THERE IS HOPE!
Prior to getting married, pornography was just something I heard people talk about in conference or other church meetings. It was something that some sitcoms joked about. I knew it was bad and sordid, but I had no personal experience with it – other than some pictures I had accidentally seen in elementary school.
I got married when I was 34. My husband, David, was only 21. Our courtship is a story in and of itself – as you can imagine from our age difference. I thought the problems in our relationship would be due to this age difference and the fact that he was from a dysfunctional family. In my marriage interview with the stake president, he looked at me and told me that I was marrying into a family much different from the one in which I was raised. I don’t know how much the stake president knew, but I think now that he felt impressed to warn me.
David was very cautious while we were dating and made sure we stayed morally clean. I thought this was a great sign of the kind of man he was. I had dated guys who pushed boundaries and felt David truly showed love to me by fully obeying the law of chastity.
We were married in the temple. I got pregnant two weeks later and then miscarried at eight weeks. I miscarried at home and he slept through it, even though he knew what was happening. To this day, him sleeping while I am awake is a big trigger for me.
At about this same time, I found out about his lust addiction. I was floored. I couldn’t believe this was my life.
He was exposed to pornography as a small child and remembers fantasizing about his kindergarten teacher. He was addicted while still in elementary school. He struggled with pornography and masturbation throughout his life – even at some times on his mission.
I found out that while he had been having sex with me, he had been fantasizing about other women, including my friends and family members. The hardest one for me was my niece because she wasn’t even 18. I don’t need to go into detail about how I felt because I know you have all been there.
Our honeymoon became a lie, I felt dirty, I hated him, I was confused, I didn’t know what to do. My life was spinning. Had I made a mistake after waiting so long to get married?
Then I found out that he had confessed to his bishop shortly before we got married and the bishop told him not to tell me. I had made an eternal decision based on a lie authorized by a priesthood leader. I felt betrayed. I also felt betrayed by my in-laws who knew about his addiction.
I went with my husband to our bishop to get counsel. The bishop wanted to know why I was there. He asked if I was there to make sure my husband confessed. I felt kind of defensive.
I explained that I just wanted to know where I could go for help. He said that he had no idea what to tell me. He was the first of many bishops that weren’t sure how to help me. They were all good men. They counseled with David, but they didn’t have any advice for me.
With one exception, I never found David’s pornography. We would go a month or two and I would think he was doing better, but then he would confess that he had lost another battle. He would confess and it was like he took a huge weight off his shoulders and then dumped it onto me. He would be relieved and I would be left carrying this huge burden that I had nowhere to unload.
He always went to the bishop and confessed. He’d go a couple of weeks without the sacrament and then things would go back to normal. Every ward we lived in, I would hope and pray that we wouldn’t have to be the pornography family, but every time he would end up having to confess again. A couple of times I would talk to the bishop, but mostly I just gave up trying to get help for me. When he’d confess, I’d be crushed and cry and yell and then I’d go about trying to make everything normal again.
When we moved to Utah, David found out about the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. He loved the meetings and he completed the program. It was great for him to talk to guys who had been through it too. But it didn’t solve the problem.
He was doing everything he knew how, but ultimately, he’d return to old habits. Plus, the mentors in ARP would end up relapsing as well, which would be discouraging for him.
During this time, we adopted our two children. When we first adopted our daughter, one evening I fell asleep while feeding her and dropped her.
I freaked out that she was really hurt and started looking up information on my computer and trying to help her. David went back to bed. Another reason why him sleeping is a trigger for me. He was always pretty insensitive to my feelings. If I fell, he’d laugh instead of helping me. He would watch me do things without offering to help. He would do the bare minimum around the house to keep me from exploding, but never anything extra. He wasn’t mean and he wasn’t completely unhelpful, but it was a fine line.
I moved my focus off David and on to our children. I stopped working or caring about my marriage and instead focused all the love I had to give onto my kids. Now that we had a daughter, I found his pornography addiction even more repulsive and couldn’t understand how he could objectify someone else’s daughter.
After we had been in South Carolina for a couple of years, David started attending the ARP meetings here. They were even less effective because they didn’t have a pornography specific meeting and instead had people with any addiction meeting together.
The meeting was led by a missionary couple. It wasn’t an environment that inspired open communication. I did have the opportunity to meet separately with the missionary couple and I learned that the brother had an addiction. I poured out my soul to the sister missionary. It was the first time I had ever told my story out loud. It was very cathartic. She and I really bonded over heartbreak and her husband was completely clueless. I now realize that he really needed to watch “Helping Her Heal.”
On May 24, 2012, I started my “burn journal” – although I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I started by writing, “My husband is not my best friend.” I unloaded feelings every time my husband lost a battle. It helped to get them out of my brain and onto paper. We continued in the same cycle of D-days almost every other month for 13 years. I have since learned that my husband was on a monthly schedule for relapses.
By September of 2015, I had become a shell of a person. I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel happiness, anger, love, hate, or anything else. I couldn’t connect with my children. I was distant from my parents and my sister – my best friend. I could care less about my husband. I told him that I was no longer angry, I just didn’t care. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I even began to doubt God’s love for me.
