Finally, eight years ago, it looked as though our marriage was over. We had hit rock bottom. My husband, who at that point decided to do whatever it took to recover his life, found a qualified therapist and immediately began attending 12step.
Early on in our therapy, the therapist asked if I could stay with my husband if he was in addiction recovery. Recovery!? What was that? My husband could be whiteknuckle sober for up to three years at a time, but he always slipped back to his addiction. I was sick and tired of it. But maybe, just maybe, recovery was going to be different.
My next question was, “How long does recovery take?”
He responded that solid recovery takes three to five years of work before it becomes a healthy lifestyle.
“Are you kidding?! I thought three to five years sounded like forever. Those years have come and gone, and we are now eight years into working recovery.
I have had phone calls, more than once, from someone who has either just discovered their husband’s addiction or they have finally hit a rock-bottom crisis. She will call and ask, “Can you fix him in six weeks because we have a cruise (or whatever) coming up and I don’t want to go with him if he’s like this.”
I say, “No. No one can fix him in six weeks, and I am certainly not in the ‘fixing business.’ So you may want to take a friend on the cruise, sleep in separate rooms, or just not go because you cannot ‘fix’ an addiction in that short time.
All of us want the pain and trauma to go away… yesterday. I felt that if my husband not only quit acting out, but found recovery, it would make all the difference in our marriage and family. And it has made a big difference. However, I did not recognize my own need for recovery from the trauma and betrayal. It has taken a lot of time and work.
Early in the process, it was critical for me to feel validated and safe. Finding safety takes time, so I slowed my life down and learned the importance of boundaries. The most loving thing I could do for myself and for my marriage was to set boundaries.
My husband learned to set his own boundaries to keep himself safe from the lust triggers that took him into acting out behaviors. This helped to create safety and freedom for me and my husband. A book that I really like is “Boundaries in Marriage.” The authors Cloud and Townsend write, “Marriage
requires each partner to have a sense of ownership of himself or herself. Boundaries help us to know just where someone’s control begins and ends.”
When we have been betrayed and are in trauma, we are not safe emotionally. Therefore, we must initially set boundaries to help us be safe. I discovered that my meager and often unsuccessful efforts were greatly enhanced by the support of a qualified sexual addiction therapist, a kind
spiritual leader that advocated for me, and a sponsor who was successfully walking her own path of recovery.
Eventually, I was able to set and hold appropriate boundaries based on the inspiration that I discovered coming from God. I learned to “follow my gut” with courage and a commitment to be true to myself. That inspiration also helped me to know and feel when my husband was not working recovery so that in my efforts to be safe and not enable, I could detach with compassion until I felt safe. All of this has come in stages, small steps and bits of progress. Through this process I have come to understand that boundaries are not about punishment, control or manipulation, they are about loving ourselves and others as God loves us and them.
I do want to add that in our work of recovery, the pain and trauma will lessen and the journey of recovery will change and grow over time. Just as a husband who chooses recovery actions and behavior will have progressive victory over lust, we too can have progressive victory over fear, shame and trauma. However, his choice is not ours or vice versa. Our recovery is our choice.
You’re not going to have to live in this painful place for three to five years. In fact, as you strive for it, you are going to find peace, serenity and even joy throughout your journey.
I have found that when I meet or talk to someone on the phone who has read my book or my website but doesn’t really know me personally, there seems to be a misconception that I have “arrived” at recovery. They sometimes ask, “How did you get through this,” or “when did you know that you were recovered?” I truly understand their desire to see someone who has “made it” when life is crumbling all around them. I have been there myself.
However, I have never known anyone, including myself, who in their humility, honesty and accountability will say that they have achieved perfect recovery. We strive for progress not perfection. That is why I love surrounding myself with women who are humbly, with God’s help, working to be consistently true to themselves.
I’ve come to discover that this is life and recovery is my daily work at healthy living. My recovery from the effects of sexual addiction is not my life, but the work that I have done and the work that I continue to do (every day) to have a healthy balanced life actually comes as a gift to me as I continue to patiently, consistently work to improve my life. The principles of truth that I have learned in my recovery, I strive to practice in every aspect of my life and with every relationship.
Here’s to another day, another year, another eight years. Living… in the present moment. Being where my feet are.
My desire is that somewhere in these words and my experience you can find a glimmer of hope. Hang in there. There is peace, joy and love for each one of us.
Rhyll Anne Croshaw is an author and highly sought after speaker, having spoken at BYU Women’s Conference and many community and church events on the subject of pornography and sexual addiction recovery. She and her husband Steven are the founders of SA Lifeline Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to providing hope, education and resources related to pornography and sexual addiction recovery.
Rhyll graduated from Brigham Young University at the relatively young age of 58, where she earned a BS degree in Family Life.
A piano and music teacher from the time she was 16, she still loves to use her talents and education in piano and choral instruction as often as possible.
Rhyll has been married to Steven Croshaw for 40 years and is the proud mother of 7 children and 16 grandchildren. Rhyll and Steven offer their personal, firsthand account and learning experiences that have shaped and refined their shared recovery.