Editor’s note: This is a guest post submitted by Shay, the wife of a man who is seeking recovery for his pornography/sexual addiction. This is a challenge that many people are facing; we get traffic about this topic constantly. This letter to a Relief Society president could be relevant for anyone to read, as it contains information and resources that can help people understand more not only about pornography addiction, but also about the impact it has on a wife and about how both the one suffering from addiction and the spouse can find healing and recovery. Shay shares what brought so much pain, in addition to some of the things that have helped her find healing from the trauma of her husband’s addiction. These are resources that are helping many LDS people find healing and hope.
I’ve included the Bible video above about the woman with the issue of blood, because I believe that women suffering from the impact of their husband’s addiction need the individual, personal healing power of the Savior as much as their husbands do. And to me, women like Shay who are using many resources at their disposal are showing faith that the Savior can heal them. I am grateful that there are more resources available to help those affected by sexual addiction. Read more personal stories on our site, or in the blog list Shay shares below. You can also find more resources at hopeandhealinglds.com.
To My Relief Society President,
This is a very hard letter for me to write. The desire and need to confide in you has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I can’t ignore it any longer.
This has been a trying year for me. Actually, it has been one of the hardest of my life and yet also the most spiritual and comforting. I found out at the beginning of this year that my husband has struggled with an addiction to pornography since he was a teenager. There were long periods of sobriety, sometimes years long and many bishops and feelings of “I’ve got this.” He would continually follow his priesthood leader’s guidance to “study your scriptures more, pray more and attend the temple more,” in an effort to conquer this trial. He first told me about his “problem” a year or two into our marriage, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that we recognized this “problem” as an actual addiction — not because of the intensity and escalations [a common symptom of addiction], but rather due to the cycles [unhealthy, repeated patterns can also be symptoms of addiction]. Once we started treating it as an addiction, or an illness, then we both began to heal and recover.
When I married, I made all of the “right” choices. I married my stalwart, returned missionary for time and all eternity. There was so much emphasis on temple marriage that I felt that it was the end goal. I thought that once you achieved that, life was just living in the dream you’d built. I knew that there would be bumps in the road but no lesson from Young Women’s or Sunday School, or even college, prepared me for the pain and trauma that would leave me crumpled in a heap on my closet floor. Nothing taught me how to pull myself from the darkness that left me in my pajamas for weeks at a time. There was no lesson that let me know that my eternal companion could betray me in such a personal, devastating way.
My husband is a good man, who became ensnared by a vicious, plaguing addiction. It changed him. It took my kindhearted loving husband and caused him to be selfish, cruel, critical and manipulative. This addiction caused him to repeatedly look me in the eyes, and lie. I was left feeling crazy and insecure. This journey has taught me that the real damaging issue is not the pornography, but the changes in behaviors and unhealthy ideals caused by the pornography. That is the true cause of the trauma.
I have learned that as the spouse of a pornography or sex addict, I have experienced what is called “Betrayal Trauma.” Its symptoms are akin to the symptoms of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. It comes with all the same triggers and deep rooted emotions that are felt by a soldier returning from war. I felt isolated. I had been taught by my addicted husband that this was HIS secret and I would betray him by seeking help. Because my husband often didn’t share my inspiration, I learned over time that I was unable to really seek, listen to and discern the direction of the spirit on my own. I felt let down by the priesthood (because my HUSBAND did this) and often feel like I am living in a Man’s World.
I have learned that despite his (and my) discomfort, the best way for me to heal, is to talk about my trauma. I need a safe way to release these negative feelings caused by the addiction so that they don’t fester and cause resentments which make it harder to heal and forgive my husband. It is healing and helpful to be able to say to a safe person, “I am devastated and hurt because ____________.” I need supportive family and friends. I needed to educate myself about addiction and the effects it has. I needed group and individual therapy. I needed a many different ways to feel loved, supported and validated, without judgment.
Recovering from an addiction and being a recovering spouse is HARD. We are under intense pressure and suffering from real diagnosable trauma. We don’t always make the right choices or behave in healthy ways. But, we are TRYING. So hard. And we are HURTING. So bad. We don’t want to be judged, we want to be loved and validated. With technology ever changing, it could be in any home or marriage, at any minute. This problem is wide spread and growing. According to Andrew of Rowboats and Marbles, 70% of men between the ages of 18 and 34 visit a pornographic website at least once a month. This problem is no longer confined to men either. We are all made to be sexual creatures, it is part of His divine master plan and we are all susceptible to the temptation. Through recovery, I have met many women struggle too. This is a human disease.
This journey has changed me. I have come to realize that my worth and value is determined by who I am, or rather Whose I am, and not by my husband’s choices or even by my own. My worth is constant. A bad choice does not make me, or him, a bad person, it only makes it a bad choice. It doesn’t change my divine worth or his. I am learning so much, about who I am and the kind of person I want to be. I am learning and gathering resources about addiction that I would love to share with others who are struggling. This addiction, like many others, feed from shame and secrecy. I am contacting you because I am trying to break my silence. As scary as it is, I would be willing to be a friend to any wife who is suffering. I would love to support and validate her and feel supported and validated in return. I have found such strength from The Healing Through Christ 12 step program, the Church’s spousal PASG [pornography addiction recovery support] program, Addo Recovery [a commercial organization that offers a free six-week workshop on betrayal trauma] and LifeSTAR [commercial recovery organization]. I have books, blogs, forums and websites and I would love to share with her all of these resources. I am contacting you because even though I don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops, I also don’t feel the need to suffer in silence any more. I would like to bask in the light of His Love. It is filled with knowledge, learning, self worth, forgiveness and the Atonement. I would love to know if anyone else is looking for this light as well.
Thank you so much for your time and love,
– – – – –
Shay’s Recovery Resources
He Restoreth My Soul by Donald L Hilton, Jr
What Can I Do About Me? by Rhyll Croshaw
Healing Through Christ (12-step workbook for spouses)- can be downloaded for free at www.healingthroughchrist.org [they are also working on a 12-step workbook for those suffering from sexual addiction]
Addo Recovery: www.addorecovery.com
(this is a free online program with the option to continue paid online/in person group therapy. This is a favorite amongst wives…)
Online Anonymous Forum: www.hopeandhealinglds.com/forum-for-wives
The Togetherness Project: togethernessproject.com
You can read more about Shay and follow her blog at www.awiferedeemed.blogspot.com
Read more personal stories in our personal stories index or at hopeandhealinglds.com or at womenfordecency.org/blog