Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Know We Will Be OK: Thoughts From My Husband


Hi my name is Tim and I am Sidreis's husband.  I am writing today in response to a comment that was posted awhile back by a reader:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Testimonials of First Meetings":
Thanks for this blog! I'm a man, but I still get strength from your experience and hope. I'm approaching my 1 yr sober mark, this week. I still struggle mightily with all kinds of character weaknesses, but I have hope. Just curious but how does your spouse deal with your addiction, I would love to see a post about how he copes, and strategies the two of you have for communicating and dealing with this struggle?
I've taken some time to think about this and so many thoughts and ideas have run through my heart and my mind as I have thought about how I could answer this.  The first thing I would like to say before sharing anything else is that I can only speak to my own experiences.  I am not a marriage counselor, addiction specialist, or expert on this topic.  All I know is what has worked for us and that's what I would like to share with you today.

When I first found out that my wife struggled with things of a sexual nature I think I probably experienced many of the same fears that anyone might go through.  "Am I not good enough?"  "How could she do this to me?"  "Maybe if I were thinner, had a better job, was a better provider, was a better Priesthood holder, we wouldn't be in this situation?"  It was so easy to go into "why me?!?" mode and immediately look at the scenario not from what my wife was going through and the battle she was fighting but instead worrying 100% about how it affected ME.  I think that is human nature and I soon found that my experience was very normal for the spouse or family member of an addict. 

Eventually, with lots of love and support I came around to where I could get past myself and start to look at things from a different perspective.  The following  things are probably are what helped me the most as my wife and I embarked on this journey together.

1.  Meet with your Bishop on a regular basis.  I think most of my life I saw my various Bishops as like the police of sorts.  I didn't need to be in that office unless I had done something wrong or they insisted I be there.  This is so far from the truth.  A Bishop is so much more than just the person we discuss our sins with.  He is an advocate, a shoulder to cry on, a source of support and love that we can share the feelings with that we are afraid to share with anyone else.  He is just as invaluable a resource to spouses and family members as he is to an addict.  I could not have done this without the love, prayers and Priesthood blessings I have received from my Bishop.  He has become a close friend and trusted adviser. 

2.  Go to meetings!  I think there is a mindset that exists amongst family members of addicts that we are fine, we are just waiting on our loved ones to get their act together so we can start moving forward together.  But the reality is I have just as great a need for the 12 Step program as my wife.  Attending meetings and working the steps is so important for all of us.  I have heard the 12 Step program referred to as "The Atonement for Dummies", and it is so true.  We all have struggles.  I have just as many faults, character weaknesses and mountains to my climb as anyone else. I am far from perfect and I have great need of the Savior and his Atonement in my life.  I cannot return to him and my Father in Heaven without it and the LDS Church's Addiction recovery program helps me get there.  

In my 3 years of attending meetings I have been to meetings for family and support, food addiction, general addiction and sexual addiction.  The faith, honesty and love in those rooms is identical regardless of the setting and participants.  Attending meetings is part of my weekly routine and I love it!  It is in those rooms that I find love and support; people who have traveled the road I am traveling and can be a strength and support to me when I am down and need a friend.  But most importantly of all it is in those rooms that I work on my own salvation.  Working a step 4 and 5 inventory helped me give away much of the baggage from my own past and working steps 6 and 7 helped me see my own personal struggle with recognizing and finding the strength from my Savior to give away my character weaknesses.  But above all else, seeing my own desperate need for forgiveness made it that much easier for me to empathize with and give real forgiveness to my wife.  The reality is that we are all sinners.  

I am often reminded of a talk given by President Uchtdorf at the April 2012 General Conference.  He shared a story that I will never forget and try to remember often when I find myself judging others or minimizing my own weaknesses and need for forgiveness:

I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”  We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?  Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?
3.  Communication is so important.  But let me qualify that.  Communication doesn't always mean communicating about our struggles.  I do think that communicating about struggles and slips and mistakes is extremely important to maintaining the love and trust in a marriage or family relationship but its important not to dwell on that aspect to where we are focusing too much on the problem and not enough on the solution.  My wife and I have a 48 hour rule, where if either of us makes a significant mistake; morally, financially, spiritually etc, that we will confess to the other one within 48 hours.  That gives the person who made the mistake some time to pray and ask for strength and help to find the words, but also keeps the secrecy minimal enough that we aren't living in the shadows as Satan would have us do.  This has been mostly successful for us. 
     
But the best form of communication we share is talking about the Gospel.  Probably my favorite time of the week is Thursday evenings after we both attend our ARP meetings, we will both come home and share the miracles, stories and experiences that touched us during the meeting.  While it is obviously very important to protect anonymity and not discuss the names and faces of those we see in meetings, I think it can be a wonderful sharing experience for a couple to discuss the scriptures, stories and testimonies that were shared there.  To bear testimony to one another about how the program is working in our lives or areas that we know we can improve in.  I believe this type of communication to be far more effective than focusing on struggles or sobriety or when the last slip occurred.  

Finally I just want to take a minute to share that my wife is one of my heroes.  She is such a powerful example to me with her courage and willingness to put herself out there entirely and be so open and honest about a problem that carries so much stigma and shame.  I know it hasn't been easy for her but she has been able to touch so many hearts and lives through her story and her willingness to let her light shine.  When she first started working the program in earnest I could see the miracle happening in her life.  It made me want the same thing in my life.  I wanted that joy, that happiness, that focus on the Savior and the Gospel.  Our journey is far from over and I imagine there will be many more bumps along the way, but as long as we stand together and face the Savior, using the tools we have been given to overcome the natural man that exists within us all, I know that we will be OK.

11 comments:

  1. I have to be the first to comment on this one. I love this man and I am so happy that he is my partner through this journey. I couldn't have come as far as I have without his love, dedication and support to our little family but mostly to the Savior. I love you babe!

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  2. Love this! Thanks Tim for your thoughts. I love the 48 hour rule...I am going to talk with my husband about incorporating that into our marriage. Excellent post:) I also agree with you about the importance of attending recovery meetings. I never want to miss one...I feel they are a safe haven, a place where I can find strength and hope.

    You both are inspiring so many! Thank you:)

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  3. It seems like whether we are a wife or husband of an addict, our feelings are similar. Thank you for sharing. Sharing gives me strength. I love the LDS 12 Step program. I have to be honest though, some meetings are better than others for me. I think it's important to know that if you attend a meeting and just don't feel like it fits, find another meeting - DON'T GIVE UP! Meetings are important and help us heal. I love you Tim and Sidreis. Thank you for your honesty. - Vickie

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    1. Thanks Vickie! And yep - I agree. Codependency is a human disease just as addiction is a human disease. Good point on the meetings too!! :-)

      Love ya!

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  4. This was an amazing post. This blog inspires and helps me so much.

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  5. I have often wondered how I would react if the shoe were on the other foot in our marriage. Would I be as kind as my wife has been? Tim, you sound like a great guy. Thanks for sharing! Sid, I think you should bring him in on the blog from time to time.

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    1. I have invited him to write more but he says he doesn't really have any ideas on what to write about. So, if you'd like to hear something specific from him let me know!

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  6. How about comments on how the time committments to recover affect your life and the life of spouse and kids. How about challenges you've faced for losing anonymity with Sid's coming out. How do you manage questions from your kids and relatives? How has your life improved during the recovery process?

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  8. I love lots about your husband's post. "Am I not good enough?" seems to be a universal concern. A quiet worry that influences how we are with others. I most of all love Tim's humility.

    *spelling error on above post

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Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"