Another anonymous post about addiction.
This writer is a twenty-something mom of 2. She loves being outside, going on adventures, cooking, and trying new things. She is all about being real. She works hard to be real and authentic, and she hopes, that by her doing so it will help others see that they can be too. Her story is not anywhere close to what she imagined it would be. She hopes that, someday, she can put her face on it, but for now, she has chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of her family. There are a lot of misconceptions about her family’s struggles. The only way that she can change that is by shedding light on it. So here she is shedding just a bit of light.
I am the wife of a recovering pornography addict. I hid, alone, carrying this pain in my heart for 3 years. Before we were married my husband and I had talked about pornography. He told me that it was a past issue and it was why he left on his mission later than most. He also told me that he had taken care of it. I believed him.I told him that as long as he was honest with me I was willing to work on anything with him. Throughout our first 3 years of marriage, I would occasionally find something he missed when trying to cover his tracks or he would even mention a random slip up. We would talk about it briefly and then move on. I thought I was being kind and supportive by withholding the pain I felt from him. I knew he hated this part of himself and I didn’t want to hurt him more than he already was. We thought we could handle these relapses on our own. It started happening more frequently and we ended up meeting with our Bishop in October of 2016. There we learned about the church’s addiction recovery program and a new, to our area, family support group. We both decided to attend our respective groups.
Part of my husband’s recovery work was to make a full inventory of all experiences with lust, pornography, and any sexual acting out. He shared this inventory with me, leaving out the explicit details, per my request. This revealed that he had been lying the whole time. Things were worse than he had led on and everything that I had previously known about was either lies, distortions, or half-truths. This day was one of the worst days of my life. His poor choices and deceit blew up our marriage’s foundation and left a gigantic pit. I curled up on the ground and cried for a week. It was unbearably painful to think that my temple marriage was fraudulent, my covenants were obsolete, that my 1st daughters baby blessing was invalid and any other blessings my husband had given were void. He had never been in recovery like he claimed. Our whole relationship had been poisoned with lust, objectification, deceit, and shame. After that, I became consumed by my own shame. “How could I not see this? How could I be so foolish?” I’m not enough for my husband, I became increasingly self-conscious about my post-baby body, I had past experience with an eating disorder and this triggered those feelings and urges again. It was shame city and nothing good comes out of shame. (Shame… I could go on and on about shame/shame culture… Real life-changing truths there… Brene Brown is an expert on shame. Look her up!)
The aftermath of this event left me with something called Betrayal Trauma. (Finally having a name for what I was experiencing was SO validating!) It mirrors many symptoms of PTSD. I experienced triggers regularly. I.E. Walking through the mall, my husband’s new female coworkers, when he is running late without communicating, when we are separated for a trip, the beach, watching TV, something he says, or even just sitting on the couch. In the beginning, I was triggered multiple times a day; each time sending me right back to that soul-crushing day he finally disclosed everything. I quickly found myself in a crazy panic. I wanted to track everything, go through every history log, get rid of every piece of technology we owned, and somehow lock him away from the world. This would remove all access to pornography and our problems would be solved. Then I would snap out of it and feel crazy for feeling crazy. It’s not rational but it is normal to experience those feelings of betrayal trauma. (This is all about to controlling things so you can feel safe again.)
I had tried for years to figure out how I could fix my relationship with my husband. I believed that it was my fault that we had issues; he let me feel that way, and would sometimes shift the blame to me just to protect his addiction. The truth is I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t know the real problem then. Pornography changes the way that you connect with other people. My husband didn’t have the ability to connect with me in the way that is needed for a healthy marriage. He needed to rewire his brain to see souls with bodies instead of just seeing bodies. Repairing our relationship requires both of us to first heal ourselves and then work together to fill in the pit. So the last year and a half has been spent focusing on myself. I am also a mom so that added to the challenge but putting my own healing at the top of my priority list was the best thing I could have done for my family and myself. It also meant letting go of my husband’s recovery. I know what he is like, and how he treats me, when he is in real recovery and when he is not. That is the only thing I (should) pay attention to recovery wise. I cannot tell him how to recover or control if he even chooses recovery. I can only choose what I do. So I choose me, I choose to find peace and healing regardless of what my hubby chooses. Because I am enough, I am worth it, and it is what Heavenly Father wants for me.
It has been a year since that pit of despair ripped open and while we have a lot of work left to do, I can see a purpose in my pain now. In fact, I have reached a place where I can be grateful, not for the trial itself, but for the lessons I have learned through this trial. I am more empathic than before. I have a clearer view of the plan of salvation. I have more compassion for others and myself. I expect and demand the respect that Heavenly Father wants me to have. My priorities are more in order. I can extend charity to my husband in a more Christ-like and genuine way. I understand now that Christ-like doesn’t mean “without conflict.” I know there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. I am able to put my self out there and be seen for who I really am. The things I have learned have touched every aspect of my life. The whole horrible truth had to come out so that I could really heal and so that our relationship can, someday, be repaired. My triggers days are farther apart now. When I am triggered I know what to do and I can stop them before the urge to control everything takes over. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very much a rollercoaster of emotions the pain is still there but it eases with time and recovery work. The trust will take years to rebuild the sadness of that can be overwhelming but now I know where to go with those feelings, I have a support system, I communicate with them and my husband. Instead of vigilantly patrolling my husband, I vigilantly work on my own healing and helping others heal. The darkest days I thought would consume me have passed. I can see the beautiful light starting to shine through, and I know with time, commitment, and most of all the atonement, the light can fully illuminate the darkness.
To those who are hiding or living this struggle: There is hope. You are not alone. The pain and fear you feel are real and valid. It is NEVER your fault. Please know that this is not just the addict’s story, but also your own. You have the right to share your story and to change it’s ending. I encourage you to reach up and reach out. Up to God, and out to your bishop, a local/online support group, or a trusted friend. Know that not everyone knows how to respond to these situations. My prayers are with you. You deserve help. You deserve healing.
To everyone else: Don’t judge and think before you offer advice. Spouses and addicts are still children of God and are worthy of love. My husband a good person with very, very, poor coping mechanisms, as it is with many other addicts. That can be changed. Let them change.
These are some resources that continue to significantly help my husband and me on our recovery: