Seeds of the Past

I feel triggered this week. So many memories of my past have come rushing back to haunt me as I recieved word that a brother of mine, who shares so much of the same trauma and sordid experiences as me, fell to temptation and cheated on his wife and the mother of their 4 children.

I feel so sad for him. So sad for her. So sad for their kids.

It brings back the terrible reality that I was trapped in 5 and 1/2 years ago when I faced the truth of my awful situation. I had reached such a state in my escalated addiction where adultery would have been the next logical and progressive step. Fortunately for me and my wife and children, that is when I finally reached out and God rushed in to save my soul, my soul that, up to that point, had been too stubborn, too prideful, and too terrified of what “men” might think of me and my exposed duplicity.

I have an older brother who’s marriage and life was wrecked by addiction a number of years ago. He lost his wife and two children. That happened while I was in the thick of my own addiction and watching his life implode was a stark warning and foreshadowing of events that awaited me if I didn’t correct course.

And now seeing this younger brother who is in the messy aftermath of a self-inflicted spiritual suicide attempt. His excommunication sure, his wife and children devastated and realing. The pain, the anguish, the anger, the self-loathing, feeling the burning hatred and disdain from the one you loved most but addicted decisions led you to her betrayal. It is all so familiar, so painfully close to my own history. It brings back so much pain and remorse of my own history. The shame of it hurts.

It causes me to reflect on our childhood. Our parents were good people that tried to teach us right from wrong and there isn’t a sibling among us that would deny that our parents did everything that they could with the knowledge that they had. But there were seeds planted in our past. Seeds that sprouted in secret, were fed by curiousity and sexual exploration and that flourished in darkness and shame. These seeds that were planted those many years ago are bearing their toxic, destructive fruit in adulthood, as our parents and loved ones watch in shock and horror as the twisted plant that they knew nothing about, spills out of the shadows into the visible temporal world and chokes the life out of their son, their husband, their father and destroys the life they thought they knew.

Seeds of my past:

Playboy magazine clippings I was shown as a nine year old by some neighborhood kids, which went unreported to parents, led to seeking out porn on HBO channels at sleep overs with friends. Which led to masturbation. Older brothers that showed me the playboy magazines they had discovered at a local book store, led me to show my little brother the same discovery. How much of his current pain and existing problems could have been spared, if he was not exposed to the pornography that I showed him at such an early age? Masturbation and porn at a young age led to curiosity and acting out with my younger sisters, exposing myself to them. Sexual experimentation led to guilt and immense shame, which drove the roots of my “addiction plant” deeper into the soil. My patients knew of none of it. We lived in the country and it was often easier to get away with masturbation if I went out into the woods near our home. The internet led to easier access to porn which diverted my thoughts from anything productive. My spare time was consumed by it. My thoughts were constantly diverted to sexual things. As I got older the duplicity became more solidified. I acted the “good guy” part on the outside, but when there were opportunities to act out, especially anonymously, I took them. Immoral encounters in my high school years were only with girls I knew were from another town and I knew I wouldn’t see them again. The same held true after my mission, I would be the good kid at BYU-Idaho, and on the weekends go to Utah and find girls to act out with, each time pushing the boundaries a little further. My addiction worsened and escalated as it always does with time and no proper intervention. I was spiraling out of control. I met my wife during that time and tried in vain to get my addiction under control on my own. Of course the addiction followed me into my marriage. My duplicity worsened, the shame deepened, I justified much and lied to myself constantly. And as I mentioned above, 5 and 1/2 years ago I found myself on the precipice of a decision that would have led to an adulterous demise. In retrospect, I have no doubt that, if pursued, it also would have ultimately lead to and ended in my suicide.

Sounds insane, sounds horrible, sounds depressing, and dammit, it is! It is also my life, my past and a reality that I must live with every day of my life.

But you see, few knew of the deception and duplicity that I was living. To an outsider, it may have seemed completely random when my wife and I entered counseling together. To an outsider, it may have seemed that my older brothers marriage spontaneously combusted before it imploded. But as James Allen puts it, “A man does not come to the almshouse or the jail by the tyranny of fate of circumstance, but by the pathway of groveling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress of any mere external force; the criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power.”

To an outsider it may seem that my younger brother abruptly succumbed to an unfortunate impromptu temptation and cheated on his wife.  But the seeds of sexual addiction were planted long ago. Addiction hijacks your thought processes. And any thought that persists long enough will manifest itself in the physical world, even if it takes 20 or 30 years to realize the lustful fantasy of bedding down a playboy model, something of the sort will surely happen. As it did to my brother who slept with the watered-down incarnation of that fantasy while his wife sat at home taking care of his children. Just with any fantasy, however, it soon ends and the bitter realization sets in that what you just did and the treason you committed was not a dream or a fantasy in your mind, but an act that you deliberately, even methodically committed. Your spirit mourns and cries inside for freedom from the pathologically addicted body that holds it captive, the angels weep, and your spouse sobs.

I mourn for my brothers. I mourn for their spouses and their children. I mourn for my spouse and the pain that my decisions put her through. But I am so grateful that I was able to get help when I did. I am so grateful that I was able to stop the train I was riding and hit the switch track. I am grateful that God provided the people and resources necessary for me to finally get the help I needed and enter into legitimate recovery. I am grateful for a loving wife that stood by me as we started the arduous process of putting my life, and our life back together. It takes much time and effort to root out a tree, whose seeds were planted so early, that grew so deep and the flourished so well for so long, but with consistent patience, honesty and accountability it is possible.

“I hold it true that thoughts are things;
They’re endowed with bodies and breath and wings;
And that we send them forth to fill
The world with good results, or ill.
That which we call our secret thought
Speeds forth to earth’s remotest spot,
Leaving its blessings or its woes
Like tracks behind it as it goes.
We build our future, thought by thought,
For good or ill, yet know it not.
Yet, so the universe was wrought.
Thought is another name for fate;
Choose, then, thy destiny and wait.
For love brings love and hate brings hate.’
– Henry van Dyke

We are always planting seeds, whether they are for good or ill, we must constantly tend the garden of our mind. We must safeguard the minds of our children and help root out the seeds of destruction that the enemy will surely plant there. Otherwise, in 20 or 30 years from now, you too may stand in disbelief as your child’s marriage and family, unbeknownst to you, are obliterated before your eyes as you sit and wonder what went wrong.