Betrayal Story

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Saw this quote, and I read it. Then I read it again.

Then I read it again…and again…and rolled it around in my brain, in the way-beyond-just-the-glance-and-yeah-that-is-true part of my brain. I began to reflect on this journey of cheating, of being a betrayed woman, of realizing how lies had permeated the majority of my 27 year marriage when the truth began to unfold. And then the steps in to healing.

It’s going-on-three years: two years, seven months and 14 days to be precise since I had the full picture of HUSBAND’s deception laid out before me. Not that I am counting, although I guess I am. When I reflect on this time, I see some things that I don’t think I could until now. It is likely this process will continue throughout my life…actually…I hope it does, so all this pain can always be moving toward something better and good and beautiful. I never want the pain to suck me back, incrementally or in one big swoop, to the place of despair and blackness so it is essential to keep moving away from it with bold intentionality…right? I have learned…

The utter despicableness of HUSBAND’s actions: Don’t think that is really a word, but it is obvious what’s meant. There is nothing redeeming, nothing to support, nothing to cheer about a person who cheats. Nothing. NOTHING. There is no cause, no reason, no excuse that makes it okay to cheat. And cheating? Well…I see now that cheating is taking any part of who you are that is intimate (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and sharing it with another outside of the marriage and not being able to tell your spouse. This is NOT to say that I don’t see much more clearly now how affairs and cheating happen…I do…but the more I understand the twisted hows, the more I see how despicable they are. From start to finish they are lies. Lies to self. Lies to others. Lies upon lies upon lies that will not lead to anything but PAIN.

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The ripple of pain: Cheating isn’t just about the cheater and his partner(s). They can’t keep their smut and filth in an isolated place. No…spouses are obviously at risk. First, there is the emotional devastation if they find out. But guess what? There is emotional devastation even if they don’t find out. There is no way a person can be engaging in giving away their intimate being to another on a chat room, or in a bathroom as they jack off to a porn-hub delivered video, or having a happy ending at a massage parlor or meeting up with their flesh lover in a hotel room and it NOT impact their spouse. The cheaters tell themselves there is no clashing of their worlds (unless there is discovery) but that just isn’t true. Let me be BOLDLY CLEAR HERE: I did not know my husband was cheating on me with other women, or with porn. I had no idea. But now that there are no other women between us on screen or in person, our lives are entirely different from start to finish. He spent all his time hiding, and worrying about hiding, and being concerned he hadn’t hidden well enough and there could be no real intimacy between us with all that shit present. Whether the spouse knows or not, cheating is devastating to the marriage relationship. PERIOD.  And then…then there is the physical risk. If the cheater doesn’t use protection, which shockingly they often do NOT???…then the risk of STD’s is high. Or a pregnancy with an affair partner. Lifelong ripple effects. And our children, our babies. Just like the marriage relationship, whether the kids ever know or not, whether discovery ever really happens or not, THEY ARE AFFECTED. Our four children ranged from 17 to 25 when the truth came out. Not babies, not little kids. Young adults. And they all admitted that things now made sense. That there was a hypocrisy they couldn’t quite put their finger on in our perfect little family, an underlying current of something they could not identify that was always present (uh….that would be that their dad was living a double life, perhaps??). So whether our children had ever found out or not, they were victims of the rippling out impact of pain caused by cheating.

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It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t about me: Such a hard one here. But if I am to continue to press toward healing and wholeness and away from the vortex of pain, I have to keep this front and center. HUSBAND’s cheating was never about me, always about him. It was never against me, always about him hurting himself. It was never whether we had enough sex, or my body was attractive enough, or my willingness to give him oral sex. It was always about his deeply hidden but widely open wounds that he covered with the sick salve of illicit sex. His healing has been a deep, deep dive into those gashes and slashes, taking him to places he never dared share with anyone. Places so raw that he had spent his entire life carefully covering and reshaping and renaming so he could keep living…

I had some wounds too: Obviously, when 4/12/14 followed by 4/29/14 followed by 5/9/14 followed by 5/13/15 followed by 5/24/14 followed by 6/12/14 occurred…successive trickle truth/DDays…there was massive RIPPING OFF of my personhood to reveal a bloody, wounded me. But there was so much more beneath those layers. There were wounds that I’d worked my whole life to bury deep in my soul…and for the first time, I had nothing to lose to look at that pain too. Look at them, name them, grieve them. And forgive them. For the first time ever in my life, I became free.

