15 December 2013

Disclaimer about Disclaimers

Credit
Disclaimer- I'm writing a post without disclaimers.

I am the queen of disclaimers. I use them all the time to quantify things, to put a lid on something, to excuse myself.  Aren't we always putting a caveat on our good news?

"Things are going well.  I'm sure tomorrow will be back to hell. But today I'm doing better."

Well I want to write something without any qualifiers.  Hopefully you know I live in reality too. But for now I'm going to relish this.

I'm doing well.  I am feeling genuine, deep, happiness.  I am reconnecting with my husband. I am feeling gratitude for his changes.  I am noticing things about him that are appealing, and even safe.  I am hopeful.  I am experimenting with vulnerability. I am opening doors to my heart. I am sharing feelings.  I am swallowing my pride.  I am forgiving. I am loving.  I am being affectionate.  I am hugging and holding.  I am feeling really good. 

One of the things that Pete has really resented was a fear that I no longer admired him.  It was a little egotistical, but genuine too.  He knew in the past I admired him, he is so hurt when he thinks I no longer do. 

But now, I have moments where I see admirable things in him.

Something is coming alive again in our relationship.

It feels really good.

10 December 2013

Progress Not Perfection And those Damn Meetings!

The Sobriety Chip

Pete just finished his second 90 in 90.  That makes 180 meetings in 180 days.  During round one he had trouble maintaining sobriety.  He was dealing with my emotional withdrawal, he hadn’t found a good therapist, and he was probably overwhelmed by the SA program.  He did a lot of phone meetings, and I could tell that many times he was just going through the motions.  When he started seeing his new therapist (sex addiction specialist) they put together a recovery plan, which included the second 90 in 90.   I had mixed feelings, our emotional distance made it so that I wasn’t exactly missing his company while he was at meetings, and I felt strong and independent taking care of everything on my own.  (Can you say martyr?)  But that was getting old.  He was stretched to his limits with his work and church responsibilities and a meeting every day which left me a little worn out with parenting.

But the second round was different.  He had good relationships with his SA friends. He loved the meetings. I don’t think he ever did a phone meeting, they were all actual butt-in-seat meetings. Sometimes he would miss one, so he would do two in one day, or do a fellowship.  (Or in the case of the SA retreat, like 6-8 meetings a day for two days.) 

The weekend of Thanksgiving he went four days without a meeting.  On Sunday night we were talking about it and he said

“I can’t do that. I can’t go four days without a meeting yet.” 

“But you didn’t act out, did you?” I asked.

“Yeah, but that’s not the point.”

I wish he could write this post and explain it better than I can.  But it was a big moment for me.  A trust building moment.  Something to the effect of this.  (These are MY words to his message.)

“Acting out starts long before I open the browser or pull my pants down.  It starts when I get mad at the guy who cut me off on my way to work.  It starts when I’m stressed out and I mistreat a coworker.  It starts when I snap at the kids.  It starts when I lay in bed in the mornings long after I should.  It starts when I’m bored, hurt or restless.  I need meetings to keep me accountable for all those things.  I need to own them and surrender them.  I need to ‘get current’ with my guys.  I need to be honest and I need to reach out. “

Now that Pete’s 90 in 90 is over he’s had to make a long-term plan for meetings.  I have moments where I resent recovery meetings.  They are so much time.  This isn’t the life I planned at all.  Combined with meetings, appointments with his therapist and time spent reading recovery materials; sometimes this feels like a part-time job.  That he’s not getting paid for.  That if he had done the right thing in the first place he would never need to have. 

But the reward is that I’m living with a guy who rarely gets mad at the guy who cuts him off on the road.  Or who tries really hard not to snap at the kids, and apologizes when he does.  A guy who is learning not to take responsibility for my bad days, but offer me compassion. 


************** 

I was reading back over my blog and realized that it’s been three years since Pete and I used the word addiction.  First he got a therapist.  Then he reached out to his dad.  Two years ago he started attending 12-step meetings.  Then he quit going to his therapist.  And he quit going to his meetings.  In January of 2013 I packed the kids and left town in the middle of a snow storm because I’d had it.  I thought that would be rock bottom but it got worse.  2013 has been the unluckiest of years.  I’ll never forget it, and I’ll probably hate it for a long time.  I’m so ready to be done with it.  But it has been a year of change, and I feel so much new hope going into 2014.  Sex addiction sucks.  It feels so consuming and devastating and hopeless.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse it would.  And just when I think I’m doing better I melt down again.

But I don't need to let tomorrow's despair ruin today's happiness. And I don't have to let today's despair destroy my hope for tomorrow's happiness.

04 December 2013

Lying to Myself



Honesty is such a big deal in this whole mess of pornography addiction.  But for a really long time all "honesty" meant to me was that my husband was giving an accurate reporting of the facts.  That was honesty. 

As I have ventured into the realms of recovery, and dug up a little self-awareness,  I've realized that honesty is more than just an accurate reporting of facts.  Someone at group meeting once sharing some research she'd heard of about how many times a day we lie to ourselves.  It was some ridiculous amount and I tried to Google it just now, but instead found this insightful quote.

"Often we lie to ourselves in order to preserve the face or self-image we want to maintain. We block out face-threatening messages, especially when they require backing down or changing our original position. Fear of embarrassment motivates many not to face reality, where we don't want to admit we goofed up, were selfish jerks, or lacked self-control. In short, we lie to ourselves to avoid an ugly truth. In confirmation, defense-mechanism researchers ... point out, self-deception is a mental process that operates unconsciously to reduce painful emotions."

At a therapy appointment recently I was talking about how I had made a decision (after thoughtful consideration and prayerful diligence) to share my story - and therefore indirectly Pete's story- with a family member.  I told my therapist that before I decided it was the right thing to do I had carefully considered the fall-out.  I convinced myself I would be okay (LIE) with whatever consequences came from my choice, but I really needed to do it. 

Unfortunately, after I shared with the family member, I found myself on my therapist's couch pouring out my heart about how UNFAIR the consequences of my choice were.  The most difficult consequence being Pete's absolute conviction that what I had done was wrong. 

"I HAVE to make him agree with me about this." I sobbed.  "We need to be united about it." I whined. 

Gently he said to me

"But you said you were going to be okay with the fall-out of your choice." 

"Well yeah."

Bracing himself for a fight, he responded

"But it kinda seems like you're not."

I started laughing. 

"You totally just called me out?! So does this mean that I was wrong to do what I did because I am NOT in fact properly coping with the outcome?"

"No." He said. "Not at all.  It just means you weren't honest with yourself." 

In other words- if I had been totally honest with myself I could have said "This is going to be hard. It is going to be really painful to do something my husband doesn't agree with.  We might never reconcile about this issue. I might need to see my therapist to help me cope with the fall-out of this choice.  But it's the right thing to do.  So I'll do it, knowing full well that I'm not as strong as I wish I was, and owning the consequences of my choice." 

