It was December 2011.
I was driving with my kids out to Red Rock for a spur of the moment excursion. My phone rang and the screen showed it was my husband's therapist, our marriage counselor. We hadn't been there for months. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach wondering what he could be calling about.
He needed my help with something. Phew! I seriously had it run through my mind that DH was in some sudden and unexpected trauma and called him instead of me but was serious enough to warrant the therapist calling me. He was scheduled to appear on a national talk show as an expert in the field to discuss sexual addiction and the couple he was still regularly treating that had agreed to do it had backed out at the last minute. Would we be willing to do that? Could he give my number to the producer for the show so that she could give me a call and give me more information?
That was about where my mind went. Thankfully I had just arrived at the parking lot so I didn't have to keep trying to drive with this shock. My initial reaction was what I believe it would still be...."I will happily do anything to help educate and provide hope for others." Admittedly my very second reaction, that I kept to myself, was 'I cannot go on national television looking the way I do' and I was overwhelmed with shame about body and immediately had the old demons of 'people will say it is my fault, that if I were just more attractive or skinnier etc then my husband wouldn't have this problem.' False. This was why this national conversation needed to be had.
Obviously our counselor understood the need to talk it over. He encouraged me to have a discussion with DH and get back to him the next day. However, time was also of the essence as they were supposed to be taping this show really soon. It also meant that we would need to quickly decide whether we even could get away for a couple of days to NYC. After all, we do have 4 kids that would need to be watched and a job that would need to be okay with a last minute vacation of sorts.
I still get a little anxious thinking about this. I can feel my heart racing just as it did at the thought of being on Anderson Cooper. That's right....Anderson Cooper. Admittedly, I hadn't seen his talk show at all but I knew his reputation as a news reporter. If it had been probably any other talk show I would likely have not considered it (okay, Ellen is dang funny and Dr Phil I'd hope would have a good take on things). However, Anderson Cooper seemed to be more about integrity than flair and facts than show. So I agreed to talk it over with DH and had already determined in my mind that I would do it.
The 12th step in the ARP and PASG manual says "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do." This was my chance to do that.
Now, understand that DH had only been clean for barely a year at this point. There were (and are) still a lot of trust issues to be worked out. I was at a point where I believed he was no longer using and I believed him when he said so, but I still questioned and doubted. I realize that sounds contradictory but I imagine you can only understand once you have been there so I know no other way to describe it.
So I sat down with DH that night to tell him what had happened, what we had been asked to do, and he bristled. I panicked. Did that mean that he had more secrets? He is a more private person than I am and I understand that. This was certainly about him, not me, so I made it very clear that was his decision entirely and he needed to not feel pressured to make the choice one way or the other. I would support him either way. He grew up in a home where he was surrounded by relatives and everyone in each others' business. That's left him a little scarred you might say. He feels so strongly about not sharing 'his business' that it is, in my opinion, to the extreme opposite...because he has felt too many years of being shamed for choices or hearing others make judgments and gossip. He doesn't want to be the subject of that. What person, especially an addict, does?
We were concerned about the anonymity of it. Was this something where we would be black shadows and our voices disguised? The answer was no. I was concerned about the misinformation that is out there and the resulting effect on any future employers or parents of our kids' friends or something. My husband is not some 'freak' but I know that misunderstanding exists. If we were to go on this show and share our story then we would be showing our faces and our names, though first names only. His biggest concern was any of his extended family seeing the show, knowing that side of him, and then always watching for him to make a mistake. I wondered if that meant maybe he wasn't planning on this being a real change after all.
I cannot explain the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that went through both of our minds over the next couple of days.
Well at least we'd get a free trip to NYC out of it and a little getaway from the kids. After all, I deserved at least that much for all the hell I had gone through. Yup...we both had that thought on our own.
What if we went on national tv to provide hope to others that recovery was possible and it cause some big trigger that then created a relapse and we looked like great big hypocrites? After all, I have my boundary that I will not tolerate it and others might see that the wrong way if I have to enforce it.
One time I spoke up in a church lesson about the ARP program to say how wonderful it was. It was a few months later I'd found out he had been actively using for the previous year or two. I felt like a big jerk for having said anything in that lesson.
