According to Webster's Dictionary, the word 'redeem' means "to free from the consequences of sin." Although, it was not my sin, I still desperately need to be freed of the consequences.

"Redeemed women of God have tender merciful hearts, backbones of steel, and hands that are prepared for the fight." - Staci Elderidge

"Even though my heart has been broken at times, I want to retain a tender merciful heart- the kind of heart that is vulnerable, open to all emotions, and engaged in honest, intimate relationships. If my heart is hardened, no matter the cause, I cannot live to my fullest potential.

By setting and holding emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries and standing up with courageous determination to what I know to be right, I continue to forge my backbone of steel.

As women, I believe we want to fight against evil, and we have power greater than we've ever imagined to aid us in that fight."
- Rhyll Croshaw

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Constancy Amidst Triggers

My Christmas was peaceful.  

It was small and quiet, loving and trigger free.

It seems that this wasn't necessarily the norm in WoPAland and for that, I am truly sorry.  I pray for you to find quiet and peacefulness.  You deserve it.

At my house, presents were given.  Presents were received.  Children were happy.  Family was visited.

Nice.  Quiet.  Peaceful.

What more could I ask for?

Well, I guess, I could ask for it to last....

But, alas... the reality of life is breaking through the Christmas setting we worked so hard to build.  To plan for.  To safely enjoy.

My weekend has been full of triggers.  Relatively minor triggers, I realize this.  I know what intense triggers feel like.  I could eat through these triggers- they didn't cause me nauseas.  I could sleep through these triggers, (for the most part) they didn't keep my up at night.  I could work through them, sort through them, deal with them.  But, none of that stop them.

They came in the form of dreams.  A night filled with continual dreams full of lies, collusion and someone I love, who has nothing to lose.  Beautiful women who are full of life, yet have nothing to lose, still feel very dangerous to me.  They came in the form of familiar expressions that were normal a year ago yet felt very different today, quite unsettling- even if they were innocently said.  They came in the form of off- handed remarks.  A subtle suggestion, possibly even a judgment, that hit too close to home.  They came in the form of a familiarish conversation.  One that leaves me feeling controlled and manipulated.  Enmeshed in the frustrations of another.  Trapped.

They came in many forms but they were all the same.


Things that brought on a rush of emotions.  Emotions that were more than the present situation.  Emotions that reminded me of past trauma and pains.

That is the life of a WoPA.  Probably anyone really, because even if you aren't a WoPA, there is some sort of trauma to deal with.  Life is full of trauma.  

And now I'm left with decisions to make.  Some of my triggers made me realize things that I had not yet processed or acknowledged and accepted and they've left me wondering...

Do I take the safe road or lean into the pain and face the trigger head on??

I've been a big fan of facing my triggers head on and letting them know they can't control me.  But, I just don't know this time.  Sometimes I just get tired of charging ahead on my horse.

So I won't decide tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or whenever I want to...

One thing I do know....  Amidst the weekend of triggers, the Lord gave me a moment.

Today we were very short staffed in primary.  We had a lot of families (and teachers and staff) out for vacation.  It could have been crazy and chaotic.  I expected crazy and chaotic.

But, it wasn't.

It was peaceful.  It was calm.  ish.  It was nice.

I taught the sharing time lesson on how I have a testimony that I am a Daughter of God.  I stood between one of our youngest members of the ward and one of our oldest.  Being a child of God is constant, it doesn't change.  It doesn't matter if we are old or young.  It doesn't matter if we are grandmothers or children.  It doesn't matter what we look like or what our lives look like.  There are many differences between all of us.  Some of us had peaceful Christmases and some had a season that left us on the bathroom floor in tears.  Again.  Some of us are with our husbands and some are not.  But, our constant, the thing that is universal within all of us, from Gavin, my little primary child, to Sister Larsen, our ward grandmother, is that we are all Children of God, and that doesn't change.

I felt the spirit confirm this as I spoke it.  I felt it in my heart and in my soul.  I am a literal Daughter of God.  He loves me and the choices I make (not the ones my husband or anyone else makes) can allow me to return to Him.  I felt this and the children did too.  I may have had a weekend of triggers, but God gave me that moment.

And for that, I am grateful.

It was enough.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Christmas Gift

Did I mention that last week I went visiting teaching?  (This is me giving myself a little virtual pat on the back... because it has been months since both me and my companion actually physically visited both of our ladies and gave a message.  Pat.  Pat.  Pat.)  

I made the appointments and my companion, Emily, gave the message... you know how that goes...

Emily's message wasn't from a magazine or an article she had read, her message was one from the heart.  A personal story that forever changed her one Christmas.  As I listened to her share her message of love and hope, I couldn't help but hear myself in her message.   I could hear all of you.  I could hear each mom and wife who feels inadequate and hurt.  Each woman who is struggling, against unspeakable odds to do her best, and still feels like she's failing.  

I felt her message.  

I knew I had to share it with you.  But, I needed her version, with her emotion and her words.  It wasn't something I could just re-tell.

So, as my Christmas gift, and message, to all of you, I did a very vulnerable thing.  I called Emily and asked her if she would write up her story so I could share it on my blog.  

She didn't know my secret.

But, it doesn't matter, because this story isn't about secrets, it is about the beauty of womanhood and giving our all, at Christmastime....