I don’t want my old life back: As the reality of betrayal unfolded, there were numerous times that I would say or think that I wanted things to just go back…I wanted to wind the clock back to April 11, 2014. Now I see I don’t want that. Even though I had no idea that I was married to a cheater, I was married to a cheater. All of the impact of his cheating was woven throughout our marriage and parenting and financial decisions and lack of ability to see, much less create, a real vision for our future.  I don’t want to go back there, ever again. I want to look into HUSBAND’s eyes and see a real man, and be connected and intimate and passionate. If I am brutally honest and don’t rewrite the past, it really wasn’t that way before. In our new marriage, I am valued. I am listened to. I am cared for. I am loved.

It isn’t the end of the story: It still, to this day, takes my breath away when I have those a-ha moments and I remember I AM A BETRAYED WIFE.  I can feel my heart race and my vision go dim around the edges. But more and more quickly, I am able to see this new marriage and new history we are creating. I am grateful for the chance to meet with hurting women and hold their hands and cry tears with them as they discover their lives are not what they thought. I’m overwhelmed to sit with HUSBAND in a restaurant booth across from a couple that is in a devastated place but wants to work toward healing and that together, we speak life into them. It is surreal when HUSBAND and I stand up in front of couples at retreats and intensive weekends and tell our story of filth and pain, and then tell our story of healing and intimacy. No…I see now that for me…for us…our story isn’t betrayal. That’s just a bunch of chapters. Our story is life. And in such an odd way that I know makes no sense at all, our broken/twisted/shocking story is moving toward beauty.

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Intermission: Thankful and Thanksgiving

Taking another break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with thankfulness that I can celebrate, no, really celebrate Thanksgiving in my home again.

In November, 2013, I have a moment encapsulated in forever. All my children had gotten home from college or travel, and were going about the business of reconnecting. HUSBAND was in the kitchen taking the turkey out of the brine and I looked up, was filled with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. I snapped a really awful iphone picture, threw it up on my social media captioned, “Heart is full…Everyone I love is right here…” It was just one of those moments, indescribable really, but the very essence of life.

Except that it wasn’t real.

I didn’t know it then, but HUSBAND was plotting the exit from our marriage to be with his AP. He was present but not present, figuring out when he could sneak his next text and make a quick call and send her a photo of the same scene I was savoring as sacred. He was getting through this last Thanksgiving with me, and his mind was anywhere but on the joy of our being together, the fullness of reaching this incredible stage of real relationship with our precious children. After discovery of his cheating then, and ultimately cheating numerous times, I was unable to process my naiveté, my foolishness and my complete ability to be deceived. I have not been able to spend a Thanksgiving in our home, to carry on the tradition of the 27 years…the pain was too great.

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But this year, we are home. This year HUSBAND and I spent days planning our meal together. It took trips to Costco, Fresh Market and Publix to get every detail right for the culinary prep which we started a couple days ago. It took purchasing flowers and arranging them just so. It took my mom helping me set tables and place candles. Our kids started arriving and there were hugs and joy and excitement. They weren’t aware of the pain related to hosting Thanksgiving. They know our story, but they don’t know details like this so we just gracefully decided to explore farm house dinners with friends and plantation dinners in other states for the last couple years. They don’t realize how special this Thanksgiving is for me, for us.

This Thanksgiving, I’m overwhelmed again. I’m overwhelmed to be able to look at the journey my life was on for so many years that had prepared me for the fight of my life. A fight for my sanity and for my wholeness and for my voice. I see the subtle brokenness that I so cleverly hid in myself and my marriage and that in its shattering was the choice to get rid of the pieces, or figure out a way to put them together to create something new, something so piercingly beautiful and so incredibly strong. I’m overwhelmed in thinking about the betrayeds that have gone before me, and shared their hearts and thoughts and struggles and pains and victories in this community – that have given me the strength to take one more breath and one more step and one more chance. That have helped me navigate my own screaming pain and challenge HUSBAND to be real and whole and transparent. I am overwhelmed with the understanding that it has been your care of me, your bravery to speak into me, your strength when I was weak that has helped me in this path that I never, ever would have chosen.

I am thankful that my house looks beautiful and welcoming, and that the seats will be filled by those I love so much. I am thankful that the smells are already permeating and that there will be laughter and good food and toasts and love. Yes, love. Real, true, love.

But around my table, I see each of you too. All of you…you amazing women and men who have taken time to care for me throughout these last 2 ½ years. I could not be at my table in my home with my family without you. You are here, tucked in every part of who I am now, and I am overwhelmed with my thankfulness, and my love, for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 6

Looking back through the life of my infidel…considering gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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So now we were married. And in looking back…that blind eye…it was tough to open. Maybe all new marriages were like mine. I wouldn’t know, because I sure didn’t tell anyone.

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The day of my wedding, each of my parents privately told me their view of marriage. Mom found a quiet moment amongst the frenzy of the day, looked me in the eye, and told me the key to a happy marriage was to get what I wanted, but make him think it was his idea. I nodded and said, ok, and didn’t really think much about it at the time. But it is a key to who I am, rather who I was. Dad, right before we walked down the aisle, or rather as we began to step, said with all sincerity (although it is an interesting thing now that I know more about who my dad is and was in his marriage), “Wait. I know you’ve heard marriage is 50-50. It isn’t true.” He said it with urgency. “Marriage is 100-100. Ok?” I nodded and looked anxiously…the music was playing…we were missing our cue…

On the drive to our wedding trip, I was exhausted. I slept a good part of the nine hour drive and between naps made conversation, recapping the ceremony and the party and thinking about the food and the flowers. Somewhere along the way, brand-new HUSBAND mentioned that one of his friends had given us a particular wedding gift: pot.

I was a little stunned. Honestly, I was a lot stunned.

I didn’t smoke pot, and didn’t know pot was a big thing for my brand-new HUSBAND.

But I was also a brand-new bride and had absolutely no reference point for how to respond. In reaching back in my memory, I could not catch a moment in which my dad had told my mom that he had received something illicit from someone and was excited to share it with her. Nope, drew a blank. Had no resources to draw from to formulate how to respond. So I didn’t, other than to say something inane like, “Oh, wow. That’s a different kind of wedding gift…”

So my brand-new HUSBAND smoked himself some pot on our wedding trip, and I told myself it was an interlude since we were off and away. He didn’t do it too much, but I remember one flash-bulb moment on one morning when I was wearing a beautiful negligee and the matching robe, making us sandwiches for our horseback riding picnic lunch later that day. I was spreading the mayonnaise lost in thoughts about what had I done…was I really married to this guy…was it really for life…and I heard my name called, looked up and FLASH! He took a photo. I remember so well what I was thinking at that moment, but my face didn’t show it, and I didn’t tell him.

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When we returned from our trip, we moved into his little house in a before-it-was-an-up-and-coming-area area that was about ½ the size of my apartment that I’d shared with a roommate. I squeezed and cajoled my things into his home and tried to make it mine too. The first two weeks, HUSBAND would get home from work, and literally within 10 minutes one of his friends pulled up. They would be guys together, and several times walked out to the back of our little house. And light up a joint. I became more and more frantic as the days went by…that this new HUSBAND of mine was a pot-smoker, and that he wanted to hang out with his friends instead of me.

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Finally after those two weeks, I told him that we couldn’t draw a line down the middle of our house…we couldn’t have one side wanting to smoke pot (both illegal and unwanted by me) and the other with different rules. He agreed to tell his friend, and absolutely to not smoke…he didn’t realize it bothered me…no problem at all giving it up…and I believed him. The friend no longer stopped by. And he no longer smoked pot. I believed him.

We had weathered the first small steps of discord.

Because I believed him.

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Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 5

Just looking back through the life of my infidel…looking at gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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Our wedding…was magnificent. Sort of.

At the time, it was everything I’d dreamed of. I wore a stunning dress and long-white gloves (it was a thing, honestly). My attendants looked gorgeous in their deep teal, ankle-length, satin dresses (that they could wear again – lol) and all the flowers were white, only white. The groomsmen looked distinguished in their black tuxedos, and the flowers…the setting…the band…the food…it was overwhelming. I remember looking at my dad and telling him I felt like a princess. Thank you.

I’m not sure why, but at the altar with my groom, I talked. I kept saying things like, “we are really doing this, getting married. Can you believe it?”

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I think the reality is I couldn’t believe it. I think maybe, deep down in my gut, there was a little turmoil that I just could not allow to come to the surface.

That blind eye thing…even though I couldn’t see it, my gut may have had some insight that just disconnected before it hit my cognitive faculties. It’s hard to go back here, it’s hard to admit. But if I am ever to heal, ever to ensure that I’d never be in the same position again, I have to go here. Putting it on paper and owning my silence…I’m trying to be kind to this girl. I hope you will be too.

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The first thing that I can now see that was really discordant but I just breezed right past at the time? HUSBAND and I had gone out of town together with friends for a couple days. When we got back to town, we went by his house where I had left my car. We walked inside and his roommate told us that he’d had an unexpected visitor the night before, actually, in the early morning hours. Seems HUSBAND’s former girlfriend that had once been his fiancé had been dropped off at the house expecting to slip into HUSBAND’s bed and resume their up/down relationship. Odd that she felt the freedom to show up. Show up and expect…but I justified it in my mind that they’d had such a pattern in the past…

Several weeks later, after HUSBAND had reportedly called former girl to tell her to never come by again…that it was permanently over, and he was moving on, he picked me up. We were headed to a ball game, and we always took his dog with us. When she wasn’t it the car, I asked where she was. To my great surprise, he told me former girl had her.

????Former girl, who doesn’t drive. Who he’d told there would be contact or ongoing anything????

He was surprised that I was uncomfortable with this. You see, they’d both loved the dog. The dog had been part of both their lives for the four years of off-again on-again relationship and he couldn’t really be expected to keep the dog from her, could he?

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After the ball game, he took me home and I didn’t say anything about the dog incident. I did, however, disappear for several days. This was pre cell phones, and I made sure my assistant answered my phone at work. I went to a friend’s to spend the night directly after work. On the third day I came home to my apartment, and he appeared within minutes. I explained that I was not interested in sharing him with another person. If he wanted an ongoing we-are-going-to-share-dog-time-or-any-other-time with her, then I was out. He pledged his heart and apologized and I thought she was gone for good.

And she was, until he told me a few days later that she thought she was pregnant. Ended up she wasn’t. And I just kept plugging along.

Another day we were relaxing in his home, talking about our upcoming wedding. HUSBAND then decided to let me know that he hadn’t paid his taxes for the last three years. BOOM. When I asked why, he boyishly explained he’d just not quite gotten ‘round to it. And what does any smart, confident, independent young woman do when she finds out such a thing? Surely, she insists that he get it straightened out immediately…that he cleans it up and files and deals with whatever penalties and interest and admonishments that may be due. Right?

That is unless she turns a blind eye…justifying that he isn’t as skilled in finances as she is…that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong. And then SHE promptly digs through the past years, gets all the information together on his behalf, gets it all cleaned up. I did ask him to pay the accountant, which he did, and to pay the required financial penalties…at least that is something. I worked hard to clean up the mess. He said thanks.

Then there was our wedding night. I’m not sure what I expected…I was certainly influenced by romantic movies and thoughts of long-drawn out intimate moments and awe of consummating the commitment we’d just publicly made and being a wife. His wife. I guess I thought there would be a beautiful suite, and flowers, and candles, and champagne, and tender touches and…

But what there was instead was a regular hotel room (my folks said why waste the money on a special suite?) and taking his own clothes off and getting into the bed (okay, so I guess I take mine off too) and a self-satisfying romp (for him) and then roll over and proceed to a snoring sleep. Yes…there had been a crazy full day of festivities and food and spirits, but I was stunned. And sad. And got out of my brand-new marriage bed and went to the bathroom and started the bathtub and got in it, alone, and cried.

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Yes. A blind eye. I had it, but it is open now.

 

 

 

Transported

Have you ever had one of those moments…drifting into, or out-of, sleep, and time is suspended. Caught in a state of not being, yet being; and everything is completely not real, yet incredibly real.

I just had one of those moments. One of those moments between the state of sleep and awake, of reality and fantasy. And in that moment, I was watching my first born get out of our car at his new university campus and walk up to his freshman college group as instructed. I was dropping him with people that would now take my place – that would tell him right from wrong, and move into his head to determine priorities….and plans…and the future.

In that moment, I was there, I was RIGHT THERE and I was grieving and yet excited…not sure I’d given him everything I was supposed to give him and wishing I had just a little more time…just a couple more days when he was an infant and a toddler and a boy and a teen. I was desperate to turn back time, yet so excited to watch him step into his future.

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All that was real.

And then I saw me, and HUSBAND and for a moment, we were untarnished by betrayal. We were there in that car, together, yet quickly my mind saw that we were the young couple that had pledged love and fidelity, that had birthed this boy now leaving us for college, that had spent tears of worry and mountains of time and money together for his best, that had figured out how to make sure there was always good food to eat and clean clothes in everyone’s room and school supplies and he’d gotten all the required shots, and it took us both and even though we were older, we’d achieved this and it was good and we were real, we were us.

As this all fluttered by quickly in my head as dreams do and then suddenly the images froze.

And shattered.

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All that wasn’t real.

It wasn’t real, that picture that I thought was our life, and our family wasn’t the only story going on during much of our life together. I gasped, I jumped, I awoke fully.

In a rush, the pain and grief engulfed me, and I couldn’t get enough oxygen and I was being CRUSHED beneath the weight – yet as quickly as it came, it left. I still see it, but it is not covering me, and I can breathe again. I sit here now, contemplating the reality that I’m not sure what is reality then. Or then. Or then. So. Many. Thens.

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So I will choose to live in now.

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Cashing Checks

“You write checks with your words, and cash them with your actions.”

Profound statement, and one made by a beautiful young wife, pregnant with her first child, whose husband has struggled. The majority of his infidelity has been electronic relationships – porn – however he also reached out for a flesh person a couple times.

The brave young couple has chosen to work toward recovery (him – from sex addiction) and healing (her) and reconciliation (them). They have a long journey, but have made smart strides: individual and couple counseling. Recovery groups. Intensive marriage weekend. They have hope right now, and as coaches walking alongside them in the journey, HUSBAND and I have hope with them. And for their unborn child. And for all those who follow after their new marriage, their covenant of love.

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Back to the quote.

You write checks with your words. You cash them with your actions.

Therefore if your words are worthless, the check bounces.

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Vegas Feigns Freedom

This summer took me to a conference in Las Vegas. Seriously, Las Vegas. I’m in the business of helping design and implement community-wide prevention efforts related to substance abuse, and promoting health and wellness. And our national convention is in Vegas.

