addiction, betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Triggers

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 Cheater 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 Cheater 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

michelangelo_pieta_grt

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 Cheater.  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 Cheater did not demonstrate any of these behaviors. He doesnt exhibit them any more today than he did 5 years ago.

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 Cheater responds.  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 Cheater 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

addiction, betrayal, Choices, infidelity, repentance

Real Men Don’t Cheat! Or How to Become a Real Man Again if You Do..

Love is a choice not a feeling.  Think about it for just a minute.  When you love someone you choose to commit to them. You choose to serve them.  You choose to have their safety and best interests at heart.  You choose to walk life’s journey with them.  Romanitic love is a flash in the pan.  It is what get’s the process of love started.  After that, love is a thousand steps through life with that person you chose to go through life with.  Like President Monson said,

“Choose a companion carefully and prayerfully; and when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Priceless advice comes from a small framed plaque I once saw in the home of an uncle and aunt. It read, ‘Choose your love; love your choice.’ There is great wisdom in those few words. Commitment in marriage is absolutely essential.”
-President Thomas S. Monson.

You choose to love someone. You choose to be faithful to them, or not.  When a man chooses a woman he is taking on a sacred responsibility to care for her, to protect her, to provide for her – to love her. For his entire life. Real men know how to make important choices and how to honor them.

cheating

I don’t buy the excuses.  “I just fell out of love.”  It is a lame excuse and is nothing more than a flimsy paper cup that cannot not hold water when these conmen have to tell it to the all-seeing gaze of the ultimate judge. God will not be mocked. Period.  The covenant of marriage is serious business, it deserves serious work and commitment. Real men do not make lame excuses.  Real men honor their covenants. Real men don’t cheat.

“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.”
-President Gordon B. Hinckley

When a man’s focus is  on the anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of his spouse he will simply not be of a mind to stray.  It is only when he takes his focus off of her and puts it on other things, is when he allows his mind to drift into forbidden paths.

“Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.”
-President Howard W. Hunter

When a man cheats it says so much more about his character, discipline, and focus than it does about his wife’s.  When he cheats it says he is not a man of commitment, responsibility or integrity. Real men, above all, have  character.  They don’t take their focus off their wives and children.  They are men of honor who work consistently to be the right person for their wife and children. A real man works hard to insure he is doing his part to lead his family in righteousness.

“Some think of happiness as a glamorous life of ease, luxury, and constant thrills; but true marriage is based on a happiness which is more than that, one which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.”
-President Spencer W. Kimball

Real men understand that marriage isn’t easy.  But a real man is up for a challenge and isn’t a quitter.  He will find ways to improve his relationship when things seem a little bit off or start to go wrong.  He will not refuse to do what is necessary to fix a problem.  He will work selflessly to find a solution.  Real men work on their relationships. Real men go to marriage counseling with the intent to improve, when needed.

All in all, it takes a weak man to cheat.  A selfish man cheats.  A cowardly man cheats.  If the truth is really said out loud, any man has the potential and ability to be a coward under the wrong circumstances.  We are all subject to temptation and sin.  Anyone can fall.  This is the nature of life, especially if we are foolish enough to let our guard down.  So if a man cheats does that mean he is past the point of no return?

Emphatically, NO!

The epitome of a real man, a real man that deserves our highest praise and honor, is one who has made serious mistakes, but who can own up to it! He admits his weaknesses, confessed to them, willingly, he tells all of it.  For him, there is no confession that is too hard or humiliating, because he cares more about reparing the damage than he does about his own weaknesses. If a real man can confess his weaknesses then the Lord will take his weakness and make them become strong!  His infidelity will lead him to become absolutely faithful in all things, because he will have learned how!

“Love is a fragile thing, and some elements in life can try to break it. Much damage can be done if we are not in tender hands, caring hands. To give ourselves totally to another person, as we do in marriage, is the most trusting step we take in any human relationship. It is a real act of faith — faith all of us must be willing to exercise. If we do it right, we end up sharing everything — all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys — with another person.”
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Then he works hard to rebuild his breech of trust.  A real man will go to his wife and humbly seek her forgiveness. He will do whatever it takes to repair the damage he has done.  He will  identify what caused him to cheat. Often finding the cause takes working through a 12-step program and/or counseling. Then he will develop a plan for himself to make the required changes. He will set up clear boundaries for himself so that it will not happen again.  He will share these new boudaries with his wife. Then he will check-in with her everyday to let her know he is committed to her and serious about repairing the damage. She will know how he is doing in his repentance because he will tell her! She won’t need to ask him.

“Converse with each other, thereby never letting little things become big things.”
-Elder Robert D. Hales

He will do everything he can to help her feel safe and work hard to rebuild her trust in him.  He will ask her often if there is something more he can do for her. Her comfort, well-being, and safety are his primary concerns.  If he violates his own boundaries, then he will go to her immedately and confess the breech.  Then he will rework his plan to shore up the weak areas.  She won’t have to worry about relapses because he is already on top of it! He will make himself accountable to her and to others who can help him.  He will seek advice from experts. He will read up on cheating and how to avoid it.  He will educte himself and share what he is learning with wife. He will not give her cause to worry any further, because he wants to be responsible to himself and to her.

“Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.”
-President Henry B. Eyring

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He will lead her in daily prayer and scripture study. He will make sure they do it together.  He will show her in everything he does that he has chosen her and is committed to her. Every action will But more than that, he will show he has chosen God and that he is committed in leading himself and his family back to Him.  Everything he does will reflect his committment to God.  And that commitment to Him, will show more than anything else he does, that he has re-committed to her. This is what real men do.

“Once I married her,” Elder Andersen said, “the standards in my life went way up — being totally consistent in prayer and scripture study, keeping the commandments with precision. She has a pure and disciplined faith.”
-Elder Neil L. Andersen

This is what recovery from betrayal trauma really looks like. It takes work, real work, willingly done by a real man! Incidentally, this is also what real repentance looks like as well!

This what a real man will do if he makes a mistake and cheats.

This is what cheaters do when they want to be real men again. This is how you will know you have a real man worth standing by.

Anything less than this is cowardly.

If you have cheated on your wife, it’s time to man up!

“Both men and women need righteous desires that will lead them to eternal life. Let us remember that desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.”
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior