Would We React Differently to Cancer?

Initially, my husband was very unsupportive— even antagonistic—and resented my efforts at recovery. I started setting boundaries with him about what I was willing to live with. He eventually admitted that pornography had still been an issue for the past several years and was actually getting worse. Although he reluctantly agreed to go to 12-step meetings, I knew he was mostly just trying to placate me. After much prayer, I finally reached the point where I told him that he needed, first, to be completely honest and transparent with me about his addiction; and, second, to actively work on recovery from his addiction by attending Sexaholics Anonymous, getting a sponsor and seeing a counselor for at least a year. If not, I was unwilling to stay in our marriage. My husband finally reached rock bottom and started working on his own recovery in earnest.

Since then we have seen miracles happen, both individually and in our relationship. Although recovery is difficult and time-consuming, for the first time I can see a clear path to healing, a path that we have already begun. My husband is truly a different person: he is open and honest about his addiction, both with me and with others. He willingly attends his 12-Step meetings and works closely with a sponsor. He actively wants to help any others who may be struggling with this addiction that came so close to destroying our marriage and our family. He is more concerned with maintaining sobriety, helping others and rebuilding our relationship than with saving face, protecting himself or maintaining secrecy.

For many years, we tried to deal with this problem on our own. I struggled to forgive my husband and maintain the appearance of a normal family while my husband struggled to “control his thoughts” and resist temptation. The problem was that he was an addict—he had lost control and no longer had the power to resist the addiction. Despite his many sincere attempts to stop and despite being aware of the major personal losses we had both suffered as he pursued his addiction, he inevitably fell back into pornography, leaving both of us in despair. I battled severe depression and at one point almost became suicidal.

So what does God require? He has required fundamentally changing the way I live my life and look at this issue. I have had to stop focusing on my spouse and how I think he needs to recover. I recognize that this isn’t my fault: I didn’t cause it and I can’t fix it. Instead I turn my efforts to being in a healthy place myself—physically, emotionally and spiritually—and trying to do what God wants me to do each day. I focus on healing from the trauma that I have experienced and doing what I need to do to feel safe and healthy. I actively work on recovery every single day. Each week I attend two S-Anon meetings, group therapy and a counseling appointment. I continue educating myself about pornography addiction and recovery. I practice self-care, taking time to slow down and meet my needs—physical, emotional and spiritual. I set boundaries or limits with my husband to protect myself from unacceptable behavior. I lovingly convey my support of his efforts toward recovery, but make it very clear that I will not live with addictive behavior. If this seems like a big commitment, it is. It takes a significant amount of time and effort.

The problem is, I haven’t found anything else that works—and, believe me, I have spent nine years trying to find some easier way. When it starts to seem like too much work, I ask myself, “If one of us had cancer, would we decide not to do chemotherapy treatments because it was too time-consuming?” The effect of pornography in our lives has been just as devastating as cancer. Working at recovery is time-consuming and frequently painful, but—at least for us—it has been every bit as necessary as chemotherapy for treating cancer. Recovery is a lifelong process. Just like all healthy living, it is a lifetime commitment that you work at every single day.


Comments

Would We React Differently to Cancer? — 6 Comments

  1. Is he spending money on this addiction? If not, what is the problem with what he is doing in his off time? Obviously it is not a productive use of time but does it really hurt anyone? If his addiction takes away from your marriage then maybe. My initial reaction is that you have the problem thinking about what he is doing and not him. Is it possible you are disturbed by the thought of what he is doing and feel it takes away from your marriage?

    • L: One of the big issues that we’re are shouting about at RowboatandMarbles.org is that pornography consumption hurts not only the user but also the user’s spouse and children–and often in unexpected ways. The book He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by LDS neurosurgeon Donald L. Hilton, sets forth the neurological basis for how pornography changes the brain. It changes who we are, how we behave and how we interact with others. The harm is not limited to a sexual context–which is what most people assume. Pornography consumption damages people spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically and neurologically. It is not a harmless pastime! And spouses of porn addicts are not crazy and over-reacting when they express their pain and displeasure with the behavior.

