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

 

 

addiction, betrayal, My Story, repentance, Uncategorized

Sorry. Not Sorry

Our Anniversary would have been Monday.

It would have been thirty-eight years. 38. That is a lifetime. My whole life. Mostly wasted on a man who became emotionally and morally bankrupt. This week, for me, has been filled with shame, regret and deep sadness. I am in mourning.  I mourn what we had in the beginning. I mourn what could have been. What might have been. If my husband was capable of making good choices. If he would have chosen to get into recovery and worked to save our family. He did not. So here I am. Alone. Hurting. Torn to shreds. And working with all my energy to find new meaning in my life. Trying hard to find my purpose. Wanting so badly to heal.


Crying has become my friend again this week. It was inevitable. One step forward, two steps back in my healing. I cry frequently. Still. But this week, it’s an everyday thing…again. That is how healing the hurt happens. It is moments of calm and clarity until the next wave of grief crashes down on me with no notice.  This is my state mind this week.


And this happens…

Out of the blue, even though he is not supposed to contact me at all, he sends me an email. I made the mistake of reading it. I don’t know why I did. I shouldn’t have. But I did.

Now, instead of being just a mess, I am a hot mess.

Then it occurred to me that his email is a perfect example of gaslighting and its effects on the recipient. It is also therapeutic for me to write out my thoughts so I can process them.  So, I decided to share this and use it as instruction on what gaslighting looks like. I am hoping that it will help you to understand gaslighting better so you will be able to recognize it when it happens to you. So here is his email in its entirety:


“As this time of year approaches I always think, mostly with fondness, of our many years together and am thankful for it. We started from nothing to build and grow a good family who will continue to grow throughout mortality into the eternities. 

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of what I’ve done to affect our family and each individual’s life. That’s the hardest part of repentance – even though I may have spent the required time separated from the Church and have a change of heart and even try to repair feelings and relationships, I will always know that I’ve done a terrible thing that has affected the lives of those who I love and care about the most.

I’ve said ‘I’m sorry’ so many times over the past 2+ years (most times sincerely, but sometimes not) that I’m sure they end up sounding like only words. I know that my actions haven’t always matched those words. 

While I don’t understand the divorce completely, I do understand that you felt strongly that you needed to do it and, as you’ve told me, that you would have eventually divorced me anyway. I do realize that was a tough decision for you.

I want to apologize again. I am sorry for letting this into our family and letting selfishness and pride lead us to where we are now. I am sorry for all the lies that I’ve told and all the secrets I’ve kept and all the attention I paid to other women instead of you. I am sorry that I have broken the sacred covenants that I made to Heavenly Father and that we made to each other. I am sorry that the things I’ve done will affect you, our children, our grandchildren, and even future generations. I am sorry that what could have been will never be.

As we approach a date that someday may just become another day, it’s hard to not think of you. what I’ve done, and all that we have lost.

I continue you to pray for you, The kids, as well as the grandkids. I pray that the Atonement will help all of you to be comforted and to be made whole again from all the pain, sorrow and trauma I have caused.

I am truly sorry.”

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Oh, this sounds so lovely! Doesn’t it? 

It would be lovely, if it was coming from a healthy person. But coming from an addict this email is filled with lies and manipulations. Like my therapist friend said, “This isn’t an apology, it is a self-serving piece of crap! It is a manipulation, graduate level manipulation.”

I agree.  At least my core being agrees, because the number of triggers from this email were astronomical.  I am still having them, two days later!

Let’s dissect  it, shall we?

He is so fond of me that he doesn’t even address me in the email by name…

As this time of year approaches I always think, mostly with fondness, of our many years together and am thankful for it. We started from nothing to build and grow a good family who will continue to grow throughout mortality into the eternities. 

Wait, what? He sounds so nostalgic and full of reflection. Fondness? Our marriage was just destroyed! By his bad choices. He is speaking like we are just apart for the weekend in separate cities for our anniversary and he misses me. Our family is destroyed! He broke it. Now he is so proud of what we built together? This is so emotionally bankrupt and so far removed from the reality of what the rest of us are feeling that it is mind numbing. Truly.

This next paragraph was so triggering that it is hard to know how to even speak about it. So let’s go line by line.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of what I’ve done to affect our family and each individual’s life. 

If it bothers you that much then why don’t you fix it? But, you don’t fix anything, so you must be content with your life the way it is! You must be ok with what you have done to your family! 

That’s the hardest part of repentance – even though I may have spent the required time separated from the Church…

Umm, we called his Bishop before Thanksgiving. He hasn’t been to church since he moved 7 months ago. The Bishop never heard of him. The last time we talked to his Bishop was on December 22nd. He was going to call him. His former Bishop told me that until he “get’s it” and can do the restitution part of repentance, that he is a long way, years, from getting his blessings back.  But he is in denial about that too.  He makes it sound like his re-baptism is just around the corner…it’s not. It will be years, and quite possibly never at the rate he is going.  The first step is you need to go to church. But he takes every opportunity to TELL us how much he is repenting. However, there is NO evidence of this.

Spending the “required time away from the Church” does not repentance make. Full repentance requires the work of restitution. You don’t just wait it out.  Repentance is work! Hard work.  Gut wrenching work.  It’s painful.  It is  supposed to be, so he never does it again.

…and have a change of heart 

He hasn’t had a change of heart! If he had a change of heart then he would be a changed man. He is still cheating! That isn’t a change of heart! I talk about a change of heart in another blog post.  This isn’t that.

and even try to repair feelings and relationships, 

He has done nothing to repair relationships, for anyone. But he likes to say it. A lot. Then he uses these declarations of repentance to manipulate us into his twisted way of thinking. He thinks if he says it enough then we will all BELIEVE him! Then he accuses us of being unforgiving of him and not giving him a chance. After all, he is “doing everything he can to fix this.” But his words, as lovely and convincing as they sound, do not match his actions.  This is gaslighting in all its glory! Changing the reality of another person in order to cause them to doubt their own feelings and experiences. Another word for it is “crazymaking.”  And it really does make me feel like I am going crazy! I hate it!

I will always know that I’ve done a terrible thing that has affacted the lives of those who I care about the most…

He knows he has done a terrible thing. But he will not DO anything constructive to fix it. Even when we give him specific things we need him to do. He doesn’t want to do what we need him to do so he just says he is sorry and calls it good! He brushes off any request given to him as if he didn’t hear it or that he somehow doesn’t understand.  Playing stupid is NOT being sorry.


Case in point: 
I’ve said ‘I’m sorry’ so many times over the past 2+ years (most times sincerely, but sometimes not) that has affected the lives of those who I love and care about the most.

Again, if he is even cognitively aware of this, in any meaningful way, then why does he DO NOTHING to repair the damage he has done to those who he is supposed to care about the most? He is sorry like a two-year old is sorry for taking his sister’s toy. He says he is sorry, but doesn’t give the toy back. That isn’t sorry.

I’m sure they end up sounding like only words. I know that my actions haven’t always matched those words.

“Sounding like only words?” If he knows that his word are hollow then why doesn’t he change that?  Why does he insist on doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results?

“Haven’t always?” How about never!  He isn’t in any kind of counseling. He isn’t in 12-steps. He doesn’t have a Sponsor. He isn’t even seeing his Bishop! So how is he learning how to relate to what he has done and know how to fix it in any meaningful way? The answer is, he doesn’t! He can’t. He is stuck in the echo chamber of his own head, with zero feedback from anyone but himself. So he just says and does the same things over and over with no real improvement in his thinking nor does he have any ability to change his behavior.

He can’t gain his integrity back because he will not take counsel on how to do that from anyone besides himself. He is on the “physician heal thyself” plan. It will never work! Never.  No matter how much he wills it.  Brain dysfunction cannot heal itself.

While I don’t understand the divorce completely, I do understand that you felt strongly that you needed to do it and, as you’ve told me, that you would have eventually divorced me anyway. I do realize that was a tough decision for you.

This is an attempt, once again, to manipulate me into feeling guilty for divorcing him. I hate it when he does this to me! It is despicable! Nevermind that he never stopped cheating on me for 3 solid years. He never stopped lying to me about it. And he said he didn’t have an addiction. But he really believes, deep down in his core that I should have stayed with him to work it out. Work out what?  You cannot work on a problem if the person with the problem has their head so far up their butt they can’t even see how much they are in denial. Never mind, that his cheating and lies were KILLING me. Doesn’t matter to him. I was slowly dying. He didn’t care. And he wasn’t doing anything to stop his awful behavior. Nah, he’s right, I should have just stayed with him and continued to let him abuse me! But he doesn’t understand why I divorced him? I can’t make him “get it.” Believe me, I tried. Maybe someone else can explain it to him.



I want to apologize again. I am sorry for letting this into our family and letting selfishness and pride lead us to where we are now. 

Again. Talk is cheap. He is sorry. I’ve heard it a thousand times by now.  I STILL do not believe him. Why?  Because he refused to get help to stop doing these things. He remains selfish and prideful. Nothing has changed.  His version of sorry is what the scriptures call, “the sorrow of the damned.”


 I am sorry for all the lies that I’ve told and all the secrets I’ve kept and all the attention I paid to other women instead of you. I am sorry that I have broken the sacred covenants that I made to Heavenly Father and that we made to each other. I am sorry that the things I’ve done will affect you, our children, our grandchildren, and even future generations. I am sorry that what could have been will never be.


Well, that is certainly a lot of “I’m sorry’s!”

One thousand one… one thousand two…one thousand three… one thousand four…

Maybe if he says if enough we will believe him? Again, nothing to back up those words. What triggered me most about this part is the last line. “He is sorry for what could have been, but will never be”…wow!  I have told him at least a hundred times. Literally.  That if he got into recovery and really got his act together, I would be willing to go back to him and work it out! Even now. This is because I know he has a brain illness. When he is willing to seek help for his illness, I could be willing to assist him in that healing. He knows this. But he uses it as a stick to beat me with. He might as well have said; “I don’t have an addiction. I never did. You accused me of something I didn’t do. The break up of our marriage is your fault! You can’t see what the real problem is. He still won’t or can’t say what he thinks the REAL problem is. So this is your fault. I wish I could fix it, but I can’t because you won’t let me!  This is YOUR fault!” That is what he is saying to me in that line, I know this, because he HAS said it to me, over and over, in person. I have been blamed so much for his bad behavior, that I almost started to believe him too!  Denial is insidious! Again, he is trying to change the reality. This is called blame and turning the tables and it is another form of manipulation caused by denial.

As we approach a date that someday may just become another day, it’s hard to not think of you. 

Our anniversary, will never become “just another day” to me. We stated our eternal family on this day, filled with so much hope and promise. It ended in so much heartbreak because of a man who broke he covenants and then refused to lift a finger to repair the damage he has done. He still refuses. He killed the hope. He broke the promises.

I wish he had thought of me when he was cheating on me dozens of times over the past 3 years. Maybe if he had thought of me, just once, we wouldn’t be here now. It wasn’t hard for him to not think of me when was in all those other relationships.  I am pretty sure he didn’t think of me once.

what I’ve done, and all that we have lost.

If his losses mean so much to him then why isn’t he working hard to get them back? Wouldn’t any average person at least try? He used to like to tell me, “he will do everything he can to get his family back!” Well, he isn’t very resourceful, or imaginative or dedicated to doing everything. He has hardly lifted a finger. That just tells me that he doesn’t really want us very much. He just wants to say it to make himself feel better about his choices. That is what this boils down to – he likes his life without us.

I continue you to pray for you, and the kids, as well as the grandkids. I pray that the Atonement will help all of you to be comforted and to be made whole again from all the pain, sorrow and trauma I have caused.


He expects God to do all the heavy lifting for him. God will fix it. He is in the clear! I have news for him. That isn’t how it works. Christ said:

15 Therefore I command you to repent–repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore–how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink–

Doctrine & Covenants 19:15-18

I am truly sorry,

He really isn’t sorry. This email was written to assuage his own guilty conscience. He was feeling badly, so he wanted me to feel sorry for him. That was the purpose of the email. It wasn’t written to help or heal me. All it did was wound. This email was a torture to me because he wrote down all the ways he doesn’t care about me enough to move him into any sort of action. He is feeling guilty that he doesn’t care about his family anymore. In fact, he doesn’t care about us so much that he wanted to tell us that he still refuses to do anything to make our lives better. This email screams,”I don’t care about you, I never cared about you, and I will never care about you enough to ease the pain I have caused you! Oh, but, by the way, I am sorry.”

Yep, he is not sorry. But one day he will be. God will see to that.

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Be Strong, Stay Sweet!




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!

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.

 

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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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Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, betrayal, My Story, Uncategorized

Fool Me Once…

For anyone who has ever been betrayed by a porn/sex addict, it should come as no surprise to learn that this isn’t my first foray into the mind-bending denial of an addict. Once this becomes a part of your life it comes back again and again unless the addict gets serious about making lifelong changes.  The first time (that I am aware of) was 10 years ago, while my husband was the Bishop of our LDS Ward. It was just as terrible then as it is now. Believe me. I didn’t think I could handle it then anymore than I feel I can do it now.  It’s a lot like welcoming a death eater to live in your house. All the happiness gets sucked out. Nobody in their right mind would welcome a death eater into their home, even for a few minutes. It sucks all the happiness out. Literally.

It was remarkably different this time. Because I was different. I guess when you have a close encounter with a death eater it changes you. Forever.

Even back then, he did everything he could to wiggle out of committing to any real recovery. He complained about being on medication for anxiety, and OCD. He fussed endlessly about the cost of therapy. He said he didn’t have an addiction. He didn’t get anything out of 12-steps and it was boring. He convinced me it would never happen again. His explainations (excuses) were relentless. He wore me down. He also convinced the Stake Priesthood leaders that he “just made a mistake.” So his church discipline amounted to a slap on the wrist. I argued with them to the point that I could tell I was about to cross that line.  I might be the one disciplined if I didn’t just be quiet and take their decision to do nothing about my husband’s “mistake” without another complaint. I was told this was for the best and would save our family from embarrassment. I strongly disagreed. Years later when this happened again, I learned a disciplinary counsel should have been called automatically because he was the Bishop. I was livid.

I still hold these men somewhat accountable for what happened to our family after that. Had they held my husband accountable back then, we might have been spared what we are going through now. Most notability, his insistence that he doesn’t have an addiction.

Had he been properly disciplined and held accountable back then, when I saw true remorse in him, he might have stayed in recovery. As it was, he had zero incentive to continue to recover after the crisis of the initial shame and guilt had past. He was left to his own devices. And we were left to the mercy of his “word” that this would never happen again.

Deep down I knew differently.

So I did what I always do when faced with a problem I know nothing about. I did research. Lots of it, until I became a subject matter expert on sex and porn addiction. I had to know what I was dealing with. Knowledge is power. I knew that if this awfulness ever came back into our home I would need to know what to do to protect myself and our family. So I studied and I worked on my own recovery and let him figure out his (which amounted to nothing of real significance.) After a few months everything seemed to go back to normal. Overtime, he even convinced me that I had “over reacted.”  He said it was an isolated incident and it would never happen again.

I believed him. Because I wanted to believe him.

Even though all the studies, research, and books I read, screamed at me to be careful, it takes hard work to overcome an addiction. I threw caution to the wind! After all, he is a good man. Right? He is entitled to make a mistake and repent from it, right? The problem is that I believed we were the exception because he convinced me that all those stats didn’t apply to us. That is never good.

Looking back, I willfully and stupidly ignored the red flags; His insistence that he didn’t have an addiction, his refusal to stay in counseling, and choosing to not stay on medication were the biggest red flags. I should have set the boundaries that he continue in recovery if he wanted to continue living in the same space with me. But I didn’t. He was stubborn and insistent he could handle this in his own way. So I let him. That was what I was learning about not being an enabler – let him figure it out for himself. He had to choose recovery and do it on his own terms. To make matters worse, was that I was dealing with my own trauma and I didn’t know it. Back then women were enablers not victims themselves. I didn’t know I had the right to feel safe and secure in what he was doing to show me he could be trusted again. You don’t know what you don’t know.

While I could think of little else, He did very little to rebuild trust. He dealt with it by ignoring it. He chose the white-knuckle method of recovery, which is to just decide to never do it again. It would go away. End of story. So I went along with it, knowing that when I least expected it, it would all come crashing down around me again.

Boy did it!

Five years later, my life would change forever. Not in a good way. I guess Mr. Whiteknuckles got tired of holding on. Just when I had just started to believe he was right. Just when I started to believe he had it all under control. At the exact moment I was letting out a sigh of relief, I took a sucker punch to the gut. It knocked all the wind out of me!

In that moment, while I struggled just to keep living, I knew I could never do this again. Ever. Something had to change. The first time, we did it his way. This time I was in a much better position to know what I needed from him to restore and repair our relationship and how to articulate those needs to him. Or so I thought.

Have you ever seen a two year old throw a fit because they don’t get their way? If you give into the child’s demands in that moment then you lose all credibility as a parent for future battles. They learn quickly that if they scream at you loudly enough, embarrass you with tantrums in public, and tell the whole world they hate you that they can shame you into giving into their irrational demands. We’ve all seen it right? My girls were queens of the temper tantrums. But no matter how much they yelled, it was my job to teach them that they cannot behave that way. Right?

You can’t reason with a two-year old. They need boundaries. Guidance.

I believe this is kind of what happened with my husband. He got away with doing things his way the first time, back up by unwitting church leaders. So much so, that the second time he upped the tantrum level to unbearable to get me to give in to him again. I really believe that the tantrums addicts can throw are similar in scope and nature to a two year old. It is quite daunting to see a grown man be so irrational!

What he doesn’t get, and probably never will, is that if he wants me back there must be changes, seen and unseen. I could give him a pass. Once. I can’t do it again. Not because I won’t. I can’t. I can’t go through this again. Ever.

The difference was that this time, I KNEW what had to be done. It couldn’t be ignored again. Not this time! I KNEW I deserved to be treated with respect. This time I KNEW he needed to WORK to rebuild trust. Provide safety. Work to reconnect with me. This time I deserved more than just taking his word for it. I had done my recovery work the first time. This time I KNEW he was an addict and I cannot be talked out if that fact. The evidence was overwhelming and undeniable. I know better this time. Remember what I said about “knowledge is power?”

Getting into recovery for your own trauma gives you the power and knowledge to know what you should and should not have endure. You learn how to protect youself from furture attacks and what to do when they happen. Knowing what to do gives you a level of protection you cannot have if you choose to remain willfully ignorant.

Because I know how an addict behaves; what they do, say and think, it helps me see through the lies and deception to discern what is really happening.

We all know that kids try to get away with lying about something they did that was wrong. And because we were kids ourselves and tried to get away with the same thing, we see through it. We understand, by our own experience, what a lie looks like and how to recognize it. It’s the same thing with an addict. If you refuse to get yourself educated about what addiction looks like and how to overcome it, well, you don’t know what you don’t know. That is a level of ignorance that only hurts you.

For example: my husband’s tantrum is that he is NOT an addict. Quite frankly, I don’t care what you call it. The label makes zero difference. It’s the behavior that is disturbing. His behavior is classic addict behavior. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say for the sake of argument that he is not an addict. His continuing betrayals, caused me to be traumatized by his behavior. Betrayal truama is caused by BETRAYAL. It matters very little how the poison of betrayal was delivered. What matters is how to repair it. And the reparations for one affair or 50 are exactly the same! The same recovery for a marriage damaged by betrayal is the same as the recovery for a marriage damaged by sex addiction. Restoring safety, connection and trust are exactly the SAME!

So when he is stubbornly insisting that he doesn’t have an addiction and thinks he doesn’t have to do recovery to fix our relationship, I have the understanding and wisdom to know better. He just wants me to give him another pass.

This time I can’t.

IMHO women who keep giving into the temper tantrums of the addict are making it harder and harder for him to take her seriously! So set your boundaries ladies! You deserve better! You deserve to have a husband who believes you are worth it to give you his best self and his best efforts!

Don’t settle. Remember –

fool me once shame in you, fool me twice, shame on 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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addiction, betrayal, My Story, Uncategorized

A**hole vs. Addict

My ex is my ex because he doesn’t think he is an addict. If he could or did come out of denial long enough to get help I would/could take him back.  But he isn’t an addict.  According to him he was never an addict and he will never BE an addict.  He is adamant about it.  He is in serious denial. In fact, being in denial is an art for him.  His failure to come out of denial was nearly my undoing.  I am not even joking.  Denial can kill those you love if you are not careful.  It will defiantly kill love.  If an addict can’t admit there is a problem then there is nothing anyone can do with that.  There is nowhere to go, no remedy, nothing to fix. Because if a man cheats on you, and he does it deliberately, then that is a clear indiction he is an a**hole.  So says my therapist.

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Arguing with an addict in denial will leave you exhausted and you will never make any progress or have any lasting resolution as long as he is in denial.

I was discussing my, then, husband’s denial with my therapist.  A husband’s denial is problematic for the spouse for lots of reasons, we will discuss them further in another post.  But back to the story – My therapist stopped me in the middle of my animated details of how he swears he isn’t an addict with this observation – “If he isn’t an addict, then what is he? An a**hole?”  What?  I said.  “Well, think about it, if he isn’t an addict then he has complete control over his actions which mean he did this on purpose. That makes him and a**hole.” Then she just paused, waiting for what she said to me to sink in. .. … It was one of those “lightbulb” moments.  If he isn’t an addict, I reasoned, then he is in complete control of his thoughts, intentions and choices, which means he CHOSE to cheat on me.  Not just once, but over and over and over again, for at least 3 years.  Like my ex likes to tell me, “I just made a series of mistakes and bad decisions.”  I’m sorry, but, a mistake is when you do something devastatingly wrong, ONCE.  A bad decision is something you make, ONCE, maybe twice if you are a slow learner.  After that, IT IS DELIBERATE!

Yep, that would make him an a**hole!  So men, if you are reading this, think carefully when you chose to refuse the truth of your addiction and sit in denial.  There are far worse things you could be than an addict!  Don’t be an a**hole!  Addiction can be overcome.  A**holes are forever!  let me explain –

An addict who knows he is an addict, and has come to terms with his addiction, really doesn’t want to be an addict anymore.  When he gets to that place of self assessment and awareness where he can say, “yes, I am an addict.” Then, and only then, can a couple move forward into recovery and healing.  When an addict sits in denial and stays there, and stays there, and stays there, with no intention of moving from that indefensible position, there is NOTHING anyone can do.  There is no moving forward in the relationship, there is no repairs offered, there is no connection, truth, safety, there is no healing.  There is NOTHING.  You are stuck in “cheaters limbo!” Trust me, it is a hellish place to be.  Unfortunately, if you are in this spot, and nothing changes, you either have to have the patience of Job to stay in the relationship, or you will probably have to end it, because you cannot do ANYTHING with denial or an a**hole. The biggest question you have to ask yourself is, “How much of this can I take in a relationship that is not improving anytime soon?”  The answer will depend upon your ability and willingness to endure it.

A**hole is not the technical term, but it gets the point across.  It may sound funny for the purposes of the blog, but the reality is anything but funny. It’s heartbreaking, gut wrenching, all-consuming, agony.  Why?  Because someone you love refuses to see what his actions are doing to you and your family.  The technical term for someone who deliberately sets out to cheat on and emotionally harm a spouse is a sociopath.  So if your cheating spouse is doing it on purpose, like mine claimed to be, then it really isn’t safe to stay in the relationship because the behavior will never change.  And being cheated on is mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically dangerous.  It is my opinion that you must remove yourself from this kind of abuse, because that is what it is.  Abuse.

Sociopath, narcissist, psychopaths are all dangerous to your well-being.  If you are in a relationship with one of these types then you need to know what you are up against to  be able to decide if you want to continue in a relationship with them.  There are 1 in 100 sociopath living in the general population, the chances of knowing one or being in a relationship with one are greater than you think.

For me, the constant mental abuse, lead to thoughts of suicide.  That was crossing the line.  I realized I had to choose between him or me.  I chose me. Believe it or not, it was the most difficult choice I have ever had to make.  Why?  Because I knew that if I divorced him he would blame me for the ending of the marriage.  I would be the one accused of walking away from him, nevermind that my own life hung in the balance.  I was between a rock and a hard place.  I couldn’t sit in denial with him indefinitely.  It was literally going to kill me! I had to choose.  I chose me.

I second guess that choice everyday, especially when I have to listen to him tell me how I abandoned him.  I left him. I gave up.  I walked away.  I divorced him.  These pronouncements, when they are aimed at me, are like daggers.  They are all, technically, true.  That hurts.  But the truth is something much deeper that an addict cannot see.  He is unable to see it. Not while he sits in denial. For him, he is blinded to the truth. Guilt trips, manipulation, rationalization, turning the tables, and gaslighting,  are all symptoms of denial. To the addict, their behavior is always everyone else’s fault and they are masters at spinning it so that you might believe it too, if you are not careful.  Unless you get help. Please get help, this is too complicated and convoluted to navigate on your own.

If you find yourself in the position of being in a marriage with a sex addict, my heart breaks for you.  Please just remember that you are not responsible for healing him!  That is his job!  Your job is to make sure you are going to be ok.  If you cannot sit with your husband in denial, then you have to remove yourself to a safe distance until he comes to his senses. If he has to live in the basement, or if you have to go to your mom’s house or if you have to separate…do it!  Do whatever you have to do to maintain your safety. Especially, your mental and emotional safety. I’m not going to lie to you.  Sometimes this can take years to see improvement or feel like its getting better. This is the definition of “for better or for worse.” There is no quick fix.  The road is long and it is painful!  But if you have a husband who is dedicated to you and his recovery it is worth every step to walk that road with him,  If you have a husband like this, hold on to him, support him, take his hand and make that journey to healing with him. You will be grateful you did!

To this day, my ex husband will swear he is not an addict.  He goes out of his way to find people who will believe him and back him up. He only hears what he wants to hear from therapists, counselors and religious leaders.  He chronically cheated on me for the last 3 years with over 20 different women, that I know of. Thankfully for me, I have documented proof of all of it, or I might be tricked into believing him too.  Is he an addict?  He says no.  I say yes.  Either way, until he comes out of denial and gets the help he needs, he has proven himself to be an a**hole.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

The Cupcake Warrior