Friday, March 7, 2014

Resetting A Sobriety Date

I've been away from the blogosphere for a couple of months, and some tough things, as well as some good things, have been happening.

My son's addiction is careening out of control, and I don't think he is anywhere close to hitting rock bottom or desiring recovery.  More on that happy topic later.

Mr. W has spent the last few months working his recovery at an unprecedented lower and more passive level.  I've sensed that he hasn't been doing everything it takes to stay in recovery, but he hasn't been acting like a monster or anything.

He's had a low grade slide back to some old behaviors like being home but not present, like harboring resentments, like letting stress build up without telling anyone about it, like blaming me for not accepting him, like surfing the internet mindlessly while doing other things.

It had been a subtle regression, until last week, when he slid down to a new level.  He did something that would have appalled him a year ago, even though he didn't actually look at official porn or masturbate.  Then he lied about it for a day before disclosing it to me.  I was shocked and called it a relapse.  He called it a slip.

But what really scared me was not what it was, slip or relapse.  What really scared me was that he didn't think it was a big deal.  He "didn't want to skewer himself for something that wasn't that bad".  He didn't feel the need to recommit himself or step up his recovery efforts or call other addicts for support.  No, he was doing fine.

Fortunately we have an excellent counselor, who told him that couldn't see things clearly because he was in addict mode and in the mists of darkness that surround addicts not in recovery.

The counselor told him that he should (among other things) reset his sobriety date, and I watched him bristle at the idea, because he has a lot of pride wrapped up in his sobriety.  

Then she asked, "What is a sobriety date for, if it's not to be helpful?  If you give yourself a pass on behavior like that, in the future you will go again to that place, because you didn't give yourself a consequence. Sobriety dates only mean something if you are being rigorously honest with yourself."

The recovery journey continues.  I've stopped expecting it to be easy.  Recovery can be more difficult than denial in a lot of ways.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

To Know Or Not To Know.....And How Much?

Last fall my husband got a new sponsor, C, who has a lot of sobriety and experience.  They had regular contact, and Mr.W was newly motivated to dive back into the 12 Steps.  (I will add that we have been at recovery for almost 2 yrs).

I didn't know that C believes very strongly that, "Your wife doesn't need to know your crap.  You don't need to bother her with your lust triggers and slips and difficulties.  It's your addiction, not hers.  You call your sponsor and discuss things.  Leave your wife out of the muck."  In other words, "Let your wife go merrily about her business with no knowledge of how you are really doing with your addiction.  She will be happier that way."

Mr.W's brain rejoiced at that advice! What a huge relief! Rigorous honesty didn't seem necessary with me, because, he determined, "I didn't need it", and besides, daily accountability to me was too difficult.  He felt shame, and it seemed our marriage only focused on his weaknesses.

So without letting me know that he was changing the rules of our marriage, Mr.W. began to omit information about his addiction during our nightly check-in, which, mind you, was purposely set up to be an avenue for increasing transparency and hopefully trust through honest disclosure.

This went on for several months.  I had no idea.

Terrorism and boa constrictors scare me, but what I fear most is ignorance of my own life.  And here I was, going about my life---again, with my husband playing God and deciding what was or wasn't good for me to know.  I was ignorant of my own life.

I found out about this a few months in after a counseling appt, when my husband reported to me that he had discussed his new philosophy of nondisclosure with our counselor, and she had agreed with him.  SAY WHAT?  Your new philosophy??  What in the hell are you talking about?

Note:  He later admitted that he had only given our counselor part of the facts, because he wanted her validation to soothe his guilt.

I know there are various opinions on disclosure in a marriage with a sex addict, but I HAVE ONLY ONE OPINION ON THE TOPIC:

Rigorous honesty is crucial for establishing safety in my marriage.  

The ongoing truth about my husband's behavior is important for me to know, so I can make wise decisions for me and my kids. 

Yes, I will hear things that make me sad, angry or both, and it is my choice as to the level of detail I need to feel safe.  

But, how can love ever grow if there is no safety?  

How can there be safety if there is no transparency?  

Even ugly truth is better than lies.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We're All Out Of Our Minds

A dear friend of mine is trying to make sense of her son's mental illness.  A while back she accepted the reality that his darkness of mind was a sickness and that he needed help.  But it hasn't been simple: he is now trying a series of medications without much success.   He is stumbling darkly through the years that could be the most carefree of his life.

I have resented God for allowing my kids' brains to be sick.  Mental illness in my children has brought me to tears and to my knees.  It baffles me.  God has given us the wonderful gift of free agency, and at the same time, He has created our brains to be subject to conditions that handicap our ability to be truly free in our choices.  What kind of gift is that?  It's a confusing gift.

It's hard for me to understand that we are expected to choose well despite the earthly trappings of a mind that is sick, or a body with chronic pain, or a terminal disease such as cancer.  I think this expectation that I will learn to choose the good, no matter my struggles, is what keeps me humbling searching for help from God.

Even though I am sometimes resentful toward and baffled by God, I do believe that He knows me and is aware of the way my life is unfolding.  I believe I can never pretend to know the struggles of another, and that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. 

John 16:33 says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Don't each of us inhabit our own little world?  No other human can actually know what it feels like to be me.  Only God and Jesus Christ can judge me with their perfect empathy and compassion. 

I think the above scripture can mean that the Savior can help me overcome my world: with all it's sinkholes and typhoons and droughts.  His help can come as often as I choose to let it in.  I'm learning that it's possible to be of good cheer in the midst of tribulation, even when I don't have all the answers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How A Dad and Mom In Recovery Are Being Better Parents Part 1

Over the past months, as my husband and I have simultaneously worked our recoveries from the effects of sexual addiction, some things in the Wildflower household have changed for the better.  Here are some ways recovery is helping our family:

1.  Mr.W has an unprecedented amount of energy.  What I thought was his natural energy level before recovery was only what he had left over after his addiction.  Since recovery, he has tackled home projects, some that have remained undone for years, and finished them.   He is downright proud of some of the things he's accomplished, and I am too, like tiling the bathroom floor.  I see my kids paying attention to his hard work.  

1. He is mentally present when he is home.  This means he is a part of the happenings.  Sounds obvious, but addicts withdraw from others and live in their own head.  My kids don't have to act poorly to get his attention, they still do sometimes, but they don't need to.  His head is in the game, if ya know what I mean?

2.  He holds the kids accountable with school work and jobs at home.  Every parent knows it is far easier to do a job yourself than to teach your kid to do it.  Pre-recovery I was often beaten down emotionally and exhausted physically. I was inconsistent when it came to my expectations for my kids' help around the house.  We can still do better, but my husband is now an actual partner with me when it comes to parenting.  

3.  He now values family time, so I don't feel like I am intruding on his "unwinding from work time" when I suggest something like family dinner.   And not only does he have the patience now to sit through dinner, he attempts to instigate meaningful conversation at the table.  

4.  We practice sharing feelings.  For several years, at the dinner table we've played a game called Good Thing/Bad Thing, in which we each tell a high and low point of our day.  Since recovery, in an attempt to practice sharing feelings, we now play Good Thing/Bad Thing/Vulnerable Thing.  In addition to a good and bad thing, we now relate a time during the day when we felt vulnerable.   It doesn't always go well.  Teenage boys aren't always able to be vulnerable, but it gives us as parents a chance to model expressing tough emotions.

5.  An addict in active addiction views the world around him as inherently hostile and the people in that world as enemies.  I don't feel like my husband's enemy anymore.  He often has to remind me, "Wildflower, remember I am on your side.  I'm not against you.  We're in this together."  I'm still not used to it, but I try to do my part and appreciate this new togetherness.

6.  There is more affection and love in our home.  

7.  Our family feels more stable and less stressed.  The definition of addiction is being out of control, and I feel more peace about finances and church responsibilities and bills and activities.  

8.  We have consciously simplified our lives by doing less in our community and focusing more on our marriage and family.  When things start feeling crazy, we think about what is really important and we try to do less.

Addiction recovery is changing our family for the better. Though there are still many negative repercussions of addiction present in our family, tonight I am celebrating the progress we've made!  

Happy holidays, dear friends.  Have hope.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Difficult To Love Difficult People

There are people in my life that are easy to love.  They are pleasant and sincere.  I don't have to try to love them. Without thought, as if by gravity, my love flows forth, and I feel connected to them.  