      Dr. Jill C. Manning has written a great book for teens (and adults) entitled What’s the Big Deal About Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation in which she lays out in clear terms how pornography impairs the consumers’ ability to engage with and relate to everyone around them and not just members of the opposite sex.

      I encourage you to read “The ABCs of Addiction: The Real Reasons Why So Many LDS Men Can’t Kick the Pornography Problem” on this website. It takes a serious look at the problem of pornography from the eyes of an addict whose life was nearly destroyed by porn.

      On RowboatAndMarbles.org, we’re not really trying to convince people who see no problem with porn to change their minds. What we are doing, however, is trying to reassure those people who do feel like something’s not right in their lives because of porn that they’re not crazy. It’s OK to feel hurt and damaged by someone’s pornography consumption. It’s OK to be worried about its effect on marriage and family relationships. It’s OK to believe that lust addiction can impair and destroy a married couple’s intimacy on all levels.

      I urge caution in ever criticizing the wife of a porn addict and suggesting that she is overreacting or that the problem is really just inside her head. Pornography consumption harms people. It is definitely a big deal!

  2. As the author of this essay, I wanted to respond to L’s question: “Is he spending money on this addiction? If not, what is the problem with what he is doing in his off time?… does it really hurt anyone?”

    As a side note, I don’t think whether or not money is spent on something is an accurate measure of whether it is causing harm (frankly, it’s a bit of a ridiculous measure– Is cocaine not damaging as long as you get it for free?). But it is a fair question to ask what specific harm porn causes or whether it hurts anyone. In brief, yes, my husband’s sex addiction has cost our family thousands of dollars and has had far-reaching impact on his and my physical and mental health and his career.

    I think the most devastating impact is not directly through the sexual acting out, but 1) In the breach of trust through the lies, double life and trying to cover up and 2) The changes caused to his personality when he looks at porn. It is like living with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Usually my husband is a kind, caring, compassionate, successful, loving man. But when he is in his addiction– looking at porn, masturbating, going to strip clubs– even if I don’t know what is going on, he acts totally different. He is critical of me, angry, moody, and self-centered. He disengages from participating in our family and does not spend time with me or our children. He will become very unreliable at keeping his word or doing what he said he would do. He treats me as an object to be used instead of a human being to be respected. The hardest thing about porn is the way that it changes my husband from a person that I love and trust into a stranger that I don’t know and am afraid of.

    But while you’re asking about financial impact, I might as well comment on that. My husband was a Ph.D. candidate at one of the top universities in the country. What started as “occasional” porn use became an almost daily obsession. He had to leave his program (four years in) because he stopped making progress in his Ph.D research because he was compulsively looking at pornography at work instead of doing research for his professor. After he left his Ph.D. program for 8 weeks of intensive treatment (which was not exactly free), the porn use later returned and caused problems that including lying to his boss at work, putting his job at risk. In the past two years have spent at least $5000 on therapy and $6000 on group therapy (and still going!), not to mention the money for babysitters, the gas to drive to appointments and 12-step meetings that are at least 30 minutes away and the time off from work to do all of this stuff. This makes the past hundred here, two hundred there spent at strip clubs and “massage” parlors seem like drops in the bucket.

    But who am I to say that there is a problem with what he is doing in his off time?

    • Thanks for the perspective, Katie, and for reminding us that sex and porn addiction is NOT benign behavior. It messes up the addict and it messes up everyone around him.

  3. I lost my home and everything with it because of my husbands porn and strip clubs habits. Don’t forget the alcohol. He also had a secret lady friend. I gave him a chance again but I can see his porn watching did not stop. I feel betrayed. Needless to say he is jobless. I feel he is only using me now for a roof over his head and food. He says he loves me and I do love him but I don’t know if I can go on like this. I can’t tell my friends how hurt I am deep inside. I hate porn and stripclubs. I hate my own body. My pshycologist said forgive and forget but I can’t. What is wrong with me?

    • There is NOTHING wrong with you! forgive and forget is so difficult when your heart has been broken and your life seems like a lie….If he is NOT making every effort to stop then you need to care enough about you to move on. I always told my children you will never find the right one has long as you are with the wrong one. You need to love you….Good luck my friend I know so well your pain!

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