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.


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