addiction, repentance, Uncategorized

A Man in Recovery

My ex-husband keeps trying to bully me into believing he is in recovery. But he isn’t.  It is clear to everyone, except him. What he doesn’t understand is it is not up to me to believe him or not to believe him.  Truth is truth. People who are much smarter than I am have developed programs that work and provide the most effective way to overcome this public health crisis. When he is actually in recovery his actions will be unmistakable.  They will be undeniable because he will act differently. He will speak differently.  And he will look differently. It will show in his countenance.

“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Alma 5:14

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A man who wants to recover from a sex addiction has to be prepared for the long haul.  Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  And running in a marathon takes training.  It means running everyday and training everyday, pushing through the pain, and to keep going even when you feel like giving up.  It is work.  It is long-term.  And most importantly, it is a LIFESTYLE change.  It is like being diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. There are just some things you cannot do anymore, because to do them is dangerous to your health.  If you are a diabetic you have to change your diet.  If you have lung cancer you have to stop smoking.  If you don’t do these things then you will die.  If you are a sex addict it is the same thing,  you have to make changes to get your life back and become whole again.  It is a process and it takes time.

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How much time?

You may be surprised to know it takes 3 – 5 years of concerted recovery work to be able to say that you have overcome pornography. Five Years. And that is only if he is ALL IN from the beginning. Not only that, but after you have achieved sobriety and recovery, you must MAINTAIN recovery for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!  You can never go back to doing the things the way you did them before the addiction.  You must be ever vigilant and aware of your actions.

In the first year of recovery a man will constantly insist that he is in recovery.  He will try to convince everyone that it’s not a big deal and he has it under control.  He does this because he is really still having trouble maintaining consistent sobriety.  He isn’t convinced he can do it, so he works hard to make you believe he is.  I am sure it’s painful to keep having slips and relapses.  But he still doesn’t want to face that he is really an addict, but his personal behavior shows him he cannot control himself,  fact he cannot continue to deny. He is angry. He fights recovery.  He believes himself to be an exception to the rules or addiction recovery. He thinks he doesn’t have to do all the recovery steps.  He may think he doesn’t need 12-Steps or Counseling.  He may tell you that he can get over this by just talking to his Bishop.  The reality is that his ability to overcome the addiction is directly related to his willingness to do ALL the parts of addiction recovery.  My ex-husband is one of these men and because of it, he has been stuck in this space of stagnation for two years and he doesn’t even realize it.  He is stuck in denial to the point that he has become so unsafe to his family that we cannot even be around him.  It is very sad. We want to be around him, but we just can’t until he comes to himself and realizes what he does to us. We have to come to accept that he may never change.

What are the steps of addiction recovery?  SALifeline has done an excellent job of laying those out.  If your man isn’t doing one or more of these, he will have a tougher time at recovering.

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A Man Not in Recovery

  • Is self-absorbed.
  • Is prideful.
  • Is unaccountable.
  • Is hard-hearted.
  • Is dishonest.

All of these feelings and attitudes lead to feelings of victim, withdrawal, manipulation, resentment, lies, lust, acting out, anger, fear, shame, fantasy, and loneliness…this is a good description of the behavior our family has experienced from our addict.

It’s a vicious cycle that just keeps spinning and spinning until he in a hole so deep he doesn’t know where to even go.

Recovery

A Man in Recovery

  • He is connected with the God of his understanding.
  • He practices self-care.
  • He is honest about needs and emotions.
  • He is connected with God and others.
  • He has set healthy boundaries.

In addition to this he will work ALL 4 key components of real recovery:

  1. Education – he educates himself of the harmful effects of addiction and how to overcome it
  2. Spiritual Guidance – he is doing spiritual work and meeting with his church leaders regularly
  3. Qualified Therapy – he is willingly seeing a therapist who is experienced in sex addiction
  4. Working the 12 Steps with a Sponsor – he goes to these meetings and is accountable to his sponsor

Here are the cycles of addiction and trauma in an infographic and how addiction and trauma impact a marriage and family.

