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 na├»ve.  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.