October 9, 2016

Sending light

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. She goes by the name of Mrs. Smith. Her story and her mission have helped many see light in a dark moment, to help others remember they are never alone. 

Sending Light

My name is Mrs. Smith. It's not my real name. It's my pen name. I am the woman behind the The Light Keepers @thelightkeepers Instagram account. Three years ago my life as I knew it drastically changed. In an extremely traumatic way, I learned that my husband had been living a double life of sexual addiction. 

Early on in our marriage I had discovered that my husband was struggling with pornography. I didn't know then that it was an addiction, and neither did he. Over the years there were times I found pornography he had been viewing. Each time it was very traumatic and I wondered what I was doing wrong. Why wasn't I enough sexually for him? 

We married young and I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that someone could be addicted to pornography or sex. Several years into our marriage we learned more about sexual addiction and were lead to therapy and 12-step groups. This felt like an answer to my prayers. I began to learn more about the addiction. I learned that I didn't cause the acting out and I couldn't stop it. My husband appeared to really want to change and heal. 

Many years went by and we had several more children. We had struggles like any other couple: job loss, struggling to make ends meet at times, and small arguments. On a whole our family and marriage were happy. We did have some really challenging struggles as well: discovering that my husband had other addictions (food and gambling) and the grief of a sudden death of a close family member. 

Through all this my husband was supportive and loving. We sought therapy. We sought spiritual guidance. In my mind we were healing and making progress. My husband and I enjoyed being with each other. Our daily interactions were happy and loving. We read marriage and parenting books together. We had fun date nights. We had family vacations. Our holidays were happy and meaningful. Life was good. We had a happy marriage. I felt content and blessed. Life was far from easy, but in my mind we were facing our battles, head on, together. 

In September of 2013 we moved to a new state. I was thrilled with this move, getting to live in my dream location. My husband had a great job opportunity and I thought we were going to be putting down roots to raise our children. Of course I didn't think life was going to be perfect or easy, but I felt like we had worked through some extremely hard things and after years of struggle I felt like l was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Just a few short weeks after moving into our new home I made the horrific and traumatic discovery that my husband had not only never been free from his pornography addiction, but that the acting out had escalated. My husband was on a business trip when I made this discovery. I had children sleeping in my bed. I began crying and uncontrollably screaming. I could see the fear and confusion on my children's faces but I couldn't stop. 

I wanted to stop so badly but the trauma had hijacked my body. It was as if I had literally been hit by a bus. I remember trying to calm myself down but nothing would work. I finally was able to calm down enough to turn on a movie for my children and then I began to pace the house and sob and sob and sob. I didn't know anyone in this new place where we were living. I had no friends. I had never felt more alone. 

The next morning my dad flew into town to take care of me and my children. I don't even know how I made it to the airport to pick him up. I only remember falling apart in his arms. 

My husband and I immediately started therapy. Through an act of God I was led to a phenomenal therapist who I would come to learn would be an integral part of my healing journey. My husband sought recovery and help for himself through individual therapy and 12-step groups. 

I too began working a 12-step program. I began working with a sponsor and working the 12-steps. Each one of them was a life changing experience for me. As time went on, my husband eventually came forward with his full history of sexually acting out. This was horribly painful and caused me significant trauma. I really don't know how to describe the fire that was lit inside of me to fight for my healing and recovery. I had never wanted something more in my life--not to save my marriage but to personally heal from the damage his addiction had brought into my life.

Through therapy I began to learn more about family systems, and my fight and passion grew more as I learned ways I could be a "generation changer" in my family. I learned new ways of coping and responding. I learned tools for regulating my emotions, and for speaking my thoughts, feelings and needs. 

As I faced the pain of my husband's betrayals I was able to learn and grow in ways I never imagined possible. It was not easy. Most of the time it wasn't a pretty process. I cried buckets of tears. I took long drives so that I could scream at the top of my lungs. I turned to my Heavenly Father like never before in my life. 

I began to develop a closeness with him and the Savior that I didn't know I was missing. This process was a refiner's fire and it was brutally painful, but it propelled me into personal growth that was life changing. I still have many hard moments. I still struggle. I don't know what the future will hold, but I do know that no matter what happens I am going to be OK. 

A few months into my personal healing journey, I began to have the strangest overwhelming impression, "You need to start an Instagram account and share your story." I thought this was one of the most bizarre impressions of my life. I am not a writer or a blogger and I wondered who on earth would read something like this on Instagram, of all places. 

I began searching Instagram to see if I could find any accounts of women going through what I was going through. I didn't find any at that time. I decided to share this idea with a friend from recovery and I asked for her thoughts. One Sunday, while in church, the impression to start this Instagram account would not go away. I remember thinking to myself, "What would I even call it?" In that exact moment, a woman handed me a poem and asked me if I would read it as part of her lesson. I looked down at the slip of paper and read the title, Light Keepers. The spirit whispered to me, "This is what you will call the Instagram account." 

The poem perfectly described how I felt about the journey I was on and the "Light Keepers" my Father in Heaven had lovingly placed along my path to help light the way to healing. There have been so many Light Keepers along the way, so many beautiful people who have blessed my life--people who have been there for me in my darkest hours--people who have shown me that there is still LIGHT and HOPE, even in the darkest of circumstances. 