The truth is- self-awareness and personal honesty DO subject me to painful emotions.  It's hard to acknowledge that I'm not what I want to be or where I want to be.  But painful emotions are no longer the enemy.  Self-deception is the enemy.  Believing I am right, when I am wrong.  Refusing to acknowledge my own inadequacy to protect an image.  Deliberately ignoring relationships with people who know about my character defects.  All of those things prevent me from really healing. 

Because there is nothing wrong with being imperfect.  There is nothing to be ashamed of about making a mistake. There is freedom in accepting that I don't always have to be right.  What pressure I've put on myself! I've found it both painful and liberating to get out from beneath the lies I tell myself.

Because...

03 December 2013

You Don't Need No Man

Credit 
My Dear Friend-

I'm going to go out on a limb here and share my story in the hope that it will be helpful to you.  As I always like to say- take what you want and leave the rest.

I want to challenge you on something.  I want to question your statement that you "need" your husband to offer daily manifestations of his love, help you around the house, and be a leader for your children.  Those things are all keys to a healthy marriage and a successful family life, but I know you, and I know you are strong, and I think right now that you can find peace and happiness without them.

I used to be a sponge for Pete's love, desperately seeking approval and validation from him, longing for his attention.  Eventually his addiction became so unmanageable that he was incapable of offering me those things.  In fact, he usually did the opposite.  Made me doubt myself, left me emotionally alone, withheld his love. 

As long as I continued to expect Pete to meet my needs, I felt disappointed and angry.  I was oozing with resentment toward him.  He failed and failed over and over and it was making me miserable.  Eventually I had to let him go. I had to find happiness and personal worth outside of my relationship with him.  I didn't say so to him, but maybe I could have said something like this.

"I'm relinquishing you from the obligations I've imposed upon you to make me happy.  To fill my cup.  To meet my needs.  I'm letting you go.  For the time being I'm determined to be dependent on myself for those things.  I have good people to love and support me.  I have children to fill my cup.  I don't NEED you right now.  You are free to find recovery, or not. But I'm going to let you off the hook.  For now.  I'm willing to let our marriage fall apart for awhile, with the hope that it will give you the space you need to join me in fixing it down the road." 

It's just a kill your own damn buffalo concept.  If you want to have family prayer, initate it.  If the garbage is full, take it out. 

I know it sounds so fiery feminist, maybe because it is,  but

YOU DON'T NEED NO MAN.

When I did this at first I was just being a martyr.  I was vindictive, and determined to guilt him into change. "I hope he feels like crap when he sees that I mowed the lawn" - type feelings.  But eventually it became an empowering and liberating way to live.  I DON'T need no man. 

I know that in the big picture husband and wife are one.  It's a relationship that enhances our joy.  But that wasn't/isn't the reality I'm living in. 

I love you friend- I know you are strong and you can find the emotional place you are searching for even if your husband never becomes the man he can become. 

27 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

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My family has a tradition on Thanksgiving where everyone writes down a few things they are grateful for and puts them in a glass pumpkin.  After the feast, we pass the pumpkin around and take turns reading them, and then guessing who wrote them.

This year as a joke Pete and I started listing the things we were grateful for that wouldn't be appropriate for the glass pumpkin.  I'll give you the pleasure of guessing which of us said them.

- I'm grateful for the long lasting friendships I've made with sex addicts this year.

- I'm grateful for good therapy.

- I'm grateful that I went to over 200 12-step meetings this year.

- I'm grateful that two of my dearest friends saw their excommunicated husbands rebaptized.

- I'm grateful my husband found people to share his intimate feelings with, when I was incapable of hearing them.

- I'm grateful I can say masturbate without throwing up in my mouth.

- I'm grateful for 83 days of sobriety.

- I'm grateful for spending weekends with strangers and burning lingerie.

********

I know the holidays can be really difficult so I'm shooting rays of love-beams out my virtual fingertips for you.  Breaking routine is often a big trigger for Pete, which means a history of relapses around the holidays.  And of course family...

I hope your Thanksgiving brings you some level of gratitude and joy.

-Jane-

26 November 2013

Knowledge is Power

LifeStar of Lehi asked me to write a guest post for a series they are doing called "Tips From Women in Recovery."

Trying to offer hope to someone beginning their journey in recovery is a difficult task in 500 words or less.  But you can read my contribution here or here

Read through the series too- lots of good stuff in there. 

22 November 2013

Wreckage


Credit

Pete and I have had the same conversation, in various forms, every few days or weeks over the last few months and years.  It always seems to start innocent enough, him sharing his feelings, or me sharing mine.  (Back when I felt safe sharing my feelings.)  Then, like a funnel, all the words eventually come out into one theme.  It looks something like this. Pete saying to me

"You need help with this."
"You have a lot of baggage here."
"I'm not the only one with problems."
"You are causing permanent damage."

You get the idea. These statements sound terrible when taken out of context, I'm sure when Pete said them they seemed more reasonable.  But to me, they always sounded terrible. I always heard them as isolated statements. 

In the beginning he would say them in anger, he would be downright cruel.  But I learned the signs and when he was angry it was easy for me to see that I was dealing with the addict. Then he had a little recovery and he started saying the same things, but he was calm.  This was confusing, if he wasn't angry then maybe he was being reasonable and maybe he was right.  I would doubt myself, and fall apart.  But I have good support, and I was able to sort these things out.  It wasn't his place to manage my recovery, and even if I was wrong, it wasn't his job to say so.  With more recovery, he is even more subtle and reasonable.  Making me even more confused.  But old habits die hard, and Pete was still victimizing and blame-shifting at worst, managing my recovery at best. 

There are a couple sayings in the recovery world.  "Taking someone else's inventory" and "cleaning someone else's side of the street."   Codependents do this, and addicts do it when they are being codependent.  It's telling someone what they are or aren't doing right in their recovery.  When Pete would do this to me it would trigger me badly.  I had totally relinquished his recovery to him, why couldn't he do the same for me? It is one of my biggest areas of trauma.  I couldn't stand him criticizing my recovery. 

The last few times Pete and I have had these conversations they have ended very badly.  Like me locking myself in the bathroom and sobbing uncontrollably.  A couple weeks ago this happened.  It was the experience I wrote about here.  Last night Pete said something to me that was incredibly validating, and was the kind of compassion I've been waiting for.

He said

"When I heard you in the bathroom, crying like that, I knew that wasn't a manufactured response.  It was something that happened TO you.  It was a trauma response.  And instead of thinking what I would usually think in my addicted brain  'See! See what those WoPA have done to her! See how unreasonable she is!' I thought,

Wreckage.

That is the wreckage of my addiction."

Wreckage is "the remains of something that has been badly damaged or destroyed."  Pete had a moment of clarity when he saw that my total meltdown was part of his wreckage.  My destroyed confidence, my damaged intuition, my obvious emotional instability. 

