The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide

When you are married to an addict and/or abuser a lot of the typical marriage advice just doesn’t apply, in fact it can be downright dangerous. Tips on how to love your husband more and serve him more can just feed the abuse. For example following the  telling you to never go to bed on angry feelings just might be forcing you into a difficult conversation with an addict who is in a bad frame of mind which can then escalate to full-blown abuse. Remember you are not a codependent; you are a spouse in betrayal trauma. You and your spouse each need to heal yourselves before you can heal the marriage.

Most marriage and relationship advice is based on the assumption that there are two willing partners both ready to give their all to the relationship. When dealing with addiction and abuse this is frequently not true as the addict/abuser has no interest in changing their ways to make the relationship more healthy. Their goal is to change their spouse to fit their expectations and fantasies. Even when your dealing with an addict in active recovery there are a lot of unhealthy thought patterns that are ingrained into the way they handle relationships. Healthy boundaries are still essential and will be different from the ones a couple in a healthy relationship maintains.

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide for Women Who are Dealing With Addiction and Abuse in Their Partner | muchnessmama.com |

The following is a list of resources that myself and others I trust recommend for those dealing with an addict and/or abuser.

Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal

Intimate Deception

Helping Her Heal (directed towards the sex addict, but very good info for wives and extremely validating)

Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed

The Body Keeps the Score Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die

Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder: The Six Stages of Healing

Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately After Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction

Mending A Shattered Heart

Living with a Sex Addict: The Basics from Crisis to Recovery

Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts

What Can I Do About Me?

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

The Gifts of Imperfection

Make My Burden Light Blog

Boundaries Blog

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Blog, Podcast, and Coaches

Healing From and Dealing With Abuse

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men

Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse

30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Becoming the Narcissists Nightmare

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Boundaries Blog

Rebuilding a Marriage

**These resources are for when you are dealing with an addict/abuser who is in active recovery. Please study and apply these principles with caution and only after reading the book Boundaries and having a solid grasp on their effective use**

An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Created for Connection: The “Hold Me Tight” Guide for Christian Couples

Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us

International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy

What are your favorite resources for understanding and healing from betrayal trauma and abuse? Is there a resource on this list that is new to you? What are you reading now/next? What has been the most useful thing that you have learned in your study? Is there anything you would add to this list? Come on over to the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s chat about it!

5 Things Sex Addicts Say When They are in Denial

Almost two months ago I first wrote out our story of sex addiction and betrayal trauma. I shared it in a few Facebook groups and got some amazing support and love. Not one single person judged us or was unkind, well at least if they did they kept it to themselves. For some odd reason one of the religious groups I shared with didn’t approve the post until today. Honestly I’d kind of forgotten I’d even submitted it there! I think God may have had a hand in it, however, because we got a few comments that two months ago would have sent me into deep trauma. Thankfully today I was able to see that they were clearly coming from someone who would rather deny their addiction and blame-shift everything onto their spouse than accept responsibility for their own choices. In fact at one point I actually laughed at the absurdity because, rather than accept the truths my husband was presenting to him he accused me of writing my husband’s responses! Aint nobody got time for that!

You don’t have to live with an addict in denial. Here are five of the most common excuses they use to avoid taking accountability for their choices refuted by my recovering sex addict husband.

5 things sex addicts say when they are in denial | muchnessmama.com | bullshit excuses for addiction | be 100% accountable | sex addiction recovery

Ladies and gentlemen I have to say that the way my husband rose to this occasion literally had me in tears. The validation that he gave to my trauma as well as that of other women was beautiful. It’s not like he said anything new, but the way he said everything all at once without a single smidge of justification, blame-shifting, gaslighting, or minimizing was exactly what my heart needed to hear today. I wanted ot share his words with you because I feel they are incredibly powerful and need to be heard by both the addicts and the betrayed.

I don’t feel it would be right to copy directly the comment he was responding to, so I will just give you a brief synopsis of each point that he responded to as he gets to them.

But did You Have Enough Sex?

The first comment accused me of not giving my husband enough sex. If I was using sex to manipulate him as most women do (his view not mine!) then it’s no wonder that my husband had to “step out”.

Was she sexually active with me? Yes. Not one or more times per week, but three times per week and often even more frequently. For 11 years. Not just for the newlywed/honeymoon phase. She did everything I asked. She took pictures. She tried every position I wanted. She dressed up the way I wanted. She broke down certain techniques and tried to do them just the way I wanted as though she were a student taking a typing class and I was the teacher. She almost never got to tell me no. Many nights, she would be physically or emotionally unprepared to have sex with me, but I always pressured her, and I always got my way. I wouldn’t call it rape, but I certainly abused her sexually, and often. During the periods in which I acted out in adultery, we were having sex with the same frequency we always had. She and I had sex within one or two days of me being with other women.

