Saturday, March 21, 2015

Another Chance to Learn What Feels Unlearnable

I woke up very early this morning, not because my alarm went off, but because the anxiety in my body thrust through the thin layer of sleep and howled. The fear hollowed out my stomach, accelerated my heart and tensed up my neck and shoulders. Hello, Saturday morning.

The past few months my husband has made drastic changes in his recovery situation:

  • clinical depression episode x 2 months, lots of sleeping and hopelessness
  • stagnant work project
  • work shame
  • relapsing SA group
  • passed 3 yr sobriety mark
  • felt he reached a point in recovery that he could relax boundaries
  • changed time and content of media boundaries to "use good judgment" and "no inappropriate content"
  • claimed he was doing many aspects of recovery "just for me"
  • can't tolerate the "imbalance" in our relationship that accountability and checking-in creates
  • won't call support people that have more recovery than he does
  • refuses to look for a different, hopefully stronger, support group
  • won't accept respected and trusted counselor's advice

All of this chaos has terrified me. I leaned heavily on his strict personal rules for himself, and I am unhinged by his casual, prideful attitude and new, relaxed boundaries. At the beginning of his recovery he insisted that he wouldn't get casual, and I feel betrayed again.

I have another chance to learn what feels permanently unlearnable: how to LET GO of the actions of another person that lives in the same house.

To this end I have worked my recovery like a desperate, dying person.

I have vacillated between healthy living and debilitating fear. I have surrendered to God. I have obsessed. I have felt answers from God. I have detached in love. I have detached in hate. I have held my boundary of sleeping apart when I feel victim and pride and hostility from him. I have gone to counseling. I have engaged in dozens of cyclical, frustrating conversations. I have called my sponsor repeatedly. I have practiced letting go, then not letting go, then letting go again.

Today I will work to stay emotionally healthy. I will do less. I will do self care before I jump into mindless tasks that distract me from the real issues. I will give my fear to God and have faith that He will give me peace.

Let not your heart be troubled.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thinking Back About Telling Our 11 yr old Son

Because, "life goes on", as Robert Frost so aptly put it, I now have some hindsight about telling our then 11 yr old son about his dad's addiction. He is now fourteen, and I asked him recently if he was glad we had told him.  

He said no, not really.  

It broke your heart, huh? I asked.


Do you feel like your heart is healed now?


But it was hard?


This is a lot of verbalization for this kid! If you have a 14 yr old son, you may know what I mean. 

A few months after Mr W came out to me, the bishop and stake president, his entire family and my parents, we felt like we needed to tell our two oldest kids. These were our reasons for telling this son: 

1)  Stop the lies. We were gone many nights to group counseling and 12-step meetings and we didn't want to repeatedly lie to him about where we were going. 

2)  Most importantly, we desperately hoped that if he knew, he could somehow steer clear of sexual addiction himself, in the same way that some children of alcoholics resolve to never take a drink because of their family history. My husband's addiction began at age 8.

So we told him one sad summer day, and it didn't go well. No details, of course, but that his dad had a porn addiction, it had started in his youth, and he was now doing everything to find recovery.

He was devastated and shocked and angry and confused.  I felt sick and I questioned the decision to tell him. For months, I wasn't sure that he would be OK.  He had a hard time talking about it. How could the dad that had taught him values not have lived those values? 

I repeatedly summoned up all the recovery I had to reassure him that his dad was doing whatever it took to be free of addiction, and that we were going to be a stronger family because of this (I barely believed these things at the time). I told him why we felt it was important for him to know the truth. I said so many prayers for him. I surrendered him to God over and over. I knew I couldn't heal him or take away his pain, and I felt helpless. 

So, now in hindsight, do I think it was the right thing to tell him?

Yes. But it wasn't easy for anyone. Truth be told, there's not much that's easy about addiction and marriage recovery, is there? It's a rocky road.

Even though it broke his heart to learn the truth about his dad, he now knows the truth. He sees him going to meetings and keeping his media boundaries and teaching his teachers quorum. He sees him respecting me and admitting his mistakes and doing dishes. 

The hard truth hurts like hell. But so do lies. I choose truth. The truth can set us free to heal.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marriage is a Crucible

This is a favorite quote of mine.  I'm a casual follower of Glennon Melton's blog, but she caught my attention with this post.

My marriage has lots of scars and some newer scrapes, but for the most part (one of my favorite phrases), there is a lot more realness. There is a lot more love disguised as work.

"I talk about my flailing marriage because (and a year ago I’d have ripped your well-meaning head off if you’d predicted this to me) the truth is that my marriage had to be shattered before it could be pieced back together. 

My marriage was like a busted arm that The Doctor had to re-break before it could heal right. A year ago- it all fell apart. Yes it did. And I about died. But now. Just a year later – my marriage is excruciating and real and true and deep and GORGEOUS for the first time. For the very first time. It also still sucks. It hurts and burns and refuses to leave me in peace – like every crucible does. 

But damned if all that discomfort didn’t turn out to be the good stuff. Like the Velveteen Rabbit – maybe neither people nor marriages become Real until the shine and newness rubs off and they look ugly and worn out to the rest of the world but real and soft and comforting and lovely to the one who holds them. 

This past year has been a special slice of hell for me and Craig-  and I never, ever thought  it would get better. I had no outward hope for a long while – but I kept showing up, and so did Craig. We kept fiercely and relentlessly showing up. We did NOT commit to each other this past year. We individually committed to the Spiritual Practice of Showing Up."

- See more at:

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Were you ever addicted to it, Dad?"

The other morning my ten yr old climbed into bed with us to get warm. I don't know how it started, but I do know that he didn't bring up the topic of masturbation. I did. After I explained what it was, I said, people can become addicted to masturbating, just like other things. He looked really surprised by this. My husband hadn't said much up to this point, but my son looked right at him and said,

"Were you ever addicted to it, Dad?" 

We froze for a second, weighing in our minds what to tell him. I decided to blaze ahead with openness. I nodded and raised my eyebrows for added effect. Then my husband bravely said,

"Ya, I was. I used to be." 


We went on to talk about why we have sexual feelings and and how movies and TV tell a lot of lies about sex being the same as love. The best was that THERE WAS NO SHAME in this conversation. And while I wouldn't say it was easy, it wasn't unnatural or strained.

If a miniature, invisible Richard or Linda Eyre had been sitting on my shoulder, I think they would have approved. Yes, this was a small moment. But, it was a big moment in our parenting. Eventually, we will tell this kid more of the story. I am hoping and praying that moments like these will break the intergenerational story of addiction.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." Edmund Burke

Monday, December 1, 2014

Finally Telling Family Members and Feeling Genuine

My family spent Thanksgiving with my side of the family, and it was the best Thanksgiving I've had in years. Mostly because one by one, over the last six months, I have told the people I grew up with about my situation. Of course I held some of the ugliness back, but I cried to them and shared how tough things had been and sometimes still are. 

I was vulnerable and humble, which isn't part of the traditional role I have played in my family. If Brene Brown needed anyone to prove her right (which she doesn't), I could do it.  My vulnerability brought me closer to the people I love.

I've missed these people in my life. I've held them at arm's length for the past couple of years, because I wasn't ready to tell them my story. They couldn't ignore my tear-stained cheeks and the anxiety-ridden aura that I had post-disclosure, but I wasn't brave enough to tell them what was happening. It felt too complicated and overwhelming to me.

Initially it was easier not to tell them: I had recovery support from non-family members, women in my situation, who could really understand. As time went on, however, I hated the distance I felt, especially with my sisters. I had allowed this hideous addiction to keep me from some of my favorite people.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful that I could show up at dinner with my imperfect marriage and my wild children and my very odd-looking apple pie and feel genuine. 

 Here's my Thanksgiving math:

Vulnerability + Understanding = More LOVE Than Ever

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"We Cannot NOT Influence A Relationship Pattern"

It's all well and good that in theory I am responsible for my behavior and my [insert loved one here]  is responsible for his/her behavior. It sounds so cut and dried, so easy.

But what about the interconnectedness, the great "tapestry" of the human family?  What about my own little family? We breathe the same air and drink out of the same milk carton, but it's still not my job to be responsible for how they feel or behave.  

I like this quote, because it acknowledges that while I am not responsible for say, my husband's actions, I definitely influence our relationship patterns, in both positive and negative ways.  

For example, I know just what to say to really hurt him to the core, and sometimes I do this (shamefully) as a way to test that he is really changing his heart.  Can he react to me kindly even when I am a sharp-tongued meanie, I wonder?

"As we learn to identify relationship patterns, we are faced with a peculiar paradox.  On the one hand, our job is to learn to take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and  behavior and to recognize that other people are responsible for their own.  Yet, at the same time, how we react with others has a great deal to do with how they react with us.  We cannot not influence a relationship pattern.  Once a relationship is locked into a circular pattern, the whole cycle will change when one person takes the responsibility for changing her or his own part of the sequence." (Dance of Anger, Helen Lerner,p 133)

My husband is leading the way in changing his part of our circular relationship patterns.  He fails at times, but he is making a herculean effort to react to me in loving ways. AND IT FREAKS ME OUT SOMETIMES, because I have nothing to push against.  AND IT IS CHANGING ME.  In our pre-recovery life I was so used to feeling like his enemy in matters big and small.  But I am here to say that when he reacts to me in a humble, accountable, loving way, I want to change how I react. It's contagious.  Love breeds more love. Try it.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whining, Acceptance and Peace

At the beginning of this summer I was in a miserable mode of resistance to the reality of my marriage.  By that I mean I didn't want the life I had, not because that life was horrible (it wasn't), but because it required so much damn work and because a lifetime of sexual addiction recovery was not my Plan A.  I can hear the whining in my voice even as I type this.

I wanted something that didn't exist: a clean and easy life, without a past of lies and sexual addiction in my family. Had there been a time machine handy, I would've altered the past in an instant, erasing all the garbage in my marriage.

In the spirit of allowing myself to feel my feelings,  I stayed in this state of non-acceptance for months, until I became fed up with feeling like I had eaten a bowl of lemons for breakfast every day.

I felt stuck in negativity and fear, so I sought some more counseling for myself.  My counselor helped me see how black and white my vision was and how I might have less pain if I allowed myself to see more grays in my life.  

She encouraged me to think things like:
"For the most part, my kids are more emotionally stable than they used to be." 
"For the most part, I am feeling less anxiety when I wake up in the morning."  
"For the most part, my husband is a drastically different person from his active addict self of the past."

 "What would acceptance look like for you?"  she asked.

She helped me see that acceptance is not the pinnacle of the mountain I am climbing.  Acceptance is the peace that I gather along the way, like little pebbles.  Acceptance is increasing peace about my life: my actual life, the messy life in front of me, not the life I imagine/wish I had.

It seems like the more I credit God to know the best (not the most comfortable) path for my life, the more peace I feel.

Melody Beattie says, 

"So much of our anguish is created when we are in resistance.  So much relief, release, and change are possible when we accept, simply accept........Acceptance does not mean we're giving our approval.  It does not mean surrendering to the will and plans of another.  It does not mean commitment.  It is not forever.  It is for the present moment.  Acceptance does not make things harder; it makes things easier.  Acceptance does not mean we accept abuse or mistreatment; it does not mean we forego ourselves, our boundaries, hopes, dreams, desires or wants. It means we accept what is, so we know what to do to take care of ourselves and what boundaries we need to set.  It means we accept what is and who we are at the moment, so we are free to change and grow.  Acceptance and surrender move us forward on this journey."

Here's to a little more acceptance and peace today.