Twelve Steps for Me?

Posted by Sacajawea

My heart was beyond broken in 2005.  It had turned to stone in the place where Will used to be.  He had been so controlling and unkind and abusive and unfaithful, to varying degrees, for most of our 11-and-a-half-year marriage.  He’d confessed his pornography addiction and his near-affairs to me, but I had somehow kept moving on.

I was so used to categorizing the abuses he heaped on me as something I needed to fix.  I had to be prettier, skinnier, more organized, more funny, more cool, more patient, more forgiving, more understanding– our marriage problems were my problem. I was so stuck.  Our relationship revolved around his lack of love or respect for me, and I lived for crumbs of approval.  It was depressing.  Sometimes he shoved or hit me.  Sometimes he was aloof and absent. He commonly yelled, swore, or grabbed a handful of my waist or face while screaming “fat” insults. (I wasn’t fat, although sometimes chubby; I’d become an aerobics teacher for him, yet even at my most fit, I sure felt fat around him.) Once he kicked me in the stomach while I was pregnant.  I have never been angrier or felt more vulnerable.  But he was quick to apologize after the physical assaults.  (Not so with the emotional, which he justified.)  And I basked in hope and love and smothered him with love, whenever he apologized to me.

But I had been abusive right back, too.  I’d kicked him, too.  I once threw a frozen turkey across the kitchen at him.  A few times, he gave me a bloody nose and a temporarily deaf ear.  I had never sworn in my life, but swear words started coming out of me.  I had learned them from him. I was becoming a mean person, too.

Yet, I’d still wanted him, wanted to be close, wanted to be good.  I’d always stayed active in the church (even though he was always half in, half out or all out of the church), and I had kept going to the temple, although infrequently, and kept trying to be loving and lovable.

But my children were now growing. They’d heard him yelling and belittling me.  They saw me try to be what he wanted me to be, and they saw my fear of him.

Now, when he confessed that he had actually committed adultery, I didn’t feel much of anything–not even surprise.

I asked Will if he wanted to try marriage counseling again.  He said okay.  We went. But when we got there, he told the counselor that he really wasn’t interested in working on our marriage, and he did not think he was capable of loving me.  Even that didn’t make me leave the marriage!

One of my children was seven and one was two, when I finally got out of the marriage.  The seven year old had seen a lot of bad stuff.  A loving counselor, (whom my bishop recommended after I told him about the adultery and abuse), helped me see that I was teaching my children by my example that it was okay to abuse me, and I saw the light.  For the kids, I could find the inner power I needed to walk away.  I gathered the strength.  I filed for divorce.  I moved out.

Once I made the decision, I felt relieved.  I also felt self-righteous.

One night, after filing for divorce, feeling very self-righteous and very angry, I was woken from deep sleep by a hymn that came into my head:  “Reverently and Meekly Now”  I didn’t even know the title of it, but I had heard it in church.  I looked it up and read all of the words right away.  I realized that it was a message from my Heavenly Father, telling me to focus on Him, to focus on my own repentance and not to dwell on the sins of Will.  Forever after, that hymn makes me humble and tearful and grateful to God.

But I didn’t know how difficult life would be as a single mother, then.  I was just glad I would no longer be subject to this consistently mean guy, (who also happened to be chronically addicted to pornography and extramarital flirtations). I had lived with him and his view of reality for so long that I almost believed his words:  no one would ever love you, you aren’t beautiful, you are worthless, etc.

Being a single mom was hard.  I had no one to rely on when my car broke down, when my kids misbehaved, when I was sick.  Even a terrible marriage has many benefits, I realized after I was divorced.  I missed having a partner, and I wanted to be happily married.  I dated several men before I met and married Seth.

Little did I know that Seth, my wonderful husband, would be a 12-stepper!  Will had been in and out, half-heartedly, of the 12-step group for pornography addicts; so when I started dating Seth seriously, and I learned that he was a facilitator for the 12 step LDS pornography addiction group for men,  I almost stopped dating him.  No way was I going through a repeat!

I was surprised to learn, through the spirit, that this man was not in the same category as my former husband had been.  He was kind and gentle and respectful and humble.  He had been softened and refined by his repentance process.  He loved to serve in his callings.  He loved me, and he actually even liked me, which my exhusband had not.  So I married Seth on faith and hope.  And it was the right thing to do.  I have never been so well treated and frankly, it’s fun getting used to being treated well!

I’m still learning the gospel, and learning how to be a spouse.  I am grateful for the deepened understanding I have gained of the Atonement of Jesus Christ by my association with the twelve steps.

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