The Pill ‘for Medical Reasons’ and that Slippery Slope

So, here goes. My birth control story.

When I was 19 years old, I came home from my first semester of college and begged my mother to take me to the gynecologist. I had been having irregular periods for about a year. So off we went, to the gynecologist appointment together: me, a 19-year old college student and virgin, and my mother, a devout Catholic very much opposed to the birth control pill.

You can surely see where this is going.

The appointment that followed may still be counted among the most horrific, humiliating experiences of my life. So, there at my very first doctor’s appointment excepting my pediatrician and orthodontist, the doctor was examining me while asking me health history questions. “Are you sexually active?” he inevitably asked, without looking up. “No,” I answered truthfully.
Next thing I know, he’s explaining that I am going to feel something cold, and before I have time to react, I am in the midst of my first (UNNECESSARY) pap smear. It. was. excruciating. I remember limping in pain out of the office 30 minutes later. He tells me to get dressed and meet him in his office. There in his office, he begins his sales speech for the pill. He tells me that it will fix the abnormal bleeding that I’ve been seeing, and help to regulate my periods. He goes on to say that it has the added benefit of treating acne, and that my skin will clear up while I’m taking it. And finally, he closes with, “And when you meet that special someone, it is a very effective form of contraception!”

My head was spinning. I remember asking how long I had to take it, and he said 6 months should be enough to get my periods back on track. OK, I thought. I can handle 6 months. It sounded like a pretty quick fix, to me. 6 months of medication, during which time my periods would be normal, and then when I came OFF the medication, they’d be normal once again from that point on.

Oh how silly and uninformed I was.

As I limped out of his office and into the waiting room, I was greeted by my mother who had a look of worry on her face. I think Abby Johnson said it best when she wrote that if only we based more of our decisions on what would make our mothers happy and proud of us, we would be so much better off. My mother knew all along, without REALLY knowing, that this was the beginning of my demise.

Still in a daze, I handed the sheet of paper the doctor had given me to the woman at the front desk. I assumed it was a follow-up sheet that I was to give to the front desk to schedule my next appointment. Then I was startled out of my daze and back into humiliation when the lady shoved the paper back at me and quite loudly quipped, “This is your prescription for birth control pills. I don’t need this!” Talk about mortification.

In case you haven’t already guessed, 6 months later when I came off the pill, my periods were anything BUT regular. However, in that interim, I had started to get used to the idea of being a sophomore in college with periods I could rely on, and more importantly, with beautiful, clear skin… especially since I was looking and waiting for a boyfriend. Now that I had stopped taking my pills, what I saw looming ahead of me was a return of crazy bleeding and acne flare-ups. NOT appealing. I told my mom I had to go back on them, but she wasn’t convinced. So off we went to gynecologist #2.

Gynecologist #2 was a very educated man, and after a brief physical exam (no pap smear), he took me to his office, and drew me pictures of ovaries with lots of tiny cysts on them. I had no idea what he was talking about, and frankly, I didn’t care. I just sat there politely pretending to listen, waiting for him to hand over the prescription for my happy pills. Which of course, he did. This time with instructions to stay on for one year.

By the end of my sophomore year, I had fallen deeply in love with a guy I had met on my first day and told my friends back home he was the one I would marry. And to my surprise, by the end of my sophomore year, he had fallen in love with me, too. We had dated briefly right before he went to study abroad (he was a year older), and now he had just come back and we were back together and very serious.

You can surely see where this is going.

About two months into a “very serious” relationship with the man I was convinced I would marry, I somehow went from virgin to … well, not. I say somehow because it wasn’t at all planned or necessarily talked about and decided. We had been physical already; such is the nature of college life, and I was no stranger to “hooking up,” but at the same time was very proud that I had not given away my virginity to just anybody. I knew that I believed in the teachings of my Church. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. But in my mind, I rationalized that sex was reserved for marriage because you are only meant to do that with the man you are married to. I really didn’t understand the complete beauty of sex at that point, but I was about to begin my education.

