Thursday, January 31, 2013

Step 1: Honesty (Part 2/4)

Key Principle: Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

Remember, you can substitute the word "addiction" for whatever you are struggling with. I use words like anger, weakness, anxiety, fear, and stress.

The Addiction Recovery guidebook is divided into the 12 steps. I call each step a chapter. In each chapter, there are three sections: the informational and inspiring section (I chose that name. It doesn't really have a title for that section. It starts with the key principle, though), the action steps, and the study and understanding. My Step 1 Part 1 post was more about the informational and inspiring section. That section is what motivates me to keep going.

Step 1 has three action steps.
1. Become willing to abstain.
2. Let go of pride and seek humility.
3. Admit the problem; seek help; attend meetings.

Then, the study and understanding section has scriptures, quotes, and deep, thought-provoking questions to help you study and understand how to apply the step to your life.

Become willing to abstain
Did I publicly say that my biggest "addiction" was anger? If not, there you go. Anger is what I struggled with the most. I treated anger as an addiction. Anger is very addictive. I needed to become willing to try to give up my anger. Step one isn't about overcoming it all. It's simply about admitting the need for help and trying to become willing to give up your weakness. If you're like me and you constantly try to control the situation, get angry about everything, have a secret love for getting angry even though it makes you feel miserable, and possibly want to make your spouse suffer because you are suffering, my heart goes out to you. Even if that is not your case, I'm sure there are equally as hard emotions to suffer with, and my heart still goes out to you. All you need is a particle of the desire to overcome that, and God will help that particle grow.

"The only requirement to begin recovery is the desire to stop participating in the addiction. If your desire is small and inconsistent today, don't worry. It will grow!" (pg 1, Addiction Recovery Guide).  Someone emailed me and asked me if I thought I held on to my anger for so long because if I forgave it meant that I would be stuck with an addicted husband for the rest of my life. I want to share with you what I told that person. Yes I was afraid of being stuck with an addictive husband, but there was also so much more. I wasn't just afraid of being stuck with an addictive husband. I had no hope that it would get better, and that is what scared me. I was afraid that I would enter the celestial kingdom alone because he would not be able to enter with me. That is still one of my biggest fears. I don't want to be alone for eternity.

I kind of waffled back and forth on forgiveness and overcoming my anger. I wanted to forgive him, but there were times that I wasn't ready or felt like he didn't deserve it. I can go on and on about forgiveness, and if any of you are interested, shoot me an email and I can write a whole blog post about it or just answer specific questions. But anyway, the point is that there were times that I thought it would be so easy to start over. Meaning, I was not pregnant, hadn't been married for very long, and the thought of divorce was very appealing at times. I was (still am) young, and I'm sure I could find another husband. But I didn't want to give up. And this program gave me the little hope and starting motivation that things could get better. I didn't start out with tons of hope. I had the small desire to forgive and maintain my marriage. It wasn't always consistent (it is more-so now though :D I LOVE my husband and know we can make it through anything!!), but it did grow over time. After all the spiritual confirmation I had to marry him, it would have been so dumb to throw that away. God granted me strength to make it through the hardest part of that trial, along with the many other trials that hit me at the same time.

I prayed a lot that God would help me see the potential my marriage had, and He blessed me with strength. I consider myself very blessed that my husband is doing as well as he is in his recovery. I know women who haven't been able to attend the temple with their husband for years. I know women whose husbands were excommunicated and are working their way back into the church. I know many women who haven't given up on their marriages, despite how hard it is. But I also know women who are going through divorce. I'm so grateful that those trials are not hitting me, at least not right now, and I hope they never do. Maybe it will be years before I can go back to the temple with my husband. At least he is making progress, and so is our marriage.

The verses in Alma 13: 28-29 give me so much hope. It tells me what to do and blessings I will receive. If I am humble and call upon God, watch, pray that I will not be tempted above what I can bear, and follow the Spirit, I will be blessed with strength to handle all things. If I have faith and love in my heart, I will be lifted up in the last day. I've learned that we are given tough situations and maybe they are above what we can bear, but God doesn't leave us alone. He gives us strength so that we can bear it.

During all the times that I was severely depressed, I was given strength. All the times I felt like giving up, I was given strength. And when my hope and desire to change my attitude or overcome my weaknesses was so small, God took that pain and carried it for me so I could have strength to hold on and grow.

