How’s that for an endorsement? Rhyll Croshaw is a Latter-day Saint and the wife of a recovering sex addict. She and her husband started SALifeline.org, a foundation to bring information and recovery to LDS men and women whose live are affected by sex and porn addiction. They are also dear friends of ours. Her wisdom and compassion have helped my wife through many rough spots over the past few years. She has now written an incredible book, What Can I Do About
Him Me?, in which she shares her inspiring experience of recovery from the damage caused by years of marriage to a pornography and sex addict.
Rhyll starts her book by recounting her struggles through decades being married to a loving but emotionally distant husband who disclosed not once or twice but three times that for many years he had engaged in behavior that went far beyond pornography consumption. Her personal story sets the groundwork for the rest of the book in which she explains the evolution of her philosophy of spouse recovery.
I cried through most of her story of life with her husband. It hit pretty close to home. It reminded me of just how much damage I’ve done in the past and how much damage I can still do in the future if I don’t remain in recovery. But Rhyll’s story also opened my eyes to so much more of the pain that I inflicted on my wife and kids and didn’t realize it at the time or since–until now. This is one of the reasons why we need to be talking about the details of addiction and recovery in the LDS Church. We can learn from the experiences of others. When we hold it in and keep it to ourselves (secrecy and isolation), however, we deny others the blessing of learning from our mistakes and successes. Rhyll does a great job of teaching recovery! She puts it this way:
You are not alone in this. You are unique but your situation is not. Though we will each need to find our own path, our needs are much the same, and together–and with God’s help–we can meet our challenges with courage and strength. You won’t need to look far to find someone who understands what you’re going through. Then, with recovery, you too can stand as a friend ready to give encouragement, confidence, strength, and spiritual direction to another in need. You are not alone. We are not alone.
Doesn’t that make you want to read Rhyll’s book?
After telling her story, Rhyll then moves on to the nuts and bolts of recovery for the spouse of a sex addict–and she puts it in plain English with clear examples and no wishy-washy, namby-pamby gobbledegook. Rhyll is as tough as nails (she grew up in Montana) and it shows in her writing: compassionate but clear.
Rhyll looks at what women can do when they discover that their husband has been consuming pornography or engaging in sexual behavior outside their marriage. She notes four options: throw him out, become the persecutor, become the police woman or choose recovery. You can guess which option she advocates. Rhyll also talks about wanting to go into rescuer mode, how to avoid it and why.
In one chapter, Rhyll inspects the unavoidable reality of pain in recovery. She recognizes, however, that the pain makes the peace and serenity of recovery so much sweeter. It’s touching to read her words as she expresses her conviction that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than where she is in her life now.
One of my favorite chapters was the one on boundaries–even though it was emotionally tough for me to get through. Many LDS women who visit rowboatandmarbles.org have big questions about boundaries. Rhyll answers all the tough ones with clarity and I’ll be referring women to her book from now on. That chapter alone is worth the $16.95 list price of this paperback. It should be required reading for every woman in the Church.
One chapter is entitled “Forgiveness is Not the Same as Trust.” Rhyll challenges what is probably one of the greatest tools of manipulation in the addict’s toolbox of dishonesty and misinformation. Imagine: Learning to forgive your husband, learning to trust him again, and learning that forgiveness and trust are not the same thing!
In one of the final chapters, Rhyll introduces a painting that hangs in their home in Central Utah. It depicts a dangerous waterfall downstream from a serene section of river. Two figures are paddling canoes upstream away from the falls, side by side. The symbolism of the painting is that a husband and wife can move together away from the danger and catastrophe that await in life’s tribulations such as addiction. But the important idea is that each spouse has to paddle his or her own canoe! She can’t paddle his canoe for him and the same goes for him. In the same way, we each have to work our own program of recovery. And the path gently upstream is worth every bit of effort it takes to move in that direction.
In the appendices, Rhyll adds in some additional gold. We get story of Rhyll’s husband Steven’s recovery told in his own words. She also includes some helpful tables to help addicts and spouses understand what it really means to be in recovery. An especially poignant piece is entitled “Tara’s Story” and tells a daughter’s experience growing up with a sex addict father. It’s heartbreaking but at the same time hopeful. Think you’re fooling your kids? Think again.
So, who should read this book? First off, of course, every man or woman who is married to a sex or pornography addict or someone who could be an addict or someone who insists that he’s not an addict because he just has a “little problem.” But this book is an equally important read for every LDS porn addict who reads English. If you’re an addict, you need to see what your spouse has had to deal with and what he or she continues to deal with. What we addicts have managed to minimize and marginalize through years and years of dishonest living are actually giant boulders dropped on and crushing the hearts of our loved ones. In a caring and careful way, Rhyll reminds me of where my wife and I have been and of wonderful places where we have yet to go–with the help of a loving Father in Heaven and a Savior who has experienced our pains.
From the addict’s viewpoint, one of my favorite lines was in the first paragraph of the acknowledgments: “I am grateful to be married now to a real man, a man in recovery.” I hope to give my wife ten million or so reasons to write the same about me some day.
P.S. Rhyll also has a website: rhyllrecovery.com. Check it out.