Ashley Chatwin: TOFW Local Story | Apr 26, 2018
A Note from the TOFW Team: We know that addiction is a complex issue that many people, men and women, struggle with. There's just a lot of hurt and anguish behind the word "addiction" that a lot of people don't see. This is a story of someone who knows that pain well. Before you start reading, we want you to know that not everyone deals with addiction in the same way. This is a beautiful story from the 2018 Centered in Christ TOFW tour about how one woman found peace and healing after finding out a loved one was an addict. We are not saying this is how everyone should deal with addiction, or that this is the best way for everyone to react after finding out a husband, brother, sister, mother, father, or any loved is struggling with addiction. Our prayers are with everyone who is affected by addiction in its many forms, and we hope that others can find their own path to healing.
Have you ever had the moment when you think, “Man things are going so perfectly, I wonder when the bomb is going to drop?” Well, I felt this way for almost seven years.
Almost eleven years ago, I married my best friend. I truly felt he was the closest thing to perfection, and I thought we had the perfect marriage. However, the saying “it’s too good to be true” sums up my marriage and my life very well.
On the sunny day of June 25, 2014, we were in Canada visiting my husband’s parents. We were having a great day when my husband’s mom asked for what all mothers-in-law ask for: An updated family photo. The only problem was we had only packed my husband’s laptop—my laptop was the one that had every single photo ever taken on it. But, as luck would have it, we had just gotten updated family photos and they were just emailed to me. So, while my husband was working in the yard and me, all the kids, my mother-in-law, and the sisters-in-law were sitting around the kitchen table, I hopped on my husband’s computer and tried to send a picture to Costco.
With that one click, my entire life was flipped upside down. With that one click, his Dropbox pulled up and not only did I discover that my husband was viewing pornography, I also discovered he was having multiple affairs. He was even telling one of the women he loved her.
I could not believe my eyes. I felt alone, I felt very scared, I felt angry, I felted shocked, and I felt completely heartbroken. I felt every emotion you can imagine feeling in that moment. Right then and there, I was overwhelmed with the many decisions that I was facing. Do I stay? Are we going to get divorced? Can I get through this? Can I be strong enough to get through this for my children no matter the outcome? If I stay, what am I teaching my daughters? Does he even want me to stay or does he want one of the other women? And, there I was, contemplating all this while trapped in Canada with my husband and his family.
I pulled my husband aside to confront him and I will never forget the look he gave me as he slowly lowered his head and said, “We have a lot to talk about.” My heart literally sank to my feet, dashing that tiny hope that what I saw on his laptop was my eyes playing tricks on me or it was all a bad dream. His face confirmed my worst fear.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to grab my two daughters and bolt. However, I didn’t know the directions back home. I didn’t know how to drive the speed limit because it is all in kilometers, and I certainly didn’t know what to do with border control. So, I ran upstairs, and I called my bishop, who, by the way, was a close family friend and had just been called as the bishop two weeks prior. Poor guy. Welcome to being a bishop.
I found enough peace through his words to sleep on it and drive home with my husband the next morning to meet with my bishop the following night.
We also sought counseling through LDS Family Services and help through other resources like Fight the New Drug, Life Changing Services, and the 12-step addiction recovery through the Church's Addiction Recovery Program.
About a month later during my husband’s Church court with 16 men staring in our direction, the decision was made to excommunicate my husband. It was a decision both my husband and I knew was directed by the Lord with love, giving our marriage a chance and my husband a chance to be re-centered in Christ.
Now, as I said, many decisions needed to be made. I prayed repeatedly about what to do in all of this and whether I should divorce him. And though I never got a clear answer, it never felt right to leave. The decision to stay was not easy, and to be honest, almost four years after finding out it is still at times not easy. But, as I said, it just never felt right to leave.
So I stayed. And I fought—I fought hard. I still do because, unfortunately, being married to an addict or having an addict in the family is a life-sentence. My husband tells me that he has not had a slip with pornography for over two-and-a-half years. However, he knows and tells me often that even if he never has a slip again, it will be a struggle for life.
Again, the decision to stay with my husband was not easy and a choice made through personal revelation. I know other women have faced a similar situation and made different decisions that were best for them and their family. I completely respect that. Every situation is unique and personal revelation can provide different solutions to everyone.
Another big part of why I stayed was because my husband immediately wanted to apply the Atonement. He wanted to be centered in Christ and fought hard to do so. He still had slips and still lied many times but if he continued to fight, so did I.
In Alma, we read that Christ, “shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions. . . He will take upon him their infirmities and. . . he will blot out their transgressions.”
The Savior took on their infirmities so that he would know how to succor them. So, while my husband was applying the Atonement with all his might to gain forgiveness, I was applying the healing part of the Atonement. I read conference talks constantly. I read my scriptures every day.
I went to the temple often, and on the days that were particularly hard (and there have been many), God would send me angels on the earth to help put one foot in front of the other.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”
I saw, and still see, this in my life often. Now, during both my and my husband’s recovery process another huge blessing, yet trial, came our way. We had a surprise pregnancy and were blessed with another beautiful baby girl. I was ecstatic, but immediately struggled once again because this little girl would not be born in the covenant—which meant that, from no covenant breaking on my end, this little girl would not be sealed to me because my husband was no longer a member.
But, through my Savior Jesus Christ and His powerful Atonement, a lot of hard work and suffering, and choosing to completely center our lives on Christ, my husband was re-baptized.
And though I had to wait 909 long days, my husband did eventually have his Priesthood blessings restored, and again waited for me in the celestial room.
And though I had to wait a very long 661 days from finding out I was pregnant, I was sealed to my sweet baby girl, Ava.
And though this has been the hardest my hardest trial, and it still is very difficult, I can honestly say that I would not take it back, for it has centered our entire family on Jesus Christ. We have truly come to know Him, and He is our very best friend. I would just like to end with one of the most powerful quotes that I have heard during this entire trial from Linda S. Reeves in the General Women’s session of 2015.
“Sisters I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving father, ‘Was that all that was required?’ I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally.”
I bear my witness that being centered on Christ is the only way I got through this trial and had the chance to be sealed to my family for time and all eternity again. I truly can’t wait to be encircled in His arms again and say, “Was that all that was required?” I can’t wait to feel this love eternally.
For those struggling with or affect by addiction, you are not alone. Here are a few resources to turn to to help in journey to healing and recovery. Note: some of the following are not LDS services.
Ashley Chatwin was the LOCAL PRESENTER at the Idaho Falls TOFW event in 2018 where she first shared this story. She was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho and was raised in Mesa, Arizona. She married her best friend on May 19, 2007. They have three beautiful daughters and one very tiny, handsome son. Ashley enjoys family time, crocheting, and having a blast with her mom's club.