Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Together We Rise Above

I attended the Togetherness Project in Phoenix this weekend. I feel like I have a hangover of TTP fun right now:
Late-night talking and good, clean fun. Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Relationship-building--with friends both old and new. Crying. Laughing. Sleeping Not sleeping enough.

If heaven is like this, sign me up. 

I learned so much from the conference, but the biggest take-away I had was just the CONNECTION and love I felt from everyone. We need connection. We live in a world, and especially if you are LDS, we live in a culture that says, "Don't talk about this." The world tells us it's not a big deal anyway (which makes you kind of afraid to talk about the pain of this because you don't want to be judged), and the LDS culture says it needs to be hush-hush. I went a whole year before I reached out to anyone because a bishop had told me I wasn't allowed to. It was supposed to stay in the marriage. Then I attended LDS 12-step. Those were the only people I confided in. Then I wanted to tell a friend, so I asked Ben's permission (now I don't ask permission. I tell whoever I feel the need and deem "safe"). Over time, I started reaching out here and there, and reaching out has brought me the highest amount of healing aside from the Atonement.

I attended the Togetherness Project in SLC in October, and it was awesome. The classes, connection, everything.
This one was awesome too. But the connection I found as I attended both projects is what's been most important to me.

My Warrior Sisters are my best friends. They know me in and out, backwards and forwards. They know the deepest, darkest secrets and pains. They know my greatest joys. They know everything there is to know about me except for the few things I DO keep only within my marriage. There is a high level of vulnerability and acceptance in this part of my life, and I love it. I need it. We all need it.

I've had ideas forming of ways I want to reach out in my general area. There are still steps I need to take in order to start working on them, and TTP has given me a little push of strength to press forward. I know there are so many people who need this--the connection, validation, love, and healing through vulnerability and friendship. They need to know they aren't alone. No one should be suffering alone.

I'm so grateful for Jacy for getting this rolling. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I love her. 

I'm grateful for everyone who has contributed to my healing and reached out to me in love and support. 

I'm grateful for my Warrior Sister-friends.

Together we rise above. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Maintaining My Recovery

The group I attend in Texas is on Sunday nights. I don't really love that because I always selfishly want Sundays to be about spending more time with Ben...but I determined that I would attend group here regularly. Because I need to. I really need to, and I recognize that. (insert exasperated sigh) It's just so easy to come up with excuses not to go, and the fact that it's on Sunday is one of those easy excuses. "I need time with Ben. I'm healing my marriage," is one of the tricks Satan uses to talk me out of going. That, and yesterday, there was the fact that it was Easter.

I went back and forth all day about going to group or not. Because it was Easter. "There might not be many people there. Or maybe it's supposed to be cancelled, but they forgot to tell us last week. So I'll drive 25 minutes and the church will be locked." Excuses, excuses. Then, Ben was having a hard time, and I co-dependently wanted him to tell me he needed me to stay home so I could use that as an excuse. Except when I realized I was not being true to myself, I took a moment to really think about why I didn't want to go to group. The plain and simple truth was that I was afraid of going because it's still a new group. And I was being lazy because it's a 25 minute drive. So I said a little prayer in my heart asking for guidance, and I felt like I needed to be there.

I needed to be there, and I'm so glad I went. There was no better way that I could have honored Christ on the Sabbath, and especially on Easter.

One reason I needed to be there was because we had a new attendee. It was her first group experience EVER, as she had discovered the porn just a week ago. I was able to have a really good conversation with her and bear testimony of the hand of God in my life--my recovery, my husband's recovery, and OUR recovery. I was able to bear testimony of so much, and it was a really powerful experience for me (and I hope it was for her as well).

Another reason I needed to be there was because we studied step 10--my favorite. Well, they are all my favorites, but step 10 was my favorite last night.

I love step 10 because it is a gentle reminder and application of ALL THE STEPS. It's a reminder that we need to hold ourselves accountable on a daily basis.

I kind of stopped working the steps because I was really depressed. And, I'll be honest, I really struggled with my group in Arkansas because it was so small and I felt like I wasn't getting much out of it. I was just in a bad place and had a hard time finding my way out.

The "bad place" comes and goes. I really fought it last week. Bad. It was a chore to get up and get dressed every day. I counted the fact that I woke up as an accomplishment. And if I did the dishes or made dinner it was an accomplishment. Sometimes we have weeks like that, and we really need them. I know I am mourning and grieving still, and it was necessary for me to have that time last week to process. I don't regret needing that time to process or feel depressed. But I did behave in ways, on occasion, that were mean. I use depression and PMS as an excuse to be mean, and it's not okay. SO...

How much different could my week have been had I been applying the 12 steps?

I know the 12 steps don't always strike everyone's hearts like they do mine, but I have a firm testimony in them. It is my personal belief that no matter what you say, we all need and use the 12 steps (it's a powerful tool to recovery when combined with the other tools out there. I certainly don't think there is any one way for anybody to recover). Even if it's subconscious. I mean, the only true way to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him" is through the process of understanding that we are not in control of our lives, hoping in God's power to restore us to complete spiritual health, deciding to turn our life over to Him, experiencing a change of heart, being humble, seeking forgiveness and repentance, practicing the principles of the gospel on a daily basis, seeking and carrying out the Lord's will in our lives, and giving service. No matter what your circumstance may be.

I am very familiar with the pattern of the 12 steps. I am familiar with the message and power they give me. I am familiar with the process of carrying them out, and yet I still forget about them. More especially, I still forget about daily accountability.

