Addiction, Forgiveness, and the Atonement

Name Withheld
When my husband and I were dating, he decided he had to tell me about his addiction to pornography. He was clearly embarrassed and repentant, and had been "sober" for some time. I was surprised but felt honored that he trusted me with this secret. If anything, I loved him more after that. This was a battle we were going to fight together. It was his past and we'd have to fight it, but we'd be fine. I wasn't so naive to think that it wouldn't cause strain in our relationship, but I didn't anticipate the heartache, anger, self doubt, and betrayal.

His sobriety lasted through our dating, engagement, and first three months or so of marriage. When he then admitted he had viewed pornography, I was felt so stupid. How did I not know what was happening in my own home? Was I not enough? I plunged into feelings of worthlessness.

I remember thinking, "He's such a good man. How can he do such a disgusting thing? He loves me. How can he do something so hurtful? Does he really love me?" I felt very alone. I respected the fact this was his secret to keep or share, but that left me with nobody to talk to. I was so hurt that I used anger to cope with the sorrow.

All of those feelings were mixed up with gratitude that he came to me with the truth and that he knew he was wrong. I was heartbroken that right when I needed comfort the most, I couldn't ask the man who stood at my side for a blessing of comfort. He was not worthy to use the Lord's priesthood. He knew it, and I could see how ashamed and sorrowful he was.

He couldn't give me a blessing, and because of the personal nature of the situation, I couldn't go to another priesthood holder. So I went before the Lord on my own. I read a book about Christ and the atonement called The Peacegiver. I spent time in prayer and meditation. Relief didn't come all at once, but I was given little assurances that we'd be able to overcome.

Things got better, and things got worse. We'd have months of sobriety between views. Each time he fell, I had to work through the same emotions and thoughts. Every time was a little different, but every time I needed my Savior to heal my broken heart.

We learned that high-stress situations sometimes triggered the temptation. We also learned that sometimes the temptation would come without a discernible trigger. I found the sooner he admitted to a fall, the easier it was to recover for both of us. If I asked him to report in every so often, it gave him the chance to feel safe to be open.

I made a few mistakes that I learned from. I learned that faking trust or forgiveness prolongs the process. Pretending everything was okay, telling my husband I forgave him when I hadn't yet, just made the pain fester and anger grow.

I had to be careful to focus on what I could control. I couldn't make him go to the bishop, make him attend a support group, or put enough protection on our technology to keep pornography unavailable. I could control if I was honest with myself and my husband about my feelings.

I could control my focus. I could focus on my husband's honesty and other good qualities. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father. I could control my self talk. I didn't need to take blame, but could instead acknowledge that my husband has his agency and made the choice to sin on his own.

I also chose to study about the effects of pornography. I learned how the brain is rewired through the viewing of pornography. I learned how it really had little to do with physical needs, and more to do with a chemical in the brain, much like a drug addiction. No matter what I did, that rewiring could not be fixed.

I learned that the average Utah child sees pornography by age eight, according to one statistic. I came to appreciate what my husband was up against. Don't misunderstand: he still had his agency, he still had to take the blame for his actions. However, I came to realize he was fighting a battle that had nothing to do with my ability to be a good wife, friend, and support.

A huge low in our marriage was shortly after our first son was born. My husband had graduated and couldn't find work. I was working full time, and he was home with our baby. We were living in a rather dark basement with flooring that was in such disrepair that we laid blankets on the floors so we could set our infant down.

I loved my job, but it was stressful by nature, and the stress was compounded by leaving my baby. My husband felt useless, being unable to provide for us, and he fell into despair. That's when he hit a rut where he was giving into temptation regularly. I had to rely on the Lord more than ever.

One evening, after a particularly rough confession, I wanted space, but with such a little apartment there were not many options. I stood in the little hallway and tried to come up with a way to get that needed space.

I could control my focus. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father.

I thought about asking him to go to his parents for a couple days, but who would watch my son while I worked? I thought about sending my son up with him to be watched by my mother-in-law, but the baby was still nursing and I didn't want space from him. I was at a loss, so I went to the bedroom and kneeled on the mat on the floor that served as our bed.

I opened my heart to the Lord like I had never done before. I prayed out loud, knowing I needed to get through. I needed my Heavenly Father to hear me. I sobbed and begged for His help. What surprised me, however, were the words coming from my mouth. I was not praying for me, but for my husband.

"Forgive him, Father. Please forgive him," I pleaded. I prayed for our home, for our son and for our marriage. I was overcome with the knowledge that God loves my husband. After that heartfelt prayer, I no longer wanted to send my husband away.

Things didn't change quickly. That rut lasted for a while longer. When our living situation changed (he got a job, I quit mine, and we moved into a much better apartment) my husband was able to avoid temptation for some time. When he did fall again, he was scared. Without a trigger to blame his fall on, he knew that he was never going to overcome on his own.

He made a plan and woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he was making changes. After three years of marriage and ups and downs, I knew this day was a crucial one. He went to our new bishop and met with him regularly. He started attending the support group offered by the Church and even got the information for a support group for me.

That group was my haven. The lessons I learned from studying the manual were inspiring. I was filled with hope and joy. I saw that I wasn't alone. Other women were using the atonement to become whole. I saw my husband grow from attending his group too.

Through the whole experience I have learned about the atonement. I testify that Jesus Christ felt the pain that I go through. He understands the betrayal and he paid the price for the sins. He already paid the price, so I can accept his healing. He can bind up my broken heart.

I'm blessed to have a repentant husband, but I now know that Christ's healing of my heart is completely independent of my husband's actions. The atonement is for the sinner, but it is also for the sinned against.

Forgiving my husband is my way of telling the Lord that his sacrifice was sufficient. It's my way to say, I trust that Christ can heal the aching holes and conquer the gnawing anger inside me. It takes me time to forgive my husband each time he hurts me, but I know I can because of the atonement of Christ.

There were moments where I was in a despair that I believed I would never be happy again. Through the atonement's healing power, my happiness was restored.

I testify that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father. I am beautiful and of worth. I love my husband. I am grateful for his honesty five years ago. I'm grateful for our four years of marriage, and I will continue to do my part to make it a celestial eternal marriage.

I testify of Christ. He gives me hope. He lives and loves my children, my husband, and me. Because of Him, we have joy.

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