Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Joyful Revolution

My posts on here have become few and far between. I have loved this space as I have processed my journey to recovery. This is a sacred space for me. But writing about the addiction is not at the forefront of my mind anymore. I've started a new blog where I am focusing on mindfulness, gratitude, and joy. I am reclaiming my power to create my own destiny for joy. I'm sure I'll be on here every once in a while, but I'll be there more often. It's not a sex-addiction specific blog, but I thought some of you might be interested in it. Thanks for being here and cheering me on!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Practicing Mindfulness

A lot has changed in the five months since I wrote my last post. Also, it's weird that it's been five months. I remember back in the day where I was in daily trauma and needing to write to process. I couldn't handle missing more than a day or two, and here I am thinking, "I don't even remember what my last post was about." Strange, yeah?

I could write about a lot of things, but I have no clue where I'm going with this. I just need to process some feelings, and it will be a surprise even to me at what spills out right here.

This week has been very hard. I won't go into detail because there are some things going on that we don't want to make public (not specifically related to addiction). So anyway, this week has been very hard. I feel drained. Then, something happened this weekend that pushed me over the edge. This something is related to a support group for the addiction, which is why I'm writing about it here. Because this is my place to be vulnerable and process things like that.

I thought I was fine. I thought I allowed myself to grieve and process it as I talked about it to a handful of my tribe. But, it's still here. I still feel the pain. The problem is, I always try to push my feelings away. I think I'm doing good by talking it out, but I don't do all the things I can feel my spirit and body wanting me to do. I try to rush myself through the process, and I don't think emotions are actually something that can be rushed. Whenever I rush them, they just come back stronger than before. And that's how I'm feeling this morning. I've been running for weeks, and everything has just come to head with this final thing that topped off my week, and my body is telling me to slow down and let myself feel.

This morning, I feel light headed. I feel like I might pass out. I feel like my breathing isn't right. I keep having to stop and do mindful breathing. I don't feel like I am fully present. I feel fear. I feel anxious. My muscles are tight--in my legs, my back, my neck, and my shoulders. The muscles in my face feel tight, too.

Sometimes I put too much weight on validation from outside sources, and I don't validate myself enough. I may not validate myself if I'm not validated by others. Questions like Am I overreacting? Should I feel this way? hurt my spirit because my spirit is saying, "Hey, I am hurting. Please acknowledge me, please let me feel this way." But if someone says, "Kilee, you are overreacting," then I shove my emotions back, and then my spirit hurts even more.

So today, I am practicing mindfulness (something I've been imperfectly working on over the past month). I am recognizing the signs my body is giving me that I am not okay. And I am trying to let myself be not okay. I am taking measures to allow myself to feel and process, and I will allow myself to move on when my spirit feels acknowledged and ready to move on.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Here's to marriage counseling! And a list of questions to ask if your counselor is not a CSAT.

We finally started marriage counseling. We've needed to for a long time, but we haven't been able to make it a financial priority. In fact, I met with our bishop a few weeks ago to discuss some things I've been struggling with, and when he learned that we've never done marriage counseling because of the cost on top of our individual counseling, he asked if he could please help us out so we can work on our marriage in a therapy setting. He, of course, wanted us to start with LDS Family Services. I agreed because I didn't want to be picky if he is helping us out. My motto is to give it a shot and evaluate how it goes. Plus, I think both Ben and I are well-versed enough in recovery that we could both easily recognize bad/damaging advice from a counselor.

I was wary, though, because I haven't really heard of anyone having good experiences at LDSFS with this kind of stuff. Plus, when we lived in Texas, I went through LDSFS to find a counselor, and it ended up being a not-so-good experience. However, I didn't want to completely write off all LDSFS counselors because of that. Instead, I did a lot of thinking and decided to come up with a list of questions to ask our counselor--an interview of sorts. If the counselor "passed", we would proceed. If there were any red flags, we would not proceed.

When we went to our first session, I fully intended on asking the questions, but I ended up just feeling things out through our discussion and saved my questions for the second session. I scanned her office and found she had lots of good books relating to pornography addiction and betrayal trauma, so she earned points there. We had an overall good experience during our first session, and she seemed well versed in how pornography/sex addiction can affect the family and the marital relationship, so we decided to continue giving her a shot.

