I’ve been so grateful that B has been consistent at sharing her journal entries with me; not only does it help me understand where she’s at in her recovery, but it also helps me remember how important it is that I do the same in my recovery.
Yesterday, after a good talk the night before, I got this breakdown of the pattern I’ve been following for the life of my addiction:
When I wrote out the pattern we discussed last night, it became more clear to me, the ping-pong effect. Maybe, as part of an inventory, it would be helpful to remember back to each one of those “Carnal Nate” time periods in your life, and try to remember what pain you were experiencing, what feelings brought on the return to the Carnal Nate. Maybe there is some sort of pattern there that will help us avoid it in the future. Just a thought, it is something I thought might be helpful.
One of the things Nate and I have been talking about is how this pattern of a double life or 2 versions of himself has been a battle for him his whole life. This makes perfect sense to me, because I clearly see how I have been married to 2 completely different people. And the other side of him is one I never had seen before we were married, so when it subtly shows up, I have no idea what is going on and get super frustrated, not knowing how to deal with this very difficult, angry, prideful, contentious person. Nate calls them the “Carnal Nate” and the “Spiritual Nate.” He explained last night that in his early teens he started to experiment with masturbation, but as he grew older pornography entered the picture and he became a very “Carnal Nate.”
Then at age 15, he almost died in a car wreck, and he became a very “Spiritual Nate.”
Slowly, the Carnal Nate returned in his late teens, until he faced his mission.
He prepared and left to serve, and through the course of his mission (except for one masturbation episode at the end of his mission) he was a solid, “Spiritual Nate.” When he returned home from his mission and within the week began attending college, religion classes and good friends helped him stay solidly in the “Spiritual Nate.” This is the Nate I met and fell in love with. He is the only Nate I ever knew. Through the first 2 years of our marriage, he was the same “Spiritual Nate” that I fell in love with.
Then, with the birth of our first child, and the transition of me staying home instead of working, he slowly fell back into the Carnal Nate. I remember this as a difficult time, full of arguments that we had never experienced. I remember thinking it was just the transition of expectations as I was home full-time instead of working, but now I look back and wonder how much the Carnal Nate and the addiction played a part. He shared with me about his pornography addiction for the first time about a year after Caleb was born, but it seemed to be a small bump in the road that was quickly taken care of by a few meetings with the Bishop. At that time, I had no comprehension whatsoever of the monster we were facing.
Nate returned to the “Spiritual Nate” for a year or two, but quickly fell back to the Carnal Nate as our 2nd child was born, this time much deeper into the pornography. I remember the day he told me. I remember how devastated I was. I left for a visit to Wisconsin and took the kids with me for 10 days, giving him kind of an ultimatum to begin attending recovery meetings or do whatever he needed to do to get help. This was the first time his addiction really began to damage my self-esteem and the way I viewed myself. I remember hating my body and feeling so self-conscious. When I returned home from Wisconsin, he had begun attending recovery meetings and already was experiencing a miraculous change of heart.
Hope quickly returned as he became the most “Spiritual Nate” I could remember, probably a return to the Nate I had dated and fallen in love with. Things were so good, so solid.