I was reminded recently (in a church talk or lesson? The book I just finished reading? I don't know) that Jesus Christ is supposed to be my best friend. I need to be turning to Him before I turn anywhere else. When I am struggling with the depression, pain, anxiety, and grieving that has been caused by this addiction, I need to turn to Him first. I have many ways of processing, but when I humble myself and ask for His help, I always pull out of the depression faster. Always. And that should really be the first step I take to get out of the "rut." Sometimes it takes me days before I turn to Him because I still harbor that pride saying, "I can do this on my own." Sometimes it takes me hours. Sometimes I know I need to be humble, so I will attempt humility, but it's not truly in my heart (which doesn't work that well, but does work better than no attempt at all). Regardless, I know without a doubt that God has always heard and answered my prayers when I turn to Him humbly with full purpose of heart.

That brings me back to my question: How much different could my week have been had I been applying the 12 steps? Specifically Step 10: Daily Accountability?

As we studied and discussed this chapter last night, it was like a nice slap in the face. It was a gentle reminder of truths I desperately needed to hear. It was full of guidance I need for future weeks:

"The first nine steps helped you learn a pattern of life based on spiritual principles. These principles now become the foundation on which you build for the rest of your life...The final three steps will help you maintain your new spiritually minded way of life, so they are often called the maintenance steps."


"...maintaining a mighty change of heart takes effort."

"To retain what you have gained, you must stay in fit spiritual condition."

"Continue to watch for pride in all its forms, and humbly take your weaknesses to your Heavenly Father."

"If you feel worried, self-pitying, trouble, anxious, resentful, carnal minded, or fearful in any way, turn immediately to the Father and allow Him to replace these thoughts with peace."

I need to ask Heavenly Father to remove my negative thoughts and feelings.

I need to examine my motives. And sometimes they are not pure. Sometimes I am manipulative. Because I'm hurting.

Am I taking care of my basic spiritual, emotional, and physical needs? (Self care! Boom!)

Do I serve others?

I need to be alert for old thinking patterns and behaviors during highly stressful situations.

"The Lord has all power. I'll relax and trust Him."

"Cast aside pride and remind yourself that sincerely saying 'I was wrong' is often just as important in healing a relationship as saying 'I love you.'" This especially applies to me--because, believe it or not, I do enough wrong in our relationship. And I harbor lots of pride because Ben is the one who should be apologizing to me regularly, right? Nope. I still need to recognize what I am doing wrong.

Before I go to bed, I need to examine my entire day and counsel with the Lord.

I will continue to make mistakes, but by committing to step 10, I am committing to take full responsibility for my mistakes.

I can't just sit back and ride along. If I live my life that way, I won't get very far. Sitting back for the ride has its place and is necessary sometimes, but I'm getting to the point where sitting back and riding the emotions isn't going to cut it much longer. It's certainly been helpful, and I know I will still need that practice at times in the future, but I need to make serious effort to living my life the way it needs to be lived or my recovery and healing. I need to adhere to the principles I know will bring me to Christ. I need to maintain my recovery. To do that, I need self-evaluation. I need humility and repentance. I need to stay in "fit spiritual condition." And humility. I need to turn to the Father and allow Him to replace my negative thoughts with peace. I need self-care. And service. I need to be alert. And trust God. I need to counsel with God--morning and evening. I need to bring Him into my life like He is my best friend.

All of this is easier said than done. But I'm working on wholehearted healing, people! These are the things I need to be doing to experience true healing and a closer relationship with my Savior.

Right now I'm full of light, hope, and energy. I know it changes daily--sometimes hourly. It's all part of the healing process. But these days, I am finding more hope and light than despair and darkness. I hope to keep it that way. And I can--if I follow the maintenance steps, which basically means I follow all the steps. And live with them close to my heart. Daily.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

You know what?

This week I've faced a lot of emotion. I've fought shame, triggers, and trauma. I've had ups and downs. But I feel great.

Yesterday, I talked to my cousin on the phone for a while. She didn't know about the addiction, but I felt like I should tell her. Plus, it's so hard to answer, and feel honest, when people ask how things are going without bringing up the addiction. Or at least saying we are having marital trouble.

As I poured out the effects of the addiction on our marriage and how we have struggled in the past year, especially the past few months, I boldly stated, "I know this sounds awful and it's a lot to take in. But I love my life." It even took me a little by surprise.

But you know what? I love my life.
Sometimes I hate it, but there are so many beautiful things in my life.

God grants me tender mercies every day.
I have amazing friends who I wouldn't have met were it not for the addiction.
I have an amazing husband. Even if we somehow don't make it through this, there is too much good in our marriage to be hateful of the experience we have had together (which leads me to believe we will make it through this... but I'm having trust issues, so it's hard to be vulnerable enough to say that without some kind of disclaimer).
I have a stronger relationship with God then I could ever imagine. How could I hate something that has brought me so much closer to my Father and my Savior?
I have learned that no trial exempts me from other trials. I've also learned that I can master anything if I turn to God.
I have learned what it means to love with my whole heart.
I have learned the true meaning of surrender to God.
I have learned who my true friends are.
I see light [almost] every day, even if just for a brief moment in time. And it is those pockets of light that pull me through the darkness.
I'm starting to really understand the "plan", the Atonement, charity, and joy.
I'm discovering who I truly am. And I love who I am.
I'm learning how to use my talents to facilitate joy--in my life and the lives of others around me.

That's just part of it.
But I truly believe that I can love my life, even if the addiction is a part of it. I hope and pray that we are close to truly kicking the addiction to the curb. I hope and pray that we are on the adventure together--climbing back up and building the greatness that can be our life. Together.

Regardless of what he chooses, I know I can be happy. So I am trying to choose that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Setting Boundaries

I've learned a lot about boundary-setting over the past couple of months. Because of where we are right now, they have become more necessary than before. As I've waded through this mess, I've had an increased self-awareness and finally come to a solid understanding of what boundary-setting is all about.