If you are in the beginning stages of recovery right now, all you need to do is become willing to abstain. Don't get stressed out. Take things one day at a time. Live each day a little closer to God, and He will help pick up the slack. All things will work out for our good if we are faithful.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Great Thou Art

Hymns inspire me. Well, I just love music in general. But I especially love hymns because of their messages. And because hymns beautifully put to words things I feel. And singing brings me joy.

My favorite hymns are:

I Need Thee Every Hour
I Stand All Amazed
Jesus Lover of My Soul
Be Still My Soul
Reverently and Meekly Now
How Great Thou Art
I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Do you see a recurring theme? Most of my favorite hymns are about the Atonement or are humbling.
My most favorite hymn is How Great Thou Art.
I want to share the words with you today.

Oh Lord, my God
When I, in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made.
I see the stars.
I hear the rolling thunder.
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Then sings my soul, 
My Savior, God, to thee
How great thou art
How great thou art.
Then sings my soul,
My Savior, God, to thee.
How great thou art.
How great thou art.

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, 
My Savior, God, to thee
How great thou art
How great thou art.
Then sings my soul,
My Savior, God, to thee.
How great thou art.
How great thou art.

 And when I think
That God, His son not sparing,
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, 
My burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died
To take away my sins

Then sings my soul, 
My Savior, God, to thee
How great thou art
How great thou art.
Then sings my soul,
My Savior, God, to thee.
How great thou art.
How great thou art.

When Christ shall come
With shouts of acclamation
To take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
"My God, how great thou art!"

Then sings my soul, 
My Savior, God, to thee
How great thou art
How great thou art.
Then sings my soul,
My Savior, God, to thee.
How great thou art.
How great thou art.

Alex Boye (the song is at the end of the video. There is other Jesus stuff first, which is fabulous too) definitely sings my favorite version, followed by Carrie Underwood.

This hymn perfectly describes my love and awe for God and helps me in time of need.

Also, if you are in an inspiring music mood, listen to these songs by Hilary Weeks: He'll Carry You, Living Proof, Beautiful Heartbreak, and/or Danced in the Rain. Listen to the words. Let them eat up your soul. Hopefully it will help you feel God. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Step 1: Honesty (Part 1/4)

It's normal to be angry. If you have been hurt by someone, anger is a normal emotion. Anger is also a masking emotion, as I have come to find out. Anger is an easy emotion to hide behind. What are you really feeling? Is it anger? Probably not just anger. In my case, my emotions were hurt, stress, sadness, anxiety, fear, and yes, anger. I felt weak. I felt powerless. All of those emotions were bottled up. I tried to suck it up for my husband because I didn't want my emotions to make him act out in his addictive behaviors. I wanted to be brave, and I wanted to be strong. I felt like emotion was weakness. But, keeping those emotions locked up caused them to explode. And when I say explode, I mean EXPLODE. I can't remember what my specific behaviors were, but I remember how I felt. I felt like Satan had taken hold of me and wouldn't let me go. I felt like I was drowning in the depths of despair gasping for breath. I stupidly thought the only thing that could help me was to be angry. Then, the more angry I was, the more lost in darkness I became, and I couldn't find my way out. I felt like the anger had bottled up so much inside me, that it would explode and kill me inside. Then, when I would recover from the explosion, I would feel so bad for how I acted, that I would bottle it all up inside me again. And then it would explode. Again. That was a cycle I went through for months.

When I realized that my anger was completely uncontrollable, I knew I had a BIG problem. Priesthood blessings helped. I distinctly remember the peace I felt when I was told in a blessing that God understood how I felt. He understood how I felt that Satan had taken hold of me and I couldn't find my way out. And He promised that if I turned to Him, I would be able to overcome my anger in time.

The Key Principle for Step 1 is "Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable."

Admitting that could make you angry. Realizing that you need help and that this is out of your control could make you so angry. Or maybe not angry. Maybe you're not an angry person. I felt relief when my husband finally wanted to get help. Most of my anger was dedicated to him, but I had such relief when he finally said we needed to go to support group meetings.

I felt kind of cautious too. I came into this circle of women who were laughing and talking with one another, and it amazed me. How could all these women, who are probably experiencing what I am experiencing, seem so happy? When I went to my first group meeting, they were actually on Step 2, which is called Hope. And that was exactly what I needed that day. Hope that my life would come back together. Hope that we would have a celestial marriage one day.

Step 1 is crucial. I had to be honest about a lot of things. For me, the biggest part of honesty was admitting that my marriage wasn't the fairy tale I wanted it to be. It wasn't as happy as I thought it was, and a lot of bad things had happened behind my back during our first 6 months of marriage. It was hard to admit that. It was hard to admit that we needed God's help. And it was kind of a slap in the face to realize that without God's help, our marriage was becoming nasty. And it wouldn't get better.

Step 1 also helped me understand my husband a little better. You see, he also had to experience Step 1 when he started recovery. After all the years he had tried to conquer his addiction on his own, he finally had to admit that he needed help from God. Can you imagine having an addiction for 13 years, trying to manage it, denying that it really was that bad, messing up your marriage really bad, and then finally, after years of heartache, having to admit to someone (wife, who you love and don't want to hurt) and God that you need help? That must have been so hard.

Here are a few quotes that I love from this chapter, and they really opened my eyes.

"Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will." My husband's will was to overcome this. He really did want to give up his addiction. But he couldn't because of the chemical things that happen in the brain and the sexual stimulants his brain had produced to deal with his own stressors. I couldn't blame him for his addiction. It was out of his control, and his will had already been compromised years ago.

"As our powerlessness over our addiction increased, many of us found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and even God. We plunged into greater and greater isolation, separating ourselves from others, especially from God." This struck me for two reasons. One was that I realized I was isolating myself from friends and family members. Especially my husband. I was turning away from everyone around me, and as I was doing so, I was also turning away from God. I didn't know who to trust. I had some serious trust issues with God for giving me this trial. The second reason this struck me was that I realized that was also what my husband was doing. He was isolating himself. As we isolated ourselves from each other--we, who had been inseparable best friends for months before we were married--we were ruining what little emotional and physical intimacy we had left.

"We realized how much our addictions had damaged relationships and robbed us of any sense of self worth." For me, addiction meant anger, anxiety, etc. (all those negative emotions I had become addicted to). And, yes, they had damaged the most important relationships to me: my relationship with deity and my relationship with my husband. And, yes, I didn't have a whole lot of self-worth. Association with a pornography addiction can do that to you. But, I also realized that the addiction was taking an even larger toll on my husband in this same way, and that he had been feeling that way for years.

Step 1 really helped open my eyes to many things. And it helped me start unifying myself with my husband so we could be a team fighting against Satan and trying to save our marriage.

Monday, January 28, 2013

1 Nephi 10:6

"Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this redeemer."

I did not want to study my scriptures today. Well, I did, until I came in my room to study them. And then I didn't know what to study, and I just flat out lost the desire to study. I have been feeling sorry for myself because of some bad news I received today on top of everything else that is happening in my life right now, and I had a moment of depression. I almost gave up and was ready to tell my family not to talk to me the rest of the night and let my husband handle all the chaos. But then I just decided not to give up and push through my negativity and found this verse jumping out at me.

Do you sometimes forget to be grateful? I do. I want so badly to always remember my Savior. But sometimes, I just forget and get caught up in myself. I think I feel lost and fallen right now (well, five minutes ago). And I felt lost and fallen when I found out about my husband's addiction. And I feel lost and fallen every time I sin. I can't imagine feeling that way for eternity. Really, that would be awful. But guess what? I DON'T HAVE TO FEEL THAT WAY FOR ETERNITY!!! Because a loving Heavenly Father, knowing how hard life would be, and knowing we wouldn't be able to achieve perfection on our own, gave us a Savior. He gave us a Redeemer, and we don't have to be lost and fallen if we rely on Him.

What a beautiful promise.

Introduction to the 12 Steps

First, I want to thank my husband for that beautiful post he wrote yesterday. I left the room to call a friend, let him post it, and then I read it. I think it was the perfect completion of our background story. Also, re-experiencing those emotions was both beautiful and sad. I'm sure many of you can relate, whether because of addiction or simply because of a hard trial. Isn't it amazing to reflect back on pain you have felt because of a trial and realize that you made it through? That's the beauty of the Atonement. If you haven't had that experience, or if you are stuck in the darkness and can't find your way out (no matter what the trial), I pray that you will find the light, hope, peace, and healing. And I hope that something I write on here will speak to you and perhaps open the door for you to find Christ. We have found Him and so can you.