After just this one paragraph, you should be able to see clearly that she experienced deep betrayal and legitimate emotional trauma. But let’s continue.

You Can’t Get PTSD From Betrayal Trauma

Next this man took offense to me describing my betrayal trauma as PTSD and said that I couldn’t claim that unless I was officially diagnosed.

PTSD must be diagnosed by a professional. PTSD can’t have occurred unless your physical life was threatened. Think about relationships you have been in where you felt someone else had power over you that you couldn’t break. That person made decisions that were harmful to your welfare, and you felt powerless to defend yourself, change the way you were being treated, or ask for help from someone else. This happens at many levels: in superior/subordinate relationships at work, peer situations at work and school, sibling relationships at home, and many other situations. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic human condition in which one person consistently dominates relations with another person over a long period of time, and for whatever reason, the person on the short end of the stick stays in the relationship. I have experienced this in work situations myself. I had a boss who lied to me, cheated me out of money, asked me to do unsafe/illegal things, etc. I stood up to him and to his boss with as much vigor, logic, commonsense, and appeal to emotion as I could, but in the end, they would find anyway they possibly could to get their way. I couldn’t leave the situation because no other companies would hire me with the experience I had. The situation was drastically affecting my welfare. I was operating unsafely. Time was going by and I wasn’t making the money I should’ve been making, and my bills were not stopping. My bosses were making money off my efforts and looking for every opportunity to screw me out of what they should have been paying me. I was getting taken advantage of and I wasn’t getting compensated for it. I had nothing to show for the sacrifice I was making for this company, which included weeks upon weeks of travel time away from home. I felt like a rat in a cage. I felt like a slave. I was powerless to get what I needed. I was alone. Every time the phone rang, every time a message came through my communication system, my stomach knotted up. To this day, I still have a wave of negative energy flash through my body, stomach knots, and feelings of rage when I think about that situation and those people.

That, my friend is trauma. I was in a situation where I should have been safe, but I found myself alone, fighting a losing battle for my own welfare. It doesn’t matter whether it’s physical safety or spiritual or emotional safety. That is the situation I put my wife in. She knew she was being abused. The way I treated her felt unfair, one sided. But because she didn’t feel empowered to leave or to set boundaries, she couldn’t change the situation. She lived like this for over a decade.

Thankfully, we don’t need a doctors opinion to understand the truth. Her experience being married to me has colored her world in such a way that she now has a hard time trusting others. She is getting much better, but the way I treated her led her to believe she was fundamentally not good enough or didn’t really have anything to offer people in relationships. Little arguments still set her off so easily because she still believes I am going to drive a freight train through her life and take everything I can from her while leaving her in shambles. I have trained her to live in fear of never being seen, validated, having her needs met, or having her emotions mean something to her husband. The person who is supposed to make her feel like the most important person in the world, like she is special, valuable, needed, powerful, and beautiful, treated her like a sexual and emotional ATM, and she NEVER (yes, I will say never), ever got her needs met. She was starving emotionally and spiritually.

Hopefully you are beginning to see the kind of trauma she truly experienced and how it doesn’t just go away without a lot of love, support, therapy, and time.

Porn Isn’t That Big of a Deal; Stop Shaming Men Who Look

Yep, a supposedly good Christian man really tried to say that women make way too big a deal of this. If we would just stop shaming them then they wouldn’t have to look because they would feel better about themselves. Basically it’s all our fault they look because we get hurt when they do, and it’s really not that big of a deal anyway. I really didn’t follow the logic on this one, but ok.

Too many women treat porn like an unforgivable sin. First off, what is pornography? Do you realize that there is no such thing as a porn star? They are all in slavery in someway. Even the ones who got into it voluntarily find themselves pressured to do things they don’t want to do (pornharms.com). It’s a lifestyle they wish they could get themselves out of, but there is an abuse cycle that keeps them in it for much longer than they wanted. That’s the ones that were approached in a bar by some studio owner and went along willingly. The ones who got drugged and kidnapped and are now making videos in some warehouse in Sri Lanka are straight up sex slaves. I remember watching some movies thinking, “Wow, she doesn’t look like she’s having a very good time here.” Even when I sought out pornography for my own pleasure at the height of my addiction, it still bothered me deeply to watch these women going through this abuse. And at the time, I didn’t understand it. I really didn’t know that that’s what happened to a lot of the women that end up in those videos. But it is. Every time you watch pornography, you are creating a demand for some woman like your wife or your daughter to be kidnapped and raped in front of a camera every day of her life until she is no longer useful to her captors, at which point she will be murdered. So, since you to contradicted yourself and said women regularly use porn, I will say NOT ENOUGH women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin.

