boundaries, dating, healing

Having “The Talk”

Now that I am “dating” again, I have concerns and worries that I will get involved with someone else who is also an addict. It’s a very valid concern considering the breadth and depth of the problem of pornography and sex addiction.  After all, just about every man has been exposed to pornography. My therapist said that it is likely anyone you date will have been exposed, to one degree or another. The question we have to ask ourselves  is, “to what degree?” It could be anything from a one time exposure as a child, or all the way to a full-blown addiction, or anything in between. So how do you know how bad is too bad?  What is acceptable to you?  What is not? How can you keep yourself from getting involved with someone with a problem again? These are all very good questions and they deserve your serious attention BEFORE you get so involved with someone who just causes you more trauma before you have to break it off with them.  I would suggest sitting down and writing up some good boundaries for yourself. Think about what you can and cannot live with and set those boundaries – in advance.  Don’t wait until you fall in love to decide. The time to protect yourself from making the same mistake again is now. If you don’t know how to set boundaries this read this article.

When Do You Ask?

So when do you ask the man you are dating about his porn use?  Gosh!  Why do we even have to ask?  You’re right, we shouldn’t have to ask.  It shouldn’t even be a problem!  But the odds are not good for finding a man who hasn’t had to deal with this issue.  It’s wide-spread and pervasive.  Chances are that any man you date is going to have to come clean to you about his porn use.  Even in the church the statistics are not good!  I have heard as many as 50% of all Melchizedek Priesthood holders have been involved with pornography at sometime in their lives.  The statistics outside of the church are staggering – as many as 90%! It not good ladies! Even if you think the guy you are dating is awesome and he “would never do that,” you still must ask!  Ask for your own peace of mind.  Ask because you have to protect yourselves. Ask! It is doing your due diligence and he isn’t going to volunteer it, not unless he is in serious recovery.  It is foolish for any woman to believe that she should not ask her man about this issue. it just is.  Don’t stick your head in the sand, it won’t help you!

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It is up to you to do the asking, unfortunately.  The guy I was dating actually told me up front, which I thought was fantastic!  It set my mind at ease and made me feel that, at least, he was willing to be honest with me.  But I did not probe further.  I should have.  He told me he had a problem and talked to his Bishop about it, he had chosen to turn his back on it and never do it again.  And that was that.  But the longer our relationship went on, the more I had “that nagging feeling in my gut” that I should know more.

With this experience under my belt I have a suggestion about when to ask and what to ask.  When the relationship progresses to the point that you are discussing more serious issues.  If you are in the ‘define the relationship” status, that is the time to ask, if not before.  In my case, I had been very up front about my PTSD, trauma, and abuse.  He knew from the beginning that I needed certain things from him to feel safe.  So the fact that you are asking your man about his porn use should not be a big surprise to him if he knows anything about you at all.

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Being able to ask, and ask clearly, is all about setting up good boundaries for yourself.  I alway told my Ex that I wasn’t asking him to do something that I would not ask of anyone!  I did not realize how true that was, until now.  Any man who is in a relationship with me is going to have to provide me with copious amounts of connection and safety.  The safety will have to include basic addiction recovery behaviors, probably whether he has or had an addiction or not! You might say, “But that’s not fair!”  No, it’s not fair.  But what happened to me is not fair.  Nothing about betrayal trauma is fair! But any man who would choose to love me knows this, so he would do it anyway, because he loves me and wants me to feel safe and secure in my relationship with him. And he will do it as soon as humanly possible. Expediency is paramount when dealing with trauma.  Women need to see action, not words, not promises. Action. My Ex should have done this, if he had, we would still be married now and our family would still be together.  Choices have consequences.

The Questions

There are 5 questions you need to ask the man you are dating:

  • Has he ever been exposed to pornography or sex online? Any man who is being honest will answer this question in the affirmative.  I would be suspicious of anyone who says they have never been exposed.
  • When was the first time you were exposed? Is this an ongoing problem or something that just began?
  • When was the last time you view pornography and to what degree? You will need to know how he views pornography; is it in chatrooms, with other people participating, texting, does he masturbate while viewing, etc. In otherwords, how pervasive was his use?
  • How often has he viewed or participated since his first exposure to his last? You will also what to know how long he goes without viewing in between.
  • What has he been doing to overcome this problem?  This is the most important question if he has been using porn.  So important that I will cover it in the next section.

