This is part of an on-going series of articles by Jeff, Susan’s husband, as they work through recovery together.
Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. In my recovery journey, I learned that I had to acknowledge and own all the sins of my past. Over the years in my addiction, I had become expert at rationalizing and justifying my sins. I had a distorted view that somehow the good things in my life like serving a mission, raising my family in the church, family history work, and going to church each week would somehow balance out my acting out. I blamed others, including my wife, for the negative thoughts and emotions I felt which helped me compartmentalize my feelings. This contributed to burying my feelings so deep that I had forgotten many things (which led me to minimize how often I had acted out in my addiction and the resentments that I held and used to continue to blame others.) The problem is that no matter how deeply they were buried, they were all still inside me. The buried feelings and emotions eventually had to be addressed.
Step 4 in the Addiction Recovery Program is Truth with the key principle to “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.” With this principle, I learned that no matter how long it had been since I sinned or how far I had buried my feelings and resentments, I needed to acknowledge and own them so that real healing could begin.
Because of the way my addiction was discovered, starting my list was not the hard part. Susan already knew about most of the worst things, and I had talked to the bishop about them. This step became harder for me as the list grew and grew. I started my inventory chronologically from the most recent acting out. I wrote it out on paper that I could keep in a safe place. I prayed before starting and then just wrote everything that came to mind. Unfortunately, I ran out of room on the page and reorganized my list where I had a page for each major period of my life (married, college, mission, high school, childhood) and then sub-grouped by where I lived (we have moved many times). After the initial list, I took a break and then came back to review. I prayed and pondered about each group and each type of acting out. As I did this, more things kept coming to my mind which included additional times of acting out, additional ways I acted out, hurt feelings, resentments, anger, hatred, more resentment, and holding on to bitter feelings. I started remembering things from my childhood that I had long since buried. Unfortunately, I had many pages before I was done with this process. When I thought I was done, the work on step 4 was just beginning for me. I needed support in the process and decided to share my list with Susan because she wanted to know the details. (Not all spouses are the same with this, but Susan wanted to know everything.) This was a very difficult conversation for both of us and I will talk more about this with step 5. This process continued for several more weeks as my list was not yet complete. I would pray to ask Heavenly Father if there was anything else and things continued to come to my mind and then I would talk to Susan.
One tender mercy I received was the prompting that I was supposed to inventory the good things I had done as well. Honesty was huge in this process. I was committed to get everything out and Heavenly Father continued to answer my prayers one day at a time as I was persistent and prepared emotionally and spiritually. It was a wonderful day when I received confirmation that everything was written down on those pages that I needed to resolve with the Lord, with Susan, and with myself.
Now that I had my list, the process of learning from it began. This involved self-examination to understand what really happened, my feelings, the effect on me and others, and then figuring out what to do. Some may be able to do this process on their own or with a coach. I found I needed help and turned to a professional counselor. He was a trusted member of our stake and an inspired man. (Choose a counselor carefully).
With his help, I began to understand my issues and the steps I needed to take to address them and heal. While step 4 was the hardest step to this point, I felt the hand of the Lord helping me. I had great hope and trust in Heavenly Father that at the end of the process I would not only be clean and forgiven for past sins, but able to move forward in recovery and healing from acting out in my addiction.