The Interviews: Jana
Getting to Know You
How old were you when your addiction began?
How old are you?
What country do you live in?
Are you married and do you have children?
I have been married for 13 years and have 3 boys, ages 9, 5 and 1.
How long have you been sober?
I have had complete honest sobriety for about 7 weeks now
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a good person, crafty, funny, a mother a sister a wife and an addict.
How old were you when your addiction began?
Well let me say that I did not have a clue how my addiction began or that it was even an addiction for years and years. As a young child I can remember vividly being exposed to a pornographic image, one that still I can see clearly to this day. I had found it in a neighbors home. I had issues with masturbation, etc. as a young girl but didn't understand it or know what it was beyond the scope of it felt good. At age 13/14 I was a full on addict, though again, only now looking back do I realize it was an addiction.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?
When I was a young teen my mom had an affair and being the youngest child and only one left at home I was told and saw many things I was not prepared for in my young mind. This and being told I was always more mature, more an adult than my siblings and friends. This gave me a window to do whatever I wanted, so I thought.
How did your addiction progress?
My addictions began as curiosity. Then easily escalated to viewing images, and then full on experiences. It was never enough. I could never do enough, get enough etc. Even when I was in good relationships I relied and held onto my addictions. The cycles didn't end there. They progressed into much more and much worse. An affair 7 years into my marriage followed by a long period of sobriety and then online and personal relationships with multiple men outside of my marriage.
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
It was a very honest conversation with a friend that really made me realize that, wow, this is out of my control. Also the point where I had to confess to my sweet husband yet again I had broken promises and covenants. He kindly stated I don't know how many more times I can handle the heartbreak. It was at that point that my internal hell broke loose and I hit the literal rock bottom, worst of the worst things that have ever happened in my addictions.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I felt so alone, I thought for sure no other woman on earth could be “this bad”. I was and still struggle with being so down on myself, seeing no good in me anymore.
Where did you turn for help?
The first thing I did was confess everything to my sweet husband, then made an appointment with my bishop. At this point I had told him some things, I had sought out professional counseling but had not been honest with them. I made a point to get out all my issues, addictions, etc to all my professional counselor, bishop and my husband. I then looked up support groups online and through SAA then finally succumbed to the realization I needed a 12 step recovery group that was just for women addicts. Thankfully I was prompted to look at the LDS Recovery Group and find that there was in fact a group, a rather large one, of women addicts with the same beliefs, desires, and addictions as me.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
I think the turning point was really after attending group for a few weeks, and still being consumed in my addictions, I had a friend call out how much I'd changed for the worse, and realizing that everything was so out of my control that I had to change or I'd lose it all. I packed my bags and left my husband and children saying I didn't deserve them and in the short 12 hours away from my family was in the darkest abyss and knew I had to change...NOW!!! It was then I committed myself to turn away from my addiction and really do this, not just try anymore.
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
I still experience the Atonement daily. I read books, studies scriptures and read everything I could about the Atonement. Then someone in group mentioned how she was friends with Christ, how she knew that he knew her, as her older brother. And everything changed for me. I began, for the first time, a real relationship with Christ, as MY Savior. And his atonement and the understanding of it, as best as I can understand it, filled me.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
It is the only difference in my life. I see small changes every day that I am so grateful for and it's only because of the Atonement that I am able to see it. I have no desires for movies, books, people, music etc that I used to long for. When encompassed fully in my addictions I had desire for other sins, mainly word of wisdom but upon acceptance of the Atonement those desires have also fled.
How is life different for you today?
I have hope daily. I still struggle but I know that 1 week turned into 2 and 2 turned into 7 and it can continue to go on in sobriety for a lifetime. I think of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ daily, not just on Sundays or when I need help. My family is stronger than ever before, I have a greater patience, love and appreciation for my husband and children.
What is your perception of yourself?
I still struggle with feelings of self depreciation but I know with time this will get easier. I do feel that I am incredibly strong or I would not have been given these temptations and trials. It is the most difficult thing I have ever had to overcome and continue to overcome daily.
What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
My biggest fear would be that I just wouldn't fit in. That others would have some of the same addictions but that they surely would not have committed the horrific sins that I did. My first meeting consisted of me sobbing uncontrollably and I knew I needed this.