Addiction Recovery is outlined in the book “What Do I Do about Him Me?” by Rhyll Crowshaw, Road Map #3

What Is He Doing About It Now?

Having a porn or sex addiction is not the biggest determination for having or restoring trust in a relationship. What he is now doing about it, is!  I heard a therapist at a convention say, that he would trust a man in solid recovery more than a man without an addiction because the man in recovery knows himself!  I agree!  If a man is in solid recovery he has learned to set boundaries for himself, he knows his limits, he is self disciplined, and he is humble enough to be responsible and accountable to himself, to his family, and to God. This is all about personal responsibility and accountability!  It’s about building trust.

So to any man who would want to date me, you should be doing the following, without being asked:

  • Meeting with your Church Leaders regularly.
  • Attending a 12-step program and have an accountability partner or sponsor, maybe for the rest of his life.
  • See a personal counselor who specialized in addiction for 3-5 years.
  • Getting educated about addiction, betrayal trauma, and recovery. In other words, learning needs to be a life long pursuit.

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These should be the minimum.  But, ladies, we want men who are willing to go the second and third mile by also:

  • Becoming involved in helping others recover
  • Attending a recovery program like Men of Moroni
  • Setting up blocks on all your devices
  • He has boundaries, strong ones
  • Is accountable and responsible in his relationships
  • Is humble and willing to do the work
  • Provides emotional, physical, and spiritual safety
  • Does whatever it takes to restore trust

c11ea4c0819b647a2cca9c81e6d57510.jpgI promise you that you will know where a man’s heart is by how willing he is to be accountable and do the hard work of recovery.  And if he won’t do the work, well, he just didn’t want you that badly, now did he? You will survive the truth better than you will survive a lie. This isn’t about being demanding, this is about knowing your own worth.  You are worthy of a man who has control over his own mind and body and respects himself enough to do the hard work of recovery. I have to work my own recovery, probably for the rest of my life because of what happened to me, why would I want to be with anyone who refused to do anything less?

A Word to Bishops and Church Leaders:

Bishops, please – please – please, do your job! Ask the hard questions!  It is not a light thing you are doing when you interview a man who comes to you to confess a pornography problem. Lives hang in the balance!  Families hang in the balance!  You need to ask enough probing questions to get to the bottom of the problem.  Too many families are being broken up over the devastation of porn use and sex addiction by married men.  The wives and children of these men deserve for you to care about them and protect them enough to determine the level of addiction these men are experiencing. These men are experts at deception, often they will not volunteer information unless asked a direct question.  You must be direct! Kind, yes! But direct! If someone comes to you to confess an addiction shouldn’t you at least ask if this problem has been on going, and in some cases, for decades?  If so, then you need to be referring them for professional counseling and 12-steps and then following up with them to make sure they are working on recovery.

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It’s not enough anymore to ask when is the last time you view porn!  You have to look at the habits of these men over time.  Often these men only take it as seriously as you do.  Many will say, ” Well, I talked to my Bishop and he didn’t think I needed to do anything more.” What a disservice you are doing to innocent wives and children! Don’t you know you are being used as an excuse by these men to not get help? I am begging you, as someone who lost the love of my life and my eternal family over this issue – ask the hard questions! Take this seriously! Please.

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

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addiction, betrayal, boundaries, Choices, forgiveness, healing, infidelity, My Story

You Have Always Had the Power to Come Home!

I haven’t written in a while.  It was for a good reason.

It seems that my Cheater did not understand that he could get his family back anytime he wanted.  All he had to do was to get himself into recovery and show us that he was changing and overcoming his addiction by providing safety and connection to me and his children.  He understands that now.  I am not sure it makes any difference.