Vegas, where the perverted is promoted as compelling. Where temptations are touted as deserved. Where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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I’m not trashing Vegas…there are some amazing people doing good things and trying to rise above the onslaught of support for selfish indulgence that is sold by many advertisers. But it is a unique place to observe the dichotomy of humanity. For the most part, humans all over the world and right here in the US speak of wanting to find their life-partner and of living in harmony together, of raising kids that are healthy and happy, of doing work that is fulfilling, and playing in ways that are fun and challenge them to grow, and of investing in their community or world to make it a better place.

Yet the heart of downtown Vegas screams a different story. A story of entire self-satisfaction, of disdaining any inhibition because of values or commitments, of pushing limits of restraint whether related to money or sex or drugs or rock ‘n roll. It calls…begs…taunts…you to dare! To live! To try! From the garish advertisements that start inundating you at the airport, to the recovery water prominently available right in your room…from the legal prostitution and bare pools to the free drinks when gambling and concierge’s willingness to make anything available for you at any time…

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So what do we really want? What do we really value?

I think for many years, for all my years, prior to discovering the double-life that was my life…right in my own home…I somehow thought we could balance the onslaught of transgressions-made-to-look-pretty and not-making-bad-choices. I thought it was all about morality and being a good person and doing what was right and have a strong-will. But now I see that we are so incredibly multi-faceted and the normalization of the macabre does wear us down. It can, very subtly, without even realizing it, shave the edges off the strong parameters we have made in our own lives, we can find ourselves cheering for or engaging in things that would have caused us pause at one point. From the clothes we accept our loved ones wearing to the shows we watch ourselves…from the jokes we laugh at to the websites we frequent. We are inundated in a culture that flaunts it is all about YOU-yes-YOU, BABY! And it is all there for the taking and my happiness is the most paramount reality to be pursued and truth is all relative and by DAMN I deserve this or that or that or this RIGHT NOW…

You get it. We are affected by our culture. By no means in any way do I believe this is an excuse for betrayal, but we must begin to see it as one of the many root causes, core attitudes. Somehow the painful, ugly and devastating reality of illicit sexual and emotional relationships have been normalized. They are on every tv show and movie, often glamorizing the affair partner and reducing the spouse to a needy, driveling idiot. They are touted in magazines, and just search websites for affair sites…you find sites to help you have affairs, hide affairs and for sure, not-get-caught. Then search for apps that can help you out if you want to shop for lovers, chat with lovers, meet up with lovers or track your partners. There are thousands. Some of them help you out by deleting all the information with the simple shake of your device (you know, for when the spouse is asking to see your phone). Some look like stock apps or weather apps but when the secret pass code is entered, voila! There are all your secret communications with your lover along with storage for pictures and videos. Doesn’t it just make you warm and fuzzy all over? And of course, we need to start them young: youth love apps like Snap Chat that ensure no one can see their photo or video after 30 seconds. Why would such an app even be developed except for illicit purposes?

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Over and over in all kinds of surveys, between 85 and 90% of people indicate marriage should be monogamous, yet (depending on the survey) 40-60% of those SAME PEOPLE admit to having been involved in an illicit relationship. So what is that? Other than cognitive dissonance? Our culture is boldly and subtly, overtly and covertly screaming to seek constant self-pleasure at all costs, despite costs, yet deep in our souls, it never satisfies.

And then…then the game comes to a grinding halt with discovery and devastation and soul-death and often divorce.

So, back to Vegas where I started this diatribe. Vegas is simply a symptom of the soul sickness we have allowed to permeate our culture. It makes so many promises, but ultimately, keeps none. Surreal experience visiting Vegas, promoting health and wellness in the midst of degradation and darkness. I am grateful, oh so grateful to have found the real light, the light of transparency and commitment and grace and truth. It cost everything, but what price freedom? What price love?

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