Pete can't take any ownership of my recovery. It's up to me to sort through his wreckage in whatever ways I want to try.  And I'm allowed to make mistakes.  I feel the same way about his recovery.  I've given him the space to try whatever ways he wants to try. And he is allowed to make mistakes.  He will admit that he has.  Even since that conversation, I have found myself on the bathroom floor again. 

But he can take ownership of the wreckage of his addiction.  And although I don't think my personal healing needed him to take ownership, I think it might be necessary for the healing of our marriage.

20 November 2013

In The Meantime

Gosh- how often I've mourned the lost time that has been dedicated to recovery.  My so-called recovery has ebbed and flowed, and ebbed to the point of obsession at times.  I'm starting to feel a longing to resume old interests, pursue new ones, and try to use my recovery time more efficiently.  But for anyone who has felt like pornography addiction, or another tragedy, or even just life, has gotten in the way of their dreams, this [cheesy mommy] song is for you.

But today, it is ESPECIALLY for my friend Alicia, because there have been moments when I have been that aching heart that only she could lift. 

Alicia- Heaven hears the joy of every victory in your life, and heaven hears your heart before you cry.  And girl- I KNOW you are being sanctified.




Thank you to all my other friends who have been a friend. And for each of you- don't doubt your place, or your ability to be a gift and blessing in someone else's life. 

Hang in there peeps.  

19 November 2013

Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet

Saatchi Online

Late Sunday afternoon Pete and I found a babysitter and drove 45 minutes to a nearby town to attend a baptism.  As we drove west along the highway the low sun was so bright through the windshield I had to close my eyes for a minute. 

I thought back to almost two years ago at a 12 step meeting when my friend, whose demeanor is quiet and dignified, wept about her husband being excommunicated from our church due to the grievous nature of his sins.  She lifted her head for a minute to look us all in the eye. 

"But I think it's going to be a good thing."

It was about a year after that when I met her husband for the first time. He sang at a speaker's meeting for addiction recovery.  He had an amazing voice, and like so many of the men in our lives, when I talked with him I could hardly believe he was the same man who had made those painful mistakes.  Addiction makes soft men hard.  It makes kind men cruel.  It makes reasonable men stupid.  It makes humble men proud. 

The baptism was a spiritual experience I can't adequately give words to here.  But I just want to testify, with my little voice here on the internet that recovery works. 

Recovery makes hard men soft. It makes cruel men kind.  It makes stupid men reasonable. And it makes proud men humble. 

I'm sure my friend would say that the anguish was severe, the journey long, and the forgiveness slow but sweet.  None of us asked for this.  None of us thought this was the life we were choosing when we made our vows. 

But here we are.  And as Pete and I drove home under the full fall moon, I felt my heart overflowing with gratitude.  I witnessed the atonement of Jesus Christ firsthand.  I saw redemption in a man and woman I love like family.  I wouldn't go back if I could.  And I really mean that.  I wouldn't trade these treasures, these experiences, this taste of charity, these relationships for a different life.  I can genuinely say that in spite of everything I love the life I have. 

"When men know why they suffer, and realize that it is for a good and wise purpose, they can bear it much better than they can in ignorance...There is always a blessing in sorrow. They who escape these things are not the fortunate ones."

~Orson F. Whitney

11 November 2013

Wounds

Credit
A few weeks ago Pete and I were working on something together.  In an impulsive and reckless gesture that was meant to be a joke, he lunged at me with his equipment.  I had my back to him, unable to hear him above the noise of the machine, and it caught my flesh.  I jumped and spun around. I looked down.  Pink welts started to form on my leg.

We rushed inside and he did everything he could to take care of my wound.  It became red and raw.  As the moments pass it looked worse and worse. Pete's face was white. There were no words to his remorse. No adequate apologies for his stupidity. He did everything he could think of to make me comfortable.  He felt such utter despair that I couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

At first it stung.  But the shock of what he had done protected me from immediate pain.  Gradually though it started to throb.  The kind of pain where you can feel your pulse in the injury.  After a few hours of throbbing, it reduced to a lingering ache.  At night when I fell asleep I would forget about it until the morning, when I stood up and felt stiff as my body reminded me the wound was still there. 

Pete bent over backwards to make it right.  He would look at it and touch it with painful regret, and all the meekness of the penitent.  He was attentive and compassionate.  He never once let pride prevent him from demonstrating his repentance.  He took ownership of the injury and was perfectly responsible for it.  He exhibited relentless sympathy and never tired of my complaints at the pain and inconvenience of it. 

At one point he said "This is the stupidest thing I've ever done." And I looked at him quizzically. 

It is remarkable to me how I heal from this trauma more quickly when my hurt is met with ownership and responsibility.  How my heart melts like butter on a skillet when I am treated with genuine tenderness and compassion.  I have such a longing for that tireless sympathy whenever the pain and inconveniences of this experience resurface. 

My flesh wound has healed.  There is a scar, but it only brings feelings of warmth and gratitude when I think of how I was treated while I was healing. 

"I did this to you." He said.  "I can't believe I did it. But whatever you need, I'll give it to you."

06 November 2013

Therapists

Credit

Today Pete and I had our first joint therapy session.  Our stance on "couple's therapy" has evolved over the years.  When I first suggested it, Pete said

"We don't need that."

I pushed a little and he held his ground.  But I was getting to a point where I KNEW I needed some third party validation.  Fast forward a few months (years?) and Pete started throwing it out there.  I remember saying to him once or twice

"Make the appointment and I'll be there." 

That never happened.  And then came the big detachment wherein I made no effort or acknowledgement of our floundering marriage.  I just lived independently of him.  So he panicked.  And INSISTED on therapy for us as a couple.  But I resisted.

"I'll go to therapy with you when you're well." 

"Well" being defined as exhibiting signs of recovery while obtaining some meaningful sobriety. 

And here we are.  Our appointment today doesn't even really qualify as "couple's therapy."  It was more just me accompanying him to one of his appointments so that his therapist and I could make sure we were all on the same page. 

There are a lot of opinions out there about husband and wife seeing the same therapist (is this good or bad?) and if they see different therapists - whose therapist do they see together?  My own therapist suggested that we see a THIRD therapist when we are ready for counseling together.  But in the meantime either of us are welcome to visit with the other's therapist.  (I never in my life thought I would write a paragraph about my life where I said "therapist" seven times.)

Sitting there on the leather couch I did feel a little bit like an outsider.  It almost felt like Pete and his therapist have a "thing" and I was just a third wheel.  It made me grateful for the "thing" I have with my therapist.  But eventually I felt welcome and Pete's therapist is a great, gentle and considerate guy. 

**As a side note- can anyone else relate to the conflict of emotions- both relief and sheer frustration- about how accommodating and reasonable their husbands are during therapy? Like "What the heck? Where is the guy who said I was crazy? Can I just video-tape our next argument and bring it in and say 'HERE! Help us with THAT!'"

