Cleansing the Inner Vessel
Sexual addiction has been a part of my life since junior high. It seemed harmless at the time. I had a group of friends who were able to find pornographic material rather easily, and I began to look at things that were inappropriate.
I joined the Church about this time, and while I knew that what I was doing was wrong, it seemed like a normal boyhood “rite of passage.” While I did all the things outwardly that were expected of me, such as serving a mission for the Church and marriage in the temple, I did as all other addicts do and buried my secret life from my leaders, wife, and family. My life was a lie.
While I managed short periods of abstinence in my life, the last few years involved daily indulgence in viewing pornography and acting in other compulsive sexual behaviors. I was not the same person on the inside who all of my friends and fellow Church members saw on the outside, and it was making me sick.
I finally realized that my seemingly happy marriage of 25 years was failing. While my wife and I were there for each other physically, there was no emotional intimacy. No oneness. My lack of communication and true intimacy with my wife had forced a wedge between us that grew wider by the day. Not knowing what to do, and wanting desperately to save my marriage, I came clean about my double life.
The ensuing months were the hardest. We fought weekly about small and meaningless things as I started to attend an addiction recovery group. I educated myself about my addiction by finding great blogs, books, and podcasts. I even flew with my wife to meet with a great author of a fantastic book about pornography addiction. As I continued to work the 12 steps in my life and attend meetings regularly, I became more aware of my own temptations and triggers. These tools all helped me with my understanding and recovery.
When I first told my wife about my addiction, I fully expected her to leave me, and I don’t blame her for the anger she felt. Somehow, though, she has been able to let go of the anger she felt toward me and my addiction. I am slowly learning how to be a better husband, and we are making the emotional connection with each other that had been missing for years. We started praying together more and observing date night faithfully.
I had around 50 days of sobriety when I came to my stake president and discussed the addiction. I was prepared for the worst, as was my family. I had reached a point where I didn’t care what the outcome was; I just needed to be clean. My stake president helped me realize the power of the Atonement to heal and cleanse.
My understanding and appreciation for the Atonement has grown immensely because of my experiences. I feel like I have become stronger and more empathetic because of my personal struggles. The Atonement is real. And in spite of all of the “mechanics” of recovery, it is the Lord who does all of the real work in our hearts and in our lives.
I’m grateful for understanding friends, Church leaders, and a wife who are able to see beyond my addiction and continue to love me. Most of all I am grateful for the remarkable strides the Church has made in de-stigmatizing addictions of this kind and seeing them for what they are. The Addiction Recovery Program works and is a gift from God in my life and countless others.