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.

betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! Bingo!

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

Yeah. Me too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Thoughts from UCAP

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

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

On Secrets

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

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

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

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

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The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

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

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

Addiction + Connection = Recovery

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

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

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

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

On Goal Setting

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

What they found is:

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

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

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

Here are the main processes for recovery:

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

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

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

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

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

Becoming, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Becoming

Each year since I separated from my husband I pick OneLittleWord to help me grow and progress for that year.

In 2015 my word was FOCUS. I learned to focus on me; Be kind to myself. I started getting regular manicure and massages, something I never did before. I found I liked selfcare! It was awesome to take care of me for a change. I spent a lot of that first year in my PJ’s, in my bed with the covers pulled up over my head, crying my heart out. But that is what I needed to do. Let the pain out. I discovered I was more accomplished that my husband would allow me to believe. There in my bed, l learned I am a strong, talented, capable, amazing woman with many gifts and abilities.

Learning to focus helped me take the blur of that first year and find the parts of me that have been missing and the parts of my life that are most important. God. Family. Peace. Me. I gained clarity and perspective. I realized I deserved to be treated better than I had been treated. I learned I was being abused. Badly. Nobody deserves that. Especially not from their husband!

In 2016 my word was FORWARD. I was learning who I was by focusing on me, but I was stuck. I couldn’t move forward because my husband had me paralyzed with fear. I didn’t know how to move forward without him. I didn’t want to move forward without him. I couldn’t move forward without him. But hanging on to him was making my life hopeless. To survive I had to move forward. He wasn’t making progress. He refused to change. He continued to cheat on me for the next year and a half without stopping. He dug in and declared he didn’t have an addiction. There is nothing I can do with that. A person who won’t even admit they have a problem is…a problem. So, knowing I had done all I could and given him every opportunity to change… Forward is where I went. Forward was divorcing him. He put down his end of our marriage yoke. I had to move on with the load of my pain alone. To do that I had to take him out of the yoke and find one fitted just for me. Alone. I was pulling him along and he had flung himself in the mud. It was too hard and to painful to go on that way. No one would expect me to.

I focused and moved forward through excruciating pain and anguish. There are days I didn’t think I would live through it. Honestly, I do not know how I am still here. But I am. I am broken. Beaten up emotionally.  But I am now ready to try on my new word for this year.

Becoming

Now that my husband is my ex-husband, I am free to become what I have always wanted to be. Me. Without a constant critic. What I always dreamed I could be. I had always hoped to do this with him. I thought we were finally in that space in our lives. I was. He wasn’t. He just never got the important things in life. Not enough to cause deep, significant growth and development.  I would chose that for him, I would have chosen that for us. But it wasn’t my choice to make. Unfortunently. I had to leave him behind. This is by far, the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. Devastating. I almost didn’t survive it.

I am now free. My wings are no longer clipped by his criticism and sarcasm towards me. I can fly! I know I can! My inner voice has always told me so. It’s how I have come this far against all odds. Now that what was holding me down has been cut free, like chains wrapped arounnd my ankles, I can take off! Soar!

I am ready to become all I was meant to be! I am ready to cut free the remaining chains of my own self doubt and fear, and let the me I am on the inside! It’s long overdue and it is exciting!

It’s time to try my hand at becoming on my own!

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Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

addiction, betrayal, Uncategorized

So Much Hurt!

Someday All that Hurt Will Meet Justice  – I Want to Be There When it Happens

As I have talked to, and read the stories of other women who are going through the same thing I am, I am struck by the commonality of hurt we all share. So much hurt is being experienced by so many. It’s the SAME HURT! What is stunning is that none of it should have happened to any of us. Men were given a sacred trust:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”

God cannot be happy with the way His sons are abusing his daughters in this way. He makes his position very clear in scripture.  Marriage isn’t something you just walk away from because you just don’t take it seriously anymore. Love is a choice.

3 Nephi 12:

27 Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;

28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.

29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;

30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”

I am shocked by how our stories are woven with a thread that is the same. The sameness is mind numbing. It has gotten to the point that I can predict with nearly 100% accuracy what is coming when I hear a new story. For example:

I recently had a friend tell me her husband just up and told her out of the blue that he wanted a divorce. And he blamed her for it. That is the commonality: blame. Men can’t handle their own crap. So they blame it on their wives. I told her he had been cheating on her. She didn’t think so. It turns out, she found out a week later, that he was having affairs.

Now I understand how counselors and professionals can predict porn and sex addiction behaviors with complete accuracy. It makes sense  to me now how these men also develop narcissism. Addiction takes over the pre-frontal cortex of the brain and eat it up like swiss cheese.  The pre-frontal cortex is the place of reason, the seat of humanity and humility, this is the place human connection happens, and this is the part of the brain that controls basic virtues like honesty and love. They have lost their humanity. Their hearts have turned cold. They become sub-human. Self consumed. Doing or saying anything to justify their disgusting behavior. They all act the same because they all suffer from the same disease. The symptoms are identical. After a while, if you are observant, you can predict it with ease. It’s easy because they literally all do the same damn thing! As long as they persist in their addiction there is NOTHING anyone can do.  They cannot control themselves unless they make the choice to seek recovery.