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A year after fighting, even the idea of, having an addiction, the addict will usually move into acceptance of the addiction.  This is the point where he is getting serious about recovery.  He will buy into what he needs to do as outlined above and he will start working on recovery diligently.  This is a rough year because he will be doing the work, but he doesn’t yet have it down to the point it becomes a part of him, so slips and relapses still happen, but he has the tools to work through them.  This is the critical point that determines if he will continue on, or give up. This is the turning point because it take 2 years of constant sobriety for the brain to begin to heal from the effects of the addiction.  So the addict will only make good choices during this time if he is being guided by a church leader, a sponsor, and a support group.  NOT his wife!  He cannot and should not expect his wife to help him during this time.  She is experiencing her own trauma and working her own recovery. If anything, he should be helping her by providing safety, accountability, honesty, and transparency, to her.

If an addict can make it through the first 2-years, which are very rough for him, and everyone around him, he will move into year three.  This is where the real change will happen.  This is where you will notice the real changes in his behavior.  He has become accountable, transparent, empathetic, and safe.  But this is not the end.

It takes two more years of serious recovery work to see the most growth in the addict.  This is where he will see the changes he is making in his life finally stick to him; to become a part of him. This is where he actually becomes the person he is meant to be.

“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6

The road to recovery must start with a willing heart.  The addict must accept he is an addict, and then work with all his heart, might, mind and strength to overcome his addiction.  It is possible and doable, but it isn’t easy. You MUST do the WORK to reap the reward!

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For the traumatized spouse it is hard to know what recovery looks like unless someone shows you. My ex-husband points out how he is in recovery anytime he has contact with me! He isn’t.  If he was in real recovery, he wouldnt need to point it out, it would be evident in his behavior. You will not likely see real recovery in your spouse at the beginning of this journey, no matter what he tells you. He will have to “wake up” to his addiction first!  He will tell you he is in recovery, even when he isn’t, mostly because he doesn’t even know what real recovery looks like either. (That is where addiction education comes in.) The disconnect between his words and his actions will be confusing.  Most wives want to believe their husbands, but it will not be wise to believe what he says, until you see the above actions take place. So now you know, this is what a man in recovery will look like.  If your man’s behavior doesn’t look like this then you can know he is NOT in recovery.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Everything Does NOT Happen for a Reason, So Stop Saying That!

“Well, everything happens for a reason.” My friend says with a sigh.

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I know she means well. The comment is meant to bring me comfort, and help her feel that she is connecting with my pain, on some level. It is the sort of thing people say when they don’t know what to say. But this is an assumption that doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make someone experiencing the grief of a tragedy feel any better.

I recently read an article that more closely resembled my feelings that ‘not everything happens for a reason’ and some things are just senseless. I was able to codify my feelings in my therapist’s office last week so I will share them with you now. I told her how this comment really upsets me when anyone says it, to anyone. Her response both surprised me and helped me to connect with her. She gets me.

“I know! People used to say that to me too and it made me so mad! This did not happen for a reason!”

Yes! Bingo!

Someone cheating on you over and over doesn’t happen by some grand design meant to make you a “stronger person.” Like my therapist said, “I was a good person already, I would have ‘gotten there’ on my own! I didn’t need this to make me a better person!”

Yeah. Me too.

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Self improvement is my middle name. I am the sort of person who sets goals, and achieves them. I read self-help books. All the time. I want to be better, to do better, at my core. I believe in becoming. It’s in my DNA. It is who I am. I didn’t need some bonehead dumping my world upside down to accomplish what I was already in the process of doing. In many ways, he derailed me, and set me back…years. What I needed was a committed companion to take my hand and help me on my journey. I needed love and support. I needed to be nourished, not hit upside the head with a two by four. I needed to feel connected to my core foundation, my primary relationship attachment.  My husband. Not to suffer atrocities of his own making.