Jesus Christ is my Savior. I have always known that, but I hadn't experienced the amazing grace of the Atonement until I went through this experience with my husband. And even though I'm optimistic and know that Christ is my Savior and am learning how to lean on His Atonement, I still have bad days. This healing I am going through is a cycle, as many of you probably know or will come to find out. I have spiritual and emotional highs and lows. Not every day is a good day. But, I have learned that it is my choice. And every day that is a bad day, I consciously make the choice to let it be a bad day. That sounds awful. Who would choose to have a rotten attitude when you can choose a good attitude? Me. Sometimes a woman just needs to have a bad day and be angry :)

But keep in mind that those negative feelings about your self-worth are from Satan. He is miserable, and he wants you to be miserable with him. Sometimes, even after all I have gone through and learned, I go into our bedroom and cry and wonder why me? Why do I feel this way? And is God even helping me, or am I making it up. Then God sends me a tender mercy to remind me that He is there, and He is watching over me. Something I've learned about tender mercies is you have to look out for them or they will slip by unnoticed. Like the puppy that comes and licks me when I am crying. Or the child in the grocery cart in front of me in line that smiles at me. Or my student at school who writes me an anonymous note telling me that I am her favorite and most beautiful teacher. To some, those seem like nice little things. To me, they are a tender mercy from a loving Heavenly Father who is showing me His love through others.

I really am working on having less bad days. I am working on choosing light over darkness, and I am so happy and full of joy most of the time. It hasn't been easy. There is no easy when it comes to this. Well, maybe there will be one day because every day that I choose God over Satan, it gets easier.

Let's talk about the addiction recovery program.

The guidebook that the LDS Addiction Recovery Program uses is called "Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing." The Family Support group is currently using the same guide, but there is supposed to be one specific to family support coming out any day! I guess I don't really know what will happen with my posts when it does come out. I might finish the writing about the 12 steps with the book I am currently using, or maybe I will start over with the new one. I'm not sure. You readers could email me and let me know what you would prefer when that happens! I'll keep you posted on when the family support guidebook finally comes out.

Anyway, what I was going to tell you before we start delving into the guidebook together is that since we use the same book for family support as we do for addiction support, when you read it, keep in mind that it is written for the addict. So, when I come to words like "addiction" I exchange them for what it is that I am struggling with: anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, depression, weakness. But you can look at that however you want. Maybe your first time through, you won't even read it for yourself. Maybe you will read it to get a better understanding of what your loved one is going through or to help your loved one heal. Do whatever works best for you. But I do want to encourage you each to find your own healing because no matter what our trials are, we all need to find healing and peace.

The Addiction Recovery Guide was "written with support from Church leaders and counseling professionals by those who have suffered from addiction and who have experienced the miracle of recovery through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." It's written in a way that makes you feel part of something. It uses the term "we" a lot, which I personally love because it is a reminder that many have gone through what you are going through, and together, you can get through it.

The introduction is really awesome. It gives a good base to the guide, and it was a great source of hope to get me started.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the power of the Savior turn our most devastating defeats into glorious spiritual victories. We who once lived with daily depression, anxiety, fear, and debilitating anger now experience joy and peace. We have witnessed miracles in our own lives and in the lives of others who were ensnared in addiction."

"No matter how lost and hopeless you may feel, you are the child of a loving Heavenly Father."

"Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency. It can rob one of the power to decide." 

Are you ready to turn your most devastating defeats into glorious spiritual victories? I know I am! That sentence really gave me just that little bit of extra motivation to start this program.

And it's always nice to hear that I am a child of God. God is the King of the universe. If He is the King, do you know what that makes me? A Princess. Beloved. Beautiful. Divine.

I love that last quote because it opens the door to a little more understanding of what our loved ones are going through. It robbed my husband of the power to decide for quite a long time. It still does. Remember when I said I thought that he could just choose to stop? Well, this is why he can't. His addiction has robbed him of the choice to choose to stop. He can't stop on his own. He tried, and it didn't work. And just like I couldn't stop my anger on my own, he had to turn to God. We had to turn to God together. We had to admit that we could not do this alone. If we hadn't admitted that, we would most definitely not be where we are now.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Special Guest!