I remember that night vividly. Or maybe I should say that memories from that night continue to haunt me. I distinctly remember that we were very close to going that far, but still not quite there, when he suddenly jumped up and ran to his desk. I asked him what he was doing, and he said “Getting a condom … just … in case….” For some stupid reason, I assumed he meant “in case” he went too far and we were at risk for pregnancy. (I may have been stupid about the pill, but I did know about contact pregnancy.) I told him “It’s ok, I’m on the pill.” To which he pill packsresponded, “Oh… well… are you sure?” (This guy was not really known for his ability to articulate and convey an actual message.) And I responded, “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s to regulate my periods, but it still ‘works.’” (I realize now he was basically asking me if I was sure that I wanted to have sex with him. So, basically, one of the biggest decisions of my life came down not to a well thought-out weighing of consequences, but rather an ambiguous exchange of “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m sure.”)
And so, ignoring the underlying guilt I continued to feel every once and a while, we continued being intimate. Over Fall Break, my prescription for the pill was up, and this time I was adamant about staying on it. I threw a fit when my mother suggested I stop taking it for a while and see if my cycles normalized; because now, I actually needed that pill for contraception. But at the same time, both of us were not satisfied with the fact that no one had any answers for me about my health. WHY was I bleeding like this? WHY were my periods so irregular to begin with?? So we agreed to go together to Gyn/Midwife #3, recommended to us by my older sister. I was absolutely convinced that whether she gave us answers or not, I would be able to get more happy pills from her.

Gyn/Midwife #3 took me in her office first, alone. There she asked if I was sexually active, and I responded truthfully that I was. She explained that she wanted to run a couple of tests on me, some blood-work and an ultrasound, to find the issues that were causing my weird cycles. So we made a follow-up appointment for the following day for the ultrasound. On our way out of the office, I remember the ultrasound tech at the front desk asking me if I was a virgin. Of course being in front of my mother I said, “Yes,” and she got a look of concern on her face and said, “Oh, wait a second, we can’t do this type of ultrasound that was ordered. Hold on, let me go tell the doctor.” My face must have turned beet red. The tech came back, made minimal eye contact while she quickly said, “OK, it’ll be fine, just come tomorrow as scheduled.”
After the ultrasound and blood-work, the Midwife took me back into her office and explained my diagnosis: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I finally had an answer for all these years of crazy cycles! She was pretty detailed in her description and finally told me the solution: (I know you’ve guessed it) The Pill. I was to stay on the pill up until the time I decided I was ready to have children. (I was 20 years old at the time.) Now this next part I remember verbatim. I asked her: “Will being on the pill that long have any adverse effects on my ability to become pregnant when I want to?” (See, I was worried about my fertility even back then.) Her answer: “Oh, no, on the contrary: being on the pill tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant every month, so when you want to become pregnant and come off the pill, it should be very easy!”

I was sold. This stuff was the best thing on planet earth.

Back to school I went, and me and my boyfriend continued our physical relationship up until I was about to study abroad for a semester. Soon before I left, we discussed our plans for the future, and he said he wanted to take a break. A break?? I. FREAKED. OUT. What did he mean a BREAK?? We were going to get married, what in the world did he need a BREAK for?!?! Didn’t he realize what I had given to him??!! Inevitably, because I was not very agreeable when it came to the “break,’’ we ended up breaking it off for good instead. I was completely devastated. It was one of the lowest points of my life. It was as if I had just lost my husband, because, in a way, I had. I say that because I had given myself to him physically, in a way that I had always intended (and God had always intended for me) to give myself ONLY to my husband. I thought that if not in word, we were at least “physically married.” But now what were we? What would we ever be? Everything was, in an instant, completely upside-down and backwards. What I didn’t realize is that it had already started out backwards.

So then I left for Italy, and while on the plane from NYC to Venice, I sat right next to a very attractive guy with whom I would wind up spending the rest of my life. We hit it off immediately, exchanged phone numbers, and began talking on the phone frequently, in Italy. Eventually, he invited me to his roommate’s birthday party, and we officially began dating.