There is no doubt that I will learn some lessons along the way.  There are lessons to be learned in every experience. I do not want to discount this. But betrayal? Infidelity? PTSD? Shock? Grief? Are these the lessons I really needed to learn to grow as a person? Did I need this? Really? Was this somehow a part of God grand design for me? No. Absolutely not! I do not believe this for a minute. It is milarky.

Let’s talk about the suffering of the innocent. Shall we?

Every person on this earth will suffer needlessly at the hand of some careless idiot. Or worse. Someone who is evil at their core. We see it happen everyday. Mass shootings, betrayal, assault, abuse and exploitation, to name a few. All of these things are hideous and senseless. They should not happen. Ever!

But they do. The Lord knew this and he provided for it. Bad things happen because Heavenly Father values agency above nearly everything else. The freedom to choose is paramount to our salvation. We have to be FREE to CHOOSE HIM…or no. Because of this, some people’s choices hurt other people. Profoundly. But I do not believe these lapses in judgment are somehow part of God’s grand design. No. If it were so, I would be experiencing a crisis of faith, because that would mean that God is not loving, but punitive. He would be rightly accused of picking winners and losers among His children. Playing favorites. That is not the kind of God I could trust with my pain.

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But I have it on good authority that God is as upset as I am over the abuses I have suffered at the hands of my ex-husband. Alma teaches this principle very plainly in the Book of Mormon.

Alma and Amulek were missionaries who experienced great success. So much so, that the government rulers were angry at the faithfulness of the people Alma and Amulek converted. The rulers decided that if these new converts did not denounce their new-found religion they would kill all their wives and children, and throw scriptures in a fire with them for good measure. And to make it all the more evil, they would make these faithful men watch it all! How horrific. I can think of very few things that are worse than this. The Lord is very clear in showing this example how he feels. Causing others to suffer because of their wickedness is not acceptable to Him! It isn’t part of HIS plan! It is outrageous!

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Evidently, that is how Amulek reacted as well, and he wants Alma to stop this atrocity. He knew that the power of God could stop it! But Alma is restrained from stopping it by the Spirit, and he explains why:

“The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” Alma 14:11

In other words, the Lord allow bad things to happen to good people so that He can justify punishing the bad people. It was explained to me this way –  If someone wants to kill their brother but never does it, they could say to God at the judgment day, “Well, I never actually did it. No crime was committed.” Even if God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart, he has no proof of the desires of the wicked brother because he was never allowed to act on the intent of his heart. But, if on the other hand, the evil brother acts out his wicked desires, boom! He is so guilty! God is justified and his punishement is just.

So the awful things humans do to each other are not part of God’s grand design. They are the consequences of the agency of another person. AND it allows God to justly punish the wicked.

God did not do this to me to teach me some cosmic lesson. He allowed my ex-husband to do this to me so that He would be justified in punishing him, should my ex never repent. My ex HAS acted out the evil in his heart. Now his job is to turn away from what he did and REPAIR the damage – four fold. (See D&C 98:44-45) If he doesn’t, the consequences for him will not be pretty. Justice will be served up.  Eventually.

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As for me, Heavenly Father has my back. He is giving me all the help and comfort I need right now to get past this, not so I can learn some unfair lesson, but so I can heal from experiencing something I never deserved. Yes, I will end up being a better person for it, maybe, because that is how I roll. But too many people who go through things equally frightful, or worse, and they won’t  be better for it, because it destroys them. Utterly and completely destroyed. Being destroyed doesn’t make you a better person. Suffering at the hands of someone you loved so deeply isn’t a life lesson that improves you. It changes you. Forever.  And not always for the better.  Betrayal isn’t a classroom the Lord uses to school his children. So please, don’t say this to your family and friends who suffer at the hands of a wicked person’s heart. It’s not true. And it certainly isn’t helpful.

