A Glimpse into Betrayal Trauma and Hope

from Susan

Hello dear friends. I have been very grateful for the opportunity this year to be a guest writer. This month I have been asked to share about the betrayal trauma that I experienced. These are more personal and in-depth feelings and experiences than I have shared to this point. It is my prayer that as you receive this the spirit will testify to you the reality of change, hope and recovery.

It was a beautiful Sunday in early spring 2012 that I discovered my husband’s addiction. Jeff was speaking in Sacrament Meeting that day; I was handing out little reminders for an upcoming Stake YW Camp meeting, which I was in charge of. Things felt good being “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Jeff was the Gospel Doctrine teacher and it was there as I sat in the chapel that I found the list of pornographic sites on his phone. I looked at the list. I looked at him. “Not my husband . . . not MY husband.” Surely this had to be a mistake! “We are an active family in the church. Our son just finished his mission, our daughter is at BYU…we just went to the temple yesterday, we were even the witness couple…we pay our tithing…we have family prayer and scripture reading…”. All of these thoughts went through my head as I tried to process what was happening. I realized that I could not accuse him of something that I didn’t know. I didn’t want to rattle him as he was teaching, so I waited until his back was to the class, gathered my things and went to find a quiet place. On this list were some technical looking downloads and he must have been downloading something for work when this filth attached itself to it, I thought. So I opened one of the “technical” items on the list. Unfortunately it was porn and I knew.

I felt like I’d been hit by a train, my body parts strewn across a vast area. No idea of how to set things right, but knowing that I could not do it alone.

Gratefully our bishop took us right into that office, we did not wait. We talked to him right after Sunday School. In the days, weeks, months and years that followed our bishop was to be a great part of recovery for both of us.

Even with his support, I had experienced a trauma, one that I had never prepared myself to face. My emotions swung like a pendulum. I was hurt beyond anything I could have imagined and wanted to run to Jeff for help. At the same time I wanted to run from him, “he was the cause of this!” I didn’t trust my own judgment; after all, “I had chosen him.” It affected every part of my life. Everything was a reminder of the addiction because, for me, he was part of everything. I truly believed that we were “one” and because of this what affected him affected me.

That first night he started to confess. I made the decision that I wanted to hear everything, otherwise I would have just left him because I would have imagined worse. I can only face something that I know. As disclosure continued, more and more and more of his acting out filled my brain. My body couldn’t take it. I could not eat. I could not keep food down. Anything I tried to eat was vomited out. It was as though my body was trying to rid itself of this uninvited filth. I lost 9 pounds in 9 days. I sunk into a deep depression. I desperately wanted the pain to stop. Sleep was my only escape. When I sleep I dream very vividly. I remember waking up one morning thinking that it had all been a dream and when I came to the realization that it was not, I sunk even deeper.

When we experience a trauma we really don’t know how we will react. I could not make sense of anything that was going on; I just wanted it all to stop. Many spouses of addicts experience “self abuse” at this time, me being one of them. As my mind replayed the information that Jeff had given me, I wanted it out! I had suicidal thoughts. I would bang my head hard against our headboard trying to shatter the images. I would go forcefully hit my head against things until I was bruised and swollen. I just wanted out of the emotional pain! I was willing to trade pain for pain.

I went to many sources for help. I went to my family doctor and he prescribed an antidepressant. I went to my bishop and he prescribed at least 30 minutes of personal time with the Lord each day in prayer and scripture study. I went to a counselor and she prescribed books and behavior modification. I went to an LDS book site and ordered every book on the subject. I continued to go to the Lord, “Please Father! Please help!” Often that was the only prayer I could get out. I did all of the things that each of these sources gave me to do and didn’t seem to be getting any better. But in reality, I was slowly getting better. I was just unable to see it.

I thought that my source of healing would be in Jeff’s recovery. “If only he got better…then I would.” This is a myth. My source of healing was in the things that I had started doing, but I didn’t realize that what I had thought were Giant Leaps were simply Baby Steps. But it was ok. Each step I took toward healing brought me needed relief. I began to realize that I could not rely on an outside source to fix what was inside. These wonderful resources all taught that very principle. “Don’t suffer needlessly the consequences of another’s sins,” Richard G. Scott pleads. This suffering is unnecessary in the recovery of the spouse and only leads to further harm.

This is only a portion of my journey, a dark one, a real one; however there is light that follows. There really is hope. There really is healing. And this is because there really a Savior and He loves us.


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