Here is why we should never feel like our best is not good enough, especially at Christmas:
We brought our 5th child home from the hospital exactly one week before Christmas and we were swamped!  We now had a newborn, a 2 year old, a 4 year old, a 5 year old, and a 7 year old to take care of.  I was working harder than I ever remembered working in my life to take care of my 5 kids, to be a good wife, to make the holidays special for my family; and yet I spent hours every day sitting on a chair in my baby’s room hearing the world celebrate Christmas without me. 
Good people would drop off plates of cookies on the way to go ice skating with their kids, families would come caroling at nights sounding perfect and happy, and other friends would drop off baby gifts on their way out of town to exotic vacation spots.  And my kids would be lucky to get a bath that week. I’m really not exaggerating.  I couldn’t help but notice that other women’s children might be having a better Christmas than my own and it created a great deal of stress in my life.  I love my kids and I want to give them all of the best things in life (especially when I do the math and realize how few Christmases we will all have together under the same roof).  But the harsh reality was I didn’t have any free time at all – zero.  I didn't even have time to find scissors to cut my hospital bracelet off.  I was falling into the trap of comparing my weaknesses to other people’s strengths and it was making everything harder.  The thought kept coming to my mind to look up the story of the Widow’s Mite.  I already knew the story and didn’t see how in the world this was going to make me feel better about lacking the superhuman powers that would be needed to pull off Christmas this particular year.  And then I read it.
“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verity I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:  For they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12: 41-44)
There it was…”she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”  What I was doing was enough after all.  I was living a consecrated life and doing my very best and no one, especially my Heavenly Father, expected more of me than that.  He would make up the difference for me.  My kids would still have a great Christmas without ice skating, the time we would spend at home as a family with a new baby sister to love would be even more memorable than an exotic vacation.  I was “casting” all I had “into the treasury” (my family).  I was doing my honest best and that was, and always will be, enough.  And now I just have to remember it over…and over. 

This Christmas, realize that you are giving your 'living'.  Whether you are still with your husband... or not, whether you are both in recovery... or not, whether you are in limbo, or 'wait and see' mode or charging forward, it doesn't really matter.  It doesn't matter whether your whole family is spending Christmas under one roof... or not.  The fact that you are here, reading, learning, growing, trying, means that you are giving your living.  Against unspeakable turmoil and pain, you are moving forward and giving your all.  However small and insignificant it feels to you, God recognizes it for what it is...your living.
Don't compare your weaknesses, or trials in life, to others strengths, or successes.  You are amazing.  I pray that my gift to you this year will help you see that and enjoy your 'mite' with your families this year.

God loves you and your contribution is acceptable.  He will make up the difference.  

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snow Day

This morning at 6:30 am, I rolled over and pulled up my email on my phone.  I was so tired and groggy, I could hardly see the bright screen.  But since I'd watched the news last night, I'd heard the warning and I had to check.  I squinted several times as I scrolled through looking for that one particular email.  There was only one email that I really cared about at 6:30 in the morning.  And there is was.  My kid's school district was announcing that school was on a two hour delay.  I snickered and closed my eyes, rolled over and went back to sleep.  As I slept, I was unaware that Mother Nature was continuing to make her mark.  At 8:00, when I rolled out of bed to get the baby, the ruling had been updated.

It was officially a Snow Day.  Christmas Vacation began today at my house, one day early.

At first I was irritated.  I have four kids and mamas have things they need to do before Christmas vacation starts.  Two inches of snow completely spoiled the plans I was sure to have.  As I went about my morning trying to stifle my new gained grumpiness, I read a post that linked me here.  Alicia was encouraging all of us to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives.  So, paused for a minute and sat there.  I looked at the clean white snow and I suddenly realized, that my To-Do list is actually complete.  My cards are out, my Christmas treats (the very few of them I mustered this year) are done, presents are bought, shipped, wrapped.  I even got my visiting teaching done yesterday.  (I can't remember the last time I did all my visiting teaching.  I feel like I've been so inconsistent lately with most of my duties.  Rock bottom and recovery can do that to you.)  But, today, my laundry is done.  My bills are paid.  My list today had NOTHING on it.  And suddenly I could acknowledge, that this wasn't a sign of what I had accomplished, but rather a show of the Lord's hand in my life.  Today, my kids got a snow day, but so did I.  They got a day off of school, but I got a day to play with them while they were out of school.  Unburdened, unrestricted play.  We could build snowmen (sort of- we only got 2 inches of snow) and go sledding.  We had hot chocolate for lunch and watched Christmas movies.  There is a fire in the fireplace and "Home Alone" on the big screen.  The day is flying by but it has been filled with love, laughter and Christmas Joy.

It has been filled with the love of Christ.

I didn't know I needed a snow day, but He did.

He is real.  He is aware.  He is here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Gift of Time

Throughout our lives, we will experience a handful of life altering events, some good, some bad, by which we will measure the passage of time.  The death of a loved one, graduation, marriage, divorce, the birth of a child.   I will look at photos from my childhood and (usually based on whether or not my hair is fixed) categorize it as 'before my mother died' or 'after my mother died'.  There is also 'before I got married' or 'after I got married' and 'before the birth of my son/daughter' or 'after the birth'.  These things became events by which I measured time because of the huge impact they had on the course of my life.  But, few things have altered the course of my life like the events of January 2, 2013.  It was the D-day of all D-days for me.  It was the day we realized this 'porn problem' was an actual addiction and I began to understand the true depth, nature and degree of this 'problem'.  We are approaching the one year anniversary of that fateful day and the wounds and trauma is still very real and fresh.