Here is my list of questions:
  • What kind of experience/training/certification do you have treating sex addiction?
  • How do you believe pornography can affect the family?
  • Do you believe pornography use can be classified as an addiction?
  • Do you believe wives have an obligation to provide sex for their spouses?
  • Do you believe more marital sex can help a strengthen a relationship when one of the spouses is a porn/sex addict?
  • Do you believe masturbation can be addictive?
  • What do you think the addict needs as part of recovery?
  • What do you think the spouse needs as part of recovery?
  • How do you define recovery and measure success in treating porn addicts? In spouses of porn addicts?
  • What's your view on betrayal trauma as it relates to porn/sex addiction?
  • What kinds of things do you believe the addict should disclose to the spouse?
  • What do you believe is considered as a slip/relapse?
  • What is your experience or belief as it relates to codependency vs trauma?
(Questions based on this blog post, SA Lifeline's website, and my own experience and preference.)

Because of info I gleaned from our first session, I didn't actually ask all of these questions. But based on her answers and the overall information I gathered from her, we have decided to keep pressing forward with this particular therapist. 

We are in somewhat of a tricky position right now because Ben has been sober for over a year (woohoo!), so while the addiction is certainly a consideration in our marriage and plays a huge role in our background and the issues we have, there is actually much more than the active addiction at play. Our marriage isn't struggling because he is constantly acting out anymore. Our marriage is struggling because of the consequences of his actions in our marriage and the coping mechanisms and habits we have both developed because of that. While we have come SO FAR over the years, especially over the past year while working on this without a marriage therapist, there is still much work to do. AND I know it's not all him. For a long time, I blamed him for everything. Because it was easy. Because I was tired. Because I was hurting. I did and said things in the not-most-healthy way because of my reaction to his constant acting out and addiction cycle. And that has been a hard thing to break out of. We are stuck in a cycle that we don't want to be in. And we are ready to break free. Together. We have been working against each other for so long--neither of us showing enough compassion or empathy because we are both hurting in our own ways--and we are finally coming together as a team. 

I'll admit I've been struggling a lot since the birth of our second child (she is five months old). We have gone through cycles of things being really good and things being really hard. And, (I think this is normal...) because we have had a tiny baby who is so dependent, and a toddler who was adjusting (he's adjusted really great), we really haven't been able to focus on us. We have dedicated our energy towards the day to day nitty gritty, and during that time, we have both withdrawn to an extent. This time also solicited emotions in me from when he was acting out after the birth of our first child, and I've gone through cycles of battling my emotions and trying to figure out what is going on inside me. 

We don't want a divorce. And now that he has been sober for over a year, things are leveling out. And I feel like we can work together to create something amazing. So that's what we are doing. I've been turning to God more (something I've also struggled with over the past 5ish months as I've struggled with more trials than I write about on here), and trying to let His love envelope me and help me learn to love better. I've been working on a lot of ways to improve myself, and I plan to continue doing just that. 

So, here's to marriage counseling! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Discovering who we are

I haven't written in months. This is by far the longest stretch, and it's weird. I had thought about just letting this space go because, for many reasons, I just don't seem to need it as much anymore. But I love this space. It's a part of who I am, and I don't want to let it go because 1. all of you who read this, and 2. I may need it in the future. Who knows when the addiction will rear its ugly head again.

I'm grateful for the growth and healing I've achieved here. I'm grateful for the support of everyone who follows my blog. Right now, I'm wrapped up in figuring out how to balance my two little ones with the rest of my life.

We are finally in a place where I am learning what our life can be like without the addiction. I guess not entirely without the addiction because it is still very real, and there are still consequences and trauma I face and work to move past. But, Ben is about 11 months sober, and now that the day-to-day acting out is in the past, we are both able to dig deeper to work on our relationship.

