The Interviews: Nena
How old were you when your addiction began?
Hmmm…I can see traces of fantasy thinking from early on, 6-8. I started with addictive substances (drinking, smoking, drugs) at 13 and started acting out with guys at about 12, seriously by age 14 with my first boyfriend.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?
In a family of six kids I felt unwanted as a child and wanted more attention from my dad. This was the root of the drug for me. As I matured physically, I learned that I could get attention from men, and I got huge dopamine & power rushes from this.
How did your addiction progress?
I went through three specific addict cycles in my marriage with varying levels of infidelity at each cycle. The first cycle was a single affair with a single man, but the next cycle involved online and physical relationships with several men. The third would have been the worst, I’m sure, but it was broken (see the next question).
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
My sweet husband had warned me after the second cycle that he would not go through this again, and as I began drifting into the third cycle, he recognized it and left me. This was the point where I realized I was an addict and had ruined my life. I was totally broken and fell out of the addictive cycle.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I actually felt strangely compassionate towards myself, because I knew I was sick and had been for years. That feeling was helped by feeling God’s love and care for me while I was otherwise completely alone. I’m sure that was a protective measure, because if I hadn’t been able to feel those feelings of love and self-love, I wouldn’t have been able to do the hard work of recovery – wouldn’t have felt worthy of becoming something better than I was.
Where did you turn for help?
I went to my bishop, but also researched sex addiction online and found the LDS Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. I started attending 12 step meetings and attended a meeting almost every day for about four weeks.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
I assume you mean, turning point, as in, turning to recovery? That point of brokenness, where I had been abandoned by my husband and had to face the shame of the person I had become, was the turning point – it was my step 1, my honest admission of “I can’t,” so that I could learn that “God can,” and could decide that “I will let Him.”
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
When my husband decided to leave me, it was as if the mantle of his care and protection lifted from me. I physically felt it go. I felt like I was falling – he had promised to stay with me forever, to protect me, to go through life with me! And now I wasn’t his anymore! “Whose am I?” I cried in my soul, and I felt the answer. “You are mine,” said Jesus, and he caught me in his hands. He never said, “Well, it’s your own fault, stupid!” Instead, He said, “I know it hurts.” I only felt his love, and compassion, and healing grace, all things I needed in order to recover myself.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
My life consists of BR (Before Recovery) and AR (After Recovery). Knowing Jesus personally is an amazing thing; I love Him so much, and want nothing but to be on His team for the rest of the game. I continue to grow in His grace and goodness, trying to learn the lessons He wants me to gain from this life.
How is life different for you today?
My heart is completely changed from the natural woman I used to be. I know The Gods and love Them; I love the scriptures and every day I find messages from Them to me. I feel Their love as I seek Them. No matter what happens with my relationships, or my job, or the rest of my world, I am sustained by the Bread of Life, the Fount of Living Waters – there is enough love here to fill the world.
What is your perception of yourself?
I know that God loves me (my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ). They loved me enough to save me from myself in a real and personal way, which means I must be pretty awesome. I want to be like Them and let Their love pass through me to the world.
What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
I wasn’t afraid at all, I was so broken and so desperate for help that I was glad there was somewhere to go.
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
Go! Trust! Be honest! Let your heart and your mind be open to what God wants for you there.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
I have seen a few people from ARP around the area. Sometimes we acknowledge each other with a nod; sometimes we don’t; and sometimes we greet and hug and are like old friends. I try to be respectful of what the other person is comfortable with.
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
The more I went, the more I grew to love it: a safe place where I could feel the spirit, say what I needed to say, and learn about recovery and God’s love from others who had travelled the road I was on. I have gained some beautiful, loving friendships from meetings that I hope will be with me for the rest of my life.
Experience with Priesthood Leaders
What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery?
I met with my Bishop frequently to report on specific levels of abstinence that were part of my repentance and fellowship in the Church. He was inspired in the plan he laid out for me – he worked with me to create specific rules that I had to comply with, things I had to remove from my life – small things that applied to me, like only using the computer for work.
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
Let Heavenly Father inspire you, as I’m sure he already does. Don’t be afraid to ask your addict to do hard things: when my Bishop asked me to hand him my temple recommend, I didn’t bat an eye, but when he asked me to give up all online relationships, even the “good” ones, I started shaking and crying: that’s because these were a component of my addiction. Your addict needs to give up ALL of their addiction in order to get clean.
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
Go! Your Bishop is a direct line between you and the Priesthood authority of the Church, and part of getting right with God is getting right with the Church. Do what you must to get your membership in good standing.
If you would like to leave a message for Nena, please do so in the comments. She is reading!