By the end of the appointment we were talking about communication, specifically about "Check-Ins."  I've heard of check-ins.  But part of my detachment made me unwilling to discuss recovery at all with Pete.  This was just the way I did it. I'm not saying I recommend it, but I am saying that it was what I needed.  Total surrender of his recovery.  I didn't want to hear about it. Partially because for so long it was so irritating to hear him go on and on about recovery when he was still acting out all over the place. But also partially because I wasn't willing to discuss anything with emotional undertones. 

So here is - we'll call him Vic- suggesting that we start having check ins.  As we read together through the sheet of suggested topics for said check-ins my eyes filled up with tears. 

"I can't do this." I thought. "I can't share my feelings with Pete.  I'm terrified of him being critical of them."  In the past Pete's addict brain caused him to resent my recovery efforts.  My recovery meant there was something I needed to recover from, which he was adamant there wasn't.  I also think he had a lot of fear about my newfound support community, fear that they all hated him and gave me bad advice.  So now, when I think about talking about MY recovery with Pete, I am terrified. And I'm stubborn.  My safe place doesn't allow me to be vulnerable.

Vic asked me how I felt about this.  I told him.  I don't want to be vulnerable with Pete. I don't want to share my feelings with him.  I'm afraid they won't be respected.  He reassured me that for now, all I need to do is THINK about having these conversations. I don't have to have them yet if I'm not ready.  But he encouraged me to nudge myself a little bit, and we would talk again in a month or so. 

Pete is finally demonstrating recovery AND sobriety.  I am so grateful for this.  But I've accumulated a fair amount of baggage on this journey and it's feeling a little overwhelming as I try to sort through it all and properly dispose of it.

Who could have ever dreamed how complicated this would be? If I were a crusader I would lobby for warnings with pornography.

"WARNING: This material is potentially addictive and hazardous to your psychological being. Participation will likely result in irrational behavior, damaged relationships, short-term and long-term neurosis, and enough emotional wreckage to fill the Grand Canyon. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK."

05 November 2013

Ain't nothin' gonna break-a-my-stride!

I think I had a mini-anxiety attack last night.  My heart felt like it was racing and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. I got in a hot bath but the heat just made me feel like I was suffocating.  So I wrapped my towel around me and stood in a discreet place just outside my garage in the black night. It was so cold but I watched my warm breath float up into the dark sky while steam came off my bare feet.

I had a much needed (obviously!) therapy appointment scheduled for today and I couldn't find anyone to watch my kids.  Ordinarily I could cope with a little obstacle like that...

Lasting motivation just won't stick around for me. I do well for a few days, and then I have a sad moment, which turns into a sad day, which turns into a sad week. And before I know it my life has become unmanageable again.  (Um, Step 1 please?) And by unmanageable I am referring to the fact that I have gained 12 pounds in six months, and may or may not have mold growing in more than one place in my kitchen.

So while I am not sure what I need to help me find sustainable progress, a good song always helps.

Here is my new theme song.  If this throwback doesn't make you LOL, you might be worse off than EVEN ME! And I apologize if the green polka-dot/sequin leotards trigger you.  I found them ridiculously comical.


25 October 2013

A week in the life of Jane

It has been a tornado of emotions in the last couple weeks.  In addition to all the confusion and then clarity that surrounded last week, I had made a decision about doing something I felt right about that Pete vehemently disagreed with.  I did it this week.  And it hurt him. 

MONDAY: I shared my (and by obvious association, Pete's) story with someone close to Pete and me.  I had felt strong impressions to do this, and felt that I needed to be honest and real with this person.  It went well, I felt a loving response.  I also felt strongly that by doing what I felt was right, I could confidently trust that God will help me cope with the fallout.  I told Pete what I had done and left it at that, knowing he was going to need some space.

TUESDAY: Pete had a business dinner that night that I was supposed to attend with him.  But the idea of sitting through a celebratory dinner with his coworkers with him oozing hatred out his eyeballs toward me was not appealing.  So I told him as much.  What I said was "If you are angry with me that's fine, but please don't ask me to be your date."  What he heard was "If you don't hurry up at get over this I'm not going to your dinner with you."

We squabbled via text about this all day long on Tuesday.  And then I had a realization. 

Jane- every time you put up a wall, he is going to put up a wall.  (My therapist prefers to talk about doors instead of walls.  Doors can be opened and closed.)  Jane- You have closed your door.  And locked it.  And refusing to go to this dinner is a deadbolt. 

***BIG DISCLAIMER*** Vulnerability with an addict is not always safe.  I get to decide when it's safe. When I'm ready to take a risk and open my heart is my choice with my gut.  Same goes for all of us. 

And it felt like it was time. It felt like I could board up my door and close my heart forever, and get the same response back from him.  All of the sudden I was feeling a desire, a longing, and inkling to open that door.  So I called him. I said

"I want to go to this dinner with you.  But I don't want to sit next to an ice cube."

To which he vulnerably responded.

"I really want you to be there. I won't be an ice cube." 

WEDNESDAY: Pete came home from his meeting and we put the kids to bed. He asked me a few details about my conversation with said person and I answered them.  By now I was thirsty for anything from him.  I just wanted so badly to know what he was thinking and feeling. I could feel old desperations rising up, willing to give up anything to get something back.  But he said he wasn't ready to talk about it yet.  He went into our office to answer emails from work and I started cleaning the house.  I put on some empowering music and got to work.  But I started to feel hot.  It felt like my insides were a furnace burning intense feelings as fuel.  I went out to the porch and sat down.  It's cold at night my part of the world.  But that furnace felt warm inside me.  HOT inside me.  I looked up at the stars and listened to Adele.  (Music is this weird medium that is like a soundtrack to my soul.  It causes thoughts to rush out of me like a bursting dam.)  These were the thoughts.

Jane- (I guess I sort of talk to myself, or imagine God or sanity or some third party talking to me?)

Jane- you have something to offer.  It's time to stop taking taking taking, and start offering.  It's okay, it's okay what you've done to cope, how you've dealt with trauma, the mistakes you've made. It's. Okay.  But it's time to stop obsessing about this.  It's time to give Pete a chance.  It's time to quit feeling sorry for yourself.  It's time.  You're strong.  You're good.  You. Are. Good. 

It's hard to put into words the feelings and thoughts I had. But something clicked and I felt whole. 

THURSDAY: I spent the day doing volunteer work, which as cliché as it sounds, is really so healing.  There is a time and place for service, and it's not during the crisis.  But I am feeling drawn out of my crisis and it was so good for me.  I was still feeling strong and good.

That evening after the kids were in bed Pete asked me to listen as he read something he had prepared about the experience from earlier in the week.  The statement was half-hearted.  He wanted to be over it, he wanted to not be angry, the words said he wasn't but his demeanor felt otherwise.  He asked me that from now on, before I share his story with anyone we meet with a counselor to discuss it.  This bothered me.  I closed my door.  He locked his. I deadbolted mine.  It was a standoff.  We started to argue.  Then he said this

"I'm not the only one with problems in the marriage!"

