A few weeks ago, my wife asked me if I would write an update about where I am now, 2.5 years after my betrayal, confession, and the beginning of my repentance process. It has taken me a few weeks to start writing this because... there was a lot to consider.
Where am I now?
So many thoughts come to mind. I think it will be easiest for me to put my thoughts into categories.
This is by far the easiest category to discuss since without question , it is where I have felt the most change and growth. Where before, I believed I was approaching a dead end or a complete halt to my progression, today, I know that even though I have a long way to go, the perfection that the savior has granted to me through his atonement… is making up the difference for what I lack. Before, I believed I was doomed to an eternal damnation for my thoughts and actions, and now, I know such thoughts are the mind games of the adversary in his attempt to keep me in the dark pit I wallowed in for far too long.
I have also learned that repentance takes time. It is not a magical moment of clarity that settles upon you with the audible uttering of transgressions, though the very act of uttering my sins out loud and seeking forgiveness did provide a starting point to my recovery. I have learned that it is a process that starts with the confession but carries on for months and even years as everything comes bubbling to remembrance. Forgiveness is far more difficult than repentance. Just asking for forgiveness does not mean the damage done is gone. How I wish that were the case. But trust and faith come with time. At this point, I am not sure how long it will take, but. with more time, hopefully that too can be made whole through the atonement.
My marriage is completely different than it was before. In my time B.C., (Before Confession) It appeared that our family was doing good, our marriage was fine, and that we were on the road to the celestial kingdom. Mind you, my wife had no idea at all that I was secretly hiding my addiction and that all of that was a performance on my part. One of the greatest blessing of confession to her and to the bishop was that I no longer needed to hide, lie, manipulate or deceive. And as a testament to my wife, she made it easy for me to share things without being immediately judgmental. This allowed me to be more open and transparent. I will admit this is hard at times, even still as I don't want to burden her with the battle I fight daily against the pull of the addiction that still lingers in my mind. But she understands now that this takes time, that being in recovery is not the same as being “recovered”. I am not sure that being recovered is something I will experience for many years to come. A true addict of pornography never stops struggling with the hunger that sits in the background, but being in recovery means that I have figured out how to use the atonement, and the tools of recovery to avoid giving into those temptations. My wife has been a huge part of that process. I can say without reservation that I love her more today than ever before. She will be the first to admit that this has been the worst 2 years of her life… and then she will tell you that she wouldn't trade what we have gained and grown thorough and become. I love her with all my heart and sincerely never want to hurt her again.
I think I can do this part without being too personal. The truth is that B.C. (Before Confession), I felt guilty being intimate with my wife. I would avoid it all costs. Being intimate was a reminder of my betrayal and my secret shameful addiction. I would avoid it. She would ask, and I would make excuses. But intimacy is very different now. I feel a closeness and a bond that I never felt before. I hope she would say the same. We snuggle more. We touch more. We are more willing to observe the other’s needs and do what we can to satisfy them. It is a better relationship.
Now I want to clarify that our intimacy is a safe intimacy. What I meant by that is this: I do not ask her to do things I saw in pornograghy. I do not try to bring the filth found in pornograhy into our relationship. I have heard that many men encourage this as a way to act out what they have seen. I do not believe this brings a couple closer. On the contrary, what this does is pull the wife into the world of pornography by making her participate in the filth. The last thing I want to do is compare her with the smut that filled my head for years. She represents all that is good, all that is clean, all that is permissible and encouraged by God. She is my Celestial partner in intimacy. Having this outlook on our intimate life has made a world of difference in how we respect each other in those situations and quite frankly, made it a lot more fun for both of us. Perhaps someday I will write a more frank blog about how we accomplish this in our intimate life….. perhaps.
I think it goes without saying that my testimony of the Gospel has grown. My testimony of the divinity of Christ and of his ability to heal and change the lives of both the sinner and those affected by his sins is solidified in a way I didn't think possible. My relationship with My savior and my heavenly Father is far more real and tangible. My purpose, goals, hopes, and passions have a clarity to them now whereas they seemed fogged in and indiscernible before. And I look at the gospel in a more gritty, organic way. I mean I recognise that the sheer volume of vain oblations we offer daily in living the gospel are just parts of the whole, and that perfection is not gained nor lost because I did or did not do my home teaching this month. But that instead, the true road to eternal life is through the continual process of prostrating ourselves before the Lord and receiving his grace in exchange for our guilt, pride, and pain. Then, we offer him our lives through obedience, not because keeping and living the principles of the gospel will somehow purchase our way into heaven, but because we love him and offer our obedience as evidence of a changed heart and a desire to be like him.
I may have run on there and this may only make sense in my mind… but needless to say… I Love the Gospel with new vigor and a determination.