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Through out the last 3 years I told him this over and over.  So did our grown children.  All he had to do was to show he was serious about overcoming his addiction.  We don’t think he is a monster.  We love him.  We want him in our family.  But his behaviors over the past several years have made it impossible to have him in our lives. He absolutely had to stop cheating on me, gain some sobriety, and show he was serious about recovering from his addiction.  These are all reasonable boundaries and expectations, but, for whatever reason, he refused to recognize the simplicity of them. Or he just didn’t understand.  Both are normal responses.  Addicts often cannot see what is plainly in front of their faces. The reasoning and logic space in their pre-frontal cortex is swiss cheese, full of holes, and disconnected from reality, which makes even the simplest cognition impossible to process.  The frustrating part for our family was that until he “wakes up to his awful situation” there was nothing we could do to make him understand. No matter how many times we said it to him – he would not believe it. He just cannot see what is plainly in front of him. He only saw whatever pieces supported the twisted narrative being carried out in his own mind.

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Like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, he has always had the power to come home. He just had to see and use his power.  I told him before, during, and after I filed for a divorce, and even after the divorce was final, that I was willing to put our family back together as soon as his actions showed he was serious about recovery.  Actions, not words, was what we were all looking for.  But he just convinced himself that his family did not want him.  No amount of reasoning, begging, or cajoling would get through to him.  If you have ever had to  reason with an addict you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Recently, he has awakened just enough for us to show him what we have been saying all along – He could come home anytime he wants. With conditions. It’s puzzling to us that he seems to really not know that, given the countless emails and texts the children and I have sent to him telling him just that.  So I haven’t written for a few weeks because I was trying to give him the time, space, and privacy to figure out what he wants to do.  He says he wants his family back, but he doesn’t actually DO anything to back up his words.  He has had plenty of time to think it over, more than enough time. Almost 3 years.

I can’t really blame him.  His choices have put him between a rock and a hard place.  He is married for one thing. However, it’s debatable that he will stay that way.  Who knows? The question for me is if he cannot choose me and the kids and he keeps doing everything BUT choose his family, will we want him back when he finally decided that is what he really wants?

I don’t know for sure now. That mostly depends on him I suppose.

Two months ago I asked him to tell me that he loves his wife and his life the way it is now and to tell me that he thinks there is no chance he could come back so that I could put these thoughts to rest and just move on with my life.  To my surprise, he refused to say – one way or the other.  It’s enough to cause me wonder if he is having second thoughts. For two months I asked him nearly everyday.  He could not answer these questions in any difinative way.  The kids even reached out to tell him he could come home if he wanted.  He would not answer them or me. This much I know, he can’t or won’t let go of the possibility of recovering his family.  I can’t imagine that he would be able to let us go.  He had the best family that Heavenly Father could have ever given him, and he has given us and his birthright away for a mess of porridge.  That can’t be something he is willing to easily live with. It sucks to be an addict. Seriously sucks.

But…

This is what happens to addicts who give up their families!  I know of 4-5 other women, personally, in this exact situation!  I am not the only one!  I can imagine that this scenario plays out over and over again.  Addicts give up their families, regret it, have 2nd thoughts and want to come back, but they have tangled themselves up in another relationship.  I was shocked to learn from my therapist that it is more common than I could imagine. What is even more shocking is that most wives are like me, they would take their husband’s back if they would truly begin to make the changes to become whole again!  This speaks to the resiliency of women to forgive, nurture, and heal their marriages.  Men just have to accept that their wives really did marry them for better or for worse.  Addicts really do have the power to come home. They refuse to believe it. Their injured brains cannot believe it. They cannot even grasp that forgiveness can be offered to them.

So sad.

This is why I am talking about it now.  I am not the only one this happens to! Maybe if you hear it from me you will believe it.  Maybe I can help save just one other family.  Maybe. One family would be worth it to me.