But that’s not really the point you were making, is it? You were trying to say that porn isn’t that big a deal for the user, without any regard to how it affects the people who create it. But let’s just assume for a few moments that, just like the fantasy world most people want to live in, the women in pornographic material are doing it willingly and are fairly compensated. That’s the best case scenario. It STILL violates the law of chastity. It’s still violates the social expectation of marital fidelity, whether you made a covenant in the temple with your eternal companion or married in a civil ceremony. It still hurts the women we claim to love. That is elemental and will never change. If I punch you in the face, you’re gonna be pretty pissed about it, right? Well the same goes for watching pornography. It hurts our wives’ feelings. Period. It hurts them just as much as if we went out and screwed some woman. We are telling them they are not good enough, not beautiful enough. The women in the pictures will continue to be young, fit, exotic, or somehow fitting a fantasy. The older our wives get, the more they realize they can’t live up to that expectation. We are telling them that when we have sex with them, we don’t do it because we love them and want to give ourselves to them and receive them in the most intimate, vulnerable, complete way possible, but rather because we have a bestial urge that they just happen to have the proper equipment to help us satisfy. That doesn’t sound like true love. That doesn’t sound like a celestial marriage. That sounds like abuse. So no, I don’t think enough women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin. Maybe if they did, the divorce rate in the church wouldn’t be so high.

Don’t forget how vehemently President Hinckley denounced unchastity in ALL its forms. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Pres Hinckley, pp 217-219. Go read his comments there, then ask yourself if you aren’t guilty of that type of abuse? Claiming that women have too big of a problem with men who view pornography and that their hurt feelings over OUR egregious sin make the problem worse? God have mercy on whatever man spews that vile drivel in public like you just did.

But Women Have Porn Too!

He then said that women have their own porn, mostly in the form of romance novels and movies, but they just aren’t willing to admit that is what it is. If they indulge then why can’t I?

Women ignore their own versions of porn. Yes, they do. Women of the world who have not made covenants with the Lord. But how can you compare those women to the women in the church who by and large do not indulge in that stuff? I know there are women who don’t wear their garments on cruises with their husband while they’re wearing immodest dresses. They went to see Fifty Shades of Grey. They lost weight and posted immodest pictures of their new bodies on Facebook. But I also don’t see those women in the church anymore. The women in the church don’t do that stuff. But the men do. So you can’t justify pornography usage based on the fact that “everybody’s doing it, even the women who claim it’s such a big problem for them.“ Besides, even if that were a correct premise, try saying that to the Savior when you meet him and see how far past the gate that gets you.

Men are Visual, Women are Emotional

Men are more driven by their eyes and women by their emotions. It’s just sooooo hard for men not to look and they aren’t capable of the emotional connection that women want.

This comment highlights the type of emotional retardation for which men are infamous inside and outside the church in this day and age…Probably since the beginning of the world. I declare that men and women are created exactly equally both in terms of sexual drive and desire for emotional connection. See, once you start figuring this stuff out, you realize that what you were looking for all along in all the ways you acted out was an emotional connection that made you feel loved, important, and secure. Sexual relations are the pinnacle of such a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. But Satan knew what kind of havoc he could wreak if he were able to confuse us into believing that sex was the beginning point in seeking out emotional satisfaction. And he is winning that battle quite handily at the moment. Satan wants us to believe that men are built for watching football and drinking beer and fixing stuff and slapping each other on the back and hurling jestful insults at each other while women were built to connect and talk about their emotions. But that is false. Men were created to talk about their emotions and connect with other men and with women just like women were built. So long as Satan has us believing that we are fundamentally incompatible, he will continue to tear apart our families. But if you can accept that you will feel happy and free when you really get in touch with your emotions and feel a connection to yourself, God, and others all at the same time, it becomes so easy and so clear to see that we are all the same. Male and female, we are all worried that we aren’t enough, that nobody will love us, that we are really a fraud. Relationships with others in which we reveal ourselves and lovingly accept what others reveal to us gives us the true freedom and security from all of that negative self talk Satan wants us to buy and sell every time we have a lustful thoughts or commit an unchaste act.

Be 100% Accountable

Here’s the thing ladies and gents; an addict is ALWAYS 100% responsible for his/her actions. It doesn’t matter if you came from an abusive home, were assaulted, bullied, shamed, didn’t get enough sex, oh I could go on and on. You are always capable of making a better choice. Always! The only thing an excuse can do is keep you stuck in a pit. IF you want to get out you have to be willing to do the hard work to change. Sure God throws a ladder down there in the form of 12 step groups, books, therapists, community, and more, but it’s up to you to grab hold and climb out one rung at a time. We all have trials. We all have bad things happen that hurt us. It is always our choice to grab life by the reigns and move forward with grace and dignity or wallow in the mud feeling sorry for ourselves. This speech by Lynn G. Robbins is an excellent read on the subject of taking responsibility for your life regardless of the circumstances.

