Boundaries and Self Worth

house construction

 

My support group recently watched a video that featured, along with some weird-looking zombies, the importance of creating boundaries.

The point of this video (see below) is that the way we see ourselves can determine how well we are able to enforce our personal boundaries. If you see yourself as a beautiful mansion that has been maintained well, you will want to put up a secure fence to keep your mansion house safe.

On the other hand, if you’ve abandoned your house and left it in disarray for a while, you might not feel the need for a strong fence or any fence at all to protect your house. I think living with an addict year after year can do a lot of damage to our personal houses that are built in our hearts. I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I felt like my house, (or me), was in a neglected state and in need of repair. When I viewed the abandoned house depicted in the video, I felt sad because I could relate to the feeling of being that kind of house.

Fortunately, I’m a good fixer-upper and I have spent periods of time here and there for house-cleaning, repairing, and sprucing up my house-self. I count this as a gift from God. I didn’t discover my husband’s addiction until decades into our marriage and I often wondered why God hid these secrets from me. I may never know the answers for sure, but I can now see this as a huge blessing because God gave me time to really work at fixing up my house. I didn’t end up with a mansion, but I feel my foundation has always been solid and my framework is sturdy and reliable. You see, I’ve never doubted that I am a daughter of God and that He loves me. My foundation is built on that testimony. The knowledge that I have divine worth, has helped me keep my house in good condition, but it has taken years of work to get to that point.

So, when it was time for me to create personal boundaries, I was blessed with some good building material from my fixer-upper house inside my heart. There was just enough left in my house to build my safety fence. In fact, some of my first attempts at fence-building probably ended up looking more like a brick wall with razor wire on the top instead of a boundary fence! I may have made a few ultimatums, but they worked for me until I figured out a better approach.

Betrayed wives are often counseled to create boundaries right away. I think an important step is missed in such counsel. I think betrayed wives must first learn to love themselves and discover their true value. I believe this comes from relying on God and believing that He values us as His children.  When we believe in our own self worth, we understand the need for protecting ourselves, the houses for our souls, from behaviors that show no respect for our true value.

In the end, loving yourself is not about tooting your own horn or conforming to the world’s view of self-esteem. It’s about being who you are—a unique child of God—and knowing that who you are is a good thing. When you understand your eternal worth and you live in a way consistent with your divine heritage, you will gain a lasting self-esteem that is better than anything the world can offer (Truth, Lies, and Your Self-Worth, By Mindy Raye Friedman, New Era, Jan. 2014).

A strong sense of our eternal worth is the best thing to keep the homes in our souls, our heart houses, beautiful and strong.  I once took a white board marker and wrote on my mirror, “You are a daughter of God.” I left that message on the mirror and daily repeated the words until I felt like I regained my sense of worth. Regardless of our circumstances, our mistakes, or our moments of faltering faith, we are daughters of God and we deserve houses that are safe.

 

The Comfort of a Little Workbook

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I’m not even sure how I found out about the Healing Through Christ Family Support Workbook. Maybe I was desperately searching the Internet to find anything, ANYTHING, that would make me feel better. Maybe it was a resource on a blog. I don’t remember. I’m just so, so glad that I discovered this “Christ-centered approach to the 12-step program.”

I do remember that I downloaded a PDF version of the workbook and then read the first 40 pages over and over again. I had just found out about some of my husband’s online activities and I was devastated. I would read a few paragraphs from the workbook, then cry, then read some more, then feel empowered, then pray, then cry some more. At first, the words just floated around in my brain in a blur. Nothing really fit or made much sense to me. I had a hard time accepting that I needed to read this book “for those who have a loved one in addiction” because my own husband was a sex addict! It was all so surreal!

I kept reading because I really had nothing else to help me at the time. And then, something happened. I actually felt a tiny bit of peace as I read from the HTC book. I tried to imagine a soft comforting voice reading the words to me:

“Keep perspective. . . rest the burden in the hand of the Lord . . . The Lord opens doors of opportunity and provides the strength each of us needs at difficult times in our life” (Elder Richard G. Scott quoted in HTC Workbook, pages 12-13).