Conversely, there are people in my life who are not easy to love.  

These people may do stupid, impulsive things or say mean things.  They may make choices that I see will cause them pain, and they won't listen to reason.  They may be defensive and prideful, and they may ignore me.  They may often do all of the above!  At times I subconsciously view them as enemies, but these people are related to me; some even share half of my chromosomes.

Even with all the agency we have, we did not choose the members of our family.  God "assigned" me to my parents, my siblings and my children.  But that must not have been difficult enough, because then I married and added to my family a husband and the whole party of people God "assigned" to him.  

And now I have the overwhelming task of LOVING all these people: this combo platter of personalities and strengths and weaknesses and quirks.  

Love one another as I have loved you sounds like a piece of cake, but I am terrible at it.

Mother Teresa said that the people we live with and see every day are "Jesus in a distressing disguise." I think it's distressing because day in and day out, my love can wear thin with the people in my family.  They bug me, and I grow weary from the effort it takes to truly love them for who they are. 

In Corinthians Paul has said, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."

So even if I spend my life speaking different languages and understanding
all mysteries and all knowledge?  Even if I have all faith and I move mountains with it? Even if I give away every possession I have to the needy? Even if I volunteer myself to be burned as a martyr?  

I can do all those things and more, but it does me no good (profits me nothing) if my heart is devoid of charity.  This truth hasn't sunk into my being yet.  I want to say, "But look at all the good things I'm doing!"  And yet, I know what I lack.  I lack the kind of love that never fails. 

Ultimately it doesn't matter what else I do in my life……my number one life-job, my career here on earth, is not to be a mother or a sister or a wife.  These roles are just vehicles for me to learn how to love completely, without judgment or selfishness.  Thank you Paul and Mother Teresa for reminding me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LIfe Unspools In Cycles

I like reading books by Anne Lamott.  She's sometimes irreverent and her language can be "colorful", but she gets it.  She's had tough times, many that she admits resulted from her own poor choices, and many that did not.  She finds meaning and purpose in the struggle of life. This is from her book Help Thanks Wow.

"Most of us figure out by a certain age--some of us later than others--that life unspools in cycles, some lovely, some painful, but in no predictable order.  So you could have lovely, painful, and painful again, which I think we all agree is not at all fair.  You don't have to like it, and you are always welcome to file a brief with the Complaints Department.  But if you've been around for a while, you know that much of the time, if you are patient and are paying attention, you will see that God will restore what the locusts have taken away."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Buddha's First Noble Truth: Life Is Suffering

This week my eyes have been opened again to the DIFFICULTY of life.  People around me are suffering.  I am suffering.  And although our sufferings are not abject poverty nor hunger, they are real just the same.  This is the suffering list:

My friend died yesterday of cancer.  We watched her undergo great personal pain to try every possible treatment to prolong her life for her children.  She was able to see a son leave on a mission and to catch a few more basketball games, but her kids will face the rest of their lives without her.

On the same day, another friend confided that she is filing for bankruptcy.  Truly one of the hardest workers I know, she has scrimped and tried to stave this off for years.  She is filled with shame.

A friend is adjusting to a new life after her husband's suicide one year ago.  She is grieving, but also trying to help her five children face the grief and make sense of what happened.

Tomorrow a friend is commemorating the tragic death of her husband, who died in an airplane crash one year ago.  He left her with six kids and a house that requires continual maintenance to be livable.

Another friend is going through a prolonged job crisis starting a business.  She and her husband have received numerous confirmations from the Spirit that they are doing the right thing, but they are hitting snag after snag.  They are depleting their savings and questioning their prayerful decision.

I have had a tough week dealing with my husband's depression and possible relapse.  This is the first major depressive episode since recovery, and I watched him recognize it coming on and then NOT do the things he knows will help him.  His actions cause suffering to me and our kids.

I read this week that Buddhism is based on four noble truths.  The first noble truth is:  LIFE IS SUFFERING.

Wow.  It rang true.  Life is difficult.  Wildflower, "Do we have a truth like that in Mormon theology?  Or do we just have "Men are that they might have joy", which doesn't feel true to me today?

More on this later.