I appreciate you listening to my confession and telling me that I can be forgiven. I could tell you were doing your best. I cannot begin to explain to you how hard it was for me to come to a man, 15 years younger than me, to speak about such an embarrassing problem.
I would usually just tell my Bishops that I had a problem with self-gratification but, this time, I felt like I should come clean about the pornography and erotic stories that were still a part of my problem. Here I was, a temple recommend holder, who could keep clean from this 'problem' for a few months at a time, but always fell back into it eventually. You were kind and understanding even though. I could tell it was uncomfortable for you. I was beginning to feel like this really was a good idea. I felt the Holy Ghost and I knew that my Father in Heaven was pleased with me.
Then, just as we got up to end the meeting, you said something that brought on greater shame than I believed I could bear. You said, "You really need to get past this, Sister. I mean, how can you expect your teenage boys to be worthy priesthood holders and serve missions, if you are acting like this?" My heart broke at that moment. Didn't you realize that I already felt like the biggest hypocrite of the earth every time I told my boys to beware of pornography and to stay morally clean? You knew that my boys had been exposed to pornography on the internet and you knew that I wasn't sure how to help them.
With that one statement, you had validated my secret belief that their problems in this area were all my fault. The shame washed over me and I wanted nothing more than to hide in a dark empty place and never be seen again. What kind of a mother was I ? My own children would be disgusted to know that a woman my age might have such a problem. Not only was I a failure as a church member, but also as a mother. And if I loved my children at all, I would have stopped my foolishness long ago. So, I left our meeting feeling lost and empty.
Oh, Bishop, please, if you ever need to talk to a sister about these things again, don't mention her children. I am sure that you thought my love for my children would motivate me to do better. I wondered myself why it did not.
Gratefully, the Lord led me to a therapist who knew about sexual addiction and got me into a twelve step program.
I learned that I was addicted and I would never be able to stop on my own.
I learned that the fact I was an addict did not change the depth or amount of love I had for my children.
I learned and came to understand that the shame I was carrying only fueled my addiction.
I learned that . . .
It was only through the Savior that I could let go of shame and move forward one step at a time.
A contributed post in response to A Call For Input: Dear Bishop Letters.