And I lost it. I walked away. I went in my room and literally closed and locked the door.  Then I went into my bathroom and closed and locked that door.  I was PISSED and I was HURT and I was CONFUSED.  Why is he still saying that? Why is he always blaming me? Why does he insist I'm not recovering the "right" way?  I crumpled to the floor and sobbed.  I hit the wall with the palm of my hand so hard it made my skin sting.  I thought I was strong. I thought I was ready. I thought I couldn't be affected by him like this anymore. 

I heard him knocking on the door.  So I grabbed a bag and shoved some pajamas in it and opened the door.  But he stopped me.  He put his hands on my shoulders, softly, and gently pushed me back until I sat on the edge of our bed.  He knelt down in front me.  With tears in his eyes he said all the things I've been waiting years to hear.

"I'm so sorry.  I wish I could take back those words.  I don't care about being right. I don't care about my pride. I don't want you to leave. Now, or ever. I don't want to lose you.  I love you.  I want to fix this.  I've made mistakes, I'm going to make more mistakes.  I'm learning, but I am giving this my whole heart. I am really trying recovery.  I wanted to handle this the right way and I tried so hard, but old habits die hard.  Please forgive me.  Please. Please. Please."

He went on for about ten minutes before I would even look at his face.  And then he went on some more.  He talked about his pain. He talked about how much it hurt him what I had done.  It was humiliating.  He talked about the last six months and the anguish of watching me pull away from him.  He talked about fears and he talked about recovery.  He was so real.  He was so vulnerable. So humble.  So meek.  So honest. 

After awhile I asked him.  "What stopped you from realizing all these things before, and from sharing them with me?"  He talked about addiction and how it makes chaos in his brain. About how without some sobriety he couldn't see things as they really were.  He talked about how God has given him a sponsor that sees him when he can't see himself.  Like really sees him. 

I realized how healing and helpful it was for me to hear him be honest about his feelings.  But I also realized how he was incapable of doing that for so long.  Yesterday was 50 days of sobriety for him.  That's the longest he has gone in a couple years. 

I don't know what the future holds.  Last night we watched Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability and she talked about how relationships have no guarantees.  It's probably a little different with an addict, it takes longer to be willing to take the risk.  But Pete IS in recovery.  I know it.  So I'm taking a leap of faith, and starting the hard road to healing our relationship.  More therapy.  More hard conversations.  And I'm sure many more mistakes and disagreements. 

But I feel hope, and I feel love for this man.  For the work he has done to get where he is.  I caught a glimpse of how painful HIS road has been and I felt a wagonload of compassion. 

And now I'm going to Yoga- and I'm going to hit publish without finding a cool pic and without reading through this.  Love you all for reading-  Jane

23 October 2013

Yoga

So it's no secret that I've been converted to Yoga.  When I say this to non-addict people they assume I love it for the exercise. It's physically challenging for sure, I underestimated it that way before I tried it.  But I love it because it is kind.  It's emotionally cleansing.  It really is healing. 

A friend of mine told me about this organization.  When I watched the video I thought "Yes! This is us!" We are women who know suffering, and we know the power of community. 

So if you are in the Salt Lake Valley take advantage of this opportunity.  She will be in Provo Friday evening and Saturday in Salt Lake.  You can find more information on the website.  yogaforcongowomen.org

20 October 2013

And THAT is Why


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A week or two before the Togetherness Project I told Scabs that part of the reason I didn’t feel strongly about going was because I didn’t feel like it was what I needed right now.

Despite having a strong impression that not going was what I needed, I still found myself feeling like I was just being fickle and ridiculous about it. I felt all kinds of doubts and acknowledged my fears but didn’t know what to do with them.  Even now I feel foolish for how much I’ve analyzed this one solitary choice, to go or not to go.

Knowing that on Saturday I was going to be really feeling left out, I tried to think of my best option for what to do. For once I KNEW something for sure, and it was that I needed to go to a yoga class I occasionally attend on Saturday mornings.  On my way there I could tell I was already emotional and I pictured my cancer-surviving yoga instructor embracing me in a big, loving hug.  When I arrived at the class she wasn’t there.  Apparently she’s moved to another studio.  The young, but bearded male teacher caught me off guard.  I was disappointed and doubted that the morning would be what I had hoped for, but yoga never ceases to amaze me so I committed to be open minded and have a good practice. 

It was a good practice.  I nailed the tree pose and I felt strong. 

During Shavasana I cleared my head and listened to the words of the young bearded man.  His vocie was clear and reassuring and I started to weep.  I opened my eyes just to see if he was looking right at me because everything he said was meant exactly for me.  It felt like God was speaking to me.  It was as powerful as any priesthood blessing I can recall.

As I drove home in the glorious sunlight of a radiant autumn day, I felt profound clarity. What I needed this week was two fold.

First- I needed to see a part of myself as it was.  Fears and insecurities and all. I needed to meet a demon. 

But secondly, I needed to be in that yoga class with that yoga guy.  I needed the knowledge and strength he gave me, to face my demon. 

I hope this doesn’t make it look like I’m trying to justify my not being there or publicly redeem myself.  Nor do I want to belittle the event .  I am confident that for women at the event it was exactly what THEY needed, and God spoke to them through that experience.  I am grateful that God knows us and uses strangers to help us along our way.  
 
It has been a really long time since I believed that God deliberately intervened in my life.  It was the number one thing I questioned when my faith faltered.  Does God really actively influence MY personal life?  On Saturday I felt so sure that he had. 
 
It's my prayer that God will find His way to reach you, to speak to you, to give you what and who you need. 
 
**Thank you SO MUCH to all my friends who encouraged me to trust that inner voice and go with it in spite of the sacrifice.**

16 October 2013

Addo Recovery


I first learned about Addo last spring. But I was in my angry, cynical place and I didn't make time for it. But my friends did, and they loved it.

So I started the second round a couple weeks ago and already feel heard and validated. It's a really great program. It's all about you.

The program is free. It consists of online lessons, assessments, homework and journaling. Once a week the local group meets together in Utah and the rest of us can watch online. It's simple. It's gentle. It's anonymous.  It's at your own pace and accommodates your schedule.

  Register here.

But you don't have to take my word for it.  My brave and lovely friend Kami has graciously let me share her story with you.

 
Kami's Story (Full) from Addo Recovery on Vimeo.

15 October 2013

Nasty Insecurities

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This Saturday is The Togetherness Project.  (If you still think you would like to attend I'm pretty sure Jacy won't turn you away.)

Over a year ago Jacy and I met in person.  Together with Scabs, Mac, Buffalo Gal and other amazing women we spent a weekend having an experience that I think changed all our lives.  I think it planted a seed for Jacy that has now grown into a full-blown event. 

