27 September 2012

A Monopoly on the Good

Politically speaking, I fall into the category of the "independents."  I don't associate with a party, and vote each election on whichever candidate represents my opinions on the issues that candidate actually has influence over, or the candidate that I feel best meets the needs of myself/my family/the country. Anyway, my family was having an ongoing email discussion about politics and my brother said this:

"[Individuals] should find the best in conservatism (traditional family values, religiously-rooted morality, self-reliance, etc) as compelling as the best in liberalism (caring for the poor, helping those who cannot help themselves, constantly striving to improve others' quality of life, etc.) I am heartily skeptical of the side that claims so adamantly to have a monopoly on The Good."

I thought it was a good point.  But this post isn't about politics. It's about me. (Haha, because it's MY blog.)

I was having a bad day yesterday.  I've been making  a conscious effort to get to the root of my negative thoughts, the thoughts that get me down, angry, frustrated, discouraged, depressed.  Then in the shower(of course) it clicked.  My brother's phrase convicted me. 

I think I have a monopoly on the good.  I am so sure of my own opinions that it is unbearable for me to accept the differences in others.  I expend ridiculous amounts of mental energy collecting evidence to prove myself.  When someone disagrees, I look to my friends for allies, to validate me.  But it's filling me with despair. 

Obviously, this has creeped into my marriage.  And having a husband with a pornography addiction has made me feel like I have a license to have a monopoly on the good. 

Who is he to dare to disagree with me?

I'm slowly learning that I DON'T have a monopoly on the good.  My solutions aren't universal.  My ideas aren't the ONLY worthwhile ideas.

BUT- nor does it mean that my solutions and my ideas aren't good.  But I don't need to defend them. 
I am so tired of my inner turmoil, my daily battles I fight in my brain, trying to validate myself and tear down others.  I am truly exhausted from those efforts, ready to give them up. 

My only consolation is that I've reached a level of AWARENESS.  And that's progress people. 

25 September 2012


Just some administrative stuff here...

I use blogger because I've always used blogger and it's familiar to me.  But not too long ago (I don't think) they started putting ad banners at the top of the screen.  The ads are based on the blog content, which for me means ads targeting pornography users. 

Talk about a punch in the gut.  The last thing I want to look at while I'm writing about the anguish of sexual addiction is advertisements of woman with un-human sized breasts with enticing language and invitations. The last one said

*warning* these girls will pursue you

GIRLS?! Seriously, it makes me want to throw up. 

So what do I do?

Are you seeing these ads when you read the blog?


23 September 2012

GET! OUT! Stupid birds.


There's a Chinese proverb that says

"You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair."

I love that proverb.  But I'm no good at it.  I've got nests all over the place.

Pete told me that when he was twelve his Sunday school teacher did an object lesson using a toilet paper roll, some black cotton balls and some white cotton balls.  He filled the roll with black cotton balls,

"These are bad thoughts in your brain."  He dumped them all out, but pointed out that in the empty space they easily found their way back in.  So gradually he started shoving white cotton balls into the toilet paper roll, and Lo! Behold! The black ones popped out, one by one. 

I've been thinking about what to do with the negative thoughts that are floating in my head.

Jealousy, resentment, judgment.  I don't want them there.  They drag me down.  The trouble is, in the moment that the birds of sorrow are gathering twigs, I don't have the energy to fight them.  I make a few weak efforts to conjure up some positive images or find gratitude, but it's half-hearted. 

For example: Today on Facebook (yes, I'm STILL on FB), one my friends posted a picture of Honey Boo Boo with her mother, and some other ridiculously dressed pageant obsessed women and their own victims of vain obsession daughters.  My friend's caption said "Love me some Honey Boo Boo!"

What?! I never thought  R----  would be the type to be into that warped world of veneers and fake tans on toddlers?  I mean seriously people! Honey Boo Boo represents everything that is wrong with our society. Worth based on beauty, sexualizing young girls, etc, etc.  I need to comment, I need to point out the error of R---'s thinking.  Where is my soapbox, I need it NOW. 

Meanwhile conflict takes over my entire being, I get agitated and annoyed, I've lost all peace and kindness.  The birds are laying eggs already. 

Later today... I'm cooking dinner and Pete comes in and playfully sticks his hand between my legs. 

What?! He is so horny.  He is always so horny.  Does he think I'm going to take my clothes off right here?  I'm busy.  His timing is terrible, I would rather he just cut that onion.

My body language is icy cold and he withdraws, hurt and rejected.  A giant wall has instantly gone up between us. 

