Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dear Addi: "How do I tell my family about my addiction?"

Okay, so this is a question I have asked myself for the last 13 months. I wanted to tell them but I was afraid of how to go about it. I finally summoned the courage to send each of my siblings a letter that laid it all out. I hoped that they would be understanding and compassionate...not judgemental. Please know that I understand that it is not always wise to tell your story to your extended family. Some of them may not be in a place that they can receive it without damage to themselves or to your relationship with them. It took me 13 months to feel ready. For some of you, it may be years...and that's okay.

So, to answer my own question of "How do I tell my family about my addiction?" is the letter I wrote to my family.

Dear Family,

I've been contemplating writing this letter for more than a year now. I probably should be calling each of you and explaining all of this in person but I feel much better equipped to do this in writing. This started out as a letter, but somehow morphed into a sort of essay along the way. I liked the way it felt to write it like this, so I just went with it. This is a very direct look at the last several years of my life. It is a part of me I have hidden from everyone, even my wife. I know I am prone to joking, but I want you to know that every part of what I am about to share with you is true. Here goes…

Two weeks ago yesterday was my Baptism. 2 weeks ago Saturday at 2:30, I and a very small group of people met at the stake center so that I could receive this ordinance for the second time in my life. I recognize that this is an unexpected statement to hear without context. So please bear with me as I explain how I found myself in need of this ordinance again.

The short answer is this: I made a series of bad choices that eventually led me to being unfaithful to my wife. (That last sentence may be the hardest sentence in this whole letter for me to write). How in the world could I have ever let that happen? How could I have let my guard down so completely to the point that I found myself doing the one thing… the only thing… I swore I would never ever do to her? Unfortunately the answer is long… and I don't intend to go into all the details but a few things need to be known.

Victoria and I have had a perfect and wonderful marriage. There has never been a fight or argument that did not get resolved within minutes. We compliment and balance each other. We counsel together on financial and family concerns and have a fun and happy life together. So please know that my mistaken choices had nothing at all to do with home life, love life or lack thereof. Life together with Victoria has been blissful.
Victoria Is my hero. She is my rescuer. She has created a place in her heart to find and fight for forgiveness and in doing so, has made it possible for me to access the Atonement for myself. She is the reason we are working through this most difficult year in the way we are. And it has been a difficult year. We have been under an almost constant attack by the adversary as we have fought to put the pieces of our life back together. There are not enough words to pay tribute to her courage and willingness to fight not only for our family, but for my very soul. Please forgive me if this sounds like one of ‘Jason’s over dramatic exaggerations’… it may sound that way.. but it was a very real battle and my soul was truly in the balance.

I have always had and continue to have a testimony of the Savior, His Atonement, and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, at some point, the rod of iron slipped from between my fingers and I found myself lulled into the mists of darkness.

You may be asking yourself, “If his marriage was in good order and his testimony was intact, how did he find himself willing to make choices that would both break his covenants and possibly destroy his family?” You wouldn't be alone in that question. I must have asked myself that question a million times only not about myself but about Dad.

I, like you, have considered over the years how different things might have been had it not been for some of the choices Dad made. I spoke to dad about this recently. I confessed to him that for most of my life I had been angry at him and had judged him harshly for being too weak in the face of temptation. He knows a bit about my situation and now I know a lot more about his. I realized that I needed to apologize to him for the feelings I had been carrying for years and years .And even though neither he nor I have a full picture of the path each other has traveled to get to where we are now (or to where he was), I am finally able to understand a bit of what he was struggling with when he made those choices. But the truth is, because of his example, I decided that no matter what, I was never going to betray my wife. I was never going to hurt her that way...I was never going to be unfaithful. And then… I was.

My purpose for writing this letter is two- fold. First, to let you know of the battle we have been fighting this year to regain our family. And second, to warn you, and if you see fit, your children, of the dangers of playing with fire… even a little bit.

And now for the long explanation….My downfall, quite simply put, was pornograghy. At some point, in the past several years, I found myself online where I didn't belong. Whether it was by mistake, or by following a link that I should have ignored…. I got there. For one moment I let my guard down. For one moment I decided that it would not be so bad to look ‘just this one time’. I thought to myself that, ‘Its not like one short look is going to plunge me deep into a life of sin.’ So one time, for one moment, I let my guard down, and I looked and only for a few minutes. But during those few minutes a chemical reaction took place in my brain. With it, my brain recorded both the images and the feelings that viewing this site made me feel. After several minutes I began to also feel guilty and ashamed. So I turned it off, vowing to never give in again.

Not too many days had passed, when again I found myself at that crossroad. This time however, a battled ensued. I recalled how guilty I felt after my last encounter and at the same time, I was able to retrieve the recording and with it the feeling of excitement and a craving to look again. This time I found myself rationalizing that ‘Last time I only looked for a few minutes and I was easily able to shut it off. Certainly I would have that same strength again this time.’ And so I again gave in.

From that time on. I found myself struggling weekly as to whether or not I should engage in my new habit. It was a hard time for me because at the same time I was struggling with this vice, I was also living a lie in front of my family and friends. I wanted so badly to be the good husband, father, priesthood holder and leader that they saw me as. I knew that I needed to rid myself of this perversion and confess my sins but I feared the outcome of such a confession. My rationalization went something like this, “if you confess to the Bishop then you will be put on discipline and everyone will know. You will get released and everyone will ask why. Your wife will be so disgusted with your filthy habit that she will leave you. She will think she did something wrong.” So, I said and did nothing and vowed to fight this alone and never tell anyone. Not until I had it under control. Then I would repent later, once I have mastered it.”

It's interesting the way Satan fools us into thinking his thoughts are ours. I have learned that Satan does not put impressions into our minds using a deep bassy Satanic voice. On the contrary… when Satan places impressions in our heads, they sound an awful like us. They even feel like our own thoughts. In using this technique, he is able to trick us into believing his words as if they are our own. And I bought them completely. You may say…. ‘but those are such simple arguments.. and so flimsy… why couldn't you see through them?’ The answer is because I was already deep into the fog of addiction by this time and when you are in the fog, it’s just so hard to really see clearly. Our decisions and actions seem rational and understandable when in reality, they are anything but.

With a determination not to tell and a desire to stop my habit, I went to war on my own. Over the next few months I would win for a few weeks and then lose and then win and then lose...over and over again. One of the adversary’s greatest and most convincing lies is this: “You are strong enough to do this alone. No one need ever know that you have this weakness. You can conquer this by yourself.” And since this habit is so embarrassing, I wanted to believe those thoughts. It’s a deception though, because despite what the world wants us to believe about self empowerment and personal strength to overcome anything on our own, God’s plan was never designed to be a journey of solitude and self perfection. In fact, one evidence of this is presented in the Garden as the Savior knelt to pray. Knowing that He had the weight of the world on his shoulders and seeing that He alone had to pay the price for all of our sins, He still looked to his Father and asked for help. He called upon God 3 times and asked him to “Take this cup from Him” if it be His will. And then, in the midst of His agony and under the weight of the task, He was visited and strengthened by an Angel so that He could endure and complete the Atonement for all. Even the most perfect man who ever lived, sought help to overcome.

Unfortunately pride, fear, and self deception, kept me from seeking the same. My inability to overcome sent me spiraling over and over again to my addiction. Eventually after so many failed attempts, I gave up trying and decided it had beat me. I allowed myself to succumb to the hunger and fell deeper and farther into a horrible place filled with filth. I continued to live a double life, playing the part of the righteous man on the one hand, and living in my secret cesspool on the other.

It is hard to explain what living in this kind of a state does to you. First and foremost your entire life has become a lie. You must lie daily to cover up your actions, thoughts, and desires. Every move becomes calculated. The second thing that I became aware of, is that I didn't like myself. Not at all. Over time I would come to hate everything about myself. I hated not only my sinful acts of searching and indulging in a world of pornography, but also the liar that I was. I could see how my wife looked at me. I knew what she thought I was. I knew what my stake president and bishop thought I was. I did not live up to their expectations. I was a fraud. I hated myself. In my own eyes, I was an awful and horrible person. And so again.. I vowed I could never let them know. No one could know.

The problem with a vice like pornography is that it is rooted in Lust. And one thing that I have learned about lust is that it can never be satisfied. Over several years of secret addiction, I discovered that my lustful appetite was always hungry. It seemed that no matter what filth I fed it, it was never full.

I was thinking about this the other day and came up with the following analogy. Suppose you are hungry and decide to grab some lunch. You can choose between a lot of places to go and some places you choose will have more healthy options than others. So choosing where you want to go is critical. Lets say I choose to go to Mcdonalds. With a choice like Mcdonalds, I know my healthy choices are limited. I probably should have chosen someplace with better options but, here I am. Now, I do have a few healthy choices on the menu. I could choose a salad, or I could choose a Wrap… or I could choose a Big Mac. If I choose the Big Mac, I have made an unhealthy choice… but its only one Big Mac. Tomorrow I'll get the salad. But tomorrow when I come back, I look at the menu and think.. hmm.. that big mac was sure good yesterday… I think I'll have another one! I can have a salad tomorrow. Day after day, when faced with limited options, I return to the one I crave most even though I know deep inside that it is an awful choice. Eventually though, I realize that one Big Mac is not enough and soon I am ordering two because one just doesn't satisfy my hunger any more. Before I know it, I am standing in front of a buffet of horrible food, feasting and feasting and for some reason I am never getting full.

Lust can never be satisfied. A tiny bite of lust will leave you wanting more. Eventually it will push you to wanting things that aren't on the menu at all and before you know it, you are asking yourself, “how did I get here?” Keep in mind, it doesn't happen overnight. No one ever woke up one morning and said to themselves, “Today I am going to get hooked on pornography and later today I’ll break all of my covenants.”

Eventually that is where I found myself… trying harder and harder to feed a filthy hunger. I was trapped in a cycle that had no exit and I desperately wanted to escape. I wanted to escape from my lies, escape from my sins and escape from the inability to make better choices. At some point during the addiction process, that ability is surrendered to the adversary. The process of being ensnared in bondage is slow. Satan is patient. It was years of my life. It was too many years of day by day, chipping away at my resolve. Each new choice I made was only a centimeter farther than the one I made the day before. But centimeters add up. Those centimeter became inches and feet and yards and miles and with each tiny movement, I found myself closer and closer to hell.

My “ how did I get here” moment came too late for me. It wasn't until I had spent too many hours conjuring up too many excuses and convincing myself with even more lies that I finally found myself having ultimately broken my covenants. I had done the one thing I vowed I would never do. My self loathing,and self pity began to turn towards self destruction.

It was at this point that I began to believe that the Atonement was no longer an option for me. There would be no rescue for me. The lies of Satan now sounded like doctrine. I believed that I was a lost soul. I was so fully engulfed in my own pride and fear that I could never confess. But I knew without confession and repentance I would be cast off. So what did that leave for me?... nothing. I wanted to disappear from off the earth.

And then the miracles began. Over the course of 2 days we had several things happen that forced all of my lies and deceit to the surface. A close friend lost a child and we found ourselves discussing the eternities. During that conversation, Victoria, who was already struggling with suspicion, asked me for a blessing. I said NO. I had never denied her a blessing before. I knew, of course, that I was anything but worthy. She became concerned with no further explanation. This increased her worry.

Another friend left me a cryptic phone message sending my paranoid mind into a frenzy of conspiracy and concern. He wanted to meet with me. Every other time he had called, he and I had simply talked on the phone. I called him back and asked if we could discuss whatever it was. He insisted that we meet AND wanted to know if he could he come over today. Did he know? Have I been caught? Can I lie my way out of this? I made an excuse and put it off for a couple of days, but the freaking out had begun inside my head, and my panic grew.

And then, Victoria asked if we could go on an early morning bike ride. It was out of place and unexpected. I was supposed to go into work that day but I could see the concern and stress on her face and decided that perhaps a bike ride would be good for us so, I obliged. As we rode our bikes, I had the sense that today would be the day that it would all come out.

I look back on each of those moments as miracles. In hindsight, they were far more than coincidences. They were truly tender mercies. Those simple moments sent each of us into a place of concern. I feel like the Lord took advantage of those moments to bring everything to a head. It became the perfect environment of tension, stress and concern created to force everything to the surface.

As we rode, I tried to summon the courage to speak but old fears that had long plagued me came to mind. I believed that if I spoke the truth I would lose everything of most importance to me on that very day. So, despite the very clear impression to finally expose it all, I held my tongue and continued in my silence. I rode quietly down the path with a heavy, dark shadow hanging over me.

And so the Lord, seeing my unwillingness to talk, shifted gears and went to work on Victoria. Her ride was different than mine. She began to consider all of the things that didn't add up, all of the little details that seemed unanswered. And so, filled with courage supplied by the Lord (and a prompting that this was going to be a very hard day for her), she began asking me questions. They were questions that I no longer had the will to lie about. They were questions I so desperately wanted to answer. With each questions my resolve broke a little bit more.

On that very painful morning in January of 2014, I relented and Victoria’s life began to crumble before her as I divulged everything to her tender ears. She would tell you it was the worst day of her entire life. It was for both of us. Imagine the pain of that revelation! I know my sisters can imagine it. You can because even though your marriages are intact, you have seen so many others go through hard things like this, and it’s impossible not to imagine yourself going through it. You might imagine how much it would hurt or how painful and real it would feel. All of those crushing feelings of hurt and deceit that you can imagine, it is that X10.

All of a sudden the repercussions of my actions came flooding in. Suddenly on her face I could see the damage I had caused and the hurt I had inflicted. I had been living in a war zone but I had been selfishly fighting my battle alone. The problem is, I was losing every fight. When finally I felt beat and ready to surrender, that’s when the landmine I had been standing on exploded. Up to that point, I had convinced myself that I would be the only one damaged by this. Somehow that made so much sense in my fog filled head. My sins were mine. I had to personally pay the price for them. I had heard that anthem sung so many times over the years in my head, I had little reason to doubt it. Of course, I knew deep down that those standing closest to me… whether they knew of the battle raging on or not, couldn't escape the shrapnel that flew in every direction. There is always collateral damage. Victoria had been loyally standing right there when the bomb went off and unfortunately she was mortally wounded with soul crushing debris.

I am going to share with you a very personal part of this journey for Victoria and me, but I think it is the key to my personal recovery and to the recovery we have made as a family. The next few minutes after my confession came pouring out, were some of the hardest minutes of my life. I watched my wife literally melt into a puddle of nothingness. Her purpose, her goals, her future, her very eternity, had just been obliterated. With just a few words over a few minutes, I had shifted the weight, worry, and hopelessness that I had been carrying for years, and watched as it brutally descended on her. Her life had been shattered.

I watched helpless, as she curled up in a ball in the front seat of the car and began screaming, “This hurts too much… I can't do this… it’s more than I can handle… I want to die, God! Please let me die!” As she expressed the depth of her pain, my guilt and shame again reached a point of wanting an exit. The person I love most in all the world was suffering under the extreme hurt of my actions. I shared every painful word that she expelled in agony, “I can't do this, This hurts too much to watch her suffer for my mistakes... Please God... just let me die, so I don't have to watch her suffer.”

In the last year, I have spoken to many men both online and in group about their sexual addictions. Many of them are divorced or separated because of where their actions led them. As I have talked with some, I get the sense that while they regret their choices and the breaking of covenants, they still had a very hard time staying with their betrayed spouse. Staying meant watching their wives suffer. It was easier to separate and avoid facing a spouse broken by his sins then to work through the difficulties and pain of recovery. I loved my wife, but in that moment, All I wanted to do was to disappear forever so as to not see her suffer. In this thinking, I found myself again, falling into an old pattern of selfishness. One more time, I would think of myself first.

Several minutes passed and I finally spoke. “Victoria, What do you want me to do? I will do anything you ask of me. Do you want me to leave? What do you want me to do?” I had prepared myself for her answer. It was obvious. I will never be able to repair this. And honestly, I knew I was an addict. I knew I needed help. I did not know if I could get it under control. I had tried and failed so many times. Failure was the only answer I knew. So, I was prepared to fail again. It was all going to be over. Family, Wife, church…. I was about to lose it all.

The next few moments will forever be seared into my mind. They are the most treasured moments of my life. Victoria pulled herself together and said in a quiet voice “I can forgive you”. I was stunned. I had prepared myself for a lot of things. I knew that if my secrets were ever revealed all would come crashing down and I would have nothing left. However, I never expected those words. My tears began to flow uncontrollably. “I can forgive you Jason”, She said again, “I love you. When we got married, It was forever. So we are going to fight through this.”

That was the defining moment of this, the second half of my life. I knew the atonement existed. I knew it was real, But I believed I could never access it. I believed the lies I had heard over and over in my head that I would never qualify. “Its just out of reach for you. So shut up, keep lying, and perhaps you can make it through this life without being discovered. Then you will receive the consequences of your actions.”

I truly believed that. Can You imagine? I have spent years of my life teaching and testifying of the reality of repentance, only secretly… I felt it did not apply to me. So, to hear those words come out of her mouth… that was the beginning of my rescue. That was the light of hope I thought I would never receive. It also marked the beginning of my liberation from a bondage that I had given up looking for.

Several more minutes passed as a list of ultimatums were given and received. More and more and more questions were asked and answered and asked again. Details I swore I would take to my grave were flowing freely out of my mouth in eager answer to every concern. All the while we both continued to weep in the agony of the moment.

Somewhere in the midst of our first honest exchange in years, I had a realization. It was quite simple actually. An impression settled in. It was subtle and yet so overwhelmingly powerful. My reason for weeping shifted from my guilt and shame as I began to understand what had just taken place. Suddenly, all of the lies, the sins, the hurt, the deception...It would all come out. I would no longer be buried by the sins. The Atonement was now closer than ever before. I would finally have the opportunity to use it.

For the first time in a long time, I felt a clear sense of freedom from the chains of deceit. I knew that I no longer had to take these sins with me to my grave. I knew for the first time in my life, that I might just have the opportunity to stand before my Savior without hanging my head in shame.

Please forgive me again for my dramatic description of all of this… but its impossible to get you into the place my head was in without being a bit dramatic. I have considered it many times over the last year…. how best to describe my state of mind from the moments before my confession to the minutes after… and though this is definitely on the dramatic side, I think the following analogy is as close as I can get.

I was a dead man. I had committed the most grievous offence against both my God and my wife. This sin is only second to that of murder. Forgiveness is obtainable but only with confession. Well, I had already convinced myself that confession would never happen. It couldn’t. It would be too painful and unforgivable, too embarrassing, too difficult, and far too public. I would take my sins to my grave and reap the consequences, and so I was a dead man. Near the end, my addiction was beginning to spiral out of control. I had no bearing as to which way was north and I was tired of trying to correct course. Imprisoned in my bondage, I simply waited, secretly, for my sentance to be carried out. And just as a man sits on death row, waiting to die, I had lost all hope. And then, at the end of the long walk to the chamber, as I was about to step into the room for my sentence to be completed, the phone rang. And the governor's voice could be heard saying, “He has been granted a stay.”

This confession and recovery period was something I wanted with all of my heart but never expected to obtain. And now, finally, It could be real. Later that day, we visited with the stake president and the bishop. Within 2 weeks I had been released from my calling and a week after that, my council was held and I was excommunicated for my deeds.

Those 3 weeks were some of the most wonderful weeks of my life. I was a new man. I had shed off of myself the weight and was anxious to use the atonement. Of course the repercussions of my actions were also some of the most difficult challenges. Victoria and I have been to counseling, we attended weekly addiction recovery meetings, and have worked, and talked, and cried through some of the most painful moments of this over and over again.

This last year has been one of intensely facing every challenge head on. This tactic is not one that most utilize when trying to recover from something so hurtful and heartbreaking. But our approach has been inspired for us. Every question we take head on. Every experience we walk directly into. We have learned that our marriage is a symbiotic relationship. One alone can't do it. Only complete honesty no matter how brutal and painful it is will do.

The adversary loves our lies and secrets. If you want to remove satan from your life, the easiest way to do it is to reveal all of your secrets. He has no power or influence over you if you have nothing to hide. But secrets are the devils playground. When we are withholding something, especially from someone we love, we give the devil a way in. The adversary has a way of making us feel that our secrets should never ever be divulged...that the most horrible consequences will be had if you ever share that little secret. But secrets grow and before we know it we are covering one with another and no explanation will suffice. The devil can grab hold of those secrets as if they are handlebars on a bike and force us to turn in any direction he chooses. When we keep secrets, we give up control.. not entirely, but the chains of dishonesty are the heaviest to wear, even though they are often the easiest to shed.

I have learned about the adversary. I am learning his tools and techniques to lull us into carnal security. In learning them, I have been able to see them coming and divert my attention to safer paths. I have discovered what the process of true repentance looks like. Its so much more than a brief confession to the Lord. In reality, it often feels like physical battle or a proving ground. And it takes time to be proven. It is a long drag across the gravel… picking rocks out of scrapes and enduring the pain.

The refiners fire has a new understanding for us. My poor sweet wife never expected to have to walk through this fire. My choices placed her in the middle of it. But thank God we are walking through it together.

When I was first excommunicated, I had an odd combination of feelings. It was gratitude for the opportunity to finally and truthfully utilize the gospel as intended…. but I also felt a heavy sense of shame and embarrassment. Embarrassment that I had been released from such a prominent calling without explanation. I knew that people would begin to talk. And they did. At times it was frustrating to hear the rumors about me coming back to our ears. we wanted to believe that we were above such pettiness, but we are human, and the emotions and betrayal seemed to seep in all over again.

The hardest thing was to simply acknowledge that I was broken. I didn't like the idea of being broken. I had always appeared to be so intact. I had things together, as far as anyone knew. But part of repentance is humility and I began to not only accept that I am broken, but to come to love that I am broken.

Its a hard lesson to learn, but it’s quite obvious when you look at the big picture. We are all broken. Yes, to different degrees for sure but broken nonetheless. We have to be. It is an eternal principle. God did not send us here to be perfect. If He had, we would all be living satan’s plan right now. On the contrary, He sent us here to mess up, and sometimes in colossal ways. Why? So we could show Him we would turn to Him in our darkest hours, just like the Savior did in the Garden. This became my mantra over this last year. I am broke and that is exactly how the Savior wants me. He desires my broken heart. He needs my broken pride. When broken things mend… they tend to mend stronger than before.

This year has also been a year of service for us. We immediately began attending an Addiction recovery class. We wanted to attend one that was a specific Pornography/sex addiction class. The church only has a standard “all inclusive” class in town so we began driving an hour north each week to attend a pornography addiction class there. Attending this class was a huge humble pill for me. I was so ready to jump in, but was so out of my element. I was used to running meetings and teaching at meetings, not listening and learning from those around me. But listen and learn I did. This weekly class has become a cherished night of the week for us. Victoria attends a meeting for wives and I attend a meeting for addicts. We would see between 10 and 20 men each week. While humbling at first, I quickly began to identify with and love these good men. They are truly great men who all have a weakness that they want so badly to conquer.

I have attended meetings of every shape and size. I have met with apostles and with youth. I can tell you that I have never been to a more spiritual meeting in the church than this weekly meeting with my brothers. These men are attending freely, out of choice. They come because they have found safety and confidentiality and because they know that those in attendance are going through the same things. There words are raw and real and filled with hope and desire. It is an amazing experience.

The wives meet and discuss their own challenges. They are dealing with concerns, trust, the inevitable feeling of worthlessness and lack of confidence that comes from betrayal. Victoria will tell you the same. She can’t wait to be with those other good sisters each week.

The addiction recovery program is one of the church’s hidden gems. Everybody knows it is happening, but nobody would ever want to be seen going. Well, it is a powerful and healing place to be when fighting to overcome sin. Some day I may share my notes (I have 3 journals worth) but I think that will have to be another letter.