Another time of reading, I saw a small faint glimmer of light through my darkness when I read:

“There is hope built within all of us. There is always hope. On the other hand, the thing Satan cannot fight is one who is full of hope – for he is then full of the Spirit of Christ  – and when that hope is perfected or full, Satan has lost completely” (Elder John H. Groberg, quoted in HTC Workbook, page 21).

I already felt battle-weary and scarred, but this quote helped me see myself as a warrior woman. My mighty sword of hope was created and polished through Christ.

With my sword of hope and truth in hand, I asked my husband to leave our home for a few days so I could have some time to heal and think things through. This was the week following his disclosure of adultery. I was so sick at heart. I didn’t know if I ever wanted my husband to return home. Then during one of my many sleepless nights, I read these words from President Thomas S. Monson:

“At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end – no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes.  . . . We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, I plead with you to turn to our Heavenly Father in faith. He will lift you and guide you. He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face” (HTC Workbook, page 29).

I needed my Heavenly Father to lead me and guide me through this storm. So, at 3:00 in the morning, with no sleep, and still wondering what to do about my situation, I finally felt some tiny promptings in my heart. I was exhausted physically, but invigorated spiritually. I felt prompted to send my husband a text. I let him know that he had value and worth, that I loved him, and then I invited him to come home when he felt he was ready.

He was ready. He was repentant and his defensive walls started to come down.

I believe my text was God-inspired. It changed the direction and course of my relationship with my husband. Indeed, Heavenly Father “will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face.” A little workbook gave me the words of counsel I needed at the very moment I need them.HTC

I continue to use the HTC workbook. I keep it with my other recovery work materials and my scriptures. If I have difficulty working through a trigger, I usually start working through my HTC workbook before reaching for any other resource. I love reading the scripture verses quoted in HTC and often mark them in my own set of scripture books. Sometimes, I look up quotes in the workbook and find the original sources so I can read the entire talks.

You might be wondering who helped write this book that contains scriptures, research, quotable quotes from church leaders, and personal stories from others. I assure you the writers are extremely credible. From the HTC introduction:

All those who have contributed to the writing and compiling of this workbook, including the licensed therapists and psychologists, know first-hand the chaos, anxiety, fear, guilt and shame that can be present  . . . when a loved one is trapped in addiction. We know what family members are feeling because we have lived it ourselves (page iv).

The Healing Through Christ Institute has other resources, as well. I invite you to visit their website and take a look. I have no vested interest in this non-profit organization. I am simply grateful for all I’ve gained from the work of the dedicated people who put this book together. Bless them for sharing the tools and practices with others that helped them find peace in their own lives – the long-lasting peace that comes when Christ is at the center.

 

 

Hope and Healing

hope

I’ve been off my blog for a while and for good reasons. I’m happy to be part of this incredible movement:

Women married to men with porn addictions find help on blog, forum | KSL.com

Here is the story from the link above:

SALT LAKE CITY — Women who are married to men recovering from a pornography addiction can find help at the Hope & Healing blog and forum.

Michelle Linford, administrator of the blog and forum, said she created the Hope & Healing blog and forum in 2012 as a place for women in need to obtain information and connect with other women.

“I had a friend reach out to me who … had walked this path, and I asked her if she would help create a forum,” she said. “So she got some of her friends who’d been through this, and they helped write some of the questions that they had when they first found out about their husband’s addiction, and as I did research, I became like a resource manager in the forum. And it just grew from there.”

About 700 women have signed up for the forum since 2012. Linford said the forum is a place for women to come that is private, anonymous and free of charge. The blog is public and provides information about sex addiction and recovery.

“The blog is there to share information and resources, but the forum is really what Hope and Healing is about,” Linford told KSL.com in an email. “Only women who have personal experience with a loved one in addiction (or someone struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors) are allowed to join. As admin and resource manager, I am here to help keep it all running.

“The forum is a place where women can first know they are not alone and are not crazy for feeling so devastated by the addiction. … Women need healing support as much as addicts need help recovering,” she said.

Linford said she hasn’t been able to post a lot of content on the blog over the last few months, and some of the women in the forum wanted to bring some of their experience out to help other people.