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Thoughts from UCAP

UCAPlogo_vertical_blue_320The Utah Coalition Against Pornography had their yearly conference this past week.  I decided to go…and then I didn’t…and then I did…and then I didn’t.  I wasn’t sure how triggering this would be for me, or if I could handle it.  In the end, I decided to go, mostly because my company was providing the text messaging for the conference.  This is also an issue I care about deeply, so I went.  I am glad I did. The theme of the conference was “The Hope Effect” and it turned out to be very hopeful, for both addict and trauma victim. I met lots of awesome new people and re-connected with people I already know.  All in all the experience was great!  I did have a few very triggering moments, I am not going to lie, but I was able to breathe through them and be just fine. Tears were shed, it was just that kind of place.

I came away with a few thoughts and epiphanies that I would like to share. They were profound enough that I wrote them down.

On Secrets

This first one is from therapist Jeff – Speaking to the addict, he said, “Secrets are love repellant. You will feel love to the degree that you don’t keep secrets. You will get better to the degree that you don’t keep secrets” The fact that my ex-husband kept so many secrets from me was a very strong indication that he was not going to fix the problem.  He never once came clean to me about anything he was doing.

Addicts build walls and they go up because they are afraid of rejection, but these walls have just the opposite effect, at least they did in my life.  I ended up feeling like the rejected one. These secrets color and damage every aspect of the relationship.  Addicts reject their spouses love because they think, “If you knew what I did, you would not love me.” But it is the addict who doesn’t feel the spouses, love so they end up blame the spouse.

I can attest to this.  It is exactly what happened in my situation.  I can imagine that my ex-husband felt so much guilt and shame for what he had done that he could not imagine that I would ever love him again.  But the opposite would have been true if he had done the hard work to just get INTO recovery.  I would have loved and respected him more than he could ever imagine, because he would be fighting to keep me.  There is nothing more loveable or romantic than a man who will fight for the woman he loves!

“It is a contradiction to say, “I honor the human person,” while treating the human body as separable from the person using it as a tool, devouring [pornographic] images of it…One cannot at once love the beautiful and desire to defile it. It is like loving the Pieta with an ax.”  Anthony Esolen

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The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

Therapist Tyler Perry talked about the importance of connection in preventing and overcoming addiction. The science is becoming so clear that people turn to addictive behaviors because they are not connecting to people in the real world. We live in an addicting world.  Everything from gaming, to cell phones, to pornography is addicting.  Even jobs and hobbies can be addicting.

Long term recovery cannot happen unless the addict has real life connections.

Addiction + Connection = Recovery

Sobriety is only achieved by a committed effort to a lifestyle change. This is something I worked hard to show my ex-husband.  But he was not convinced he needed a drastic change in his lifestyle to overcome the behavior.  The truth is, that unless there is a lifestyle change, these patterns of behavior will come back.  There is no doubt of that.  You cannot just white knuckle your way to sobriety on sheer willpower.  It won’t happen.

Studies are showing that there must be a connection to others and to your higher power.  And that connection to your higher power begins with daily activities that happen with intention. Things like, scripture study, prayer, meditation, going to church, being in nature, listening to good music and keeping a journal are all things addicts should be doing every day. Over time these “dailies” cause a softness to occur in the heart and we get a confirmation that we are worthy of love.  We gain perspective.  We become humble and that fosters safety and connection for the partner.

Recovery from addiction is very possible, but it takes work.  It takes a willingness to work. It takes humility.  My ex-husband did not demonstrate any of these behaviors.

While sitting in this conference I saw men who were in recovery.  I saw their light and humility. I saw their efforts and willingness to fight for their wives and children.  It was a stark contrast to how my ex-husband responded.  In that moment I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was right to divorce him.  He does not deserve me.  He does not deserve our children.  Had he fought for us, he would have been worthy of us.  But he didn’t. And because he refused to fight for us we were left with no other choice but to walk away.

On Goal Setting

Lastly, I was struck by what therapists are learning about setting goals.  45% of Americans set goals for the New Year, but 92% never achieve their goals.  And by February most people have given up on their goals altogether.  So researchers have tried to figure out why most people do not achieve their goals.

