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.)
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.”