While we were figuring all this out we couldn't keep it to ourselves because we also had to determine if there would even be someone to watch our kids. It consumed us for a couple of days. So we told a couple of family members and friends who had known of our situation (but not really ever been there through all the thick of it either). We had mixed reactions. One said that they didn't understand why we would even consider it. One said 'great for you, you're so brave.' One accused me of wanting to do it only to garner sympathy for myself as a victim and to rub salt in my husband's wounds. Another said they 'whatever- your life, your decision.'
It hurt to find those closest to us not willing to just support us in whatever we chose to do, no questions asked, and it felt like a little foreboding of what may come.
So DH said "let me go to the temple and pray about what to do because that is the only way I am going to be able to think clearly about this."
My heart leapt with joy that he came to that on his own. I knew that I had prayerfully considered what to do and gotten my answer but that he needed to receive his for himself but needed to make the decision on how to do so himself.
He woke at an insanely early hour to visit the temple before going to work. When he returned from work that day he heaved a big sigh but his face was alight and said "I'll do it." We were both overcome with the same feeling that if we could trust in the Lord to take care of us and let it all work out okay then it would. We were in agreement that there is so much misunderstanding, within the world and even within our church, about pornography and addiction and the harm it can do and the way it twists reality when you don't even think it will....that only bringing it out of the shadows and educating others could provide real hope for any change on a larger scale outside our own home. We were terrified and excited all at once. (I was still very much concerned with figuring out how much weight I could quickly lose in a week's time so I wouldn't be so embarrassed to be seen) I felt hurt and stung by the implication from another that I had somehow sought out this opportunity as a chance to wave some 'woe is me' flag and so I spent a lot of time on my knees to confirm where my heart truly was.
Thus began some three or more hour long telephone conversation with the associate producer for the Anderson Cooper talk show. I answered all her questions and told her as much detail as I could (and more than I ever really thought I would to a stranger) about our marriage, pornography, my views about both, how I found out about the problem, his recovery journey, our relationship now, my past etc. I found that it was impossible for me to share our story without sharing a lot of gospel principles to me and a lot of testimony. I told her all about the church's ARP program and the role it had played. I told her we were doing good but that, yes, there were definitely still some trust issues to be worked out. To someone who hasn't been there I guess a year of sobriety seems like so long you shouldn't even be talking about it anymore and that you are just punishing the sinner if you are. I feel like having been there I see how quickly that year went by, while dragging on all the same, and how it took that long to even process some of the emotions and issues that arose. A year is nothing. A year of sobriety is something to celebrate but nothing to close the deep wounds and establish new and lasting healthier behaviors and patterns of interaction. We felt like newlyweds minus the passion who were trying to figure out how to safely be intimate with one another again. That is hard on a marriage. Trust issues are hard. So we discussed all this while I hid in my room. And his hands shook as he took the phone from me to tell his side of the story to the person on the phone while I fed the kids dinner in the other room. I believe that was one of the hardest things he had done.
When I got back on the phone with the woman she told me that we were possibly 'too well off' for what they were wanting for the show. They were going to have experts on the show to help some people and she wasn't sure if we needed any more help (ha! I thought). She thanked me for our time and told me how much she felt she had learned and that her eyes had really been opened to some things that she hadn't even thought of before. She would get back to us shortly after having the meeting with the other producers to go over the plan for the show and we would go from there.
And that was the end of it. Just as quickly as it had come it had ended. We didn't go to NYC and we weren't on a national talk show. She sent an email a little later saying the show had been postponed because of a family emergency she had and that she'd get back to us. We never heard anything. Our counselor felt awful for having put us through the stress of making that decision. I told him there was no need. In the end, it was just what I'd needed. You see, that was the point when I realized this was real. That was the point where I saw my husband's humility, his sobriety, and his willingness to do anything to rid his life of this beast. That was the moment our trust began to be repaired in a way it hadn't yet been able to. Can I say that we are now back to pre-addiction bliss? No. That is a fantasy that never existed. I can say that he is a changed man, and I am a changed (and still desperately changing) individual and our marriage is so much stronger for it. Although we never had to follow through with that 'sacrifice' or with making that scary step of becoming so public, I do believe that we both needed that experience of determining our willingness to do so and that it changed both of us.