I think what I need is some stand-by positive thoughts.  Some easy to retrieve, "go-to" catch phrases to be the equivalent of my white cotton balls.  That's going to be my project this week.  A creed.  Or more like, 5 Creeds. 

#1- Positive thoughts to combat the birds of comparison.  Thoughts on worth.
#2- Positive thoughts to overcome judgment.  Charitable thoughts.
#3- Affectionate thoughts about Pete. 
#4- Positive thoughts to ward off jealousy, thoughts of gratitude.
#5- Positive thoughts to squash pride.  Thoughts on humility.

18 September 2012

But I'm NOT the one wth the problem...

I appreciate your comments so much. I am the worst about getting stuck in my tunnel of experience and opinion and hearing feedback helps me break out of that and try looking at things from a different paradigm. Which is not easy for me, but I'll get to that in a minute.
I want to respond to the heartfelt message of Anonymous when she wrote this:

"I just can't get my head wrapped around step 4-8 for the spouses of the addicted. I get step 1-3 but I feel slapped in the face when I get to step 4. I look at my recovery through the eyes of someone who has lost a limb. I feel I am working through the grieving process. I feel that my very human feelings and behaviors should not be couched in language to make me feel I have sinned and need to make amends. I guess I don't like the inference that step 4-8 makes that I have done something wrong and need to repent."

First of all- I'm so sorry for your experience. And I am inspired by the dignified and mature way that you talk about it now. You are amazing.

I think I've mentioned this before but I distinctly remember thinking, at my first family support group meeting when everyone was calling themselves "codependents"

"Don't you DARE stick a label on me. I am NOT the one with the problem."

It's true, I wasn't the one with a socially unacceptable, sprititually devastating, marriage destroying pornography or sex addiction. But what the 4th step did for me, was help me realize other behaviors in my life [most were totally unrelated to Pete's addiction] that were keeping me from having more fulfilling relationships and happiness in general.

In the Healing Through Christ Manual it says:

"Step Four provides the opportunity for each of us to write a complete honest inventory of ourselves—our weaknesses and our strengths, our virtues and our struggles. As we begin using a Step Four inventory to look within ourselves, we lay a foundation of self-understanding that will bring change and healing into our lives. Brigham Young taught: 'The greatest lesson you can learn is to know yourselves.' This inventory becoms crucial in helping us deal with our own struggles and hurts and in facing our current circumstances with courage and faith."

My Step Four didn't include any confessions of past sins, and the extent of my repentence was a prayer between me and God that I talked about here. What Steps 4-8 have done,and continue to do for me are make me aware of my frustrating foibles and give me opportunity to request the help of the Savior in overcoming them.

Just as an example, looking back over my life helped me see patterns, one in particular was the way that I was raised and surrounded by people that I call "elitists." I love my family, but they speak very condescendingly of people who have different (therefore wrong) opinions from their own. Here is a paragraph directly from my inventory. [Be gentle with me, this is difficult to share.]

I get agitated when someone disagrees with me. It makes me irritable, frustrated, lonely and grumpy.I am stubborn, and the more I am pushed in one direction the more I resist the pressure. When someone disagrees with me, rather than considering their perspective I dig deeper in my own opinion and exert great energy into proving them wrong or trying to persuade them. I take it personally when someone disagrees with me, attaching my opinions to my worth and when someone questions my opinion my worth is threatened.

The fact that I'm writing this post is evidence of this very weakness! But what steps 4-8 do for me is make me aware of the weakness, and then with the Saviors grace, find strength to be different.

Having said ALL that, I want to end on a final thought. I really hope you're still reading.

In my opinion Steps 4-8 ARE the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anonymous, your comment

"I feel that my time to do moral inventory happens in those quiet moments during the sacrament every sunday, in my personal prayer and scripture reading. "

is the heart of the matter. I think it's perfectly appropriate for that to be the way you approach your own weaknesses and your relationships with God. It's the way most people do it, spiritually mature people who understand the atonement. But for whatever reason, I needed the framework of the 12 step program to help me understand those things. To guide me through my journey of self-reflection and to make me accountable to someone to actually write it out. 

And although I haven't yet written about steps 6 and 7, I will soon, because I study them often as I struggle to let go of my bad habits and shortcomings. It as been suprisingly difficult to be willing to let them go.

13 September 2012

Hold On

Last weekend I went to Time Out For Women.  To be honest, I didn't really think it was my "style."  But a friend asked me to go with her and in all my codependent glory I thought

"SHE really needs this. I'll go for her." 

So I went.  And I actually had a really good experience.  One of the performers sang this song from the Broadway production "The Secret Garden."  I'd never heard of the song or the play- but it moved me.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a performance of the song that matched the effect of Macy Robison, but here is the best I could do. 