You see, I'm a softie. I always knew the decision to marry was serious, and because of that, I was really laid back about very important things--as in I gave and gave and gave. For example, we both agreed that we would work through anything and would never get a divorce (back when we were engaged, and the addiction was nonexistent to me). Even when I found out about the addiction, I told him I would never leave him--that we could work through it together. I've given everything I have to our marriage. I've been super patient, loving, and understanding. Thus, I was a little too nice for an addict--maybe even enabling at times because of the little consequences he had to face. It's only been over the past year that I've really drawn lines and enforced boundaries intentionally (I did enforce types of boundaries earlier on, but I didn't really know what I was doing).

Right now, we are in a position where about six weeks ago, Ben disclosed to me many lies he had told since day 1, and by day 1, I mean when we were dating--when I asked him if he had a problem with porn (wasn't really sure how to word that question so it ended up being awkward and trivial. But still. I asked, and he lied.). Since learning of the addiction, Ben had always led me to believe that he thought he was in recovery at the time I asked the question, and he chose not to tell me because he had put it behind him. Maybe he truly didn't think he was lying, in the twisted addict-brain way of thinking. But things he disclosed to me in February showed me that he was not in recovery when we were dating. Therefore, I was lied to, no matter how you justify it.

But anyway, that is minor, and that is only a small piece of the disclosure I received. The bottom line is the full disclosure (which still isn't the full disclosure, and he is working step 4 all over again) broke my heart. It broke my trust. It broke my will to fight for our marriage for a short time. It broke everything I believed in, and I did not know what to do.

I needed boundaries (among other things--self-care, prayer, meditation, you name it). But I didn't fully understand them. So, I've worked hard to develop an understanding of boundaries. I truly think boundaries are  MUST for optimum recovery--for you, the addict, and the marriage. [at the end of this post, I will link my new boundaries.]

I've learned a ton from this whole being-married-to-a-sex-addict experience. I wouldn't go back and change the way I've done anything because it's made me who I am, and it's brought us to where our relationship is now--which is a necessary place for our healing. BUT I do want to share with you what I know about boundaries now with the purpose that you can gain a better understanding of boundaries and gain strength to create your own and follow through with them. 

I hope it helps.

Boundaries are rules, principles, and guidelines you set for yourself. Speaking of them in terms of a spouse's addiction, boundaries are necessary for your safety and healing. 

Boundaries can be hard to set and follow through with for many reasons:

    1) It's possible that you're the kind of person who always puts others' needs and wants first (that's totally me). If this is the case, you may feel uncomfortable or unconfident putting your needs first. [but you need to! You are important!] 
    2) Or you may not feel that you have rights of your own. I mean, it is hard, especially in a marriage relationship, to determine your rights when you are bonded together in matrimony. And it could be especially hard if you were taught growing up that women/wives/mothers are peacemakers and need to strive to avoid contention in the home (that's me again). [but you have rights! and boundaries will be so helpful in creating peace and avoiding contention!]
    3) You may think that setting boundaries could cause increased problems in the relationship, or that you're being too controlling if you set boundaries (that was my biggest beef with boundaries. I mean, if I've learned anything, it's that I can't control his addiction). [but by setting boundaries, you aren't controlling his addiction: you are controlling your safety and security!]
    4) Or maybe you have just never learned how to have healthy boundaries (that was also part of my problem).
    5) You also might not know yourself enough to know what you need.

Boundaries, to me, seem to be easily confused with enforcing guidelines/rules/punishment for the addict--as a way to control the addict. This isn't the case, however. Effective boundaries are not created with the intention of controlling the addict: they are created with the intention of managing your safety

The beauty and effectiveness of boundaries lies with the motivation behind the creation of them. Are you creating boundaries to control your husband? Or are you creating boundaries to control your safety? Control makes us feel safe, but we don't have control over the addiction. We only have control over ourselves--in this case, our safety.

We could say we have a boundary that he doesn't look at porn, but what will you do when he does? Are you prepared to follow through with a consequence that will help increase your safety? Boundaries must be backed up by actions. There must be consequences of the boundary being broken, and the consequences must be things you are willing to carry out every time. If the consequences are inconsistent, the boundaries will be ineffective.

Creating boundaries is kind of complicated. It takes a lot of self-awareness, understanding (of self, addiction, husband, God, etc), and courage. I won't tell you how to create them because it's a very personal process (I will, however, give you examples of boundaries at the end of this post).

When following through with boundaries, it's important to do so as calmly as possible. Acting with a spirit of love, compassion, firmness, and assertiveness--rather than anger--will help with the peaceable carrying out of consequences. Acting in anger and resentment will cause deeper problems and make the relationship a possibly unsafe and volatile place for the both of you (at least for a time). Because of the nature the addiction and how it impacts us, spouses of addicts, it's only natural to feel anger or resentment upon confession of acting out or when he (or she) breaks boundaries. Feeling that emotion is okay and normal. However, using that emotion to fuel the carrying out of boundaries can be dangerous, so it's important to be careful.

As previously stated, boundary-setting is a must to achieve optimum healing. A year ago, I didn't believe that. Now I'm a boundaries-believer because of the experiences I have had over the past year and the learning they have brought me. With my recent boundaries-revision, I have felt much more peace in my life. I feel stronger, more courageous, more beautiful, and more in-tune with myself and God.

Setting boundaries will bring consequences.

For your addict-spouse, the consequences will be consequences of his actions. There is a difference, though, between consequences and punishment. He may feel like he is being punished, but if you have created the boundaries with the right mind-set--that it is for your healing--the consequences will simply be consequences of his actions. How he reacts to the boundaries is out of your control (and will also show you how willing he is to recover and how invested he is in your relationship and family).