Throughout the course of this year, I've learned many things, but one thing that I learned early on that really struck me, is that recovery from this kind of trauma, or any life altering catastrophic event, takes time.  There is no way to 'get over it' or 'move past it.'  The only way is through it.  I was advised early on to not rush forgiveness.  Allow it to be an entity of it's own that will come as my heart is healed, open and ready.  Rushing forgiveness will not bring true forgiveness, a hurt damaged heart cannot fully grasp and hold onto the healing power of forgiveness.  The concept made sense to me, it felt right for me.  I embraced it.  I vowed to myself to not rush the process of forgiveness.  I could be open and accepting of it, when the time was right.

I've worked my recovery in a very similar manner.  Early on, after D-day, I can remember reading recovery blogs and materials and stressing about how long everything took.  I felt like crap, and everything I read talked about years of recovery.  I had to feel like this for years?  Yie- yie- yie!  

Couldn't he just stop looking and I would feel better?????

Um, no.  It's not that simple.  Recovery from the trauma is as complex as the addiction itself.  That is why it is so often misunderstood and misdiagnosed.  

Because it has so little to do with the actual looking at porn and so much more to do with the effect the porn watching has on the brain.  The trauma actually stems from the abusive, controlling and manipulative behaviors due to the changes the porn causes to the brain.  The lying and deceiving.  The consistent patterns of misuse and selfishness.  Over and over again.  Over time.  I have 17 years worth of unhealthy habits and abusive behaviors that I have endured from my husband.  I am not going to recover from that in a day, a week or even a year.  The further we both get into recovery, the more layers get peeled back.  Then there are fresh wounds and new understandings that have to be healed from as well.

Think about the worst experience (besides this) that you've ever endured.  Maybe it was the death of a parent, friend or sibling. a bankruptcy, serious illness.  Whatever was devastating enough to you that you began measuring time by it. How long did it take you to 'get over it'? My mom died when I was 9. That was over 25 years ago and today I still long for my mom at hard times in my life. I still have grief and remorse. It may have lessened over time, the pain may not be as harsh and intense now, but it is still there.  This year, I experienced the death of my dream; the death of life with Paul as I understood it. Add to that the fact that in many ways, I am still living this nightmare. As your husband recovers (or not) he is still unkind to you. He is still impatient with you and blames you. You still fight the control and manipulation. Often times, you are still sexually abused by him.  And often times, those around you who would normally support you at the worst time of your life- your family/friends/clergy- they DON'T GET IT and they continually give you damaging advice. So not only do you have to heal from the initial event (D-day) but now you have to sort through the muck and trauma from each event that followed it.  And now add to that the low self esteem and disconnection from the spirit that so often accompanies this addiction and you have the perfect storm of trauma. This horrible dark pit with fire and brimstone that you call daily life is NOT going to go away until you feel loved, validated and safe. It won't go away until you can quit fighting for the right to feel what you feel and actually get the chance to FEEL it and sort through all the crap. It took years of abuse and trauma to get to the darkness that you have found yourself in, it is going to take a while to get out of it.  I think it will take layers of time.  Sexual addiction IS my present.  It is in my life TODAY. Talking about the emotions and pains I am feeling today is no different than talking about the headache I have or how I am sad to have another Christmas that I don't get to share with my mother. 

It was Paul's choice to bring the addiction into my life,  My choice is to heal from it, no matter how long that takes.  If I am talking about it, then that means that I am still feeling pain from it and the only way I can recover from those feelings is by talking them through. That isn't slinging mud.  And if I am choosing to talk to Paul about them, then I am still feeling that very real physiological attachment to him.  I am still using that bond, that God created us to feel, so that we can lean on each other and work through our pains and trials together.  My desire to talk to him and process the pains I feel due to the trauma sustained from his addiction, is a gift I give to him.  It is my outstretched hand asking him to sit in the muck with me so I can heal and he can heal.  Then maybe our relationship will be able to heal.  

I can't help the way I feel, but I can help how I respond to those feelings. I can choose to be honest about how I am feeling, the pains this has caused me, even if those feelings are angry, bitter, resentful- even if they are negative, but I don't have to shame him, be cruel or unkind to him. The more I am able to feel those feelings and move THROUGH them, the less I hold on to them. I recently realized that I spent so much time fighting for the RIGHT to feel my emotions, that I actually wasn't feeling them and once someone close to me gave me permission to just FEEL them, I spent a couple of days being angry and resentful and then one morning I woke up and I was done.  I could just let it go. It was so freeing.  I realized that I didn't need his permission or anyone else's to feel hurt and traumatized.  I could feel it when I needed to and release it when I was done.  And usually I do that over and over again, each time being a little less intense than the time before.  

I believe that I get as much time, or more, to recover from the trauma than he spent acting out on his addiction... And now that he is in recovery, he agrees.  In time I acknowledged that and allowed myself the gift of time to sort through the crappy layers at my own pace,  I didn't have to fight time.  I didn't have to compare how 'good' or 'bad' I was doing compared to another wife or couple.  I didn't have to worry about where I, or we, "should" be.  I could be where I was and feel what I felt.   Once I gave myself the gift of time, the faster I began feeling better. I went from hard months, to hard weeks to hard days to hard moments.  But, it takes time.  It took consistent,  wretched patterns, over time,  to sustain the trauma I did, so it will take consistent healthy patterns, over the same amount of time or longer, to truly feel better with him.   Paul made this bed, and he did a crappy job, so there are real natural consequences to that.  But, as long as I am willing to sit in the muck with him, and he is willing to sit with me, while I work through it, then I believe there is hope for us.  

