After I overcame the initial shock of discovering my husband’s addiction and reality had sunk in, the questions began. Sometimes I even felt quite emotionally stable but the questions never stopped. It seemed every song I heard, news headline I read, comments other people made, always triggered a thought even if whatever it was that triggered the thought had nothing to do with addiction. It seemed no matter what it was, everything circled back to the addiction. But then when a straightforward comment about addiction was made even in sacrament meeting or somewhere completely innocent it would be like a punch to the stomach. If my husband was working later than usual, if he was in the bathroom a long time or taking a long shower I would wonder what he was really doing. When we went to public events I wondered who he was looking at and what he was thinking. If he was having a bad day I wondered if he had slipped. I was always fearful of what he wasn’t telling me. The nonstop questions robbed me of peace and comfort within my heart. I found happiness throughout the day but seldom felt true joy and sometimes I felt like life was something to endure and blessed would be the day that it was over. I thought true joy would not be found in this lifetime again. So what I want to share with you is how did I overcome that? How did I get my life back.
First of all it is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once, there is no instantaneous cure. In fact I still have a ton to work on it but I promise that through faith, hope, desire and choosing to be healed it can and does happen.
I would like to share a few experiences throughout my process that helped. First and foremost is attending twelve step meetings, studying the manual and applying the principles. As we go through the steps as a group I am writing a little bit about each step and how it has been applied in my life and the lives of others. I would suggest reading my post for step one, it ties very closely to what I am writing here.
Probably the second biggest help for me was recognizing the need to control my thoughts. Just as my husband has to control his thoughts and not allow inappropriate thoughts to enter his mind and entertain them, it is the same battle for me. When I allow the questions to linger and analyze the possible answers or what could possibly be going on I could feel my emotional stability plummet. I would get nervous, anxious, fearful, etc. I found I could manage my feelings much more efficiently if I didn’t start down the slippery slope of entertaining the bad thoughts. It was not always easy and still is hard some days, but fighting off the thoughts is much easier than climbing back out of an emotional hole. I have also found that the more I practice not entertaining the negative thoughts and questions, the easier it becomes.
I know they are basic answers we hear for everything, but prayer, fasting, priesthood blessings and studying the scriptures has been huge. As I have drawn myself closer to the Savior he has given me much needed strength and many very sweet moments. But just as we are taught, I had to knock for the door to be opened. I had to humble my heart and allow myself to be healed. Yes, sometimes I would wallow in self pity, resentment or anger but ultimately I learned these negative emotions blocked the spirit so I had to choose to be willing to surrender those feelings to Jesus Christ and choose to keep fighting for my happiness. Sometimes this meant multiple prayers throughout the day begging for strength. Sometimes it meant calling a support person for words of hope and encouragement. Sometimes it meant reading from my twelve step book, the scriptures or a conference talk for even a few minutes to change my thought processes to something positive.
I had a moment that has helped me more times than I can count that I would like to share with you. One morning I had the thought come to me as clear as if someone were literally talking to me. It was as if the Lord had posed the question, “your husband is in trouble, he needs your help. To help him you will have to learn things that are hard and may hurt but in return you will also be able to help yourself be a better person too. Are you willing to help him?”. My immediate thought was, of course I would help my husband, I would do anything for him. In fact, the question seemed ridiculous. Well, the question was not truly posed to me but essentially that is what was asked of me. My husband had tried to stop his addiction many times on his own and could not. I needed to catch him for him to get on the path to recovery. Don’t mistake that to say that I can heal my husband, I cannot! It is his journey, his choices, that he has to make and work through, I can’t cure it and I can’t stop it. But I can love him, encourage him and support him. When I get discouraged I think of that moment and it gives me a lot of strength to press forward. When I dwell on the negative thoughts and questions I feel on edge and my husband would feel like he was walking on egg shells. At times I would lose control of the thoughts and would end up being angry at my husband making him feel guilty and worried about my stability. Which in turn made it harder for him to focus on his own recovery. The best way I could help him and support him was making him feel loved and supported which only came after I helped myself.
I also like to envision we are literally on a battlefield with Satan. He was cunning when he laid the plan to trap my husband into sexual addictions and he may have won that battle, my husband got trapped but it was just a battle, the war is not over. Part of Satan’s plan was to destroy my marriage, I refuse to let him win that battle. Satan also wants to destroy my faith and happiness, I refuse to let him do that. If I give in to the fears I am basically letting Satan gain ground on me. The addiction may have controlled my husband but I refuse to let it control me.
As I have worked the twelve steps I have had a much greater understanding of the mote and beam parable. When I am focusing on my husbands problems I become judgmental, self righteous and blameful which only makes the anger, resentment and feeling sorry for myself that much worse. When I focus on my own weaknesses, even though they may not be on the same scale as his, I become a better person, I see myself becoming better, I find gratitude in more things. And above all, I see how we all make mistakes, we all need forgiving, that is why we are on this Earth. When I focus on my weaknesses instead of his I get a much better perspective that helps me feel more at peace and I feel the comforting Spirit much more. Steps 4-9 are a step by step process to do this. As I worked through those steps I learned so much about myself and the healing and perspective I gained is indescribable.
I could write books about my pathway to recovery but so could every person that is finding healing. The journey is personal, it is unique for each of us because Heavenly Father knows each of us and our struggles, needs and personalities. I pray you will take a leap of faith just as Lehi and Nephi did and countless others and step into the unknown. Be willing to let the Lord guide you and I know he will help you ways you never thought possible. I can honestly say I am finding joy everyday now. I no longer am haunted constantly with fears and questions and for that I am eternally grateful.