I am self employed. Which means, if I don't work, I don't make money. Our business provided a few steady repeat revenue streams, but I was never going to grow the business unless I worked it. My time at work, after the morning calls were returned and the emails answered, would always drift back to my addiction. I could easily find myself sitting there 2 to 4 hours everyday ingesting the smut. It may seem obvious that when a person stops spending hours on end viewing pornogrphy at work and instead focuses on his job, he is going to make more money, but I was not prepared for the added blessing the Lord was waiting to give us for my obedience. In the last 2 years since my confession, Our company has grown in size by over 20% each year. This coming year looks to be a greater increase than that.
My point is, the Lord is standing by in our lives just waiting for us to get our ducks in a row, and when we do, he doesn't mess around… he opens up the windows of heaven and… well you know the rest. And I want to be very clear that I don't believe that our company's increase has anything to do with my “brilliance” as a business owner or because we added some tremendously sought after item. I know with all my heart it is the Lord's hand.
If you have read any of my history on this blog, then you may already know that I have held many leadership callings during my addiction. I accepted them because I was too ashamed and embarrassed to confess my sins. I had convinced myself to take them to my grave with me. Therefore, whenever asked to serve, I always said YES. I knew I wasn't worthy, but I couldn't confess so… what choice did I have (or so the voice in my head would say to me). I always hated myself for serving where I did not belong. I muddled through, but I knew I was completely without the direction of the spirit because I wasn't worthy of it.
About a year and a half ago, after I was re-baptized, I was asked to teach sunday school to the youth. I have loved this calling. It has been eye opening to serve with the companionship of the holy ghost assisting me. I have learned so much in studying the gospel with the spirit in tow. I have since been asked to substitute in seminary about 10 times this year. Learning and teaching has never had such a personal impact on me. You can fake it for a long time, and you may even fool all the people, but you can not fool God. When He withholds his most valuable gift from you, though others may not see it, I absolutely knew it, felt it, and lost it. I had forgotten how much I need it. I have loved having the spirit in my life again.
In terms of bondage to sin or addiction
I wanted to comment on how I feel in terms of being in bondage now, versus “Before Confession”. I will say that I honestly still feel the pull. But that is what addiction is. It is something that starts out as a choice and then slowly becomes a habit and eventually becomes a compulsion. After allowing it to grow in my life for years and years, it felt to me (the addict) as if the choice simply didn’t exist any more. When the trigger hits, I turned to porn, that's just what I did. And if I couldn’t turn to it in the moment the trigger hit, the hunger would grow and grow inside of me until I found some way to act out with it. So when Alma the younger spoke of being delivered from the “bondage” of sin, I fully believe he was speaking to us in our day about pornography. It owns you. It dictates your every move. It leads you to lie, cover up, deceive and manipulate those around you. You become a slave to the hunger and it takes you effortlessly deeper and deeper into perversions and filth that you would never have considered seeking before.
I had become this kind of slave.
2 and a half years later….. I still struggle with the hunger… but… instead of it being a compulsion that leads me, it is now an option. I am back at the stage of having a choice. I have been liberated from the bondage. I still feel the pull towards it, but I have learned through practice and working the recovery steps that I have the ability to move past it. That is something I just could not do 2 years ago. I want to be careful not to paint too rosy of a picture here and to make it clear that it is still tremendously hard for me day to day. Some days are easier than others. Some days, I just want to climb in bed and sleep to get away from the never ending hungers and triggers of the world. But I have learned that winning is possible… one small moment and prayer at a time.
Outlook going forward
Well, I think it's good. Lets just say that although I still don't feel I have this completely put away, I do feel that I am in a state of recovery. 2 and a half years ago, I wouldn't dare to utter such a statement. I was so far from feeling any control at all that the idea of being sober 2 days let alone 2 hours was not even an option. However, I have worked the steps relentlessly since then. I still work them. It is because I still work those steps everyday that I am in a state of recovery now. Will I ever struggle again? Of course I will. Will I ever get close to the line of slipping? I hope not, but I don't know. What I do know is that as long as I keep my trajectory heading towards the Savior, I will have more wins than failures. And thankfully, experience has shown me that those failures get farther and farther apart.
I just realized that using the word “conclusion” above implies there is some sort of ending to this journey. But there isn't. There is still a long way to go. But the focus of our journey feels so much more personal and directed now. We have accepted that the Lord can not bring us back into His presence until we have been properly prepared and educated through this life. And whether we like to hear it or not, His favorite method of educating us... is through trial. Once we finally decide to accept the fact that this trial is indeed from God, it begins to look and feel different. We become more willing to embrace it and look for the lessons in it. We feel the pain but instead of letting it destroy us, we can engage it and walk through it, hopefully with a willingness to learn this lesson as well. IT IS NOT EASY! Trial…. Simply said… SUCKS!!. Especially when it causes so many so much pain. But, when we humbly accept that it is his hand guiding us through the pain, there is really something amazing in taking that hand and allowing Him to lead and teach us through it. And that, I believe, Is the secret to finding joy in this life… for without pain.. We would never know the joy. Thanks Father Lehi…. I’m finally starting to understand.