After one of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Face to Face events, where someone asked what they should do if they are dating someone who has had a problem with pornography, some of the women in the forum wanted to be able to bring their experience to the conversation, Linford said.

A handful of women who wanted to carry on the conversation that was started at the Face to Face event started a series on the blog the first of April, she said. So far, there are nine blog posts in the series, which address “education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma,” according to the blog.

One of the women writing the series, who would like to remain anonymous, said she first discovered a problem with lust in her marriage just after her first baby was born.

“We discussed it. He said he was sorry and that he wouldn’t do it again. We got some outside help and then he said that he was cured,” she said. “This was a pattern that we followed over and over again for 28 years.”

When she learned of the problem again a few years ago, she asked him to move out, which was one of the hardest things she has ever done, she said.

“We don’t learn how to ask our husbands to move out in young women’s or in relief society,” the blogger said. “Asking him to leave went against everything I believed in or had been taught about having a strong marriage but being married to an addict is a unique situation and doesn’t follow normal ‘How to Have a Strong Marriage rules.’”

Her husband moved to a nearby city and joined his family for church, Sunday dinner and holidays, she said.

“During this separation, I gave up on the idea that it was my job to save my husband and I started working on saving myself,” she said. “I went to a professional therapist, LifeStar, I started attending a 12-step group, and I wrote up some boundaries to keep myself safe. It was a sacred recovery time for me where I was able to detach from the craziness of my situation.”

Her husband found that he had to choose between having a wife and family or having his lust experiences. He began working on his own recovery by journaling, going to a professional therapist, attending LifeStar and deciding to go to 12-step groups for as long as he lives, the blogger said.

About six months after the couple separated, he moved back home.

“Being in recovery from the effects of addiction has been a miraculous process for us both. I believe that many times people are attracted to addictions because they are seeking intimacy and the addiction feels like intimacy, at least temporarily,” she said. “Now that my husband has given up the lust, there is nothing in the way of him having true intimacy with me. This is lasting and deep and it is what his heart was after all along.”

The blogger said she would advise anyone who has a loved one struggling with addiction to find some close friends or family members to confide in, write up some boundaries to keep themselves safe and find a certified sexual addiction therapist.

Anthony Hughes, Ph.D., owner of Covenant Sex Therapy, would advise women who are married to men who currently struggle or have struggled with a pornography addiction to understand they are not accountable for their partner’s recovery, to address enabling or codependent behavior and to participate in their own trauma recovery if they need, he said.

The blogger said the Hope & Healing blog and forum was one of the first places she felt she could share her secret story and be safe and understood.

“At Hope and Healing we understand each other, we strengthen each other and share the latest and best resources with one another so that we can continue to build each other up,” the blogger said. “There are a group of us there now that have had solid recovery for a while, and so we’ve decided to share what we know by writing blog posts together with the hashtag #hopelds.”

What’s in a Name?

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

romeo-and-juliet
Romeo and Juliet (picture found on Shakespearequotesandplays.com)

Shakespeare nailed it. It doesn’t really matter what we call ourselves. It’s the person we are and not our name that defines us.

I have a real name and it’s not Avalon Vic. I bought some lotion at a boutique and it had the name “Avalon” on the bottle. I liked the lotion and I liked the name. When I looked up the meaning for “Avalon” I found the following:

Urban Dictionary: Avalon is derived from the welsh name “afal”; often associated with the island that King Arther’s sword Caliburn was forged. The island of Avalon is also often associated with an island that yields beautiful apples. The name “Avalon” as used in the context of a feminine name, describes one who possesses beauty unrivaled by any other. In the modern context, those who possess the name Avalon are seen as ‘One who is as rare as the legendary sword forged for a king Arther’, thus, “Avalon” is one of a kind- a woman .

I also like the name, Vic. It sounds strong and reminds me that I can be the victor over the trauma of betrayal.

Though I think my pretend name is pretty, anonymity is not. In fact, anonymity stinks. It limits how I tell my stories. Sometimes I feel like I’m split into two people: the real me and this other “Avalon Vic” person. So, why do I, and so many other women, choose pseudonyms for our blogs?

