18 May 2014

It Really IS All About Love


For reasons that I’m sure stem back to my family of origin, I used to be a sinner-phobe.  I became wildly uncomfortable with friendships that involved people who didn't see exactly as I saw, or who made choices I couldn't understand.  I surrounded myself with people who were practically just like me; good Mormon friends who never talked about anything REAL.  And in the meantime I was completely denying myself any opportunity to understand what it really meant to love someone who wasn't a family member.

Then a friend of mine had an affair.   There was a distinct moment when I was sitting in my car outside her house prepared to go inside and COMPEL her back to being just like me, when I had a strong impression to NOT do that. 

Then my husband spiraled into his pornography addiction and I had to learn how to live with, be married to, and love a sinner. *Gasp*

Before actually having any people in my life who made spiritually debilitating decisions, it was so easy to sit in church and rattle off platitudes about “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  Whereas in reality I found myself incapable of setting aside my fears, insecurities and self-righteousness to truly love "sinners" (read: people who aren't just like me).  And I’m not just talking about adulterers and sex addicts.  This naive and pious goody-goody had trouble accepting people and feeling genuine charity toward much less grievous offenders.

Then one weekend I met up with a group of women who were everything I was afraid of.  They cussed and they used phrases like “blow-jobs.”  They weren't virgins before marriage or they weren't sure they had testimonies at all.  They turned my world upside down because they were the best friends I had ever had.  Without any deliberate effort, my heart changed.  Immediately I could love them, which opened my eyes to the possibility that I had never really known how to love.   

And then it happened again, and again.  At camps and events and through emails.  My heart began brimming over with what I really believe is charity, for all different types of people.  And it has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.

I recently finished the book The God Who Weeps.  It was the second time I’d read the first four chapters, and they were a spiritual journey for me.  But it was the first time I had read the fifth and final chapter.  I finished it on an airplane, flying through the skies on my way to New York, and when I closed the book I wiped away tears of gratitude and insight. 

T. and F. Givens laid out with perfect clarity why my relationships with my WOPA friends have changed my life.  We are relational creatures.  Our greatest happiness comes from meaningful friendships.  When we are most loving, we make ourselves vulnerable to pain.  Our faith is nothing when it doesn't motivate us to consider our obligations to our fellow humans. 

“However rapturous or imperfect, fulsome or shattered, our knowledge of love has been, we sense it is the very basis and purpose of our existence.

What we may have thought was our private pathway to salvation, was intended all along as a collaborative enterprise, though we often miss the point.

When we find we have attained our authentic stature, and only in such authenticity, will we be free to engage in relationships with authentic others.  As we engage in those relationships, we find once again that the perfect community of love enhances, rather than diminishes our differences. Love is what occurs in the face of difference, not sameness…

The divine nature of man, and the divine nature of God, are shown to be the same – they are rooted in the will to love, at the price of pain, but the certainty of joy.” 

13 May 2014

Part II - Needs, progress, etc.

Pete got really sick on Saturday, and I was mostly keeping a safe distance from him.   At one point I went into our bedroom where he was crashed out on the bed, vulnerable, humble and physically and emotionally broken.  He sobbed as he told me that he was defeated.  He knew he had to surrender the embarrassment he felt when I told people about the reality of our life.  He said that he knew God wanted him to really be humble, but he had no idea how to BE humble.  He said he only had one option, and that was to overcome this, but right now it felt too hard.  He said he knew he was still holding on to control but he didn’t know HOW to let go.

My anger started to soften as he offered a little bit of his soul to me. And I told him about the gaps in my life that I could see had closed.  The chasm from where I once had been to where I was now. And I didn’t know HOW they had closed, just that they had.  And that there were still gaps I needed to close.  I still see an improved version of myself on the next ridge ahead. 

But I believe that he will cross that canyon too.  Someday he will look back at that day in the bed, about the conversations with me, about his fears and shame, and he will see that he isn’t that person anymore.   He might not be able to say when or what changed, but that he is different.

I feel differently about needs now.  I think of them as the tools I use to get from here to there.  I’m careful to define my needs in terms of things I can control.  I can pick them up, and set them down. I can trade them in for new ones.   And hopefully sooner rather than later, I can grow from being told which tools to use, to being capable of managing my own belt. 

I need to have people who are on the inside of my reality. I need to feel loved and accepted. I need support and kindness. I need quality time with people who I can be honest with. I need independence to make decisions without being manipulated.  I need therapy. I need validation.  I need to be SEEN and HEARD.  I need to read about recovery. I need to talk about recovery. I need someone in my family to be gentle with me.  I need friends to go to when I need space from my husband.  I need community.

12 May 2014

Discovering Needs and Closing Gaps Part I

This post is hopelessly long and disconnected.  Sorry.


