Free at Last

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by RI Editors

This guest essay in our Peculiar Minds series was submitted anonymously.

frog_waterThe old truism about boiling a frog alive if you do it slowly really isn’t true. Frogs are cold-blooded, and they will grow too hot and jump out of the pot long before they are scorched, if they are allowed. People, being warm-blooded, are sometimes not so wise. I was married to a p0rn addict for a decade. The water got pretty hot before I realized what was happening.

How does someone get in this situation? Wouldn’t you just know that someone was an addict before you married him? Can’t you tell?

No. Not if you’re compromised by your own mental illnesses. Perhaps not even if you aren’t compromised at all.

I married my husband in my mid-twenties, a second marriage after being left by my first husband. Both marriages were in the temple. Both times I believed I had just embarked on my eternity. While my first husband wasn’t addicted to p0rn, he was addicted to money and popularity, both of which made discipleship (and therefore marriage to me) unpleasant. He eventually rejected me because I wanted an eternal life and that was cramping his style. When he left, I was thrown into a long depression, diagnosed as bi-polar. I went untreated for another 5 years, active on the surface, then crashing behind the scenes.

Along came another, very different man. I was sure he wouldn’t be troubled by the same testimony-undermining issues that I’d faced before. He was rock solid, a hard worker, a practical man. Only after a horrible decade did my mother relate an experience she had with him while we were engaged. He was removing a large tree that my parents were going to use as firewood. I had gone as well, having done a lot of work outside and embracing the opportunity to work together. He had dismissed my help to send me back to make lunches because he could work so much faster alone, but I chalked it up to the same kind of impatience that my father had always had with willing helpers. My mother, however, related that when she said something to him about how they would be stacking the wood, he turned on her with out-of-control anger in his face, and raked her over with his eyes in complete and utter disgust. She said later that she had never felt so violated, so dehumanized, or so utterly and hatefully dismissed. Ever. She was so unsettled by the experience she didn’t know what to say to me, and chalking it up to future mother-in-law animosity, chose to say nothing. He was very careful before we were married to treat me with deference, and I never saw that kind of thing.

After we were married, he began immediately to disappear for hours nightly after work. He was dismissive and withdrawn. I was hurt. I was never good enough, anywhere, or at anything. He was either hot or cold, suddenly warm and praising (but never about our intimate life), and often in the same breath he would nest a barb that left the threat of a sting. Over time, the stings grew more prominent.

About six months into our marriage I confronted him about drinking. It was a guess, but I was right. He dissolved into sobs, apologized, and begged for my help, telling me that that was certainly the reason he had married me – because I could save him. I bought it. A month later I found a p0rn movie in the attic where I had been cleaning out storage boxes. I was utterly and completely disgusted, but I had no idea what to do or how to confront him. I destroyed the tape. I told him about it a week later, and he suddenly became coarse and direct, explaining that that was the reality of the life a hard-working man led and I had better be accustomed to it. It was the last time we talked about p0rn.

His drinking was a problem that never went away, and he always nested all of his behaviors in that issue. I was always supposed to be his salvation, and always just falling a little short in my goodness. As the years progressed I increasingly twisted myself into knots trying to save him and trying to protect the kids from his volatility, with my sense of my own worth derived from how I was succeeding at creating a peaceful, righteous home. I walked on eggshells. All the time.

Over time, our intimate life became a completely sterile exercise in futility. I increasingly sought comfort and companionship, and he used my needs to make me feel ever more inadequate, complimenting himself on being even the slightest bit interested in me, letting me know that nobody else would be. It was interesting how my feelings about sexuality changed during that decade. I became so separate from that part of myself.

By the grace of God, shortly after our 4th and 5th children (twins) were born, he grew more violent. I say “by the grace of God” because it ended the farce that was our marriage. I had a spiritual experience in which the Lord let me know that I was acceptable and had done all I could, and that I was released from the temple marriage covenants to which I clung as if they were prison bars. I grew more confident, and would stand up for myself, challenging him to spend more time away if he was going to come home drunk and belligerent. I once wrestled his keys away from him (he was 6′ tall and weighed 230 pounds) to keep him from driving drunk and killing someone else, while my 7-year-old son stood frantically by. He would grab my wrists and  twist my arms behind my back, threatening to break my arms, telling me how many ways he could hurt me without leaving bruises. I finally stood still and told him to do it then: break my arms. I held his eyes and for the first time in my life, reflected back with complete calm the utter hatred that had long been thrown at me. He backed away, calling me every vile name he could. He tried to strangle me a week later, and my life was saved by a heavenly intervention.

When he left, I began the long process of rebuilding my sense of self. I had never lost my belief that I was a child of God, and valued as a mother, but it took a long time to believe that I was valuable even if I made mistakes, even if I didn’t help someone else. It took a long time for me to face the fact that he was a p0rn addict for his own sake, not because of me. It took a long time for me to accept that most of the dehumanization I endured was from his p0rn addiction, not his alcohol and nicotine addictions.

I’ve talked to all my kids, 3 boys and 3 girls, about p0rn. They know that it will destroy their souls by making them despise other human beings. They know that it’s a gateway sin, that it so numbs one’s spirit to beautiful things that they will be ripe for every opportunistic temptation that comes their way. They know how it hollows out a human being like AIDS does. They know because they’ve seen their father.

I’ve been free for a decade. We’ve had no contact with him for almost 7 years. Last month, however, an incident occurred in which another man who has harassed our family picked on one of my boys. I began having anxiety attacks, a feeling that I was going to die, that my heart was exploding, that I couldn’t breathe. I had several over the course of two days, and then, stumbling home from Church after the last one, I came into the kitchen, hysterical, and threw my arms around my oldest daughter. “You’re safe!” I exclaimed, and then I understood.

PTSD. I had never given myself the freedom to say it out loud. We were free. My kids are old enough that he can’t do anything to them anymore. We’ve been free for a long time, but I’d never actually said it. We are safe.

It’s worth the discomfort to talk to your kids about p0rn. There is nothing I’ve ever seen that will destroy the human soul so completely, and I work in a field where I see the fallout of all kinds of soul-destroying experiences. The collateral damage that will follow an addict is horrifying. I know.

I was nearly boiled alive.


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2 Responses to Free at Last

  1. misssrobin says:

    Thank you for telling your story. It was good for me to read it. Although different, there is so much in your story that rings true in mine as well. Sharing our stories in this way allows us the opportunity to validate each other.

    What happened to you was horrid. It was not your fault. God would not be okay with you being treated this way. You are wonderful and brave. You are true. You are strong. You are a good mother who has loved her children with all her heart. And they know it — how awesome is that?

    I love you. Thank you for being my friend.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I can’t imagine. I’m so grateful that your story has had a happy ending of sorts. I mean, truly, I know it sounds cliche and trite to say “happy ending,” but the fact that you survived through that hell and have come out of the other side with your amazing children with you is a beautiful thing.

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