I'm no longer in the "everything is your fault because you are an addict" place. I'm working on dealing with my emotions and trying to see him as a person, husband, and father rather than my enemy. I hate saying that out loud, but there really have been times where he was Public Enemy #1 for me. It was such a hard place to be because I loved him and saw his potential, but I also hated a lot of the feelings I had towards him because of the addiction.

We have both changed a lot in the almost-7-years that we've been married, and right now we are getting to know each other again. We are discovering who we are as individuals and a couple. And we are working on building and strengthening our family unit as well.

I *hope* I can say the addiction is behind us. But I know it's still too early. I can't fully let go yet. And I'm not sure that he can either. It's still a daily battle in some ways. But we are making progress, and that progress is good.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We are meant to find joy

It's been a while. Every once in a while, I get the urge to write, but it's usually too sensitive and personal so I keep it in my journal. But today, I started writing in my journal and was led back here to finish some of my thoughts.

I've been struggling. My pregnancy is HARD. Being a mom is hard. Being a pregnant mom to a toddler is hard. I could go on, but let's just sum it up and say things are hard. Life is hard.

I hurt my back a couple months ago, and it's made my pregnancy and everything else that much more difficult. I started physical therapy, which has been really great for me and has helped me be much more capable than I was after I hurt my back. But my back is still a problem and will continue to be for a long time.

Ben has been also struggling with his own things, and together, I feel like we are kind of a mess. Not in a really bad way, but we are both just being refined at the same time. And that makes it a little hard to lean on each other because we are both so drained in so many ways.

A couple days ago, I had a huge emotional breakdown. Part of it was the fact that it was midnight, and I was extremely tired after a long day of watching two of my nieces (so I had a 3, 2, and 1 yr old for 10 hours, which wasn't terrible, but it was just exhausting at almost 29 weeks pregnant). Part of it was simply hormones. But a lot of it had to do with being stretched way too thin and not taking time to back up and do some self-care. I get so busy caring for everyone else around me that sometimes I forget to take care of myself. I think I need to be (and honestly, who doesn't want to be) supermom, superwife, superwoman ALL. THE. TIME. So I go, go, go, and I forget to slow down and just breathe for myself.

For a long time, I have felt a little out of place in this "wopa-land" because I'm not in immediate trauma, and overall things are going really well. Ben and I are communicating well for the most part, and we are both making tons of individual progress with our counselors, which is helping us make progress in our marriage. I'm really happy. Happier than I have been in a very long time. And I just want to soak up that happiness, but life keeps throwing hard things at us, so I have been fluctuating between feeling happy, wanting to feel happy, and feeling stressed out, anxious, and not really knowing where to turn.

Ben hasn't acted out recently, and I feel like for the first time, he is in real, true recovery. Things are coming together in ways they haven't before, and I just feel so blessed to have him as my spouse and the father of my children. But, I have been feeling like I'm in a place of trauma because in a way we are at a d-day anniversary. What I mean by that is, during this time of my first pregnancy, things were really hard. He had started acting out again about two years ago (almost to the day, so at that point in that pregnancy, I was somewhere around 20ish weeks), and it started a cycle that got increasingly worse through the pregnancy. Towards the end, it got better. But then it got bad again after our son was born, and things were really scary and hard. So, maybe it's the fact that it's September (a month that has been ruined several times over the years, but especially during that pregnancy), or maybe it's the fact that it's that time during my pregnancy when things got really hard, but I'm having trauma flashbacks that I'm having to deal with. I'm experiencing anxiety and reliving pain, and I'm trying not to let fear get the best of me. 

Someone suggested to me that maybe I didn't take the time to process or feel those things at the time they happened, and so maybe that's why I'm struggling now. That may be true to an extent because I remember a lot of the end of my pregnancy and then being a new mom was spent in survival mode. But I do think I processed and felt too. I think it's normal to experience this type of flashback after a lot of pain, and I just have to figure out how to honor and process through it without letting it overtake me.

So a couple days ago, I had that huge emotional breakdown. It led me to feel a lot of shame because of the way I treated Ben that night, but I also spiraled down into a dark place of self-hatred. Which, in turn, led me to feel and almost believe that everyone hates me, that I don't have any friends who really care about me, that my family doesn't even care about me, and Ben especially hates me, and I'm not worthy of love. I felt inadequate in all areas of my life, and I felt so alone.