This girl has a great voice (even if she messes up the words a bit), but if her overdone headshot bores you, scroll down through the lyrics while you listen.  It's super empowering, and if I had any kind of voice I'd love sing it to each of you personally.


What you've got to do is
Finish what you have begun,
I don't know just how,
But it's not over 'til you've won!

When you see the storm is coming,
See the lightning part the skies,
It's too late to run-
There's terror in your eyes!
What you do then is remember
This old thing you heard me say:
"It's the storm, not you,
That's bound to blow away."

Hold on, Hold on to someone standing by.
Hold on, don't even ask how long or why!
Child, hold on to what you know is true,
Hold on 'til you get through.
Child, oh child! Hold on!

When you feel your heart is poundin',
Fear a devil's at your door.
There's no place to hide-
You're frozen to the floor!
What you do then is you force yourself
To wake up, and you say:
"It's this dream, not me,
that's bound to go away."

Hold on, Hold on, the night will soon be by.
Hold on, Until there's nothing left to try.
Child, hold on, There's angels on their way!
Hold on and hear them say,
"Child, oh child!"

And it doesn't even matter
If the danger and the doom
Come from up above or down below,
Or just come flying
At you from across the room!

When you see a man who's raging,
And he's jealous and he fears
That you've walked through walls
He's hid behind for years.
What you do then is you tell yourself to wait it out
And say it's this day, not me,
That's bound to go away.

Child, oh hold on.
It's this day, not you,
That's bound to go away!

P.S.  I love YouTube, seriously love it.  But when I was searching for this song the ads were horrible, really really obscene.  I can't bear the thought of swearing off YouTube, but nor can I bear to see those ridiculously over-sexualized women.  Thoughts? 

11 September 2012

The rascal got away with it, or did he?

There's a phrase in my head, or a few phrases.  They've been floating around in my conversations, comments and thoughts.

"Doesn't it seem like they are getting away with it?"

"It isn't fair that he can just repent to the bishop and be forgiven and I'm still hurting."

"He gets to have his cake and eat it too.  I don't think he feels any consequences or cares about hurting me." 

I hope that I can articulate the way I feel about this in my soul. 

Way back when... when I wore rose-colored glasses, I figured I was happy.  Yeah, I had some serious issues with self-pity now and then, but it never really occurred to me that I could be happier.   The depth of my feelings, both joy and grief, were equivalent to a mountain spring.  Little pebbles and twigs had defined my character. 

Now, I feel like the depth of my joys and griefs are equivalent to the grand canyon.  And I had to fall off a cliff to get here.

I think sometimes we imagine that men encompassed in addiction are going on their merry way.  Feeling happy, or at least content.  And while I think it would give us great satisfaction to know that they were suffering inside (and many are) I think most are just unaware how unhappy they are.  Or they attribute their unhappiness to outside sources rather than taking ownership for their misery.

For example:

We might suppose that a porn addict lies in bed at night thinking

"What a day!  I got my jollies online, pleased myself in the men's room at lunch, and then made love with my wife.  I'm the luckiest man alive.  And I'm getting away with it all!"

I don't believe that there is a man out there who thinks that way.  It goes against fundamental truth and universal principles.  Wickedness never was happiness. 

What we HOPE they are thinking:

"I've really screwed up.  I have a good wife, and I've betrayed her.  My kids look up to me and I am failing them.  I made bad choices, I have power to make good ones and I deliberately chose not to.  I am pathetic and I need help."

Some men get to this point, eventually.  But it takes a lot to get them there, and more often than not they are more like this

"What a crappy day.  I can't believe everything that went wrong at work.  I am so tired of all the nagging at home.  I could't help myself from getting distracted online, and what's the big deal if I please myself now and then. It's not like everyone else is perfect.  I have needs too."

Unfortunately there is a definite lack of personal responsibility there.  Is it the ideal? No.  But tell me this...

Are those the thoughts of a man who is escaping pain and suffering?  NO.  Abosolutely not.  Is it the pain and suffering we WANT them to be feeling?  No, not really.  But are they happy? Even content? Not at all. Their thoughts and lives are chaotic, confusing, frustrating, frightening, embarrassing.

Not to mention, living a life of constant justification must be exhausting.

I guess my point is that we think that they are free.  We think that they aren't feeling remorse and that they are getting away with it because they are avoiding the pain of their choices.  But we know better. 

First, we know that eventually, for them to find true happiness, they will have to face that pain.  And it will be utter anguish.  And they WILL suffer. 

Second, we know that they ARE suffering.  They ARE miserable.  They may not make the connection between their misery and their behavior, but they are not living in peace and serenity. 

