A Beautiful New Language and the Country Called ‘Recovery’

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I’ve had a “thing” for the French language ever since I saw the movie “Ponette” at International Cinema, played on the SWKT movie theater when I was BYU student. The film is in French with subtitles, so throughout the whole movie I got to hear a cute little 4 year old girl speak the beautiful French language. (As an aside, Victoire Thivisol, who plays the little girl in the film, was the youngest actress —4 years old— to win the Volpi Cup for Best Actress award. She was darn good.)

Almost 6 months ago now, when I found out about my husband’s decades-long lust/pornography/masturbation addiction, I started learning a new language. And to me, it’s even more lovely than French. My ears prick up whenever I hear someone speak the new words I’ve learned…”surrender,” “boundaries,” “powerlessness.” It’s like a secret code, and sometimes I can pick out the people who must be familiar with addiction recovery, because of how they speak.

My husband, in recovery, is learning this new language too. Just today he wrote an email and these were the words
he said: “I don’t want to [do a certain thing] because then I’m tempted to resent people I love very much. So, I will choose not to put myself into a position of temptation.” Whoa. Who is this guy? He’s speaking a whole new tongue, and it’s music to my ears.

Along with the new language, I feel like I’ve been flown to a new country and have started a new life. Oh sure, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the plane, and the new country has some really ugly spots, but it also has more stunning beauty than the old place where I used to live. Now? I really like it here.

What am I doing in this new country? I’m doing things differently than I ever have before. In this country, we live according to the Ultimate Truth: that of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and His mission. In this country, we learn how to actually USE the Atonement. We learn how to heal from our betrayal trauma, but not only that…we learn how to heal from every other bad thing in our lives. Sin is only the start. Every hurt, every pain, every weak thing, every character defect– we are learning to let Him take it away. For me, this includes resentment, anger, my unyielding need for fairness, and my tendency to base my worth on other’s validation (a problem I’ve had since I was a young child). The list goes on. This new country is Recovery.

I appreciated Elder Oaks’ talk in General Conference this last week. He was talking about Recovery, even though he didn’t use that name.
Sometimes, when we talk about the Atonement, we say that Christ can give us strength to overcome all bad things. I learned something from a person who’s lived here in Recovery for awhile though — instead of strength, we can pray for humility. Really, we of ourselves don’t have strength to do anything. The strength is really coming from Christ. He is filling us up with his power to overcome. I like to think of myself as a lightning rod. I’m merely a conductor of the immense power that is the Atonement.

For me, now, whenever I am confronted with pain, pride, fear, an angry heart, or any other negative emotion, I try to mentally take a time out. I picture myself giving that thing away to Christ, or I picture myself allowing Christ to wrestle with it. I tell myself it is not
mine to hold on to. I remind myself that I do not have the power to fix or ameliorate that feeling, but Christ does. I think of all the times that I have tried to “fix” it on my own, when I have tried to “power through” and squash whatever bad thing it is, only to have
it rear its ugly head again later on. Most of the time, I feel what I am trying to give away leave me. It leaves my mind, my emotions, and sometimes it feels like it’s actually leaving my body.

Does all this sound a bit magical to you? It does to me. And you know what, when it happens, it feels magical to me too. How do negative emotions simply evaporate? How does exquisite pain just melt away? Honestly I don’t know. But I don’t have to know the ins and outs to know that it works.C.S. Lewis described this well when he said, speaking of the Atonement, “You may ask what good will it be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works; indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.”

Want to know a great thing about my new home? You can come here alone if you need to. Although it’s nicer if you have a travel partner, it’s still worth it to come by yourself unaccompanied. I promise you–it’s better than where you are living now.

–W.W.P.
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