This isn't a race, this is your life.  Do what feels right for you.  For Christmas this year, give yourself the gift of time and patience to work recovery at your own pace.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Feel the Burn Baby!

Last week my personal trainer gave me some new exercises.  (Confession- he isn't MY personal trainer, but rather A personal trainer that I kept running into at my gym so he has begun giving me tips and work outs to try.  On a continual basis.  I really like him.  His name is Mike.  I am therefore claiming him as MY personal trainer.  Even though I am getting the benefits without the cost...)  Mike is a firm believer in core strength.  He says that you can work out your arms and your legs all you want but you will remain unstable and feeble if your core is weak.  Which means that I do a lot of gluts and abs.  Which means I often have sore gluts and abs.  Like this week.  But, every time I sit/stand/walk and feel the soreness, I think to myself, "Feel the burn baby.  That's new strength forming."  Because that is how new muscle is formed, by working it until you can acknowledge and feel a difference.

I think my emotions work very similar to my muscles.  If I work to acknowledge and feel my core emotions, that is how I gain core strength.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who had recently had an unexpected death in the family.  He was commenting on how hurtful it was when family and friends would say things like, "At least you have the gospel, you can see him again."  or "Just be glad he didn't have to suffer."

For real?

As if only focusing on the positive would actually help you heal...  As if ignoring those negative emotions would potentially make them disappear....

I've been wondering lately why people do this?  I've experienced this a lot this last year.  This advice to 'focus on the positive'.  This encouragement to only see the ideal picture that my family appears to be to the outside.  As if focusing on this ideal picture, could make all of the crap- the betrayal, abuse, the addiction and pain, just disappear.

I personally believe it is because the truth, is extremely uncomfortable.  It takes true courage, from a strong, real friend, to sit in the muck with you.  To allow you to feel it and share it.  Sexual addiction is running rampant, and I believe it is in part because few people want to really acknowledge and talk about the uncomfortable.  But merely wishing that my muscles were stronger, will never make them so.  I have to actually do the work, the extremely uncomfortable work, to build my core strength.  And part of that core strength comes from extremely negative emotions.

In 3 weeks, I will reach my one year D-day anniversary.  Almost a year ago today, the husband I knew and loved, died.  Maybe not in an earthly sense, but the idea in my head of the individual that was shown to me vanished and I had to acknowledge that I had been living my life with someone whom I had never met or seen before.  I had to get to know the true nature of my husband.  And I had to do that while healing from and recovery from the crushing blow that I had been dealt.  The course of my life would forever be changed.  My time, talents and finances were used and spent in ways that required major adjustments and sacrifice.  I was left feeling angry, bitter, resentful, scared, and distraught.  I felt like I was in a constant battle to regain my sense of peace and security.  Much of which was completely out of my control.  Sitting in those feelings was extremely uncomfortable, but I later learned, vitally important.  Acknowledging them was freeing.  Yet, often times when I'd share those feelings, when I would try to lean on those who loved me to help me carry my burden, it was too overwhelming for them and they would skirt and skitter from under the weight of it and put on a happy, positive face to avoid the uncomfortable feelings.  "Focus on the positive."  But, the truth was, in order for me to focus on- or even acknowledge, the positive, I had to get the negative OUT.  I had to acknowledge it was there.  I had to process it and find a way to release it.  Often times, I had to do that over and over and over again.  And sometimes, because others didn't want to deal with the extremely uncomfortable, I had to do that alone.  But, there was no way to move past those negative emotions, shoving them down was extremely damaging and unhealthy.  The only way was through it.

We can't help the way we feel.  Whether we feel bitter, angry, happy or excited, we feel what we feel.  We can't control that.  Our feelings are signals to us that we either don't like something that is happening or that we do like what is happening.  They aren't indicators of whether we are good or bad people.  There aren't good or bad emotions.  The red light is just as important as the green light.  And neither is bad.  What we can control, is what we DO about our emotions.  When I allow my emotions to take over and cause me to respond in unkind, bitter ways, then that is something I need to work on.  That is a bad choice that I need to work extremely hard to improve on.  My emotion is what it is, my response is a choice.  And I have learned that the best way for me to do that is acknowledge and feel the negative emotion.  Sit in it, mull it over, acknowledge it out loud to a safe person in a safe place.  Use it for my learning and benefit.  Feel the burn.  Then when I am finished with it, I can let it go.  I can move on.  I may be stiff and sore, but I will gain strength, core strength, from the process.  It is not unladylike or unkind to feel negative emotions.  It is not even unChristlike.  Christ felt anger, sadness and grief.  He felt it and responded to it.  He responded to His emotions and then let them go.  He allowed them to be His signals.

So whenever someone tells me to "Focus on the positive" when I am working through a negative emotion, I can smile politely and say, "I appreciate your concern.  But, that is actually not in the best interest of my healing and growth.  That is actually damaging to me.  So, I am going to respectfully decline and discontinue this conversation."  Because I have to right to heal from the trauma in my life.  I don't need anyone else's permission.

I believe that God does not expect us to not feel negative emotions, He expects us to learn from them and draw closer to Him because of them.  He expects us to allow Him to sit in them with us and feel them.  He expects us to allow Him to help us release them and heal from them.  He expects us to Feel the Burn and use them to grow core strength.  Because core strength is what allows us to be more like Him.

I LOVE this (short) video Brene Brown made.  If you really want to help me feel better, empathasize with me (vs. sympathize).  "Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection."  Sit with me while I feel the extremely uncomfortable.  Feel it with me.  Help me mull it over, process it and release it.

You'll grow core strength too.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Free Conference Call

Maurice Harker had this on his blog yesterday:

Free Conference Call:
"What to do when you fear a loved one has an addiction."

Monday 12/16/13
12:00 Noon
Just call Conference Dial-in: 1-267-507-0240
And enter Conference Code: 339939

You are not required to participate, you can just listen in
Ask questions so you can get some of your concerns resolved.

For more information go to:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Surrendering and Accepting

1. I Can't
2. God Can
3. I Will Let Him

Those are the first 3 steps of the 12 Steps from Healing Through Christ.  They encourage us to recognize that our life, with the effects of addiction, is unmanageable and that only God can bring us back to a state of manageability.  These three steps encourage us to Let Go and Let God.  That is the only way to find stable footing again.  

To me, there is a fine line between Surrendering to God and Accepting my current circumstances.  I believe that surrendering is acknowledging that God's way is the best way, and I can and should let Him guide my path.  Acceptance is believing that what is happening in my life, due to the choices of other's is also God's way.  To me, these are two entirely different things.  I believe that in sending us to earth God gave us two amazing gifts.  One was the gift of our bodies and the other was the gift of agency.   Two gifts that are so imperative to His plan, that once received, He will never, no matter the cost, take them back.  This means that He allows His children to murder, abuse and plunder each other.  When we choose to commit sins, we are not following His path, our choice to commit sins are not HIS choice.   He does not will this to happen, but because He holds our agency at such high esteem, He does allow it to happen.  He allows it to happen even at the expense of His other children.  

But, why?  Why would such a loving and caring God allow for such unimaginable cruelties to happen to His children, innocent victims of vicious crimes.  I recently watched this film made by Alissa Parker, the mother of little Emilie Parker who was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting.  Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of that tragic event.  The things Alissa said answered this question for me.  It brought peace to my soul.  She says that people would ask her, "Where was your God when this happened?  Why didn't He stop it?"  Alissa's answer pierced my soul.  She said, 

"God allowed others to kill His son.  He allows for us all to make our own choices, good and bad, because that is the only way good can be in us is if we freely choose it over all else."

God allows for men and women to choose for themselves.  Sometimes He even allows them to hurt each other so that they can be truly held accountable for their actions.  And then, He allows for vicious crimes- school shootings, sexual abuse, addictions and so many others, to effect innocent victims, so that they too can choose and be judged, by Him, for the true intentions of their hearts.  He allows us to truly be good in heart because we CHOOSE, against all odds, to be that way.

This does not mean that He wants us to suffer.  This does not mean that in order to prove the desires of our hearts we must continually allow ourselves to be victimized once we have recognized the pattern of such.

A month or so ago, I had a painful realization.  I realized that Paul and I were drifting further and further apart, despite our efforts at recovery.  The cause of this was the fact that even as I was continually listening to and acting on inspirations that caused me to stretch and reach, Paul was not.  He was choosing to not act on his inspirations due to his fear and shame.  The result was a visual distance in our relationship.  One that was noticed by those around us.  I was cautioned by others to make sure that Paul and I were on the same page.  That we were united in all things.  But, the truth was, we weren't united, because Paul wasn't listening.  The fact that Paul wasn't listening was not God's choice.  I realized that this was not part of His plan, but was in fact a part of Paul's plan, and if I had chosen to follow Paul's lead, rather than the Lord's, the result would actually have caused us to drift further apart, not together.  Because the only way to be truly together, is when we are united with God.  It took me a while to come to understand this though so at the realization of this rift, I temporarily lost my footing.  I became confused.  It wasn't until I realigned with God and realized that I HAD been following His path (and Paul hadn't been) that I was able to find my sense of safety and security again.  In order to do that, I had to make some tough choices though.  I had to ignore the conventional wisdom of the world and even further distance myself, temporarily, from Paul until he had a chance to regain his own footing.  It wasn't easy.  And it wasn't fun.

The Healing Through Christ manual states, "Our Father in Heaven has set boundaries for us in order to experience happiness in our lives.  As He allows us to experience the consequences of ignoring those boundaries, we learn and grow."

Continually allowing our addictive spouses to continue to victimize us and be unkind to us would be like handing a loaded gun back to a known killer.  It doesn't make sense.  God's law is filled with boundaries and consequences.  That is the pattern He has shown us so that we can get to a place where we can find the stability to choose the good within us.

Just because something is happening a certain way, it doesn't mean that it is God's way.  I can let Paul find his own way, without controlling or manipulating him, but I don't have to be there with him.  And I don't have to be ok with where he is, not if I don't feel safe while he's there.  I can recognize his progress and still not feel safe with his current place in his progression (or lack thereof).  I can't change it, but I don't have accept it as a healthy and kind place to be.  I can choose to set boundaries to keep myself safe, and let God guide my path while realizing that Paul is allowed the opportunity to find his own way as well.  That is surrendering.  But, not accepting.

Here is the video of Alissa Parker in it's entirety.  It is amazing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What About the Kids?

I've had a couple of people lately ask me, "What about your kids?" "What do your kids know about Paul's addiction?"  "What have you told your kids is the reason you were sleeping in separate rooms?"

These are all great questions.  After all, my kids are here in my house, all the time.  They hear my phone calls, they see me furiously typing at my computer.   They feel the tension.  They see the pain and torment on our faces.  They've even seen me collapse and cry on the kitchen floor.  They see and experience the reality of our lives just as we do.  It's life.

My kids know.  To some degree, at some level, based on age appropriateness, they all know that life is shaky right now.  The best thing I can do for my kids at this point, is put the appropriate context on the emotions that they are already feeling and seeing.  Kids are observant.  And they are also stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for.

My twelve year old found out about Paul's addiction when he saw the title of a document that was written on our computer, but saved on an external drive.  It simply said, "My name is Paul and I am a sex addict."  It was his step one disclosure.  Luckily, the actual file wasn't on the computer so that is all my son saw because I believe the actual document would have traumatized him.  But, in that moment, my son did exactly what I had taught him to do.  When something happens that is scary and confusing, you go to mom.  I was able to explain to him what sex addiction actually meant for Paul.  That it was the feelings he was addicted to and not necessarily the act.  I was able to explain that this was because when he was a child and felt those stirrings and the confusion that often accompanies it, he didn't have parents that he could talk to and help him sort things out.  I could confirm to my son that this was why it was so important that he came to me this time and any other time life became scary or confusing so that I could use my experiences and understanding to help him sort it out.  I was able to tell him that his dad loved him and I loved his dad, and he was trying very hard to fix this.  What could have been a life long traumatic experience was put into context and sorted through and my son went to sleep happy and safe in his world that night.

Pornography, Sex, Masturbation, Homosexuality, Morality and every other taboo and uncomfortable subject are openly discussed in my home.  My 6 year old knows the mechanics of how babies are made and my 8 year old knows what masturbation is and how I feel about it.  My kids hear it and see it at school and in the world.  It is my job to put hard things into context and shape their first impression.  When I was at the Togetherness Project conference, I attended a class on talking to your kids about pornography.  At one point, the question was given to the presenter, "I'm afraid to shatter my children's innocence, so when should I tell them?"  I have this fear too.  The delicate balance between letting them be kids and protecting them from the dangers of the world.  I am very open with my kids and the presenter's answer surprised even me.  "Their innocence already is shattered."  And I believe she is right.  They go to the grocery store and the swimming pool.  Heck, they go to school!  And to top all of that off, they live in a home with sexual addiction.  Their innocence IS shattered.  So, I would rather my ideals and impressions be their first impression.  Pornography is Satan's sex education so I have got to beat him to the punch!  This addiction is my children's reality as well.  And I can teach them about without shaming their father or condemning their natural desires.  I believe that we can use this trial to teach and protect them.

A few weeks ago, when my son asked me, "Why isn't dad sleeping in your bed?"  I paused and looked him in the eyes.  I searched his soul.  "Does it make you uncomfortable?"  And when he shrank deeper under his covers and nodded his head, I put context to his emotion.  "Because your dad and I have realized that he needed to be working harder at fixing his addiction than he was.  And that makes me feel unsafe.  Not unsafe like he will hurt me, but unsafe like I don't feel comfortable being that emotionally close to him.  So, while he is working on doing everything the Lord asks him to, he is sleeping in here so I can feel safe."  And when my son perked up and smiled and said, "Oh, ok, so then can I sleep with you?", I knew that his fears had been calmed and putting context to his emotions had settled the voices in his head.  It came up a few times and every time we discussed it, openly and honestly.

Every kid is going to be different as to what they can handle and what they should hear.  But, don't underestimate their strength and resiliency.  Just as this is your life and your reality, it is their reality too and they need to sort through it and understand it, just as you do.  In my opinion, the best way to protect our children from the dangers of this addiction is to teach them about this addiction.  We can't protect them from it, it is our reality, but we can use the things we learn to teach them and prepare them to stand firm against it.

Listen to your heart, follow your gut.  You'll know what is right for you and your kids.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let's Talk About.... Intimacy

Sexual Intimacy is not something that I talk about carelessly or casually.  With that in mind, I have had some thoughts banging around in my brain for a while now and due to some conversations that I have recently been privy to, I can no longer ignore them.  But please know, that I tread this topic carefully and with the upmost respect and reverence.

Over the last couple of days, I have found myself angry.  Really angry.  Paul would come home to an angry wife.  And based on our history I assumed that it must have been something Paul had done or said (lol) but after I sat and analyzed my feelings, I came to understand that I was actually not angry at Paul, well not specifically.  I was angry at men.  Certain men.  Men who abuse and take advantage of women sexually.  Even their own wives.  I am angry at the blatant abuse and misuse that this addiction causes to the beloved daughters of God.

We live in a world that is so overly sexualized.  Sex is used to sell.  Sex is used to entice.  Sex is used to prove love and worth.  Sex is portrayed as animalistic and lust driven.  According to the ways of the world men and women have 'needs', physical needs, and denying those needs is cruel and unkind.  One person's body is used to satisfy the needs of another.

This was never meant to be.  

This is not the way of the God that I believe in.

In speaking about sexual intimacy, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland states "that physiologically we are created as men and women to fit together in such a union."   Yes it is true that God designed men and women, physiologically to be attracted and drawn to one another.  He designed us to want to connect.  He designed us this way for a reason.   Elder Holland goes on to say, "Such an act of love between a man and a woman is--or certainly was ordained to be--a symbol of total union: union of their hearts, their hopes, their lives, their love, their family, their future, their everything."