What they found is:

That if you write down your goals and share then with someone else it will decrease the motivation to achieve the goal.  This is because of something they call the “substitution effect.”  What this does is that if you tell someone about your goal, the brain will actually tell you that you have already achieved the goal and convince you that you are already making progress.  This cause the motivation to actually work on the goal to decline. Our brain gives us validation for just “planning” to do something. But if you do not have an outside audience then you are more likely to work harder to achieve the goal.

This is why setting a goal to not look at porn never works.  When your goal becomes white and black, sobriety or addiction, you will fail.  Every time. You are doing well, until you are not.  You become delusional in your thinking.  Everything is always bad or always good.  In this state you are delusional.

So forget about setting goals like this that will set you up for failure.  Instead, focus on the processes. Processes are not a destination. Processes act more like a road map.

Here are the main processes for recovery:

  1. Recovery Dailies – these help you stay emotionally stable, self-aware and grounded.  This is like providing routine maintainance to your car.  If you don’t take care of your car, it will go along fine for a while until you have a problem. By then the problem will be serious and expensive.  Dailies are routine maintainance.
  2. Curiosity – approach healing with a curious mind.  This is much different from evaluating everything that happened.  Slow way down and enjoy the journey.  Ask yourself important questions like, “I wonder why I feel this way?” or “That is an interesting cycle, why did that happen?” Observe your behavior and ask questions about it.  This will take a lifetime to master this shift in thinking.  But having curiosity is more important than intelligence when it comes to problem solving.
  3. Highlight Patterns – highlight your own part of the pattern first to your partner then ask, “what do you think your part of the pattern is in this situation?” This will start a healthy dialogue in identifying and fixing the pattern.
  4. Conflict is Diagnostic – When you have a conflict with your partner it is a chance to ask, “What is it about this pattern that got us back here?” Use conflict to find a diagnosis. Then check your own emotions to see how you handle conflict.
  5. Seek Personal Serenity – Do not let someone else control your emotions. This will take years of work, but it is necessary.  Do not hand over your influence and power to someone else.  Accepting hardships is the pathway to peace.
  6. Replace Fairness with Acceptance – Fairness is the enemy of serenity.  Fairness does not help you to grow. Learned helplessness is not acceptance. Acceptance is not wasting your energy  on things you have no influence over and spending time on the things you do. Accept things that are for what they are.
  7. Create a Recovery Narrative – Imagine your life as being narrated.  We value stories over random facts.  Create how you want your story to be in your mind. 12 Steps is critical to recovery because it creates a safe place for an addict to share their story. Your role in it is to not be overly critical or supportive of the addict in recovery.  Remember that we do not throw parades for ourselves or others until the behavior is changed, if we do this it undermines recovery. Praise decreases the motivation to keep going.  A better response for improvement is, “that’s interesting, it will be interesting to see if you can keep that up.”
  8. Breathe – Remember to breathe.  This allows us to reset.  Nobody can go at this 100% all of the time. Breathing is essential.

What stands out to me in these processes is how much I yearned for this to happen in my own relationship with my husband and how unwilling he was to make it happen for us. This kind of work would have been hard to do, but I would have loved it!  I would have enjoyed so much working to become closer and more connected as a couple.  This would have been fun for me! However, I also realize now how resistant he was to all of this.  It was never going to happen, not in a million-trillion years.  Like he told me over and over, he just isn’t into all that touchy-feely stuff.  It’s not him.  He is right.  He isn’t, wasn’t, even on a good day. This is the kind of connection I wanted and needed from him throughout our marriage and he is not capable of giving it to me.  And even the crisis of an addiction wasn’t enough for him to want it for himself either.

It’s better for me that I divorced him. I was really fighting a losing battle. He is a broken man with no desire to fix anything.

If you would like to view articles and videos from UCAP classes visit their website.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior