Healing for the Afflicted Spouse

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Liz Lemon Swindle
Liz Lemon Swindle

My Name is Hope Sparrow, I am a mother, a co-dependent, the wife of a recovering porn addict, and I am a Mormon. You can learn more about me and my journey of recovery here at Diary of a Sparrow.

After my husband relapsed in his addiction 6 months ago, he finally joined the ranks of recovery using the 12 Steps Addiction Recovery Program, yet I was at a loss; not knowing which way to turn. I had been suffering in silence for 12 years, not ever realizing I could partake of the atonement and find my own healing from the effects of his addiction. I hit my knees and prayed for help. I scoured the internet looking for resources. I wanted to learn everything I could about pornography addiction. I even sought out my Bishop, joined a 12 Steps support group for wives of addicts, found a therapist, and joined the Hope and Healing LDS Forum for wives and ex-wives of pornography/sex addicts. On this forum, I met women just like me, who were seeking hope and healing through Christ, but didn’t know how to begin.

About a month ago, a new resource called, Healing Through Christ was introduced on the forum. For the first time there was light at the end of my dark tunnel and I was beginning to have moments of clarity and tender mercies, reminding me that the Lord was aware of my struggle.

I had one of those tender mercy moments a few nights ago…

I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed, because a health condition I have has been acting up and causing me much discomfort. I had felt over the past few days as if I had been coming down with a cold, and this condition tends to get even worse with cold symptoms. It was bed time and I was really cranky with my children.

My daughter wanted me to sing her a lullaby and when I told her I was unable to sing, she became distraught. I tried to console her by rubbing he back and explained to her why I couldn’t sing. She understood, and I was able to substitute my voice with LDS Primary songs on her CD player. As I was rubbing her back, I had a distinct thought come into my mind, “Ask your husband for a blessing.” I didn’t question it, I just followed that prompting. My husband was happy and willing to give me a blessing. To me that prompting gave me a reassurance that he was indeed worthy at this time to fulfill his priesthood duty.

Before he placed his hands on my head, I had a prayer in my heart that God’s will would be made known unto me. I pushed aside the fear of the unknown and was ready to receive what ever he needed me to hear. As my husband spoke, I felt peace. I was told that if I took care of my bodies needs, the systems within would function properly. I was told my pain and discomfort was temporary and will heal. Above everything that was spoken, the words, “Heavenly Father is pleased with the path you are on,” stayed with me.

Today, I sat down to write this post, I knew God wanted me to share what my path is. Just the other day I had been studying a resource by S.A. Lifeline Foundation called, “Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction” it has a section in the back called, “Healing for the Afflicted Spouse“. In this section it states that the goal for the wife or afflicted spouse, is to”restore serenity and wholeness.” I’d like to share with you how a wife meets that goal using this resource, other helpful resources (links highlighted), and my own personal experience.

Recognize Your Own Need for Healing–

  • You’ve been through trauma, in a real sense you’re dealing with a shock much like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). You may feel disbelief, fear, disgust, betrayal, distrust, denial, sadness, and anger. It’s crucial for you to recognize and work through these emotions. To get help if these emotions are too overwhelming and are affecting your life and family.
  • God is there for you and will help you heal, if you seek his guidance.

Self Care–

  • SLOW DOWN! It takes time to heal. Don’t make any major life-changing decisions for at least 1 year. (Unless severe abuse is involved!)
  • Prayerfully set appropriate BOUNDARIES which define unacceptable behavior. Your goal is to protect your emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
  • Work on spiritual and physical needs daily, such as eating right, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and studying the scriptures.

ANONYMITY–
Many times the husband will pressure his wife not to tell anyone regarding his addiction. For the wife, getting the support and help she needs become particularly difficult, since doing so involves sharing her husband’s addictive behavior to someone else, which breaks anonymity. It is important for the wife to understand that she can either consciously or subconsciously be manipulated into remaining silent as a result of the shame and embarrassment of her husband’s addiction. The wife needs to realize that even though her husband has control over his actions, he DOES NOT have the right to control her behavior.

As a wife of an addict you have the RIGHT to:

  1. Seek out your own support (see Your Healing Circle below).
  2. Attend recovery meetings.
  3. Seek appropriate counseling.

For 12 1/2 years, I kept silent and it only created unnecessary heartache and confusion. My husband’s last relapse, was my rock bottom, I had to talk through the emotions I was experiencing. I first trusted my Bishop and he listened. I felt validation and unconditional love from him. He was able to help me see what I needed to find healing. He guided me to find a therapist and a 12 Steps support group.

I have heard other women sharing their pain with a member of their clergy, a parent, close friend, or sibling. Just remember to be prayerful. This is huge burden you are sharing and you need to be certain the person you share with is willing to be a support in the way you need it. I prayed to know if I should share with my dad and the answer I got was, “You can trust your dad, but it is not necessary to share with him at this time.”Just knowing I can trust him and rely upon the Spirit to tell me when the right time is; was a enough for me.

CAUTION: Recently, I learned to AVOID airing my husband’s dirty laundry, his sins, and the details of his addiction. I felt a very strong impression just to LET GO; to not share or vent about what he is or isn’t doing to recover. I learned through the guidance of the Spirit that the only way for me to find true healing is to DETACH and work the 12 STEPS (The Atonement) and Healing Through Christ workbook and bear testimony of it. By choosing to hold onto his addiction, dwell on non-recovery behavior, or even worry about the “what if’s,” I am not seeking real recovery. This was a break through for me! The more I held onto his addiction the more I would cycle through negative thoughts an emotions. Once I let go, I felt peace and my focus changed from him to Christ.