I had lots of things I wanted to write about. And I couldn't decide what exactly to write. So, after sitting here, staring at my computer screen, I prayed for God to help me. And the thing that came to my head was, "Ask (husband's name) to write something."

So, here is some special wisdom from my best friend! I wish you guys could see what a charmer he is :)

I still remember vividly the first day I told my wife about my addiction. It was the worst day of my life. I can remember exactly where we were and how hard it was to say. I can remember how hard we both cried, but especially how hard she cried. It still hurts when I think about how much pain I put her through that day, and how much pain I have put her through since.

There have been times where I have imagined killing myself in order to allow her to have a better life...a better husband. But when I told her that, it only caused more pain. For months our marriage was hollow. We fought constantly. Our intimacy decreased significantly. Her anger terrified me at times. I felt as if nothing I did was good enough to satisfy her, and that, in turn, angered me. It was a vicious cycle. There were times when I was tempted to act out in my addiction simply to lash out at her. In short, it's safe to say two things: first of all, we were unhappy. And second, we had no idea how much we needed each other to get through this.

One thing that our bishop emphasized time after time was communication, so we began opening lines of communication with each other. To say it was difficult would be a huge understatement. We were afraid to say things to each other because we didn't want the other to feel hurt. But they needed to be said. I needed to understand just how much she hurt, and she needed to understand what I was going through so she could know how to help. Sometimes tempers would flare and we would say hurtful things to each other. But thinking back now, the worst times I can remember were when we didn't communicate at all.

We read scriptures and prayed together almost every night, even on the nights when we were so mad at each other that we would just read a few verses, say a quick prayer, and then not say another word to each other. Although not ideal, it slowly laid the proper and necessary foundation for the both of us. With time, we grew individually. As we grew individually, we used the communication we had slowly become comfortable with to build each other up. We have traveled a long road together and have learned much. Along with my wife, I can honestly say I am grateful for my addiction. Without it, we would not understand each other the way that we do, emotionally and spiritually. We would not love each other as deeply as we do. And Christ would not have as big of an influence on our marriage as He does.

I am grateful for my dear sweet wife. I was thinking the other day about a couple of girlfriends I had before I met her, and wondered why things didn't work out with them. As I was thinking about it, the Spirit whispered to me that neither of them would be able to endure what my wife has endured the past couple of years. I was struck with how special she is. The difference between who she is now and who she was when we were first married is astounding. I am constantly impressed with her spiritual depth and her closeness to the Savior. She has loved me far beyond what I have deserved and will have a special place reserved in heaven because of it.

Now I just need to make sure I'm there with her :) Not riding on her coattails, but leading her there as a righteous priesthood holder should.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Denial and Timing

We didn't start going to the LDS 12-step addiction recovery program right away. In fact, it wasn't until a little over a year after I found out about my husband's addiction that we went to a meeting for the first time.

I wanted to go right away. After the initial shock, I was completely set on trying to find ways to help my husband. And myself. I don't remember what exactly I googled, but I found the addiction recovery program, and I wanted to go. My husband, on the other hand, did not. He kept saying that it wasn't a big deal, it wasn't as bad as I thought, and that he didn't feel like he needed to go. Well, I was new to this, so even though I saw that there were family support meetings, I didn't feel like I should go without him. So I told him we didn't have to go. I wanted to wait until he was ready and he wanted to go.

Let me clear up something that might be confusing. When I say "family support" or spouse support, or whatever, it's a support group for the friend/family member/spouse/etc. I thought it was a group we went to as spouses to show our support for our loved one with addiction and make them feel supported by their family. And it is that, but it's much more. If you have been hurt by someone's addiction, that is normal. That is okay. And there are groups out there to support you. To help you recover. And that is what I am talking about when I say "family support." If I had understood that, I might have just started going without him, which could have been really helpful to us.

I started my last post by saying that I was in denial of my husband's addiction. Well, he was also in denial. He really was against going to addiction recovery meetings because he didn't fully consider himself an addict. Or maybe he just didn't consider himself an addict enough to go to recovery meetings. He thought he could do it on his own. He thought he could recover on his own and that somehow this would all just go in our past and maybe we could laugh about it in the future. I sincerely hope that happens.

