Hi [enter your name if you’re the wife of a sex addict],
My husband gave me your email and let me know that he is working with your husband as a sponsor. I am so glad you are okay with me contacting you. I feel so passionate about reaching out to other women going through all of this. I hope you can feel a connection with me.
So here’s my story. When I married my husband, I had no idea about his addiction. About 2 years into our marriage, after the birth of our first baby, he informed me that he thought he had a problem with pornography and went to see our Bishop. I remember feeling slightly shocked and bewildered about what that was even supposed to mean…but I brushed it off pretty easily and figured he was just a “normal guy” and even thought he might be over-reacting to his indiscretions. I never even really asked what those indiscretions actually were, now that I think of it, perhaps because I didn’t want to really know or because he minimized his behavior and reassured me that everything was fine and fixed after meeting with the Bishop. At any rate, it never even occurred to me that I would need my own recovery…that concept would have made no sense to me at all.
So life goes on and everything seems fine and dandy, ideal really. He is serving as Elder’s Quorum President, we move to a new home, I am serving in the Relief Society Presidency, another 2 babies come along. After Baby #3, he again informs me that he is having problems with pornography. This time, for whatever reason, I feel the sting of it more. It occurs to me more what he is actually doing, what he is actually looking at. I start to feel depressed and my self-esteem plummets. I fly home for a family wedding, leaving him at home and give a “kind-of” ultimatum–“Start going to Recovery meetings before I get home…or else.” So he again meets with the Bishop and starts attending the Church’s ARP program. This is a huge step for him–he has never stepped out of the shadows and admitted publicly that he has a problem with pornography. He quickly begins to thrive in the recovery program and I see big changes in his whole personality almost immediately. We begin to have great talks about the gospel and feel really connected. I think “Check!–We’ve got this figured out. That was almost a really hard problem. Good thing we’ve got it all taken care of….now how long is he going to have to go these weekly meetings? We’ve got a busy schedule…”
Although my husband mentioned that some of the wives also went to recovery meetings, I felt that I was “too busy” to go to a weekly meeting, and I didn’t feel that I was all that affected by his problem. “Thanks, that’s great for some people, but I’m really okay.”–This was my mindset.
So again, life goes on. Now I am called as Young Women’s President with 3 young kids. Eventually our night switches to his ARP meeting night, and he stops attending. Neither of us worry much about this…obviously, he has this sobriety thing figured out (it had been about 2 years of sobriety and attending weekly meetings) and the Porn problem is a thing of the past. I am soon expecting Baby #4. Around the time of Baby #4, things start feeling really tense in our home. There is so much arguing and contention. I can’t seem to say anything without offending him, and he can’t seem to stand the kids. He is constantly upset that we aren’t having enough sex, or that I am not sexually aggressive or experimental enough, even though we are having sex every other day (it was like a strict regiment). He is mad almost all the time and when I try to talk to him about it, he immediately flips it back on me saying that I think I am so much better than him, why would he ever want to talk to me about anything? I remember feeling so confused, angry, resentful, frustrated…and yet trying so hard to figure out what I was doing wrong and what I needed to change about myself to fix things. I also felt that even though things weren’t great, I was sure it was just a normal phase that all marriages go through, and that the stress of 4 kids was taking its toll on my him. It never even occurred to me that this had anything to do with pornography or that anything was seriously wrong.
By the time our baby #4 was 18 months old, I was feeling at the end of my rope. We went to the temple and the question on my mind was “What do I need to do to be a better wife and improve my marriage?” The distinct answer that came was totally unexpected: “It’s not you. It’s him.” I felt confused, surprised, and wary about how this was going to go over. After the temple, we went to dinner, and I tried to share what I had found in the scriptures that gave me that distinct impression. Out of the blue, totally unexpected, I felt the words come out of my mouth like a sudden realization: “Are you on porn again?” The answer was clear as my angry husband stopped arguing and blaming and just stared at me with this deer-caught-in-headlights look. I threw my glass of water right in his face and walked out of the restaurant, suddenly heaving in uncontrollable sobs down the sidewalk. I don’t know why it hit me so hard that time. Maybe because I realized that for so long, I was trying so hard to fix our marriage, to change myself, to be what he kept complaining that I wasn’t, to take responsibility for all the contention…when it was him all along. And I couldn’t believe we were back to this. How could we be back to porn AGAIN?!?
Once again, my husband went to the Bishop and started attending the Church’s ARP meetings. But, this time, there was no magic wand that changed him or that lifted the hurt, depression, and fear that was starting to seep through my veins. I felt like I was beginning to drown in darkness and confusion, and I was realizing that I did not know or trust this man that I had married. After about 2 months, he confessed to me in an off-hand conversation about our Sunday School lesson at church, that he had had an on-line affair 9 months earlier.
I was completely floored/shocked/devastated. Once again, I threw a cup of water at him and went completely berserk. This was the abrupt cliff of my rock bottom, and the beginning of a new life, and my own recovery. It had never ever occurred to me that he would actually ever have an affair with a real person (which I guess seems pretty dumb because he had been having them with fake people for our entire marriage). I was completely broken, on-the-floor, done. I knew nothing. I was nothing.
For a long time, I couldn’t function at all. I could get my kids to school, start the laundry, then lay on the couch and cry or sleep until the kids got home from school. I could not cope with the reality of what my life had become. Finding recovery for me wasn’t even really a choice, it was my only option. It was recovery or die. And I spent a lot of time those early months considering that the second option was the one I really wanted.
Today, it has been over 2 years since my world was pulled out from under me. In many ways, it still feels like yesterday. It was the first day of my new life, with new eyes. Living in recovery, for me, is still the top priority of every day, and I hope it will be for the rest of my life. Choosing to find my own recovery has given me a greater sense of purpose, a deeper sense of gratitude, a steady sense of safety, and an almost constant sense of peace as I have learned so much about who I really am, where my value truly lies, who God really is, and how I can feel Him and learn to trust Him. With Him at my center, there is no fear, there is only acceptance and peace. Keeping Him at my center is a daily practice that ebbs and flows as life brings new and different challenges over time. No matter what the challenge is, my recovery through 12 Step is the answer. It always leads me back to God in a way that I had never experienced before…even as the Relief Society counselor or Young Womens President. This was something new, something more personal, more sacred, more authentic, more humbling. It started with me face-down at rock-bottom, with no choice but to admit that I didn’t have all the answers.
Whether you have experienced deep trauma like I eventually did, or you are more like the me earlier on in the path, I know that 12 Step Recovery will only bless your life. If I had known what I know now about addiction, what it’s really about, where it would inevitably lead, how it would take everything I care about from me…I would have committed myself to my own recovery much earlier on. It may or may not have changed things for my husband…but it definitely would have changed things for me.
Now that Nate and I are both fully committed to our own recovery, the depth of our connection and love amazes me each day. We share the same struggles–his path for overcoming lust is the same as my path for overcoming my fear/depression/anxiety. We share the same language–we check in each night about our own “triggers”, “slips”, “connection”, “self-care”. We understand our behavior in ways that mystified us before…(how isolation, self-pity and blame are actually addict behaviors that are learned ways of coping with negative emotions…and I can call them what they are and bring them to Nate’s attention in a calm and loving way instead of reacting to them with anger or sarcastic jabs). I can say, today, with all honesty and authenticity, that I know and understand my husband’s heart, and I know and understand my own…completely, totally, honestly…with no rationalization, anger, or justification. It may not be pretty every day, but it is open and honest, and we have so many tools to bring ourselves back to our God-center when we get off track. I don’t know how long this amazing recovery will last, but I don’t worry about that. I try to live each day in the moment, grateful for what I have in that moment, and confident that God will provide all I need in this moment, and every moment, regardless of whether or not Nate chooses recovery. This is the freedom, peace, and gratitude that has come to my life from immersing myself in SAL 12 Step Recovery.
Wherever you are at in your journey, I want you to know that you are not alone. I also want you to know that there is hope. If you don’t feel broken, recovery can still deepen the peace, gratitude, and fulfillment you feel on a daily basis. If you do feel broken, recovery can rebuild you into a completely “new creature in Christ,” with more strength, happiness, and peace than you can possibly imagine. Two years ago, I really believed that I would never be happy again, that my life was a fail. Today, I am grateful for whatever I had to go through to understand what I know today.
Even though I have never met you, I can honestly say that I feel so much love for you. You are my sister, and we share a sacred burden. I hope you will feel comfortable reaching out to me at any time you feel that you need to talk to someone. Because this is so long, it may surprise you that I can actually listen too instead of just talk!! 😉 I would love to hear from you anytime. I know God will bless you on your path as you are open to His love.