For me, anonymity helps limit the number of people involved in my husband’s recovery efforts and my healing. I love my ward members and neighbors, but sorting out the messiness of betrayal, addiction, trauma, and everything else, . . . well . . . it is something that the two of us need to do without too much outside help. We get plenty of assistance from professional therapists, church leaders, and therapy group members and they are the only ones, beyond our immediate family and one close friend, that knows about us.

Anonymity protects me from the ignorance of others. It’s been almost two years since D-day and I’m still not ready to hear the ignorant remark, “If she had only taken care of her husband’s needs, this wouldn’t have happened.”  It may be unwarranted, but it’s a fear I have. My husband is popular and he knows a lot of people. Most people would never believe he is capable of doing what he did, so I assume they will simply blame me, the less-known and more reserved one in our relationship.

Having my husband’s Priesthood blessings restored is very important to me and my extended family. I feel safe keeping our story under wraps until those blessings are restored. And then . . .

And then, I hope to have Avalon Vic merge with the real me. I hope I can be brave, come out of hiding, and tell the world that sex addiction is real and it’s spreading like a plague. There is so much more to me than this pornographic sex and lust crap. The reality is, I may have to join the fight against porn, despite my desire to rid myself of everything associated with it and never look back. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me. ME. Not Avalon Vic. But I do know that the time will come when Avalon Vic will fade away and the real me will emerge as one person . . .  with one name.

 

Let’s Talk About It!

 

“If your husband says he hasn’t looked at porn, he’s lying!”

Ouch! I was listening to my favorite radio talk show when the host laughed and again emphasized his previous thought, “Every guy and a lot of girls look at porn!” I was incensed! I pushed the “off” button and arrived at work feeling uneasy. I couldn’t wait to talk with my husband later in the day and prove to myself that the radio host was talking craziness.

The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough. I told my husband about my morning experience and then innocently began quizzing him. “So, what do you think about what that guy said?” “Do you think it’s true?” “Does every guy look at porn?” “Have you looked at pornography?” My husband patiently listened then looked at me with a half grin and reassured me with his smooth words. “I don’t look at pornography.”

Whew! I knew it. I knew the radio man was off his rocker. I knew my husband didn’t look at porn. He was like all the other guys at church. None of them looked at porn because that’s like . . . it’s like digital adultery! No church-going, temple recommend-holding, always-serving-others type of man would ever take a look at smutty stuff. I wanted to call the radio station and tell them how wrong they were. Instead, I went about my daily routines with a notion that I should always remember this day – the day I confirmed that my husband was definitely not viewing pornography.  After thirty-some years of marriage, it was a good thing to know.

I was living in a little pornography-free bubble where, except for radio personalities,  nobody was talking much about sexual addictions or the harmful effects of the sexual fantasy world of pornography.

It was over a year later that I learned the truth about my husband. The truth: He saw his first pornographic printed magazine when he was ten years old. He had free access to dirty magazines at his friend’s house and indulged in a steady diet of porn for over a year. That’s when it all started. He was too young to understand what was happening. And then it was too late. He was hooked.

As a young boy, my husband wasn’t hooked on the dirty pictures he was seeing. Like most sex addicts, he was hooked on the feelings he experienced, the physical arousal and the feeling of well-being that happened when he viewed seductive images. It’s important to understand that “pornography addiction” is really an addiction to the rush one gets when endorphins are released in the brain.

“The reward of this endorphin release is so powerful for the sex addict that he finds himself willing to pursue his activity in spite of the negative consequences he knows he will experience as well” (New York Pathways).

Looking at pornography is the easiest way to get this rush but it can also happen when you read a romance novel, stare at an attractive individual, or engage in secretive online conversations with old boyfriends or girlfriends.

My husband was too young to understand what his body was experiencing and his story is not unusual. Statistics show that the first access to porn usually happens by the age of thirteen. By the time a person is old enough to fully understand the magnitude of their habits, they are often already in the throngs of addiction. Most people who struggle with pornography issues feel an immense amount of shame, so they make an exerted effort to hide their sordid habits. There is no smell, no visible physical reactions, and no obvious odd behaviors associated with pornography viewing, so an addict can easily keep his or her problem a deep dark secret.

