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Day 1151 • I Finally Did It

It's been 1110 days since I disclosed my sexual addiction and betrayals to my wife. That's 1110 days that I expected to be without a home, without a wife, and maybe even without a life. That's how dark I was when I finally got around to taking the step I swore I'd never take, telling my wife anything. Like many other stories I've become familiar with, she did not leave me. She lived in crushing pain for weeks, then something less for months, and beyond that, you'd have to ask her, but she stayed. She let me stay.

My daily program has been less about writing and more about reading the past few months, but I think this deserves — requires — putting my thoughts down where I can read and re-read them.

It's been nearly two years since I completed my first Step Workshop, a weekly commitment to share and learn with a small group of other sex addicts about what it means to go through the 12 Steps. It included shared wisdom and knowledge about the best practices for facing some of the scariest things in life. At least, that's what it was for me.

12 Step programs are probably most famous for steps eight and nine, making a list of people we need to make amends to, and then making amends to those we can, without causing more damage and pain. They are not apologies. Amends are a combination of taking responsibility for the hurt caused and offering to do what we can to fix what we broke.

I wrote out amends to people I could not give them to and gave verbal amends to a few people that would let me. There's one that I wrote over and over in my head, but I could never get to the point of giving it out loud or on paper. The amends to my wife was daunting to contemplate, awkward to think about delivering, and downright fearful to face. I did not know how to do it. I was working hard on my "living amends," a concept somewhere between proving my recovery with my behaviors and an excuse not to face the music; to not rock the boat when things are going well. I was hoping the former was the case, but I knew the latter was most likely.

Some things happened a couple of weeks ago — including an episode of the situation comedy "Mom" about giving amends — that brought me to the point of knowing I needed to do this; I had to do this. The amends are for my sake as much as for the person who receives them. My wife knew this and had encouraged me for many months to complete this step with her, and sometimes she let me know that she wanted it for her, too.

Over several days, I wrote out my amends to my wife and then shared them in a 12 Step meeting, asking for the fellowship's experience, strength, and hope. They were direct in their warnings and suggestions, and very caring and encouraging in their responses. A couple of days later, I met with my sponsor and shared what I had re-written with him. He was even more direct and went into detail on the reasons for his suggestions. He also told me not to beat myself up for taking two+ years to get to this point. He said we are ready for such steps when we're ready, and he encouraged me that I was ready.

I then told my wife that the amends were written. I did not ask to deliver them, but I told her they were there whenever she was ready to receive them. It took a few days of her preparing herself for more disclosures and things unimagined that she feared would be part of me making excuses or soft-soaping the horrible things I'd done.

One of the criticisms I had received from other addicts is that I was still being too vague in the things I was trying to take responsibility for. I protested that she already knew those things, so why should I be specific about what I've already disclosed. Frankly, the response was a lot of 'trust us' and 'stop trying to soften your landing.'

We were having coffee yesterday, and she simply asked, "How about now?" I knew what she meant and reached for my laptop, from which I would read the amends before printing out a copy for her to use as she wants.

I was specific about what I had done and went into some extra explanations about a few of the worst violations as to why they were the worst. I did not apologize; I've done a lot of that, and this was not the time for more I'm Sorries. I admitted what I did and talked about the damage done; I assured her that I knew she was not to blame.

It was not a perfect amends. It will not be published in any how-to book, and I will not even post it here. This moment now belongs to my wife and me. It did not fix everything, but it fixed something or at least helped with more healing. It was time, and it was the right time.

I don't even know whether this is my 'final' amends or just the one that needed doing yesterday. What I know is, when it was over, my wife kissed me. That still does not make sense to me, and I'm sure that not every addict experiences the same after making painful amends. What I do know is that it does happen.

My gratitude has grown again.


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