These men think they can cheat with impunity. They think they are immune from accountability. All they need to do is to blame their wives for their own failures to be good husbands and fathers. They get off Scott free, so to speak!   These low life’s succeed in convincing countless numbers of women that their infidelity is their  wife’s fault. These trusting women believe these lies because if the person they loved and trusted the most is saying it, then it must be true!  I was no different. God is not so easily deceived and he isn’t amused by the way they turn the tables on his daughters.

Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob, spoke about it with plainness. So much so that even a narcissistic sex addict can understand:

Jacob 2:

9 Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.

10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.

These men who try to rationalize their behaviors are in for a rude awakening when the Father of us all makes his final judgment. I fear those excuses, the blaming and rationalization, will all melt under the fire of His all-seeing eye! Nothing they can say or do then will save them. Heaven knows I tried to save my ex from what he is going to get. God gave me to him to counsel with him. To help him make good choices. To be his helpmeet. If he couldn’t listen to the counsel God gave him through me, he isn’t likely to listen to the same counsel from Him directly.

Jacob 2:

14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.

15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!

Sounds pretty plain to me! But maybe I am wrong on this? My narcissistic sex addicted ex husband certainly thinks so! I think God disagrees with him. I find it the height of narcissism to think that you know more than God. But what do I know?

Jacob 2:

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

I try not to be vengeful. “Vengeance is mine, thus saith the Lord.” But I can say it won’t make me sad to see him suffer the same thing he inflicted on me and our children and grandchildren. I suspect being forced to watch the replay of exactly what he did to us will be more than enough punishment. I really feel that what I want more than anything is to watch his face as he finally has that “Oh crap! What did I do?” moment. I want to watch him when he sees the depth of his lies and denial finally come to the surface. That will be a very bittersweet moment for me.

This moment of self actualization is the only thing that will finally allow me to heal, to have total peace. It is one thing to be wronged. Deeply betrayed. But it is quite another for the one who wronged you to then turn and blame you for their bad behavior. I know that a just God will not allow that to be the case forever. Someday the piper will be paid. I just ask that I can watch. I don’t even want to say anything. At that point I won’t need to. I just want to watch it. And then turn and walk away for the last time. I think I deserve that kind of closure.

And I am not the only one.

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Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

addiction, betrayal, repentance, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

cheating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emphatically, NO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

6-tips-for-scrip-study-517x268-2012-09-20

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

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

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

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

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

Anything less than this is cowardly.

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

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

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Trauma Response Rescues

Do you know what a “Trigger” is?

A “Trigger” is any event that brings up old feelings of panic and danger even if there is no danger around.  It is a PTSD response very similar to what war veterans experience.  One minute you are fine and the next you are not.  the emotional response happens immediately and without warning when a Trigger presents it’s self. Triggers can be places, people, times of year, events, holidays, weather, smells, sounds, music, memories; anything can be a Trigger. And because of this it is nearly impossible to avoid your Triggers! Triggers bring up past trauma unexpectedly and with such force that often it can feel like you are actually reliving a traumatic experience. This really sucks!

The part about my Triggers that angers me off the most is my ex-husband doesn’t give a flying flip that he has done this to me or his family.  He doesnt care in the least.  If he did care at all then he would be working to alleviate the triggers and the pain that comes with it.  Instead, he is off chasing his new girlfriend because he “deserves some happiness.”  I know I am not alone in this.  My kids suffer, and my grandkids suffer.  We all suffer the devastation while all he cares about is his own happiness.  So here we are having to deal with these difficult emotional responses without any assistance (even financial assistance) from the perpetrator. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I have a triggered response everytime I drive by the hotel where my daughter caught my husband in a hotel room with another woman.  When I drive by this hotel I burst into tears and re-live the whole ugly experience again and again.  Because of a series of business meeting I have had this week I have had to drive by this particular hotel 6 times this week. It has been brutal!  I could have gone out of my way to avoid it, gone another way, but I am determined not to let these experiences run me or my life.  So I chose to just power through it this week. But how do you do that?  How do you face something so painful head on?

dissociation-triggersI have learned that when triggers come it is because your pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain) has been hijacked by your limbic brain (emotional brain).  To beat back the trigger you must access the  pre-frontal cortex and put it back and charge.  As you learn to do this you can quickly disarm the lymbic brain, redirect the thought patterns, and put the pre-frontal cortex back in charge.  This works for any kind of panic or anxiety response.  The idea “control your thoughts, control your destiny” is really very true.  Gaining power over Triggers is getting back the power over your mind.  Triggers won’t go away, but you can lessen their effects, and with practice, stop them as they are happening.

 

dementors-dudley-615x356
My ex-husband is a dementor. He sucks all the happiness out of his family members and leaves them for dead.

I was reminded of what triggers are like while watching Harry Potter with my daughter last week.  Triggers are like Boggarts, they are not real, they look real and they feel real, but they are just your worst fears manifest. The students of Hogwarts were able to fight them with a spell… “expecto patronum!”  The Boggart was vanquished and thrown back into the box by most of the students.  Except some Boggarts are scarier than others.  Demetors are the scariest. I have come to think of Triggers as Dementors, they suck all the happiness right out of you! For a while Harry had to have help fighting against the Dementors.  At first, he couldn’t do it alone.  It took practice!  But when he eventually needed to rely on himself to do it, he was able to becuase he practiced. Beating back Triggers, especially the scariest ones, is a lot like that, it will take practice and patience with yourself.

So here are a few tips and tricks for putting your thinking brain back in charge:

Breathe – deep, mindful breathing. Breathe in, hold it for the count of four. Breathe out slowly whild counting to four.

Affirmations – Repeat your affirmations over and over until the trigger subsides. Make sure you have a list of daily affirmations that support areas where you are struggling.

Count and tap – cross your arms over your chest and touch your hands to your shoulders.  Begin counting.  As you count tap every other shoulder.  Do this for a count of six and then start over.  Continue until the fear and panic subside.  It will usually take about 15 to 20 sets of these.  It also really helps if you deep breathe with tap.  Breathe in , 1, Breathe out, 2, and so on.

Count your blessings – it is surprising how simple this is and how well it works.

Prayer – Prayer is a powerful antidote to Triggers.  Use it to pour your heart out to your Heavenly Father  and ask for help in overcoming your Triggers. He will tell you what will work best for you!

Read an interesting book –Keep a book around for this purpose.  In times of triggers I often open up my scriptures.  Its the book that works the best for me!

Work on a project – keep a craft or other project handy you can work on.  Crocheting, knitting or cross-stitch are all great for anxiety because of the counting aspects to them.

Workout – working out does wonders for releasing endorphines that will lift your spirit and improve your mood and outlook.

Go for a Walk – Walking outdoors and breathing in fresh air does wonders for the mind and the soul!

Mindful Meditations – there are a number of Apps that will help you with this.  Search the app store for mindful meditations, self hypnosis and meditation.  You will find plenty of free and paid apps.  Some of them you can try before you buy.  I have used Surf City apps, Happify and Head Space with lots of success.

Call a friend – sometimes you just need to talk things out with a trusted friend.  Call her. It will help.

Call your sponsor – if you are in a 12-step program then you will have a sponsor you can call when you are having a tough time. She will be a great listening ear and resource.  Your sponsor often understands in ways a friend can’t because she has traveled the road you are now on.

You can see that these remedies for trigger responses are also self care.  As you make an effort to do your “dailies” of self care you will build up a muscle memory response to triggers.  Over time you will automatically start to respond to the triggers in more helpful and healthy ways.  This is one of the reasons that self care is so important to do everyday!

What are some of the things you do to help overcome your triggers?

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The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, betrayal, Uncategorized

He Said…She Said; The Denial Effect

The one thing keeping an addict from getting into recovery is DENIAL. Denial starts with the declaration, “I don’t have a problem!”  This is usually followed by, “You’re the problem!” Or some variation. And then the trauma begins. The more emphatic the denial by the addict, the deeper the trauma to the wife. I can only describe it as “crazymaking,” because that is what it is. The addict will go to great lengths to deny he is an addict and it will literally drive you to distraction if you don’t recognize it and learn how to deal with it. He will twist and tie every piece of “proof” you have of his addiction into knots, doing the most astounding mental and emotional gymnastics you have EVER been privileged to witness, until you will almost believe it yourself. Or you might just give in because the barrage of verbal warfare is relentless. Trying to argue or reason with an addict is futile. It’s a waste of time, energy and breathe. Which is one reason I kept a journal and kept records of all the proof I had of his encounters with other women. I have electronic and hard copies. So whenever I would start to fall prey to his “crazymaking” I could go back and look at the evidence and read my journal and remember what really happened. I’m not the crazy one. He is.

46466-quotes-about-people-in-denialIt took me a long time to come to this realization because my husband was one of the most reasonable and logical people I knew. It’s quite a role reversal when I am the more reasonable and logical person in the relationship. So it was extremely difficult to wrap my brain around this new warped person standing in front of me. Any encounters with him sent me running for cover in self-defense. I literally felt like I was under gun and mortar fire all.the.time.  I could hardly tolerate the constant lies and accusations. He almost had ME convinced that his addiction was MY FAULT and that he was the victim.

I am not the only one to experience this. Soon after I went “no contact” with him, he started doing the same thing with my kids. It’s one thing for him to drag me through the warped and sicko maze of the bizarre “fun house” of his mind, but it is quite another thing to watch him do it to my kids! They are adults so I couldn’t do anything about it except sit by and watch him do the same thing to them that he had done to me. This was and is just one more layer to the trauma he has put our family through.

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If you have ever been around an addict then you know exactly what I am talking about. If not, let me take you through a few of the denial tactics, along with some personal examples to show you what each tactic of denial looks like. If you are in a relationship with an addict then you will recognize most, if not all of them. Understanding the role of denial in sex addiction with help you know where you are in your relationship with the addict and what needs to happen next.

 

  • Lying – Addicts lie about everything, even stuff they don’t need to lie about.  They cannot seem to tell the truth…at all. They will say anything, do anything to protect their secret world from being discovered.  The problem is that the lying is pretty obvious because the damage done to the brain by the addiction makes it nearly impossible for them to keep track of all the lies. If your husband spends a great amount of time lying and covering his tracks he is in denial. Honesty is a hallmark of a healthy relationship.  If your husband is lying to you then something is wrong.
    • She said: My ex-husband was frequently “let go” or “changed” jobs unexpectedly.  When I would hear him interviewing on the phone, I would catch him telling potential employers numerous lies, small lies, but lies nevertheless. So I would ask him, “why did you lie about…?”
    • He said: “Well, everyone lies when they are being interviewed, it’s how the game is played.”
    • Other examples: Often they cannot account for where they have been.  Coming home late from work. Suddenly getting lots of calls  from “wrong numbers” and not being able to explain them away. Clicking out of apps or computer pages when you walk in the room and then lying about it.
  • Playing the Victim –  This is the one denial tactic that hurt me more than all the others, except for the gaslighting.  I had a terrible time understand how he could act like he was the one who was the victim?  I didn’t really want the victim role, I have never been fond of using it, but it was insulting that he acted like I was the one who hurt him!
    • He said: “I just don’t understand why you are not more supportive of me? You left me, I didn’t leave you! So you are the one who just doesn’t love me anymore.  If you loved me you would have stayed with me and worked with me.”
    • She said: Wow!  This was a tough pill to swallow when he would blast me with this one, which he did nearly every time we talked.  The worst part of this one is that I think he really believes himself when he says it! I moved out to get myself to a safe place because he refused to come clean from the very beginning and he continued to lie and cover up his affairs.  If at any point he would have stopped the affairs, gotten into recovery and provide me with safety, I would have moved back in with him and “worked with him,” but he was unable or unwilling to do these bare minimum steps.  So I couldn’t come back.  It wasn’t ever safe enough to do so, no matter how much I wanted to do it. The truth is that when he started having affairs with other women, he left me first.  This seems lost on him.
    • Other examples: “I just can’t help it.” “You won’t work with me.” “You just don’t love me anymore.” “I will never be able to repent from this because you will never forgive me.” If you were more supportive of me then I could overcome this.”
  • Entitlement – This is used by the addict when he feels he has the right to behave a certain way. He will somehow feel he is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Entitlement is often behind the addicts belief that he is SPECIAL, that he doesn’t have an addiction.  Those addicts who feel they are entitled believe they are the exception and not the rule.
    • He said: “After all I have done for you over the years you owe it to me to give me the benefit of the doubt.”
    • She said: He is not entitled to cash checks in the trust account after infidelity.  Trust is something that is earned, he is not entitled to it, and especially not after having online affairs, unchecked, for a year.
    • Other examples: “I am different, I am not a full-blown addict like the other guys in my group.” “I work hard to support my wife and kids, and I’m productive at my job. I think that I deserve a little reward. I mean it can’t be all work and no play, right? So if I go online for a little while here and there to look at porn, nobody should complain, because I deserve this little escape.”
  • Blame – Essentially, addicts see themselves at being at the mercy of the words or actions of other people. They are assigning their responsibility for a fault or a wrong doing to others, usually their wife and family members.  Often an addict will not accept responsibility for acting out even when he is caught. With the addict, it is usually someone else’s fault.  Sometimes the addict will take partial responsibility, but them blame his wife for the rest.  This is recognized when the addict says, “Yes, this is my fault, BUT…”  There should be no “BUT” when an addict takes real responsibility! The addicts blaming can be devastating to the betrayed wife!  It is appalling to have your husband blame you for their wrong choices.  This often leaves the wife wondering if there might be some truth to his twisted thinking.
    • He said: “If you would have stayed with me then I wouldn’t keep cheating on you.  You left me all alone so of course I kept cheating.  If you had been with me I wouldn’t have any reason to be with other women.”
    • She said: “So you do not have enough self-control to keep your core principles without me around to make sure you don’t cheat?” This is blaming at it’s finest!  With this sort of logic it is totally my fault he was unfaithful!  Not!  This is a core issue with addicts, they seem to lack agency or accountability.  This is another way you can tell if your husband is serious about recovery, HE WILL BE ACCOUNTABLE for his own actions!
    • Other examples: “My wife is such a nag.” “She constantly criticizes everything I do.” “She’s boring in bed. She never wants to try anything new, and she doesn’t care if I’m enjoying things or not.” The  other women I meet on Ashley Madison are totally different. They like me the way I am, and they’re willing to let me do what I want.”

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These next three are very similar and are often used by the addict together in the same sentence.

  • Justification –  is when an addict tries to show their actions are right or reasonable. Often you can recognize a justification by the use of the word JUST.  “I was just doing…”, “It was just a little….”, “You just don’t understand…”.
    • He said: “I only acted out sexually with other women a few times online.  After that we were just talking.  Don’t you understand?  I was just talking to them.”
    • She said: Even if he had not ever acted out online sexually and had only been talking to other women in chatroom, this is still cheating in most women’s eyes. Anytime your husband turns he attention to another women that is time he should have been investing in you!  That is cheating you out of your relationship with him! As far as the sexual piece goes, the number of times doesn’t matter to a wife.  One time is too many! There is no JUST when we are talking about cheating!
    • Other examples:“Everyone is doing it.” “We were separated so I just didn’t think it mattered.” “All you do is criticize me.” “I was just flirting, it’s no big deal.”
  • Minimization – This is trying to reduce the seriousness of the addicts behaviors to the smallest possible amount or degree.  To the wife, minimizing her feelings of betrayal signal that her husband is unsafe because he really doesn’t “get it” or understand what he has really done to her. Minimizing is a sure sign that the wife is not safe to trust her husband.
    • She said: Often I would have the feeling that my Ex was still cheating on me, even when he said he wasn’t.  I would confront him with the feeling and he would tell me he wasn’t (lying).  Later on, I would find out he was “chatting” with some woman online. When I confronted him with the evidence…
    • He said: “Yes, I was chatting with so and so online, but it wasn’t anything.  We were just talking. I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t understand. But it was nothing.” If it was really nothing, he wouldn’t have hidden it.
    • Other examples: “I’m not hurting anyone, and I’m not putting myself in any danger. I mean everyone knows that it’s just a one-time thing and we’re not going to fall in love. And I can tell right away when someone is into drugs or weird stuff, just from what they write or text me, so I don’t get into dicey situations. This just isn’t a big deal.” “This website isn’t that bad, we mostly just hang out in chatrooms and talk.  It’s the way I relax at the end of a stressful day.  It isn’t any different from you being on Facebook.”
  • Rationalization – Is making excuses to justify an unwanted behavior.  Often a rationalization will appear to be logical and well thought out, but the underlying purpose of it is to avoid the true explanation. They are false and often inconsistent excuses for specific behaviors.
    • She said: “Why did you just go and make this worse by acting out with women in person?”
    • He said: “After I was excommunicated I figured it didn’t matter anymore so if I was being accused of cheating I decided I might as well go off and have sex with a real person. I mean, really, how could that be any worse?”
    • Other examples: “I’m not having affairs like a lot of other people I know. All I’m doing is looking at porn, playing a few virtual reality sex games and occasionally getting off on a webcam. I don’t even know anybody’s real name. So this isn’t cheating. And if my partner thinks it is, that’s his problem, not mine.”
  • Turning the Tables – Also know as manipulation, is a tactic used by the addict to change the situation or focus so that he has changed positions with his spouse.  This often happens when a wife confronts the addict about a specific behavior.  The addict will find a way to turn the tables to make it about his wife’s perceived problem so the focus is taken off of his problem.
    • She said: “I really wish you wouldn’t ignore me, if we are going to repair our relationship then we need to work on improving our connection.”
    • He said: “Well, if you hadn’t moved out and left me then we would be living in the same house and we could connect everyday! If we are not connecting then it’s probably because you do not live in the same house as me.”
    • Other examples: How to spot manipulation.
  • Gaslighting – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.  It is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill anxiety and confusion in their victim’s.
    • She said: “I just really feel like you are still cheating on me.” I would say this after going through a period of time where he would distance himself from me, not call or text and then completely ignore me.  This happened over and over.  So I would ask him about what is going on with.
    • He said: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me, I have given you no reason not to trust me and here you are again, accusing me of things I did not do! How can we ever get back together if you are constantly questioning everything I do?  I go to counseling with you.  I attended the recovery program with you, like you wanted me to, what more do you want from me?  Nothing I do is ever enough for you! You will never forgive me!
    • Other examples: Read more about gaslighting here, here, and here.

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All the above tactics were used on me quite extensively.  This is why I had to go NO CONTACT with my Ex and it will probably stay that way until he comes out of denial on his own. An addict in denial is dangerous to your mental and emotional health.  That isn’t an exaggeration either. I ended up being suicidal because my husband was in absolute denial. He even went so far as to claim the mental health professionals working with him said he was not suffering from an addiction, but something else. The problem is that he would never define what that “something else” was. Later, when I talked to his counselors and church leaders about what I was experiencing on the other end of his “problem” they each agreed that his was deep in addiction, and that he had been less than honest with them about the extent of his problems. This is a huge issue with denial because if they cannot be honest with themselves about what they have done then they cannot be honest with their counselors either. In this state there is no moving forward. The addict is stuck. And so is his family. A problem cannot be addressed or fixed if the person with the problem can’t even see that they have a problem! This leaves the family no other choice than to stand by and helplessly watch as their loved one spirals out of control. There is NOTHING anyone can do until the addict hits the bottom. Here is an article you may find useful on the stages of denial.

The longer the addict stays in denial the more grim the chances are of repairing your relationship. My husband’s addiction went on unchecked and untreated, in any significant way, for 3 solid years. That is plenty long for him to have developed a full-blown addiction.

So how do you know if your man is in denial about his sex addiction? As you can see from some of the above examples, usually,  it’s pretty easy to tell. This list is a pretty good place to start. Almost everyone can tell except the addict. It is also really easy to tell if they are in recovery or not by the frequency in which they still engage in denial behaviors.  If your husband is still lying, minimizing, justifying, blaming, acting the victim or entitled, if he rationalizing, turning the tables on you or gaslighting you then you can be pretty certain that he is still involved in acting out on his addictive behaviors!  Red flags should go up immediately. At this point, an honest and open Q&A should happen between you about your concerns.  If he is still in recovery then he will welcome your questions and do his best to answer honestly and work to relieve any of your fears or concerns.  Any stonewalling is a red flag that something is going on.

As much as I hate the denial tactics that my husband put me through, they were the barometer that I was able to use to determine if he was serious about fighting for me or not.  Ultimately, it was the deciding factor in determining to divorce him.  He just would not come out of denial. It seems he still won’t.

That’s the bad news. There is some good news. You do have some choices you can make to empower yourself against the “denial effect.” This amounts to the things you must do to work on your own recovery from the trauma caused by the addict.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the “denial effect?” Plenty. This is will be the subject of my next blog post…

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Note:  Denial is not just engaged in by addicts. In fact, family members are often as deeply in denial as the addict. And because of this they tend to either enable or ignore the addiction and its consequences. This is another blog post that will be forthcoming.

Regardless of whether denial is engaged in by the addict or his/her loved ones, it exacerbates the addict’s desire to escape from life. This is because denial is a complex series of lies, secrets and deceptions that expands and takes on a life of its own as the addiction escalates. And the larger and more complicated this web of deceit becomes, the harder it is to maintain. Over time, the stress of sustaining this façade of normalcy becomes overwhelming. And of course the anxiety and fear this produces nearly always triggers a further desire to “numb out” via the addiction. In this way, the addict’s and/or the family’s system of denial directly feeds the cycle of addiction. This is why it is imperative that the whole family go to counseling, 12-steps and addiction recovery for spouses and families. See my page on Programs for suggestions on where to start.

Remember…

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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addiction, betrayal, My Story, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Drowning in Sadness

Sadness Letter

Write a letter to your partner expressing you feelings of sadness and loss.  This should not be a place to express anger so if you feel anger go to you anger letter to add those.  This should be about what makes you sad.  Use phrases like, “It makes me sad that” or “I regret that.”

It could happen anywhere…in a crowded theater, or a restaurant, a meaningful song on the radio, or even when I hear the sound of a Harley in the distance…you are everywhere… and nowhere to be found…

It’s curious how a wave of sadness can engulf me in the middle of a  high desert.  Without any warning, I feel the wave rumbling in the distance before I can even see it.  The sound is almost imperceptible at first, but suddenly it is everywhere as it thrashes me with a force so powerful that it could compress my heart with a single blow.  Towering over me like a beautiful blue monster with it jaws gaped open wide to shred me to bits with its jagged white teeth.  It is a wave so mountainous in size compared to me, that even the most accomplished surfer quakes at the thought of even getting in the water.  Yet there I stand, desperately trying to brace myself for a devastation I did not see coming and cannot control.  A wave so massive that I am aware that I will be broken against the ocean floor as it propels me downward into the abyss. I am terrified.

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As a child, I was scared to death of being caught in a riptide.  Growing up near the beach it was something that was constantly emphasized. Nothing can come as close to sudden death as quickly as an unsuspecting swimmer caught in a riptide.  There is no way out.  Drowning is inevitable.

I’ve never lost anything so precious to me before!  I don’t know what to do or how to react. I can’t breath I am so consumed in grief.  Part of me wishes that you had just died rather than have this happen, at least that way you would still be mine.  If I couldn’t have you now then at least I would have you in eternity,  And now I won’t.  My sadness over losing you to other women is consuming.  I cannot, nor will I ever, understand why you chose them over me.

Drowning Over and Over…

It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just drown once and slip into a peaceful existence beyond with nothing to worry about anymore, for all of eternity, but this doesn’t work like that.  With each new encounter with my memories, I am instantly thrust back into the deep with another wave towering over me, ready to come crashing down on my head within seconds.  I can feel it, see it coming, hear it, but try as I might, there is no stopping it.  I hold my breath because part of me wants to fight back, part of me wants to live, but it is just too suffocating.  I don’t stand a chance against it.  I can’t catch my breath.  I can’t move.  Sometimes the instinct to breathe is so strangling that I cannot resist and and I succumb to the need for air.  Gasping to catch my breath, I inhale the salty liquid and feel it burn as it fills my lungs. I am sure that I have taken my last breath…but no…I am still alive, but just barely.

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Sometimes I try to just give in, lay down and let it wash over me.  But it is relentless in its attack.  If I submit, I am just tossed around in the tempest, not knowing which way is the air…sky…safety.  It is the longing for air that taunts me with the realization that there is no safety.  This intense sadness with be with me for the rest of my life.  Oh sure, it will get better, or so they tell me. I will become stronger, they say, learn how to swim in it, but it will never go away.  When sadness came into my life 18 months ago, it decided to stay for good, sadness and grief do not ever leave.  They move in.  Like it or not, they are my constant jailers for the rest of my life.  They are not leaving. I have no say in the matter.  You are the one holding me hostage here in this silent, terrifying deep.  Your love, is my only escape.  But it isn’t coming. You took it from me, like a thief in the night and I have no chance of getting it back unless, you decide you love me enough to release me from my overwhelming, suffocating, ocean prison.  For me, there is no escape from sadness or grief.  Like I said, I wish you had died,  at least you would still be mine.

Living in Fear of Sadness…

How do you turn something so terrifying into a friend?  How do you survive in such horrifying conditions?  My life used to be so predictable.  I was concerned over the stupidest things like, what do I make for dinner, should I go to the mall or down to see the kids, or where are we going this weekend.  Now I am straddled with an emotion I cannot see coming.  It shows up anytime or anywhere without sufficient warning.

Sometimes I cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of life because I am worried I will unsuspectingly walk into a room where sadness is lurking there, waiting to pummel me to the ground. How can anyone survive this feeling, and yet, this is my new normal? Fear of Sadness.

Sadness Is…

  • Realizing that I spent 38 years of my life loving someone who didn’t love me back. At least not enough to fight for me.
  • Keeping myself from speaking out about how you treated me because I thought if I told you how I felt you wouldn’t change for me. Now I know that I was right and that is the worst feeling,
  • Feeling so lonely even with you in the room.
  • Wanting to see you again.
  • Not wanting to see you again.
  • Knowing you do not care enough about me to provide me with safety and security.
  • Knowing you can’t put my needs before your own.
  • Finding out that you are not the person I thought I married.
  • Admitting my parents were right about you after all.
  • Feeling rejected and unloved every single day since I discovered your affairs. Sometimes multiple
  • Not being able to trust myself.
  • Not being able to trust you.
  • Feeling abused.
  • Knowing that you used to love me, but not anymore.
  • Knowing you don’t care enough about me to treat me as well as you would treat a stranger.
  • Having you talk to me as if you hate me. For all I know, you do.
  • Being told that I am not supportive or loving enough towards you.
  • Being told I won’t allow you to change, when I want is for you to change.
  • All I want is for you to love me again.
  • Realizing you feel that I am to blame.
  • Sitting in the temple all alone, surrounded by strangers.
  • Hearing the words of the covenants we made to each other and knowing they will never be fulfilled.
  • Losing my eternal family, the only thing that ever mattered in life to me.
  • Losing you. Maybe forever.
  • Knowing that I will never be able to ride on the back of a motorcycle and not think of you.  I will think of the times that you patted my leg or told me you love me, only to find out later that you were telling another woman you love her too at the very same time. Maybe on the very same day?
  • Looking into the faces of my children and see you there.
  • Going to bed at night, in the dark, all alone.
  • Knowing that my heart doesn’t  belong to you, only because you don’t want it.
  • Feeling used.
  • Not being able to tell you how I feel.
  • I can’t tell you how you shattered my life and have you understand.
  • Being unable to convince you that I forgive you.
  • Being unable to convince you that I still want you.
  • Knowing you didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth.
  • Being ignored to the point I feel I never meant anything to you.
  • Never feeling your embrace again.
  • Never kissing you.
  • Or making love to you.
  • Needing to pretend that what you do doesn’t bother me.
  • Hundreds of smells.
  • Thousands of sounds.
  • Millions of thoughts.
  • A lifetime of memories.
  • All the places we have been together.
  • All the homes we have lived in.
  • All the friends we made.
  • The music of our lives together.
  • Losing the one person I love the most.
  • Feeling like I can never love again.
  • The taste of your favorite foods.
  • Our favorite restaurants.
  • Making dinner.
  • Not being a part of a team anymore.
  • Feeling all alone in the world.
  • Knowing you are my whole world, but you don’t believe me.
  • The sun on my face and the wind in my hair.
  • The rumble of pipes.
  • Pepsi.
  • Vanilla Ice Cream.
  • Eating out.
  • Chilies on Greenville Ave.
  • Music and the Spoken Word
  • Church, everything about church.
  • Baby blessings.
  • Baptisms.
  • Seeing you in my dreams.
  • Hearing your voice.
  • Holding hands.
  • Hugs.
  • Kisses.
  • The warmth of your arms around me.
  • The smell of your naked skin.
  • The sound of you sleeping.
  • Knowing I will never be the same again.
  • Feeling my life has been wasted.
  • Starting over at this point. It’s so unfair. What did I do to deserve this?
  • Being abandoned…again.
  • Never going on missions with you.
  • Not having you there when Brent and Ashley get married.
  • Wanting a blessing, but knowing you won’t ever give me another one.
  • Waking up and realizing you are not here.
  • Family pictures.
  • Home movies.
  • Listening to the children talk about “ the good old days”.
  • Denver.
  • Colorado Springs.
  • Westminster.
  • New York.
  • Kansas.
  • Los Angeles.
  • San Fransisco.
  • Hawaii.
  • Cancun.
  • Orlando.
  • Miami.
  • Dallas.
  • Fort Worth.
  • Texas.
  • Colorado.
  • Florida.
  • Family Reunions.
  • Driving in the Mountains.
  • Holding your hand in the car.
  • Skiing.
  • Hockey.
  • Ice Skating.
  • Sitting by the fireplace.
  • Christmas.
  • Easter.
  • Birthdays.
  • 4 of July.
  • Halloween.
  • Tulips can never be my favorite flower anymore.
  • Cards.
  • Presents.
  • Letters.
  • Watching TV.
  • Listening to the news in the car.
  • The color blue.
  • ….and on and on and on

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We have experienced too much of life together! Everywhere I go, everything I do, taste, see, smell, hear or touch has the potential of turning into a jumbo wave of sadness.  The list is too long to ever escape the potential for grief and sadness.  Even if I never leave the house again, there will always be something there to remind me of you. This is the sum total of what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, because it is a life without you!  Why can’t you see the truth?  Why won’t you do what is necessary to fix our family.  Everything could be so good again.  The deepest sadness of them all is that you don’t believe me.

addiction, betrayal, My Story, Uncategorized

Abuse, Dressed in a Suit

I used to think that because my husband was in leadership callings in the church that he should have, would have learned how he was supposed to treat his wife.  He should have known better by osmosis, I guess. I believed because he kept all outward appearances of a good, active member of the church that eventually his inward feelings and behaviors would change to match.  Because he lived in this space where his thoughts and actions were disconnected most of the time, I believe this set him up to become more abusive over time. Let me explain:

I don’t feel that my husband was particularly abusive to me during our 38-yer marriage. He was somewhat critical, kind of sarcastic, a little controlling, sort of demeaning, and maybe he tended to be distant and disconnected at times.  I mean, really, how connected can you be when you travel 50 to 75% of the time?  I think our marriage worked well because he was gone so much.  We really only saw each other on the weekends, and Sunday he was gone most of the day taking care of church responsibilities. With the limited time I had to spend with him, I didn’t see these darker sides of him all that often. Until…

About 15 years ago he started going through a series of job losses.  One right after the other.  Every two years he was either losing a job or just looking for another one.  Just because.  He was restless. Bored. Or so it seemed.  The worst sides of him also came out, or I saw them more often, because he was home more often.  Sometimes for months at a time.  Sometimes for a year or more.  He was with me 24/7. That is when the trouble really started. He couldn’t control his world, so he decided to control mine. Before, what seemed to be a character that was just a little off, became full-blown awful.  I wanted to run and hide from him, most of the time.  Somewhat critical, became critical to the point of meanness.  All his other character flaws intensified as well.  It got to the point that I couldn’t stand to be around him.  So I withdrew. Would you want to be around someone who criticized and nit-picked your every move? No. Me either.

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I am not sure when the cheating began.  I am not exactly sure why it started, or who caused it. All I know is the dynamic between us became the perfect storm. Was he more critical, controlling and sarcastic to me because he was already cheating, or because he was without a job?  I won’t ever know.  He has been less than forthcoming about what he has been doing with other women, and when it started.  So I won’t ever know for sure. But, now, after years of therapy, counseling, and reading about addiction, I can make an educated guess. Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say. He certainly had enough opportunity to cheat.  And chronic job losses is a symptom of addiction.  Before this turning point in our lives he was very stable. He stayed with the same company for over 20 years.

Why am I telling you this?  The reason is simple.  Nobody, and I mean nobody should ever have to put up with being put down…ever.  Husbands are not allowed to talk down to their wives, make fun of them, be critical or otherwise subtly abuse them. Even if they are a fine, upstanding member of the church who has important callings and wears a suit to work.  Abuse doesn’t just happen in low-income families or among blue-collar workers. He may never have to hit you to do you harm.

The sinister side of emotional abuse is that it is rarely seen as abuse.  In order to discount this sort of behavior, it is very easy for a spouse to say to you:

“I was just teasing/joking.”

“Can’t you take a joke?”

“You are too sensitive.”

“I can’t say anything to you!”

“This is just the way I am.”

“Why do you take everything so personally? I didn’t mean it that way!”

As I’ve observed sarcasm in social interactions, I’ve noted that those who use it tend to underestimate its negative effects because they assume that what they say is humorous instead of hurtful. People who use sarcasm often think their targets are too sensitive or naïve when feelings get hurt.7 “She just can’t take a joke,” they say. In more disturbing cases, sarcasm communicates contempt for others and gives people the “dishonest opportunity to wound without looking like they’re wounding.” If someone feels hurt by such sarcasm, the one who made the verbal jab will often respond with something like, “I was only teasing! Lighten up.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Seems benign, right? Not if it is long-term, chronic, on going. Emotional abusers get away with the abuse by manipulating the person they are abusing into believing that they are the problem.  It’s your fault, not his.  He will insist that you believe it is ok to be treated disrespectfully, and that you are the problem to boot!  Not cool!

The Greek root for sarcasm is sarkazein and means “to tear flesh like dogs.”1 One dictionary defines sarcasm as irony designed to “give pain.”2Sarcasm has many uses in our communication: it can convey aggression and insult,3 it can be used to dominate others,4 and it can communicate contempt and anger.5 Not all sarcasm is intentionally sinister, but it has a hypocritical edge because it requires us to say the opposite of what we mean. Some use it for humor, but it often damages our relationships because it leaves our friends and family doubting our sincerity and confused by what we say.  ~Gordon B. Hinckley

I allowed my husband to treat me this way. I admit it. Mostly, because I couldn’t how to articulate how his constant talking down to me caused me to feel in any meaningful way, at least not in any way to that would get him to stop.  Because I didn’t set good boundaries about how I expected to be treated at the beginning of our marriage, I sent unspoken messages to him that it was ok for him to talk down to me.  Familiarity breeds contempt.  So when life got tough, and his behavior got more critical, I had nothing in place to protect me from the effects of addiction on his previous flaws. I learned that when there is a disconnect in the integration between words and actions, there is going to be problems when life brings deep challenges. Does this make any sense?

“I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and expecting respect, are all healthy for a great marriage!  NO ONE, deserves anything less that the best from their spouse. Don’t accept anything but the best from your spouse.  Anything less, is abuse.  Being married does not give a spouse the license to treat the other one badly!

Everyone has bad days.  We all make mistakes.  There are times we say mean things.  This should be the EXCEPTION not the RULE.  If it is the rule in your marriage, you are probably  experiencing abuse. If your husband is treating you in a disrespectful way, over a long period of time, then it is up to you to set some boundaries and raise expectations for how you expect to be treated.  Don’t allow anything less, even if he is active in church, holds leadership callings, has family prayers and scripture study, or keeps up appearances.  Abuse is abuse. Even if it is dressed in a suit.

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

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