Now please don’t think this means you have to stuff down any negative emotion and pretend life is a bed of roses. Nope. You cry. You rage. You process. Then you move on. Healing and growth are lifelong processes. They never stop, so we shouldn’t stop either. You got this. You just have to be willing to do it.

What other excuses have you used or heard to avoid working recovery? What fears hold you back from your own healing/recovery? What are you going to do today to take more responsibility for your life? Come on over to my group Muchness Mamas on Facebook and let’s talk about it!

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

To say being married to an addict is difficult would be the understatement of the year. Let’s face it, even without addiction relationships are hard work. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial to finding health and happiness both for the addict and their betrayed spouse. When I first heard the word boundaries I was both empowered and confused. What exactly are boundaries? Are boundaries Christlike? How do I go about setting a boundary? How do I know if my boundaries are healthy?

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships | muchnessmama.com| addiction recovery | betrayal trauma recovery

What are Boundaries

Boundaries allow us to take responsibility for ourselves while not shouldering responsibility for the actions of others. Boundaries are invisible lines that say what we will and won’t tolerate. Boundaries are like the fence that defines our property line. There is a gate and we can let people in when we choose and boot them out if they are disrespecting our wishes. I love what Dr. Cloud, author of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, had to say in a recent blog post about boundaries.

Personal boundaries allow you to have ownership over your own thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, while freeing you from being responsible for anyone else’s. Virtually everyone sets some form of boundaries without thinking about it, but when we consciously define our boundaries, we gain a huge degree of control over our happiness, comfort and the quality of our relationships.

A boundary is a simple statement saying what you will or won’t tolerate and what you will do if that boundary is violated. Remember, a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Boundaries are not about controlling the actions of others. Boundaries are about controlling yourself and defining how you will respond to keep yourself safe in unhealthy situations.

Are Boundaries Christlike

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me when I first learned about boundaries was the feeling that I wasn’t showing Christlike love when I was enforcing them. President Russel M. Nelson said “Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” God himself has given us the perfect example of healthy boundaries, we call them commandments. He does not force any of us to obey, but he does withdraw his spiritual guidance, peace,  and certain blessings when we choose not to follow the requirements he has laid out for us. There are also many examples of healthy boundaries from Jesus Christ’s life here on Earth. Remember the rich young man? Christ told him to sell all that he had and follow him. Christ did not encroach upon the man’s agency, he simply said if you do these things then you will be welcome in my presence and in heaven. Let’s look at the story of the young woman caught in adultery. Christ didn’t tell her accusers that they couldn’t enact justice. He simply reminded them of their own imperfections then allowed them the opportunity to make the right choice. Jesus also took time to care for himself. He had boundaries that said “I need time to commune with my Father” and there are a few different accounts of him going alone into the mountains or wilderness, once for 40 days! If you want to read more about Christ setting boundaries this post from Soul Shepherding is wonderful.

How Do I Set Boundaries

As stated above a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Threats are useless. Remember boundaries aren’t about controlling others, they are about controlling yourself. We all set boundaries naturally every day through our choices. We choose not to spend time with someone who is unkind. We choose to rest and engage in self-care rather than accomplishing yet one more to do task on our list. We choose to disengage from emotionally abusive conversations. We choose to speak up when we something unfair happening. When dealing with an addict I’ve found that my boundaries around his addiction need to be very clearly stated. This is the pattern I use for most of my boundaries:

  1. State the action that you can’t tolerate
  2. State how that action makes you feel
  3. State the consequence/boundary you will enact to create safety for yourself

Three Steps for Creating Healthy Boundaries | muchnessmama.com | addiction recovery| betrayal trauma recovery

Here are some examples of some actual boundaries written out by some of my fellow WOPA (wives of porn addict) friends.

  • When you choose to watch pornography I feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. I need to detach from our relationship and sleep separately from you.
  • When you are not actively engaging in recovery work on a daily basis I do not feel safe in our relationship. When I feel unsafe I will need to detach from you emotionally.
  • I can not remain in a marriage with infidelity. If you choose to act out with another woman then I will file for divorce.
  • I can not accept any form of pornography in my home. I will be placing filters/blocks on all electronic devices that are brought into this home. If you do not want filters on your device then it will have to remain outside fo the home. If you can not agree to this then I will enact a physical separation.