Now, in my mind, when I began dating my future husband, it was to be an Italian “fling” to help me get my ex out of my system. I still had a very unhealthy attachment to my ex that I just couldn’t shake, and looking back it makes perfect sense why I felt that way. Because sex, as beautiful and life-giving as it is, is only MEANT to be shared with one person, one spouse, one partner for life.

Surely you see where this is going.

Way too soon, and way too impetuously, I slept with my new boyfriend (and present husband). And it worked… almost. I felt a physical detachment from my ex right after that, but I was still very much in love with him. And this poor new guy I was dating, well, he was just the catalyst to help me heal what couldn’t really be healed.

I started to notice that my new boyfriend was quickly falling in love with me, but I did not, could not reciprocate the feelings. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Hadn’t I always told myself I would only sleep with ONE man, and now here I was sleeping with someone I didn’t even love?? What a fast and furious downward spiral my life had taken, and I hadn’t even had time to sit back and reflect on it.

Flash forward a couple years or so, when both of us were back in the States, still dating (long-distance), still sleeping together. He was a man I now loved. At a certain point my birth control pill prescription expired, so off I went to another doctor. I was never worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it refilled, in fact, the thought never crossed my mind. I pretty much just had to ask for it and it was mine. No exam, no blood-work, no other tests. So when one day the pharmacy charged me full price for them because my insurance didn’t cover it, I was up in arms. “What??? What do you mean? I’ve ALWAYS had it covered!!” The pharmacist didn’t know what to tell me, but finally asked, “Do you work for a Catholic organization?” “Yeah.” (I had just started working as a Kindergarten teacher in a Catholic school.) “Oh, that explains it. They don’t cover birth control.” I was livid. “But this is for a medical purpose, I’m not on it for birth control,” I practically yelled at the poor girl. But her hands were tied.

I refused to pay the full price for months on end, so I got one more month’s worth and prayed for the best. Over the past 3 years, there had been several months in between prescription refills when I didn’t take the pill, and we just used condoms. But I HATED condoms. Absolutely loathed them. I felt like there was a foreign thing in my body that did not belong there and was not supposed to be there, and it made me physically sick. I think about my reactions back then and see that I had the truth all along: I knew in my heart what human sexuality was all about, what sex was intended to be, but my being on the pill blurred that crystal clear vision to the point where I could not see the whole picture. There was a time when I never would have thought of using a barrier method. Now it was just a necessary Plan B.

A month later, we were engaged. We planned to become celibate once we were engaged and would wait until marriage to resume our sex life. (See what I mean? Warped indeed.) But when we got married and became intimate again, nothing was new, nothing was exciting. In fact, I remember for the first 6 months or longer feeling guilt every time we had sex. It was a feeling I just couldn’t shake – why NOW did I have this overwhelming guilt? Our marriage, while legitimate in the eyes of God, began on a rocky slope, and it felt like we had to constantly struggle to stay on our feet, specifically in regards to our sexuality. I felt like the bonding element of sex was not bonding us at all, and instead almost became a hurdle to our union.

And then came infertility. The biggest hurdle to our sex-life.

I don’t think any woman (or man for that matter) could say that infertility didn’t have some negative effects on their sex life. But in our case, it added a curveball to an already disrupted foundation. Over the past 5 years, we have worked through most of these issues, but I always wonder how much easier it would have been, and could have been, if I had made different decisions.

Being on the pill for 6 years wreaked havoc on my reproductive system. Syndromes and diseases like PCOS and endometriosis were exacerbated over those 6 years, and the pill masked them to give me the illusion of normalcy and perfect health. But the worst thing the pill did to me was wreak havoc on my sexuality. From the moment I got my first prescription, I knew I was safe “just in case,” and almost overnight my plans and goals shifted from long-term whole person well-being to short-term physical and emotional satisfaction.

I can’t change my past, though often I wish I could. All I can hope is that God continues to heal my soul and my marriage. And praise Him, every day I see it happening more and more.