For you, the consequences will be an escape from the trauma-related fear (or a return to peace--because sometimes you can't physically escape when you want to, and sometimes when you DO, the fear follows you) that you may feel is ruling your life. It could free you from negative co-dependency habits. It will help you discover who you truly are, a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father, and show respect and love to yourself. It will help you learn more effective communication skills. It will bring you courage and strength to do hard things. Most importantly, having effective boundaries will speed up the peace and healing you desire and need. 

Setting and following through with boundaries has been a crucial piece in my quest for wholeness. I am feeling change in myself and my ability to cope with what is happening around me. I'm feeling more loved and beautiful, and I have a confidence and strength that has been lacking for the past few years.

If you're still in doubt, give it a test-run. Baby steps are also important to recovery.


For more on boundaries, check out:

My boundaries:

For more examples of boundaries, see:
Harriet (Shay)
Lovely Light

In their free six-week recovery program, ADDO does a little chapter on the safety-plan (week 3). Check that out too!

And a special thanks to YoursNotMineNotOurs and DoughtyDaffodils for giving input and editing abilities on this post :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Enduring Well

D&C 121: 1, 6-8

(my plea) 
1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
6 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.
(God's response) 
7 My [daughter] peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; and thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Yesterday I went to the temple. It was a beautiful experience--exactly what I needed. I found peace, inspiration, and guidance for many questions and trials I'm facing.

As I sat, studying scriptures and pondering, at the end of my session, I was led to these verses. They HIT me with full force. But the thing that struck me the most was verse 8: "if thou endure it well."

I don't know about you, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to endure things perfectly. I am a perfectionist, something I get from my dad and my controlling nature, and I have hard time settling for okay, well, or good-enough. I want perfection.

I put pressure on myself to get through all my trials with perfection. I compare myself to others suffering similar trials and wonder why they can do it with magnificence while I am here feeling like a chicken with its head cut off.

The thing is, everyone's trials and abilities are different. No one is the same. I can't compare myself to others or I will go crazy. I know that, but I still do it, unfortunately. The great thing about these verses, is it takes pressure off perfectionism. God doesn't want me to be perfect or endure perfectly. He wants me to endure well. He knows my situation. He knows everything I am facing. He knows my depressions and anxieties, and He knows how they affect my abilities. Well is relative to my situation and abilities. It's relative to everyone. Everyone's ability to endure well is different. 

Lesson learned? Stop comparing myself to others and just do my best with what I have to work with. God accepts my sacrifice. He accepts my enduring well. So why can't I? Patience, Kilee. Patience. 

Also, these trials are a small moment in time compared to the eternal scheme of things. Big sigh of relief. Perspective helps me get through one day at a time.

Accepting myself and my abilities to cope, along with learning how to become better through God, is part of my quest for wholeness. I felt whole at the temple. Nothing mattered except God, me, and my relationship with Ben.

One day at a time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

There is an End

This week has been so different from anything I've experienced in a long time.

It's weird to think that I no longer live in Arkansas. I miss my friends and family.
It's also weird to think I'm back in Texas, very close to where I grew up, but things are so different than they used to be. I'm different than I used to be.

It's weird that I'm not working. I've actually been shaming myself in that area. I won't go into detail, but I've made myself feel very guilty and shamed for not working. I feel like I'm wasting my life away. I'm not. But seriously. So I'm working on that.

It's weird that I have all this time to focus on me. It's really good for me. I've had time to think and feel. I've actually had to face my emotions and my life as it is, something that I haven't actually done because I was busy with taking classes, then I was busy with student-teaching, then I was busy with moving to Arkansas, and then I was super busy as a first year teacher. Not that I haven't ever dealt with my life before, but I haven't made dealing and healing my number one priority until now. And it feels weird.

I've faced a lot of tough emotional battles this week. I'm still struggling in a lot of ways, and I'm also realizing I'm not as secure with myself as I pretend to be. I even admitted to a friend (something I don't think I've ever admitted out loud--not even to Ben) that I was riding the line with an eating disorder a few years ago right after my car accident, through the time that I learned of Ben's addiction. I never let it get too far, but lots of people noticed that I was way too skinny and not eating enough. I have disordered eating tendencies, and I've worked really hard to handle it in healthy ways.

I'm realizing I have issues and insecurities that run deep. I've warded them off and pretended they don't exist for so long, that it's really good (but really hard) for me to finally feel everything and sort through the muck so I can learn to feel whole. Feeling whole is hard. I'm wading through so much just as the wife of a sex-addict. But then I think about insecurities and fears I've had since my teen years, and that gives me even more to work on and feel depressed about.

But I'm on a quest for wholeness. I want to feel beautiful and secure as a daughter of God. I want to find joy in my life and especially in my marriage. I want my soul to be filled with love, light, and energy. So I'm wading through this mess that is my life so I can find that, so my soul can be complete. And that's why I'm not working right now. I'm allowing myself time to feel. I'm allowing myself time to heal. I have plans and ideas of what I can do to be made whole, and I'm doing this prayerfully. I'm seeking out God's direction, and He is guiding me on my search for wholeness. I'm finding my shame and dealing with it. I'm learning and growing (okay, right now I'm mostly eating and sleeping, slowly gaining motivation to face life. But baby steps, right?). I'm facing things, though, and that is my first step.

Everything feels harder because of the state of my marriage and the addiction. Sometimes it's hard to have faith, and I'll admit, I've wondered what it would be like to just live without all of this. I've wondered if turning on God in anger would make me feel better (I know it won't. No worries there.).

Today, as I studied my scriptures, I read the first chapter of King Benjamin's speech (Mosiah 2). The very last verse reads:

"...if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness."

