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.
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.