Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dear "Addi" - How do addicts live a double life? Do they not have a conscience?


My husband was eagerly serving in the Bishopric, preaching from the pulpit, taking the sacrament, encouraging us to go to the temple to support other members, etc, etc. And yet, he was lying for over a decade, getting progressively worse and worse. I still can't wrap my mind around how he lived a double life. How could he not have a conscience about lying to God? I still don't feel like he has been completely honest about the past and yet, like always, he is adamant he has been forgiven and repented (and, like always, more of the truth is dragged out and he has been lying/hiding and it's worse than before). I just don't understand it.

"Addi's" Thoughts:

You have no idea how many times I have thought about this question. I have asked myself this question over and over again, and not just since being in recovery. For years prior to my sobriety, in my self loathing and shame, I would daily ask myself, "Why are you doing this? You know the gospel is true, you know repentance is needed so why then do you carry on in sin?" I began to hate myself for my weakness and inability to get control.

One of the many things I use to teach young people as a Bishop, especially when it came to matters of immorality was about the Savior's self control. I would say, "What one thing did the Savior have that we must also have in order to be disciples of Christ?" They would have many responses to the question such as , 'Faith', 'The Priesthood', 'Revelation', or 'Patience'. I would respond by saying "Those are great attributes to have but I believe what makes the Savior special in his obedience is that He was Master of himself and the situations around him".

Now to be honest, I don't know if that is one of the most defining attributes of a disciple of Christ, but In those moments, as I was teaching the youth or others about the principle of self mastery, what I was really doing was preaching to myself. I was constantly reminding myself that it is possible to overcome this. I was daily sharing with others the principles that I wished I could live.

In the past 25 years of my addiction to pornography I have served in, spoken at, or participated in hundreds of positions and callings and assignments...

Here are just a few...

Ward Young Men's President
Executive Secretary
2nd Counselor in the Bishopric
Stake Young Men's President
2nd Counselor in the Stake Presidency

I have Been asked to Speak or Participate in...

Multiple Stake Firesides
Regional Youth Conferences
Girls Camps
And So Much more...

I participated in...

Temple endowments
Youth Baptisms
Baptism of my children
Setting People Apart
Dedicating graves
Performing Marriages
And More...

Please don't misunderstand... I am not in anyway trying to offer a resume of my church service. Quite the contrary. What I am offering you is evidence that sin knows no bounds. In every one of those positions I instilled the virtues of the kingdom of God and cried repentance. I warned of pitfalls and I encouraged confession. I preached of living worthy of our temple covenants and exercising faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ. All the while, I was secretly, privately, living in darkness and sin. I wish I could describe the loneliness and self hate I felt through those years.

Mine was a very private addiction. The escalation was gradual and ongoing for many years. It seemed the deeper I fell into darkness, the greater amount of responsibility I would be given in church callings. What I have learned is that Satan does not play favorites. Prince or pauper, bond or free, big or small, happy or sad, the adversary is an equal opportunity tempter. He wants to destroy us all. He did not care that I was a Bishop. He came after me with the same force as any other of God's children.

The part of this that I have struggled with most is my inability to overcome the sin even in those times of serving in leadership. It was so debilitating that I couldn't seem to shake it. 

In my case, I had lived the last 17 years of our marriage without ever revealing to my wife that I had an addiction. My sweet wife had been deceived. She saw me as the priesthood holder, the leader, the father, the husband, the great neighbor, the missionary, and the friend to so many. She had no clue that I was secretly being pulled deeper and deeper into filthiness.

I had become so proficient at lying that almost everything I said was a cover up. I said and did anything to keep her from knowing the truth. I loved that she saw me as a good man.... even though I knew I was anything but. I would do anything to keep her from knowing that I was actually a horrible and messed up person who was drawn to viewing such depravity.

At one point I thought I was a psychopath. Only a psychopath could be so skilled at living this double life. I must be completely insane and diabolical to speak out of both sides of my mouth so easily. Over time I actually began to realize that I was obviously doing Satan's bidding. I knew that what I was involved with was pure evil. Therefore, since I no longer felt worthy to pray earnestly or seek the Lord's help, I felt that I must be a disciple of Satan.  Wasn't he the one who was helping me to lie so easily. He seemed to be helping me to cover my tracks. He must be supporting me in my habit. He obviously wants me to continue in it... so who else?

This is the twisted mind of an addict. I was so lost in the fog of sin that I was willing to accept assistance to cover up my my habit from any source at all.... even the very Devil himself. I was convinced that I had become 'Un-savable'. I was a lost soul. So... since I could not get control over my addiction, I would simply succumb to it. I would give in and secretly live a double life.

The double life was necessary for I had already decided I could never repent. I was too far gone. I had tried hundreds of times to break free and was unable to conquer it. Part of the problem was that I was 'Bishop Arnold'. I was 'President Arnold'. I was 'Hometeacher Arnold' and 'Temple going, father of five, Brother Arnold.' How could I of all people have such a disgusting and debasing habit? No, I would never confess. It would be too humiliating to ever confess...and could you imagine the scandal within our Stake?  Oh, and I would certainly lose my wife and my kids. They would never be willing to forgive such a horrific thing. So, no confession... Not ever! It would be better that I take this to my grave. There is no redemption for me.

And so goes the twisted, backward logic of an addict. Keep in mind that this logic is not our own. These are the chaotic thoughts instilled into our minds by Satan himself. We so quickly latch on to his lies.

To cover up my habits, I became what I thought was a 'Master Thespian.' I could preform exactly as expected. At Church I was the good leader. At home I was the perfect husband and father. And in my solitude, I was the perfect sinner.

I often convinced myself that perhaps if I served diligently and went out of my way to teach, testify and try to save others, that perhaps I could offset the darkness that I participated in daily, with a bit of light.

My brain is a view master....

In one of the Recovery books I have been reading, it talks about a technique called blocking. They explain that “blocking” can be used to help keep errant thoughts at bay and to control temptations by putting them in a mental box and pushing them out of your mind.  It is my understanding that men do this naturally. We often refer to it as compartmentalizing. We have a singular focus and “Zone out” to everything else. 

Women on the other hand are much better at seeing  the whole picture all at once. As I read about this technique of blocking, something clicked in my mind. I recognized that process instantly because I had been using it my whole life. Not for pushing the evil thoughts away but for putting each area of my life in its own little box. When viewing each compartment by itself, it became my full focus… it became the only thing that mattered at that moment. I could give it my complete selfish attention and not even consider the ramifications that the decisions made in this box will have on the rest of the boxes.

Let me explain it a different way.

Do you remember the old view master toys from the 80’s? (sorry I am a child of the 80’s, did they come out before then?) Imagine you are looking through a view master as the cartridge spins to a slide. Lets call this slide… ‘Home and church Life’. While looking at ‘Home and Church life’ I am able to give it my dedicated focus. I would feel complete and whole there. It was all I could see in the view field and so it was where my full attention went. In my view of home and family, I was honest and worthy and able to do all that was required of me as husband, father, and Priesthood holder. I could, because I did not have my life of porn in view. I knew it was around the corner on another slide in the viewfinder. I knew it existed, but as long as I couldn't see it in this moment, I was able to ignore it and feel clean.

Sadly, when the urges would come and the temptations presented themselves, all it took was a quick pull of the lever.  Now, with only the pornography slide in view, I can look and indulge and even say and do things that I know would be hurtful and harmful to both my wife and my worthiness but since they are not in my view right now, I am blinded to them and the pain I am causing them. They are out of sight and out of mind, thus postponing the guilt until after the feast.  Flip the lever again and now I am staring at work and able to focus and concentrate and be the manager and boss that I am expected to be.

I know it sounds crazy, but this is the best way I can think to explain the way my mind worked. I could feel worthy at times, even when I knew I wasn't. It actually sounds kind of like a sociopath… but it's not.  It is the maddening mind of an addicted person. There is no question I was lying to myself in order to cope.

I don't think I am unique in this device. In fact I think many addicted men and women use this as a way to allow themselves to continue in addiction with less guilt. And here is the most amazing part; with the slide flipped to "Priesthood leader," I somehow felt worthy. I preached and testified of truth and repentance and I meant every word of what I said and even thought I felt the spirit on many occasions as I served.

My Advice:

For me, complete honesty offered me freedom from the adversary. I have this theory that our secrets are Satan's playground. When we keep secrets, they allow him a place to take hold of. Secrets are like Satan's handle bars on the bicycle of life. As long as we have them, he can turn us in what ever direction he wants. When we shed them from our life, we take control of the steering and decide for ourselves which direction to go.

Instead of advice, let me share some of the things my wife has done to help me be open and freely share.

My biggest fear was that as I divulged all of the details of my life of sin, my wife would simply say to me, "Its too much, I can't do this any more." I feared losing her.... more than I feared losing my soul. So I held back on confessing many of my sins. At first I shared the BIG sin and hoped that it was enough. But I knew it wasn't. I knew that If I wanted the Lord's forgiveness and the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, eventually it would all have to come out.

My wonderful wife made honesty easy for me by telling me up front that there is nothing I could tell her that would run her off. She said she would stand by me no matter what I shared. And so slowly, over the course of several months, we peeled back the many layers of the onion together. I have asked my wife if she would have preferred that I simply dump it all on her at the start of the process. She said," At the beginning, I really wanted that. I wanted every detail right then and there. But now, I am so grateful  that you didn't simply drop it all on me. Small confessions along the way were far better than getting it all at once. I'm not sure I could have handled it in a lump. Little by little has helped me to process, consider, and put each revelation away."

One other thing that she did for me that allowed me to be open is that she saw this addiction for what it is..... a disease. She didn't look at me and say... "How could you be so disgusting and deplorable?" Instead, she dove into books, blogs and prayer to understand the disease. This ability to see past the sin and see me as a person recovering from sin has been huge for my recovery.

And lastly, and most importantly, she forgave me. It seems so simple to say but we are all aware how difficult this is to do, especially when your eternal companion has been lying to you for most of your married life. She admits often that she is still deeply hurt by the betrayal and deceit. But her forgiveness did come. Forgiveness does not dissolve the pain. She hurts daily and I hurt watching her hurt. But through her forgiveness, I found Hope for our future. I found strength to confess to my priesthood leaders. Her forgiveness made it possible for me to accept the outcome of my disciplinary council and move forward with hope.

I hope you will share my blog with your husband. Perhaps he will Identify with some of what I have said. If nothing else I hope this gives you a small glimpse into the mind of a sex addict and how a man can live this kind of double life. 

I pray the Lord will bless you and your husband as you work through this trial. May you both find healing in and through his infinite atonement.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear "Addi" - I'm thinking of Leaving My Wife


Hi Addi, this is not a question but more of seeing myself in your story. The sad part now is I have entertained another relationship outside my marriage. And I gave all my thoughts and energy to it to the extent that I'm playing with the thought of talking with my wife and letting her know of my affair so I can be let go and be with this girl. It's a difficult situation just thinking of it and much more difficult being in it.


Addi's Thoughts:

My friend, I have been where you are. I have felt those urges. It's the urge to continue enjoying what I have on the side for it gives me what I want and need without judgment.

Somewhere in the middle of my relationship with Alice (the other woman), I began to believe that maybe I actually had feelings for her. After all, she had professed to love me hadn't she? She had talked about her dreams of a future together. I was always anxious to see her, and It seemed I was spending more and more time with her.She built me up and told me how wonderful I was.  She talked of how she had never met someone like me before. All of that had to add up to something more than just my pornography addiction spilling over into real life.... Right?


At the beginning of this post I said "I felt those urges."  I intentionally used the word 'urges' instead of the word 'feelings'. Let me just say that perspective is everything and let me explain what I meant by that with an experience.

I attend a gym that has both a sauna and a steam room. I never quite understood the purpose of a steam room. But being that I had never been in one before I decided.. hey.. what the heck. I donned my swim trunks, opened the steam room door, and perched myself on the tile bench.

When I entered the room it was actually kind of clear. No steam at all. This was nothing like I had imagined it to be. I could clearly see the opposite wall and it was obvious that I was completely alone. I sat there waiting for a few moments when suddenly a rumbling sound came from under the bench and a giant gush of steam forced its way into the room. Within less than a minute the room was completely filled with steam. 

My initial reaction was..... wow... this feels great!!  The hot steam felt wonderful as it tingled against my skin. The heat filled my lungs as I breathed it in. It was hot at first but I soon began to enjoy the way it relaxed me and made me feel comfortable.