This verse really hit me today because of the worries and fears I've been having. I've been wading through some serious trauma, and having faith and hope is just so hard sometimes.

Sometimes in life it's hard to see the end. We are going through it hard and fast now, and there seems to be no end in sight. Today, I was given the grace of seeing the end. The end is living with God in a state of NEVER. ENDING. HAPPINESS. Isn't that what I want? Isn't that what we all want? To just be happy forever?

Sometimes life hurts. Sometimes it's full of pain and heartache, and we feel like we can't go on. Sometimes we can't see the end, and we wonder what all of this is for.

There is an end. The end is happiness with God. But that's if we are faithful.

I can hold on a little bit longer. I can exercise faith. I can. I know I can. And knowing if I do it this way, that I will end up with NEVER-ENDING HAPPINESS brings me so much hope and peace.

We can do it. Just hold on a little bit longer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Recovery: Part 3 of "Our Recovery"


I've been kind of quiet on here for the past week. That's because I was preparing to make the big move... Yep. I'm officially in Texas with Ben. And we are officially working on our recovery.

I'll be honest and say I'm not a pro at this "our recovery" thing because I am in the thick of it. I can't look back and say THIS IS WHAT WORKS--DO THIS!!! because I'm not through it. I'm still in it. Besides, there is no one thing that works. Everyone is different. Every individual recovery is different, and every couple's recovery will be different.

That being said, these are my ideas and generalizations about what I have found to work and theories about what can work. I do have a few years of experience working on our recovery, and I've certainly found things that do and don't work (for us). As always, I'm not saying this is 100% what you need to do. Because it's not. This is about what I've found to work from my experience and what I've heard friends say. But, like I said, there is no one thing that works.

Please feel free to add additional ideas and thoughts in the comments. I'm sure people reading this could use more than just what I have to say.

Our Recovery

It's important to note that in the past, when I've only focused on us and our recovery, things haven't worked out super well. I mean, I guess things work out okay for us for a time, but then the stress of everything takes its toll. If I'm not taking care of my recovery, our relationship will suffer. The same goes for him, especially since he is the addict. If he is not taking care of his recovery, the relationship will suffer. He needs to be in recovery. If he is not in recovery, then our life consists of him committing adultery (in his head...porn/masturbation/fantasies/lust), lies, deceit, manipulation, and all the other fun stuff addiction comes with. Then our life consists of me hating the addiction and, in turn, my loss of love for him. And eventually, I would give up because it just wouldn't be worth it.

Some people can accept the fantasyland, though. Or some people can accept it for now because they hope in the future, things will change. It all depends on your expectations, desires, and hopes. We all have our own expectations for our marriage, and that is okay and normal (we are, after all, individuals). I can't accept it, and if he is not in recovery--which is crucial to me and my ideas of our recovery--then our marriage is in jeopardy.

If I am not in recovery, then I'm just giving, giving, giving and losing myself in the marriage. Or maybe I'm living in constant fear and losing myself. There are so many consequences of me not living in recovery.

What it comes down to for me is that we both need to have solid, individual recovery underway for any efforts towards our recovery to work.

Right now, I'm in recovery. I'm taking a break from life to be in full-fledged recovery and get my feet under me, something I know I am extremely blessed to be able to do.

Ben is also in recovery. He is working recovery like I have never seen before. He has had a change of heart, and I have a lot of hope for us.

The feelings and emotions I have about where we are right now are a different post for another day. The gist of it is, though, that we have been in a bad place recently. As written, he completely broke me and my idea of what our marriage has been. In February, I suffered through a horrible disclosure (which was part of his change of heart--to tell me so many things he had consistently lied about since we were dating), and everything came crashing down around me. I went into a severe depression and set new boundaries (also another post).

I just moved back in with him. We were separated for two months. The separation was due to his new job, which was a tremendous blessing (also another post. Haha) both for the money and the timing of separation. During that two months, he had time to really evaluate what he wanted from his life and what he wanted with the addiction. He spiraled down (and I pray it was rock bottom), and now we are on the upward climb. Together.

When he decided to choose recovery, we agreed on one month to continue living apart. During that time, we could both get our recoveries underway. He found a sponsor (something I've begged him to do for at least two years) and is living with a recovery mind-set.

The one month came and went, and now we are back together. But after living through hell and living apart for two months (which, I realized, is a lot longer than it sounds. We got out of many habits, and I started turning to other people as my primary sources of support and love), we are out of practice of being married. Or at least that is how it feels to me.

These are the keys to our recovery:

--First, you (both) have to choose recovery: If your heart isn't in it and you aren't willing to make sacrifices for the relationship's recovery, it won't work. I've learned that from experience. He may want recovery, but if I'm not willing to give the relationship a shot, no matter how many motions I go through, we will not be in recovery. That doesn't mean don't be safe and hold to your boundaries. It just means choose recovery.

--Boundaries: Boundaries are so important to our relationship. I think we both need boundaries to respect the privacy of our individual recoveries but also to protect our relationship and bring us closer together. For example, one boundary that I think needs to be in place (maybe not now, but at some point as he gains more trust) is that we are both each other's #1s. That is a boundary that would protect our relationship. Ideally, I would be going to him first about everything. I used to, but as our relationship was broken down, I stopped. Now I have specific support people I go to first about somethings. I want it to be him. If he is my husband, he should be my #1.

--Vulnerability/Emotional Intimacy: Vulnerability is hard. Being vulnerable means you will experience pain, heartache, and fear. But it also means you can experience higher levels of the positive emotions too, like love and trust. This doesn't mean we are 100% vulnerable all the time. As we are a little bit vulnerable, we gain a little bit of trust. That trust opens the door to more vulnerability, which opens the door to more trust. I've already seen this working in our marriage, and even though my heart has been broken, stomped on, and tossed in the trash (dramatic, anyone?), I'm feeling healing taking place as I step a little out of my comfort zone to be a little more vulnerable every day.