Sexual intimacy was designed to be the ultimate act of total union, an unbreakable bond that could connect a man and a woman together within the bounds of marriage, as a way to help them overcome the intense trials in this life.  But, no where in that description does he talk about the satisfaction of their physical appetite.  And he certainly doesn't lead me to believe that the union should come at the expense of taking advantage of one's body for the appetites of another.

One of the most influential posts I've ever read on this subject was from Andrew at Rowboat and Marbles.  He states that even within the bounds of marriage, "Sex is Optional."  WHAT??  What's that you say?  I don't have to have sex with my husband just because he wants it?  Not even because he needs to feel loved and 'connected' at that moment?  BUT- we are married! and denying him sex means that I am denying his needs.  It means I don't love him.  He's a man, he needs sex!

Oh, bull crap!

The God I believe in would have never made His daughter's body to be a tool for His son.  My body is MINE and mine alone.  It is a gift, an endowment, from my loving Father.  It was never made to satisfy any man's physical appetite, not even my husband's.  It was never meant to prove, in some twisted worldly way, my love for my husband.  My body was not designed to prove how much I loved him.  It was however, designed to share, connect and join in union with another person, to whom I am eternally committed to- and him to me, as he shares with me.  But, that connection is more, so much more than just the physical.  It is the uniting of body, emotion and spirit.  Without the connection of emotion and spirit, it is simply sexual misuse and abuse.

Elder Holland also says, " In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there), we trivialize the Atonement that saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence. And when one toys with the Son of Righteousness, the Day Star himself, one toys with white heat and a flame hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned."

The world would have us believe that these physical desires, absent the emotional and spiritual bonding, is normal and natural.  And indeed these physical desires are God given, but only when used in conjunction with the emotional and spiritual connection.  When used alone, they are non other than the enticings of the natural man.

Elder Russell M. Nelson has stated, "God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.  It is not surprising, then, that most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness come through the misuse of those essential, God-given appetites."

When used according to God's law, these sexual appetites and desires, this total union of body, spirit and soul of two individuals who love and respect each other, come as close as you can get to heaven while on this earth.  Elder Holland states, "Sexual intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a man and a woman--the uniting of their very souls--but it is also symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours...These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God's will, our spirit with his spirit, where communion through the veil becomes very real. At such moments we not only acknowledge his divinity, but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves... that sexual union is also, in its own profound way, a very real sacrament of the highest order, a union not only of a man and a woman but very much the union of that man and woman with God."

There is no room in the kingdom of the Father for the abuse and misuse of His daughter.

Sexual abuse of His daughters was never a part of His divine plan.  No woman should fear their husband's touch because of the perpetual misuse she has been shown.  His hands were never meant to be a trigger to her due to what they have done to her and the ways they have touched her in the past.  No woman should hide as she showers or dresses from her husband, the person who should be the safest person to her in the world, because she fears his lustful thoughts.  

Have you been repeatedly rejected sexually?  Caused to feel ugly or unloved?  Unwanted?   Only to find out later that your husband was meeting his "needs" somewhere else?  This is abuse as well.

Have you woken up in a cold sweat, with panicked breaths and fear in your heart because your husband rolled over and touched you in your sleep?  Casually touched you?  Did it remind you of the times that he used your body for his pleasure, while he was still sleeping, and due to your semi-awake status, you were powerless to stop it?   This is not ok!  It is very likely a sign of his failure to control his appetites during his waking hours.  And your panicked response is proof of your trauma.  Trauma that has been caused by your spouse.  Trauma that is another effect of his sexual addiction.

Sex is not a duty or a responsibility within marriage (or any other time).  It is a gift, a sharing that we can choose to participate in when we are already spiritually and emotionally connected.  When we are safe.  Sex is not a way to show love, it is a way to grow love.  In order for the union to happen the way God intended it, the foundation needs to already be built.  A foundation built upon love, respect, transparency, honesty and mutual sharing.  A foundation that is build long before you enter the bedroom.

If you are in a relationship where you are sexually misused and/or abused, I would like to share with you something a dear friend recently said, "If you do not want to have sex and your husband coerces or pressures you, that is RAPE. Even if he is not physically holding you down, even if he is your husband. If there is coercion, or you are half asleep and not aware of what's going on, it's rape. And if you don't want to have sex and let your husband know that and he insists, that is definitely rape."

God did not make my body to meet a physical sexual need of my husband.  He gave my husband that desire so it could be combined emotionally and spiritually in a complete total union with the one he loved.  THAT is the desire of his heart, that union.  THAT is what the addict is really looking for.  That complete and total union, and no amount of porn, masturbation or lust driven sex will ever satisfy it.  But because they are incapable of the emotional and spiritual aspect, while in their addiction, due to the nature of their sin and are therefore cut off from their emotions and the spirit, all they have left is the physical aspect.  Only sobriety and real recovery- a true and earnest re-connection with God and self will ever allow true marital intimacy, the way God intended it, to exist in marriage.  Everything less is just the abuse and misuse of His daughters.  

Plainly stated, if there is sex that is devoid of the emotional and spiritual aspect it is sexual abuse.  Even if you are married.

My husband never meant to hurt me.  His intention was never to abuse me.  I know this.  It was one of the many traumatizing effects of this addiction and the realization of this has brought him torment.  It has caused me trauma.  Understanding this has brought understanding to both of us to the years of confusion, pain and searching.  