And that’s my story.

Until Death Do Us Part

Until death do us part.
We repeat these words, and we think we understand what they mean. Marriage is an earthly state. We get that. And we don’t really want to think about that stuff anyway–richer, poorer, sickness, health, that’s hard enough. But death is what happens after the kids are grown and you get through the other hard stuff, like potty training and teaching the kids to drive. And besides, you’ll grow old together, and you’ll have time to talk about all that end-of-life stuff together.

Somehow “death” means our own death. When I die, we will be parted.

But what happens when we’re the ones left behind?

And what does it mean “Until…”? What happens after that?

I’m 47 years old, and a widow. Even writing it seems strange. My marriage ended on August 26, 2011, when my husband Britt died, “suddenly and unexpectedly,”  as I’ve learned to tell people. We had met when we were teenagers, and were married almost 23 years. I had never lived without him my adult life. His death parted not only us, but 6 children who were 5 to 19 years old. The days and months, the first year, afterward are a blur. I really don’t remember a lot of what happened. I was cared for by my parents, 8 siblings and their husbands and wives (and if ever there was a case for a large family, this is it!), neighbors, and sometimes total strangers who signed up on a school signup sheet, who cooked for us, carpooled my children, mowed my lawn, cleaned my gutters and prayed for us. It has only been the last few months that I have been able to begin to contemplate, what next?

A lot of well-meaning people tell me “He’s an angel in heaven now,” or “He’s watching you from heaven.” Well, to say he’s an angel in heaven is no different than saying he’s a squirrel in a tree watching me. As Catholics we don’t believe that. But for the first couple years I did wish that I would “feel” him somehow, get some sign from him that he was indeed watching me, from heaven or anywhere. In my widow support group others shared stories of finding coins just when they were thinking of their husbands, or being able to have conversations with and dreams about their husbands. I had one very well-timed dream that I do believe God gave me as a gift, but other than that I don’t feel Britt with me, and it has really saddened me. Maybe I’m not listening, maybe I’m not trying hard enough, or maybe he really has just left me. Where the heck is he, and does he even care about us anymore? Is that it? I have no connection to him anymore? Just days after his death one of my daughters asked the question, “Does Daddy miss us?” How do you begin to answer that one?

I used to go to bed at night and reword the prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” and instead ask God to take my soul. I wondered, if Britt is in a “better place,” why can’t I be there, too? If our hope is to be united with Christ, why do I have to wait? You’ll be glad to know I don’t wonder that anymore. I have a theory now, and the best way for me to explain it is in book terms. I’m a reader, a librarian, so this works for me. I have gotten such peace from this.

The rest of my life is like a book that Britt had already read. He finished it a while ago, but I’m still slogging through. It’s a great book with a great ending, and he can’t wait for us to be able to talk about it together, maybe see the movie when it comes out. But he’s letting me finish it first. He’s not tapping my shoulder every few pages asking me how far I am, what’s happening. He’s quietly letting me savor the pages. He knows what happens, so he’s not bothering himself with watching my page-by-page progress. He has much better things to do, and I can forgive him for that!

So that’s the way I imagine him. He knows we’re all here; he sees the end; but he knows this isn’t the important stuff. When I get to a really sad part, he is sad I’m going through it, but he knows it gets better. Even the big stuff–my daughter’s first date next weekend, the father-daughter dance–yes, I’d love for him to be here, and I’m so sad for my kids that he’s not– but I don’t think he’s “missing” it.

And maybe my relationship with the saints and with Christ is the same way. Maybe I don’t need to worry that I’m not “feeling” God talk to me, or I’m not getting the answers to my prayer requests. On the very worst days, when it seems God has forgotten to look out for me, I need to remember He’s there. A priest told me that when he offers mass he imagines all the saints and souls of the departed are at the altar with him at the moment of consecration. The Communion of Saints. Britt may not be a saint, but he’s another voice up there for me. If I can think of him this way, then I can feel closer to the communion of saints and to God. I know they’re all waiting for me.