Also check out this post from my friend Kate about boundaries. She has a ton of great advice about the nuts and bolts of setting boundaries along with some other great examples.

How do I Know if My Boundaries are Healthy

A healthy boundary is one that keeps you inside your fence and keeps things that will hurt you out. A healthy boundary is about controlling yourself, not others (though it is ok to hope that our boundaries will motivate them to a healthy change). At the Determined to Rise retreat this past September Dr. Sharon Rinearson of Core Relationship Recovery described boundaries as a hedge of thorns. Because fo the thorns people who want to hurt us can’t get in, we will protect ourselves from them. At the same time the thorns keep us inside our safe zone. Sometimes boundaries hurt. Healthy boundaries are hard. When you have been a doormat in your relationship setting healthy boundaries will most often result in resentment, anger, and a lot of push-back from your spouse. Sometimes the addict will even try to set counter boundaries that are meant to control you and your boundaries. Good, this means you’re doing it right! The hardest part of a healthy boundary is continuing to enforce your boundary even when it hurts you. Separation from your spouse isn’t easy, but it is necessary if they are abusing you. A healthy boundary is paradoxically also flexible. If you are setting healthy boundaries then you are able to recognize when they are not working or no longer necessary.

Setting Boundaries Requires Support

Healing from addiction can’t be done in isolation and neither can healing from betrayal trauma. If you had a physical injury you would visit a doctor, go to rehab with a physical therapist, and find others to help and support you through your healing. Emotional injury isn’t any different. You need help and support. A good therapist who is trained in betrayal trauma can be an amazing help in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. You can find therapists who have been certified in betrayal trauma on the APSATS website. Support groups are another great source of strength. When I initiated a separation from my husband earlier this year I never could have followed through on healthy boundaries without the support of the amazing ladies in my support groups. In person, online, and phone support groups can be found via ARP support, S-Anon, and Betrayal Trauma Recovery. There are also several Facebook groups available for support. For safety and privacy these groups are secret, so you will have to find a person who you know struggles with these issues as well and ask them to have you added. It can also be helpful to reach out to a few people you trust that can support you, even if they haven’t endured this specific trial. I have two amazing friends who have been there to help and support me whenever I need it. I have also had some amazing bishops (religious leader) who have given me strength to create and maintain healthy boundaries. I have also had friends and religious leaders say less than helpful, and sometimes even traumatizing things to me when they hear my story. Prayerfully consider who you will seek support from and it’s ok to set a healthy boundary around who you talk to and what you share with them.

Have you struggled with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries? Where have you found help and support? What are your biggest struggles with boundary setting? What advice would you give to someone who is just learning to set boundaries in an unhealthy relationship? Come join me in the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s talk about it!

What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.

 

Military Suicide- It isn’t Just About War

Lately I have been reflecting on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our time in the service. We accomplished difficult things. We deployed to Iraq. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is all well and good, but what you don’t hear from today’s veterans, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally unwell places that I have ever seen. My time in the service was very dark both emotionally and spiritually. The decisions in my life that I most regret were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of the military culture. It was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

anxiety, depression, military service, military suicide, suicide,

 

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. Sorry “experts” I don’t buy into that. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves you. It is especially powerful if you have been in active combat. Just because you fight you demons off for years it that doesn’t mean that or that your suicide is now unrelated to those demons.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my first enlistment I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours. My command would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors business hours were the same as my work hours. No more counseling for me. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. It wasn’t until the cops were called and a judge ordered counseling that they helped him get it. When a young Marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life our Staff Sergeant said “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because they thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few Marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I learned to show towards my Marines. While my junior Marines appreciated me my superiors didn’t like me at all. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies”. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below. 

The 5 Love Languages- Understanding How We Give and Receive Love

Have you ever struggled with feeling like you are loved and appreciated in your marriage, parenthood, friendship, or other relationship? On the flip side have you ever felt like you were showing an overwhelming amount of love only to have someone tell you that they don’t feel appreciated? You might be dealing with a love language barrier. Have you heard of the five love languages before? You can learn all about them in the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, but here’s a little summary for you.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

A Summary of the Five Love Languages

The love languages are the ways in which we both give and receive love. They are physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. You both receive and give love through these languages. Pretty much everyone has 1-2 dominant languages. Some people speak the same language as they hear, while others speak and hear different languages. If you aren’t sure what your language is check out this quiz.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

Are You Speaking Your Loved Ones’ Language?

While knowing your own love language can be very insightful, it is also important to know what the dominant language is for those you love. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or child if you really want to show them the most love possible you have to speak their language. What is an amazing gesture for you may fall flat if you do the same for a spouse. By not speaking in their language, or worse by punishing in their language, you can really inhibit their ability to feel loved. For example if you have a child who has the dominant love language of words of affirmation a critical statement can cut them far deeper than it may a different child. If your spouse’s love language is acts of service and you are constantly asking them to serve you without returning the favor then their love bank will go into the negative pretty quickly.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Work Relationships

Can You Hear What Others Are Saying?

