Naomi had amazing clarity. (It helped that she’d been talking with my friend Ken, who is an addict in recovery, and his wife.) Naomi had concluded:
- Otis is a good man, but his behavior has become intolerable. His addiction has numbed his conscience and altered his thinking. He not only committed adultery, he had reached the point where he behaved immorally in many other ways as well including lying, cheating, and stealing.
- She was no longer willing to participate in her husband’s demise. She realized that her patient persistence has only enabled him to continue to destroy himself, his marriage, and his family.
- Otis may be using his addiction to deal with underlying issues (ADHD, depression, and anxiety). It was high time that he be evaluated thoroughly so that those could be addressed.
- Her fear that Otis might kill himself had long prevented her from putting pressure on him to get help. She would no longer be controlled by this fear. Whether he lives or dies is not up to her, she decided. If he threatened suicide, she would call 911 so that he could get the help he needs from trained professionals.
- She was ready to stop taking primary responsibility for Otis getting better. She was ready to get out of the way of his recovery and surrender it to others: his Higher Power, treatment professionals, his Sexaholics Anonymous sponsor, his pastor.
- She had been a lifeline to him in a way that had enabled his addiction to continue. She was going to shut down those unhealthy means of support (for example, covering for him with their grown kids, letting him still sleep in their bed despite the betrayals).
- She and her kids needed time and space away from the drama and trauma that he had caused. They needed to return to a normal routine. They needed to eat meals together. They needed to focus on things like science projects and school dances. Otis and his struggle needed to be out of the picture for a while so that they could rediscover happiness with each other and in life.
- She needed to hold to her limits and reflect back to Otis his responsibility. She had started practicing phrases like, “I’m sorry you’re going through that… but that’s not my responsibility.” “Shoot. Sounds like you’re in a tough spot. I hope you find a solution.”
- She knew that, at that point, Otis’s word was worth nothing. She was willing to rebuild trust for him again, but he would need to earn it back by stepping up and being responsible for his problems and situation in life.
When they talked, Otis could tell immediately that Naomi had reached her limit. In a way, he was relieved. He felt like this was finally it: this would either be the end of his marriage or the end of the road for his addiction. Despite past ambivalence, more and more now he wanted out of his addiction. He definitely wanted to stay married and always had. In the past Otis may have tried to appeal to Naomi’s compassion, convince her to let him try again in the usual ways, or focus on the role she played in their problems.
In a strange way, it felt good to him to commit to a treatment program instead. If this was rock bottom, maybe it wasn’t so. He hoped that this could be the beginning of a new chapter of his life, a new direction for their lives together.
Over the next month, Otis spent a good portion of his waking hours at our clinic in Salt Lake City. Naomi joined him for the third week of treatment. It was good to see them addressing underlying issues and repairing old wounds.
It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing since then, but it’s been a year and a half now since their intensive and their family is so much better off. Looking back, I can see that the foundation of their success was the groundwork that was laid by Naomi.