I’ve seen and heard a lot about “needs” and “non-negotiables.” I never made a list of my own.  I think it might have been out of fear. What if I write out a list of my needs, and then they aren’t met? What if my list gets trampled on or ignored?  What are my options then? Divorce or insanity?

And I’ve always been a firm believer that it really takes very little to make a soul free and content. 

On Tuesday I opened up to my older brother, who is the most compassionate and gentle member of my family. I’ve wanted to share with him for years and haven’t, at Pete’s request.  When I told Pete, he was upset.  I could see conflict in his furrowed brow as anger, shame and pain overcame him.  He muttered a couple weak remarks and I did my best to listen with empathy. 

The next day he acted out. He fell apart. He isolated and stewed and it caught up to him.  But by some miracle when he confessed to me on Thursday morning about his relapse I was moved with compassion and love for him, and I was able to hear his confession without personalization or grief. 

I thought about that quite a bit, about the space between how I used to respond and how I responded this time.  Somehow, somewhere, some way, I closed that gap. I changed.  I don’t know when exactly it happened or what exactly changed me. But I’m different.

I met with my new therapist that day. He is a CSAT.  (Get one!)  We talked about how it was OKAY that I had shared with my brother.  I needed to do what I needed to do to heal.  And my healing was in the best interest of my recovery, Pete’s recovery and the recovery of our marriage.  He told me to stand up for myself. He told me that when I learned to have confidence in MY needs, I wouldn’t be manipulated by Pete or anyone else.  He asked me to email him a list of my needs. I couldn’t get my head around that.  What do I need to live? Water. Food.  Sleep.  He clarified for me, and suggested that I write what I need for my recovery. 

Ahh yes.  Okay.  I need to be real with people I trust. 

That night Pete and I went to the mattresses about my need to be vulnerable and open with safe people.  I need to share my reality with people who will love and support me.   When he started to throw out words like “inappropriate” I collapsed into an old me.  That me that triggers when he sends any blame my direction. And I was angry.  Why can’t I stand up for myself?

My dear Scabs sent me this message the next day as I was trying to process. 

“[Pete] has been living pretty comfortably as a recovering addict.  He goes to meetings, connects with his guys, connects with you and the kids, and he has you pretty much living and responding to his addiction the way he feels most comfortable.  It seems like its only when you step outside of his prescribed boundary that he freaks out---out of his comfort zone and acts out.  Maybe this is an indication that he has controlled the situation more than you realize. “

She nailed it.  And as I thought about that it made me more angry.  He HAS controlled me in this. He HAS manipulated me in this.  My closest WOPA friends know that this has been a struggle from the get-go for me.  Maybe they remember that first weekend we met when I sobbed about how desperately I needed to open up and Pete had me on a leash.

I was so angry on Friday that I have done so much work to leave Pete and his addiction and his recovery to him, I don’t question or judge or criticize his life anymore.  Which is another gap I’ve closed from how I used to be and where I am.  His addiction AND recovery obviously come at a personal cost to me, I make personal sacrifices.  I’m not saying this to make myself look good, I just realized this week that I really wanted that same respect from him.  If I am capable of doing it, he should be too. 

And tell me, WHY was I able to hear him tell me that he had looked at porn and masturbated without flinching but the minute he tells me how I should or shouldn’t reach out to people, I fall to pieces?

08 May 2014

Oh The Places You'll Go!

I think one of the most popular graduation gifts has to be that Dr. Seuss book, Oh the Places You'll Go.  I wish someone would have given me a book when I got married, or when I discovered I was married to a porn addict about the places I would go.

Today is your day.
You're off to Dark Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the girl who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets.  Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you'll learn when you go down a not-so-good street.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry.  Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.


What places have I been? I've been in the place of denial. Where I was sure what had just happened would never happen again. Relapse wasn't in my vocabulary because neither was addiction.

And I've been in a place where I sobbed and suffered.  Where I feared relapse with fervent dread.  A place where I was quite sure another relapse would be the end of my marriage or the end of my sanity.

Then I went to a place where I didn't care about relapse. He could act out today or tomorrow and I didn't care. He could never act out again or act out in two years and it made no difference to me. I was my own woman, free from any attachment to him.

And now I find myself in a new place. A place my friend told me about and invited me to. Dealing with relapses with new emotions.  A degree of acceptance.  Not of his behavior, but of him and his diligent and sincere efforts.

I've heard stories of men who were ripe and ready for recovery.  They drank it up with willing thirst.  They applied it to their lives and they have been sober ever since.  This is not my husband.  Over the years he has resisted recovery and stubbornly refused to apply it's principles to his life.  Until he couldn't resist anymore and he collapsed into the arms of SA.  But his demons seem to be stubborn and resistant too.  His road is different and his places elsewhere.

I'm okay with my place. And I'm okay with the places I've been through to get to my place. I don't discredit anyone else's place either, even if it's a place I never visit.


 And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.