Hi, we are Steve and Ann. We have been married for 23 years, we have 3 children, 20, 18 and 13…this is our story.
About 11 years ago we had it all…great kids, private schools, money…all the worldly things. I was in homebuilding and real estate, I was an elder in our church which had about 5000 members, Ann was a manager for a computer systems company and was raising our three kids…outwardly a very successful family…every one knew Steve and Ann had it made, what could go wrong…but there was a darkness in my life which I battled and controlled for the first 10 years of our marriage.
Then I began to convince myself that Ann no longer loved me. We did not hold hands anymore, we did not go out on dates, the sex drive I had experienced in the very early days of our marriage was gone. It seemed to me I was not needed. All of this was not true of course, but satan had found his way in to my life again and I began to listen to his pack of lies.
Craig Gross talks about “The end of Porn Boulevard“. For me, that day was January 17, 2006.
8 years earlier…I was an Elder in the second largest church here in Colorado Springs the day I was called in and the Executive Pastor said “Steve, we received a call from Pastor Ted Haggard and he seems to think you are leading an immoral life and that you are having an affair with a woman in this church”…It was true, and even though I thought I had been living a life of hell hiding my affair from the church, the true hell was only just starting. I walked out of the church that day…thirty days later I received a letter in the mail from my church of 13 years telling me I had not “straightened out my life” in their time frame and they were “taking away my membership”. I was “not welcome back”. I had been kicked out of a place for the sick, because I was sick… It is important to point out here that I do not blame the church, they did what they did because I did what I did. Do I wish churches would learn to handle this different…yes! We (which includes all of you here who are willing to show your weakness) are a part of changing the church to a place for the sick and the lost to come find help.
For the next 8 years I went deeper into that hell and I never walked back into a church. I loved God, but I hated His people.
January 17, 2006. You see, I had lost my company I had started…I had lost a lot of money…I had lost my church…I had lost my dignity…but my only real true loss was the loss of my wife and three kids and the trust they had placed in this once great man of God.
Eight years in to a hell of affairs, pornography, sexual addiction and alcoholism. I was living in a vacant home alone, my daughter had not spoken to me for over a year and I was so very ashamed of my behavior I felt I had nothing to live for…but God had other plans.
When I came to from my attempted suicide my wife was there and she said “Steve, you have to get help”. I knew she was right. I had put her through hell and yet there she was…she was finished but she cared enough to come look me in the face and ask me to get help.
I checked myself in to a place in Wickenburg AZ, a place called The Meadows; the next 5 weeks would change my life forever. I still remember the very first night when I attend their closed SA (Sex Aholics Anonymous) meeting…I heard these men talking about their lives, the loneliness, thinking “if you knew me you would not like me”…and I cried…I finally realized I was not alone.
I went back to church for the first time in almost 9 years to a little church in Wickenburg AZ, the pastor is Dave Hunter. I will never ever forget him or the sermon he taught that day…it was about letting go of shame…it was about not judging others…it was about “Today is a new day and you are a new person”. If you were a Pastor who had personally known me and my life, this sermon that day would have been exactly what you would have written. If I did not have it recorded I may not even believe that it actually happened…I was home and God had written a sermon just for me and He was telling me it was going to be OK…
I checked out of the Meadows on March 14, 2006 after 5 weeks as an in-patient. They have a family week where your family comes for counseling…my kids came for a week but my wife left after day two…the day I had to tell her everything I had done…I had no more secrets, but she was gone.
I came home to nothing, but I had God back in my life. I needed a church and so I went to New Life and I found a small group of 4 men in a Sexual Purity group. I attended 90 meetings of various sexual addiction groups in 90 days around town, I was clean and sober.
Our divorce continued, it was brutal…and I prayed every morning on my knees and every night on my knees that God would change my wife’s heart. Four days after our 21 wedding anniversary on October 9, 2006 our divorce was final…except there was a problem…the paper work was not ready, no one knew why but the date would have to be reset to February 27, 2007…but on a day in November I sent my wife an email and I simply said (we could not speak directly to each other) “I am praying for you”…and on November 9th, 2006 my wife said “Thank You, I need that prayer and I want to work on our marriage”. On memorial weekend of 2007 I moved back into our family home where I am the father that my God wanted me to be. I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.
I told God while I was in the Meadows that I would use these weaknesses as strengths…I told God I would hunt satan down in the lives of men who were suffering with sexual addiction and I am doing it. I thank God for websites like xxxchurch. I found hope in these pages long before we were asked to write this blog. Here on this blog I find hope in the words you all write and I hope and pray you will also.
