Becoming, Coping, My Story, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

What I Have Learned…So Far

Blog-1-Recovery-Plan-4-17-1

Wow!  It has been 4 years in November since the second d-day of my, then, husband’s addictions.  Four long, horrible, awful, painful, nightmarish, years.  Had I known then what I know now I would have done a whole lot of things differently. Most of what I learned is bad news, but it might be of use to many of you.  Maybe this list ( in no particular order) will help you navigate the labyrinth of betrayal:

  • I learned addicts cannot tell the truth. EVER! NOT.TO.SAVE.THEIR.LIFE! They won’t. If their mouth is moving, they are lying.  It is ONLY in the DOING, not the SAYING that you will know if they are truthful or not. My Ex is STILL lying, hiding, covering things up.  That is how I know he is still mired in his addiction. Truth is the opposite of addiction.
  • I learned I could not, and should not have tried, to fix him.  He is the only one who can fix himself. So far, nothing has changed with him in four years.  And it won’t change, until he has hit bottom.
  • Betrayal is the WORST thing you could ever do to your wife and children!  It would be easier for the family if the cheater died.
  • After you discover your husband’s affair(s) you will probably not function for at least a year.
  • You will probably cry everyday for at least a year.
  • Your brain will be hyjacked into an endless loop of obessing over what happened, trying to make sense of somthing that makes no sense.
  • Your survival will be the only thing you can deal with for at least a year.
  • You will forget about all of the things you used to love, i.e., reading, crafts, hobbies, friends etc.
  • Your life will never be the same, but what comes up in its place will be good.
  • You WILL be happy again!
  • You will not begin to feel anything close to “normal” for 1-2 years.
  • You will have to work at your recovery from the trauma for, probably, the rest of your life.

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  • I still cry and get triggered even though it has been 4 years since the second d-day.
  • I will never be the same.  EVER.
  • I never knew I could withstand that depth of pain and anguish.
  • I am stronger than I ever imagined I could be.
  • I never knew I could feel that much hate for another human being.
  • I never thought I would be able to forgive any of it, but with a lot of work, I have.
  • I actually feel sorry for him for what he will face on judgment day.
  • I am only in charge of me. That is the only place I have/had any control.
  • I learned I should have left him sooner.  He had no intention of fixing himself or repairing his relationship with his family, probably from day one.  (He still doesn’t.) In the end he just walked away right into another relationship without so much as a backwards glance. We were all replace.  It was easier for him, I suppose, to get a whole new family than to fix himself, or his family.
  • Being discarded like garbage is the worst feeling I have ever experienced! Nothing comes close to ever being able to describe it.  I would have rather had cancer!
  • I have learned that porn and sex addiction is an epidemic and that I am not alone, far from it!  Thousands of women join the support groups I belong to every year.
  • Support groups are invaluable! (Send me a message and I will suggest some to you.)
  • This is NOT my fault.  This was never about me.  It had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a character flaw in him.  Cheating on your wife is not normal behavior.  I did nothing to cause it. HE made the CHOICE to cheat and that is on him.

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  • There is NOT “two sides” to this problem.  The cheater is 100% responsible for cheating.
  • He is a coward.
  • He is selfish and self serving.
  • He can never be trusted by any woman.
  • He is not safe.
  • He is full of pride and self-importance.
  • He is fake.
  • His “repentance” is not real. Yet.
  • Friends and family do not have the bandwidth to understand you, or what you are going through.  I didn’t even have the bandwidth to understand what was happening to me.  Nothing in anyone’s life experiences prepares them for this.  This is why support groups and systems are so invaluable.
  • Most people blame the wife for being cheated on, even when the research says otherwise. “Oh she must have done _______ to deserve it.”  This is nonsense!  Cheating is a character flaw of the cheater!  Period!  If he is unhappy then he divorces his wife without all the drama of cheating.
  • Wives of narcissistic abusers, cheaters, and addicts are often shunned and not supported through their betrayal trauma by their community.
  • Wives and children of cheaters are expected to just “get over it,” even when there is zero research to support this belief.
  • The grief of betrayal is worse than the grief of death and lasts a lot longer.
  • Adult children feel betrayed too, more often than not, just as much as the wife.
  • Grandchildren also feel betrayed and do not have the maturity or understanding to be able to process it. At all.
  • The whole family is harmed and suffers for a really long time. Years, or even decades.
  • I wish I would have gone “no contact” sooner. Go “no contact” as soon as you can.
  • Going “no contact” will  probably cause him to turn his abuse on his children.
  • He cannot relate to anyone in his former family with anything that resembles kindness or compassion.
  • After his betrayal I was in serious mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual danger, and I did not know it!
  • Nobody will tell you the severity of danger you are in. Mostly because most people do not know.
  • The “reconciliation culture” will tell you it’s better to reconcile with your cheater.  There is no research to support this belief. You are welcome and encouraged to reconcile once.  After that, I would say its better to move on while you still have some self-esteem, and years, left.
  • I can’t find very many successful cases of a recovering sex/porn addicts that fixed the mess he made with his family. Not enough to warrant staying in an abusive marriage with an addict.
  • Divorce is not an easier solution, but it may be the only solution.
  • When an addict says, “I don’t have an addiction,” believe them, and walk away.  There is nothing you can do if they won’t even admit they have a problem.
  • Save yourself first. You can’t save someone from drowning if you are drowning too.
  • He is responsible for his own recovery.  You are not his support system!  Do not ever put yourself in this role.
  • If it comes between choosing your own life or your spouse, choose your own life!
  • Addicts are master manipulators, gaslighters, and destroyers of those they used to claim to love.
  • Manipulation tactics are many, and go by many names: gaslighting, turning the tables, crazy-making, projection, deflection, misdirection, shaming, lying, minimizing, personal attacks, blaming, just to name a few.
  • Addicts are abusers.
  • Cheaters are abusers.
  • Keep copies of ALL evidence of his cheating, addiction, and abuse.  This means to keep all phone records, emails, pictures, screenshots, texts, and, please, keep a journal.
  • Addicts are usually narcissists too. On the other hand, narcissist are not always addicts.
  • Addicts can also be a sociopath.
  • Study, study, study, everything you can about every topic in this list! (Topics are highlighted in blue.)
  • Narcissists do not seek treatment, it is their nature to believe they do not have a problem.
  • Addicts won’t change or seek treatment unless they really want to change, or hit bottom, or are forced to change through legal means.
  • The Addict’s number one goal is self-preservation. They will sacrifice everything to cover up their secret, that includes you, and the kids.
  • The learning curve of addiction is steep and nothing in your life will prepare you for it in advance. You will have to learn about it on your own, and usually the hard way. Seek help as soon as possible!
  • Nothing about betrayal is fair.
  • Cheaters/addicts have no empathy and cannot express empathy for what they have done to you or your children.
  • Cheaters expect that you just accept that they blew up your family without any serious consequences.
  • Cheaters often say they did this to you and your children because ” THEY deserve to be happy.”
  • Cheaters and addicts are inherently selfish. Addiction is selfish.
  • Addicts don’t know how to be sincerely sorry, and will refuse to make sufficient amends for the harm they caused you.
  • Addicts do not respect anyone, mostly, because they do not respect themselves.
  • Addicts feel entitled to expect their families to forgive, forget, and just move on as if nothing happened.
  • Addicts feel entitled to lots of things they have not earned, i.e, trust, forgiveness, support, kindness, etc.
  • Addicts do not take personal responsibility for the consequences of their own choices and actions.
  • Addicts will demand that you see they are repenting and you must forgive them with zero proof they are making any changes. You are expected to believe them solely on their word.
  • Addicts expect their children to accept their affair partner or othe other woman.
  • Lawyers and the laws do not do a good job of supporting or protecting the innocent victims of cheaters and addicts.  Even your own lawyer may not be protecting your best interests.
  • Courts don’t care if a spouse, or his affair partner, is mentally or emotionally dangerous for children.  Many children do not want to see the cheating parent, but are forced to comply by the courts.
  • Cheaters, amazingly, continue to abuse and torture their spouse and/or children long after the divorce is over, with no justification.  The only way to protect yourself from this is to go “no contact.”
  • Wives with children at home cannot go completely “no contact” and are subjected to continued abuse.
  • Women are often betrayed and abused over and over by their spouse, to the point that they end up with serious emotional disorders like PTSD, CPTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and betrayal trauma.
  • Addicts will never give you closure. (See, they cannot tell the truth.) You will never know which parts of your life are true, and which ones were lies. They would rather you suffer than to admit to what you already suspect.
  • Most people do not understand the nature of sex or porn addiction even though porn addiction effects at least 1/2 of the population.
  • Porn and sex addictions are just as harmful and dangerous as drugs, alcohol, cocaine, or meth addictions. The difference is they carry these chemicals around with them inside their body to use “on demand” and without detection, for a long time before you are even aware of it.
  • It takes 5 years to fully recover from a sex/porn addiction.  And that is if the addict is fully onboard with recovery from the beginning and committed to stick with it for the rest of his life.  Every slip or relapses sets him back at least another year.
  • Less than 1% of marriages to a cheating partner have any chance of lasting.
  • 12-Step Programs are useless for victims of betrayal trauma!  You cannot be an enabler of something you never knew existed!
  • You need a therapist/group/support system that understands betrayal trauma.
  • The only people who will understand what you are going through are people who have been there.

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  • The “other woman” (OW) did not win a prize when she “won” your husband, she just inherited all of his problems and addictions.
  • The OW is more than likely clueless and stupid and has no idea what she got herself into since all she will know about him is what he told her, and he controls the narrative where she is concerned. She will wake up eventually.
  • The OW will rarely seek out the truth about why he left his family, that is, unless she was partly responsible, then she really doesn’t care.
  • Men who cheat do not change for the OW.  It’s only a matter of time before he cheats on her too.
  • The OW doesn’t have any special gifts or magic to change him, she is NOT better than you.  She isn’t kinder, more beautiful, or something more special than you are.  She is clueless.  That is her only superpower!
  • Men who cheat do not change.  Period.  They are not that self-aware or introspective. (Remember, real recovery takes 5 years!)
  • The OW is also a cheater, and in biblical terms, she is a whore.
  • A cheater picked the OW because he could no longer fool you about his addiction/cheating, but he knows he can fool her. That is why he is with her and not with you.
  • Cheaters will choose the OW over their own children. In this case, blood is NOT thicker than water when it comes to betrayal.
  • Cheaters will walk away from their family over the OW and never look back.  Many of them give up decades of life and history with their wives and children.
  • Addicts will try to engage you in something called “the pick me dance.” This is where they will expect you to bend over backwards trying to prove that you are better than the OW and that he should pick you over her.  They will try to get you to convince them that you really want them back, all the while coming up with stupid ass reasons why you don’t. This is ridiculous and should be avoided at all costs. It is designed to drive your crazy. He wants you to act crazy so he can justify cheating on you. ” My wife is crazy, she doesn’t love me or understand me like you do!”
  • Addicts and cheaters “want their cake and eat it too!” So they will lie and hide the OW so he can keep you both for as long as possible.
  • Trauma bonding, also known as the Stockholm Syndrome, is a real thing and will cause you to want your cheater back even though you know that would be harmful to you to take him back.
  • You will miss your old life and him horribly.  But you will also come to realize that the life you thought you had with him was a total lie, so you are missing something you never really had in the first place.
  • You will come to understand that your relationship with the addict was no real relationship at all, that you were the one who did all the work to keep the relationship going.  Everything you thought you had, was very one-sided.
  • You will spend YEARS recovering from the trauma of being betrayed.
  • Betrayal trauma recovery will demand that you make a lifestyle change.
  • The karma bus ALWAYS comes to visit the Cheater and the OW.  Always. Even if it looks like he got away with everything right now.  He didn’t.
  • Porn/Sex addictions are the plague of our time and is being called a public health crises.
  • Addicts and cheaters are not original in their behaviors.  They all pretty much do and say the same crazy sh*t, as if they were all given a “cheaters handbook.” When you learn this simple fact you are free to know, for a fact. when they are lying to you.  The lies are all the same! (see your therapist for a copy of the cheaters handbook.)
  • Likewise, men in recovery will also do and say the same things, but it is a much different list and comes from a place of godly sorrow, remorse, repentance, restitution and humility.
  • You won’t have to wonder if your husband is in recovery, you will know!  And if you don’t know, then the answer is that he is NOT in recovery.
  • There is a saying that goes, “you cannot get an addict to tell you anything about his recovery, but a man in real recovery will never stop talking about it.” That is how you know.
  • Addicts in recovery don’t hide anything!  They will tell you what you want to know before you can even ask!

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I am sure there are other things I have learned, but these stand out to me right now.  It has been a very difficult learning process, but I am grateful now that I know what I know. I never believed that this could have ever happened to me. Not in a billion years! I never believed that my ex-husband could be “this kind of man.” But I am grateful to all the people who have helped me through this so far!  My children have been a tremendous support!  I love them and I will always be grateful they were old enough to see what was happening for themselves.  I am grateful for my therapists and support groups!  I am grateful for the new skills I have learned because of this. I am always going to have a special place in my heart for a Bishop who “gets it!” And I couldn’t have made it this far without my Heavenly Father who helped me navigate this awful mess and brought people and  things into my life when I needed them the most. And lastly, I am grateful for this blog and the courage that it took for me to tell my story, it has helped me sort it out and make some sense of something that just doesn’t make any sense! This has been a huge piece of my recovery of me!

Someday… I will be grateful my ex did this to me….however, today is not that day.