Addicts make wrong choices over and over.  They complicate everything by not taking a time out to figure themselves out before they involve another innocent bystander.  They live with nothing but regret, regret, regret, and more regret.  So this really isn’t about my Cheater. It’s about all cheaters with an addiction.  Listen up guys! TAKE A BREAK! GET INTO RECOVERY! Figure out your crap BEFORE you dive into another relationship! Just KNOW your brain is messed up and give it a rest to recover!  You might be able to salvage your life if you are just smart enough to listen to the people around you and take a breather.  This should be a given for most people.  It just makes sense to not make rash or serious decisions after destroying a family.  What is it going to hurt you to take a year and figure yourself out? Time and space.  Give it time and space.

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Who knows, you might find out that have always had the power to go home…you just didn’t know it. Addicts should run home as soon as they can, before there is no home left. You just have to believe it’s possible.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

Becoming, Choices, healing, My Story, Peace, Spiritual, Trauma Recovery

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.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

abuse, addiction, addiction recovery, Choices, denial, infidelity, lying, Narcissist, repentance

A Man in Recovery

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

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

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

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How much time?

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

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

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

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A Man Not in Recovery

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

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

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

Recovery

A Man in Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

betrayal, boundaries, Choices, denial, infidelity, My Story, no contact, repentance, The Other Woman, Trauma Recovery

Phoenix Rising

As I mentioned in another post my ex-husband  burned our family down. He burned me down. He burned us down. There is literally nothing left of me or our family except ashes. Just when I think there is nothing more he can do to destroy our family any further, he finds another way. There isn’t any end to his nonsense.

no-contactSince I went “no contact” with him, he has turned his attentions to torturing our adult children. Our oldest daughter asked him to break up with his girlfriend so he could turn his attention and time to healing the damage he has done to them. It seemed to be a reasonable request to me because it is basically the same request I have been making of him for the past two years; to turn all of his attention and time to me to heal our relationship. This is what a normal person would do. They would gladly do everything they could to heal the breach, especially before “moving on” to ruin some else’s life. Someone who does this to their family needs serious counseling in how to develop healthy relationships. But apparently, he wants to move on now, keep his girlfriend and have his adult children be ok with it, not just be ok, but to give their blessing to his bad choices. (I don’t even want to discuss what kind of idiot woman wants a man who is this messed up?)

smore_card_covers8His insistence that our children be ok with his decisions was met with a strong boundary for him, “You need to spend your time healing the damage between us before you move on with any other relationship, or we cannot have a relationship with you. Period.” But rather than understand or respect the requested boundary his children gave him, he kept insisting that they do it his way.  It’s not unusual for him to want it his way.  Most of his responses in the past dozen years or so are very selfish. But this serves as an example of how Addicts do not respect boundaries. They do not respect what their loved ones need. Most of the time they don’t even have a clue how to figure out what their loved ones need! It’s all about them.  Wisdom and common sense would dictate that when someone destroys another persons wellbeing, they would want to do whatever was asked of them to repair the damage they have done. This is what healthy people do. And if they are not healthy they would, or should, want to GET HEALTHY! First. Before they do anything else.

I can only speak from my own experiences. It’s what I know. It’s why I write – to share my experiences to, hopefully, help others.  The purpose for sharing this situation is not to vilify my ex-husband, but the purpose is for a concrete, instructive situation that  both the addict and their family members can understand:

Unhealthy people with unhealthy relationships cannot form new healthy relationships without learning new patterns of behavior that allow the addict to repair and restore the damage they have done. First! There is no “moving on” until the addict chooses to act in healthy and responsible ways. These new patterns are learned in the 12 Steps Program. This should be a basic place for the addict to start to repair relationships.

Choices and accountability matter!

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In his present mindset, my ex-husband’s prospects for healing his relationship with his children seems as abysmal as his chances for his healing our relationship. He hasn’t made the choice to do the hard work of real repentance. He hasn’t chosen me. He hasn’t chosen his children. He hasn’t chosen God.  Until he makes the right choices he will continue to feel the adverse consequences of his choices.