About 4 month into the process, we found ourselves in a position to help another couple that was struggling with similar issues. We began inviting them to the class with us. Not long after we were asked by the bishop to take another couple under our wings and encourage them to attend. Over time we have encouraged several couples to either meet with us in private or to join us at our meetings. At one point we had a total of 6 couples driving up with us from our ward to attend the class. (most were dealing with a pornography addiction not infidelity).

Victoria is my angel. She is the reason I am here today. And so here we are nearly 14 months later. We are stronger, closer, and more connected than ever before. There is hope in our lives and focus on our future. This last year has been nothing short of miraculous. The Atonement of our Savior has become a living tangible source of strength, recovery, and healing. It has been a source of strength for Andrea as well, as she has had to come to terms with who we are now as a family and a couple, and she daily considers our future, especially as we work to rebuild trust. It will be a long road. I have shattered that perfect mirror and sometimes we are doing good, just to see any reflection in it all. But, with time, it seems to be more and more usable. It will take time and we are committed to each other and to the time it takes.

We have completely turned our lives over to the Lord in a way that we hope will both strengthen us and allow us to help strengthen others. This is not the way we wanted to get where we are, but we have realized that through the trials over the last couple of years, that it’s not how you get there, only that you get there.

The most important lesson here is this….. it is never too late. You are never too far gone. I know I have a lot of battle left to fight. My sobriety has been a powerful reminder to me that with God, nothing is impossible.

For me, excommunication was a gift. It was the only course that would have put me in a position to flush it all out and return anew. I will be forever grateful for the decision of the council to take away my membership. There is a blessing in losing everything… it forces you to consider life without the things you cherish most.

With my baptism completed, I am now able to again have the gift of the holy ghost. Oh how I wish I hadn't ignored and taken it for granted. I have a chance now to prove my worthiness of his companionship and to keep it close at all times.

I want you to know that I don't feel as if I am “Fixed.” Addiction does not disappear overnight or over a year. Contrary to what people say though, I don't believe the statement “Once an addict always an addict.” I believe that the gospel offers healing. But I also know that I am gaining the strength required to push off the adversary. And I am happy to say, so far, I am winning. The good news is, I know for certainty that the Atonement is in place for me now. Should I slip... should I trip… I am not afraid to confess. I am not ashamed to be broken.

Having said that, after having the opportunity to share our story with a few locally, and seeing the way it has benefited them, we feel a calling of sorts to share our successes and failures with others who are struggling. We will wait for the Lord to direct us in that effort, but our desire to help others has to some extent overshadowed the fears of sharing something so personal. Victoria feels strongly that this letter can be a source of strength to others who may be walking this difficult path alone. So with that in mind we want you to, at your discretion, feel free to share this with those that you think may benefit from it and please, not just as a form of gossip. Men who struggle with addiction, and wives, who battle the aftermath, need to know that there are success stories out there. An addiction that escalates, does not have to mean the end of an eternal companionship. My wife is the perfect example of forgiveness, love and support. She is hurting still, and she struggles still, but she and I are both dedicated to our success.

We understand that this letter is going to come as a shock and perhaps a disappointment to you, my family. The reason for waiting the year to tell you about our struggles was for me, to first prove to myself, my father in heaven, and my wife that I could win the first year and regain my membership. Now, when we do see each other face to face again, please don’t treat us any differently. We are happy, healthy and proud of what we have accomplished this year (with the Lord’s help). We are the same people...just better.

I apologize for the length of this letter. But I wanted to be thorough. I want to end with this: If you, or your children feel inspired in any way by this letter, then I urge you to act. Act now. Do not delay repentance. Fear and Pride are the tools the adversary uses to keep us from doing what must be done. Put it out there now. Don't waste any more years of your life feeling defeated or trapped. You may be in the midst of a free fall that seems endless and out of control… but I promise you.. God has his arms out and he is ready to catch you the very second you reach for him.

I love you all. Please know I am not afraid to talk about this with any of you. Actually the opposite. If you want to know something, please call me or email me. I would prefer you get the story from my mouth then second hand.

Lastly, while we are doing great right now, please.. keep us in your prayers. We are still battling demons on all fronts.