Friday, May 22, 2015

Anxiety and Joy and Tight Shoulders

I'm feeling at loose ends tonight. My kids are out of school for the summer, and they're scattered in different directions, and I am left with a stomach of uncertainty and apprehension. There is nothing particularly wrong, but this end of school year/beginning of summer is a transition time, and I feel disoriented in the transition times of life.

This brings me to a realization that, even in non-transition times, I generally feel uneasy and I expect bad things to happen. I battle these feelings and thoughts, because I know there is much happiness and beauty to be had. However, the bad stuff seems to be the default and the last few years have rewired my brain to expect life to be one difficulty after another, with sunshine breaks in between, sometimes.

Roll with the punches, Wildflower. 

I do. I wake up and live my life every day, but I do it with a lot of tension in my shoulders, and I feel acutely vulnerable to frustration and despair. I'm not a natural when it comes to joy. I have to practice joy like a dedicated musician practices.

Now that I've confessed my internal struggle with finding joy and accepting life as it comes, I feel down on myself (shame). Is there something terribly amiss in me that I have to work so hard to diffuse the anxiety that life brings? Am I inferior to those laid-back women who read magazines and hardly glance up while their snot-nose babies sit in the dirt and get filthy at the playground?

Would I be like this if I had married a different man? Would I be like this if I had different children?
Did the addiction and lies contribute to this foreboding feeling and fear of joy?

I don't have the answers, and it doesn't matter anyway. I will wake up tomorrow and I will do the best I can for that day. I will do the same for the day after that.

I realize that I haven't allowed God to help me today. I haven't read His words of any kind, nor have I called any of the friends He has blessed me with. Instead, I escaped into a Lindt chocolate bar (dark chocolate with intense orange) and a fantastic novel. Both were effective, but unfortunately short-lived distractions.

I can practice life and joy tomorrow, and with God's help, I can do it. Good night, gentle readers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rubble of Relapse

I felt a tremor in the universe yesterday as I learned from a recovery friend what she had just learned. Her allegedly years-sober husband has been lying and acting out......again.  I have such empathy for the kind of searing emotional pain she is in, that I swear I can physically feel it. It feels something like I imagine phantom-limb pain may feel for amputees.

I know she has tools and knowledge and faith and friends and a sponsor and a level head, but first, she has to climb out from the devastation left by his disclosure, and this will take a good long while.

I caught a headline about the earthquake in Nepal a few days ago. After seven days of being trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building, a 101-yr old man was found alive. After eight days two women were found under a destroyed mud house and one man under a mudslide. Hope surged that others may still be found. I have never known this kind of destruction, and my heart goes out to these people.

It may take my friend more than a few days to surface, but she will. It may not be pretty. She may be tear-stained and caked with trauma and resentment and self-doubt, but she will come through. I know this, because I have seen other women emerge from the ruin of broken promises and demolished marriages and because I am one of them.

Day after day we wake up and we breathe in and out and we live that day. We stumble trying to take care of our kids and ourselves, and we do the work that it requires to combat the real fear of abandonment in our marriages. With the help of other women who have gone before us, we adjust to a new life where God, not the guy we married, is at the center.

This process of rebuilding goes far slower and takes far longer, than I ever imagined. I need breaks and timeouts along the way, so I take them. Sometimes I feel like the marriage I am building is more beautiful than anything I had before and sometimes I want to throw it in the trash and start over with someone new. The aftershocks of sexual addiction can continue for a long time, I've discovered.

Why does news of someone's relapse shake me so?
Can an addict sustain recovery long term?
Is "addiction recovery" just another lie?

Since yesterday I have been beating back a snake-like voice in my brain telling me that addicts, especially my husband and son, don't stand a long-term chance against addiction. That addiction is so powerful that no one in its grasp can truly be free--ever. The evidence seems heavily weighted to support these fears.

I hope this is a lie, but my hope is on shaky ground right now.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Slowing Down When Foggy Brain Rolls In

Confessions of a conscientious woman not acting so conscientiously:

* A few days ago my son pointed out that the fourteen thank you notes I had written and was about to post had the stamp on the left side and the return address on the right.   (Should you ever wonder, the USPS will send letters like that, as long as the addressee is legible and clear.  Who knew?)

*Later that day I called another carpool mom to work out a plan for the next day, only to remember mid-conversation that she had called me the day before and we had figured it out.

* I blew off my son's orthodontist appointment, even though I had answered the reminder call the day before.

 Mr. W disregarded a boundary of mine by going somewhere that put him in contact with persons of questionable influence from the past. He was jerky and proud about it. "I have to live. I can't live in fear of you. I'm fine. I knew you would freak out over this."

I felt the established trauma pathways taking over. My brain was foggy and my body felt shaky and tense and hopeless and hollow and teary. I felt like an observer looking at myself and noting my reaction as it happened.

I went to auto-pilot with an old pain relief strategy of mine.  When things were tough, I would put on my metaphorical hard had, find a huge job in the house or yard, dive in and stay busy.  This was my coping mechanism for so many years.

I tried to unpack from a weekend trip, catch up on laundry and bills and go running, which made everything worse.

Years ago I took a ferry around the San Juan Islands and we got into some thick fog. I was disappointed that I was in such a beautiful place and gray mist was all I could see out the window. The captain blew the fog horn every few minutes, and he slowed the boat way down. He didn't increase the speed so he could get through the fog as quickly as possible; he took his time. The trauma fog slows my brain down, too. And I need time.

I sat down and forced myself to do practically nothing.  I made myself a sandwich. I tried to take it easy and to give my thinking brain the rest of the day off.

But, there was a battle in my head, and I had to tell the invisible people to shut up a dozen times. They wouldn't let me be still. It's like I don't love me enough to give myself compassion and a little loving treatment.

I like this quote by Melodie Beattie:

"The idea of giving ourselves what we want and need can be confusing, especially if we have spent many years not knowing that it's okay to take care of ourselves.  Taking our energy and focus off others and their responsibilities and placing that energy on to ourselves and our responsibilities is a recovery behavior that can be acquired.  We learn it by daily practice."  - Melodie Beattie

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