Even more important than learning to speak another language is learning to hear the language that they are speaking. As an acts of service person it is sometimes hard to feel love from my kids. I mean come on, how often do small children spontaneously clean the bathroom or fold the laundry? I need to learn to hear in the way that they do say I Love you to me. The hugs and kisses, the weeds (flowers) brought in from outside, the pictures they draw just for me. I have the choice to sit here and feel sorry for myself that no one appreciates me because if they did they’d help out with the housework more, or I can choose to feel loved by all the little things my kids do every day that say I love you to me. It’s easy to do with my kids. It’s harder to do with my husband. He’s a grown-up afterall. I should be able to tell him my love language and have him just give me what I want right? Nope. Just like learning Spanish Chinese, Russian or Arabic it takes work to learn to speak a new language, and some languages are harder for us than others. My husband is a words of affirmation adn physical touch kind of guy. I’ve had to learn to accept those things from him as signs of love as well as communicating to him when I really just need a service done for me.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Friendship

Focus on Giving, Not Getting

As a child I was primarily a physical touch speaker adn receiver. I was constantly wanting to be hugged and cuddled. I always wanted to give my friends hugs. I liked to roughhouse. Hubs and I should make a perfect match then, right? Being as we’re both physical touch people. Nope. While discussing love languages a few days ago I had the realization that physical touch is actually second lowest on my list right now. What changed? I realized that it had dropped lower and lower as I felt like physical touch was taken from me rather than freely given. The touches between my husband and I had become focused on him taking what he needed to feel loved, not giving me what I needed. For example he would try to grab me for a big hug and kiss and let’s just hold each other for a few minutes when I was in the middle of cooking dinner and worried that things were going to burn if I didn’t attend to them immediately. I began to resent his physical touch rather than treasuring it. As we have been researching a lot about bonding behaviors he has started using physical touch as a way to give, not just take. Now he does things like give me a massage when my shoulders hurt from carrying a grumpy baby all day, brush my hair, simply sit close enough to touch shoulders at church. By focusing his physical touch on giving not only is he helping me feel more loved and respected, but he’s finding that I am much more ready and willing to speak his love language and engage in nourishing physical touch with him rather than trying to push him away out of irritation. On the flip side I also find that the more I go out of my way to serve my husband (my primary love language, acts of service) he naturally returns the favor. As we’ve each focused more on giving we’ve allowed the other to do the same and we are both finding our love buckets are much fuller than they were when we were both just trying to get what we needed.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Parenting

Learning More About the Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman has written several books about this topic. Start off with the basic book “The Five Love Languages” which will guide you through each language and teach you how you can both give and receive in each language. After that there are several books that are directed at specific audiences such as military, children, singles, men, and teenagers. Dr. Chapman has also written several other great relationship books which you can view here. Don’t forget to check out the official Five Love Languages website and Dr. Chapman’s Facebook page as well.

Do you know what your love language is? How has knowing yours and loved ones love languages helped you or how do you think it can help you in the future? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook Community to join in on the conversation.

Stop Stuffing- There are No Bad Emotions

One of the biggest lies that society tells us is that some emotions are not ok.  We need to just get rid of these so-called bad emotions as soon as possible.

“Don’t cry”

“Don’t let him get to you!”

“Don’t waste your time being angry”

“Just get over it!”

“Toughen up!”

“Choose to be happy!”

There are No "Bad" Emotions | muchnessmama.com | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health

Believing these lies has turned me into a chronic stuffer. The problem is that stuffed feelings don’t fizzle out. They just grow bigger and bigger until they explode in a big, messy, damaging, chaotic way. I’m walking around like an active volcano. Nobody knows precisely when the top will pop, but we all know it’s going to happen at any time!

Stuffed Emotions Lead to Explosions

In marriage it looks something like this. He didn’t fill the car up with gas on the way home, it’s ok I can do it at this ridiculously inconvenient time and be late to my meeting. (smoke starts leaking a bit) He said something very hurtful. It’s ok I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way I won’t say anything. (maybe the ground gives a little tremble) He didn’t call when he was running late AGAIN. It’s ok we all make mistakes. (smoke is getting a bit heavier now) He spent money we didn’t have on something we didn’t need. It’s ok, he earns the money so he should be able to do what he wants. (now the ground is really shaking). “OH MY GOODNESS WHY DO YOU NEED THE MUSIC SO FLIPPING LOUD. DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT MY EARDRUMS MUCH LESS MY SANITY!!! YOU KNOW I HATE LOUD MUSIC. YOU ARE SO BLEEPING INSENSITIVE. I CAN’T BELIEVE I MARRIED SUCH A SELFISH JERKFACE! WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH. I KNOW YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL. YOU’RE JUST PRETENDING TO LOVE ME SO I WON’T LEAVE YOU!!”