What have you learned in your journey of recovery? Can you add anything to this list?

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

 

Can we talk frankly?  Just us girls?  I am going to tell you what to expect from your husband after you discovery your husband’s addiction or affair, otherwise known as D-day. Why? Because I didn’t get the straight scoop when I was going through this, not from anyone.  Not from my Bishop, not from my therapists, not from my family, or my friends.  Not from anybody! Nobody wants to sit you down and tell you that your husband is acting like a douche and you should seriously consider leaving.

I get it, this is one of the most gut wrenching, hard, mind bending decisions that you will EVER make in your life! This is the mother of all difficult decisions – to leave a cheating, porn addicted, sex addicted spouse – or stay.  The Church is not helpful either, it teaches you from infancy that your family is everything and you should sacrifice everything for your marriage, and rightly so.  All true, and I still believe that with all of my heart. But your Bishop is NOT ALLOWED to tell you to leave your husband! It’s something about being held responsible legally.

Heck, if my ex-husband would show up tomorrow with his hat in hand and showed me he was truly sorry and repenting with an “Alma the Younger” kind of attitude, and I could see he was in some hardcore, serious recovery, I would consider taking him back to save our family.  I would.  I know I would.  I think about it everyday.  But he is not going to do that, and I know he is not going to do that. He is so happy with his wifestress! So I don’t think dream about it much anymore. He ran off and cheated got married without a backwards glance towards me, so I got my answer, I meant nothing to him in the end. That is the ultimate example of helplessness, the choice to save my family is completely out of my hands. My family is toast because of my Ex’s choices. But what about yours?  How do you know if you should trust your addict? How do you know if you should give him, yet another, chance? How do you know that he will be serious about recovery?

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This question has plagued me like no other question in this hailstorm known as porn and sex addiction. I nearly took my own life over this question. I wanted to save my family so badly that I nearly lost my own soul in the attempt to save his, subjecting myself to two whole years of  pure torture. So how do you keep from experiencing the same devastatingly shattering heartbreak and not making the same mistakes that I did? Where is the balance between saving yourself from drowning in the depths of despair and saving your marriage and family?

Addicts are just that, addicts, and they cannot be trusted. Not even a little bit, and not for a long, long, long time.  And by the time you figure out you should not trust them anymore, you are already behind the eight ball.  Your looks are gone, you are older, chances are he has depleted your finances, mortgaged your house, he doesn’t have a job, or he is hiding what little money the two of you had left, and you are stuck with no way out and no way to support yourself and your children.  Trust me, I see this play out over and over everyday with every new post on my support group pages.  I took me a long time to figure out that my addict was just the same guy as all the other addicts, and the wonderful man I married was long gone, leaving a sad, sorry, shell of a man I never knew behind. The stories are all the same.  I want to throw up every time I hear another woman say she stayed and believed him, and he left her with nothing.  I seriously read another 10 stories just like this every.single.day. It is nauseating how trusting all these women are, and that includes me too!  I get it!  I fell for it, the same as you! If I had a dollar for everytime he said he would “do anything to get my family back,” I’d be a wealthy woman.  So that is why I want to give you some heart-to-heart advice I wish I had gotten, but never did.  You may or may not believe me, but you cannot say I didn’t tell you. What you do after this is totally up to you.

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When you discover your husband has a porn/sex addiction or he is cheating on you, now is the time for some serious tough love!  Someone told me recently that if your addict still likes you, that you are probably  doing something wrong and enabling him. Now is NOT the time to be all understanding and kind, even though every single person in your life will tell you that it is!  NO!  Do not fall for it!  You, YOU… have just been cheated on.  What you need are some serious assurances.  Do not let him turn himself into the victim by giving you the ‘you need to support me’ routine.  Ummm…no! Just no!  That is not how this scenario should go.  And if you let it go that way, you are just setting yourself (and him) up for more heartbreak. And heartbreak doesn’t even begin to describe how it feels.  Imagine your heart being ripped out of your chest and shredded in a meat grinder and then eaten, by your addict.  Yeah, it’s gruesome.  It’s still doesn’t come close to describing how awful it feels.

So here is the thing.  If all of these recovery and addiction clinics work so well, then they are keeping their success records a closely guarded secret.  I have yet to find any definitive stats on how well they work, and I have looked.  I know they are successful, I have seen some of the success in person and in stories, but to what extent?  What is the success rates, in percentages, of people who come into their programs and stay sober, long-term?  I would really like to know!  So if you know, please tell me, because I am starting to think it’s not that good, given how closely guarded a secret it is. Just guessing here.

Another thing that is worrisome to me is the number of my Sisters in my various support groups who are going on 10, 15, and 20 years with a husband who is still relapsing.  I give these wonderful, saintly, longsuffering women all my love and support, but I couldn’t do it! I refuse!!! I gave my addict 9 years and that is 4 years too many. So with hindsight being 20/20 here is what I would do, if I had to go back and do it all over again:

I would give him 1 year to get into solid recovery.  That means;

  • He is seeing his Bishop weekly
  • Going to 12 steps and has a sponsor that he is checking in with daily
  • Reading books, articles, and anything he can get his hands on, about addiction,  recovery, and betrayal trauma
  • Is in an addiction recovery program
  • And he is seeing a therapist who is trained in sex addiction
  • Lastly, his relapses are getting less, by a lot!

This list is the bare minimum.  What is as important as the list, is his attitude. His attitude should be stellar!  He should be falling all over himself to make all of it up to you, not the other way around.  And if he completes the first year successfully then, you give him another year.  If at anytime he flips back into full addiction mode (full relapse), then you need to get the hell out! Run as fast as you can, while you still can. How do you know he has flipped back into full addiction mode?  That is simple – lying.  If he is lying to you then he is not committed! Period.  Transparency is paramount.  If he is hiding…anything, he is not serious!

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And here is why I think this way:

It takes 5 years to successfully beat a porn sex addiction. Minimum. That is the one statistic that I could find!  Yes, you read that right!  5 years! That is a lot of years! Here is how my therapist broke it down for me;

In the first year they are not even sure they have an addiction, but they will go through the motions because you want and need them to.  This is where my red flag came up.  Mind would not even do this for me!  He refused.  Said he didn’t have an addiction.  If yours says this, it’s game over. You cannot fix a problem that they think does not exist.

The second year is the year they start to see some benefits to living a life of an addict in recovery.  They see their life is better, but the “buy in” still isn’t 100% there. The reason for this is because it take 2 years of sobriety for the brain to heal enough to start thinking clearly again!  The addiction kills their prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is where reason, logic, empathy, connection are housed All of these traits, and others most be present for addiction recovery.  With a brain that looks like swiss cheese, it is impossible for them to recover.  And sadly, they won’t get this part of their brain back for at least two years of solid sobrity,  and that is if there are no slips…no relapses.  This is why they need to get into recovery and stay there, because you will not see any results for at least two-three years! Every slip and relapse, sets the 2-year clock back to zero.

The third year is when their brain finally heals enough to KNOW they were an addict all along.  This is the year they finally wake up to their awful situation.  If you can survive it until year three, then you have a fighting chance! Keep going, as long as he continues to do his part. This is the year that you can finally start to have hope that your marriage and family can be saved.  Most therapist will not tell you this up front, not unless you press them, like I did.

Years 4-5 is when he finally gets it!  Whew!  He is sold on recovery and he is committed, and you will see it, loud and clear!  There is a saying that you can tell when a man is in recovery because he won’t shut up about how great his life is in recovery.  Conversely, if a man is not in recovery then you can’t get him to tell you anything about it.

Are you starting to get an idea about what you are in for?  5 years. 5 long, hard, hard,  years of crying your eyes out, and that is IF he is committed from the very beginning.  If he isn’t committed then you will suffer an additional year, for every year that he continues to slip up and relapse.  And in the meantime, your life is also slipping away from you, with no guarantees that it will get any better.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody in your inner circle is going to tell you any of this.  They can’t, because they probably don’t know enough about addiction or how your husband will respond.  But you know.  Deep down inside you know. You know your husband, you know what his committment level is, you also know how determined he is, you will know all of this by how fast he gets into recovery and how hard he works at it to stay there! I can tell you all of this because I lived it, and so has every other addict’s wife.  I cannot tell you definitively when to leave him, but I can tell you how you will know when it’s time to leave.  Don’t give him decades of your life to fix this problem.  He hasn’t earned that right if he isn’t invested in fighting for you. I knew.  Deep down inside, I knew from the beginning, he wasn’t going to fight for me.  My gut was screaming at me to kick him to the curb.  He was never going to fight for me, no matter how much he said he would. In the end, nothing he said matched up to what he did.

What does “fighting for you” look like?  Well, two words…SAFETY and TRUST.  Safety means that he will make it safe for you to be in his life.  He will go out of his way to show you that you can count on his to be where he says he will be, doing what he says he is doing.  He will show you his phone when you ask, give you his passwords, delete all of his cheater accounts, he will work his recovery program and make sure you know he is doing what he promised you will do.  Over time, as he is providing you safety, it will build up trust again.  You will start to feel like you can count on him again, what he does and says will match, this is what it means to have integrity. And, if he is really good at it, he will tell you what you need to know before you ask him. This is what it means when he says he will do ANYTHING to get you back! He literally, will do ANYTHING to provide you with safety and to re-build trust.

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On the other hand, if your addict is doing any number of these things, then it is time to seriously make the hard choice to go:

  • He won’t stop cheating.  After d-day I had at least 6 more d-days as women he was cheating with came forward to tell me he was cheating on them! If you are “finding out” more cheating then he isn’t serious about recovery.
  • He won’t stop lying.  Even when I would ask him about things he knew I knew, seeing, he would lie.  He would even lie about things he didn’t need to lie about like if he was going to church or not. Addiction = lying.  Recovery =transparency.
  • He has secret phone numbers, apps, or accounts that you did not know about and you discover them much later after d-day. If he hides anything from you that is a huge red flag.
  • He won’t give you the money you need to live on.  Hiding money  or not taking care of you is a red flag that he is planning to exit.
  • He won’t take responsibility for his actions.  Being in denial about his addiction shows up in a number of manipulation techniques like, blame shifting, lying, crazymaking, gaslighting, turning the tables, or playing the victim.  You will know if this is happening because any conversation about him and his addiction will be suddenly shifted to be about you. Active addicts are experts at placing the blame on you.
  • He refuses to admit he is an addict.  If this is the case – game over.  Nobody can fix a problem if they will not even admit there is a problem.  If this happens, get an attorney and walk away.
  • He won’t take recovery seriously.  If he is only half-hearted about recovery then the likelihood that he is still cheating is very high.  he should be doing the minimum as outlined above.  If he is really serious then he will go above and beyond the minimum.
  • He will not provide safety and trust.  My Ex wouldn’t even try to do this for me.  He did everything BUT…in fact, he took it to the next level by ignoring me, he wouldn’t answer my texts to phone calls for days at a time.  Ignoring is a huge red flag, it’s just another form of hiding.
  • He refuses to do a full disclosure.  An addict should be willing to fully disclose everything he has done to you in the spirit of starting fresh with nothing to hide and no more secrets. If he won’t disclose his actions to you then he isn’t ready to give up his addiction.

Lastly, I know how hard it is to hear these things, but it is harder in the long run not to hear them.  Nothing in your life experience up until now will have ever prepared you for going through being cheated on.  It just isn’t something people talk about, much less prepare you for.  Most of the people you know, your friends, your family, your church family, will not know how to advise you.  This will be something that will make you feel hopelessly and totally alone.  It will feel like nobody knows what you are going through.  For a while you will feel untethered from everything you thought was your life.  It will take you some time to get your bearings.  This is why it is so important that you start to build yourself a support system as soon as possible. You are going to need all the help you can get.  Here is where to get started on building your support system.

The biggest thing you should try to wrap your brain around is that there is nothing you can do about your husband and his addiction, he is going to have to choose to do his own recovery work.  All you can do is to take care of you.  Focus on taking care of yourself so you will be ready for what comes next in your life.  Know this, you are not alone.  There are many other women who know and understand what you are going through.  Nothing about this is fair. The only control you have now is how you choose to respond to one of the worst injustices that anyone can experience in life.  You will have a lot of big decisions to face in the coming months and years.  Taking care of you and learning all you can about addiction will be the best way to prepare for how you will respond to the question of to stay or leave.

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

 

 

 

betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Gaslighting; Knowing the Signs, and How to Stop It

If you have been cheated on and haven’t heard the terms “gaslighting” or “crazy-making” you are probably still very confused about some of your addict’s behaviors.  In 1938 there was a stage play, and later, a movie called “Gaslight.  The premise of both was a husband who systematically convinced his wife that she was insane by destabilizing her by de-legitimizing her memories and beliefs.  He rearranged furniture, reinvented conversations, and turned down the gas lights. When she would question what was happening around her he would deny all of it in the attempt to make her believe she was losing her mind.  Addicts, narcissist, and sociopaths all behave in the same way.  This is why the term is now to describe the behavior of addicts, manipulation, and other psychotic disorders.  Gaslighting is a real thing and it maybe happening in your relationship, especially if your husband has been found cheating on you. Chances are that you already know it has happened to you or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.

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What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a powerful manipulation tactic used by one person in a relationship to  control the other person by making them question their reality or truth.  You might say that you would never fall for anything so sinister, and that is easy to say, however, gaslighting happens so subtlely and slowly that the damage is often already complete long before you are ever aware that you have been manipulated.