While I was being mean (or, in a gentler tone, while I was hurting and feeling like I was dying inside), I asked Ben to sleep on the couch. Because my brain was telling me that he hated me, and I didn't want him near me if he hated me. But after he left and I cried for a while, I was pleading for help and felt like I just needed to go out and get him, wake him up, and talk to him. He was nice and as compassionate as one can be at midnight when your pregnant wife is having an emotional breakdown. Then yesterday we both had some space and did some self-care, and we both feel better.

Anyway, now that I'm more calm and thinking more clearly, I've been writing to process and de-junk the rest of my brain. And I've been thinking about that night and how dark I felt. I don't want to feel that way. I don't like feeling that way, and I don't like the lies that Satan can so easily feed us when we start spiraling. Here's the real thing: God doesn't want us to feel that way either. I've been making more of an effort to turn to God every day. I'm not perfect, and it's much harder than it used to be when I was a blissful college student who made the goal to turn to God first every day before starting on homework. It was easy. It's not quite so easy anymore. But I've been trying. I try to pray, I try to study my scriptures or a conference talk daily, and I've been writing more. Writing helps me process and soak in what I've read.

As I'm making more of an effort to reach out to God, I see and feel Him more often. Sometimes I feel so alone, but it's not because God is leaving me alone. It's because the pavilion of pain I'm stuck behind is preventing me from seeing Him. But when I try to get around that pavilion, I find Him. Sometimes it takes longer to find Him that others, but I'm trying to be less angry about that and more accepting of life in general. Life isn't meant to be easy. But we are meant to find joy anyway.

That's something I'm trying to keep in mind. It takes effort, but if I want to find that true joy and keep it with me on a regular basis, the effort is something I'm willing to give.

I just want all of you to know that you aren't alone either. You have God. You have me. And if you open up and shame-bust to trusted people, you will find that they feel a lot of the same things you do too. Because we are all human. If you feel that you are suffering alone, reach out. That's the best way to break through the darkness. Satan wants you to feel alone, and he is good at his methods. But with God, we are never alone. And if He can't reach us, He will send others who can.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Life happens

It's been a very long time since a blogged. Possibly the longest hiatus I've had...

I'll start by shouting, "Hey, I'm pregnant!" [Almost 18 weeks along.] One of the last blog posts I wrote was about us starting to try for child number two. Well, things truly happen on God's timing. I wasn't anticipating becoming pregnant right away, but it happened. Which really just goes to show me that all the promptings and feelings I had that the time is right were important to listen to. And I like to think that this child of God is a strong spirit, ready to come to this world. We are so excited! [And I'll add a side note that while we were trying for three years for number one, that didn't mean the timing was any less important than this one. We felt very strongly that we needed to be trying, and it was definitely a growing experience. If anything, I've learned to be patient with God and trust in His plan, no matter if it seems different than what my plan is.]

The past few months have been very trying. At the beginning of my pregnancy was my husband's last relapse. It was difficult to take that leap of faith and start trying again only to have the addiction rear it's ugly head. Talk about hormones. Then there was the severe morning sickness that seemed to never end (the barfing has finally stopped, thank goodness. Nausea still there, but it's getting better!). And taking care of an active toddler during pregnancy is really something special. Haha. I'm learning to live in the moment and not stress too much. This pregnancy is really beautiful, as is this short time I have with only one child.

Through feeling sick and overwhelmed much of the past few months, I really haven't done a great job at doing my "dailies"--namely scripture study and prayer. It's not that I don't want to take those moments to bring the Spirit into my heart; it's just been difficult. When I feel stretched too thin, I just want some space for myself. I've been binge-reading the Harry Potter series during spare moments of time, which has been lovely but also taken away from other things I could or possibly should be doing.

Yesterday I decided to take time every day to study my scriptures and ponder, Even if it's a brief ten minutes. I've learned over the past few months that I need this spiritual renewal every day. When I go longer stretches without studying or praying, I really feel the impact it has on my daily life. I'm much less patient and feel far more overwhelmed with everything. On the other hand, when I keep Christ an active part of my day, I feel less stressed and more capable, peaceful, and whole.