I opened my eyes to survey the room and to my surprise,  there was nothing to survey. The room was so completely full of steam that I could not see 2 inches in front of my nose let alone across to the opposite wall. 

I was uncomfortable with the lack of visibility... but the heat in the room and the pleasure I was enjoying from the steam put me at ease and I let my self soak in the experience without concern or worry. 

After a few minutes I heard the door open. A small amount of steam escaped, but not enough to see who had entered.  Whoever it was simply took a seat on the bench opposite from me. I could see nothing. I could hear them. I knew they were there but, so thick was the fog that my vision was completely blurred.  Whoever they were did not matter.... they were not interfering with my experience. I just continued to enjoy my steam bath unconcerned with anything else around me.

I let the minutes pass and as time went by,  I started to get a little bit uncomfortable.  The steam would refresh about every 5 minutes keeping the room full and warm. The heat which at first was something I loved and wanted suddenly felt too hot.   The hot steam which was refreshing as it filled my lungs, began to feel wet and suffocating. The claustrophobia had almost completely set in and all I wanted was to get out,  to see clearly and to breath again. 

Somewhere in my head I started to challenge myself.  " Don't be such a wimp... you can sit here a little longer, " I told myself.   "5 more minutes... you can stay 5 more minutes!"   I would accept these little challenges and push myself to stay longer and longer.  Each moment I sat there though, I became weaker and weaker, zapped of my strength and unable to move. Eventually I gave up on the challenge and raced for the exit filling my lungs with clean fresh air, escaping the heat, and watching my vision clear as I emerged from the fog of steam.

Now,  I don't know much about your situation  but I am assuming that you also have a pornography addiction.  In my case,  pornography escalated off of the screen in various ways until I eventually found myself in an affair.  I did not start the affair because I was in love with the woman. I started it because I thought it would finally satisfy my cravings. I was seeking to feed my lust.

I began to feel comfortable.  I began to enjoy what I was receiving.  I even went so far as to start buying her presents and to let it feel like I was dating again.   In the moment, it felt good.  It felt like I wanted it to continue and never give it up. I breathed it in and it felt cleansing.   I even felt that I could finally be myself with someone that didn't judge me, who laughed at my jokes and who began to rely on me. 

Through the course of the relationship,  I said things that I thought she wanted to hear.  She said things in return. And even though I knew in my heart this was all a product of my lust, I began to feel what I thought was affection and that I might even have feelings for her.

But again, in my case I was wrong.  It was the warmth and comfort of the steam that lulled me into the deceit. Lust and Love have a way of looking and feeling the same to an addict. We can feel lust and mistake it for Love so easily..... especially in the fog of addiction.

Through the fog, I had a hard time seeing my wife and my children clearly. They were always in front of me... just on the other side of the room.... but the fog was so thick and the room was so comfortable that I began not to care about the repercussions of my choices and to ignore the guilt and shame.  I instead put all my attention into this new and wonderful feeling that was present and warm and relaxing and comforting. 

"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security....and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell." (2 Nephi 28:21)

I had become comfortable and had allowed myself to become blinded by the fog so as to ignore that which was right in front of me.... my eternal family.  There were moments where the fog cleared enough for me to see what I was doing and who I would be hurting and I would think to myself,  "what are you doing? You need to stop this!"  But then a little voice in my head would say, "no,  its not time to let this go yet.  Stay a little longer."

  Satan is very persuasive.  He suggests little things that seem to make sense while we are in the midst of the fog.  Things like, "You used to love your wife but so much has changed since then, maybe you have just grown apart...?"  Such lies are easily swallowed when we are in the cloud. 

My friend, I believe that you are right in the middle of that steam bath. You are feeling the warmth and the comfort and perceived joy that comes with the excitement of the new thing. But your vision is clouded right now by the fog of lust. Before you make a decision that will alter your lives forever, I would suggest you change your perspective.

Escaping the fog of that steam room was the greatest blessing of my life. I needed perspective. I needed to be able to see clearly before I made a decision that would alter my life and perhaps my eternity.