Gaslighting is a common practice for politicians, religious and business leaders, bullies, and even the media.  We can almost tolerate it in these people, we can even roll our eyes at it, but when it comes from our significant other, that is a whole other story! Gaslighting is used by the powerful against the weak to lower their self-esteem and independence, to keep them in their place, and from fighting back.  If the gaslighter is successful, their victim will be left powerless, confused, and unable to defend herself. You will truly feel that you have lost your mind! The whole point of gaslighting is to keep you from learning the truth about your husbands addiction and betrayal.

In a relationship where one spouse is cheating on the other one, gaslighting is just one of many methods employed by the cheater to cover his tracks. Gaslighting can happen in the relationship for years without detection, before, during, and after the cheating has been discovered.

How Do You Know If You Have Been Gaslighted?

There are 10 manipulation techniques used in gaslighting to successfully make you think that you are the one who is crazy so that he can continue to cheat on you without your knowledge, keep you in the dark once the affair(s) has been discovered, and continue to abuse you going forward:

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The Lies That Come in Every Shape, Color, and Size

Everyone experiences little white lies.  You know, the kind where you tell someone they don’t look bad in a dress when they really do, just to spare their feelings. That is not what I am talking about here.  Gaslighters intentionally lie and they do it without guilt or remorse.  They are able to lie to you straight to your face when they KNOW what they are saying is a bold-faced lie and that you do not believe it. These lies are designed to set a precedent for future lying.  It reminded me a lot of how Satan lies, a little truth mixed with a lie, just enough to make it believable.  A gaslighter will throw in just enough truth to make it plausible, but everyone in the room knows it’s a lie; you know it, he knows it, and he knows you know it.  Once this happens its a game changer.  From this point on you are not sure if anything else he says to you is the truth.  The purpose of this lie is to keep you off-balance, from now on, you will question everything, wonder why it’s happening, and not trust yourself, or him. Its a terrible feeling to not trust the one person who you should trust the most!

My ex-husband diabolically told me he was cheating again, just days after I had realized that I had actually begun to trust him again after his “first” affair. It took me 5 years to trust him again, and then one day he says to me, out of the clear blue sky, “You think I am cheating on you again, don’t you? You will NEVER trust me again, ever! I am tired of having to live this way, always wondering if you will ever trust me again!” I had said nothing for him to bring this up! I was immediately put between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand I was forced to defend my honor by telling him that I did truly trust him, on the other hand he was daring me to ask him if he was cheating again so he could berate me.  I didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing.  And from this point on I was put on edge.  Later, I was to find out that he was, in fact, having another affair, and he had been doing so for at least a year! The lie was that he was calling me out as the one who had trust issues and he was daring me to confront him. The truth was that he WAS cheating again! Rather than just being honest and confessing, he decided he would call my loyalty to him into question! This is so wrong on so many levels!

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Everyone Else is the Liar

Anyone who disagrees with the gaslighter is an automatic liar.  Nobody is telling the truth…ever. And once a person has been deemed a liar anything that comes out of their mouth from then on out is a lie. This tactic is employed to isolate you from knowing the truth.  If he can convince you that everyone else is lying then you will rely on him to be the sole source of all truth. This effectively works to keep you from seeking help from people who are in a position to really help you. All of a sudden your family is a lying to you, or out to get him, or manipulating you.  You can’t believe what your Bishop is telling you, how could you listen to your therapist, your best friend has always hated him, how can you possibly believe all these liars in your life? Over time, the victim with start to believe the lies and this is dangerous for everyone, especially to herself.  It’s best to get away while you still have your wits about you. More about that later.

Once he convinces you to dismiss all the liars in your life it leaves the gaslighter with complete control over you.  Don’t fall for it! I had this happen to me so often it is difficult to come up with just one example, but this one stand out:

I had made an appointment for us to go to LifeStar.  He had agreed to go with me to get help to save our marriage.  Once we were there, he said he never agreed to go and then he did everything to discredit everyone in the clinic.  The therapists where crazy, the program wasn’t good enough, no excuse was too far-fetched make them, or me, seem crazy for making him go there.  He even convinced the therapists and members of his group that he did not have an addiction, or so he thought. The bottom line was that we were all liars and we were all ganging up on him and accusing him of being an addict when he really wasn’t one.  We were all the evil meanies! He was innocent and nobody believed him.

The only way to protect yourself from the lying is to keep good records of everything.  Don’t keep records to prove to him that he is a liar, keep the records to prove to yourself that he is a liar. He won’t believe the proof anyway.

Denial is Not a River in Egypt!

You probably have noticed that addicts are equally adept at denial as they are at lying. They will say or do something, and then turn around and flat-out deny that they ever said or did something.  And you are not immune from this bait and switch contortion.  They will also deny that you ever said or did something that you darn well know you said or did! Even when faced with concrete evidence they will find one fault or chink in the armor to discredit the whole thing.

What was the most frustrating thing for me is the denial my ex-husband had for my own motives.  I told him at every step along the way of a painful, 4-year process, that if he would get himself into recovery, come up with a plan to provide me with safety so I could trust he would not cheat on me again, and if he would get into a 12-steps program with a sponsor, and meet with his Bishop every week, that I would move back in with him.  I also told him after I filed for a divorce that if he would do these things I would be willing to stop the divorce and work on putting our marriage back together.  The last time I told him this was the day before the divorce papers were sent to the judge. I even told him after the divorce was final that if he would get his act together and do these things I would re-marry him. But he denies ALL of it!  According to him, I NEVER said those things!  Even in the presence of emails and texts to the contrary, I never said any such thing, according to him. He even went so far as to tell me that if I had said that to him that he would have done what I asked.  (Projecting all the fault and blame for it back on to me.) I even spent 9 months of his first year of marriage to his wifestress trying to convince him that I did, in fact, tell him those things!  It was a humiliation that I will not forget anytime soon.  In the end, nothing will convince him, short of being struck down by God, that I ever said I wanted him to come back.

The problem with all the denial is that as it progresses your brain is already hardwired to recognize and record patterns of behavior.  Over time, you will start to question if you are the one at fault because it has now becoming a pattern.  You will start to tell yoursef that maybe you misunderstood, forgot, mis-heard, or are just losing it. The irony is that the lies that you knew were so wrong, begin replace your own reality through the persistent and relentless denial. Couple this with what happens in the brain when betrayal trauma is present and you have the perfect storm for being caught in this manipulation with NO WAY to escape on your own.  The more I read about the gaslighting and narcissistic abuse, present in porn and sex addiction, the more I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to come out of it alive. I was truly watched over and protected in spite of my own denial from believing he could be capable of doing this to me.

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Their Walk and Their Talk Don’t Match

When your partner is an addict their walk and talk will never match.  They will say one thing and do something completely different.  As a result you will always question their motives and behavior. It keeps you off-balance and wondering what is really true. Once you are in this maze of deceit there is no why out. The more you try to make sense of it, the harder you try, the deeper into the maze you go, and the more lost you become.  They will keep telling you they want you back, and they love you, or will do anything to put your family back together, but until those words are backed up with matching actions, it is always a deadend. Always!

My ex-husband professed undying love to me so many times I lost count.  And each time I would fall for the lies only to be broadsided by another affair partner telling me that my husband was cheating on me.  This happened to me 6 times until a therapist gave me a lifeline, that I will pass on to you:

“Men have two tongues, the one in their mouth and the one on their shoes.  Ignore the one in their mouth and just watch the one on their shoes.”

In other words, don’t listen to a thing he says, only watch what he actually does! If he is serious about recovery he will do the hard work of recovery.  If he loves you he will provide you with safety, if  he really loves you he will stop cheating on you, he will stop lying to you, and he will stop gaslighting you. It really is just that simple!  This simplicity is what finally led me to file for a divorce – his talk did not match his walk. The bottom line is this, I could not make him give me what I needed and I had a responsibility to stop betraying myself, even it he wouldn’t stop betraying me.

Protect yourself from the inconsistencies by having clear, concise, and immoveable boundaries. Figure out what you need from him to make this better and ask for it.  The scary thing about boundaries is that you have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences.  So be clear about what you want and how to ask for it.  You will find out really fast if he truly loves you enough to give you what you need or if he is just hoping you will fall for his lip service.

They Attack You Personally

When a gasligher doesn’t get what he wants, when he is losing his grip on you, he will attack anything and everything that makes you…well… you.  He will attack your very identity.  He makes fun of your family, your personality, your goals, your talents, your parenting style, or anything else that is at your core being, that gives your life meaning and purpose. Little by little he will break you down by discounting anything that gives you a sense of  belonging and worth.

This is to insure that you become more and more unsure of yourself as a human being and look only to him for your self-esteem.  You are left without dignity, confidence, or even self-preservation. My ex-husband was a master at this.  He talked down to me in the most condescending and sarcastic tones, and encouraged other family members to talk to me this way as well.  He made fun of my gifts and talents to my face, while praising them in public, which was even more confusing.  I was told I was too sensitive or too passionate.  He put me down for my accomplishments and was jealous of my successes. If I ever called him out on it, his response was to tell me he was just joking and he ridiculed me for not being able to take a joke.  It was insidious.  I lived with this one for most of my marriage and he had me convinced that everyone talked to their spouse like this.  No they don’t!  It was abusive, and I endured it far too long!

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They Are Energy Vampires

Gaslighters will suck the very energy right out of you, like dementors from Harry Potter. They suck your energy through their lies, denial, manipulations, and degrading remarks. Gaslighters give you a one way ticket on the drama train. You can never relax with them because you have to constantly be on your toes, for what will surely be, their next attack.  You may find yourself in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. This consistent state of high alert is draining on your mind and body.  It causes you to have adrenaline and cortisol overload and will eventually deplete you of all of your energy resources.  This constant state of overload will eventually cause you to develop depression, anxiety,  panic attacks, or worse. I developed adrenal fatigue because I endured this treatment for nearly 4 years straight.  I am only beginning to recover from it now.  This state of high alert is also one cause of betrayal trauma and PTSD in victims of infidelity.  It is the biggest reason to seek professional help. And if what I have already told you is not enough reasons, this should convince you.

Once you are in this state of mind it is super easy to be brainwashed by your gaslighter. You are just too tired and too drained to fight it anymore. He now has the upper hand on you and the relationship. You are tired and drained to the point that anything he does or says will set you off.  You will lash out and he will use this against you as living proof for himself, and you, that you are the crazy one! After all you are the one who is exploding every time he talks to you! At this point you will have finally been broken and beat down to the degree that you question everything in your life. It is at this point that suicidal thoughts start making sense to you.

The only way to get yourself back is to seek professional help.  Do it now!  Don’t wait!  Trust me, you will not be able to navigate the riptide of addiction, narcissistic abuse, and gaslighting without professional help from someone who if familiar with these specific issues. Please take this seriously, it is a very serious matter.  It is the life and death kind of serious. Like a real riptide, it will pull you under and drown the life right out of you.

“I am Not the Villain”

One of the hallmarks for gaslighters is they are very skilled at convincing you that they are not the Villain. Everyone and everything else around them is to blame. Blame is just something they refuse to take – for any of it!  Their excuses are full of “ifs” and “maybes.” It was the bosses fault or their calling at church was too stressful. They are too overwhelmed with life. Something bad happened in their childhood that turned them into a cheater.  And while some of this maybe true, nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to cheat on you! If they had problems they could have talked it over with you, or gone to see a therapist, or talked to their Bishop, or a friend.  There are any number of possibilities that could have happened before they crossed the line into the arms of another woman. The bottom line is they CHOSE to cheat!  And in the case of my ex-husband, he made that choice dozens of times. Once can be counted as a mistake, anything after that is a choice.  Making the choice to cheat, makes him the villain, by anyone’s standards!

The best thing you can do when he plays the “I am not the Villain in this picture” card is to be clear about what is right, and what is wrong.  Have a few statements that you know are true and just repeat them, to yourself, and him, over and over.  Don’t argue with him, it is pointless.  But be clear in your own mind about the truth and the facts. Again, keep good records.  Keep a journal (It is admissible in court too).

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“You are the One Who is Confused, Not Me”

For gaslighters confusion is the magic bullet. By keeping you in a state of confusion they will leave your reality pelted full of holes. They are stunningly gifted at convincing you that the grass is blue and the sky is green.  Everything you say, do, or remember will be called into question as being false.  Their ability to rewrite history is quite remarkable.  You might be impressed if it didn’t call everything you know into question and make you feel insane!  You didn’t say it, he didn’t say it, it didn’t happen the way you remember it, or even happen at all.  You poor pitiful thing, you are just confused.  Again, this is a tactic to keep you off-balance so that you will question everything, including yourself.  After you endure this kind of treatment over weeks, months, or even years, you will start to doubt your own mind and will stop trusting your own intuition and instincts.  Your reality gets altered to the point that you honestly believe that you must be the one who is confused.

“This is Your Problem, Not Mine”

Ah, projecting. Projecting is something that gaslighters are experts on. It’s all your fault.  You are the one with the problem, not them.  Each time you need to discuss their cheating they quickly turn it around so that suddenly you are discussing your faults, shortcomings, and flaws, not his cheating. You will be so busy defending yourself that you will have forgotten what the original discussion was ever about. You will be caught up in so much drama that you will be too exhausted to investigate what he is really doing. You may even be accused of cheating yourself! Projection is easy to spot.  He will tell you something that is so absurd that you are appalled that he even said it.  This is your cue to look at all his ridiculousness for what it really is, a confession of his own misdeeds.