My story is also not unusual. Many spouses and partners report that they had no idea there was anything going on with their loved one. In hindsight, there are red flags, but in a society where there is little talk of digital infidelity, most companions choose to believe the lies rather than face the awful truth. Until my husband’s addiction was discovered, I was a complete ninny about pornography. I didn’t even know how easy it was to find. Really. A complete ninny.

It’s time to shake things up. It’s time to save the next generation from falling into the tight grip of pornography. It’s time to educate each other. It’s time to talk about it at church, at school and definitely at home. Therapist Paula Hall warns that we should waste no time talking about this issue. She said, “Easy access and no education of risk means that more and more people are getting addicted without knowing it’s happening.”

I’m encouraged to see more discussions taking place. There are an increasing number of talks at general conference and in church literature that admonishes members of the dangers regarding the addictive nature of pornography. I love how organizations like Fight the New Drug are making presentations at schools to educate children. I’m grateful that Meridian Magazine has agreed to publish a series of articles written by wives of sex addicts, like me! I am especially grateful for the Hope and Healing Forum that allows wives of sex addicts to talk through our challenges and rejoice in our triumphs.

I am no longer the ninny I used to be. I have read, researched, and learned all I can about the demonic nature of the addiction that plagues my husband. My husband and I have talked with our children about the things we’ve learned and through our discussions we discovered that one of our sons is battling a pornography habit. Now, he can get the help he needs instead of trying to solve his issues in isolation because we openly talk about pornography, lust, shame, and addiction in our home.  As I continue to discuss these issues with various others, I have been introduced to miraculous stories of hope and recovery. As I observe my husband’s stalwart fight with his addiction, I’ve been able to witness the miracle of forgiveness and repentance. I have personally experienced the healing hands of the Savior as He soothes my wounded heart and shows me the path to joy.

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Armed with knowledge, we can fight this plague. As Paula Hall indicates,

“If you’re not someone who’s struggling with sex addiction, then you probably know someone who is….”

Let’s shed some light on this dark subject and start talking about it.

 

 

Picture Credit: Christ Comforts Mary and Martha found at:  www.lds.org

 

 

Mulligrubs

Mulligrubs

I’ve been down in the mulligrubs. Yes. Mulligrubs. It’s a word my aunts would use and it seems to be the best description for my current condition. I haven’t been feeling physically well and have been cooped up in my house while the sun-filled outdoors is calling me. I’ve had too much time on my hands to think. With too much thinking time, my thoughts go dark and that has landed me in the mulligrubs.

I figure there must have been some lowly wife that lived way back in history that felt like I do now. She wasn’t depressed, she wasn’t super sad, she was just: meh. So, she pulled a ridiculous word from her head and declared to her 16th century peasant children, “Ye ought not to cause hindrance to ye mum this eve. She is in the mulligrubs.” Her children, no doubt, had no clue what she was talking about but the mere sound of the horrendous word, “mulligrubs” caused them to act with extreme caution. Thus, the 16th century mum got some peace.

OK. I obviously made that story up, but where do words come from, anyhow? Somebody invented them, I think. So, I am inventing my own new word: Dupid.  It rhymes with “stupid”. It’s a combination of the words “duped” and “stupid”. I am in the mulligrubs because I’m feeling like I have been dupid!

Let me give an example of my dupidness. I have a friend, I will call him “Farmer,” that is helping me with some gardening. I live in a very arid climate and the soil is rocky. Farmer told me that he could make my property green and blossoming with flowers. I said that we don’t have enough available water on our property to get everything green. I pointed to three small areas that I wanted to be “green and blossoming.” Farmer said, “I can green up this place and my irrigation system will be water efficient.” I doubted his claim, but he was so persistent. In fact, the more I protested, the more he dug in his heels. I decided to let him do things his way and I began to dream of looking out my windows and seeing green verdant landscapes.

We tested his watering system.

We ran out of water.

gardenHow could I be so dupid? I know better. Farmer told me what I wanted to hear. When I doubted his claim, he told me more things to verify his story. I think he actually believed his own story. I don’t think he has the ability to self-analyze and be honest with himself. Many addicts also lack the ability to do honest self-reflection. How can somebody be totally honest with others when they can’t be honest with themselves?