And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. 2 Nephi 2:5

The consequences for his most resent choices are that his children now want nothing more to do with him until he can make better choices. His children want him to CHOOSE THEM!  Just like I wanted him to CHOOSE ME!! For now, he has chosen the girlfriend, not his children. I cannot fathom this choice! Just like I couldn’t fathom his choice to not choose me.  Somehow this seems worse to me though – they are his own flesh and blood! What kind of monster does this??? If I were in this same situation, of course I would choose my kids! Of course I would choose my family! I would have chosen our relationship in the first place. But that is me thinking with a non-addict brain.  Who the hell knows what he is thinking???

In order to come to this decision to have no contact with him, our adult children met with a counselor to get advice on how to handle this situation.  They discussed the disrespect their father has for them by refusing to honor their requests of him. They talked about when is it appropriate to cut off contact and for how long.   When does a relationship become so toxic it requires cutting off the relationship? (Google the ‘no contact rule’ it is a thing and it makes a lot of sense!)

What it boils down to is this: Hitting Rock Bottom

Addicts will not change until the pain of what they have lost because of the addiction becomes greater than the “high” they get from the next hit of chemical dependency. In bottomline terms; what does it take for the addict to hit rock bottom? Hitting rock bottom is different for everyone. Some can hit bottom just by being horrified at themselves for what they have done. For others, it will mean losing everything; job, marriage, children, family,community standing, religious excommunication, self-respect, and some go so far to lose even basic freedoms to live in society.

As it turns out, cutting off a relationship with an addict may be one of the best things you can do for them if they will not come to terms with their behavior on their own, because it requires them to face their own demons on their own. The enabling of the addict stops. He has no one to blame but himself. Hopefully, he will be forced to hit bottom faster. As the addict loses more and more of the things that matter most to him this serves as a wake up call. At some point the addict needs to wake up one day and say, “Gee, maybe I am the one with the problem!” Only when this happens will the reality of the addicts behavior begin to set in:

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. Jacob 2:35

What will it take for him to see the sheer magnitude of pain his choices has caused his family? Who knows. We can only withdrawal to a safe distance until he figures himself out. Nobody can do it for him. Helpless.  That is how we all feel. It is anyone’s guess how far he will have to fall to hit rock bottom.  After 3 years of hell, he still isn’t there.

The challenge we face now is to figure out how to rise from the ashes in spite of him. It is clear he doesn’t want to assist in the healing. So it is something we must do for ourselves. This much I know, we had a great family. He walked away from one of the best families a man could ever have. Our children are great! I was a great wife and mother!  If anyone can do this, we can. We can and we will succeed in our own healing. We will, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of our lives.

Upon completion of its life cycle, the famed firebird builds its funeral pyre. After setting itself alight, it burns until nothing but ash remains. From that ash and flame, the Phoenix Rises!

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Note: What do you think ex-husband’s reaction was to his children telling him that he cannot have contact with them for now?

It was blame.

It’s ALWAYS about the blame! He blamed me. (And I am not even around him anymore!) Never mind that our children are all grown adults who can think and act for themselves. But still…It was all my fault. I brainwashed them all against him. I love how he phrases it too; “I see you have decided to follow in ‘Your Mother’s’ footsteps and….” Doesn’t he know how offensive this is to his grown children?  He is outright discounting that they have a single brain between them and that one brain that they all share is controlled completely by me!  How offensive can he be???

What he should have said is, “Gee, I guess you are really serious about how you feel.  I didn’t understand that it meant so much to you that I break off this relationship with Girlfriend. I thought you were kidding, it appears that you are not.  So after rethinking things I have decided you are more important to me and I will break up with her, no contact at all for the next 6 months and spend that time just on you guys to try to rebuild our relationship.  I won’t even talk to you about her.  In six months we can revisit this subject and see where we are at that time.  Does that sound ok to you?”

This is just way too healthy a response for him though!

This is just another witness in a long line of examples that denial is alive and well and has found a home in him, a host parasite that sucks all the brains and common sense right out of him!  He couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.

His denial disgusts me. I don’t want to feel this way, but there it is.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet! (Or try to, anyway.)

chocolate cupcake warrior

The Cupcake Warrior