Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Journey: Swimming for the Surface---Finding Light Again...

As I was pondering on the events of the past four-ish years last night, I could not get over how orchestrated everything was.  I could not see that at the time, but Heavenly Father has carefully lead me and my family where He needed us to go.  I am grateful for His patience! He loves us enough to help us find truth, even though it required a painful journey.  I truly believe it didn't need to be as difficult as we made it; however, He couldn't wait any longer for us to seek this path.  We needed to move forward, even if that meant taking a less than desirable way to get there.

The professional counselor who was the best fit for my husband is not a member of our church.  Although very well exposed to our beliefs, he didn't have the same perspective on Mark's choices.  When things were crumbling apart (see the previous post.  Link at the bottom of this post), I made the decision to see an LDS counselor to bounce off what was going on.  I had two sessions with a counselor from LDS Family Services.  In my second session as I let her know that Mark had left and we were going to get divorced, she pulled out a flyer.  "It's too bad things didn't work out or maybe this could have helped."

The flyer had information for the 12-step program and also a group counseling program for the addict and spouse specific for Mark's addiction.  What came at recommendation of a last resort could have greatly benefited us as first resources.  We have learned the importance of proper help, as well as counselors who understand addiction.

We had an interview for the group counseling program.  As we talked back and forth with the therapists it was reassuring that she nodded her head as we discussed our situation.  That was the first time we had a counselor who wasn't shocked or overwhelmed by our situation.  We were "normal" for what couples were going through on this courageous journey.  She said we would be a good fit and she felt the program would benefit us.  The catch was that we would need to wait 4 months before the next group would be starting.  You move through the program as a group and there weren't enough couples yet to begin any sooner.

In the meantime, we began attending 12-step.  Mark went to his group a few times and came home to tell me about a support group for those with loved ones with addiction.  I dragged my feet to go.  Why should I?  He was the one with all the problems?  I don't need to be "punished" because of him.  I can't remember what changed, but after a few weeks I finally decided to go.

I had no idea what to expect.  What would the meetings be like?  What would we even say to each other?  What was I going to say?

I cannot express the strong emotions that night.  I was overcome with relief.  I was very "normal" for a dysfunctional situation.  There were others who were going through similar things.  Although details of our situations are unique, when they spoke, it was if they were reading pages from my journal!

It also brought out resentment.  I was attending those meetings because my husband is such a "scum bag!"  After a few months I began to realize that I was actually a "scum bag too!"  My eyes were opened to recognize that although I didn't cause my husband's addiction, I had unhealthy behaviors that contributed to the big mess we were now beginning to clean up together.  Although I wasn't trading turning to Jesus Christ for horrible things, I was not turning to Him either.  Just because my addictions were "socially acceptable," didn't mean they could continue without consequences.  My addictions were driving a wedge in my relationship with God.  Just as my husband was beginning the process of learning to turn to Jesus Christ to be filled rather than things or people, I too needed to learn how that looked in my own life.

We all do.

We are here in mortality to learn to allow Jesus Christ to fill us and refine us.  He can literally root out the natural man tendencies in us.  I stand witness to the reality of His power to do this for us...if we allow Him to.  Some things have been instantly changed.  Others have taken more time.  Some are still in process.  Some have yet to be discovered as Him and I together pull back more layers and discover what is underneath.  Through this life-long process we can become like our Heavenly Father and have eternal life.  Eternal life does not have to wait until we die.

My husband's addition brought me to my knees...but that is right where Heavenly Father was waiting for me to be.

I cannot give you some secret recipe of just do this and then you will have a guaranteed outcome, but below is a general formula that most people fighting addiction create a personalized combination from.  We have friends who have taken similar steps as us and have been exposed to the same resources and still ended up divorced or have agreed to stay married and just live separate lives with addiction swept under the rug.  Take that into account as I share ideas for resources. As I cannot overemphasize: pray about it.  Find out what YOU need to be doing.

EDUCATION: Take the time to get educated about addiction...how it works, what it is.  It was such a relief to understand that my husband's choices had nothing to do with me.  Yes, I can contribute and make it easier for him to act out on his addiction.  BUT he had this addiction before he even knew me.  It isn't that I need to drop weight or get a new wardrobe and then he won't act out.  Trust me...I tried EVERYTHING to fix myself so he wouldn't act out.  For some people it is reading books or maybe finding some good conferences or training.  We were fortunate that the first leg of our group counseling program did much of this for us (we still read on our own too).  However you do it, get educated on what you are dealing with.

A GROUP: Some people count 12-step as their group.  Like I mentioned, we found a professional group counseling program that was specific for Mark's addiction and also had a program for the spouse. Some people feel like a 12-step program was adequate, for us, we needed tools clearly spelled out.  The benefit of a group is that you have people who can hold you accountable.  (You are accountable to the group).  It also was helpful to hear other peoples' experiences, discoveries, and what works for them.  That often gave me aha moments and helped me connect things in my own life.

12-STEP:  There are many options out there.  We have actually tried many groups, but the one that we returned to again and again were the LDS 12-step groups. What we felt like 12-step did for us that our group counseling program could not is helped us to find our personal connection higher power.  It helped us come to know God and Jesus Christ in ways that we previously did not know was possible. We have friends who only did 12-step and friends who only did the group counseling and those were the ones who struggled the most.  Some people can do just one or the other, but for many, it is needed to cover both.

CONSIDER COUNSELING: Although we were getting professional help in our group counseling program, private counseling with good counselors were helpful for us as well.  It helped us to be able to process through to be able to keep up with the group pace.  It also was helpful to have a good sounding board to bounce off of when we needed to do hard things or otherwise would have stayed stuck. Some of my friends have additional situations such a previously been abused or already faced their own personal addictions.  When they discover their spouse's addiction, sometimes hard things from the past are triggered by the present.  A good professional counselor can be helpful for this type of situation as well.  PS...not all counselors are created equal.  It's okay to "shop around" before you settle on one.

ECCLESIASTICAL SUPPORT: For us that meant our bishop.  For those of other faith, your clergyman.  It took us time to realize I needed just as much help and support as my husband.  I needed help to process the hurt and walk through forgiveness and healing.  Not all bishops know this.  It is okay to set up an appointment for yourself and tell your ecclesiastical leader what you feel like you need.  You don't have to wait until you are called in.

Do you have a recovery plan like this?  If you haven't taken the time to actually write it down (and that part is important), then your challenge is to do so.  Fill in the details of roughly what your plan looks like.  It's okay if it changes in the future.  For now, figure out what you need and how to get it.  Remember to be prayerful!

My Journey.  Previous Post HERE
My Journey.  Next Post Coming Soon.

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