30 August 2013

Vulnerability Hangover

Cliché Zero

Last night I stood in a room of 30-40 men in suits.  I felt a bizarre combination of total intimidation and quiet confidence.  Last week my stake president invited me (and then Pete agreed as well) to speak at the bishopric training meeting.  [This is a meeting for local church leaders and their assistants.] 

It sounds totally cliché but I really did envision all of you in the room with me.  I wanted to have my moment to represent us, to share the hope of recovery and to encourage these men to better understand what more they can do.  I would like to post what I said, but honestly right now I feel so exposed I feel like crawling in a cave and isolating. 

After such a bold personal confession it's hard for me to not feel insatiable for validation.  Did my words help? Did these men approve of my message? Was I effective? Do they admire my courage? Friends, I'm so hooked on validation my life is unmanagable.

Later in the evening Pete got a text from a member of our own ward who is also a good friend.  He thanked us and said he still admired us as much as he had before he knew our deepest secret.  (Not his words exactly.)

Go ahead and laugh out loud, but I felt like he was the one leper. 


So ridiculous right? 

There were several men in the room who know us personally and I find myself wondering where are they? Why haven't they texted/emailed/called to support us? 

So I'm working on that. And when I can be sure that I'm not sharing just to appease my validation appetite, I'll talk about what I said last night. 

But thanks to you all who were with me in my heart.  Thanks to Pete for his gesture of courage.  It felt really good to be united with him in something. 

Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend friends. 

15 August 2013

The Power I Possess

Back in February C Jane had a series of guest posts about pornography addiction. Some of the comments were misguided at best and cruel at worst.  But I appreciated that she was giving blog time to the issue and so I submitted my own story that I wrote with the help of a friend. (Who turned out to be a demanding editor.)  C Jane didn't use my story, but I felt grateful for the experience I had writing it. 

Recently I've found myself seeking refuge behind my glass window again and I thought back to the strength I felt when I wrote these words.  Scabs taught me about writing less like a text book and more like a human.  Today when I read back through it I am reminded of the ability that authentic writing has to empower and validate self. 

Anyway, I thought I'd publish it today in an effort to recommit myself to its principles. 

It takes an act of courage to write a post like this.  For someone in the throes of pornography addiction, it takes an act of courage to read the comments of such a post.  It is easier to protect myself by keeping my story on my bathroom floor, where I sit when I cry, behind a glass wall observing instead of healing.
So much is misunderstood.  Our paths are the result of experience and consideration that an outsider can’t begin to imagine.  A cynical and judgmental voice once belonged to me, and after nearly drowning in the shame of his sins and my shame by association; I was rescued by the idea that we are all flawed human beings. 
He’s an addict.  But I’m not going to write about him.   I want to write about me.

In the beginning I tried controlling him with passwords and filters. I persecuted and shamed him with religious fervor. I begged him to stop with shoulder-shaking sobs.  I tried to compete by being my prettiest, sexiest self. I created the ideal environment in our home and comforted him after each relapse. One night, sensing he was in a bad place, I tried staying awake to protect him from himself.  Silent and still beside him in bed I waited, sure the minute I fell asleep he would bolt upright and grab his smartphone.  My eyelids became too heavy and in the morning I awoke to his confession.  It was so predictable and STILL I could not stop it.  I failed.
My efforts were futile.  They were resented by my husband.  My well-being and sanity were compromised.  There was finally relief in the idea that I could not control him.  After reading, studying, praying and reaching out for support, I began to see the freedom and power I did possess.  It is the power to define and live my own life despite my husband’s choices.  I gave myself permission to heal and forgive. (See Step 1, here.)
One day while feelings of anger and injustice hovered over me, I was reminded of the advice of a friend.  She said, “Have the day you were going to have before he ruined it.”  So I did.  I played with my kids, went for a run, and even laughed. My husband isn't the one who pays the price when I dwell in bitterness. I pay the price because my attitude of indignation is manifested in all my relationships.

Refusing to heal is like living behind a glass window.  On the outside the world is going on without me.  People are kind and happy. But behind the window I nurture hate and fury.  Betrayal justifies anger and resentment.  My bitterness isolates me.  The window protects me from feeling.  Like a foul odor, my anger ekes out into the way I treat my children, other men, other women, everyone. Hateful and negative thoughts become consuming.
"Forgiveness is a gift that I give to my soul. Without it, I have no peace."  (Rhyll Croshaw.)

The place behind the glass window is miserable and lonely.  My time in that place is a dark and painful memory.  Occasionally I seek refuge behind the glass, in some effort to feel control and safety, but it is not the place for me.  So I return to the world on the other side of the glass, the place where I define and live my own life. 

The decision to stay or leave is so intensely personal I hesitate to even discuss it. In one ear I hear voices shouting about how I deserve better, how I'm crazy to stay. In the other ear, equally intense voices ask me if I'm really willing to ruin my children's lives over pornography.  I hear a voice of reason that tells me that I don’t owe anyone an explanation.  I hear a voice of compassion that reminds me of his goodness.  I hear the voice of my insanity that screams with ridicule that he will never change.
I stay because I view my husband's addiction like an illness. The analogy isn't without its flaws, but I've turned him over to the proper professionals, a counselor, a trusted confidant, and the healing power of the Savior, to help him recover. I can't cure him, and while he is humble and willing to accept treatment, I will honor my marriage vows. My husband is a wonderful man.  He is ambitious and successful in his career.  He is a gentleman to me and takes time to let me know I am appreciated.  He makes me laugh, and he finds ways to execute even my most outrageous plans.  I love him. This is only a small part of why I married him and why I remain with him, and says little of the memories and life we have built together.

There are no guarantees in life.  But, I can live a happy and fulfilling life with a compassionate and empathetic heart, not just in spite of my husband's addiction, but because of it.  The victim is not the part I want to play, emerging from the fight weak and disabled.  It is the heroine I want to be, emerging with strength and confidence.  Not worse for the battle, but better.  
I am empowered and liberated by the knowledge that I am strong. Even though I’m tempted to avoid stepping out from behind the glass wall, I’ve learned not to live in fear.  I am courageous and I’m okay with vulnerable. 

07 August 2013

Remembering to Live

While I don't believe that comparing the tragedy of someone else's life to my own suffering, in an effort to guilt me out of sorrow, is always a healthy way to cope with grief; I do believe that occasional or frequent reminders that my life does contain all I need for happiness, are beneficial.  A recent reflection on the life of a woman who survived the genocide in Rwanda was one such reminder for me.  (Because what kind of ungrateful pond scum would I be if I read her story and DIDN'T feel profound appreciation for freedom, family and safety? See... guilting myself out of sorrow...)

I've been wallowing like Wilbur in a muck of self-pity for a bit.  I've been grieving the disappointments of the past two years and the seeming lack of change with Pete's addiction. I've been self-medicating with social media and carbohydrates. 

But in the words of my wise friend Scabs, it's time to get off the couch. 

It's time to live again. 

My relationship with Pete is in something of a holding pattern.  Like a deep breath, or with a deep breath, I have accepted the circumstances of my marriage for the time being.  I give my most patient effort to wait for sobriety AND recovery before re-engaging with my husband emotionally and physically.  While I only have a general idea of his thoughts and feelings about our position, from my perspective we are cohabiting amicably.

In the meantime, I'm ready to shed my grief, and a few of those indulgent pounds.  It's time to get out from behind my glass wall and think a little bit less about myself and a little bit more about someone else.  [Beginning with my little people, who have suffered the most during my saddest days.]

It's time for some real connections and it's time to release some fears, disappointments, expectations and control.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
J.K. Rowling