I couldn't force him out of his denial. I didn't even understand what he was going through. When he said he was fine, I wanted to believe him. When he promised he was stopping, I wanted so badly to believe him. But I couldn't force him to go. I couldn't shake him and shout, "No! You are not recovering and so we have to go to this recovery program!" I couldn't do that. But I am grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord that led us to the program when the time was right. I've learned that you can't rush these things. Oh, you want to so badly. You want to do everything in your power to shake your addicted loved one into soberness and recovery. You want to do everything you can to take whatever control you can get because if you are in control, things will happen the way you want them to. But you can't get control. God has control, and He has a plan. Yes, He has a plan, even in the recovery of one's addiction. I can tell you right now that we would have had a much different experience had we started the addiction recovery program sooner--not that our experience wouldn't have been good. But I feel like the timing of things has been perfect for us.

When the timing was right, my husband was humble enough to admit that help was needed. And I was grateful and willing to accompany him to meetings, attend my support group while he attended his, talk about what we learned after, and help hold him accountable for his actions. We're still in recovery. But the place we are in recovery is very different from where we were one year ago. We have made so much progress! It really excites me! Because one year ago, we didn't have very much hope. I wanted to hope, and had a slim hope, that we would be free of the chains of addiction. And that our marriage would survive this. But now I know that we will be free of this one day, as long as we are faithful. As long as we remain true to God and do what He wants us to do, He will help us be free of this bondage when we have been refined enough from this trial.

In my last post, I talked about my theory about two types of trials. Some of you may have been thinking, um, hello, a pornography addiction is definitely the first type (where you suffer as the result of someone's agency). And that is true. My pain is a direct result of my husband's use of agency. BUT--at the young age when he became addicted, he did not understand the consequences. We often don't fully understand the consequences. But a 12 or 13 year old boy really doesn't understand the consequences of looking at that first pornographic image or video. But, that's not all. The other type of trial, the trial that is because God wants to test you, also applies in this situation. The reason why I believe this is that type of trial is because my husband has done so much to rid himself of this addiction. He even cleaned up more than a year before serving his mission, served a great mission for the Lord, and returned honorably. He thought he was free. But it kept coming back. And when we got married, he thought he had freed himself already. But it kept coming back. And last year, he thought he had sobered up, but it came back again. He really tries so hard to be a faithful servant, but he hasn't been able to really become free of this addiction yet. He still has refining to do. He has learning and becoming to do. And as for me. . . well, I didn't choose this. This was not on my checklist of things that would make my happily ever after. But I'm getting through it. And I'm realizing the strength that God is helping me gain every day.

So, yeah, I know that we will be free of this one day, as long as we continue to be faithful. No matter how hard it gets, I have learned to turn to the Lord and see things with an eternal perspective. I trust Him, and I know that He will not let me down as long as I keep my covenants and serve Him to the end.

**Note: Even if my husband was not in recovery mode, I firmly believe that I would still be healing. Because it's really not about my husband recovering. It's about my relationship with the Lord. And in my case, I feel extremely blessed that my husband is trying to overcome this. But not everyone is to that point. And not everyone's marriages work out. I wish they did, but some marriages can't survive stuff like this. My hope in sharing this blog is ultimately to share my experiences coming to Christ and understanding the gospel better. And hopefully, whatever you are going through, you (and your spouse, if applicable) will have hope to come unto Christ too.**

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blessings and Beauty

When I first learned about my husband's addiction, I was in denial. I didn't want to admit that this was happening to me. And I fell into one of the falsehoods about addiction. I believed that my husband could just stop if he loved me enough. Doesn't that make sense? If he loved me enough, he could just picture my face and just stop. It should be enough to prevent him from slipping up (again and again), right?

Well, that didn't work. Of course it doesn't work that way! There are so many chemical things going on with the brain of someone who has an addiction. And there are so many triggers, that after 13 years of addiction, they can happen subconsciously.And you can't just stop, no matter how hard you try, and no matter how much you love someone and don't want to hurt them anymore.