This happened to me shortly after I separated from my ex-husband.  He outlandishly accused me of cheating on him!  As if! I had so many things projected on to me that it would make your head spin, so I will spare you all the ways and means he projected onto me.  Let’s just say that my ex-husband will tell anyone and everyone who will listen to him that our being divorced was my doing.  He wanted our marriage to work, but our being divorced was my fault, I filed the papers so I must have wanted to divorce him all along.  He wanted our marriage to work!  It took me two years to untangle this one with my therapist.  To this day I still have doubts that filing for a divorce was my only choice!  I only filed after I attempted suicide from all antics mention above, and elsewhere in this blog.  But even saving my life wasn’t a good enough reason to file for a divorce in his mind. Nevermind that he had cheated on me with dozens of women! (31 to be exact, that I know of! That number is all in my head too, even though I have proof of every single one of them!) I am the one who gave up on our marriage and him…whatever helps him sleep at night.

Do you see why you need a therapist?  Some of this stuff is so mindnumbingly ridiculous that you will need an expert to sort it all out.  This is truly crazy-making at it’s finest! Trust me, it will cause you to feel every bit as crazy as it sounds!

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Trading Places; The Victim Becomes the Villain

The poor picked on little cheater! He is just a misunderstood addict that is being mistreated by his horrible shrew of a wife! This is a story, or some version of it, he will tell to anyone who will listen.  The stuff he told his whores about me would singe your eyebrows!  He was the one who was mistreated and victimized by a cruel and uncaring wife.  Bah! I don’t buy what he is selling for one second and neither do the people who know the truth. He had an ideal life and he threw it all away for a fantasy.

This was, and still is, a hard one for me to swallow.  I had been the one cheated on, but suddenly I am the perpetrator in this story he made up in his head, because his version certainly doesn’t exist in reality.  As crazy as it seems, you will learn that the addict is very capable of making themselves out to be the victim.  I saw it over and over in my own relationship with my ex-husband.  I see it play out in the lives of hundreds of other women who have also been cheated on. What is even harder to swallow is how easily he could convince others he was the one who had been wronged.  Most of his family and a far too large number of our friends, his whores, and current wifestress, believed, somehow, that this was all my fault.  It is galling! It is screwing with your mind at its finest! If you are in the middle of this, then you know exactly what I am talking about. It is horrifying in its own right to be cheated on, but then to have him turn around and blame it all on you is more than any wife should ever have to bear. What this boils down to is that the addict is not capable of taking any responsibility for their actions. So you are the bad guy in their eyes and have wrong them.  It’s the only thing they can tell themselves in order to live with what they have done to so many people they should have protected.

Unfortunently, there is nothing you can do about his making you look bad to his friends and family that won’t make you look as crazy as you feel.  All you can do is to live your life with dignity and integrity while you wait for the karma bus to broadside everyone he has bamboozled. My only solace is to know God knows everything that really happened.  Eventually, the truth will come out, it always does, even if it takes until judgment day.

What Do You Do About It?

So what is the point of gaslighting?  Why do men do such a mean and insidious thing to their wives that they supposedly love?  It is simple: to protect the lie of their betrayal.  An addict will go to great lengths to protect themselves from the truth – they are addicted to sex and porn.  This truth is so disturbing to them that they will even willingly destroy the one thing they loved the most, their wife, children, and family, to protect themselves from seeing what they have really become.  Given the choices, to gaslight or get help for their problem, gaslighting has somehow become the more preferrable option in their mind.  And this, ladies, is at the heart of the evil that is pornography and sex addiction.

If you are unable to get him to come clean with the truth, then it is time to consider some serious options.  Separation is a must!  If you are not safe, and you are NOT safe if you are being gaslighted, you need to separate yourself from this form of abuse until he is ready to face the truth. Your relationship is over at this point anyway if he cannot be truthful with you.  Period. Go to stay with a friend or family member for a while until you can sort out what is happening and get your head clear.

You should get yourself into therapy with someone who is acquainted with betrayal trauma.  You will need a therapist to help you navigate this intense form of manipulation and abuse. See a therapist at least a few months before having any contact with your spouse.  Go no contact during this time.  I did not do this and I was further damaged because of it.  I honestly thought I could talk some sense into him. You can’t.  All that will happen is that you will be further traumatized. Your number one priority at this point is you.  YOU are ALL you can change. YOU are ALL you can save.  He has to do his own saving.  So give up any ideas that you will be able to save him! You can’t! You need time and space to figure out what is happening and how you will respond to this crazy-making. You can’t do that with him around.

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You should also tell people you trust what is happening to you so that you will have support and someone who can give you reality checks.  You will need them.  One thing that was hardest for me then, and even now, was that I could not wrap my brain around the idea that this man I had loved for so many years could treat me like this.  He was in a position of trust and he abused it to the point of trying to drive me mad rather than tell me the truth. You need people around you to validate that it really is a bad as it seems and that this is really happening to you.  I just couldn’t believe this was happening until other people started telling me that it was as bad as I thought it was.

This issue of sex addiction is loaded with shame.  He has already done a great job of shaming you if you are being gaslighted.  But you need to get past the shame and tell your story to the people who have earned your trust.  The more you bring this into the light and out of the darkness the better off you will be. Addiction thrives in secrecy. Refuse to keep his secrets.  He lost the right to anonymity and your protection when he cheated on you.  Why would you continue to protect someone who is doing you so much harm? Tell you story as often as you can.  It will lose its power over you and give you some control back over your own life.  Plus one thing gaslighters like to do is to publicly humiliate you and discredit you.  They can’t do that if you get out in front of the narrative first.

Get educated.  Read up on pornography and sex addiction.  You need to know what you are dealing with, and chances are that you have no idea what has happened to him, or you.  Start reading everything you can get your hands on.  The resource on this blog are a great place to start! This issue is very complicated and there is so much that you will not know or understand.  You do not know what you do not know at this point. Knowledge is power so arm yourself with the truth so you are better equipped to deal with the crap storm you find yourself in.  Nothing in your life experiences will have prepared you for what is ahead and the learning curve will be steep, but the sooner you get started, the better off you will be.

Join a support group, in person or online.  You will be amazed at how much your story is just like everyone else’s story!  I was shocked that my ex-husband was not even original in his behaviors. Cheaters are NOT creative. It is like there is some sort of  Guide for Cheaters 101 that we don’t know about. They all do and say the same shitty crap to their wives that my ex-husband said and did to me.  That is how it is so easy to know he really hasn’t changed at all!  He is still doing the same dumb shit he did 4 years ago! It’s not hard to spot the lies, deceit, and denial when you know it’s what everyone who has ever cheated has done, and is doing, to their wives as well. I belong to 3 support groups on Facebook and one in person group.  Between them, I interact with literally thousands of women who are at some stage of going through this.  (If you want to know what groups they are send me an email and I will tell you which ones to join.  He reads my blog so I don’t want him to infiltrate my safe places.) All of the stories and experiences vary in specific details, but the resulting behaviors are all the same! It is amazing, and shocking at the same time. You need to know that you are not alone.  I wouldn’t wish this sisterhood on my worst enemy, but it is good to know you are not alone when going through something so horrific.  There are women out there who do understand, too many of them, in my opinion.

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My last word on this subject is, that if you are experiencing any of these things, you are in danger. I wish someone would have told me earlier about this, I could have saved myself a lot of damage, time, energy, heartache, and money.  But like I said, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Don’t discount what I am telling you either.  You may think that your husband is different, he would never do this to you.  Don’t believe it for one minute as long as you are experiencing any of the above.  Right now, he is not the man you married.  It’s time you stopped acting like he is, at least until the gaslighting stops.

If you are reading this then you are strong enough to protect yourself.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

Coping, Uncategorized

3 Reasons to Meditate

It’s More Than Just a Stress Reducer

Meditation came into my awareness because it was suggested to me as a way to quiet my mind and body once I found my way to Addo Recovery.  Shortly after I found out about my ex-husbands affairs my body went into such a high level of panic that I entered the ‘fight, flight and freeze response’ almost immediately, and because of his lying and gaslighting me, I stayed there for nearly two years.  I blew out my adrenals and my body was just in a constant state of panic. I was flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function, and I could not get my mind to shut up as it tried desperately to make sense of what had happened to me.

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Addo Recovery suggested I take a yoga class to learn to quiet my mind so that I could give my body a rest from the flooding of chemicals I was experiencing.  I learned that, over time, this constant state of stress was dangerous for my mind, body, and spirit. Intuitively I knew all of these things, but I did have the knowledge I needed to pursue a solution and had no idea how to make it stop. Meditation was the solution. It was a solution that was so profound that I began practicing meditation twice a day, morning and night, almost immediately.  I have been meditating daily for almost two years. In the very beginning it was the only peace I got during the day. But, over time, I learned to bring my meditative mind with me through the day, and into a peaceful, restful sleep at night, with no medication.

The reasons we meditate are as varied as the many ways there are to meditate. In America, most people are drawn to meditation to quiet the internal chatter of the brain and to reduce stress. Meditation is, indeed, a very effective stress reducer, but its benefits – sometimes mysteriously hidden – are far more plentiful.

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According to the Chopra Center for Meditation there are 3 reasons meditation is not only good for us, but it is necessary, especially for those who are suffering from betrayal trauma:

1. Because It’s Good for Our Bodies

According to Scientists gathering data on meditation have found that a consistent practice not only boosts the mind, but it also bolsters the body. Studies bear out that meditation can help reverse heart disease, reduce pain, and support the immune system, better enabling it to fight disease.

The mind-body connection between stress and disease is abundantly apparent as science is finding that meditation can lower production of the stress hormone cortisol. This means meditators are better able to adapt to stress in their lives and its common physiologic responses, which can include:

  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Skin conditions

2. Because It’s Good for Our Relationships

Paradoxically, while meditation helps us tune in and turn inward to our true essence, it also helps us detach from our own egos to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Couples counselors have found when they assign their clients meditation, the couples become less angry, more self-reflective, and more loving.

When we become aware of – and honor – our interconnection with other beings, we are able to recast our perspectives, see our worries in a different light, and embrace gratitude, which is the heart’s memory.

3. Because It Can Change Our Lives

In a world rife with never-ending fast fixes, crash diets, and get-rich-quick schemes, it’s nice to know there is a proven practice that really can change your life (or at least bring about dramatic effects) in just a little time each day.

Yogis and doctors both agree: meditating – even just a few minutes of deep breathing – relaxes the brain, reduces anxiety, and decreases depression. When we feel as though we can’t afford the time to meditate, the truth is we can’t afford not to.

I can attest to the deep breathing thing.  Learning to breathe deeply and properly was life saving for me.  I was so stressed out in the beginning of this journey that my resting heart rate was over 100 beats per minute.  It was as if my body thought I was running, even if I was sitting still!  I literally felt like I would climb out of my own skin.  I was jittery and nervous and I felt scared…all…the..time. This was the state of my body and mind for 2 years without a break. I even started to wear a device to measure my heart rate because my doctor was so concerned about me.  She told me that if I could just take deep breaths and count them I could lower my heart rate and calm my mind. Breath in, 1, Breathe out, 2, Breath in, 3, Breath out, 4, and so on, until you get to 10 and then start over.  After a couple of minutes of this I could lower my heart rate down to 80 beats per minute, a more acceptable rate, still too high, but better.  At least it gave me a little bit of control over my mind and body, something I desperately needed because my whole life was out of control. It helped. Breathing became a saving grace. I took a breathing timeout all day long.  Now I am so in tune with my body I recognise the signs of stress immediately and I can just take a minute to stop and breathe to bring it all back down before I spiral out of control.  But it takes practice. Everyday.
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What I can tell you is that there is no fast fix for betrayal trauma.  It will take you making some permanent changes in your lifestyle to feel good again.  There is no way around it.  So just wrap your brain around the idea that you will have to do some things differently, probably for the rest of your life.  Meditation is one of those things. But I have found that isn’t a bad thing necessarily.  I know that if I skip a day of meditating, I pay for it the next day.  Heart rate goes back up, anxiety drops by for a visit, and I quickly find myself not in a good place. So I agree, with what is at stake, we cannot afford to not meditate! I am happy to report to you that there is hope to be found, a quiet mind is possible again, and a calm body is within your reach. My resting heart rate is now somewhere between 60-70 beats per minute.  That is physical, hard evidence that mediation and deep breathing (which is part of it) works! It works for me, and it will work for you too. And the good news is that you can get started… right now, today.
You do not have to take a class to learn to meditate, although I highly recommend it in order to learn from someone who is experienced and knows how. However, YouTube is a wonderful place to get tons of guided meditations for free.  Some of my favorites are:
Jason Stevenson (has a cool Australian accent.)
Joe Tracey (his voice is very calming.)
Kenneth Soares (is Norwegian, and I like his voice, some people don’t though.)
Check them out. See if you like them, if you don’t try someone else!  It will ruin the meditation if the person you are listening to has an annoying voice.  Find one or two that work well for you to start with and explore more options.  Many of them have meditations for anxiety, letting go, fear, and sleep. You can start there. I recommend that you do the 21/90 rule.  21 days to form a new habit and 90 days to make it part of your lifestyle. Most of the meditations are 20-45 minutes. So it’s not a huge time drain. Start out small.  I will warn you though,  I have loved this so much that I now will frequently do 1-2 hour meditations. Once you are able to do well with guided mediations then you can branch out on your own. There are a lot of ways to mediate and the internet is full of good information on this topic.  Just google “beginner meditation.”
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I can give you suggestions but if this is something that interests you then it is best to go on your own journey of discovery and enlightenment. At some point I will write about my personal meditation practice, but I would rather you do you.  It will be more helpful to you and more fulfilling if you find what works for you.  For example; I really, really like Tibetan Singing Bowls, but it took me forever to find a video that I loved.  Some of them were too high-pitched for me, some of them had drum beats I couldn’t stand, others had certain Binaural Beats* that made me feel more anxious. Until one day I found one that really is perfect for me!  I love it!  But the point is, you may not love it, you may hate it, and it could cause you to hate mediating as a result because I told you that you should love it, and you really hate it.  So go find what works for you, trust me, there is something on YouTube for everyone! Find what speaks to your body, mind, and spirit. Meditating is deeply spiritual and personal. If you don’t like something, don’t give up, find something else that works better for you.  I save videos all the time that I end up deleting a week later because they just were not as good or helpful as I thought they would be.
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I usually meditate sitting up in the morning and lying down on my bed at night. At night I use mediations that are meant for sleep so I don’t feel like I am missing something if I fall asleep, because that is the point.  So do what works best for you.  That is the great thing about meditating, you don’t have to worry about getting it right, just do it.  I also mediate with my headphones on so that I can benefit from the sounds many of them use in their mediations.  Here is some information about the sound frequencies and beats.  I love the idea that different frequencies can entrain our bodies to resonate with that frequency and helps our bodies to heal.  I need all the healing I can get so I opt for the headphones. There are meditations that are meant for deep healing with the Rife Frequencies**.  Some of them get on my nerves, but I learned from reading in the comment that listening for 10 minutes a day was enough to reap the benefits.  So read the comments too, it helps to learn from others who are also in the process.
Here are some of the meditation YouTube Channels I subscribe to:
I have also found this meditation program that is not very expensive from EOC Institute. They have a list of 141 Benefits of Mediation  to show meditation is a very good thing.
I hope this will get you started on your own mediation journey.  It is something that has made a life or death difference in my life and that is not an exaggeration.  It is one reason I chose to start with sharing mediation, it is something you can do immediately and see tangible results in a matter of days, or even hours, depending on how much you do it. All I can say is try it, you’ll like it.  You will like how you feel, and it will give your mind and body a break so you can cope with the un-cope-able.
Share with me in the comments your own experiences of meditating. I’d like to know what works for you or if you have any cool tips, tricks or meditations you have discovered.
Stay Strong, Be Sweet
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The Cupcake Warrior
* “Binaural Beats” is a term given to playing one sound frequency in one ear, and another sound frequency in the opposite ear, creating a two-tone effect in the mid-brain that is actually perceived to be one tone. This causes an “Entrainment” effect in the brain that has a variety of results depending on the frequency.
** These frequencies are based on the work of Royal Raymond Rife was a 20th century inventor who through frequency was able to cure many ailments of the body, including most common illnesses that we seek medical assistance for today.
Coping, Uncategorized

