I am the daughter of a recovering sex addict
I am the daughter of a recovering sex addict. My story isn’t all that dramatic. I might even venture that in a peculiar way, this challenge has been among one of the greatest blessings of my life. Given the option, I don’t think I would have chosen of myself to pass over this mountain. However, the lessons I have learned as a result of this experience are proving to bless myself and family in unspeakable ways.
Growing up, I didn’t feel differently than other children. In fact, I counted myself uniquely blessed; I was loved, well provided for, and had an abundance of opportunity to develop my interests and talents. I seemed to have a wellspring of confidence at my core. As a result, I fared well in my pursuits academically and socially.
I recall feeling close to my mom through my formative years. She was my primary confidant and mentor. In contrast, I occasionally talked with my dad, but on a very superficial level and rarely sought him out for emotional support. This was mostly due to the fact that he was often unavailable physically. But when he was home, he often felt distant – rarely speaking of himself or engaging me in conversation about what I was involved in. In spite of this, I did believe he loved me and thought that my relationship with him was normal, even healthy.
As a young child, I have only vague recollections of challenges in my parents’ marriage. But any issues they had were discussed behind closed doors. While I was unconscious of the problem, I later learned my older siblings were much more aware of what was going on. It wasn’t until high school that I really began to see something amiss in my parents’ relationship. I recall occasionally worrying about the prospect of my parents’ separating, but the feeling didn’t linger. Full of grit, my mom was generally upbeat and positive. In my opinion, she did a tremendous job of maintaining the household and keeping everything and everyone in order. Yet as I grew older and became more perceptive, I saw something weighed heavily on her. Finances were a constant concern during this period, but I knew there was something deeper that was causing her anxiety.
As I entered my older teen years and began interacting more with my friends’ fathers, I noticed the level of warmth and emotional closeness some of them shared with their dads. It was then that I started to recognize how much was missing in my own father/daughter relationship. I didn’t realize it at the time, but for many years I didn’t know my father. In his shame based Jekyll and Hyde life, he was limited in his ability to love and be loved.
In my concern, I began soliciting my mom for information so I could provide some emotional support. She would never go into detail about my father’s behavior, but it soon became clear to me that Dad had a problem – the extent of which I didn’t learn till later. The hardest thing for me at the time was seeing my mom suffer. She was clearly in pain and there was little I could do for her.
I soon graduated from high school and moved away from home. Preoccupied with college and other activities, I was home only occasionally and for a time was oblivious to the trouble brewing between my parents.
It all came to a head years later only months after I was married. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon and just after we arrived at my parents’ home, my dad ushered my husband and I outside, sat us down, and proceeded to tell us that he had just been ex-communicated from the LDS church. He went into some detail about the actions that led up to him losing his membership. I was devastated. I felt anger, sadness, and a deep sense of betrayal.
Here is where the blessings began:
Despite the anger and sadness, through my tears I was able at that moment to put my arms around my dad, tell him I loved him, and forgive him. I credit myself a very little for this frank forgiveness. First, my father had demonstrated forgiveness and patience for me on several previous occasions, softening my heart toward him at that moment. Second, the way my mom was choosing to deal with the situation diffused much of my own anger. She wasn’t bitter and dramatic. She calmly sat next to him and through glossy eyes said that she was going to try and support my dad as he worked toward recovery of his addiction. I decided that if she could forgive him – one who had suffered so directly and deeply as a result of his choices – I could do as much. She did, however, make it clear that she wouldn’t support him in his addiction if he continued to act out. She frankly communicated that “she would see how things went” as my dad behaved in a way that could start rebuilding her trust. Finally and most importantly, I felt the power of the Atonement wash over me, enabling me to rise above the bitterness and shame that could have easily taken hold of my heart.
I won’t pretend that at that moment all the anger and sadness was gone. As the days and weeks passed, there were times when those feelings would resurface and I would rant to my husband or petition my Heavenly Father for help as I waded through my grief and fear. Even though my dad was generally doing well, I knew there weren’t any guarantees for him or my parents’ marriage. Even as a grown woman with my own family, the prospect of my parents divorcing was and is still a fear. But on a whole, I marvel at how easily I was able to forgive and move forward. Doing so freed me from the debilitating effects of resentment, shame, and bitterness that have overcome some individuals in similar situations.
Over 4 years later, I look back and am grateful for the lessons I have learned through this experience. I have learned not be afraid of this issue. I know that as a mother, I will deal with this in some form with my own children. Yet I feel like I can face this problem undaunted because I know that recovery from pornography and sex addiction is possible. I have witnessed it!
I have greater faith in the Atonement of the Savior and it’s supreme power to heal hearts and change the repentant. My father has worked tirelessly over the past several years to stay on the road of recovery. He is doing remarkably well and in the process is helping many others with this issue. Recovery is a daily effort for anyone battling through this difficulty. It is at times a challenge for both my parents as they continue to work toward recovery as individuals and as a couple. But through their faith and steady effort, they are growing together each day and are happier in their marriage and healthier as individuals than I have ever seen them.