This is the fifth of an on-going series by Susan about her experience in the Spouse and Family Support Group.
Four years ago I was seeking support for myself after discovering Jeff’s pornography addiction. I attended the SAnon meetings in our area of Ohio and learned very valuable information. But I felt something was missing for me. I wanted more than to lean on a “higher power;” I wanted the healing that came through Jesus Christ. So I continued to work the 12 steps of the ARP until I finished my first time through the book. Still, I didn’t feel this book was written for the spouse of an addict as it often says “your addiction.” So I went to Utah to seek out a friend that I believed could help me.
She was experiencing good recovery from an addiction of her own. Now an active member of the church she leads groups, shares her story, and supports others in recovery. One Sunday I found her at church and told her of my situation. Within minutes after church she came to me with a whole list of support groups that I could attend. She explained how the Spouse Support groups worked and offered to attend with me. I told her this was all good, and I would certainly attend, but Jeff was really the one that needed to get fixed. She tried to explain to me that it wasn’t my job to make sure that Jeff got the help that he needed, that was his job. I shouldn’t be owning it. I didn’t think I was owning it. I had read the books! I read about surrender and thought I was well on my way…as long as I was making sure he was well on his way too.
Obviously, my friend saw the disconnect in my thought process and finally said “Susan, you can’t save him. He already has a Savior.” It was in this moment that I saw what I hadn’t before.
Oh. Yes. I finally began to see. My recovery is my recovery, Jeff’s recovery is his. The words of SAnon came ringing back, “The 3 C’s: you didn’t CAUSE it, you can’t CONTROL it and you can’t CURE it.” And more importantly, I can’t save him.
Boy it’s hard to let go! Especially when you are a wife and mother, and your main job is to fix and take care of things. When the biggest thing in my life is broken, how can I let go and “let God?” I can’t save him. I can’t save ME. I needed Jesus Christ and that is what I said I was out to find, healing that comes through Jesus Christ, and I have found it. This moment, for this purpose is the reason that the Savior came. One of the many reasons, but personally for me, I needed him for this. The price IS paid. The way IS possible. The healing IS real.
The original 12 Step ARP has been powerful in my personal healing. After that first time through I went back and started over. I didn’t let it bother me that it talks about “your addiction” and inserted other words like “trial, character weakness, hardship, anger, hurt, pain,” etc. I continued to go through the steps, starting again after step 12. Just like the scriptures, I learned something new each time I went through it. I don’t see it as 12 steps and done, I see it as 12 steps and start over.
Today I use the Spouse and Support Guide from LDS Family Services. Patterned after the 12 Step ARP Guide, it is directed to me, the spouse of an addict. Step 5 is “Working Out Our Own Salvation.” For me this is the surrender step. An especially helpful section is “Accepting That We Cannot Control Our Loved Ones or Heal Their Addiction.”
Another very impactful resource for me is “Healing Through Christ”
There is so much hope. There is so much healing. And it is all possible because of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you to Lisa for her post on Step 5: Acknowledge to Heavenly Father, to ourselves, and to another person experienced in Twelve Step principles, the exact nature of our wrongs.
I’m going to focus on a specific example from my life that I had recently with this step. I was struggling one night with unresolved feelings towards my dad. He passed away six years ago.
When I was a child I had many good and wonderful experiences. I loved when he held me, brushed my hair, and did special things like taking us to walk around the visitor’s center at the nearby temple. I loved him.
I also hated him. I won’t go into the specifics, but I hated him for the things he did at times. I was also embarrassed by him. Lastly, he scared me when he got angry. I had many difficult memories, but I also had some sweet ones. I tried to focus on those. I got married and moved out and was grateful that when the anger flared I could leave.
As I got older I thought I had resolved my feelings towards him. We established a relationship that I was comfortable with. I rarely saw him get angry and I thought I was over it. I started to recognize some of the things in myself that I hated or was embarrassed about with him. This allowed me to be sympathetic. He was doing the best he could and so was I.
As I prepared to move from my home to Michigan in 2009, he was dying of cancer. I will always remember that last time because I was terribly ill and he was in the middle of chemo and radiation, he put his personal safety aside and held me. It tore my heart apart to leave knowing that he wasn’t going to be around a whole lot longer. Somehow at that time I knew it was the last time he would hold me. I called every day and spoke to him, helped him with things as I was able and kept in touch with him and how the cancer was spreading. I desperately wanted to be there for his last few days on earth, but knew I didn’t belong there. I discovered too late how close he really was and made a hurried flight home to be with him. I made it just a few hours before he passed, but he was unconscious of me. Still, I knew he was aware of me. It was a miraculous answer to prayer.
Now, years later I realized I never resolved my issues and I couldn’t anymore with him because he had passed on. I finally broke down and prayed like I never had before. I poured out my soul to Heavenly Father and confessed every negative memory I had towards Dad. I told Him everything I hated, everything I was embarrassed by. Then I told Him all the good things. The sweet, kind, and good things. The things that made me proud to be his daughter. It was like a mini moral inventory about just one person. It took me a long time and a lot of tissues. I laid it all out and wasn’t ashamed anymore. I got up and wrote about it in my journal, honestly, for the first time ever. I had to that point just been hiding my shame that I would feel this way about my father. It wasn’t right.
I realized that it wasn’t right, but I realized too that right or wrong didn’t matter, it was how I felt. I confessed it all to my husband. I know that’s not normally the one to confess it to, but in this case I felt prompted to share it with him. It was an incredibly cleansing and powerful experience. When I think of Dad now, I no longer have a knot in my stomach. I still remember the unpleasant things, but I am at peace, finally. Step Five has brought me healing that I never thought I would obtain in this life.