As the weeks leading up to the event passed and I didn't register I couldn't put my finger on why.  I've spent two weekends away from my family at Camp Scabs (another beautiful idea that came from our original retreat) and another weekend running in a race.  There has been a persistent feeling that I should stay home this weekend.  I chalked it up to being here for my kids because Pete is actually attending an SA conference this weekend as well.  But I still hadn't quite been able to really wrap my head around why I am missing this opportunity to learn, but especially to see my amazing WoPA community. 

This morning as last minute emails are flying around, and weekend plans are being made, I had a meltdown.  It would be easy to say that I just felt sad about not being there, but it was more.  It is a fear, a really deep insecurity that I have.  While I washed a cookie sheet and tried to process all my feelings Ben Howard sang to me

"I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear."

I'm afraid that if I'm not there people WON'T miss me.  I'm afraid that if I don't go I'll miss out on the recognition I might get for being involved, for being part of that original group of women who dreamt big.  I fear that my friendships will suffer because other friendships are strengthened.  Fear about missing all the validation that my WoPA offer me.  Fear that my worth is proportional to the number and quality of these relationships I have. Fear that I'm missing out.  Fear that it will be amazing (which it will) and I will regret not being there.

And of course my biggest fear of all, my fear that by not being there, I am inherently inferior to all those who are there. 

I'm learning to lean into the pain so I sat on the couch and cried it out.  I turned to God, and he answered me. 

"This is why I didn't want you to go.  I want you to look these fears and insecurities in the eye and own them. And face them.  And then overcome them." 

I wish I could be there. I wish I could see you all. I wish I could soak up all the wisdom from the amazing speakers.  But for Heaven's sake! I'm not the loser I'm making myself out to be.  And the only way missing this event could possibly be worth it is if I can really really internalize that and get through the weekend without having another fear-based meltdown.

So I'll spend Saturday with my little people, and try to practice a little gratitude, live in the present and trust that when it's over my friends will still be my friends. 

10 October 2013

When Did I Get so Mean?

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Last Sunday I watched Pete slip out of recovery.  I could see it happening before my very eyes.  The signs might be different for our addicts but we know them. After cycle and cycle and cycle.  Maybe it's stress, maybe it's angry outbursts.  General irritability with the kids.  I like to use the words "compulsive" and "indulgent" behavior. 

On Sunday he zoned out with Angry Birds on his cell phone.  He skipped his meeting and watched football.  These things filled my heart and thoughts with hurt, resentment, fear and flat out anger.  I banged around in the kitchen and invited Insanity to join me. Finally I couldn't take it.  I threw my own recovery out the window and went after him, guns a-blazin'! 

It didn't go well. He said some of his usual things, things I thought we were done with, and he said some new things.  Phrases like "you've taken this too far" and "what's the point of my recovery if you're going to blame every little thing I do on addiction?!" 

It got to me. I couldn't walk away. I'd taken the bait. I threw "separation" on the table like a winning poker hand and I wasn't bluffing. I played the "safe" card as trump.  I would be safer if we separated because then he couldn't blame me for anything.  (Which isn't true, addict brains can always find a way to blame.) The conversation was intense.

At one point he drew back the curtains to his soul and I saw real pain in his eyes.

It was both heart-breaking and infuriating. 

Finally when we were both emotionally defeated I dropped my weapons and I asked him to sleep in another room. 

Pete texted me the next day.  He owned it.  He apologized. 

A day after that, I had a chat with a new counselor.  (I'm therapist shopping because mine changed her schedule and it won't be able to accommodate me.  Big huge disappointment.)  He validated me.  He reassured me.  He helped me feel sane again. 

I'm asking for a bare minimum in our marriage.  I'm asking for a relationship free of porn.

But I'm also asking for him to show some superhuman strength to earn my trust back.  I tried to think back on a time when someone attacked me, guns blazing, and I responded with patience and meekness.  I nearly always get defensive.  I'm quick to put my guard up.  It sucks to be accused.  Regardless of the truth of the accusation.  I'm human.  He's human.

My therapist drew this diagram on the white board in his office.  (I am so sorry for the poor quality of my diagram. Graphics are NOT my strong suit.)

He explained to me that watching football or playing Angry Birds aren't inherently bad activities.  The pornography addict would say "Why are you so upset, I haven't even acted out?"

But if an activity makes me feel unsafe it has crossed a boundary.  (These terms aren't technical, just words my therapist used to make a point.)  In that first circle I am unsafe because I am that much closer to the second circle.  Pornography and mastur-B are the second circle.  They are boundary violations.

It was okay for me to tell Pete that I wasn't comfortable with his behavior, that it made me feel unsafe. 

But I've been telling people lately that I believe anger is okay as long as it isn't used to mistreat people.  I DO believe this.  But apparently I misunderstood my own advice.  I mistreated Pete.  I was cruel and aggressive. 

I am so glad I've learned to trust my gut. I'm so glad I've been able to relinquish any responsibility for Pete's addiction. But sometimes I worry that I've swung on the pendulum too far to the other extreme. I exempt myself from any misbehavior.  I get a free pass because I'm the victim. 

But the bottom line is, no one feels good when they are cruel or unkind.  Victim or not.  Justified or not.  And, in that sense, I'm a little concerned about the person I'm becoming. 

03 October 2013

Emotional Dependence


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I still get heart palpitations when Pete and I go to bed at the same time and after I switch off the light I wonder if he is going to say something about that damn elephant.  Last night he did, but it was a good talk.  The kind of talk that I’ve been avoiding for the last few months.  It required me to dig deep, not get defensive, and hear and say difficult things.  

Flashback to the first five months of 2013 when I was being a yo-yo.

Relapse – Detach - Reconnect – Relapse – Detach

Over and over again.  Finally I’d had enough.  Relapses after I’d reconnected hurt worse because there was more on the line.  “I’ve given myself back to you, I’ve been loving and vulnerable and you STILL chose addiction.”  Detachment feels so much safer, the relapses are less painful when I’m not emotionally connected to him.  So after our trip to Hawaii I said “I’m detaching indefinitely.”   

This detachment left Pete feeling totally exposed.  Last night he acknowledged how he had used me to medicate, not just sexually, but emotionally.  In the past when he was lonely or hurting he knew he could come to me and I would validate, comfort and alleviate his feelings.  Essentially I protected him from identifying and working through difficult emotions by offering reassurance and probably even minimizing those feelings.  Ever since I emotionally withdrew, he has been left to feel his feelings more exquisitely, give them names, and work through them, finding healthy ways to cope rather than medicating.  And to be honest, he has done a lousy job of this.  He admitted last night that he feels the reason his relapses became more frequent in the months after I finally did the 180, is because having to really feel increased his need for his drug.  The jury is still out, but it seems like he is finally learning how to feel without self-medicating. 
[And of course part of his medicating in the past was using me as a sexual drug.  I felt for years that he was doing this, but I lacked the confidence and self-worth to be sure it wasn’t my fault our sexual relationship was so confusing.  It has been such a relief for me to hear him admit to that.] 

