An Open Letter to my Wife’s Family

To My Wife’s Family,

In all the years I spent as an English major or an English teacher or a writer, I have never come across the words that could adequately describe the complete remorse I feel for what I’ve done to my wife. The indescribable pain I have caused her and our daughter is clearly unforgivable, though they have chosen to do just that. But I also realize that betraying them means I have also betrayed you. You are her family, and, by default, my family as well. You have expressed your displeasure and discomfort with me – both sentiments I completely understand and do not fault you in the least. There is no way I could ever offer enough apologies to adequately illustrate how horrible I feel about all of this; not only how I’ve made my wife and daughter feel, but how I have made you feel as well. My overwhelming betrayal could only be rivaled by my overwhelming remorse. I hate myself for what I’ve done, and nothing I can do can change that.

However, what I can do is try to help you understand some of the things below the surface that she knows, and nearly no one else does. I want to give you complete and brutal honesty, and I want to be 100% open about it, so that you’ll know how serious I am about wanting to work toward regaining your trust. I am not attempting to make excuses or explain-away the terrible choices I’ve made. I only want you to have the full picture. So please, read on.

I am a sex addict in recovery. Sex addiction is real and it impacts the lives of more people than anyone wants to admit, and I am numbered among this sad demographic. Sex addiction can manifest itself in many forms. The most common form of sex addiction is pornography, though this was not my struggle. As I’m certain you know by now, my struggle was with promiscuity and infidelity. I’ve cheated on my wife more times than I can remember. I will spare you the details, but most of it occurred with other teachers while I was teaching. I was addicted to the power, the conquest, the rush, and the high of initiating affair after affair. This behavior started in college, and grew and festered throughout my adulthood. I naively thought that getting married would simply “make me faithful” but it didn’t. The compulsion of promiscuity was such a driving force that I continued to act like an out-of-control frat boy, even after getting married. At the time, I didn’t realize I had a problem (though I always regretted cheating), but now, after seemingly endless hours therapy and regular attendance to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, my choices make more sense to me.

During prison, in Lansing, I was required to undergo therapy and treatment prior to being released. I had a therapist who was relentless and honest, and who didn’t give up until I was able to put all my cards on the table. When I first told her the story of my life, my past, and my choices – dating all the way back to high school – she flat-out told me, “There’s something missing.” And then she asked, “What are you not telling me?” And the truth is, there really was one thing I hadn’t told her; I hadn’t told her, because I’d never told anyone. In fact, I’d never – ever – spoken audibly about it to anyone. But when I did finally tell her, it was the missing puzzle piece that clarified everything for her.

When I was 18-years-old, the summer after I graduated from high school, I was raped. I was raped by a guy who I thought was my friend, and who I did not know was gay. One night that summer, my buddies and I were all out drinking, and after getting sufficiently liquored-up, we came back to my house, and around 3AM, the other guys began leaving until it was just him and me left in my room. I was so wasted I was more-or-less passing in and out of a drunken sleep, trying to sit still enough not to puke. And that’s when he did it.

My memory of these events is not fluid – it’s more like grainy film clips in the trailer for an old movie. But I remember it. I remember saying “No,” and “Don’t,” but being so drunk that I was more-or-less unable move, it didn’t make a difference, and he kept repeating, “It’s okay. It’s cool.” And when he was done, he left and I passed out.

When I woke up the next morning, I prayed it had been a nightmare, but I knew it’d happened. I’d been raped. I couldn’t wish it away, but I really couldn’t accept it either.

I never spoke to him again after that, and I’ve only seen him once – at my ten year high school reunion (when he walked in, we immediately left, but I never explained our abrupt departure to her). A few months ago, my sister casually told me that she’d seen him in a grocery store (obviously not knowing what he’d done to me) and it threw me into a depression that lasted for several days; last I’d heard, he was living in Kansas City, so knowing he’s in town petrified me.

My therapist in Lansing, once I told her what he’d done to me, told me that my promiscuous lifestyle – which, no-so-coincidentally began a month after it happened, when college started – made sense to her. It was her opinion that the reason I spent so many years and so much effort having meaningless sexual relationships with woman after woman after woman was because, on a subconscious level, I was continually trying to convince and prove to myself that I wasn’t gay. Additionally, I described to her that the crux of my addiction was the rush of power whenever I was able to initiate a new conquest; this, in her opinion, made sense as well – I thrived on the power because during the rape (and for the years following), I felt utterly powerless. And thus, my compulsion for these things drove me toward more and more promiscuity.

Numerous sessions with this therapist were invaluable to me, and after I told her I’d been raped, I told her. We talked, I cried, she listened, she understood – and now that I’ve begun the long process of dealing with the trauma that I’ve kept buried for so many years, it’s almost as though I’ve been freed from that bondage.

Now I understand why I was an addict and can attack the problem head-on. Being “in recovery” for a sex addict means implementing very strict rules about that aspect of my life. And maintaining my “sobriety” has become one of my life’s top priorities. I owe it to my wife and daughter to remain faithful and sober, but I also owe it to you.

You are my wife’s family and I know how much you love her. So I know it pains you to see her going through the things I’ve put her through and I completely understand your anger with me. But here is what I hope you will come to know: The person who did those things to her no longer exists. I’ve been to jail, prison, therapy, and back to reality, and at this very moment, I am the best possible version of myself. I am nothing like the piece-of-shit subhuman being I was before going to prison, and the people who are still in my life tell me this often. I am simply a different person; prison changed me, and for me, the “correctional” system worked. I never want to live the way I lived for all those years, and the mere thought of those horrid choices I made during the height of my sexual addiction literally makes me want to throw-up. I hate myself for who I was, and I know I can’t just say “I’m sorry” and have everything suddenly be fine. But what I want is the chance to show who I am now, and allow you to make the decision for yourself. I would only hope that you would allow this opportunity with an open mind. I know that it would mean the world to all three of us if we could all be in your family again.