I decided to start the Book of Mormon again, and I came across one of my favorite verses:

". . . But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." --1 Nephi 1:20 

These words really spoke to me today as I was reminded of all the hard things Nephi's family went through. I've read the Book of Mormon countless times, so I know what's coming. This verse had a profound impact on me as I thought about how his family fled Jerusalem and lived in the wilderness for years. His mother even gave birth to two children while they lived in the wilderness. Nephi himself was bullied by his older brothers. And they were asked to sacrifice and give much of themselves during all this time. Nephi is abridging his father's words, so he wrote these words about tender mercies after all they had suffered.

I was reminded that life happens. It just does. Hard things happen because of other people's agency affecting our lives. And hard things happen just because it's a part of the process we experience to grow and potentially become our best selves and live with God again. But no matter the hard things or why they happen, the important thing is that God is always there. He is always watching over us and giving us "tender mercies." We just have to keep our eyes peeled and never forget that we are not alone.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake"

I was not going to write about this because of a few reasons that are very personal, but I had a powerful spiritual experience tonight prompting me to write about my week.

Ben has been out of town. Normally, when he goes out of town I get bitter and angry, which I think has to do with insecure attachment, triggers, and trauma. However, this time was different. I didn't feel that same anger or bitterness. I just accepted it and was determined to make it a good week.

Of course, that went to pot on Tuesday. I should've known the more I accept things, the more I will be challenged.

Tuesday night I found out Ben had relapsed. This hit me harder than I actually thought it would.

For one thing, we are experiencing a trial that we haven't experienced before: He is currently not allowed to exercise the priesthood. At all. Not even in the home (in the past, when he has been asked not to exercise the priesthood, he has been encouraged to still exercise the priesthood in the home). I can't remember when this happened, but it's been months. And I feel like our family has suffered from not being able to have Ben exercise the priesthood. For reasons I don't really want to explain right now, it's hard for me to reach out and ask someone else for a priesthood blessing, for either me or the little guy. I do when I feel like it's really super necessary, but if I think, "Well, maybe I'll pass this time," (which I have been thinking way more than I used to since I can't actually ask the man in my home), it turns into a lot of opportunities passed on.

Our bishop set certain dates/goals for Ben to help him work full activity in the church again. This Sunday (like, in two days) was supposed to be the one where if he could remain sober till this Sunday, he could start partaking of the sacrament again. He was so close. So close! And he next mark (I can't remember the spacing though) was for Priesthood, and the next one for the temple. I was way more devastated by the fact that this was a setback in him being able to exercise the priesthood again than by the details of acting out.

Anyway, it took a few hours to sink in. But then, when it did, I was a mess. A MESS. I reached out to my bishop, who happens to live across the street, asking for a blessing (I'm not sure I would have reached out to our home teachers in this circumstance, but I didn't have that option anyway because I have no clue who they are). It was pretty late, 10:00, so I decided if I had no response by 10:15, I would just go to bed. At 10:15, I had no response, so I sent him another text saying I was going to bed and not to worry about it.

That night, Baby Boy slept terribly. When he woke up at 12:15, I managed to get him back to sleep fairly quickly, but when he woke up at 4:30, all hell broke loose. No joke. We both spent much of the next two hours crying. And then two more hours crying/drugging ourselves with Mother Goose Club.

I asked God for strength to deal with it. But when I felt that strength waning and Satan starting to take over, I started begging, pleading with God to just let me get this kid to sleep. He needed sleep, I surely needed sleep. And I felt like I just knew that if I prayed/begged/pleaded enough, He would intervene. At 8:30, baby fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, and I did not feel like it was an answer to prayer. I felt bitter, angry, and violent (I did not do anything violent other than punch a wall. But I'm sure you have felt violent anger before...), and I felt like I was just an inch away from Satan taking complete control over me.