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
To not reject the 12 Step Recovery set up by the LDS church. I was opposed to it for so long because I didn't want the church “shoved down my throat” from one more avenue.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
This really has bothered me in my addictions and my life in general. I have never been good at keeping confidences but as I attend group and meet so many other amazing women and allow the atonement in my life I find that I am able to keep the confidences and others do too.
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
I was really put off to ask for help, to get phone numbers because I feared that I would be “bothering” them. I find that now even though we don't hang out or know all the details of each others lives that the people in group I would consider my closest friends and allies.
Experience with Priesthood Leaders
What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery?
When I first went to my bishop I was ready to walk away from the church, I was all but begging to be excommunicated, I honestly only went to him figuring he'd tell me to walk away and that I was beyond saving. Of course he had counseled with the Lord and knew what I needed instead, patience, kindness, and love. He had suggested professional counseling and a 12 step group and I resisted for some time and finally consented only when I was at my rock bottom. He opened his arms to me lovingly and shared personal stories when I expressed a desire to come back to church and accept full responsibility for my actions. Needless to say, his love has been essential in my recovery.
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
To never give up on the person. To seek guidance from the Lord continually in what they need to come back to the fold. To keep confidences and pray before each meeting specifically and individually for the person. Also reading the guide for church leaders on sexual and pornography addiction, as I'm sure most do.
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
Go in complete humility. Pray to Heavenly Father for the strength to be honest, to express your desires for peace, forgiveness and know what to say and how to say it. Accept that the Lord has called them and ordained them to give direction, they are not there to judge but to help you along in your path toward righteousness and acceptance of the atonement.
How has your spouse handled your addiction/recovery?
I am married and have been fortunate to have a husband who has an understanding of the atonement. I have asked him to share a few things of what he felt as it may come to help others in the spouse role.
Thoughts from Jana's husband:
“I feel like I've been blessed to be able to see the bigger picture – to see things from an eternal perspective. This is not to say that it was easy to hear about the things she'd done, or to see the difference in her personality when she was in the depths of her addictions. But understanding and knowing that she is human, and that she is still a daughter of God, has helped me get through those hard times. And to see the change in her, feel the spirit from her again once she started on the recovery path, has made up for those hard times. If I could give one piece of advice to other spouses, it would be to remember that God still loves your wife, so you can too. Especially for those with addictions, remember that she is not her sins or addictions – she is a person who is anguishing in guilt and really needs your love, support, and understanding. The atonement is capable of healing your own heartbreak as you work with your spouse on her road to recovery.”
What lies did Satan tell you to make you think you were the only one?
Satan has been very good at lying to me for a long time. He told me lie after lie that I believed I was alone because “women don't do this”, “only men have this addiction,” “you can't be forgiven for these grave sins AGAIN,” “all other women will hate you if you come forward with this,” etc. Unfortunately I had also had some male associations confirm this and say these same things to me. Satan puts people in our paths to confirm his lies and the most important thing I can say is DO NOT, EVER EVER believe what he says. He is called the Father of all lies for a reason.
What has helped you shed shame enough to the point that you are willing to share your story here in this interview?
I still feel a lot of shame, mostly when things come back into my mind suddenly. I have to remind myself this is a tool of Satan to get me to fold, to quit etc. I have always felt, even though I am early in recovery, that if something I have gone through can help at least one other person that it will be worth all the pain and heartache I have endured. I think it's important to note that I am new to the 12 step recovery. I am currently only working step 2 but we are all in different places along the path, the important thing is we are on the right path now. I don't want anyone to think that only those who have had years of sobriety know what they are talking about, or you think Oh I'm not there yet, so I can't do this. You can. First comes just 1 second of sobriety, then it becomes minutes, then days, then weeks, then months. You MUST do it step by step one moment at a time.
To those that are struggling...
I just want to share , probably for myself more than anything, that regardless of your standing in the church that Heavenly Father still loves you, he will give you personal revelation, strength and help through others as well as through yourself. The addictions that I have been consumed by have led me down many twisted, dark paths and only now do I see there is a light. I am not currently in good standing with the church and I thought for sure that would destroy me that it would mean I was no longer welcome at church, to activities or other good things. This is a lie of Satan. He wants you to believe all is lost and it is not. No matter if you've been disfellowshipped or excommunicated or on probation or anything else prior, you can still hope to be welcomed back to the fold of Heavenly Father. It's a long, hard path but it is one that the Savior will gladly walk with you every step of the way.
If you would like to leave a message for Jana (and husband), please do so in the comments. She is reading!