Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I have been seized with anxiety since yesterday afternoon's email from Roi, and the more I try to calm it, ignore it, distract myself from it, move away from it, the tighter it's grip on my intestines. Once in this mode everything begins to get attached to it. If I email someone and they don't email back I start spinning into anxious explanations for why they aren't emailing me back. If I do manage to talk to anyone, I berate myself after for not asking about their day or otherwise acknowledging that they have a life of their own. Or I pace (if standing) or toss (if prone) for hours going over what I said. Was it crazy? Too much? The more I feel anxious, the more I feel desperate, and the more I feel desperate, the more I feel anxious. 

This mode is probably what led Barbara Steffens to consider PTSD as a more viable explanation for the behavior and response of partners of sex addicts. It is what I call, "having my brain hijacked" and I cannot begin to help anyone understand how torturous it is. 

Before sex addiction, I had anxiety over things, but it was manageable. Big events like my divorce, or the first time Kyd ran away from home so he could be free to party, certainly would send me into a tail-spin but it seemed normal. Normal as in these are the types of major events that are understood to throw a person way off their center. And I bounced back on a predictable and normative timeline. Especially considering the utter lack of outside support. 

So when I can't get a grip on myself, can't steady myself, can't stop the waves of anxiety and panic that come up when my partner says something so seemingly innocent, I know there is something very different about what being in relationship with a sex addict has done to my well-being. Yes, trauma and various abuses stretch back from the present in a nearly uninterrupted line to my childhood, and clearly that primed me for the current state. But nothing unravels me so quickly as the complex set of behaviors of sex addiction. 

Let me just pause and say, "Motherfucker". 

I've sleuthed for the source of my most recent anxiety and realize that it isn't being triggered by the library. It's being triggered by a shift I'm sensing from Roi. A shift I predicted and told therapist I was anxious about right when we started. 

Roi's core issue is not really sex addiction. It is a steady state of flux that he doesn't know how to manage. He has no inner compass, no set of values, he changes his mind easily and given whatever the context of the moment. He doesn't know how to be, he doesn't know what to be, so he follows an arbitrary code based mostly on attraction and repulsion. His sense of a person's value is determined by hard, material measures that he can understand like wealth or education level or physical attractiveness or what club someone belongs to.  He cannot understand values he cannot see such as integrity or love.

This means he is easily swayed. The addictions only add to his floating morality.

So when he left for these three weeks and I began treatment, I said to the therapist that I was a little terrified that I would find myself in the vulnerable place between broken and whole when Roi had a change of heart for the umpteenth time, that he would turn cold and try to force me out.

And that's what's triggering me. Not the library so much as feeling a shift in his attention. I have no idea what is prompting it, I just know I feel it.


  1. I am sorry you are feeling this anxiety right now. Feeling hijacked is a good way to describe it.

    Say he does turn cold and try to force you out, I am sure there are laws in your state. For instance, here in Texas you cannot force someone to leave without giving them a proper eviction notice (which you have to go to court for). Once that is served, the person has 30 (60?) days to vacate. That includes cohabitation arrangements. So, while he might make things miserable for you, at best, you legally still have time to get your ducks in a row. I know it is hard, to manage emotions and ducks at the same time, but keep going at it and you will find yourself taken care of. You have a Higher Power.

    Aside from that, the ramifications of being pushed out of the home, it isn't fun to be pushed out (if that is what he is doing) of a relationship, either. No matter how tumultuous it has been. I wish I had wise words to share, but I have none. Just know that I am here.

  2. Kelly, thanks for your kind words. They help tether me the tiniest bit. It's terrifying that in this place I need the help of others to feel tethered again, but it is what it is for now.

    I keep hoping that I'm going to get to call the shots of separation when I'm ready.

  3. It's natural. In the days of tribes, you would be surrounded by women whilst the men were off doing whatever they were it getting into trouble or hunting...and as a band of sisters we would all tether together and buoy you up.

  4. Briar,

    You bring up something that I can relate to so very much - the hijacking of my brain at times. I, too, have been handled my share of life's "normal" burden's; my first husband died when I was 26; then my dad six months later; my mom got sick a few years later...I bounced back from all of it, but this-having a husband who is a SA-really is a mind F at times. One wrong word or phrase and I can be a mess for days.

    I'm not as poetic as you, but I wanted you to know you aren't alone.


  5. Being a psych/neuro geek, I really wish I could figure out the cause. WHY is sex addiction such a particularly mind-fucking encounter? Or NPD, or other similar maladies of relationship. I want to find the evolutionary explanation, but I want it to be provable.

    Because if we can understand it, we'll be better able to advise and treat those who find themselves in these relationships, losing their minds.

  6. P.S. thank you for the "poetic" compliment. It's not the poetry that's important, it's the telling our story.

  7. I. Can. Relate.
    And Briar, you're right, it's the worst to notice and feel the effects of brain hijack. I, too, was an incredibly well adjusted person with healthy anxiety coping skills before I met my ex. I'm very aware of how tender we as humans are and how our nervous systems get turned on high alert even when we don't seem to need that much input and the "craziness" we feel when we then either over-shoot or under-shoot our intuitions. It makes sense though and it is obvious that you have your protective skills working for you even if the radar is off a bit occasionally or your response seems bigger or small than required.

  8. It is terrifying. I'm not sure that I would say I was "healthy" before. What I mean to say is that I managed, but sex addiction has not been something I can manage.

    I am so grateful to all of you for your support.