--Respect: We need to respect our individual recoveries and the time that must be spent there so we can both be made whole. We need to respect our boundaries. And we need to respect the vulnerability and each other's emotions. As we respect each other, we will gain love and trust.

--Service: I've heard it said that you love those you serve. Well, okay, I've also experienced that so it's totally true to me. You love those you serve. When I did the Love Dare last summer, it really helped increase my love for Ben. When I taught high school, I really loved my students. When I served in young women's, I loved my Miamaids. When I've given service of any kind, I have truly loved those I've served. As trust is gained, I will serve him more (and I hope he will serve me more too). It helps me put focus on him and forget about me a little bit. It has increased my love for him in the past, so I know it will prove useful as we work on our recovery.

I tried to think of more keys to our recovery, but as I thought, everything I came up with falls into the categories I've already created or comes as a result of those categories.

So, let me just tell you my story of how I've decided to approach our recovery as I moved back in:

I had a nice six-hour drive to think about things as I left Arkansas and drove to Texas. During the drive, I kept asking myself, and God, what I needed to do. I was so afraid (I'm still afraid) of our relationship and what it would bring. As I thought, the conclusion I came to is that we need to start over

Last week, while talking on the phone, I asked Ben what he thought were reasonable expectations, given where he is in recovery and the things our marriage has suffered through. His response was, "Well, I think it's reasonable for you to expect zero tolerance of the addiction. I've used so many excuses in the past, and I have none left. I have to be in recovery, and I have to live addiction-free."

I'm glad he recognized that because if he had made excuses, I don't know what I would have done. It was very vulnerable of me to even pose that question, and we had a good conversation out of it.

So, since we are living zero-tolerance of the addiction, and since I have suffered in so many ways, and I have been feeling like our love is lost, I decided it's time to start over. I fell in love with him once, right? I could do it again.

Friday night, we went on a date [by the way, if you've been following my blog, I guess now is a good time to tell you I moved Friday instead of Thursday. Just so you aren't confused.]. We live a mile from Chuy's, so we walked there and talked. Back when we were dating, we always went on walks and had good conversations. That was one of the things I loved: we always had something to talk about. And he was super easy to talk to (except for our first date, which was super awkward and he grilled me). On our date, we discussed boundaries.

As a boundary, I told him we are starting over. We were now officially in the dating stage, and this was our first date. We didn't really hold hands or anything (I mean, seriously, that would be so forward for a first date :D). We just talked and laughed and had a really good time. We rented the new Thor movie on Redbox, and he kind of put his arm around me towards the end of the movie, and I kind of leaned into him a little bit--but not for very long because it freaked me out a little.

Since that "first date", we have taken things rather slowly (to me. I mean we are married, so it's going a little quicker than a real dating relationship probably would). We have had good conversations. We have been emotionally intimate, vulnerable, and present. We have shown respect for each other. Things are progressing well. I still have to be careful and steady with the progression of things. But "starting over" has taken pressure off the table for physical intimacy and made the other things that build a good relationship a priority.

I feel like this plan generates a lot of hope. I think over time, as we choose each other, enforce boundaries, are vulnerable, treat each other with respect, and give service to one another, we will feel the desire to choose each other grow stronger every day. We are still in a rough position. And I'm kind of impatient, so I keep asking myself how long this dating stage will last. I want more (which is good because that tells me the plan for recovery and love is working), but I also know that my heart is still broken and my trust shattered, so I HAVE to be patient and let things heal with time.

There is no rush to recovery. We just have to take it one day at a time and know that God is guiding and directing us. 

Oh I guess I should mention prayers/scripture study/family home evening. Those are very intimate and vulnerable things, and we did not do them together when we were dating. So while we are "dating" we will grow our friendship and desire to be together. And when the trust and healing comes stronger, we will add in those things. I know it's important to keep God in our relationship. Trust me, I've had plenty of people tell me that. We are doing that as we pray together at night, and I pray for him in my personal prayers. But I'm not being that vulnerable with him yet, and I think that is perfectly fine for our situation.

Anyway, I have hope for our marriage. And every time I admit that I feel super vulnerable.
Things are healing. That's all I can ask for.

Read Part 1: His Recovery, here
Read Part 2: My Recovery, here

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just Keep Swimming

I'm moving tomorrow.
I don't currently have a fitness center or gym in TX where I know I can go swim.
I HAVE to swim. I have too many physical issues to do any other type of exercise consistently. So swimming is where it's at for me.

This morning, I went to my fitness center for one last swim. I don't know when I will get to swim again (hopefully soon, but I honestly don't know. We may not be able to pay for a gym right now). As I got into the water and swam a few strokes, I thought, I'm going to swim a mile today.

The last time I swam a mile was last summer. Since school started, I haven't been able to exercise consistently, although I have been fairly consistent over the past month. Usually I swim 15-20 laps. A mile is 33. But both my body and my brain were feeling a mile this morning, so during my first lap, I allowed myself to commit to one whole mile.


By the third lap, I was seriously questioning myself. I'm only on the third lap, I thought. I don't have to do a mile. I can change my mind. But then I thought if I changed my mind, after committing to one mile, I would be a chicken and a failure. I really wanted to swim a mile. But I was afraid.

I'm really good at chickening out of things lately. I've been in so much pain that I always fear anything else might push me over the edge. When my arms started burning (thanks to my Jillian Michaels workout I did yesterday) during my third lap, I wanted to recommit to just 15 laps. But I told myself no. I put myself in a rhythm and focused on my form. I focused on my strokes, my breathing, and the way my body was turning. My goggles fogged up, and I didn't even stop to un-fog them. I just kept swimming, focusing, and breathing.