The Struggle is Real Ladies!

I have been kind of silent the last few months because I have been working very hard at my own recovery (I hate that word) coping skills. I have also been busy writing a book for you!  I have been trying to come up with a healing plan that works for me, and possibly, it might work for you too.  I am still trying to figure it all out, but I think I have it figured out well enough to start sharing what I have discovered. So from now on this journaling blog is going to have a different focus….

The focus on coping.

I was talking to my therapist the other day and she said something interesting. “I still have to get up every morning and start over in my recovery work. Sometimes it feels like sleeping undoes everything I did the day before.  I wake up feeling anxious.” My question to her was, “even now, after 7 years?”  “Yes,” was her reply.

Depressing.

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It’s depressing, but, oh so true! Recovery coping after betrayal trauma is something you will probably have to deal with everyday of your life for the rest of your life, at least on some level. Sorry to be the one to break the bad news to you.  It’s the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Just know, you will have to deal with this…for…the…rest…of…your…life.  There is no complete and total healing from this.  You will never wake up one day and say, “Yay! I’m healed!” It’s not going to happen. Ever. This is not like having someone die, a break up, losing your best friend, or even a “normal divorce.” In those cases you can go through the steps of grief and move on, eventually. The only way back from something that is so devastating and life changing like a soul destroying trauma is through COPING.  You can call it “recovery” or “healing”  or whatever you like, but what it really is, is just coping.  You have to learn to COPE with what has happened to you in the same way you would have to learn to cope with, say, losing an arm.  You would never be the same if you lost your arm, you could never grow your arm back, you would never recovery from losing your arm, you would never heal completely from losing your arm, but you would learn to cope with it.  Betrayal trauma is the same thing.  You don’t ever heal from it, you don’t every recover from it, but you do learn to cope with it.

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What our selfish, mean, lying, cheating, gaslighting, unfaithful, Ex husband’s did to us changed us. Forever.  You are forever changed.  Your brain changed, your body changed, your emotions changed.  You were changed at a cellular level. Betrayal trauma is, for the cheated on, the equivalent of PTSD or C-PTSD.  Do you ever hear of war veterans “getting over it?”  Nah, me either.  What can happen is that you can choose to fight it, and learn to lived with it, or you can die, roll over, and succumb to a complete and total breakdown of epic proportions.  Those are your only two options.  But, I am not going to lie, it will be a struggle to overcome it.  I know it will be.  I struggle with it every damn day of my life!  Even today; after 3 therapists, two recovery centers, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness classes, energy work, EMDR, and countless books, I still woke up with a giant panic attack. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen everyday, not anymore, but most days I wake up with a sense of foreboding, like something bad is about to happen to me.  I feel unsafe, insecure, and anxious…for no particular reason whatsoever!  Welcome to PTSD ladies!  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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Now for the good news.  You can learn to cope.  Coping is very do-able.  It’s hard work, I’m not going to lie! Lot’s of hard work.  It’s like exercise, nobody really wants to do it, but it makes you feel better if you do.  Coping skills are like that. What I resent the most is being MADE to do it, by someone who did not even stop to think of what he was doing to me. I resent having my life changed to this degree through the choices of someone else!  I cannot live my life the way I want to, on my terms, because of the choices of someone else. Because of what was done to me I have to get up every morning and go through a routine that takes me hours, just to feel “normal.” I lose precious hours working on something most people never have to deal with.  And then there are the things I cannot do anymore.  I cannot watch anything on TV like I used to do, I cannot listen to the radio anymore like I used to do, and I cannot participate in politics, which I loved, like I used to do.  All these things and others, too numerous to mention, bring me added stress, anxiety, and pain, which I cannot afford to bring into my life when I am working so hard to remove all stress and anxiety that I can.  It just doesn’t make sense to add stress, when you are trying to decrease it.  So I spend my days trying to achieve a “zen like” state JUST TO FEEL NORMAL! My kids think I am turning into a hippy, and they are right.  Meditation, yoga, tai-chi, qi-gong, prayer, scripture study, affirmations, and others, are my new best friends.

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Ladies, welcome to your new normal, whatever that is for you.  What you thought was your normal in your old life will probably never be your normal, ever again.  But a sense of “normal,” can be achieved again. It just won’t be that same normal.  It will be different.  Not necessarily bad, just different. I just want to help you set up realistic expectations for yourself.  You have been through a war, of sorts, you are traumatized and your systems have been compromised or even shut down.  It’s hard to wrap your brain around the severity of it because, physically, you are the same. You LOOK the same, you may even ACT the same, but you are not the same emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or even physically, to a certain extent.

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Frankly, it would be easier if you had been hit by a truck (because emotionally you were).  If you had been hit by a truck you would have been taken to the hospital, you would have probably been put on life support for a while, had surgery, maybe several of them, you would have spent time in the ICU, and maybe even sent to rehab after you left the hospital.  Family and friends would have come to see you, taken care of you, helped you recover, and been there for you. Everyone would see that your recovery was going to take a very long time.  They would have stood by your side as you learned to walk again, and helped you find new ways to cope with your new normal. Nobody is going to do that in this case, because nobody can see just how badly damaged you are. You look fine, so you will be expected to act fine long before you are ready. It’s not fair, but it is reality.  That is why you have to find other systems of support for your recovery coping. Unfortunately, you will have to set up your own triage, nobody else is going to do it for you. Under different circumstances it would have probably been your husband who helped you cope with this horrific experience!  But now he is the one who did it to you! He is the one who hit you broadside by an emotional 18-wheeler! It’s not fair, but it is what it is, as my Ex used to like to say to me.

Think about it, did you have any idea how hard this was for other women until it happened to you?  Did you have any clue? No, you did not, because nothing in any of our life experiences could possibly prepare us for the impact of betrayal! Nothing!  You cannot fault or resent your family and friends for not understanding what, you yourself, could not have understood either. It’s not their fault they don’t “get it.” They can’t.  So it is up to you to go find places and people that do get it.  Support groups are everywhere, you just have to find one that fits your needs. Clinics that deal with betrayal trauma are popping up like dandelions! Let your family and friends love you the way they have always done.  Let them tell you that “you should be able to move on by now,” and then go to your support group and complain to them about how they just don’t “get it.” Surround yourself with women who do “get it.” Unfortunately, there are way too many of them. Because of pornography and sex addiction there is an epidemic of men who cheat, abandon their families, and ruin their marriages, leaving a path of devastation and destruction in their wake!  You are not the only one!  There are hundreds, or even thousands, of women just like you in your city.  Trust me.  And WE get it!  We are banding together in support groups all over this country to help you.  And if you cannot find one in person, there are groups online.  I personally belong to two facebook groups that deal with just this topic. Find one. You cannot do this alone! And you cannot expect your family and friends to do what they are incapable of doing.

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This is what I am trying to tell you about a “new normal.” Being betrayed takes your whole world and dumps it on its head. You are left reeling and nobody is going to rescue you.  You hope someone will come and rescue you, after all you are in pain so excruciating that you feel like you just might lay there and die! But nope, you have to get up and rescue yourself. It doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not, but knowing the alternatives, what are you going to do? So you have to ask yourself the following – are you just going to lay there and bleed out and die on the spot, or are you going to get up and fight like hell to rebuild your life? At one point in my journey I was suicidal. I did just want to die! I even ended up in the hospital.  When I told that to one of my therapists, he said to me, “Well that would have been convenient for your Ex wouldn’t it?”  His words shocked me!  He then explained to me that if I had taken my life that it would have made my Ex’s life a whole lot easier.  He would not have had to pay alimony or deal with me at all.  If I took my life, the Ex would have been on easy street, and he would be silently rejoicing at my demise! Well ladies, it is not your job to make his life easier! It’s not your job to give him the satisfaction of ruining you.  It’s your job to get up and to fight for your life! Nobody is going to do it for you. It’s hard. I know it’s hard.  It’s not fair.  It is a struggle for me every day! It’s true that your life will probably never be the same again, but it is also possible that it can turn out to be something better. There is a popular video going around where Will Smith explains the difference between fault and responsibility.  This is not your fault, not your fault at all!  But it is your responsibility to deal with it! That is the straight up truth! I wish my Ex would see what his actions did to me and the kids.  I wish everyday he would Be 100% Responsible for his actions (like Elder Lynn Robbins describes in his talk), but he’s not going to, he could care less! I can wish for justice (the karma bus WILL pay him a visit, it always shows up, eventually) all day long for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t make my life any better, it just makes me bitter.  I can either remain in victimhood, or I can thrive.  I choose to thrive! “The road to power is taking responsibility!” It’s time to take the power back!

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I can tell you now, after 4 years, the struggle to learn to cope with my new normal is worth it!  It’s hard!  But oh so worth it.  Four years ago I never thought I would be where I am today.  I still have a long way to go, but I am finally finding myself again. I like who I am again, life is worth living again, and coping is possible.  I can finally see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. I have peace again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort.  I have happiness again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort.  I have joy again, I have to work for it everyday, but it’s worth the effort.  Every good thing in life is work, it always has been! And, ultimately, it is worth it! I may have to work for it everyday for the rest of my life, but if that means I get to live a life of peace, joy, and happiness, then it will have been worth it!

Over the next few months I am going to document my personal journey of coping; what has worked for me, what doesn’t, how I am healing, what my daily routine looks like, etc. I am going to teach you my own healing modalities and how to do them for yourselves. Everything I have learned, I will share with you! This is ground breaking stuff!  The journey through betrayal trauma is so new that the healing from it is also new. First of all, I think recovery is not the right name for it.  Coping is what it really is. It is like learning to live with losing an arm – you learn to cope without that arm.  I have learned some things that have really helped me cope.  So I want to share them.  My own journey through betrayal trauma becomes significant when I can turn around and share what I have learned with others who struggle to cope with their own lives. Suffering becomes meaningful when you can use it to help others.  It helps me to feel like I didn’t suffer through this for nothing. So join me on my journey to of healing, of coping, of finding my our new normal…

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

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dating, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

LDS Dating After Betrayal Trauma (PTSD)

fc3f8fbe75ca231aee3985d44ff3089fIt’s been over six months since I stopped going to Single Adult Activities. I didn’t have very much fun and the whole experience was, quite frankly, depressing. I made a single girl friend who invited me to start going to the activities with her.  I thought it was safe enough to have a “wingman” so I agreed to venture out into the church singles scene for the first time in over 40 years.  She was fun and she knew most people, so it was fun getting to know her friends and being introduced to new people. So far so good.

