Stories of Hope – Anna’s Story

My need for recovery and healing began on my wedding night.

I found out my husband who I had just given all my heart and eternity to was still in love with his ex fiancée, but didn’t want to be.

I believed the saying from a prophet who said he didn’t believe in soulmates, and that any two righteous people could have a happy marriage and life. So I didn’t give up.

I first discovered pornography use after his first deployment with the Army, and knew he had an insatiable desire for intimacy and sex.

When I was pregnant with our first child, and he was gone training, he told me we were sexually incompatible.

I was hurt, but our family was growing. And I didn’t think pornography was very serious. Every guy I knew had seen something. And, I felt like there must be some incompatibility in every relationship. I would just do what I needed to measure up. So I didn’t give up.

After we got out of the Army, as he pursued a degree to go back into the military as an officer, actions escalated. And every few months I’d find myself begging him to choose me. To choose our growing family. And he’d come clean and promise to do better.

We’d go back to as good as it had ever been, but that never got better, while the betrayals got worse progressively each time he’d act out.

Finally, after being married 5 years, we hit a level of pain where the idea of staying in the marriage became more painful than the thought of leaving.

In my pain and frustration I turned to the piano and pounded through my favorite hymns. When I got to “How Firm a Foundation,” the last verse caught my eye.              

The soul that on Jesus, hath leaned for repose,              

I cannot, I will not desert to his foes.              

That soul, though all hell, shall endeavor to shake,              

I’ll never no never, no never, no never, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

(Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 85)

I felt a strong resolve that I needed to support my husband as long as he was seeking Jesus. And I didn’t give up.

Through the years, the behaviors got worse, and I began to become increasingly anxious about when the next time I would be betrayed would happen again and lived in fear of it and the increasing pain with each disclosure. The anxiety led to a depression as my self-esteem plummeted and my confidence as a wife and mother deteriorated. I felt less and less in control of my life.

So I did everything I could to make it easy for him to be faithful. I became increasingly more controlling of everything I could, terrified that if I lost control of one thing, I would lose control of everything.

A horrible cycle of emotional abuse began as I would ask for honesty, but get told I was imagining things and didn’t know him at all.

This kind and gentle spirit was becoming angry and explosive at the drop of a hat. I was scared. But I didn’t give up.

When we had been married for 9 years, the day before his birthday, I found more pornography on his computer. He had been telling me he was clean for years and even though I could tell he wasn’t being honest, I had no evidence to not believe him, and I felt crazy as he justified himself and had an answer for everything. It didn’t add up, but I didn’t have the missing piece.

The porn on the computer was evidence and even though I was angry and upset, I felt an equal portion of validation that I was right. I wasn’t crazy.

And again, I felt the pain of feeling like staying in the marriage was more painful than leaving it.

He admitted for the first time then that he was addicted and couldn’t stop. He began ARP and I dove into the deep end of getting educated about addiction.

Over the next 4 years I threw myself into fixing him. All my energy was centered on getting him through this challenge. I was losing myself in the effort. My anxiety and depression became debilitating.  

In August of 2015, I was driving next to a semi truck. The thoughts crossed my mind, “If I were to swerve suddenly, would it hurt that bad? Would I finally look on the outside as shattered as I feel on the inside?”

I didn’t want to die. But I didn’t want to live, either.

I recognized that those were dangerous thoughts, so when I got home I looked into therapy.

When I called the insurance provider they gave me an assessment. After the assessment they determined to provide for weekly counseling for at least two years. I thought that was excessive. I knew I was hurting, but I thought it couldn’t possibly warrant more than 6 sessions. I was just too sensitive.

I found a therapist and scheduled my first appointment for two weeks out. Two days before my first therapy appointment, my husband admitted to cheating on me with another woman he had known in high school. I was devastated, but I didn’t give up.

In September I started the attending the S-Anon Lifeline 12 step program and a friend told me about the WORTH group with Life Changing Services. I began attending WORTH in October, and I began attending my local LDS ARP family support group. For the first time I began to hear about betrayal trauma and codependency.

There is a difference, but I was dealing with both. I had childhood sexual abuse trauma and abandonment issues underlying my codependency.

When my husband went to training in January 2016, I dedicated myself to throwing myself into my recovery.

While he was gone training, and I was so raw from finally acknowledging all the pain I had suppressed and denied for 11-12 years, he started a friendship with a woman and said she was the only bright spot in his life 4 days before my birthday. Something in me snapped.

And I gave up.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

I felt a clear prompting from the Spirit that I would need to prepare to stand on my own. I finally found the courage to begin to surrender control of my life to God. SAL 12 steps 1-3 became my lifeline as I attended WORTH and discovered that I needed to let go of my husband’s recovery.