I quickly learned that my role as a wife is so much more than I expected. I'm not just a wife (no one is). I'm a supporter, comforter, example, strength, anchor, and much more. And I was no longer the same. At times I was bitterly depressed. Other times I tried to escape and pretend it wasn't happening. I tried to deny the truth. But deep down, I felt like my marriage was falling apart. I felt like my marriage had been a lie. I felt like there was no hope.Then, at times, I felt so bogged down with how much I had to carry, to be the spiritual strength to us both, that I wanted to crawl in a hole and sleep till he was all repented and forgiven and free of this evil.

At some point I realized I had a choice: I could either live to be depressed and blame everything on my husband or try to live to be me, and I am not a depressed or bitter person. So, I chose to try to be me again. I chose to try to trust my husband and be happy and make our marriage work. I had to keep choosing that because he kept slipping up. And lying to me about it. And then came more anger and depression and lack of trust. But by making the choice to trust him, and he knowing he had to earn that trust, eventually the really hard phase passed. (and today, I trust him fully. We have a very open relationship about it. I can happen!)

Granted, I realized that choice after a long time. Until I realized that (and even after, as I said above), we suffered. A lot. And those hardships are between us and the Lord. But guess what? The only thing I think of when I look back on all the pain and depression is how incredibly blessed I am to have experienced it. Yeah. :) Because of all the things I have learned, the strength I have gained, and how much closer I am to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

At times, I really struggled. I was mad that this happened because it was so hard and so painful, and I didn't understand why it happened to me. I also didn't understand why God would give me the spiritual confirmation to marry my husband when He knew this was going to happen. Why not tell me he was not worthy of me so I could be spared all this grief? So many questions like that ran through my head. All the time. For a long time. Well, I have news for all of you who may ask yourself those questions too, for whatever reason. God knows the plan. God knows the end from the beginning. God knows what our divine potential is, and He gives us experiences to help us achieve it.
I read somewhere that one of the blessings of a fiery trial is the development of a Christlike compassion and ability to see and help others in need. That is definitely a blessing I have received. And I have learned so much more.

Did you know that not all of our trials happen because of someone's agency? There are two kinds of trials (maybe more, but these are the two I have discovered): one type is the trial that happens because someone used their agency stupidly. Like getting hit by a drunk driver or something.The drunk driver used agency to drink and then drive, and you getting hit would the direct result of that person's poor use of agency. I'm glad that hasn't happened to me. The other kind is the trial that happens just because it's life, and God wants to see how you can handle it. He will never give you something more than you can handle. But if you think it's more than you can handle, that is when you have your agency to handle it well (or not well). Do you turn to God and the Savior to get through it? Or do you become bitter and hateful because life isn't fair? Life is so fair. Why? Because God gives us exactly what we need to become exactly who we need to become. It really wouldn't be fair if I had all these hard trials and opportunities to grow stronger but you had an easy life, would it? Because you would never grow strong like I get to, and that really wouldn't be fair. Because with the strength from this trial, along with the others I am facing (which is a whole other story), I am growing. I am becoming more like the woman God wants me to be. And, really, I wouldn't trade this trial, or any of my trials (I have to keep telling myself that when new ones pop up), for the world. We are all faced with fiery trials. What may seem like a fiery trial to me may not seem so to you, but what may seem fiery to you may not seem so to me. God gives us what we need. We can't choose what happens to us, but we certainly choose how we react to any situation. And God, in his fairness and mercy, extends fiery trials to each of us, so we can use our agency to come back to Him. That is the ultimate goal.

Speaking of fiery trials, I met a woman who came to my support group because one of her friends told her how amazing it is. This woman's husband had passed away, and she became so depressed that she was suicidal. Something she said really hit me and made me change my perspective about my  fiery trial. I was attending a support group specific to female spouses of pornography and other sexual addicts. She said, "I'd give anything to have my husband back with me, even with a horrible pornography addiction." Talk about perspective. One of my biggest fears is my husband dying. And when she said that my heart stopped, and I was like whoa. Heck yes I'd rather have him here with me, alive and kickin', than dead.

I met this woman while she was suicidal. And I saw the growth and changes that happened in her life as she drew closer to Christ and attended the 12-step program in my support group. It was beautiful, the growth I saw her make. And the growth I have made is beautiful. I feel beautiful. I feel like a daughter of God. I feel like everywhere around me, I see beauty (except when I am depressed, which still does happen sometimes, but not nearly as often). I see beauty because I have gained beauty within as I have drawn closer to Christ, and I am better at seeing things as He sees them.