Lastly, in recovery, with healing, we have the power to be happy. REALLY happy.  A new kind of happy we never knew existed.  A liberating freedom from addiction to codependency that changes everything. 

I think about this often when I look at others.  It's not just addicts that appear to get away with living a superficial and indulgent lifestyle.  All around us are people who are choosing the easy way, and therefore sacrificing the amazing power and strength that comes when we pay the price of pain and humility. 

Maybe some people are okay with mediocre relationships, with low self-worth,  weak character.  And that's their choice.  But they aren't living up to their potential, and it is therefore impossible for them to enjoy the fulfillment, superior relationships and pure joy that come when we live up to our potential.  Maybe they don't know what their missing. 

But we do. 

09 September 2012

D-Nile ain't just a river in Egypt

I've been thinking a lot lately about what you do when your husband isn't acknowledging that there is a problem, or when he's refusing to seek recovery.  This is what I came up with.

1- Educate Yourself.  Knowledge is truly power.  I gained confidence as I learned things about addiction.  Science, facts, experiences that I read about were my weapons, or my shield in battle.  I don't mean battle like knock-down-drag-out shouting wars, but the battle of apathy, reluctance and pride that I was fighting with my husband.  Just as a warning though- Definitely do this in moderation, it's easy to become obsessed and spend excessive time researching.   And spare yourself the details of pornography itself.  It's ugly, and curiosity about it can lead you to places that might haunt you. 

2- Detach.  This is a frequent topic of discussion so I won't go into it much here, but once you've decided that you are not okay with pornography as the third wheel in your relationship with your husband, it will be impossible to not let your relationship be affected.  Maybe say something like this:

"I am not comfortable with your use of pornography.  It makes me feel inadequate, lonely, betrayed, disgusted, afraid and ___________ (insert feeling here).  So long as you choose to participate in pornography you are choosing to have a mediocre relationship with me." 

3. Set Boundaries:  This is another frequent topic so I'll be brief.  A woman in my support group told me that her husband evolved from a pornography addiction to a gambling addiction.  The first thing she did when she found out (well experienced in boundaries)  was march down to the bank and seperate her name from all his accounts.   

4. Don't Enable:   How do you know if you are enabling?  Are you funding it? Are you protecting him from pain?  Are you lying for him? Here is a quote from the Healing Through Christ manual:

"We enable our addicted loved ones when we feel guilty for not helping them or when we interfere
with the natural consequences of their addictive behaviors. These behaviors are misguided ways of demonstrating love and kindness towards our loved ones."

5. Talk About It:  This one is hard.  For some of us, we know that broaching the subject is like inviting a torado to blow through the house, and we spend days trying to clean up the emotional wreckage.  But ignoring an addiction is a form of enabling, and so here are my sub-tips:
             A. Brace Yourself.  It's probably not going to go well.  He will likely get defensive and angry.
             B. It's NOT ABOUT YOU.  Ignore the lies he says.  He will blame-shift, manipulate.  He may not even do it out of anger, he may seem calm, or sarcastic and act like it's funny.  He might make you feel like you're being silly, ridiculous.  He might say you are over-reacting.  Just remember, your feelings are valid.  He is scared/overwhelmed/ashamed/frustrated, but those feelings come from guilt and from addiction, not from you.    
            C.  Don't Engage.  Don't make it a fight.  Be strong and if you need to- walk away.  {I'm SO terrible at this!}  It'll be tempting to defend yourself, but for awhile he will probably be irrational and unreasonable.  When you sense that he is unreachable, let it go. Drop it. Walk away.
            D.  Keep Bringing it Up.  Say what?! I know, now you're thinking, what's the point of bringing it up if he never listens?  It just makes us mad at each other... it just hurts me...

A quote- (Sorry I can't remember the website I got it from):

Sam Waldner emphasizes that typically the person needs to hear a repeated message (with specific observations) from family and friends that they are seeing a problem. While this information will likely not serve as an immediate stimulus to seek help, the repetition of the overall message can help to counter the "powerful and long-maintained" element of denial.


6. Stay Positive in the Meantime: There are reasons you fell in love with this man.  There are also many other things in life to be grateful for.  Try not to be consumed by this issue.  Enjoy the happy moments, look for the silver lining, try to foster happy thoughts.   There IS hope for him, AND you.  

Good luck! And please, share your stories.

06 September 2012

Rock Bottom


What IS rock bottom?  For me, a year ago,  it looked like this:

"I can't be this way anymore.  I'm desperate.  I acknowledge his problem.  I want to change.  I'm ready for a new, better way to live."