I stopped researching for him, and began working for my own healing. I focused on my need to heal. I started to learn that I was not crazy or unreasonable to expect 100% fidelity in my marriage.

I was not being unreasonable to expect my husband’s heart to be mine.

I was not overreacting to my devastating pain.

I wasn’t being paranoid.

I wasn’t responsible for his illness.

I wasn’t responsible to fix it.

I learned that my husband’s addiction was about him, not me.

And he’d been addicted before we got married. Everything I had done that was normal marriage advice didn’t work because it’s enabling to an addict.

Living with addiction requires personal boundaries. As long as he was living in his addiction, he was incapable of providing, presiding, and protecting me and our home.

Through WORTH, I learned that feeling pain is the key to healing, and how to lean into the pain to go through it.

The 12 steps helped me learn how to turn my life over to the care of God and WORTH gave me tangible tools to take steps forward in my healing.

I began to find parts of myself I thought had died.

My husband fell out of recovery when I asked for an in home separation. I needed space for my body to heal as well as my mind and heart. Just being around him was difficult. I wanted to love him but was terrified of him hurting me again. He texted me that he wanted to divorce the day the movers came to move us out of our home. I was terrified, but I was learning to trust God.

I didn’t know what the outcome would be, but I followed my husband to the next duty station for our children to be near him. And I began to find peace and even pockets of joy as I healed.

A couple months later, my husband decided he didn’t want a divorce after all and worked to come home. I realized then, that I needed to get out of God’s way and stay out of His way of my husband’s recovery.

I also needed to be honest with Heavenly Father, and I wrestled with admitting my feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and rejection. I needed to admit to my anger, frustration, and devastation. I needed to admit my fear, pain, and shame to God. I needed to talk with Him about how I really felt. And I did so in a Letters to God journal, an idea I heard about in my WORTH group.

With the help of a great team of therapists, supportive and amazing women who know and understand this path, I gathered strength to set necessary boundaries for my mental health and serenity.

I no longer regularly policed my husband’s devices, and only checked a device when I felt directed by the Spirit, which was a rare occurrence.

I no longer checked in on his recovery or told him what he needed to do. I did set a short list of things I needed to see, should he want to come back to sharing a room with me and move into the marriage repair part of recovery.

But I remained open to connection and focused on what the fruits of his recovery were bearing. I learned to trust my intuition. And little by little I broke the chains of codependency and have made significant progress in my healing from my betrayal trauma.

I rediscovered my resolve and perseverance. And I didn’t give up.

I still have days where it is hard to get out of bed, but I can function at a much higher rate. My ability to cope through these devastating challenges and to get through the pain and remember my complete dependence on God has gotten stronger and faster. It has increased so much that now I am not as afraid of pain as I once was.

I have made it through every wave of pain so far, and I am learning to float to the top of it and let my Savior rescue me, instead of drowning and wasting my energy trying to swim with my own strength. I recognize painful moments as temporary.

The pain does not last forever.

I did not get a happy ending in this marriage. My husband did not want to continue to work towards healing our marriage, and he is divorcing me. As painful as this outcome is, I know that I will be ok.

Working my recovery has given me the gift of surrender, the gift of confidence, and the invaluable gift of faith. I am a woman who knows her infinite worth.

Where I struggled to feel safe, loved, and cherished in my marriage, I feel these completely and so wholly in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and I know that this divorce is not about my failings, but about the inability for darkness to coexist with light.

Just days before my husband asked for a divorce, I found myself at a very difficult crossroads, where I could no longer hold on to my marriage as it was and hold on to my own recovery. The two could not coexist any longer. I chose to hold on to God and His healing power with both hands.

Because of my recovery, I can see this 13 ½ year marriage as a gift. Because of the healing power of the atonement, I know that I will find happiness alone, and perhaps at some future date find happiness in marriage.

I cannot focus too hard on the future or think too much about the past, and have learned to be in the present moment, where the gift of joy truly is.

Heavenly Father is not just a God of the past, or waiting in some distant future, but He is here in the present moment.

My recovery empowered me to allow Him to go from being an outside observer of my life to an active partner on my daily walk. I still forget to invite Him on my walk, and those are the days the burden gets heaviest.

I have learned that He will not remove my pain, but He will sanctify it as I turn to Him in it. He will sanctify me as I depend on His strength. He will refine me with it as I turn to Him in my pain. My heart will soften and grow as I depend on Him. My eyes open to His mercy and grace. I know now that He is much more merciful to His daughters than I ever understood before.

My story of hope is that I did not need my husband to be in recovery in order for me to heal. The power of the Atonement is individual and dependent only on our willingness to shift our dependence completely to the Great Physician.