French Bread

Not sure what to say except I’m in a lot of pain and I felt a prompting to write about it here.

“Pain” is the French word for “bread.” So there you go.

My wife decided to divorce me. I feel hesitant to share details, particularly what she’s told me about her thoughts and feelings behind her decision. I don’t want to misrepresent them here and I don’t want to paint her choice in a negative color. Suffice it to say I think her choice is understandable and she deserves to feel loved and emotionally safe in her marriage. My multitudinous relapses over nine years made her feel the opposite.

Of course I feel sad. My emotions have been all over the place since she told me a couple months ago… depressed, lonely, angry (a lot of that one), abandoned, scared, fearful, stressed, confused (a lot of that one too), guilty, ashamed, lost, and I’m sure more which I can’t recall at the moment.

Oddly enough I also feel relieved given any future relapses won’t affect her directly. Not in the same way at least.

So now we’re figuring out this thing called divorce and I hate it. The state law here requires a twelve-month separation period before filing for divorce. I haven’t decided yet whether I like this law. A growing part of me wants it to be done and over with because it’s so painful… just rip the bandaid off already, please! Another part of me wants to hope that something will change her mind between now and the end of the twelve months. I’m afraid to hope for that. At the very least, this separation gives us some time to figure out the depressing details such as finances, when I’ll get to be with my children, etc.

Given my depression and this divorce I’m amazed I can still function at all. I have God to thank for that. Despite my choices causing this nightmare, I’ve felt His support with more intensity and focus than I think I ever have in my life. I purposefully distanced myself from Him after Jess told me her decision, particularly the specific guidance she received from Him while making her choice. Since then I’ve periodically turned to Him when I feel lost or overwhelmed, and every time He’s been right there for me in a powerful way. I felt Him sustaining me through the final weeks of my college education, enabling me to study and retain information even though I felt only half awake and couldn’t recall my coworkers’ names or remember to eat. I felt Him guiding me while I searched for a new place to live even though I hated doing it and I had no idea where to begin except that I want to live close to my children… He gave me three distinct confirmations where I’m supposed to live now, and I’m scheduled to move in before the end of this month. I’ve felt His support while working; He makes my brain think clearly enough to do my job well despite the restlessness and inability to focus which has now become the norm for me. I’ve felt His immediate reassurance every time I scream-pray in the moments when I feel an overwhelming surge of loneliness, anger, confusion, and fear. I don’t know how to describe it… He’s just there and He fills me with love every time I turn to Him, more quickly and more deeply than I’ve ever experienced before. This gives me hope and faith to keep moving.

Friends and family have also been amazing. People reach out to me almost daily, close friends and family as well as friendly acquaintances who offer their sincere support. I feel lost most days but after talking with one of these people I feel calm and able to take another painful step forward.

Of course no trial would be complete without Satan. I am extremely vulnerable right now and he knows it. He’s been kicking me while I’m down, taking advantage of my weakness. He really must be miserable if picking on a person in my current state is his favorite thing to do. He’s a jerkwad. Get thee behind me. (Modern translation: “Bye, Felicia!”) That’s all I’ll say about him.

A big part of me wants to be angry at my wife. A part of me is angry and I think that’s OK for now so long as I don’t seethe or let it steer my thoughts and decisions. I feel angry at her for leaving me when I need her most, but I don’t subscribe to the notion that a marriage relationship should be unconditional. Patient, yes, among other virtues; but not unconditional. (She stayed with me through nine years of relapses so I’d say she nailed the patience and long-suffering parts.) She told me she genuinely believes I will get better and conquer my depression, trauma, and addiction. Because of this I don’t believe she’s giving up on me, thought it’s extremely difficult not to feel that way. When I let myself think about this I end up at the conclusion that I’m simply not worth the pain to her anymore. I don’t know what to think of that conclusion but I’ve decided not to let my mind settle on any interpretations for now.

Some good has come out of this though. The day after she told me her decision I knew I needed to finally tackle the sexual abuse trauma I’d experienced in my youth. I’d put off working on it with my therapist for over three years because I was terrified of reliving it. I don’t know why or how to explain it but despite finding myself suddenly drowning in a new traumatic experience, I knew in my bones that I had to begin healing from the trauma of my youth and I had to do it *now.* (Maybe my mind and body could sense it would all be too much for me to bear if I didn’t start unloading?) My therapist and I dove in, and the sessions were extremely painful… but the healing has been powerful! I feel my addiction has less power over me because I’m finally processing those core events. It’s like I finally let a surgeon remove a decades-old, acid-leaking, miniature car battery from my chest. Breathing is easier and I feel more free.

Oh, and everything makes me cry now, so much so that it amuses me haha. Not that there’s anything wrong with crying—I believe it’s healthy and normal. But lately even the dumbest radio commercials and bumper stickers will get me teary-eyed. I just think it’s kind of funny and it makes me laugh to myself every now and then, which is nice.

Like I said, I’m not letting myself hope that my wife will change her mind. Of course I would welcome that but for now I feel a strong need to focus on Me. I cannot control her choices. A dear friend counseled me to seek Heavenly Father’s will for me and focus on that. I’m trying to do that and it helps. One day at a time helps too. Also, choosing to trust Heavenly Father that I can be healthy and happy without understanding Jess’s decision or His direction to her… that helps too. I feel His loving support now as I write this.

Thanks for reading. I feel better.

Answering Hard Questions about Suicide and Depression

If you or a loved one suffer from depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, wanting to give up, feeling alone… *watch this video!* Watch it right now!! You will learn what you can do to help yourself or your loved one move forward.

This video is filled with wisdom that can only come from someone who’s been there. I feel better equipped now to deal with my depression and suicidal thoughts. Seriously cannot recommend this enough.

Thank you, Andrew Tucker, for making this and sharing your story. I am blown away by how well you talk about this stuff despite how painful it is. Thank you.

Honesty and Vulnerability go well together

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A couple weeks ago I attended a Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meeting for the first time. It was powerful! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. I was also struck by how honest and vulnerable everyone was.

I’ve been to multitudinous LDS Addiction Recovery Program meetings and they’ve helped me immensely. In those meetings I first learned I’m not alone in this war, and through those meetings the Lord gave me faith to not give up. The most memorable and meaningful ARP meetings I’ve attended were the ones in which I and my brothers were vulnerable, when we openly shared our fears and doubts with each other. No hiding, no shame, just open honesty.

Unfortunately in my experience a common theme in many ARP meetings I’ve attended is “hope-imonies.” Instead of being vulnerable by sharing what’s on our minds, or being honest about where we are and where we want to be, the meeting becomes a “testimony” meeting where we all say we “know” that the 12 Steps work… except most of us haven’t worked them to full recovery (with the exception of the facilitator and a veteran or two), so we don’t actually have a witness that they work. We certainly want them to work, and we may believe that they work, but that’s not the same as knowing it. I was describing this to my therapist and he said, “Ah yes, a hope-imony meeting.” For me those kinds of meetings aren’t so helpful because they’re not honest, vulnerable, or even truthful. And don’t get me wrong—I’ve done it too. I have shared many a hope-imony in those meetings.

I remember the first time I heard raw vulnerability in an ARP meeting. That evening I went because I needed hope. I had recently relapsed and I wasn’t sure the meetings were helping me. When my turn came I passed. A couple shares later, one man’s words caught my attention. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “I’m grateful to be alive. Years ago I was in a dark place. I had borrowed my drug of choice from a dealer I’d known for a long time, but I didn’t have the money to pay him. A couple guys showed up at my apartment, dragged me into the basement, tied me to a pole and beat me till they thought I was dead. By the grace of God someone found me and I woke up in a hospital some time later. I should’ve died in that basement. But God rescued me and gave me another chance. I’ve not been perfect since then, and I’ve relapsed since then, but after that night I knew God was with me—not just because of the fact someone found me, but because when I woke up in that hospital I felt it. I felt Him with me. I thought, ‘How can you be with me? I’ve done so many terrible things. I’ve hurt everyone I’ve ever cared about. I’ve pushed you away countless times. How is it you’re still with me?’ And I felt His love for me there in that hospital bed. That’s how I know God loves me. So I’m grateful to be alive today. I still have things to learn and I’m still working on this addiction thing, but I know God’s with me. And that keeps me going.”

This man’s story gave me hope! It still does every time I recall it.