I am excited to continue sharing my life with you, whoever is reading this.
Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Start

I am 23 years old, and I am a female member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Let me tell you my purpose before I begin my story. The LDS church has a 12-step addiction recovery program that is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. This program is set up for all types of addiction recovery, and they even have family support groups as well. You can find a group near you here. This program has changed my life.

If any of you are struggling with addiction, or have a loved one struggling with addiction, I'd highly recommend it. It has helped me hugely. It has helped my relationship with my husband. And most of all, it has helped my relationship with Christ (which, ultimately has helped everything else straighten out as well).

I'm not an addict. My husband is. He is addicted to pornography.

I didn't know that when we got married. In fact, I made sure he wasn't addicted to pornography before we got married. I never thought he was, but I made a promise to someone that whenever the opportunity came to get married that I would ask that awkward question, "Are you by chance addicted to pornography?" just to make sure. And let me tell you, asking that question was awkward. He said no, we laughed, and then we decided to get married.

Six months after our marriage was when I discovered the lie.

It hurt. A lot. An indescribable amount.

I cried. A lot. More than I ever wish to again.

I thought, why me? Why us? Why him? Him?? My husband, who I thought was perfect? My knight in shining armor? He has this disgusting addiction? Of all people, and of all lies to come out... this.

It was HORRIBLE. I thought something was wrong with me. Every fear I ever had from every boyfriend I have ever dated came out. I didn't date good guys. I never had good luck. I always thought they were good, then the lies came out. The worst was the guy who dated me for the "game" of corrupting the Mormon girl. And then I dated around a lot in college because I didn't want attachment. I didn't want to get married yet. Then I met my husband and after dating him, after praying about it and making a very spiritual decision about it, I KNEW he was the one for me.

So, after my dating experiences, and just being a girl (come on, girls, your dream is to be good enough for that perfect man, am I right?), what was my biggest fear? My biggest fear was I'M. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH. Right? That's why God would punish me with this. Obviously, I'm not good enough to have what I want, that precious eternal marriage. Because obviously, our sealing would not work out unless he could overcome this. And guess what? He has had this addiction for more than half. his. life.

I can say now that my husband didn't lie to me. I felt like he did for a long time, and when I get depressed and trapped by Satan, all those negative feelings come up. But really, he has tried for so long to overcome his addiction. He tried and tried and tried. And when we got engaged, he had been clean for long enough that he thought he finally conquered it. And he never wanted me to know that dark side of his past because it was gone. And he didn't think it would come back. I respect that.

Why did his addiction come back after we had been married for six months? Actually, three months. He told me after six. Well, I had some serious health issues come up, which caused me to get depression, and because of those health issues, we couldn't be the first-year honeymooners anymore. Our physical intimacy went down the toilet for a while until the depression and those health issues could clear up. So, I felt like it was my fault that it came back.

This is the first lesson I learned from recovering from the emotional and mental toll I have had from my husband's addiction, and I want all of you who have a loved one suffering from addiction to listen. IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. There are lots of chemical things going on with the brain, and no matter how much fault you think you have in this, it's not your fault. At all. Period. I have a bishop who told me that every Sunday to thank for helping me understand that.

You might be wondering why I am writing all this. Well, I have been through the addiction recovery program 1.5 times so far, and I am still working on it. It has changed me. It has changed my husband. Where six months after we got married, I contemplated the freedom/escape from this situation that divorce could bring, that is now replaced with a complete dedication to the gospel and my marriage. It's still hard. But I am healing. And I want to share my experiences so if I can touch someone, anyone, with my story, my hope, my healing through Christ, it will all be worth it.

Even if you're not in the face of addiction, I'd still recommend you try out the program, or get your hands on a manual and work it yourself. In my group, we joke about it being called "Using the Atonement: For Dummies." We all could use some help bringing the Atonement into our lives.

So, in this blog, I will talk about the 12 steps. I will even take you through all 12 steps and describe how my learning has taken place. I will tell you about my husband and our relationship. I will tell you what I have learned and am learning. Please, please, share this link on facebook or twitter or whatever. You never know who needs this. I only have 1 very close friend knows that this is happening in my life. So I can guarantee you that you don't know if your friends or family are struggling with this. Share!