I remember clearly my rock bottom with Pete's addiction.  It was too heavy, I couldn't carry it anymore.  I didn't want to be pathetic and miserable.  I didn't want to be bitter and suspicious. I didn't want to be afraid of the future.  I didn't want to be full of hate and I didn't want to be depressed. 

I wasn't functioning as a proactive, positive mother. I withdrew.  I preferred isolation because social situations, particularly with family, were too difficult,  they required too much pretense and insincerity.   I was embarrassed.  I was lonely.  I was hypersensitive and felt like a victim. 

But I was ready for help.  I was a sponge.  I read and studied.  I prayed.  I reached out.  I found friends online and I started the blog. I discovered 12-step meetings and amazing women at support groups.  I cried at every meeting, but it felt wonderful.   I was cleaning up the crap.  From rock bottom, I could only go up.   I had hope. 

Now, I feel like I'm able to cope with Pete's addiction in more healthy ways.  There is much less of the fear, embarrassment, isolation, self-pity and bitterness associated with his problem. 

But after doing the Step 4 Inventory I'm no longer living in ignorant bliss of my own addictions.  Or compulsive behaviors if you prefer that term.  I prefer that term because my compulsive behaviors are much more socially acceptable than pornography addiction, and I like to make that distinction.

I digress...

Last week a friend of mine suffered a terrible tragedy.  In the midst of her crisis I found myself relapsing into a raging codependent.  

"I'm gonna fix it! I'm gonna fix her!" 

I called, visited, texted, arranged meals, babysat kids, sent flowers.  I did everything I could think of to manage the pain.  I took ownership of her trial.  And to make it worse- I wanted credit for it all.  I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see who was taking note of my good deeds.  I made her experience all about me, and put my happiness on the line.   Would I come through? Would she shower me with love and appreciation and tell me how everything I'd done had been just what she needed to get her through?

For once my actions were good, but my intentions were selfish. And in the light of my new-found knowledge  I could see through my own transparency.  All my efforts were good, and I know she appreciated them.  But I know I can't be so obsessed with "fixing" everything.  And realizing that I was exploiting her situation to make myself look good filled me with  horror at my true colors.  And I think I hit rock bottom again. 

"I can't be this way anymore. I'm desperate. I acknowledge my problems. I want to change. I'm ready for a new, better way to live."

05 September 2012

The Arbitrary Line

I'm experimenting with image.  Do they enhance a post?
The LDS church issued a statement clarifying its position on caffeinated soft drinks.  (Although I can't seem to find the actual statement on the church website.)

As soon as I heard, I teased my mother-in-law for a minute. I told her a statement had been made and watched panic in her eyes while I let the suspense hang in the air. Boy was she relieved.  But Pete and I got to talking about it later. 

"Even if the church doesn't say it's wrong, doesn't it just seem wrong to be so attached to a beverage that the idea of removing it from your life makes you sweat and fills you with fear?" 

I'm not saying this to guilt anyone who has a Pepsi habit.  [Totally been there done that.  The summer before my senior year of high school my friend and I fed our Dr. Pepper habit with her dad's Chevron gas card until we started getting headaches and our teeth rotted out of our heads.]  I'm just reiterating a point I've already made.  (Some might call it beating a dead horse.) 

I've been thinking a lot about denial.  About how porn addicts wait too long before they finally acknowledge there is a problem.  Then I read this really great post on Row Boat and Marbles.  A couple quotes:

" Want to see an addict panic? Tell him the world just ran out of his drug and he’s on his own now. An addicted brain is in survival mode, doing whatever it can to get its drug, “by any means necessary.”

 "One of the best ways for an addict to remain in denial is to convince himself and others that he hasn’t “crossed the line.” He hasn’t yet entered addiction territory. He still just has a “little problem.” The thing about it is that “the line” is completely made up, completely arbitrary and has nothing to do with actually being addicted.

An addict has practically limitless distinctions from which to choose when he defines addiction in his mind. I’m not addicted as long as I don’t look at porn more than once every six month–once every three months–once a month–once a week...

It’s not really addiction as long as I only look at topless women–naked women–solo women–heterosexual couples–no more than two people in the picture–still-life pictures–small pictures–short videos clips–videos less than 30 seconds–two minutes–ten minutes–one hour.”

Until what?  Until everything is destroyed?  Who wants to live that way? Feeling out of control, justifying, panicking...

Recently Pete and I have "come out" to another couple in our ward who shared with us that they were dealing with this.  They are a version of us two or three years ago.  Pete and I want to take them by the shoulders and shake them, warn them that NOW is the time to take this seriously. 

So what do you do, when YOU are ready to take it seriously and your husband isn't?  I'm working on that... thinking thinking thinking...