I’ve found this genuine openness and honesty in numerous ARP meetings since then and it’s powerful every time. For whatever reason, I find it more often in SA meetings. And I love it! I need it! It strengthens me and encourages me to be honest and vulnerable with myself, others, and God. In my experience, honesty breaks my cycles of acting out, and vulnerability keeps me from going back. So I try to be honest and vulnerable when I share in meetings. I get so much more out of them when I do. I’m learning to practice these principles in all relationships and areas of my life.

I want to be clear I’m not trying to encourage people to abandon ARP meetings in favor of SA ones. I plan to attend both meetings. I only want to share what’s helping me on my road to recovery. I hope someone reading this finds it helpful.

Healing Wounds I cannot Heal

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“Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ. …

“I repeat … there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.”

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995.

I pray as I repent of my sins that the Lord will have mercy on me and heal the wounds I cannot heal, especially the ones I have inflicted on my loved ones and myself.

 

Finding Courage now that I can See

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” – C.S. Lewis

A teacher in Sunday school today shared this quote. It reminded me of the moments when I sense temptation growing and I know it’s time to do battle with my weakness. I faced those moments numerous times this past week. By the grace of the Lord I was victorious despite my frailty.

Recently while meeting with my therapist he taught me a principle I had not considered before. I had always believed if I wanted recovery badly enough and worked hard enough then the Lord would remove my weakness through His Atonement. With this belief in my heart I’ve often felt frustrated when I felt I was doing my best and the Lord wasn’t delivering me—not fully—from my addiction.

In those moments of frustration I felt tempted to think I was being cheated, or that I wasn’t good enough. Recurring clinical depression reinforced those thoughts and eventually I came to believe that for some reason the Lord in His wisdom was going to let me struggle with depression and addiction for the rest of my life. I thought I was destined for an endless cycle of sincere repentance and relapses with periodic sobriety and respite from depression. I had accepted it and decided I wouldn’t give up, that I would keep trying because that’s what the Lord wanted me to do. Maybe some folks receive healing from addiction but that blessing wouldn’t be mine till the next life so long as I was faithful and didn’t stop trying.

A series of alarming choices recently awoke me to the subtle destructiveness of these beliefs.

I now find myself continuously pondering what my therapist taught me, which is this: the Lord doesn’t remove weaknesses, rather He strengthens and teaches us to live righteously despite them. He does this because as He has said, He “gives [us] weaknesses that [we] may be humble.” One of the reasons I came to this earth is to learn to rely on Him in all things. What better way to accomplish this than by learning to rely on Him for the rest of my life because I cannot handle my weaknesses on my own? And instead of asking Him to remove my weakness, what if I were to ask Him to show me how to live with my weakness without giving in to temptation?

“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

As I sought to apply that principle this week, I found new meaning in the Savior’s promise that “[His] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him].” He has always been there for me and given me grace in times of need. But there was something different about it this week. This week I stopped looking for healing from addiction and instead started looking for strength to abstain from my addiction. In so doing, it felt as though I was no longer attaching a condition to my relationship with Him, but instead was enjoying a relationship of trust with Him wherein I knew that He and I were working together and that with Him I could do all things. It was like I no longer looked to him as a doctor I would visit when feeling sick, but as a personal trainer with whom I was constantly working to progress and move forward to avoid sickness in the first place.

I feel my words don’t adequately describe the shift in thinking God is giving me, so I pray His Spirit shares it with you and that I let it sink deep into my heart so that I understand it well enough to explain clearly. In just one week it has changed the way I view my relationship with my Savior and my Father in Heaven. I feel a new kind of faith in Him that I haven’t felt before, or perhaps haven’t felt in a very long time; and for that I am grateful.

A scripture comes to mind: “… one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9).

None are Forbidden

Open-Gate

 

Frequently Satan tries to make me feel shame. Sometimes he dredges up old, painful memories related to sins for which the Lord has already forgiven me; other times he whispers lies about my self worth, that I am not cut out to be a good man, or that there’s no point in continuing onward given my history of repeated failure. Whatever the play, when I listen the effect is the same: I end up feeling like a lost cause.

What a crock!

I am not a lost cause because Jesus Christ has cleared the path for everyone! No one is too lost, too addicted, too depressed, or too beaten to fall beyond the reach of the Savior. He gently prompts me to not give up, to keep going especially when I see no point in trying; and He never misleads me. When I choose to listen to His voice, the effect is always the same: I feel uplifted.