At this point, he learned about Life Changing Services. I think our bishop told him about them. I went to their website and started reading. WOW! Somebody finally got it!
I read that I didn’t have to be my husband’s support or his therapist or confidant. I was his victim!
I read about pioneer women and their handcarts, I read about drowning woman syndrome, I read things that taught me I wasn’t crazy.
It was amazing! Then I found What Can I Do About Me?. I learned I could set boundaries and I could choose not to stay in my marriage if my husband continued to succumb to his addiction.
At about that time, he had his last lost battle. This time he accessed pornography on our kids’ iPad. That was a deal breaker for me.
I told him that I was finished letting pornography be a part of my life. I told him that the next time he accessed pornography, he would need to find another place to stay because he would no longer be welcome in our home. I told him I was going to start therapy and I wanted him to see a therapist as well and I wanted him to join a support group. I met with the bishop and asked him to pay for my therapy because we couldn’t afford it. And I joined the WORTH group. (NOTE: WORTH groups are free of charge.)
Coincidentally, I had my first meeting with my therapist and attended my first WORTH meeting on the same day. I told my therapist I was a broken person and wanted to learn how to fix myself. I then asked her if recovery was even possible because I didn’t know anyone that had recovered. Having her tell me that it was possible and she had seen it happen brought a ray of light into my life that had become pretty dark.
Then in WORTH I met these amazing, strong, empathetic women. It was painful and healing and more than I had even hoped for.
My husband pushed back at first. He didn’t access pornography, but he was white knuckling. He didn’t want to see a therapist. I told him that it made me sad because I knew that without help, he would relapse and we would separate. I told him that while it made me sad, I wasn’t afraid anymore and that I would be okay regardless of what he decided.
When he saw I wasn’t going to back down, he got help. He started seeing a therapist, he went back to recovery meetings and started going to Sexaholics Anonymous. He has now traded recovery meetings for Men of Moroni. He has read so much and grown so much and for the first time in his life knows what it feels like to not be in the addict fog.
He finally accepts what his addiction has done to him. Watching “Helping Her Heal” was hard for him and he came to me in tears. He completely owns it and is very understanding of me even when I have bad days. He has prayed to feel what I have felt and it was not pretty. It was hard for him to realize that he was an emotional adolescent. It was hard for him to realize how selfish he has been.
Over the past year, I have learned and grown so much. I am so much stronger. I am a better mother. I have so much energy for my children. I finally feel like myself again. I have bad days, but they are fewer and fewer. I now have tools to get over them. I have reconnected with my Heavenly Father and learned how to fight for my testimony.
In March of 2016, my parents were in town for my daughter’s baptism and my husband decided to disclose to them. He said that he had built up a wall between me and them and he wanted to tear it down. It was hard for me to see the pain it caused them. They had no idea. But it is good that they know. They understand me better. I respect my husband for being willing to do that for me, knowing it would change the way they see him. I had told my sister about a month before that. It has been great to be able to open up to her. Her husband is a bishop so I have shared a lot of information with them.
My marriage is good. It isn’t perfect, but it is better than ever. I never really had a chance to fall in love with my husband. His first D-day came too soon after our marriage. I am learning how to truly fall in love with him. I actually like the man he is today better than the one I married. We’re building trust.
I hope that one day I can get over the fear that he will relapse again. He has not lost any battles for over 400 days.
Recently, I realized that he was starting to slip more frequently (looking at a woman and lusting). I told him that he had gone back to feeding his lust addiction, just in smaller doses. I felt myself sliding back into the dark place I had been in before. So I set a new boundary.
Now, if he lusts at all, he has to move out. A man can’t help his initial reaction when he sees something – that is biological, like breathing. However, he can have total control over what he does next. He doesn’t have to look again and he doesn’t have to think about what he saw. This boundary would have been unreasonable at the beginning of his recovery, but at this point it is doable. And I have realized that I have the right to be married to a man that is 100% faithful to me in every way.
Sometimes I still resent that this is part of my life. I resent the amount of time I spend reading about it, learning about it, worrying about it. I resent that I know about the ugliness that is out there. I resent that sometimes I feel that I am not enough for my husband. Sometimes I resent how much time he spends going to meetings and talking with other men about their addictions.
But I can’t deny that I have learned more about the Atonement through this experience than any other way.
I will never forget the night I fell to my knees telling God that I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t handle the pain and if He wanted me to stay in my marriage, He had to help me.
I physically felt the pain being lifted off of me. I can’t really describe it, but I will never forget it.
For the first time, I realized that the Atonement wasn’t just to forgive me of my sins. It was to help me forgive David. And it was to let me know that Christ had felt what I was feeling and that my Heavenly Father was aware of me and my struggles.
When things get rough, I try to focus on that unforgettable night.
There is hope.
I am a completely different person than I was a year ago. Fortunately, my husband has chosen recovery and he has been successful in his fight. But regardless of what choices he makes, I have learned that I can still be happy.
I don’t participate in WORTH at the same level anymore because I wanted to make room for women who are newer in their healing, but I will be forever grateful to Life Changing Services for the tools they brought to our marriage. I would not be where I am today without the women and therapists that I have met through the WORTH Group. It is an inspired program.