The problems for me, began when I started have panic attacks and anxiety at the events. What should have been fun, was  instead, overwhelming.  My PTSD would take over and a harmless dance became a war zone, fraught with danger and landmines. Triggers were everywhere.  Just walking into the building was a Trigger. The most prominent one was: I shouldn’t be single!  If my Ex hadn’t betrayed me I wouldn’t even be here!  Why did this have to happen to me? How did I even get here? Then all the emotions of the trauma of betrayal would wash over me like a flood of emotions – and suddenly I was drowning.

I never shied away from meeting new people or social situations, but this was too much, especially for an empath.  I could walk into any given room of singles and suddenly feel overwhelmed by what I call, the collective “singleness cloud of pain.”  I could sense the collective “singleness cloud of pain” before I even opened the door. It was a thousand feelings of grief over lost love, through either death or divorce, coming from hundreds of people gathered in the same room. It was stifling! Each of them were at the event in the hopes of trying to find someone, anyone, to ease their own cloud of pain.  If in that moment, I added my own pain into the mix, it became unbearable very quickly.  I would barely arrive at the event, with hopes of having some fun, only to be greeted with this innate feeling that I should not be there, I didn’t belong there, how did I end up in this group of people whose common denominator was profound loss?  I would feel the hot tears well up behind my eyes, ready to spill down my freshly primped face.  The urge to run was intense.  Luckily, I usually came with girlfriends, so I had to stay.  I forced myself to stay, and like it. I reminded myself of a child who is forced to take bitter medicine – it tastes horrible, but it’s good for me!  I would choke down the tears and not make my friends feel guilty for having their own fun.  I dutifully danced with the souls brave enough to ask me, I would have pleasant chit-chat with people around me, I made a herculean effort to make my own fun, but all I wanted to do was go home, get in my pajamas and pull the blanket over my head!

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Why was this so painful?

The LDS Singles in the Salt Lake and Utah Counties literally have something going on every night of the week!  It is a veritable gold mine for the lonely and single. There is plenty to do, lots of opportunities to socialize and mingle.  I could go “have fun” every night of the week if I wanted.  But I did not want.  It was too much on my emotions, feelings, and psyche to just manage to attend something once a week.  All summer I tried to force myself to become a bona-fide single woman. I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t wish away, deny, or pretend that I couldn’t feel the common thread of sadness from everyone who was there. Instead of “I see dead people,” for me it was “I feel broken hearts.”  It was too much.  So I stopped going last September.

From what I understand from talking to my therapist and other singles, my reaction isn’t that uncommon.  An overwhelming number of singles, especially Sisters, report; “I just couldn’t do it.”  I don’t blame them.  Neither could I.

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Then an amazing thing happened.  I met someone.  He likes to dance.  I like to dance.  So he came into town and we went to a dance, or two, together.  It’s amazing how having a date insulated me from all the sadness in the room.  I could be there and have fun, real fun!  I could enjoy dancing with a man who loved being there with me.  It was heaven! Now that I am actually dating someone, I am so glad there are so many singles activities in my area.  It gives us a place to go to engage in wholesome and uplifting activities together while we get to know each other better.  And I feel better about bringing my own happiness and positive energy in to a space that needs that boost.  Being there is finally good.

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I had a lot of guilt from people close to me to just “get over it,” or “you will find someone better.”  I played the guilt trip in my head by saying to myself, “what if my person is at the dance tonight and I don’t go?” Even that wasn’t enough to make me go, until I was ready. People close to you mean well, they have your best interests at heart, but they can’t know when you are ready. Only you can know that!

So here is my bottomline, Singles Activities may not be for you, right at this moment.  But give it an honest try.  If it’s not for you right now, I totally get that!  But think about trying again later.  It can be good place to be, when the timing is right.  For the recently traumatized, that timing may take a little while.  Be kind to yourself.  Healing takes time.  Trying on your single suit might take even more time.

When it’s right, you will know.

 

Here are a couple of places you can look when you are ready:

Timpanogos Singles

Orem Singles

Lehi Singles

Salt Lake Singles

Most of them have an email list you can sign up for to receive a monthly calendar of events.

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Surviving Valentines Day

28a385cdfa69743e10bc96da7d9049941ce50cf481d66b56abb94ca752e1572aWhat is a trigger? Triggers evoke an overwhelming feeling of panic, fear and/or anxiety associated with a memory of a traumatic event.  Triggers can come in all sorts of packaging.  Sometimes they are smells, foods, or music.  More often than not, they are events, dates or places.  Special events that you spent with your addict can become triggers after discovering they have been cheating on you.  That restaurant you went to last year on your anniversary, the hotel you found him in bed with the other woman, or Valentines Day can all become triggers. When these triggers happen it can turn a previously happy time into feeling you would rather crawl in bed and pull the covers over your head. Triggers can be paralyzing and debilitating.  Most of my triggers feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me.

One of those days for me is Valentine’s Day.

It’s good to identify your triggers in advance if at all possible.  Make a list of your most difficult triggers so you can plan how you will work through them.  The last 3 years I spent Valentine’s Day in bed, sobbing my heart out.  All I could think about was my husband spending time with other women.  And then after my divorce, it killed me to realize he was spending it with his new wife.  I never felt so alone and abandoned.  Sometimes triggers make life just SUCK!

So this year, I decided, in advance that I was not going to let Valentines Day get the best of me.  I did pretty well, until my ex decided to text me that day.  I am pretty sure he did it on purpose because the reason he gave was lame.  So be prepared for something like that to happen.  Narcs love to reach out on days like these to make sure you will feel crappy just in case you might have forgotten them.  Just be aware.

I woke up that morning determined to give myself lots of self-care and love.  Someone told me that you can be your own best love.  Like Whitney says, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all!”

I got my nails done a few days before to look like a box of chocolates.

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I took an extra long bubble bath with a lit candle. Did you know you can do a self massage? I did that!  I gave myself a facial too. Then I got super dressed up in red, a power color, for a meeting I was hosting later in the day.

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After my meeting I bought myself some flowers, since I bought them myself, I got exactly what I wanted! Then I went to get a fancy cupcake at my favorite cupcake shop, Cravings. It was a cute Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Bear Cupcake.  Super Yummy!

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I finished out the day having dinner with my favorite people – my kids and grandkids.  And guess what?  I got through the entire day without crying! It can be done with a little planning and a lot of self-care.  Being good to yourself is the key.  Rewriting the story is critical.

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You can overcome your triggers with self-care!

Stay Sweet, Be Strong

The Cupcake Warrior

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betrayal, My Story, Uncategorized

Financial Speaking…

There are always unintended consequences to everything…especially to addiction. And more often than not, it is to the family of the addict – not the addict himself. A separation or divorce from an addict is especially painful and draining, financially speaking .  I debated about sharing this part of my life with you because it is so personal and private. In the end, there is nothing personal and private about addiction.  It impacts all of us, profoundly, and in so many ways. So if my intention in writing this blog is to help others who are going through what I have been through, then this is a critical piece of the puzzle that you need to know.  Most women do not know how to protect themselves financially.  I didn’t.  My lawyer did.  But even she didn’t think of everything.  That is what this blog post is about – thinking of everything.  Life is not fair.  It is especially not fair in a divorce from an addict.

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Let me start at the beginning.

When I first separated from my ex-husband he was in a space of sadness and contrition.  He seemed willing to “take care of me” until we could find our way back together.  Or so it seemed. He said things to me like, “I will always take care of you. You will not have to worry about money. I did this, it’s my responsibility to “take care of you.” Initially, he asked me to take less money so that it would not be a financial burden on him while he “worked out his recovery.” Of course I wanted him to spend every spare dime he had on recovery! So I, always being willing to be manipulated, agreed to take half of what I needed to survive on. My thinking was that I could put the rest on my credit cards until we got back together.  After all, it was only going to be a few months, right? He is going to work so hard on recovery! Well a few months turned into a few years and after it was all said and done, I was left with a little over $50,000 of debt, before the divorce.

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The longer the separation lasted the more I worried about the debt I was creating because of his choices and he seemed less and less interested in helping me out.  I was stuck.  AND worse, I was at his mercy! When I would tell him I needed more money to survive his response was, “well, you agreed to this amount.  You even gave me a budget that YOU came up with.”  All true!  I did come up with a budget and I did agree to the amount.  But in the beginning I did not know what I did not know.  And he used my trusting nature against me.  Please learn from my lessons.  If you are going to separate from your husband, even for what you think is a short period of time, get professional help, hire a lawyer!  Have a lawyer or trusted advisor draw up a legal agreement, that can be amended for things that are unforeseen.

NO ONE IS EVER PREPARED FOR A DIVORCE! It is one of those life experiences you don’t pay attention to and that you don’t fully understand until you are faced with it.  Even then, the learning curve is steep and dangerous.  ESPECIALLY if you are divorcing an addict!

If I were to do it all over again, I would have had a legal separation from the beginning. It would have allowed me to learn during the separation to ask for what I really needed in case there was a divorce, and I would have been protected by someone who had my best interest at heart from the beginning.  If I had done that, I would not be where I am, financially speaking, right now. But I wasn’t really thinking like that, I was thinking I was going to get him back!  I was going at all of this from the perspective of having “good faith” in him. With an addict, you cannot afford to think in terms of “good faith.” There is no “good faith” with an addict.  They are selfish, self-centered, conceited, and totally unpredictable. AND THEY LIE!  Protect yourself until you actually SEE evidence of recovery.  All of this is counterintuitive to how you have lived with your husband in the past.  This is the person you have always relied on to take care of you and protect you.  Suddenly, he is the enemy.  It doesn’t feel right to treat him like the enemy, but that is exactly what he has become. Until he is fully in recovery, he is the enemy.  I wish someone would had told me this! I would be a lot better off today if they had.

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Also, remember that if you unwittingly take less in the separation, that could be used against you in a divorce.  Just keep that in mind. Luckily, I live in Utah and that means I am entitled to half of everything he has.  I am also entitled to alimony that equals the lifestyle I enjoyed while in the marriage.  Not all states are so generous. Know what you are entitled to and ask for everything. You won’t get it.  So just start out by ASKING FOR EVERYHING! Don’t take less to just “be nice.” We women want to be liked and get along. Don’t!  They will use that against you. My ex-husband wanted me to agree to the same amount he gave me for the separation, which was far below what was reasonable or required by law. Luckily my attorney knew this and she had my back.  But she didn’t catch everything.

The debt was one of those things.  Insurance was another.  And then there are the taxes on alimony.  These three things buried me financially.

I paid off a lot of the debt I had in the divorce, between the sale of the house and the half of his retirement I got, which wasn’t much, but I still ended up with $30k in debt!  That is no bueno.  I could barely keep up with the payments.  It was not good at all.  And guess what?  He DID NOT CARE!  After all, I was the one who ran up the debt – not his problem. Right?  That is the problem with him, he always evades accountability on a technicality.  It happens every time.  Technically, he is right.  But is he morally right?  After all, I was married to him for 38 years, that should count for some modicum of responsibility and respect, not to mention his choices.  Who knows?  It doesn’t to him and, at the moment, his is the only opinion that matters. He thinks he is “taking care” of me.

Insurance coverage was in my divorce budget to begin with, but because of all of this debt, I could not afford to actually buy the insurance.  I still can’t.  I have been without insurance for the past two and half years.  Hopefully, I will be insured again before the end of this year.

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The last thing that she did not catch or explain to me very well is the taxes on alimony.  Ladies, this is a BIG ONE.  Make sure your lawyer includes this in the separation and divorce papers.  Even though he pays taxes on his salary, you must also pay taxes on the alimony he pays you on that already taxed income.  Yes!  Alimony is taxed twice!  And you do not get to claim it as a deduction.  He does.  So the impact to your budget is that you must save back 25% of what you get in alimony and child support to pay to the government at the end of the year, or they will come after YOU!  So you will automatically lose 25% of what you thought was your budget to live on.  Make arrangements for this.  I should have been getting half of whatever he gets back on his tax returns to offset my tax burden.  I don’t.  That was a mistake.

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The good news is that I get half of his social security retirement for the rest of his life.  I wasn’t going to go after that, but I probably will now, just because. (It will help offset the taxes on the alimony.) Don’t forget this either.  If you were married for more than 10 years, you are entitled to apply for HALF of his Social Security benefits as soon as he turns 62.  You do not have to wait for him to retire or claim his benefits.  You can do it for yourself, when he turns 62.  The government requires that you receive this benefit even if you are divorced or if he is remarried.  So there is that.

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Now we come to my sad tale to tell.  The short version of a very long story is that in one year I went through the trauma of betrayal, the trauma of divorce, and now, the trauma of a bankruptcy.  Yep, bankruptcy. I am furious at my ex husband!  He caused this, and takes none of the responsibility for it!  But he will tell you that he is “taking care” of me.  After all, he pays his alimony payments on time twice a month. Isn’t that enough? But he will also tell you that he is “repenting.”  The last time I checked, when someone repents they also are required to restore the person they harmed back to wholeness.  It’s funny because when he was a Bishop he wasn’t too happy with men who treated their ex-wives the way he now treats me.  I think he used the term “jerks” to describe them. But now that it is me, it’s perfectly acceptable for him to behave the same way. He is within the letter of the law.

I would go out and get a job to supplement my alimony payment, but there is a “catch” to that too. According to the divorce papers, (and he had this part put in so that I couldn’t “get away” with sticking him with the alimony forever should I become financially stable on my own) he can deduct anything I make from his alimony payments up to $2,000 a month. So I cannot even go out and get a job to supplement my income because he will just take it.  So I am stuck. He made sure of that.  I cannot get ahead.  Period. Yep, he is “taking care” of me alright.

