Editor’s note: This was written by a wife of a pornography/sex addict, an addict who has also been abusive. She’s recently re-discovered the power of 12 step work in her life. Following is some of her experience and testimony of how the 12 steps have helped her tap into the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The following is shared with her permission.
Note: You can find 12 step materials on the LDS Addiction Recovery website. Or email us at mormonwomen a’ gmail for more information. In many areas, the Church has support groups for wives of pornography addicts and/or loved ones of addicts. (Use this addiction recovery meeting locator to see if there is a meeting in your area.) Other 12 step programs include S-Anon (not an LDS program, but very consistent with Mormon beliefs), Heart t’ Heart (created by LDS people for LDS people, but not official LDS), just to name a couple.) If you are a wife of an addict, you can connect with other wives at this (unofficial and private) forum for wives (or ex-wives or girlfriends) of pornography/sex addicts.)
For more personal stories of those who have walked this path, either as one who struggled with an addiction or a loved one of a person who struggles, see here.
I started working the 12 steps about a year ago-maybe a little less than that. I quickly ran though them-and felt like I didn’t gain much from the experience. My feelings and thoughts remained the same. My life felt miserable. I felt miserable. My husband and I separated again for the second time a few months ago. I thought that him being gone would relieve the misery, the stress, the anxiety, the fear that I felt. However the month following his departure I decended into the pit of despair and hopelessness. It was a pit I had known before but to a lesser degree. From my first memories as a child I remember feeling afraid and anxious, unloved and “co-dependent” (although then I didin’t know what that was.). A month ago-in that dark place of despair and grief I planned my suicide. Down to letters, computer passwords for my husband when he found me, lists of bills we paid and how we paid them, shut down my facebook pages, deleted my e-mails from my accounts, severed ties with my friends. I felt that there was no way out of life’s pain (and the pain of living with an abusive and un-changing, unrepenting addict). I had gone through my whole life feeling unloved by my parents, my family, God and now my husband..and felt that I had to take care of myself because no one would do that for me.
A month ago, I lost the ability to “control” my life. All my coping mechanisims of doing more, being more perfect, cleaning my house better, getting skinnier, pleasing my parents, taking care of my friends…all that I had done since a small child to gain love, feel loved, control my life, or keep life from hurting crashed with great force into my heart and I felt unable to go on.
In that moment-that late night I [planned my death]. And nothing — not even my kids — felt like a reason to live to the next morning. But in one last pleading prayer to God, I pled for him to show me he was there. I pled for guidance. For the strength to live through that moment if strength could be given. I gripped my head as I prayed because the emotional pain was so great and cried aloud to him in desparation.
After that prayer I felt exhausted — and still felt so hopeless. I went into my bathroom, and accidentally cut my finger. I bleed heavily and I couldn’t stop the bleeding from my finger…but as I worked to stop it and saw that red liquid drain from my hand I decided that I would go to bed. That if something didn’t change in my heart by morning I could still go through with what I had planned.
Through the night I was awake-because of my emotional pain, and the pain from my finger. And in a those quiet dark moments a spark of hope lit my soul. Small…but enough for me to know that I could get up the next morning.
And through the next hours I knew I needed to start the twelve steps again. Needed to start them as an alchoholic who is losing his soul would start them, as a means to live, with peace. I felt like I needed to hold to those steps with all of my might for the rest of my life, and work them every day…to stay out of the pit of despair…and to live the life I have been wanting forever — one of peace, one where no matter what happens I know that God is there guiding me.
In reaching step 4 of the 12 steps now…I contantly think of them. In every thought of anxiety or fear, anger or terror –any negative feeling — I go back to step one. At first telling myself that I couldn’t control anyone or any situation, I felt extreme fear. I didn’t believe it. I just knew that I had to keep doing the steps. Now a month later when I feel negative feelings (caused by my negative thoughts)…I go back to step one and recognizing that I don’t have control brings me peace. I find peace in that thought peace, because I know who does have control and that is God.
Through the 12 steps, I have found life, peace, a reason to live, even though my husband is a porn addicti and causing so much chaos in my life. And more than that I found the healing from my childhood trauma and issues that I have sought for 35 years. My husband’s addiction has brought me the 12 steps as a gift, an answer to thousands of prayers throughout my life that I could find peace, that I could figure out how the gospel applied to me, that I could then live like the Savior would live.
I know that that the 12 steps are inspired. They work for any issue, any trial, any heartache. They work because they are lesson is using the atonement. They are a practical 12 step guide to applying the gospel of Jesus Christ. The 12 steps have brought me peace that surpasses understanding and I am only on step 4. I feel love for myself and love for others. A lifetime of pain and heartache have been lifted from my soul. I have felt the atonement lift my burdens, strengthen me, and relieve my suffering, even as my circumstances have increased in severity at times and in constancy.
God is each of our constant supports. And His Son stands ready to reach to us. I’ve felt that through working the 12 steps. The atonement helps erase pain, and increase peace.
To anyone struggling with any issue regarding living with an addict, or any other one, the 12 steps if worked with diligence and heart will lead you to the Master of healing, even the Savior Jesus Christ. Work the steps and He’ll run to you at the first word of step 1. My heart is full of gratitude to Him for my husband’s addiction, for every one of my trials, every minute of suffering that have brought me to these steps and allowed me step out of the pain and into His light and grace.
Find Places of Healing. Discover people, things, and places that nourish your soul, bring you back to center, help you heal. Life is not an endurance contest. Not anymore. We are not in a race to see how long we can go without, how much we can go without, how much pain we can stay in. Although sometimes we go through dry spells and droughts, we are not cactuses. There is a place in each of us that wants to heal, that can heal, that will heal. (M.Beattie in “The Language of Recovery”, Blue Mountain Press, 2000)