Saturday, June 20, 2015

How We Made it to our 3rd Anniversary

I know it may not seem like much - making it to your 3rd anniversary. But for us, it is a miracle and one that we will never take for granted. This past year has been the absolute hardest of our lives and we did not know if we, let alone our marriage, would survive it. But you know what? It has also been one of the best. Our marriage was never harder and yet never better than it has been this past year. How is that even possible?

It is because He lives. It is because our Savior lives and loves us no matter what. We have had to turn to Him and hand our marriage over to Him to survive. And that is how it is better than it has ever been. This past year has shattered and then remade us anew.

The situation is still too sensitive for me to go into details about it. But I could not let this day pass without writing about the resources that we have had to cling to in order turn our hearts and our marriage to the Savior. About a year ago a crisis took place that made me feel as if I had no choice but to leave my husband. But because of angels, miracles, inspired ecclesiastical leaders, therapy, our Savior, and these amazing resources we are still together and still a relatively happy family today. The gratitude I feel for this miracle is overwhelming and indescribable. I can only pray that our story of hope, healing, forgiveness, brokenness, weakness, and miracles can give others hope.

1. The Book of Mormon - this spectacular, life changing testament of Christ has changed our hearts and family in a way I can barely begin to describe. About a year ago, Matt found himself in jail facing very serious charges and a very grim future. When he began to come to himself he turned to prayer. Much of his life he had been losing faith in and getting angry with God because He would not heal him of the addiction that made him hate himself and distanced him from all those he loved. But he needed help and he was humble so he turned to prayer. He pleaded only that he would be able to find a Book of Mormon. He did and he was surprised because it didn't have the sticker of stamp of the jail that most of the other books there had. It was just sitting apart and it saved him. He began to read it and continued to do so when he was released from jail. It took him just a few short months to finish and then he began to read it again. When Aria and I rejoined him we began to read it as a family. It has changed our hearts and our family and our lives.

2. The Spouse and Family Support Guide - I will always remember how I found this invaluable resource. In much the same way Matt found The Book of Mormon, I stumbled across it in a time of great need in a miraculous way. I was sitting on the couch crying and praying, which was all I had been doing since the police gave me the news. I was in so much pain and confusion that I honestly did not know how I would survive it. I was still going through the motions but only because there were quite literally angels all around me bearing me up and I had been promised in a priesthood blessing that Heavenly would be with me every single step of the way. I pulled up on my computer and there on the front page was a picture and a link to the Spouse and Family Support Guide for those with loved ones ensnared in addiction. I was drowning and it was my life raft:

"Spouses and family members may labor under the heavy emotional burdens of worry, hurt, and hopelessness caused by the addictions of their loved ones. The Addiction Recovery Program supports spouses and family members as they seek the Savior’s help to carry their burdens and receive His promise: “My peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The Lord’s plan is to rescue and heal each of us as we yield our hearts to Him (see Helaman 3:35). Just as those who are addicted need the Atonement of Jesus Christ in order to find freedom from the bondage of addiction, spouses and family members also need His healing power to be free from the bondage of despair."

I read and studied each of the 12 principles as well as the talks and scriptures they linked to. It began to heal me. I had some of the strongest spiritual experience of my life while reading these, especially the talks, that gave me the strength and hope I needed to stay in my marriage. I also attended the spouse and family support meetings.
3. He Restoreth My Soul - I often attribute this book to truly turning us to the Savior and giving us the understanding about addiction and overcoming it that saved our marriage. I simply did not understand how an addiction works or what it feels like before reading this book. And Matt did not understand how to describe it to me. This book provides the most insightful and inspired support for both the person caught in addiction and the grieving family members. It is all about "understanding and breaking the chemical and spiritual chains of pornography addiction through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Matt and I read this book together in the three months that we were separated. Each night we would call each other and discuss what we read, how we felt, and more. Those were some of the most harrowing, painful, broken, and yet beautiful, priceless, and cleansing conversations we have ever had.

4. The Addiction Recovery Program - During the initial two weeks he spent in jail, Matt heard another inmate talking about how the LDS Addiction Recovery Program helped him. It was unfortunately the first time Matt had ever heard about the Church's addiction recovery program. He had spoken with at least one bishop and maybe more about his problem. He had even attended an addiction recovery facility that was unfortunately corrupt and shut down for the abuse and excessive medication of their clients. This of course did much more harm than good and convinced him that he needed to handle it on his own. In the time that we were dating and preparing to go to the temple together Matt got as clean as he ever could on his own by working with his bishop and even locking his computer away for a time. But this was "white knuckle sobriety" as He Restoreth My Soul calls it. It is what many do to prepare for the temple, to serve a mission, or get married. It almost never lasts though because addiction is a disease and needs serious, in depth, lifelong treatment. It is much like cancer. Someone who is in denial about having cancer may feel and even do better for a time, but it will continue to grow and corrupt in secret until their life becomes unmanageable. When they hit that point, where recovery is absolutely necessary, they will often seek real help or be consumed by it.

True recovery often requires the 12 steps, complete honesty and humility, therapy, healthy boundaries often set with a therapist, ecclesiastical support and confession, and group meetings. The LDS recovery program includes the 12 steps and meetings and even offers therapy through LDS Family Services. There are meetings for the addicted, for the family, and even couple meetings. These steps and these meetings are difficult but uplifting and healing. They are changing our lives day by day.

5. Healing Through Christ - Help, Hope and Healing for those who have a loved one in addiction - this resource was given to me at my first family group meeting. It is actually a modified 12 steps for family members of the addicted. I remember being shocked and put off when I realized that it was a 12 steps for me because I certainly was not the problem. Here's what I slowly but surely learned - I am the only problem I can truly turn over to the Savior. My own is the only heart I can humbly offer Him and these 12 steps allow me to turn my heart to Him. I have been to enough family support 12 step meetings now to recognize a significant pattern - those who focus their emotional, mental, and spiritual energy only on their loved one's recovery are no more healthy or happy even if their loved one recovers. And those who turn their hearts to the Savior and work diligently on their own recovery and personal path to healing are often happy and healthy even if their loved one continues in addiction.

It was the depth and pain of my anger that finally humbled me enough to work the 12 steps for myself. In a meeting I have heard them called "The Dummy's Guide to the Atonement" and don't we all need that at some point in our lives? It fosters a deeper understanding of the gospel and what we are here to learn. Every time I turn to it I find peace and healing. When I neglect it, I feel more confused, anxious, depressed, and hopeless. It is the boat that the life raft brought me to.

I just want to bear my testimony that because He Lives there is always hope. He is invested in our marriages, our families, and our lives. He wants us to succeed. If we will but seek Him and let Him in he will help clean the mess that we can not. For so long, I was afraid to really let him in because I was so ashamed of the mess my life was. But I could not fix it without Him. And when I finally let Him in, He did not condemn or judge me. He simply began to clean and strengthened me to be better. All I felt was love. Matt felt the same. Even when he finally came to a fuller realization of the consequences and seriousness of it all. Even in the midst of feeling reprimanded and corrected by God it did not feel like shame or condemnation. Rather, it felt like love. The love God had for him superseded any other emotion. When God corrects us He does it with love because He understands and loves us perfectly. And it is His love that motivates and inspires us to change. We know this to be true.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a similar situation we invite you to study and utilize the resources above. We also welcome you to email us at any time and we will do what we can to help. We know our Savior lives and loves us and that is how we are here and smiling today.


  1. You are such an inspiring woman. Thank you whole-heartedly for sharing this. I admire you and your family.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment. You're very kind.