Ok maybe it’s not always quite that dramatic, but you get the point.

Embrace the Negative Emotions

Well what if we learned to embrace those so-called bad emotions? What if as a society we could give each other permission to just feel what we feel without qualifiers or judgment? Research actually shows that there are a lot of negative consequences for stuffing emotions such as emotional pain and isolation, headaches, heart disease and cancer! There are also positive benefits to embracing our negative emotions. People who are able to recognize, communicate and deal with their negative emotions are more resilient in life, overall more positive people, and tend to live longer.

Now embracing negative emotions doesn’t mean that you wallow in self-pity, shame, doubt or fear. What it does mean is that you acknowledge the truth of how you feel, communicate it to others, then use it to propel you into positive solutions.

There are No "Bad" Emotions | muchnessmama.com | negative emotions | controlling your feelings | stuffing emotions | healthy emotions | emotional health
Feelings are natural. What you do with them is a choice. ~Mel Robbins

Recognizing Emotions

The first step in emotional health is being able to recognize what emotions you are feeling. Anger is probably the most easy to identify, but it is usually only a secondary emotion. Anger is usually a result of fear, shame, guilt, disappointment, etc. Being able to recognize the true underlying emotion is crucial to addressing it. In my example above not only was I feeling pent-up emotions from stressors I hadn’t discussed with my husband I was also feeling a deep sense of disrespect and fear. When my needs have been communicated (I REALLY hate loud noise to the point it feels like someone is pounding nails into my brain) and they are going unmet I feel disrespected. In combination with that I have a fear that disrespect=no love and no love means he is going to leave me. By addressing those real emotions I can sidestep the anger and simply talk to him about my hurt and fear.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel How You Feel

Remind yourself that there is no such thing as a wrong or bad emotion. Everyone has them. They are an essential part of our make-up as human beings. They serve an important function in helping us course correct our lives and protect us from dangerous or unhealthy situations. Give yourself permission to lean into the feelings, explore them, and understand them instead of running from them. Seek to understand the deeper emotions and situations that have led you to where you are. Have a good cry. Punch a pillow. Go do some target practice. Go for a walk. Write in your journal. Take time to allow yourself to just feel what you feel and be ok with it.

Communicating Emotions

Next you have to be able to communicate what you are feeling. This is the hard part for us chronic stuffers. By communicating our feelings we are opening ourselves up to all sorts of scary reactions. We may be judged, rejected, dismissed, etc. It is important to have a safe person or people who you can talk to about how you feel without fear of negative fallout. If the person who caused the hurt isn’t safe then reach out to a friend, family member, or support group for help. Even if a person isn’t currently super safe you can create a safe environment for emotional sharing, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. My husband and I were able to do this with a therapist who was trained in emotionally focused therapy. Of course it takes two to tango and sometimes you just have to accept that the person will never be safe and put up your boundaries.

Reframing Negatives Into Positives

Now it’s time to take those uncomfortable feelings and use them to actually help us feel better! All this takes is a little bit fo reframing and focusing on moving forward. Guilt or shame can become compassion and caring as we try to make restitution for our wrongs. Anger can become courage and determination as you work on correcting the injustice that you see. Fear can bring you focus and alertness in dealing with the problems you face. Boredom can lead to periods of creativity. Frustration can propel you to make a change. Jealousy can be turned into admiration and create feelings of respect and friendly competition.

Allow the Good and Bad to Co-exist

The number one thing I am still working on is allowing my negative feelings to coexist with my positive ones. Have you seen the movie Inside Out? If not go watch it now.  I’ll wait…… OK well at least watch this scene:

The thing that makes the memories beautiful is allowing the sadness (and any other bad emotion) we feel to propel us into greater connection. Ultimately the entire purpose of this life is for us to connect intimately with each other. To be part of a family, biological or one you create. We can’t connect without vulnerability. We can’t be known by others unless we know ourselves. We can’t know ourselves if we aren’t willing to feel the full range of emotions that is present in every day.

I would love to hear your thoughts on stuffing, “bad” emotions, and using negative feelings to propel us into positive directions. Comment below or join the community on Facebook.

