forms and we are deeply sorry if this is your experience.

      And you’re 100 percent right – ultimately we are each responsible for our own healing and recovery. The afflicted spouse cannot save their addicted partner, no matter how hard they work, and it isn’t their responsibility to. Individuals must actively work their own recovery to heal from the effects of porn and sex addiction and this may feel like a bit of a marathon to some as was suggested in this post. As two willing individuals actively work recovery, it may then be possible to heal the marriage. However, recovering the marriage is a separate matter from healing the individual.

      Consider that just because an addicted spouse isn’t recovering, that doesn’t mean that applying the 12-Steps will not and cannot help the betrayed in their healing journey nor do the 12-Steps (as we teach and understand them) place the weight of “fixing” the addicted partner on the betrayed. The 12-Steps were never meant to be a cure-all.

      That said, we have discovered that when the 12-Steps are worked consistently with a willing heart, regardless of what the addicted partner may choose – greater peace, clarity, and strength to move forward is found. This is our experience. We are never done progressing and the process of positive change is continual for each of us. For anyone who is seeking self-betterment (regardless of their circumstances), there is never a finish line. Just a continuum. We believe it gets easier to sustain positive change after a period of time, but we are all human and therefore constantly evolving and changing. We continue the climb one day at a time, working to overcome weakness, learning from experience, and slowly becoming more peaceful, more whole and hopefully better versions of ourselves.

      If you have specific questions about how you might find greater peace regardless of your partner’s choices, feel free to email us. We are here to help.

  2. I feel like this is me 100%. I thought we’d be done with the 12 steps in 12 weeks and then we’d be done! All better…..

    Recovery and working recovery is definitely a roller coaster. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

    I love the idea of asking “What can I do to find peace today?” Thanks for your insights.

  3. I can relate to this blog post so much, as well. It’s been a year since Disclosure and I had hoped things would be so different by now, but when I put away my lists and seek to just trust God, I can find peace.
    I love that she said “I have learned that I am stronger and more capable than I ever realized and I do find peace amidst this storm. That’s as close to “getting there” as I’m worried about these days.” And I definitely consider that a win, as well. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I discovered SAlifeline on a U Tube Video. I live in AZ and my X who is addicted to Pornography, chose not to do any work to heal from his chronic lying, Gaslighing, Financial Abuse or show any accountability. I chose to get help from Leslie Vernick’s, Conquer for Women, and now Flyingfreesisterhood, with Natalie Hoffman, both a Women’s Christan Programs. My X divorced me on March 4, 2021. We were married in 2007, D Day was October 19, 2019. I sold our home and split everything and I relocated temporarily to OK to be close to one of my sisters. I returned in February, 2021 and there were no changes in my husband. I now know that I have to my own recovery as I felt stuck and turned to Alcohol. I am looking for an online Betrayal Trauma 12 Step Recovery Work, as I know that I have Codependency and control issues to heal. I have had EMDR Therapy which helped with some childhood issues of abuse and I also served in the US Navy for 20 years with multiple Sexual Trauma and Rapes. Thank you for listening.

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