Pain Management

My head throbbed as I pounded the alarm clock to stop its assault. Too many drinks the night before, and it was only Wednesday. Flashbacks of the previous evening floated across my mind. Vodka gimlets in the hotel lobby. Three… or was it four? Dancing. Then he walked me to my room.

I crawled out of bed and squeezed drops of Visine into my bloodshot eyes. As I swallowed three Advil, I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror. Instead of a look of disgust, an odd response washed over me—relief. I smiled at the face in the mirror, and for the first time in months I felt liberated. I felt justified. My affair? As far as I was concerned, my husband deserved it. If he’d treated me right, I wouldn’t have needed another man’s arms to help me escape my prison of bitterness.

I drove to work with the sunroof open and the music blaring. The high was exhilarating. A stranger’s embrace consumed my thoughts as I reimagined our first dance to one of my favorite songs, She’s Like the Wind. I turned up the volume even higher and breathed in the crisp October air. My anger was gone.

For a couple of weeks, my euphoria remained heightened as I fixated on fantasies of our next time together. But he never called, and I soon discovered the reality of addiction. My affair had only been a temporary anesthesia to numb the pain of my bitterness. The high from my one-night stand had only offered momentary relief.

Now what? Desperate, I felt trapped between the abyss of my own misery and the promise of the next high.

He wasn’t hard to find.

It was a lot easier the next time. After a little experience with guilt management, the weight of shame wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. As long as I balanced it out with huge doses of justification.

He started it. Our astronomical telephone bill for his calls for phone sex along with his pornography addiction are proof of his unfaithfulness. He brought this sin into our marriage. I didn’t. Besides that, he’s not honoring me or cherishing me. His drug use has destroyed my trust, and his work ethic has nearly bankrupted us. How am I supposed to respond to a man I no longer respect?

The aftermath of the second affair, however, left me even more desperate than before. More was not enough. I needed increasing doses to maintain the same level of comfort.

An old flame was my next temptation. (Siri calls him Tim Tation.)

A few months later, I sat in my pastor’s office. Counseling was supposed to help our marriage, but as far as I could tell nothing had changed. Most of the time my husband failed to show up. Such was the case that particular day. My face was hot with rage when I blurted out to Pastor Dan, “I’m having an affair with my old college boyfriend.”

I didn’t confess because I wanted forgiveness. I confessed the situation, not my transgression. I didn’t want my pastor’s advice or counsel. I only wanted him to fix Tom. The affair was evidence of how desperate I’d become to find relief and of how broken our marriage was. If he could fix Tom, I could be whole. Wasn’t that his job?

Pain Management Styles

When men hurt, abandon, and betray women often turn to anything that will stop the pain. Some mask the pain. Some minimize the pain, and others maximize it. I call these pain management styles the three M&M’s.

Some women mask their bitterness by indulging in excess work, exercise, food, drugs, alcohol, recreation, social media, shopping, and even other relationships just to provide relief. Other women stuff and minimize their hurt by denying it altogether. Still others maximize their pain in order to draw in attention and consolation. All three escape strategies, however, blind women to the fact that bitterness is a poison. These pain management strategies suspend the only remedy—forgiveness.

If you can relate to my story and struggle like I once did, I’d like to share my journey of recovery from love addiction and how I found emotional freedom in relationships.

In Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love I share my story as well as the stories of many other women. Stories connect us and help us relate, but God’s truth brings revelation and applying His truth brings freedom and emotional healing. You can find out more about Free Looks Good on You here or order your copy on Amazon.

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