The Muchness Mama | Slay the jabberwock | Rediscover wonderland | self care | self love

A Year in the Life June- Documentary Photography at the Pet Store

Once again I completely forgot to post my A Year in the Life pictures from last month. As usual the littlest ones were the stars of the show! I must admit right around 1.5 is my favorite age. Learning to walk and talk, but not quite into the temper tantrum stage yet. Even with a new baby around Wally once again was the main subject of my camera lens this month.  DSC06481   DSC06493 DSC06496

The best shot of the month is this one of Wally with Hannah. Wally is absolutely IN LOVE with his sock monkey. He is also over the moon for his new baby sister. When Grandma sent Hannah a sock monkey outfit I knew I needed a picture of him holding the both of them. As you can see Hannah wasn’t too fond of the idea. Wally was unperturbed. He just shoved that paci in her mouth, positive that losing it was the only reason she was sad. Poor girl didn’t stop crying till mommy rescued her, after getting the picture first of course lol. DSC06491

The older kids managed to sneak into a few pictures by holding the very photogenic new baby. Maddy especially loves to help take care of Hannah. I have  feeling these two are going to be best buds.

DSC06426

DSC06537

Ben likes to love on her too, but not quite as much as Maddy. He gets bored pretty fast adn is ready to pass her on.

One fun thing I did this month was take the camera with me when we went to the pet store. I’ve always been a little too self conscious to bust out the camera in an unusual spot like that before. This time I just went for it. I had a TON of fun. I love that I was able to capture so much of my kids personalities in an everyday situation. I even remembered to hand the camera off to the hubs and get in the pictures myself!

Would you like to preserve these types of memories as well? I can teach you how. Stay tuned for my workshop announcement, coming soon! If you’d like to hire me for a documentary session please contact me for more details and to schedule your date.

Memorial Day- The Dark Side of Military Service

As I have seen all the media hullabaloo leading up to Memorial day this year it has caused me to reflect on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our service. We did hard things. We deployed. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is what you hear from most active duty and veterans. What you don’t hear, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally sick places that I have ever been in my life. It was a dark time for me emotionally and spiritually. The worst mistakes I made in my life were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of a culture that was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

veteran suicide awareness| SmithSquad.com | 22 too many | Marine Corps | military suicide | Mental Health

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. I don’t buy it. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves your mind, especially if you have been in active combat. Sure many of these vets may fight their demons off for years, but that doesn’t mean that it affected them any less, or that their suicide is unrelated to their service.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my service I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours, they would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors on base are only available during work hours. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. When a young marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life the SSgt over me made the comment “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because the SSgt thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I showed towards my Marines. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies” was once said to me by my top enlisted leader. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

 

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below. 

Talking About Pornography With Your Loved Ones

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Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography Let’s face it, the birds and bees sex talk is hard enough. Talking about pornography is even harder. The sad fact is, however, that it is something that is absolutely necessary. In our day and age pornographic images and movies are easily accessible online and children are being exposed to them at a ridiculously young age. A recent study showed that 10% of 12-year-old respondents SELF-REPORTED that they thought they were addicted to porn. 12-year-old addicts. We have to start young reaching out to our children and warning them of the dangers of pornography use.

Why do we Need to Talk About Pornography?

What are those dangers? Check out Fight the New Drug to read in-depth about the many dangers they have identified and studied:

  1. Changes the Brain
  2. Kills Love
  3. Warps Ideas About Sex
  4. Acts Like a Drug
  5. Ruins Sex Life
  6. Leads to Violence
  7. Addictive, Leaves You Lonely
  8. Porn is Based on a Thriving Sex Slave Industry
  9. Affects your Behavior
  10. Hurts Your Partner
  11. Destroys Marriages
  12. Addiction Escalates
  13. Porn is created From Lies

Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography

It is crucial that parents have open honest conversations with themselves and their kids about the damaging effects of pornography. Fact is that many of us don’t initially recognize the dangers of pornography and once we do we don’t know how to talk about it with those we love. Here are some resources that will help:

Resources for Educating Kids

The Guideline– a free e-book created by Fight the New Drug

How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography by Dina Alexander

Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A Jensen

Fight the New Drug blog, and Facebook Page

Resources for Those Struggling With Addiction

Fortify is a video based online recovery program

12 Step recovery groups; SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, and SRA

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark Lasser

Out of the Shadows by Patrick J. Carnes

Certified Sex Addiction Therapists

LDS addiction Recovery Program

Resources for Those With Addicted Loved Ones

12 Step Programs S-Anon, COSA, PoSARC

Mending a Shattered Heart by Stefanie Carnes

Shattered Vows by Debra Lasser

Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

LDS Spouse and Family Support Guide and Groups 

 

Have you been affected by pornography addiction in yourself or a loved one? Have you struggled to talk about the dangers of pornography with those you love? What resources have you found to help?