I think that’s why detaching is so terrifying.  Because when I let him fall on his face, he did.  And I think for awhile he even believed that it was my fault he fell on his face.  But the truth is, his addiction was going to get worse whether I detached or not, because he wasn’t really recovering.  I think it got worse faster, but at least that meant he hit bottom faster.  Unfortunately there are no guarantees that detachment will provide this result.  It could be that Pete fell on his face and liked it there, or at least felt that the pain of the problem wasn’t as bad as the pain of the solution.  The pain of the solution is the pain that comes with owning and facing some pretty deep resentments, memories, hurts and then of course the pain of withdrawal.

And now, it’s another terrifying future for me.  I’m terrified of reconnecting.  I told Pete that after I could see a healthy combination of recovery AND sobriety, that would be when I would feel safe reengaging in our relationship.  Last night we talked about seeing his therapist for help navigating that future and I realized that reconnecting emotionally has me totally freaked out. 
 
But at least I know that I've done terrifying things before.  And I also know that when the time is right, I'll feel it.  And I can trust myself.  And I can take all the time I need. 

01 October 2013

No Ordinary People


I've recently returned from another Camp Scabs.  These retreats blow my mind.

How is it that a woman can get on a plane and fly to a city to spend a weekend with perfect strangers, and yet in those 48 hours share the most intimate details of her life?

Because the brave souls open their hearts first.  And they are met with a response so full of love, compassion and acceptance that the room feels sacred, and possibly the most safe place on earth.

I can not come up with adequate words to express my gratitude for the opportunities I have to meet remarkable women.  But the truth is, I believe we are all remarkable, we are just too inhibited by fear, and misunderstood by false ideas to be noticed. 

I love you all. Share your story. Reach out. Own your truth.  Be brave. 

24 September 2013

BAM! TRIGGER!

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I used to say that I'd never experienced triggers.  I hadn't experienced them in the way I had originally thought of them.  As trauma-inducing reminders of past despair. 

But then I started hearing the word trigger in other contexts.  A trigger was an annoying observation that might remind me of my husband's addiction.  Or a trigger might be something that causes me to slip back into codependency.  Some other triggers were things that were bothersome because they were temptations for my husband, or situations that portray happiness and joy that I find lacking in my own life. 

Those were the things I began to accept as triggers, and cope with them accordingly.  It was manageable. 

Then on Friday night I experienced a trigger that was in fact like a tidal wave from the past, of the feelings from my moments of deepest anguish.  It was overwhelming. It lasted all evening. And the moment I was able to, I burst into tears, reliving the grief of disclosures, the shame, the fear, the embarrassment and the desperate longing to believe that it wasn't true.

I can't share the details of the trigger.  It involves personal details about a family member, and even though this blog is anonymous the internet is a sneaky place, and I really don't feel like throwing this person to the wolves in the off chance someone I actually know reads this. 

But I mostly worked through the feelings. Pete was supportive and kind.  I don't think he understood, but he knew he didn't understand, and that helped. 

A couple days passed and last night the subject came up.  Pete went from being supportive to being a man.  It's hard to explain without offering details, but the conversation ended with me screaming these words at him.  (Or something to this effect, I can't quite recall what I actually said in the moment.)

"I'm so tired of living in a man's world! Where men keep other men's secrets.  Where someone is always there to hold the hand of the addict, pat him on the back, encourage him along his way.  Meanwhile the woman is in the dark, oblivious to the trauma that awaits her, and then "hushed" into secrecy as she tries to cope!  If it's none of my business, then it's none of your business! And we can all go on our way, ignoring it, brushing it under the rug, letting it thrive in its taboo-induced silence where things will never change!"

This time the trigger wasn't sadness.  It was all-out rage.  I was on fire. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking.  I grabbed the car keys and drove away vacillating between sobs and shouts of fury.  It felt like the same hellish nightmare that I'd endured on my bathroom floor, time and time again two or three years ago.  I felt trapped.  Alone.  Desperate. 

With the help of good friends I'm finding sanity again.  But I'm also giving myself a day to be angry. Because the truth is, TRIGGERS SUCK.  And sex addiction is everywhere, and so painful. And change is slow.  And men have fear too. 

And it is tormenting to feel unheard and unseen. 

17 September 2013

The Heart Of The Matter

I had so many thoughts tumbling around in my head.  I was trying to make sense of one, to mold it into a coherent blog post, when Pete came in the room.  Seeing what I was up to, he informed me that his sponsor blocked my blog (on Pete's computer) via his "Net Nanny."  I get limited info these days about the workings of his sponsor, but he did tell me that he finally found some software that was compliant with his employer's computer/internet policy.  His sponsor manages the filters for him.  Apparently my blog was "a drug for his emotional dependency."

Honestly I'm not sure what to think.  It's weird to not really be sure if he will ever read this.  I've grown so accustomed to writing with him over my shoulder - so to speak. (Not literally.)  His work computer is really the only computer he has access to. 

Anyway.  That mini-conversation added even more thoughts to the mix and now I'm sure I can't compose anything coherent. 

BUT!

THIS!

This is very important to me.  Please watch.  Please donate.  I opened my own bank account a couple months ago.  I've been saving to establish financial independence.  But I think I'm going to drop a fat wad on this project.  I really believe in it. 


08 September 2013

Sunday School


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It has been easy for me to become disillusioned with the church  programs I was raised with as I cope with the damaging effects of pornography and addiction. 
“There was never a lesson in Sunday school about boundaries.” I’ve been known to spitefully accuse. 
A few weeks ago as I brushed my little girl’s hair for church I had a strong impression. I realized that at church she is learning all the important things she will need in order to face the challenges ahead of her. 
It’s possible that women all over the world have wondered why Sunday school lessons weren’t “relevant” to their crisis. For example, there wasn’t a lesson about how to cope with losing everything in a natural disaster, or how to process through the feelings of an untimely death of a family member.  I’m sure there is a broken heart who wondered why she never had a lesson in young women about the anguish of a double mastectomy. 

The gospel is universal.  It is designed to offer peace and joy to the souls of all who suffer.  And while I still plan to teach my daughter about boundaries and self-care, I realized that at church she is learning exactly what she needs to know.

There is a loving God in Heaven who knows her.

Blessings come from living in obedience to God’s commandments.

The safest answers will be found in her heart, planted there by God through the Holy Ghost.

Jesus Christ suffered an atonement that qualifies him to be her most loyal friend and advocate.   He will always remove her pain and shortcomings when she turns to him.

Joy is found in kindness and charity. 

Her body, no matter what it looks like, is a sacred creation and can be capable of amazing things when she cares for it. 

Her virtue is hers to protect and respect.

Honesty and integrity will give her a clear conscience and confidence. 

Reaching out and offering love to others will be her greatest source of happiness. 

I find myself occasionally facing fears about the suffering my children will inevitably face.  In my codependent moments I become desperate to control the information they receive and the circumstances they face.  But when I look back at my own journey into recovery I see a beautiful patchwork of guidance, friendship, leadership, lessons, websites, and resources.  A friend here, a blog there, a 12-step meeting, and a “chance” encounter. 