Your Healing Circle– (People you can trust and reach out to for help)

  • Meet with your Bishop or a clergy member. Speaking with a religious leader is not only helpful for maintaining your spirituality, but essential for your path of recovery. Finding healing through Christ is worth every step it takes to get there. I am on the road and will not leave it. I have seen the Savior’s hands working in my life, too many times to ever deny he is the Master Healer.
  • Find a qualified therapist. This has made a huge difference in my recovery. Therapy has provided a safe place for me to sort through my emotions. My therapist has provided me with the right tools I need in making important decisions for my recovery and relationship with my spouse. She is helping me work through my own addiction to co-dependency. Be prayerful in deciding which therapist to see. It took me two times to find the right one.
  • Join the Hope and Healing LDS Forum. This is a place for you to reach out and share your struggles with other women walking the path of recovery.
  • Find and attend a 12 Steps Support group , either the PASG for spouse and Family of addicts or a General ARP Support group.
  • At you support meeting look for a Sponsor or Support Person –someone who is far along enough in their recovery, who can support and help you stay on track with your own recovery. Typically you call your sponsor (support person) at a set time each day and discuss your recovery progress, get support, validation, or advice on setting healthy boundaries for personal protection.

Sponsor Rules–

  • Should not be a spouse, relative, or close friend. They need to provide an unbiased point of view.
  • Should be stable in their own recovery, both spiritually and emotionally and working the steps diligently.
  • Should make themselves available, accepting phone calls, and encourage you to call whenever you need support.It’s important to respect their time and be sensitive to their schedule and limitations.
  • Should most importantly be the same gender as you and be able to maintain anonymity and confidentiality. Be trustworthy!
  • Should hold you accountable to your commitments and be transparent.
  • Should care about your success in recovery and listen with compassion and love.

I haven’t found a sponsor yet, but I am praying about it and will use these rules to make sure I find a person that is right for me.

FYI: If you choose a loved one or religious leader to talk to make sure they will keep confidences, provide a safe place for sharing, will not judge you or your addicted spouse, and only offer support and guidance. The choice to share and to whom you share with should ALWAYS be made with SENSITIVITY and GOOD JUDGEMENT. For me I found that blogging my recovery anonymously was a good way to reach out and connect with other women on the path. I have met some amazing women recovery bloggers and found their stories to be uplifting and inspiring. Many of them I can relate to and even though I don’t know them personally, I believe they are my truest friends.

Begin Recovery Work–

Actually use the Action Steps Sections! The more you put into working the steps the more you will get out of it and find true healing.

Educate Yourself–

  • Learn everything you can about pornography/sexual addiction and how it impacts you.
  • Resources can be found here and throughout this post…

LDS Recovery and Healing Resources
Healing Through Christ Workbook
Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction
Rhyll Recovery
Rowboat and Marbles
Hope and Healing LDS
Combating Pornography LDS.ORG
S.A. Lifeline Foundation (see right side links for more support groups and resources)

Support Your Spouse’s Recovery–

  • You are NOT the cause of your spouses addiction.
  • Let your spouse know, YOU WILL NOT enable addictive behaviors, but YOU WILL support their genuine commitment to recovery.
  • If you have an overwhelming need to control your spouse’s behavior; learn about CO-DEPENDENCY.
  • Recovery is your spouse’s personal responsibility. He has to become willing to to find recovery for himself. You have to recognize YOU HAVE NO CONTROL over what he chooses.
  • YOU MUST work on your own recovery and find a balance between encouragement, patience, and acceptance. No micromanaging his recovery! Being a “policeman” or “computer monitor” is not helpful to him.
  • I emphasize again… SET BOUNDARIES and commit to stand by them. Your spouse can make his own choices, but cannot tell you how to make choices or avoid consequences of crossing your boundaries.
  • Look for ways in which your spouse is trying to reach out for support. PRAYERFULLY consider ways you can safely support him emotionally.

Healing is a Spiritual Process–

  • The first step in the healing process is to come to understand and accept that you are powerless over the addiction of your spouse and recognize that your life has become unmanageable. You can influence, but have no control over your spouse.
  • Exercise faith that a power far greater than you can and will restore you to serenity and wholeness and be willing to surrender your life over to that power.
  • Trust in the Lord, surrender your will to Him. I promise he will guide you along your path of healing.

Elder Richard G. Scott said it best,

“This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5–7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience.

“To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.

“As in all things, the Master is our perfect example. Who could have asked with more perfect faith, greater obedience, or more complete understanding than did He when He asked His Father in Gethsemane: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Later He pled twice again: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matt. 26:42; see also Matt. 26:44).” (Trust in the Lord, Ensign, Nov. 1995) 

I know the Lord loves you and is aware of your needs, the more you surrender your struggles and fears to him, the more he will bless you with guidance along your path of recovery. This is a difficult journey, but one that will change your life in ways you never thought was possible. Put your faith and trust in God. Hope in his power to heal your heart and soul. The power in the atonement is real and available to you, if you seek it. I love you and wish I could hug you right now. I hope you can feel of my love for you. You are my sister, my eternal friend, and I pray for you to stay strong in this battle.

Sources for this post:
http://salifeline.org/understand-pornography-and-sexual-addiction/  (Frequently Asked Questions and page 134-135)
http://salifeline.org/?s=boundaries
http://salifeline.org/?s=For+Those+Impacted+by+Another%E2%80%99s+Addiction
(Direct links to further resources are throughout this post)