I’m more upset with myself than I am with Farmer. I know what my water system can handle but I allowed his confident proclamations to sway me. I’m in the mulligrubs because I’m recognizing a pattern here. I’m a skeptic when I’m initially presented with questionable information, but if somebody is persistent, I mistake that for sincerity. That’s why I now have an irrigation system that needs major alterations. That’s why I’ve been hurt in some past friendships. And that’s why I believed my husband instead of trusting my own instincts when I knew something was off.

Even with all my trust issues from betrayal trauma, I want to believe people. That’s being nice, not stupid. I’m a good person and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but in the future, I need to trust the gut-wrench that comes when I think information is being misrepresented. I don’t want to be dupid anymore. If I want honesty from others, then I also need to be honest with them. So, I need to say what I’m feeling. I need to let others know if what they are saying makes me feel uneasy. At the very least, I need to think on statements for a time, check the credibility of the info, and then make my decisions. No more dupidity. No more mulligrubs.

The Lady in Green Heels

It was a small cafe with a view of the water. Like the few other dining patrons there, my husband and I were dressed in casual shirts and blue jeans. So, when she sauntered in wearing a tight dress and green heels, it was hard not to notice her. We stood in line to make our order at the rustic wood counter. She eased up behind us.  She made a friendly wave to her friends who were already seated at a table. She turned toward the counter again, let out a high-pitched laugh and yelled, “If I were a bottle of beer, how much would I cost?” She tossed her hair and laughed again.

By this time, the lady in green heels had caught the attention of everyone in the dining area. I tried not to stare, but I have to admit, I was mesmerized by her presence.  She was at least 30 pounds overweight and wore too much make-up. Her long blonde hair was in stylish but messy curls.  She wasn’t very pretty, and yet, there was something about her that captured my attention. What was it?

green heels

Suddenly, I was on high alert. I quickly realized the captivation I had with this woman was that she reeked of sexuality. It was subtle, but undeniable. This woman was a seductress on the prowl.

My heart beat fast as I remembered encountering women like this before. My husband would interact with them and join in their loud conversations. He would never allow anyone to upstage him, especially a lady wearing cute green heels. I shuddered at those foul memories and searched my husband’s face for his reaction.

He was quiet. He was obviously uncomfortable.

I watched the male servers behind the counter. She was still addressing them in a loud voice, but they didn’t smile or oblige her in any way. She was nothing to them. A thought came to me, “Those guys behind the counter . . . not sex addicts.” That thought was followed by “Your husband . . .  SEX ADDICT!”

In a panic, I studied my husband’s face again. By now, he was at the counter trying to stutter through our order. He was upset by something and I knew it was that lady. That lady in the green heels.

He drew me close to him and whispered, “Can you please find us a table where we are facing the water? There’s one over there where our backs would be turned to everyone else. I like that table.”

I nodded that I understood. And I did. I understood more than my husband realized. I placed our soda cups on the table to mark it as ours. Then I hovered near my husband at the counter to be sure he was safe from the green temptress. The lady in green heels smiled and raised her eyebrows as my husband nervously walked past her while balancing our lunch in his hands. He didn’t acknowledge her. In the past, my husband would have responded with a clever quip to keep her attention. At the very least he would have given her a long glance and a knowing smile.

Recovery has changed him.

I felt a sense of relief.

Then an impression came to me that felt as heavy as a ton of bricks. It crashed on me with a thud. I waited for the right moment, then asked, “The ‘other woman’ . . . was she like that? Was she really forward and obvious with her  . . . her . . . sexual intentions?”

“Yes,” he answered. “And I don’t like how I’m feeling right now. Thank you for getting a table facing away from the other people in here.” When he said “other people” I knew he meant her, the woman in green heels.

I felt sick inside that my husband actually used to fall for such obvious and ridiculous sexual advances. I could imagine the lady in green heels as the “other woman” who teased and tempted my husband. I don’t blame the other woman for my husband’s choices, but I feel like I have unraveled some of the mystery about her allure. My husband said the other woman wasn’t that pretty. I get it now. She wasn’t pretty, smart, or amazing in any way. She was simply . . . available.