A is for Autonomy

a-z of religious recovery healing journey religious recovery religious trauma

My religion taught me to follow the prophet because he knew the way.

So, I did.

They said I simply had to believe in the principles of the gospel and I would have peace.

So, I believed.

But peace was hard to come by because I was a witness to extreme violence between my parents. Since they were sealed together for time and all eternity, my mom was counseled by church leaders to stay in her abusive marriage.

So, she stayed.

My childhood was a living hell, marked by physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. I had no say in what was done to me.

So, I survived.

When I finally told my bishop about the abuse of my childhood, he said it was my own fault.

So, I repented.

I wanted to be obedient. I tried to choose the right.  But it was never enough.

So, I failed.

As I grew older, the church encouraged me to find a husband and start a family.

So, I married young.

Despite my dream of becoming an advocate for other abused women, I was told that there was no greater calling from God than to become a mother.

So, I had children.

I was encouraged to say yes to every church calling, and to lose myself in the service of others.

So, I served.

When the trauma of my childhood began to rear its ugly head, I was told to forgive.

So, I forgave.

After discovering my husband’s pornography addiction, the bishop told me that “if every man who looked at porn was disciplined, there would be no one left to run the church,” so I needed to adjust my expectations.

So, I adjusted.

When my child came out as gay—then transgender—I looked to the church for support and found an attitude of tolerance, not love and acceptance.

So, I tolerated.

Eventually, I found myself in a state of deep despair and was told that I would find answers through increased worship.

So, I obeyed.

I read my scriptures daily. I prayed morning and night. I bore testimony of Christ. I followed the commandments and lived “faithfully.” The only thing left was to endure to the end.

So I endured.

Then one day, my son asked me why I kept choosing the church over my family and I was baffled. My initial reaction was to deny his observation.

So, I rejected.

But his question shook me in a way nothing else had.

So, I woke up.

And as someone fully conscious, I was willing to examine all of the teachings that came from the church.

So, I questioned.

As I looked back over my life, I found a disturbing pattern. Although the church claimed to allow its members to govern themselves, it had asked me to trade my autonomy for the promise of eternal salvation every step of the way. With my eyes fully opened, I realized that I had willingly given up my agency to a multi-billion dollar corporation that never had my best interests at heart.

So, I walked away.

Today, my life is built on religious beliefs that I no longer believe in. The religious conditioning of my childhood runs deep.

So, I am learning self-compassion.

I used to be willing to give up everything for the church, including my SELF. Now I understand that my most important responsibility is taking care of me—because when my needs are ignored, I am no good to anyone else.

So, I am leaning into self-love.

Today, I can see that I always had a choice about the way I lived my life. And in fact, it is my personal responsibility to choose the values and principles that are important to me.

So, I am changing.

I can't undo my past. But I have total control over my future.

So, I am choosing to become the woman I was always meant to be.



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