As I began sharing my story on Instagram I was astonished at the number of women who reached out to me with similar stories. Each woman that shared her story with me allowed me to partake in a scared trust. Strangers were sharing things with me that they had never shared with anyone before in their lives. Tears would roll down my face as I would read these emails and messages. 

I wasn't alone and I was blessed with the honor of having others share their pain and struggle with me. This was truly a life-changing experience for me. It also strengthened me and helped me to continue to seek my healing and to work my individual recovery. I began to pray for each of these women who reached out to me. They were my Light Keepers just as much as I was theirs. 

I would never have chosen this trial in my life since it has brought so much heartbreak and pain. But I also know I needed to go through it. Through this struggle I found myself. I have never been more certain of who I am and who I want to become. 

A few months ago I held a retreat for a group of women. We began to brainstorm ideas of ways we could reach out to others who were suffering in darkness, and ways we could be Light Keepers for others. For awhile I had felt the impression to make some kind of care packages for other women in trauma. We began exploring this idea and working as a team to have this idea become a reality. 

Not long after this, to my surprise, an amazing woman felt impressed to send me a large sum of money to help this project get started. I was humbled by her generosity. I knew I had an important work to do and that I was being trusted with it. In August several women and I gathered together and put together 107 boxes for women in trauma. We were able to get these boxes into the hands of other women in trauma.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen after that...

Enter Adam and Lindsay Moore

My name is Adam Moore. When I was first training to become a marriage and family therapist, I was astounded at how many people who, on the outside, seem to have life all figured out, can have such painful stories underneath the surface.

These are your friends and neighbors. They are there, doing their best to make it through each day, but they often have secret pain and trauma they're struggling with that very few people ever get to know about in most cases.

As a therapist, I sit in an incredibly sacred space with people--hearing the stories of trauma, and being present for very personal healing processes. Sometimes I am literally the only person on the earth who is invited into that space. It is humbling to say the least.

As heartbreaking as it can be to hear the painful stories, what allows me to do what I do is seeing the amazing resilience people display in the face of some of life's most challenging moments. 

About six years ago I began training to treat addictions--specifically sexual addictions. One of the very first lessons I learned was that connected to nearly every sex addict are family members, often spouses, in trauma. 

It's not just the out-of-control sexual behaviors that cause pain to family members of addicts. As with other addictions, sex addicts often get into a survival space where they lie, blame, and hide in order to keep people from finding out what is really going on. It's these behaviors that create much off the relationship trauma.

I learned that healing and recovery are necessary not only for the addict, but also for a traumatized partner. For married couples, healing the marriage requires that the betrayed spouse be given just as much care and concern as the addict typically receives.

As my wife and I have managed our counseling practice for the past few years, we've had a ongoing dialogue about what more we could do to offer support for the often-neglected people in trauma due to others' choices or because of life events that are out of their control.

I can't describe how our non-profit, Sending Light, was formed without talking about inspiration and superhuman timing. My wife and I watched (via social media) as the woman behind The Light Keepers Instagram account organized others around the concept of sending care packages to women in trauma.

When we saw that, we said, "Maybe that's where we can get involved in giving back." So we reached out to her and within weeks we were forming a non-profit organization to provide a process by which people who have experienced life's traumas can offer kindness to those who are still in the depths of their own pain. We offer a way to create Light Boxes (specialized care packages) and get them into the hands of people who need to know that they are not alone.

We started with the people we felt most connected to because of my therapy work--women whose husbands have sexual addictions. But pretty quickly we had people reaching out about many other types of traumas. These might be things like addiction, mental illness, suicide, divorce, pregnancy loss, eating disorders, and so many more. 

Sending Light's mission is to provide the structure and resources for ordinary people to do something extraordinary and to combine their efforts with people who have experienced traumas like their own--to reach out to people who may feel alone and isolated in their trauma.

Each Light Box contains thoughtful items that provide emotional support. education. opportunities for self-care, and a connection to others who have traveled the same road. When a person sends a Light Box, he or she becomes a Light Keeper and joins an ever-growing force of people committed to relieving human suffering.

The really neat thing about the way we deliver the Light Boxes is that in most cases, we are going to get the boxes into the hands of a gatekeeper--a community or church leader who has direct access to people who are suffering right now. Those leaders may not fully understand the gravity of the traumas people are experiencing. So the boxes are delivered with additional educational materials to teach those individuals about those traumas, so that they can provide better, more informed support, education.

Our organization is brand-new, but are already seeing incredible support from people all over the United States, asking how they can get involved. We are excited to watch as The Light Keepers spread into every community and stand with people in the most difficult moments of their lives.

A video about Sending Light: 


Anonymous said...

My situation is very similar to Mrs. Smith's. I keep asking myself "Why do we stay?" Why have I stayed in a betrayed marriage for 28 years? I know so many women in this situation and we stay. I have a friend whose 28 year marriage ended in divorce because of her husband's sexual addiction and acting out. Yet, SHE did not end the marriage, HE did because he found someone else. SHE wanted to stay in the marriage. Why do we stay? Why did you stay?

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