What started out as enjoyment and pleasure quickly turned into something that was anything but. A relationship built on lust is flawed from the start. In my experience,  Lust will never become love.  Satan wants us to think otherwise.  But love takes work and time and effort while lust comes easy and offers nothing but instant rewards that fade into guilt. Love strengthens over time because we choose to go through the trials that strengthen it. Walking away from those trials doesn't make them go away. What is perceived as a better, easier, more kind and loving direction... is almost always Satan's slight of hand. 

As I put distance between myself and my affair,  it became more and more obvious that I was deeply, deeply in lust. Even now, after 6 months,  I can see more clearly than ever before that I was clearly intoxicated by the drug and cared little about the ramifications. Oh how I wish i had considered the ramifications.

Now though.  free from the cloud.... out of the fog.... I can honestly and truthfully say I love the fresh air that I find myself breathing.  Again,  perspective is everything.  It is often difficult to see things clearly when you are so close to it.

I think it is interesting that in Lehi's dream he talks about the mists of Darkness that covered the people that had fallen in sin. They thought they were on the path to the tree but became blinded by the fog and were lost in the mist.

After 25 Years of addiction and having been hit with every kind of temptation that Satan could throw at me, I am grateful now that my vision has cleared and the fog has lifted. With the lifting of the fog comes clarity.

My Advice: 

Don't make decisions in the fog. 

And if you think you're not in the fog,  oh my friend,  yes you are. Just like me, you are living a secret life. Just like me, you have been lying and deceiving your wife for weeks, months or years. You have convinced yourself that getting her to let you out of the marriage is a solution.  All of these things are evidences that there is nothing but fog in your view. 

It also means that you have slowly cut yourself off from the influence of the spirit. It wasn't until my secret life was exposed that the fog began to lift and the spirit found its way back into my life.

Get some distance from the fog.  Confess to your wife and Bishop. Do it with the intent of trying to make things work. Give it a few months of sincere effort and fill your life with light and get out of the darkness for a while. 

Finally, don't be persuaded by the adversary's biggest lie of all: "You are worthless and un-savable, so what does it matter now?"  He will beat you down with lies of despair but they are lies.  Get past them and know that the Atonement still holds the key to rescue.

Good Luck My brother.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dear "Addi" - Did I do or not do something to make him want to look at pornography or outside of our marriage for sex?

Several weeks ago, my wife presented me with a document containing 35 questions. She simply said, " I was wondering if you could help me with these questions that I have?"  Since then, we have worked through many of those questions together.   As we talked, I began to realize that our marriage is very unique (post confession) in the way we freely discuss everything.  Maybe that is just the way we have chosen to deal with things or maybe all husbands and wives talk about everything all the time.  As I have talked with other addicts though, I have come to suspect that we are kind of the exception, rather than the rule.

My wife has told me that our free flow of communication and honesty is a key step in helping her heal. She has admitted that most women need answers. Women have a difficult time just saying, "Okay, you were bad… never do it again," and then simply moving on. On the contrary. Most women want to ask more and more and more questions as they try to understand the disease, to confirm that it is in fact a disease and not just his philandering personality, or to seek some sort of comfort through understanding the mind of an addict.   Wives need to know why he would make certain choices, why he didn't stop, why he let it escalate, or where she fit into his mind when he was doing these things.

I have a hunch that some marriages (post confession) are not as open as ours.  We are certainly not a perfect example of a whole and healed marriage by any means.  We have a long way to go to be fully whole.  Furthermore, we are not special because of our communication process.  But for me…. I finally realized that I could open up and share everything, answer every question, offer every insight, or… I could lose my wife, my family and everything else that was important to me.   And so, with nothing left, I have chosen to bear my entire soul and with that comes a free flow of questions and answers. 

In most cases, the aftermath  of an affair, or the discovery of a pornography addiction is so devastating that it is difficult to speak to each other at all, let alone seek answers.The fear of the sinner to be reminded of his actions through a spouse's questions is very real and often so close to the surface that its hard to approach. 

My wife and I would like to see if we can use our openness to your benefit. So, I am going to attempt to publicly answer many of her questions from the point of view of an addict. I will share where my mind went, what my triggers were, how I felt as things escalated, where she fit into my life during those years, what has worked to break the pattern, and more. I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to answer any questions you would like to ask of your spouse if you could. Perhaps my experience will give you wives insight into what your spouse was thinking, feeling or doing. 

