Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Scariest Day of My Life: Husband Edition

Confession is hard. No matter what it is, it's hard. There are many reasons for that. It could be that you have an issue with pride, that you want to seem better than you really are. It could be that you are afraid of the reaction you'll get. It could be that whatever you have done is so horrible that you're terrified of the consequences of confession.

I heard once that the vast majority of pornography addicts are caught in the act. If that's the case, I feel fortunate to not belong to that group. On March 31, 2011, while studying the scriptures and writing in my journal, I was overcome with guilt and fear. Both were so acute that I couldn't stand it any longer, and having been through the process of confessing to my parents and my bishop, I knew what I had to do.

I remember my wife coming home from class and my heart started pounding. I asked if she wanted to cuddle in our room and talk. After we got comfortable, she asked why my heart was pounding so hard. I prayed for the courage to tell her. I had been crying to the Lord since that morning for courage to tell her. I didn't think I could do it, so I just broke down and started crying. I don't remember much about the next few hours as everything came out, but I do remember her crying. I can still hear it in my mind. And it still breaks my heart.

All of my fears came back with the force of a freight train, but the biggest of them all was like a hot knife piercing my heart: divorce. It terrified me. Not because of the stigma or having to explain to people, although those were very minor concerns. I was terrified because I didn't want to lose my soul mate. I was terrified that the pain I inflicted would be so bad that she would never be able to trust me again, that she'd never again be able to look at me like she did across the altar in the temple. I was terrified that I had broken her heart so badly that she would never be able to heal.

But there were two things I underestimated about my confession: first, the individual healing power of the Atonement, and second, the strength of my beautiful wife. And by strength, of course I mean love, compassion, patience, faith, humility, virtue, hope, gentleness and godliness, to name a few. I have been so blessed with both in the past two years. It hasn't been a smooth road to recovery, but it's been wonderful to feel the power of the Atonement working in our lives.

I know, though, that this isn't the situation everyone encounters when confessing a pornography addiction to their spouse. A lot of times things don't work out, where forgiveness doesn't come so easy. I'm the last person to deserve the right to judge those people. However I still want to convey the power and the essential nature of confession as part of the repentance process.

Spencer W. Kimball said, ": “Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations...Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits.”

What I like about this quote is that he says that those who choose to follow this path may find it the harder road at first, but in the end, it is infinitely more desirable than the alternative. It's so simple-minded to think that we can still meet the expectations of the Lord while living a double life. In the Bible, we read, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). You will never be able to find peace and stability in your life unless you "demonstrate before God, [yourself], and another witness [your] commitment to a new life based firmly on telling and living the truth."

In all instances of pornography addiction, repentance requires confession to your bishop. If you are married, your spouse belongs on that list too. If you are not married, the 12 step guide counsels, "Use great care and wisdom when selecting someone other than a priesthood leader to whom to disclose your wrongs. Do not share such sensitive information with individuals you suspect might extend improper guidance, provide misinformation, or have difficulty maintaining confidences. Those with whom you share your inventory must be extremely trustworthy in both word and deed." If your relationship with your parents is good, I would suggest talking to them. If not, speak with a friend you trust, or attend ARP meetings and find a sponsor who has gone through what you are going through.

The peace that comes after confession is absolutely sublime. It's like having a thousand pound weight off your chest, like being back on solid ground after a long time on a boat rocking violently back and forth in a storm. You feel like you have some sort of stability again. You can finally begin to leave your double life behind and move forward on the foundation of repentance. You're inside now, safe from the storm. You still have a long way to go, but the path is so much easier when you are trying to keep the stability of living truthfully.

It is hard. It is scary. You may think you're different from everyone else. You may think you're filthier, or that you have extra reason to withhold making this important step, but let me tell you that God's love is the same for all of us. Repentance is the same for all of us. Your bishop will show you love and compassion, regardless of what you have done, and he will guide you toward recovery.

Two years ago, or even one year ago, I never could have imagined the happiness and peace I have now, and I am still nowhere near where I want to be in my recovery. I can only imagine how much more of it God has in store for me as I continue to progress. I know that you can find it too. Although they seem hard, the steps are simple and inspired. As you follow them, pray for courage and strength, and you will find peace. I promise you.

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