These scriptures from the Book of Mormon have comforted me the past few weeks:

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.

He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.

Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

2 Nephi 26:23-28

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The Portal to Progression

With God, through prayer, all things are possible, and without prayer we lack the power to progress. Prayer is the portal to progression. As Elder Kevin W. Pearson taught: “Without prayer, there is no possible return to the Father. Without prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and the cleansing power of the Atonement are unattainable. Without prayer, sufficient faith to understand and keep the commandments is impossible. Without prayer, the necessary spiritual power to avoid temptation and overcome trials and adversity would be unavailable.”

Read the full article here.

Guest Post: What’s in a Name—Evelyn Grace

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Our daughters Isla (6 yrs old) and Evelyn

I’ve been asked a number of times where the inspiration for Evelyn’s name came from so I figured it was time to write it down. The explanation for her first name is easy: she shares this name with her great grandmother, Evelyn Darlene Hargiss. It’s a beautiful name. The not-so-simple explanation is needed for her middle name, Grace. This name holds particular meaning for Michael and I as it is a name inspired by all it took to bring this beautiful person into the world and into our lives.

In December of 2015 Michael and I began feeling that the time had come for us to have another child—that there was, in fact, a child waiting to come into our family. Despite my many reservations and fears (products of a difficult first pregnancy and even more challenging postpartum depression/anxiety), we decided to trust the Lord and begin trying. In mid-March I found out I was pregnant, and a week later I entered the hell of hyperemesis gravidarum. For those unfamiliar with this disease, it is severe nausea and vomiting that afflicts about 1% of pregnant women. Unlike “morning sickness,” this nausea and vomiting is constant. For ten weeks I laid in bed, unable to keep any food down. I lost 40 lbs. The muscles in my legs atrophied, and were used as food by my body for the baby. Most days I had trouble keeping even water down, and spent quite a bit of time at the hospital getting fluids. My digestive system shut down. My kidneys were beginning to fail. The feeding tube they put in (horrible) just made things worse, so I took it out. I was dying. But I didn’t. As suddenly as the sickness began, it stopped. My nausea medication started working. I stopped throwing up. My body began the painful and frustrating process of recovering. Then about two months later, as my belly finally started growing and my body was stretching, the constant pain in my legs and hips started. The heartburn got worse. The insomnia set in. Constant discomfort and pain. Hormones coursing through my body making me feel like I was going crazy. And for as horrible as all of that was, for as often as I cursed my body and sometimes wished I had never gotten pregnant, I have never been so richly blessed or seen so many miracles.

I felt the Lord’s love in the combined faith of those who prayed on my behalf. I saw so much of the Lord’s love in my husband as he cared for me. When people would bring dinner over for Michael and Isla, I saw His love. When people would stop Michael in the hallway at church and tell him they were praying for us, I felt His love. When I would get text messages from friends and family letting me know they hadn’t forgotten about me and were praying for me, I felt His love. That love sustained me. It saved my marriage, and my life. It took care of Isla when I wasn’t physically able to. And it is bringing me back to health.

I feel my Heavenly Father’s and Savior’s approval and love now as I recover. I feel it when I am being way too hard on myself for not being able to do more—for not cleaning enough, not cooking enough, not playing with Isla enough, not being more patient with Isla, etc. I feel it when I get frustrated that my hips still send pain shooting down my legs when I put my pants on in the morning. I feel it when hormones overtake my mind and I feel crazy or depressed or intensely irritable, and They remind me that it won’t last forever. And then I feel it again when I realize I’m being spared from experiencing postpartum depression.

And that is why Grace. Because when I look at Evelyn, I am reminded that His Grace hasn’t just saved me. It saved her mortal life as well. It allowed me to carry her to term. It allowed me to have the most beautiful delivery and to experience some of the most profound joy I’ve ever felt as I saw and held her for the first time. I get to be her mother because of His love and Grace. And I get to keep on loving Michael and Isla and experiencing my life with theirs. This has been an exceptionally challenging period of time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I never want to forget what happened, the good and the bad. Being saved by Grace doesn’t mean as much if you can’t remember or longer appreciate what you’ve been saved from.

Jessica Hargiss