When I first decided to start answering these questions publicly, I knew I needed to come up with a unique name for my blog.  I thought of many names that seemed dry and drab and that really didn't fit my personality.  So, after several minutes of contemplation (at least 2), I have come up with this….

"Dear Addi"
-Honest answers from a recovering addict of pornography and sex

Feel free to submit your questions.

I am going to start off with what I consider to be a tough one. This is just my take on these questions. If you have a different insight or perspective from your experience, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.

QUESTION:  Why wasn't I enough for you?  Did I do or not do something to make you want to look at pornography or outside of our marriage for sex? 

To answer this, I have to remind you of what a sexual addiction does to the brain. It warps ones desires and feelings of love, the divine attribute that is pure and genuine,  to feelings of lust, Satan's counterfeit that promises fulfillment in a bottomless never ending journey to bondage.  The knowledge that I have a beautiful sexy and wonderful wife with which I get be intimate with is wonderful when I feel clean, pure, and worthy.   But the idea of coming home to that same perfect, sexy, and wonderful wife when I have spent my day in filth and feel guilt ridden and overcome with shame…. well that is far more difficult.

I love my wife. I want to explore my intimate moments with her in a loving way. I do not Lust after my wife. I do not now or ever want to look at my wife through lust filled eyes.  So, avoidance becomes a tactic.  Instead of eagerly engaging intimately, I would avoid, dodge and evade the idea of intimacy.

Evading offered me protection in 2 ways…

1. I would not have to be filled with a dirty or  guilty feeling when being with her and…

2. I would avoid the flashes of images or videos I had recently watched. The last place I want to see them is when I am with my wife intimately.

The problem with number 2 is that as long as you are continually feeding those thoughts, you can never escape them...especially in intimacy. They are present and ready to flash across your mind without warning or invitation.

She has recently told that she had no idea that we had another woman in our bed with us for all these years. That woman's name is Lust and she is a selfish partner. She wants only what she wants and she distorts a true and loving relationship and twists it into something that resembles the fantasies of our habits.

My addiction to pornography started before I met my wife. I had tried to squash it over and over without success. believing that once I was married, It would no longer be an issue.  Lust does not care that you're married though. My beautiful wife did not have flaws in any way. The flaws were in my head. Pornography had trained me to expect something unholy in intimacy. The intimacy I had imagined was accompanied by guilt and shame. It was not a place of love or a chamber of sanctity in which we could strengthen a celestial relationship. 

Porn offered me the ability to feed an unholy hunger.  It was a hunger that I dared not expose my wife to, or soil our intimacy with. It was my private, sinful obsession and I could not defile her with my broken thoughts. So I instead feasted on those thoughts in privacy. 

I won't lie… our sex life changed quite a bit over the past several years of marriage. We were your typical newly married couple; eager and anxious to be intimate.  But as time went by,  my filthiness and my guilt, and the fear of seeing porn in my head or wanting to act out those pornographic scenarios in our bed… well… it caused me to avoid intimacy all together. Before long,  we were only intimate when she would initiate it.  Sadly,  I had begun to practice avoidance… and my avoidance led me back to porn.

She did not drive me to porn in any way.  On the contrary.  I ran to it as an escape from the guilt I already harbored.  That guilt led to more triggers which led to more acting out.. and so the cycle continued.

As I have gone through recovery, we decided to try an experiment.   We called it our Sex Fast. We decided to take a 6 week break from sex in all of its forms.

I'm not gonna lie.. it was tough.  We both had weak moments but the overall effect for me was an opportunity to cleanse my mind of all the incoming imagery, thoughts, and memories that distracted me from the purity of the act of intimacy.

I wanted to be able to come into our marriage chamber without all of the dirt following me and keep the sanctity of the place pure and clean as the Lord intended.  It really helped me to change the way I look at sex. To reset, if you will, my focus from one of simply pleasure and lust, and instead begin to enjoy it as a way to draw closer to my wife through an act that only we share together.

And so now,  when my wife mentions a third individual in our intimate moments, I can be confident that it is no longer lust, but instead, the Lord's hand, blessing a sacred act of intimacy that is condoned by the presence of His spirit.