Sex is not the enemy.  My husband is not the enemy.  The addict is not the enemy.  Addiction is the enemy.  The enemy is the devil and he uses porn, masturbation and the sexual misuse of God's children to bring about pain and trauma and destruction into the lives of the children of God.

Please don't abuse His sons and daughters and don't allow yourself to be abused.  It is a serious issue.  Elder Holland also said, "It is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord's list of life's most serious sins...Clearly God's greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. These two most important issues in our very personal and carefully supervised progress are the two issues that he as our Creator and Father and Guide wishes most to reserve to himself. These are the two matters that he has repeatedly told us he wants us never to take illegally, illicitly, unfaithfully, without sanction. "
If you would like to read the full talks quoted above from Elder Holland and Elder Nelson, you can find them here and here.  

What's the Big Deal About Masturbation?

Oh my gosh.  I said the "M" word.  ahhh!

Because that is my new reality.  My life is filled with conversations about pornography (did you know there is "soft core" and "hard core" porn?  I didn't a year ago...), masturbation, beastiality (once again I didn't know that existed a year ago- my spell checker keeps telling me it's no such thing- lol), strip clubs, lust hits, child porn, brothels, cyber sex and prostitutes.  I never thought I'd say masturbation as much in a lifetime as I have this year alone.  But, this is the reality of sexual addiction.  Even if it's not in my life, every one of these terms are in the life of someone I know and love.  Someone I've hugged and cried with.  Every one.

Recently someone asked me what was the big deal about masturbation?  Why does it make my stomach churn and my muscles instantly feel tension?  Wouldn't it be an easy natural way for an addict to get his "fix" without hurting anyone else?

Um, no.  Having an addiction to masturbation is definitely hurting someone else.  With or without porn.

I read somewhere early on after D-Day (I swear it was here, but I couldn't find the exact language again... so if you find it, feel free to post the link in a comment) that every time you orgasm, your brain forms a physiological bond to the cause of the orgasm.  Your brain chemically creatives a bond, an attachment, to that source.  God is smart.  Smarter than we generally give Him credit for.  He knew that families were vitally important to the salvation of His children and He knew that the marriage relationship was the foundation of the family.  He knew that Satan would stop at nothing to tear the marriage, and therefore the family, apart.  So, he gave us the gift of intimacy with everything that it encompassed physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Our Heavenly Father meant for it to bind a husband and wife together physiologically with an unbreakable bond.  A bond that could withstand everything that the world, and the devil, could throw at them.  However, Satan is smart too.  And he hates the strength of the family.  So he uses this personal selfishness to attack the very bond that the Lord provided to save us!  And it worked!  By ensnaring men and women in an addiction where they form a physiological attachment to worldly selfish desires, he can simultaneously force them to physiologically detach from the one source that can enable and ensure their salvation.

Brilliant, brilliant plan.  Brilliant, but evil.

So, yes, I believe masturbation is wrong.  I believe it is a temptation of the devil and it alone has the ability to break apart a family at the very foundation.  And when you add pornography and masturbation together, you have a force so strong that the universal result is pure Insanity.

And I'm not the only one.  I'll leave you with some very interesting thoughts from the awesome C.S. Lewis:

"For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect love: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself….

Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters (which I think bad in itself) and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison."

C.S. Lewis, letter to Keith Masson (3 June 1956); cited from Fair Podcasts

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Note From Amy

I received a note yesterday from my best friend Amy.   It was really written to me... and you, so I got her permission to share it.  I hope that it helps you feel at least a fraction of the love, support and validation that I felt from it.   We are being heard and loved and understood.  And we are not alone....  Thank you Amy.

I have dealt with sexual trauma in my life, but it is tucked safely away in childhood and I rarely feel residual effects anymore. I’ve told Shay that when I recall the worst days, it feels not like reality, but like accessing the remnants of a bad dream… the memories are there, but they have no power or relevance in my life today (I consider this a most significant manifestation of Christ’s atonement).

Witnessing Shay’s living nightmare has been a singular, excruciating experience.  It is hard to consider another marital circumstance which would be so cloaked in shame, secrecy, and just generally plagued with misunderstanding.  Compared to any other addiction, resources are scarce. True support outside of this community seems almost nonexistent. Judgment and fear abound.

What I really want to say to those of you on the front lines of this battle is thank you. Thank you for fighting in the war that society refuses to acknowledge is raging. Our generation is the generation to stem the tide, to raise our voices and fight as though our lives depend on it (because in some respects, they do). It is the deplorable pattern of the past that real change does not occur in this country until the state of affairs becomes so desperate, so devastating, so all-encompassing that we have no other choice than to act (consider the Civil Rights movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AIDS education, and a hundred other causes that were not mobilized until a state of pandemic could not be denied).

It hurts me that the best advocates for education and societal reform are those who have been hurt the most by some form of sex addiction; to me, this is like having cancer patients fight for a cure while the healthy are ambivalent to the disease.

That being said, I am inspired. After D-Day, Shay wept for a moment, took a deep breath, and launched into action; it is clear to me that her only motivation is the hope that she might spare someone else the pain that her family is experiencing, or at least ease it.  She and I played paintball with a group of friends about a year and a half ago – I watched her tiny frame dart through the course with swiftness and courage and hyper-focus. I later gave her a photograph of us on that day on which I inscribed, “If I were in a real foxhole, I would want it to be with you.”

To Shay and to each of you struggling with your own personal pain, I am in this foxhole with you. I believe in change. I believe that your individual victories will ultimately lead to community victories and to progress for the whole of humanity.  God bless you.