God can’t possibly have individualized Sunday school lessons for each of his suffering children.  So he sticks with the essentials.  And then with providential power, God orchestrates His world to provide what each of his children need, when they need it. 

He is the God I worship, and the God I want my daughter to worship.  He can be trusted.  He will provide. 

05 September 2013

Let's Get Real: Part Two

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Here are the rest of my remarks from the training. 

Read Part One here.

After Pete and I finished, the stake president opened it up for questions.  We could have stayed for hours answering questions, and it became painfully clear to me that most of these men (bishops, counselors, executive secretaries, and ward clerks) had little knowledge or experience with sexual addiction.  Some of their questions were almost comically naïve.  But to the credit of many in the room, their hearts were opened and they seemed genuinely and humbly willing to learn.  I didn't feel any animosity to them for being unaware, I felt grateful to them for being ready to be aware.  They didn't know what they didn't know.  (Just like me.)

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It has to be said, that I work on these things daily.  I’m by no means entirely successful at applying these principles.  But awareness has been opened up before me and with the Savior’s grace I work on changing one day at a time.

I feel grateful that I have never had a bad experience with my bishops, and President ----------- has been perfectly compassionate and supportive.  I know church leadership is demanding.  But I humbly encourage you to learn about this, to give advice carefully, particularly to women.  Increased intimacy will not cure this addiction but might make a wife feel objectified and used, forgiveness is possible but difficult, trust has to be earned, and above all – she didn’t cause his addiction, she can not control it, nor can she cure it. 

I wish someone would have told me that it WAS going to get worse, that’s the nature of addiction.  It is self-preserving, perpetuating and progressive.  Suppose a young couple approached you for counsel.  The husband was exhibiting symptoms consistent with a terminal illness.  They said that they believed that if they prayed diligently and increased their spirituality God would cure the illness.  I imagine you would plead with them to seek professional advice, get medical attention, and take advantage of the many resources available from educated and experienced people familiar with the illness.  Even if the symptoms “weren’t that bad.”

I understand the power of denial, and people have to want help.  But even if the husband isn’t willing, encourage the wife to find healing.  I believe that a wife in recovery can live in a peaceful and healthy way with a husband in recovery.  I also believe a husband has the freedom and hope to seek recovery when his wife is in a healthy emotional place to support him.

In closing I’ll say what I would say to the “me” of three years ago.  It will get worse before it gets better.  This thing isn’t going away on its own.  Please don’t underestimate it.  Face it now. Set aside your shame and fear and ask for help.    

I have been blessed most of my life to have the spiritual strength and stability to live in the details and complexities of the gospel.  But in the last few years I have had the opportunity to gain a profound testimony of the essential principles of the gospel.  I know God lives and loves me.  I know the Savior’s atonement will relieve me of my weakness and the suffering I experience as the result of other’s weakness.  I understand that God’s grace will sustain me and help me gain salvation.

In Galatians 2:20 it reads:
“Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

03 September 2013

Let's get real

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Recovery nurtures honesty.  I'm not talking about honesty in terms of accurately reporting facts, although recovery nurtures that too.  I'm talking about honesty with my intentions and my desires. If I'm being honest with myself I need to admit that my last post was just a more subtle way of getting validation. 

Regardless, I appreciate so much your words of support and compassion.  I feel strong again, and I feel like we can all do hard things, especially if they are things that will make the road more clear for those coming behind us.

So here is part one of my remarks (too long for one post) to the leadership of my stake. My stake president wanted me to share how recovery has helped me, particularly the 12-step program.  I tried to do this while also shedding some light on how Pete's addiction affected me.

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In Finding Nemo and Wreck It Ralph, Pete and I laugh longer than most during the 12-step support group scenes.  It’s our world, we get the jokes, and our laughter is a sign of how far we have come.

It was nearly two years ago when President ----------  encouraged us to attend the church’s support group meetings.  With knots in our stomach and sweaty palms we walked through the doors of our first meeting. 

I don’t recall now what I expected to find at those meetings.  Maybe angry, embittered wives, or maybe other women like me, self-righteous and determined to fix their husbands.  But what I actually found were compassionate, charitable and humble women, seeking the Savior.  The meetings are safe, I made immediate friends and felt the reassurance I was not alone.  I found validation and encouragement and hope. 

Each time Pete confessed to me, and having the realization that we were dealing with addiction was traumatic and devastating.  My self-esteem was hurt, I felt inadequate.  I felt betrayed by his behavior and confused about who he was and the reality of our lives.  I was incredibly lonely, afraid to share our secret and seek support.  I felt stupid for being blind to signs of his behavior.  I lived in fear and anxiety about the future, and I took responsibility for his addiction and began making rules for him and trying to manage his choices.
I want to share how the 12-step program helped me to cope with Pete’s addiction, and how it helped me as an individual to understand the atonement and faith. 
Step 1: says that I “Come to understand that I am powerless over the addiction of my loved one.”

Coping with Pete's addiction in a healthy way began with me learning about codependency.

The best definition of codependency I’ve read is simply my happiness and peace being dependent on Pete’s behavior.  His addiction sent me into a tailspin of insanity and intense emotions.  Although I was reluctant in the beginning to accept a “label”, I soon realized how harmful codependency was.

In addition to feeling like my emotions were unmanageable, my codependency manifested itself in unhealthy behaviors like persecuting, shaming, nagging, etc.  I sobbed and begged Pete to change.  I guilted him and shamed him.  I gave him the silent treatment and the cold shoulder. I withheld my love.  It is not in my nature to get angry, but I’ve had very angry moments. 

I did these things because I didn’t know better.  Finding my own recovery, using the 12 steps, attending a support group and having a counselor have helped me learn a new way to deal with my intense feelings and a better way to treat Pete without enabling him.   

In steps 2 & 3 I come to believe that the power of God can restore me to spiritual and emotional health, and then decide to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

I've realized that faith isn’t just believing in God, it is believing that God will care for me and facilitate my happiness no matter what happens in my marriage or what the circumstances are in my life.  Faith isn’t believing that God would remove my trials, but give me an endowment of spiritual strength to get through them. 

I was used to living in fear. Fear about the next relapse, fear of people finding out, fear of infidelity, fear of divorce. I learned that I could surrender my fears about the outcome of Pete’s addiction to God.  We like to say “Breathe out fear, breathe in faith.”

A few months ago Bishop ---------- gave a lesson in a combined priesthood/relief society about how the atonement applies to the victim.  I’ve certainly had need for the atonement as a sinner, but until this experience I didn’t understand how the atonement applied to the anguish I felt as the victim of someone else’s sins.  The 12 steps are truly a step-by-step course with practical application about accepting the Savior’s gift of the atonement to relieve me of my pain and despair.  It isn’t my job to punish Pete, nor is it my job to save him.  What IS my job is to let go of my disappointment, hurt and grief in exchange for forgiveness and peace.