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And the icing on the cake is that because of the bankruptcy I am now being evicted from my apartment. Yep. So nice.  Even though I never missed a payment, never bounced a check, and was never late for almost 3 years, I got an eviction notice on my door just because I had to file for bankruptcy.  Luckily for me, I have a nice friend who has a super nice condo that I can rent.  But holy crap! What a pain. Now I have to move too.  Just for kicks and giggles.

All of this happened because my ex-husband thought it would be so fun to have multiple affairs.  So why is it that I am the one suffering all these consequences for his poor choices? Addiction is the gift that keeps on giving!

Ladies, please don’t think that you are an exception.  Don’t believe that your husband will take care of you.  He won’t.  I used to think that my ex-husband was one of the most responsible people to ever walk the earth.  He isn’t.  His addiction changed him.  He is all about himself.  Do not think that you will be taken care of.  You won’t.  An addict brain is a selfish brain.  Always.  NO EXCEPTIONS.

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If you are contemplating a separation or a divorce from an addict, please get professional help!  It is worth the cost.  Don’t let him talk you out of it with lovely words of,  “we can work this out between us” or “I will do all I can to get get you back.” It’s Bullshit.  Don’t believe it. Think of everything you will need and cover all your bases. Write everything down. Keep a daily journal, it holds up in court. Record every conversation you have, keep every email, and take screen shots of every text. Get an attorney who is well versed in dealing with addiction and/or narcissism.  Take care of yourself, because in the end, nobody else will!

I am not telling you all of this to make you feel sorry for me.  Don’t.  I will be ok. I waited to tell this cautionary tale until the problems were solved, and it was finally over, and I knew I was going to be ok. The best feeling in the world is that I solved all the problems he created for me!  Me!  I did that, all on my own!  Because of the bankruptcy, I can now live fully within my budget, my debt is managable, I get to keep my very cool car, pay my taxes, I am moving to a nicer place, have all of my needs met, and can even save some money for trips and other fun things.  I will be just fine!  But it is no thanks to the addict.  Or maybe it is, who knows?

One thing I know is this – no matter what the addict throws at me, the Lord ALWAYS has me covered by His Grace.  It is because of Him that I will be more than ok, no matter what! We have to do our part too though.  Don’t be dumb like me.  Know what you need, ask for it, and take care of yourself first.

Be Sweet, Stay Strong

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The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, My Story, Uncategorized

One Year Ago…

I have been a hot mess this week.  Lot’s of crying, anxiety, panic, and fear.  I feel as if I have been sent back to where I was over a year ago, to relive it all over again. I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped to think about it.  You may not remember traumatic events, but your body knows.  Your body remembers EVERYTHING that ever happened to you.  I am learning this from doing emotional healing through the “Emotion Code.” (BTW, I highly recommend it!) My body remembered it was the 1st Anniversary of my divorce long before my mind remembered it, and my body has been sending out distress signals.

“Danger! Danger!”

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This is so distressing to remember because it is something I never wanted.  I would have never imagined that I would ever file for a divorce.  Ever!  I loved my husband. I still do, the old him, anyway, the him he was before he cheated on me.

I hated it that he cheated on me and kept his addiction hidden for so long, it had been going on for over a year before I discovered it.  I hated it that he lied to me, over and over and over and over. I hated it that he pretended to be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t. I hated everything about what happened after I discovered his multiple online affairs. But I learned enough from when he did this the first time, yes it happened more than once, that he had an addiction.  So I was “prepared” somewhat, and it was always in my mindset, after I got over the inital hurt and shock, that we would work it out, and, eventually, we would be back together.  I love him.  I want him back.  I will always love him and want him back.  When I married him he was the choice of my heart and the love of my life!  He was everything to me! Not the “him” he is today, but the “him” he was before all of this happened. I want my family back.  I will never stop wanting my family back together.  That is who I am.  My family means everything to me! It always will.  If I could have my heart’s desire, it would to be with him again.  I will always wish that. He is NOT who his addiction has made him to be. I am not angry with him for having an addiction.  I am angry with him for not admitting it and getting help. I am angry he refused to fix himself! Had he done that, he would still be married to me.

This is the thing about these addicted men that I do not get!  Most wives are so willing to forgive!  Too willing sometimes. They want to work it out.  I have only personally met one woman who did not.  Guys!  Your wives are more forgiving than you could ever imagine! For crying out loud, give us a chance!  All you have to do is admit you have a problem and get help, and you could have everything you ever wanted.  Why in the world would you not choose to get into recovery and stay there?

Therein is the real tragedy of addiction! Sadly, my story is not unique.  It plays out in the same way in thousands of marriages and families all over the world.  Addicts simply do not see they have a problem! The denial is slaying the hearts of wives and destroying families right and left! My story is only one of many.  What makes me unique is that I am among the few who are willing, or able, to step out into the sunlight and expose our common experiences for all those women who cannot because of shame, guilt, or to protect themselves. their children, or their husbands.  My ex-husband lost my protection when he withdrew his protection from me.

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The two years we were separated were nothing short of a neverending nightmare I could not wake up from.  His infidelities pale in comparison to what he did to me during those next two years.  The several therapists I have seen all say, I was emotionally tortured. The same way a POW is tortured when captured by the enemy. So much so that I ended up with PTSD, or betrayal trauma.  Mine is a pretty severe case.  I suppose that is partly my fault, because I let him torture me far longer than I should have.  I wanted to give him every opportunity, every chance I could, to come back.  I wanted him to choose me.  I wanted him to fight for me, for our family.  I had EVERY faith in him that he would…eventually…If I just gave him enough time…I told myself.  Boy, was I ever wrong. This time, being wrong, nearly cost me my life.

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That is the funny thing about agency, no matter what you want, you cannot make another person want the same thing.  I could not make him choose me.  He had to decide that for himself.  And I had to decide how long I would allow him to abuse me over it. He had the power to make his own choices, but I learned that I could choose too.  I could choose how long I would allow him to continue to cheat, lie, and abuse me.  Over those two years, I begged him to get into recovery.  He would not. He said he would.  But it never materialized into anything other than words.  I used to be able to take him at his word, so it was hard for me to understand why this time was any different.  I wanted so much to believe him! I even set up appointments, I paid for his counseling,  I followed up with his Bishop, I tried talking to his counselors. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing worked.  His final analysis was that he did not have an addiction, and I was crazy for thinking he did.  He was even angry at me for trying to seek help for us, and he drug his feet and belittled me for my efforts. But, in spite of his resentment of me, I would put myself out there for him to come back to me again and again, and each time I would discover another affair.

All in all, six women, contacted me (there were others I didn’t know about at the time) during those two years to let me know he was cheating on me with them.  Why?  Because he was cheating on them too!  It seems cheaters don’t like to be cheated on, so they’ll go tell the wife to get back at them.  These contacts were humiliating and excruciating.  I learned, over time, I couldn’t trust ANYTHING he said to me.  It is horrific not to be able to trust the one man you relied on to protect you from all harm.  He became so unsafe for me because of his lying.  I could deal with the truth easier than the lies. A lie comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, you do not see it coming. When the truth is exposed and out in the open, you can see it and deal with it.  With truth you can fix any problem.  When there is no truth, it becomes impossible to fix anything.

My therapist told me at the time, that a man has two tongues, one in his mouth and one on his shoes. He advised me that I was to stop listening to the one in his mouth, and just pay attention to the one on his shoes.  In other words, I needed to just watch what he does.  I needed to see if his walk matched his talk.  It did not. The proof was in his actions not his words. It took paying attention to his actions, and not listening to him,  for me to really see what was in his heart. It was shocking for me to wake up to the reality that he did not really want me anymore. He liked his life of addiction more than he wanted me. That was something that had never crossed my mind before, and it was devasating to see the truth of it.

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This is where I found myself last April.  Between the man I love, and his lies.  There is no more unsettling or profound “rock and a hard place” scenario. I was already unbelievably fragile.  The October before, I was so messed up from his crazymaking that I could see no way out, other than to take my own life.  Luckily, I took myself to the hospital instead, where the doctor said I needed a long vacation, so I took a cruise.  That turned out to be the best advice I had ever gotten from a doctor.  It saved me and gave me some peace and perspective I so desperately needed. My husband never believed I was in such a dire situation.  He still doesn’t. He was mad at me for going on the cruise over his birthday. Nevermind that my life hung in the balance. He has no clue what his addiction has done to my mental, emotional, or physical health.  He doesn’t care either. Someday, probably judgment day, he will know, and he will care. That day is a day of clarity that I am looking forward to witnessing.

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The impact of the behaviors of my husband’s addiction left me in “fight, flight or freeze” mode 24/7.  I lived, trapped, in this space for those two years we were separated as I was being whipped around between lies and more lies, deceit and what someone referred to as the “mindf**kery” (sorry, there is no other way to describe it) that comes from constant gaslighting. My adrenal glands were shot.  I lived in a heightened state of danger that never eased up. Imagine being caged with a hungry lion that you know wants to eat you, it’s only a matter of time, you don’t know how or when, but you know you will be eaten alive eventually, that is the kind of fear I am talking about. “Fight for your life” kind of fear!

I never knew when another woman would come out of the woodwork. I never knew when he was seeing someone else or sleeping with them when he should have been with me. My heart raced. My mind was in hyper-drive. My breathing was shallow or heavy, my resting pulse was 107, I couldn’t eat or sleep, throwing up and diarrhea were constant companions.  In short, I was a wreck. I could not calm my body down! A person cannot survive in this condition for very long.  I am surprised I survived two years of it.  My reserves were, by now, past empty, and I knew I could not go on like this for much longer.  So I finally laid down a strong boundary.  I asked my husband to come up with a plan for how he was going to provide me with enough safety and connection so that I could move back home with him.  I knew if we were going to save our marriage and family we needed a plan. I wanted to move back in with him and it was taking way too long! He didn’t like any of my plans and refused to even entertain them, so the most logical thing to do was for him to come up with his own plan.  I was prepared to do whatever he decided, within reason. I gave him 3 weeks to come up with a plan.  If, after 3 weeks, he still did not have a plan, then I would file for a divorce. I was done being the mouse in his endless game of cat and mouse.

Three weeks passed.  There was no plan.  I knew I couldn’t keep giving him chances that he only squandered, I didn’t have the bandwidth, so I filed for the divorce.  I was heartbroken.  Inconsoleable. It is the most devastating feeling I will ever know – having my husband, with 38 years of life, love, and history together, not choose me.  I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind or rejection.  It is a betrayal of love that was worse than his cheating on me. Pure anguish of body, mind, and spirit.

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“I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind of rejection.”

Then, to my shock and amazement, he turned around and blamed it ALL on me!  He said, I am the one who wanted the divorce, I filed for it, it was my choice. He really thinks this. Talk about adding insult to injury?  How he could come to this conclusion is a mystery to me, and always will be.  All I can do is to chalk it up to “addict brain.”  Addicts have no ability to employ logic or reason, that part of their brain is swiss cheese.  You know what I mean if you have ever talked to an addict for more than 5 minutes.  Their grasp of reality is just nonexistent. It’s pure nonsense!

Not wanting to really give up on him, I continued to give him even more chances that he refused to take. There was a part of me that kept believing that he would come around. I would go through with the divorce, but I was also willing to work on our relationship while we went through the 90-day waiting period, but I needed to see real improvement! It was my intention to stop the divorce if he showed any real progress, and I told him this.  I learned later that he had already just moved on.  He was dating other women and going to singles activities before the divorce was even final. Not knowing what he was really doing, I even felt that if he got into recovery that I would, and could, marry him again! However, he never had any intention of choosing me or our family.  I was to find out how totally he was willing to toss us all aside when he remarried 6 months later.  It seems I made the right decision, as excruciating as it was at the time.  His addiction killed any love or connection he may have had for me and our children. He never really tried. It was easier for him to go find someone else than to do the work to save his life-long marriage.  Porn really does kill love. That is not some cutsie slogan.  It’s real.

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As for me, I have been in an emotional and relational “time out” for the last 2 1/2 years. I need to be healthy enough, and recovered enough, to even consider being in a stable relationship with anyone. When all of this began I believed that I would never marry again.  I still do not know if I will.  But now I am at a place in my healing where I am willing to entertain the idea.  I started going to single adult activities in my church, at least.  I even signed up for an online dating site.  I am slightly overwhelmed by the reaction I got.  Within the first 2 hours I had over 250 views on my profile and 65 messages in my inbox.  It seems that some men, think I am a catch!  It was a much-needed boost to my self-esteem.  I have yet to go on any dates, not that I haven’t been asked. ( One guy even wanted to take me to Italy to meet his Mom!)  I figure I can afford to be very, very picky.  When the right man comes along, I will know it.

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A sign that I was healing is that I have gotten my intuition back, I missed being able to trust my instincts.  It serves me well.  I am still working my recovery everyday; I see a therapist weekly, have EMDR sessions, I go to 12-steps, I attend classes, and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes.  I am moving towards becoming the person I was always meant to be.  I study my scripture daily and pray earnestly, relying solely on Him who is mighty to save.  Little by little, I am healing. (One day I will write a book about my experiences.) Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward, and one step backward, but the direction is what matters, not the speed.  I am still working hard at self-care.  I need to be gentle with myself.  I have been in an emotional war for my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am battle weary. I still get bombed by my ex from time to time, but he no longer has the power over me he used to enjoy. I mostly feel sorry for him that he is still stuck in his unhealthy behaviors, and an unhealthy relationship.