I started out with a rhythm of four freestyle laps followed by one breaststroke. I figured by breaking it up into sets of five laps, my body would be able to rhythmically glide through my 33 laps. After 10 laps, however, I kind of wanted to die. So, I changed the plan and swam with my usual rhythm of two free followed by one breaststroke (sets of 3). It was a little different course that I had intended, but it still worked.

After 20 laps with no break, my breathing became very heavy. I could feel sweat pouring off my face into the water around me. I was so hot. And so thirsty. Get to 25 and then take a break. After 25 you can refuel and continue on. 

By lap 22, I felt like I was swimming in mud. My arms were on fire, and I could barely pull myself forward. (Note that I have never in my entire life swam 25 laps with no breaks.)

Stroke stroke stroke breathe. Stroke stroke stroke breathe.

Whenever I felt like giving up, I focused on my body movements. I focused on keeping my form perfect. I allowed myself to slow down and do it right rather than let my body get crazy and roll into a form that could hurt me (I've hurt my back and neck by allowing myself to swim with poor form).

Lap 25: break. I stopped to refuel and replenish my energy, then I continued. The final eight laps were so easy, but so hard. I kept telling myself I could do it. I imagined my best friends cheering me on around me. I did a little dance in my head, and I literally felt angels around me cheering me on.

I'm so glad I finished my mile. I did it. I DID IT!!!

The entire time I swam, I thought of the many parallels that swim had to my own life.

Sometimes I go to fast or try to fall into a rhythm that doesn't really work. When that rhythm doesn't work, I'm tempted to just give up or cut my journey short (lap 10). Instead, I need to just change what I'm doing a little bit so I have the energy I need to keep going. It's much easier to swim two free, one breaststroke than four free, one breaststroke. But in the beginning I chose the harder rhythm because I thought I could do it that way, and I wanted to be awesome. I didn't have the strength, so I needed to change course to something that I did have strength for.

Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming in mud. Sometimes life gets me so down, and everything just feels so hard that I want to quit. I want to run away and hide. I want to scream and throw tantrums. I want to break things and cry. That's the sign that I need to slow down and find a stopping point to refuel. We all need that. And each person is individual--some of us may need more time to refuel than others. Some of us may need different types of self-care than others. Even in my own life, I've seen how at different times, I may need more self-care than other times. Like now. Right now, I need self-care. I need to stop and refuel, and I am doing that by quitting my job and moving to Texas.

Even after we stop and refuel, sometimes it's still hard. But we have angels on our sides supporting us. We have friends and family cheering us on. And most importantly, we have God. I didn't have to swim a mile, but I really wanted to. God knew how important it was to me, and I know He blessed me with the ability to have the mental strength I needed to conquer that mile. I could have quit. But I saw that I was learning an important life lesson about my own strength and ability to choose my fate. And I chose to keep swimming.

I've felt many times in this horrible mess that is my life that I don't have power or control over what is going on. I have felt Satan seriously attacking me, and at times, I have felt controlled by Him. I have felt lost and alone, and I have had no desire to go on.

But I choose to go on. I choose to recognize when things are out of control. I choose to turn to God, even when the darkness is so thick that I can't seem to find Him. I choose my reactions to my husband's addiction. I choose my recovery. I choose to pray. I choose to study my scriptures. I choose to have faith. I choose to have hope. That is me choosing to focus on form. When things are really out of control, I only need to focus on the basics to get me through. I don't need anything crazy--just breathing, focusing, and the desire to go on.

There is so much power in our choices. 

Choose to keep swimming. When the going gets tough, remember that you are strong. If you don't feel strong, remember that God is strong, and He is by your side. Maybe the mud is too thick, and that's why you can't see Him. But eventually you will find your way out of that black mudhole and find Him. Focus on your form. Breathe. Replenish. Refuel.

Just keep swimming. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Recovery: Part 2 of "Our Recovery"


My recovery is crucial for many reasons. The most important reason, though, is because I am important. I deserve recovery. I deserve to find peace and healing.

I've been in recovery for three years. I still have quite a way to go, but I'm making progress and have hope for the future. Whether or not my future is with Ben, I'm not 100% sure (although I will say that I believe I will have the privilege of being his spouse for eternity). It doesn't matter right now what my future holds with him. What matters is that I find a life where I can live in peace and healing. Even if he doesn't find that for himself (but he is getting there, and he knows what he needs to do to achieve recovery).

What does the spouse (me) need to recover? What do we need to find that peace and healing?

Granted, I'm only one lady, but from my experience with other fabulous women who are in the same or similar positions as me, this post is about what I've learned is necessary for my recovery.
This list isn't in any particular order. It's just what came into my head as I brainstormed the elements of my recovery:

understanding addiction
I think if we don't understand the addiction, there isn't much hope. The more I understand the addiction, the easier it is for me to recognize that this has nothing to do with me. The more I understand the addiction, the easier it is for me to detach when necessary. The more I understand addiction, the easier it is for me to understand that it isn't a matter of "Just decide to stop. Stop doing this to me. Stop doing this to yourself. You're ruining your life..." but a matter of brain damage, needing counseling, and needing healing--both spiritually and physically. As I learn about and gain understanding of the addiction, I learn what realistic expectations are as we fight this (as in, he can't do this on his own, and the decision to "just stop" isn't very logical until many other battles have been fought), and I realize there is hope. It's going to be a long road towards full healing, but it can be done.

developing boundaries
Boundaries are crucial to my healing. Boundaries keep me safe because help me have control over my safety. Some people think boundaries are about control: and they are. They are about controlling me and my safety. They aren't about controlling him, though. He can do whatever he wants. But there will be consequences, and I will keep myself safe.

 Boundaries also help me realize my worth and that I am not one to be trampled on. [post on my new boundaries coming next week]

working recovery programs 
From what I've seen, working some kind of recovery program is very beneficial to recovery. We can't do it on our own. We need professionals who have been trained and understand what they are dealing with. The recovery programs I've done consist of my LDS 12-step program, Healing Through Christ, and the free 6-week ADDO program. I've learned tons from both 12-step and ADDO. They have helped me with my spiritual healing along with the physical healing. Both are necessary components to my overall wellness. I know I couldn't do this without recovery programs. That is because I don't have the tools or knowledge to do this on my own.

understanding betrayal trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder
Read. Learn. Understand. Learning about BT and PTSD will help you understand yourself. You will be able to understand why you are so angry, why you can't trust, why that cute girl in the bikini at the beach triggered you so. You will develop ways to cope and treat yourself with love. So learn. Learn about everything.

seeing a counselor
I put this off for a long time. I didn't think we could afford it, and I thought I could do it on my own. It wasn't until I got desperate that I sought counseling. Don't wait until you are desperate. Had I waited any longer, I might have driven into oncoming traffic...I know that is dramatic, but that is how bad the trauma became. I just couldn't go on.

Since I started seeing a counselor, I've learned so much. I've received validation and support in ways I didn't expect. I've learned how to deal with the stress and allow myself to mourn. I've learned how to better offer myself care and compassion. Seeing a counselor is a game-changer and will speed up the recovery process from what it would be without a counselor.

offering yourself care and compassion
Self-care: "the process by which you consciously and deliberately take care of your basic and fundamental spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational needs.You ensure that you are taking care of your whole self" (definition via Harriet). Self-care is a must. As you treat yourself with the care you need, the elements that make up overall wellness will become whole again. It may take time, but you will become more whole as you take care of your needs. You are important and deserve time and attention to meet your needs.
-My self-care includes meditating, studying scriptures, prayer, exercise, painting, sewing, cooking, eating, being with friends, and learning.

Self-compassion: extending compassion and kindness to yourself, especially when you are hurting or negative-self-talk threatens your brain. I've had to offer self-compassion on many occasions, and it's amazing how it can change the game. Sometimes I have to think about it in the perspective of "If I were my friend, and I came to me with this problem, what would I say to that friend?" Sometimes it comes in the form of writing myself letters. Sometimes it's a simple, "No, you are not fat. You are not ugly. How dare you think that about yourself?" kind of thing. Sometimes it's, "Wow, you are really going through a lot. It's okay to cry. It's okay to be mad. The way you feel right now is a normal reaction." Being compassionate with myself has given me the ability to heal in that emotional, vulnerable place that is hard to get to.

prayer: turning to a higher power
I can't do this on my own. For one thing, if I believed there was no higher power, that there was no greater purpose, I'd probably just end my life. Okay, that is dramatic. There would still be much to live for, but there is so much more to live for then just what is here and now. I have a firm believe in a higher power and purpose. I learn through prayer. I learn through conversing with my God and discovering His plan for me. I turn over my cares and worries to Him. He knows about all my fears and anxieties. He is always there for me, and I love Him for it. I know I can always turn to Him, and I do so on a regular basis with gratitude in my heart.

understanding the grief cycle
When you understand the grief cycle, you will understand yourself a little better. You will also be able to offer yourself care and compassion for the stages you find yourself in.

being vulnerable
Vulnerability is hard. It's scary. But it's necessary for healing. That doesn't mean you jump right on the vulnerability train with your husband too soon after he has hurt you. Until it is safe to be vulnerable with him, there are others you can be vulnerable with: your support circle and yourself.

-Being vulnerable with others has helped me to own my story and feel real. I don't like feeling like I'm hiding things, and opening up has made it easier to find support. I have quite the chain of support people that I can contact when I need help. Being vulnerable with others has also helped me learn about those around me, develop better compassion, and become a support to them. Along with that, being vulnerable with others has helped me build bridges in places that have been burned because of misunderstandings.

-Being vulnerable with myself has helped me understand exactly what is going on inside me. As I gain understanding of myself, I've learned how to deal with and cope with my struggles. I've been able to own my story and find my truth and reality. And I've found healing in all of those things I've gained from vulnerability.

-Being vulnerable with my husband has created healing in our relationship. Like I said, it can't come too soon. But as you open up and are vulnerable one step at at time, healing does take place for each of us individually and for both of us together.

learning to forgive
Forgiveness isn't for the person who wronged me: it's for me. Forgiveness also doesn't come easily. It's a process that requires patience, compassion, and love. Learning to forgive is hard, but it is also necessary for my heart to be fully healed. My forgiveness isn't dependent on my husband's ability to apologize or grovel, and it isn't necessary for his healing. My forgiveness of him is necessary for my heart to become whole. My forgiveness of the situation is a reflection of the peace and healing that is taking place in my heart.

Forgiveness is hard. Don't get me wrong. I'm in a position where I haven't fully forgiven him for things currently going on. That's why I said learning to forgive. It's learning. It's a process that only you can figure out for yourself. And I know it will bring an added measure of healing when I get there, like it has done in the past.

reaching out
We aren't alone. There are tons of women all over the world suffering from betrayal trauma. Reaching out is healing in both directions: for me and the person I'm reaching out to. Reaching out fills my heart with gratitude and love. It's been the base of my support-circle. Reaching out has worked miracles in my life and heart.

Reach out for help.
Reach out to offer help.
Reach out so you don't feel alone.

Read Part 1: His Recovery, here 
Read Part 3: Our Recovery, here