Then, towards the end of my pregnancy with Jayden, the “Carnal Nate” started to return again, with occasional relapsing, and then hiding. I had no idea, but he was starting to fall back into the Carnal Nate. In the time after Jayden was born, I felt like I had never felt before the pride, anger, resentment, and discontent that is the foundation of the Carnal Nate. I will never forget the huge fight we had when Jayden was about 6 weeks old because Nate felt he wasn’t getting enough sex. I felt more overwhelmed than I had ever felt before, as I faced the challenge of 4 active children who needed me 24/7 and was still trying to juggle the responsibilities of my calling as Young Womens President and also my job. I was so angry at him for his selfish demands on me. I felt that he did not think or care about me or what I was going through at all, but just felt that I should be fulfilling all his needs and that he was not getting enough attention. I feel like that fight was perhaps where the Carnal Nate really took hold. He began stonewalling and shutting me out completely when I would try to talk about our relationship or his feelings. We could hardly have a conversation about a piece of toast without it escalating into a major argument about who was right about what. He was offended at everything I said and the “tone” I used when I said it. I thought all of this was a symptom of more children and more stress, as I certainly felt almost crushed by the stress of our growing family responsibilities. But, I think now that it was mostly the Carnal Nate that I had never known, flourishing as he had never done before. The Carnal Nate grew in strength as his life became engrossed in social media and his heart became set on the relationships and identity he had built online. He was never without his phone in hand, and could never let a buzz go by without responding immediately. The Carnal Nate saw an opportunity for a relationship with a flirty woman and pursued it until every day was filled with flirtatious, racy texts and messages back and forth. The Carnal Nate escalated this relationship until he was communicating with this woman more than any other person in his life, and any one of hundreds of conversations they shared would have broken his wife’s heart. The Carnal Nate took the conversation past the innuendo to the direct and began to have virtual sex with this woman, asking for pictures of her body and masturbating as he imagined the sex that they were virtually having. The Carnal Nate began to try and find a way to make this happen in person. The Carnal Nate, out of fear, finally ended the relationship and began to hide and justify it to himself for months. The Carnal Nate grew to hate his wife and children as he hid his betrayals from them day after day.
The Spiritual Nate finally began to return when his wife confronted him about pornography after they had been to the temple. The Spiritual Nate finally took hold as he gave a full confession of his affair six weeks later. The Spiritual Nate has been here ever since.
I never intended to go into such detail as I wrote this out, but I think that it is very interesting to see the pattern of how Nate has swung back and forth. As I read his story, I am left feeling very hopeless. How on earth are we going to keep the Spiritual Nate here? He has spent his whole life swinging back and forth, why would it change now? If even a car wreck that came incredibly close to taking his life could not keep him from returning to the Carnal Nate, why would the comparatively smaller threat of losing his wife and children keep him sober?
I love you and hope we can work through all of these experiences to find a way to keep the real you here with us for the rest of our lives and for all of eternity. I know the real you and I will do anything I can to help you find the joy that is available to you through Heavenly Father’s plan. We are in this together.
I feel this is really accurate of where I’ve been. It’s caused me to think about why I did choose to go to the Carnal Nate after things have been so good for a period of time.
What’s interesting is what I read this morning in the Book of Mormon:
2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. (Helaman 12:2)
In the Book of Mormon, this is called the Pride Cycle.
In my recovery, I call this “casualness”. I’ve shared a few times that “casualness” leads to “casualty” in recovery and addition. If I fail to submit my will to God at the start of each day and throughout the day, I’m getting casual – I’m “hardening my heart” and “forgetting the Lord” and “this is because of the ease, and the exceedingly great prosperity”.
In order to not get casual, these are the things I’ve done today in my recovery:
- Started with a prayer at the first of the day
- Read from the Book of Mormon and highlighted sections that related to recovery, casualness, pride, addiction, The Atonement, etc.
- Said prayers in different moments to remind myself who I am and what I need to do to not fall back into “forbidden paths”
- Read B’s journal entry from today and thought about what she shared
- I really liked these quotes that she shared:
- “Sometimes we need a personal crisis to reinforce in our minds what we really value and cherish. The scriptures are filled with examples of people facing crises before learning how to better serve God and others. Perhaps if you, too, search your hearts and courageously assess the priorities in your life, you may discover, as I did, that you need a better balance among your priorities.”
- “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims of our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.”
- Writing in my journal and thinking about recovery
I’ll also read with B tonight from the Book of Mormon, talk about our recovery, and do the AEIOUY analysis. One other thing I did today was contacted a professional counselor that has a great track record of helping addicts stay recovered long-term. This counselor was referred to B from another person in her group.
I’m grateful for TODAY. I’m grateful that I have desires to submit my will to God today. Tomorrow will be another day that I will start off the same as I did today – with personal prayer and scripture study and hopefully journal writing before the day is under way.
I love my family. B and the kids are the most important thing to me. I don’t want anything else.
I’m committed to submitting my will to God and know that as I do this, all other things will “fall into their proper place or drop out of [my life]”.