I understand shame. I believe it keeps marriages from working things out, from being able to talk about putting the past behind us. I remember the day all of this came out about Pastor Ted Haggard. Someone actually called me and said “this must make you feel good after Haggard was the one who turn you in”…they could not have been more wrong…my sadness for this great man could not have been anymore intense…I said “I have nothing but sadness for Pastor Ted. There is not an emotion he has had that I did not have…I know that shame”.
New Life Church stripped that church clean of every single picture of Pastor Ted, they removed every reference of Pastor Ted, they removed every book he had ever written…they sent out the message most churches send out…”Sin and you might be welcome here, sexual sin and we will remove every scrap of evidence you ever existed, we do not want you here”. This has to change and you and I and Craig are opening doors in churches and we are saving lives.
I am married to a very remarkable person, she has the same heart of Jesus Christ, she forgives me and we are learning to hold hands again. I am learning things about her I never knew. But I always knew she was my best friend.
I have learned through all of this that no amount of high temperature sex can replace that feeling of having your best friend, someone whom you trust and someone who loves you with all your bumbs and brusies…sex cannot replace that feeling.
Our marriage was considered past reconciliation, a waste of time to try…
This past Memorial weekend we celebrated the graduation of our daughter, my 49th birthday, the 1 year anniversary of me moving back into the home and the reintroduction to my in-laws as their daughter’s husband…they were incredible, forgiving people and they welcomed me back into their family…God was at work.
Of all the great things which recovery has given us, nothing is more noticeable and impressive than the changes in our kids…they are more positive about life, their self confidence is 100 times what it was, their grades are amazing with 30 to 50% increases and maybe most of all they understand how much work goes into a marriage, that marriage is tough to maintain, but that the rewards are there but you have to seek them out everyday.
Ann and I know there is only one place to give the credit for this amazing reconciliation, God….All Glory to God..
Women, we need you to try to forgive. Guys we need you to be contrite and realize you have injured your wife deeply. You did not get here overnight and you will not heal overnight, it takes time.
If you have children, you must make every attempt to forgive and move forward. I promise you one day your children will be married; they will be having one of those moments where they are not sure this is a “good” marriage. satan will wisper to them “The grass is greener on the other side” and they will wonder…they will use words like “I deserve to be happy” and “Well, we have just grown apart”…lies.
Ultimately they will look to their parents and say “Well when my mom and dad had problems they __________________.” Parents you are filling in that blank…what will you put in the blank for your kids…..quit their marriage or fought for their marriage? Love or Hate? Kids important or is your happiness more important than theirs? You will tell them whith your own life how to fill in that blank.
We all arrive on this earth ready to change the world. Leave a lasting legacy, the one that goes for generations and changes the world…give your kids a mom and dad who will stay together in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad…until death do us part….it will change lives for generations.
If you are a man and you believe you are unloved, lost and all alone in this…I assure you it is not true and we can help you to learn to change that feeling. If you are a woman who does not know if you can forgive, we can help you see the plan God has for your life and how good forgiveness can feel and the difference you will see in the lives of your kids.
Hate and resentment will kill you, it will take years off of your life. Resentment is like me taking poison and hoping you die…think about it…it kills you…let it go and try forgiveness.
“I am sorry” are very tough words to say, but I believe in all that we have seen, the toughest words are “I forgive you”. The happiness in our lives is amazing…the happiness we are experiencing as a family is unbelievable. I believe we may have one of the best marriages I have ever seen.
I remember the first day in counseling when our counselor said “So who’s fault is it that you are here?” I said “Mine. I have been unfaithful to my wife and I have drug her through pure hell”. The counselor then asked my wife “Is this true, is this his fault?” She answered “Yes”. The counselor then announced that we were finished because there was nothing he could do. He said “No marriage gets here without both people making mistakes and not nurturing the marriage”. His point did not sit well with Ann, she was the victim…but God bless you sweetheart because you stayed…and we both started to look at our marriage and work on our own problems. Blame is easy, self assessment and self change is not…but it started with three words from my wife that will change the future forever…”I forgive you.”
Someday I know my wife will stand before God on judgment day and He will say “Well done My good and faithful servant, in you I am well pleased”. Well done sweetheart…you are my best friend in the whole world and the greatest mom any kid could ever have. Thank you and I love you…
Through God all things are possible, even the impossible.
May God bless you all and give you peace.
Steve and Ann
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