I didn't understand why God had abandoned me. Maybe He didn't, and when the kid fell asleep it was because of divine intervention. I didn't feel that way, though. I felt like I had done everything I could, and here I was with a fresh disclosure weighing me down and a child who wouldn't sleep (and I had been sick, so generally tired anyway). I felt like I knew my own limitations, and when I prayed for strength, I was doing okay. But when the strength faded and I prayed for sleep, I needed that help right then. Why it took two more hours for that prayer to be answered, I don't know. But I felt abandoned. I felt on the verge of Satan taking over, and I didn't understand why God had let it go that far when so much pain could have been avoided if He had helped when I called out.

And then, my bishop never reached out to me. He knew about the disclosure, and he knew Ben was out of town. I just thought, surely he would reach out to me to check on me and make sure I was okay after the text I had sent him the night before. And I thought, if God loves me, He will prompt my bishop to come visit with me. But nothing. He has told us multiple times to reach out to him any time, and many times, our reaching out has gone completely unanswered. So, that felt like yet another way I was abandoned by God. I was too hurt to reach out to him again.

Some other ridiculously stupid stuff happened on Wednesday that made me feel like the day was just hilariously terrible (but I was smiling by the end of the day), and I had worked through my feelings so I no longer felt bitter, angry, or abandoned. Confused, yes, but okay. I seriously went through a period of thinking I should just go inactive because maybe the bishop would pay more attention if I was an inactive member of the ward who reached out.  I also considered this option just out of pure spite. But, in the end, I knew that would be a poor choice and I just tried to accept the week's happenings and move on with my life.

Yesterday (Thursday), so many things happened that showed me God had not abandoned me. I just felt strong, capable, and loved. I sent up a lot of prayers of gratitude.

But what happened tonight is the sole purpose of everything else I have written.

This week has been exhausting, to say the least. Beautiful, but exhausting. Tonight, I got the little one in bed and sat on the couch wondering what to do first. I had promised myself earlier in the day that I WOULD do gospel study tonight, but the time came and I just felt so exhausted that all I wanted to do was veg. But, I chose to read a talk from general conference entitled "I Am A Child of God" by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom (read it here). I didn't get to pay enough attention to conference last weekend, so I've been studying the talks throughout the week. And this one, well, this was perfectly timed to come across today.

Words cannot even describe how beautiful this talk is. I highly encourage everyone to study it and let the Spirit speak to you in whatever way you need. But I want to share a couple quotes that particularly spoke to me:

In real life, we face actual, not imagined, hardships. There is pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated. There is injustice when we do not seem to deserve our situation. There are disappointments when someone we trusted failed us. There are health and financial setbacks that can be disorienting. There may be times of question when a matter of doctrine or history is beyond our current understanding.
When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or others for our circumstances? Or is our first response to remember who we are—that we are children of a loving God? Is that coupled with an absolute trust that He allows some earthly suffering because He knows it will bless us, like a refiner’s fire, to become like Him and to gain our eternal inheritance?
Recently, I was in a meeting with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In teaching the principle that mortal life can be agonizing but our hardships have eternal purpose—even if we do not understand it at the time—Elder Holland said, “You can have what you want, or you can have something better.”

and the last verse of "How Firm a Foundation"

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

These words spoke to me. They reminded me that I cannot see all, but God can. I don't know why I'm going through all the trials I am right now (there are more than I have just written about). Sometimes I feel like I am suffering so much in so many different ways, and I wonder why I can't just have a "normal" life--whatever that is. Why do I have to keep trying so hard all the time? Why can't I just have some my husband could go out of town, sure, but even if he had to relapse, couldn't I just have a baby who slept through the night he relapsed instead of waking up and being crazy when I'm exhausted and in trauma? Can't I catch a break?

But the reality is, after the 24 hours where pretty much everything went wrong, I had chosen God's path. And I felt peace and the knowledge that things were okay even though I didn't understand why I was experiencing what I did. And, two days after that first 24 hours, I have seen so much more light. We truly can't experience the light until we have experienced the darkness. I caught myself expressing gratitude for my trials on Wednesday. I didn't even know why I felt grateful, but I knew there had to be a divine purpose. There is. There always is.