Ultimately, what I am most proud of myself for, during this experience, is that I never lost my core values or beliefs.  I stayed true to myself.  I stayed true to the Lord.  I stayed true to the church.  I kept my covenants. And, to me, those are the greatest accomplishments of all! Too many women do not make it out of the hell-hole of addiction with their integrity intact. I am one of the lucky ones, and I understand this.  I used to want to just wash away all of the pain in drugs or drinking, but I knew if I went there it would never stop, and ultimately, it would not slove anything. But I get it. I get why addiction destroys both the husband and the wife.  It is devastating for families, and children are the ulitmate victims.

Once I realized what was happening to my body this week, I was able to employ my tools of recovery and get my emotions, and my body back on track. “Earth body – Body body – Mind body” as my yoga instructor likes to say – all in alignment. I will be forever grateful that I chose recovery for myself, and for those people who helped me, and continue to help me, you know who you are! It has made all the difference in my healing. The next step on my journey is to recover my physical health.  I am looking forward to being a much smaller, healthier version of myself this time next year!  Best of all, I have a swelling of optimism growing in my heart.  I am starting to look forward to the next day, and what the future might hold. That is a new thing for me. Good things are starting to happen! I am reclaiming myself.  I am reclaiming my life.  Addiction may have destroyed my husband and our marriage, but it did not destroy me. Here is to a better year! It is more than about time, it’s past due.

“Stay Sweet, Be Strong”

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Becoming, My Story, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

If I Can Do It…Anybody Can

The following is a talk I gave in church two weeks ago on “Faith.”  I included it here because it is a part of my journey and my story:

Apparently, I have raised a family of highly competent and competitive children.  It is not uncommon for the simplest of family activities to turn into a full-blown competition, complete with lively and braggadocious conversations about how this one or that one is going to “out do” the others. These contests of strength and prowess can come up in nearly any conversation, and on almost any topic, “well, if Brent can do it, then I certainly can!”  We pick on Brent because he is pretty much accomplished at everything he does, and we love him, so we don’t want him to get a big head.  Plus, he is generally good-natured and self-deprecating about his abilities and accomplishments.  On the other hand, when it comes to me, I am the low bar standard of family competitions. In tones that are less than flattering it is declared, “Well, if Maaa-ggaahhh can do it…” (My Grandchildren call me Magah.) The grandkids even join in on that one! And that is ok. I am happy to be the low bar standard, if it is the best motivation to get them moving in the right direction.

In this atmosphere of good-natured ribbing and one-up-man-ship, we give each other the faith to try.  To pursue the unknown, and to go where no man, or woman, has gone before. I say, dream big.  “Go big, or go home” is my motto. If we turn it into a competition, we can generally get each other to do almost anything, including playing Nertz with the Bennett’s, wherein we KNOW we are going to lose before we even get started. And yet we continue to engage because we have faith, that one day, we will take them down!

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According to Joseph Smith in his Lectures on Faith, “faith is the moving cause of all action…in all intelligent beings. All accountable and intelligent beings have faith in this sense.  Such is part of life itself.  Because faith dwells in the hearts of all mankind, they sow with the assurance of reaping; they plant with the hope of harvesting; they exert themselves in the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence because they believe they can obtain them. Without this faith, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity and their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.”

Unlike, our family that uses competition and comparison for the faith to try, our Father in Heaven shows us in His character, attributes and perfections, a more excellent way.  We know from the scriptures the nature of God is that:

  1. He is an eternal being
  2. He is merciful and gracious
  3. He is an unchangeable being
  4. He is truthful
  5. He is impartial
  6. He is loving

And because we know He is these things, we can center our faith on him to lay claim on eternal life and salvation.

It is upon this sure foundation of the character, attributes and perfections of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, that we hear prophets declare with unshakable assurance things like;

“With God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37

and…

“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheth me.” Philippians 4:13

Because their character’s are unimpeachable, because their attributes are completely just, and because they are perfect, we can have absolute faith in them to do whatever is necessary for us to reach out to them and never let go.  And this faith allows us to move forward with the utmost confidence that they will do what they say, and that if we follow them, we can, through them, lay claim to salvation and eternal life!  I can even know that I can beat the Bennett’s at Nertz if I want it enough.

Brothers and Sisters, the way I see it, there is no downside to this arrangement!  We all can know with absolute assurance that we can, and will be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, no matter what else may happen to us!  And all because we know God and Jesus Christ are eternal, merciful and gracious, unchangeable beings,  who are truthful, impartial and loving. They have always been this way, they will always be this way, yesterday, today and forever.  You can rely on them 100% for forever! Once we grasp this about them, we will no longer wonder why we can do anything because of them!

So, yes, I may be the low bar standard to any competition in my family.  But am I really?   Most of you know I am having to endure a terrible trial, one that is so devastatingly challenging, that is has wrenched my gut, snapped all my heartstrings, and left me to cry everyday in a fetal position in the corner for the better part of two-years.  But even in this condition I had the good sense, like Peter, who was sinking into the depths of the sea, to cry out, “Lord, save me!” Why?  Because I know instinctively, who it is “who is mighty to save!” I know who I am, and whose I am.  So that in my hour of desperate darkness, I know where to find the light, however faint it might be to me at any given moment.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

As I mentioned before, I learned, though this experience, that my default button is faith.  It is what enabled me to cry out, instinctively, and desperately, in my deepest hour of need, “Lord! Save me!” But I did not know I would, or could, do that, until it actually happened.  I didn’t come here in a day, a week or a year.  It was a thousand little choices over a lifetime that led me to this place.  It was placing one foot in front of the other and moving along the path of my life, having faith in a loving Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ because I knew their nature, character, attributes and perfections.

Bruce R. McConkie stated:

“In order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path – thus charting a course leading to eternal life – and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship….What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church – keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes…you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.”

Brothers and Sisters, it really is just that easy, but you have to decide, today, which path you want to be on and who you will follow? You just have to make up your mind to give the Lord your heart, and let’s be honest, that is the only gift you have to give him, because everything else is already His.

So what exactly are the mile markers on the path of faith?  How do we train ourselves to have a muscle memory of faith so that when the storms of life rage all around us we instinctively cry out, “Lord, save me?”

Nephi lays it all out for me with such plainness that even I could understand and apply it:

“And now my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this straight and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for you have not come thus far save it were but the word of Christ with the unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward, with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting up the words of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father; ye shall have eternal life.” 2 Nephi:19-20

In order to understand this scripture and why the Lord was recommending it to me in my greatest hour of need, I spent the better part of a whole year, studying it, word by precious word.  I unpacked it, held up each nugget and gem to the light, and put it under a magnifying glass as I studied every facet, looked at the color, the beauty, and sought to understand how it applied to my life.  As a result I gathered a few exquisite gospel diamonds along the way.  This setting does not allow me to do any justice to what I learned over the last year, so I will share just a few of them with you in the hope that you will pursue a similar quest of your own.  Trust me, there is much there to explore!  For instance, there are over 100 General Conference Talks that reference this scripture alone.

Press Forward

Press Forward means leaning into the direction you are facing with all our might, mind and strengthen. Moving toward a new destination and successful conclusion.  To do this we must “set our hearts on the things that matter most” according to Elder Uchtdorf. He states,

“We have a tendency to focus on the insignificant and the expense of the profound…we know what matters most in life…our weakness comes in failing to align our actions with our conscience.  How you spend your quiet time may provide a valuable clue to what matters most to you. Where do your thoughts go when the pressure of a deadline is gone?”

When the pressure is on from people and things that would detract us from the things that matter most, what will our response be?

Steadfastness in Christ

Steadfast means to be resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering; steadfastly loyal.

Nephi said it best: “Oh that I might be like unto this valley, firm, steadfast and immoveable in keeping the commandments of the Lord.”  When it comes to the commandments we must be firm, steadfast and immovable. There is no wiggle room.  Commandments keep us safe!  They are the boundaries in our lives that keep the bad stuff out.  The idea that Commandments = Boundaries caught my attention because much of my recovery work centers around having good boundaries so I can feel safe and protected from further abuse, and just like a property line around our homes, our boundaries tell Satan, in no uncertain terms, this is where I will go and no farther. I choose to stay on God’s side of the line. I choose to be safe! I learned that when I am steadfast in my life:

  • I have very clear boundaries for myself and others.
  • I have a clear vision for my life – when I have a clear vision for my life, that allows me to make very clear choices, because I know, without a doubt where I am going and what I need to do to get there.
  • I pray and study the scriptures to know where the Lord wants me to go and what I should be doing to get there.
  • I am always abounding in good works because idle hands are the devils playground so doing good keeps me out of mischief.

When you know where you are going you will make choices that bring you to safety so that you will have peace.  Safety and peace are the fruits of good choices.

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Perfect Brightness of Hope 

Hope is hard for me, even of a good day.  But when your forever is destroyed, regular everyday hope is a challenge, but a perfect brightness of hope seemed unattainable to me.  Because of this, I almost skipped over it in my study.  I’m glad I didn’t.  Suffering brings with it a special understand, according to Elder Maxwell. Elder Maxwell and I share a kinship we didn’t have before. Suffering changes your very nature. My experience is no different.  Through the effects of my husband’s addiction and denial I developed betrayal trauma, also known to most of you as PTSD.  Through triggers, that exist almost everywhere I go, I am routinely thrust into fear, pain, anxiety and sheer panic.  I experience the most irrational onslaught of feelings when I least expect it.  Fun huh? I am told emotional, as well as physical torture does this to a person. I tell you these things not so that you pity me, but so that you will believe what I am about to say to you.  In this condition, I don’t feel very hopeful for my life or my future, like at all. Hope is not in my wheelhouse.  Yet even in this condition I found a way to hope and so can you.

In the immortal words of Jeffrey R. Holland:

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ we have help from both sides of the veil. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—we need to remember that if our eyes could be opened, we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see, riding at great speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.”

In the hour of my greatest need, I was given strength beyond my own to keep going. I learned later that a great temptation for someone in my shoes is to give up on everything they have ever know. Many of them say,  “If this could happen to me, when I have been good, and faithful, my entire life, what is the point?” Often the betrayed turn to an affair of their own to deaden the pain.  Drinking and drugs are also a very common response. I must admit these things did cross my mind, for a minute, but something else came into my mind, these word from Elder Uchtdorf;

“One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

These are just not pretty sentiments.  They are solid doctrine taught with power by one who knows both the challenges we face, and the Lord who makes the promises.  His words are power until salvation because he has it on solid authority, he has it on God’s authority!  Words that are mighty to save!  And indeed they are! These words gave me the hope I needed to find my faith when I felt like everything was lost and there was no hope.

Feasting on the Word 

This whole talk is the evidence of what can happen when you feast upon the words of Christ. Just do it! You won’t regret it. If you want to know how, come talk to me.

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Endure to the End

Enduring to the end is not my favorite.  I actually hated this phrase, until Elder Wirthlin got a hold of me. Prior to that, I felt like enduring to the end was like riding Screamin’ at Disneyland, hanging on for dear life, until it is over. No thank you. I’ll pass.

What I learned from Elder Wirthlin about enduring to the end changed me, and my perspective. He said;

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered the path through faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Enduring to the end requires our whole heart…and offering our whole souls as an offering unto him, and continuing in fasting and prayer.  Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil…those who endure are balance, consistent, humble, constantly improving and without guile.”

Enduring to the end is a bedrock doctrine. That means you can ground yourself to it and stand immoveable. It is not just suffering through our challenges. And it is not a white-knuckle experience.  Enduring to the end is actually the process of coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him! I cannot white knuckle it through life!  That is not for me.  But I can, and want, to Come unto Christ!

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Muscle Memory

Earlier in this talk I mentioned muscle memory.  That was for a reason.  We cannot get to the “default of faith” without consistent practice. Practice really does make perfect!

When my son, Brent was 4 years old, he told me he wanted to learn to play the piano.  I told him that if he took piano lessons that he would be required to practice thinking it would deter him, I made practicing sound horrible. After all he was only four.  But he was determined to learn to play so he agreed. Now we all know a four-year old had no idea what he was getting himself into, but nevertheless, I hired a piano teacher (Heavenly Father) who I paid to teach my son piano lessons. (Jesus) Because I paid the debt to the piano teacher, I could require something of my son in return – practice. But does his practice pay me or the piano teacher back?  No, not really.  Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for the indescribable gift of piano lessons. But it is still a debt he can never repay sufficiently.  I figured out that over the course of time I paid over $15,000 for piano lessons for my son.  If any of you have heard him play then you will agree that the price was well worth it!

By giving my son piano lesson I was also giving him the opportunity to live his life on a higher level and in this case, to earn some money in return by teaching others to play. For me, the joy is not found in getting repaid, the joy is found in seeing my gift being used and to watch my son improve.

In his talk, “His Grace is Sufficient”, Brad Wilcox says;

“But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?”

“When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

And so it takes practice.  Lots of it. Playing over and over, until we get it right, until it becomes a part of us, until we are changed, and until it become second nature. This kind of practice creates a muscle memory so that when we are scared or distracted or hurt or suffering during the most important performances of our lives, we can keep going, because we have done it before, and because we have done it before, we know that, when it really counts, we just do it by heart.  It becomes our default button, because of consistent practice, over time.

So when the test is big and eternity hangs in the balance, and the afflictions come, as they surely will, our actions will respond by heart, because we practiced faith! So, even if you are only the low bar standard, you can still have faith to move in the right direction, step by step, because when it comes to faith, slow and steady does get you across the finish line.

After all, Brothers and Sisters, as my family will attest, if I can do it, anybody can.