We believe that marriage should bring us closer to God, that our spouse will deepen our relationship with God, and that God is a partner in our marriage. Even though my marriage has ended, my spouse can continue to lead me closer to God, just as he did in life.

I just need to finish the book.

Porn Almost Destroyed my Marriage

So. Pornography.  I have been watching this website for a while and I hoped that someone else would write about this. Hasn’t happened.  I wish I didn’t have a story to tell, but maybe if I tell my story it will help someone else avoid or end a pornography story in her life.  I hope that when you read this you are shocked and outraged at how naïve or stupid I was, because that would mean that you are much better equipped to defend yourself against pornography than I was.  Here goes.

When my husband and I were dating, I knew that he possessed a couple of old Playboy magazines.  I never saw them.  I never found him viewing them.  They were old.  I think the story was that he had found them under his older brother’s bed one day and kept them.  I really didn’t give it much thought.  I wasn’t very familiar with men.  I didn’t have brothers.  I didn’t have close male friends.  I’m not sure, maybe I thought it was just a “male” thing that I hadn’t been exposed to.  What I had read in novels led me to believe that a Playboy magazine under the bed was possibly a rite of passage.  This was before the internet, before internet porn.

Shortly after getting married we moved into a new house in a neighborhood that was new to us.  One weekend we went to the local video store to rent a movie.   When we went inside, my husband disappeared into a back room labeled “Adult.”  I didn’t even realize what was in there.  He came out after a few minutes and wanted me to join him.  I went in with him and it took me about 2 seconds to realize that I was not interested in the videos on those shelves.  I was repulsed.  I left.

My husband rented an adult movie and brought it home to watch.  I refused to watch it with him. He told me that I was a party pooper.   It was a tense weekend.  He continued to go back and rent adult movies a few times a month.  He would pressure me to watch them with him.  It was a big source of tension between us.  I would tell him that they were wrong and I wasn’t interested.  He would tell me that I was frigid and a prude and there was nothing wrong because we were married.  I didn’t know how to articulate it but in the depth of my being I knew these movies were wrong.  Just thinking about my husband watching them would cause a cloud of darkness and shame to wash over me.  I was Catholic, but I didn’t know my faith, didn’t even know what a catechism was, let alone that I could consult it.  I couldn’t ask my sisters; I was too ashamed.  I couldn’t consult the internet; it didn’t exist.  I was isolated and discouraged.  His persistence started to wear me down and I started to believe him.  Maybe there was something wrong with me.  Why didn’t I want to watch these movies with him?  Why did I feel like he had been with another woman when he was only watching a movie?  He wanted me to join him.  I was his wife.  Was I supposed to join him?

Marriage was not what I had thought it was going to be.  My husband’s new hobby cast a shadow over every aspect of our marriage.  I was miserable.  I gave in and began watching the movies with him.

He was happy, or at least superficially he was.  Most days, I felt dead inside for the length of each movie.  It was as though I turned myself off and retreated  into myself to avoid what I was subjecting myself to. There were other days though, days when I found myself curious and enjoyed a  moment of the movie.  Those moments of enjoyment were followed by confusion, shame, remorse, and a deep darkness.  What was happening to me? What was I becoming?  The darkness wasn’t over when the movie ended either; it lingered.   It became something that I endured once or twice a month in order to keep peace in my marriage.  What irony!  I watched pornography to try to improve my marriage.

And then we moved to another state.  Two beautiful, joyous, wonderful things came along with that move.  First, there was no adult movie store in our new neighborhood, so the movie viewing stopped! (Praise be to God, still no internet!)  Second, after a few years we started attending church.  By the time we started going to church the internet was a reality and so was internet porn.  Thankfully my husband did not return to his porn usage.  One Sunday our pastor preached about the evils of pornography.  I was so happy and relieved. I finally had someone on my side! I also finally had some understanding of the Church’s teachings about it.

CCC 2354   Pornography…offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.  It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actor, vendors, the public),…it is a grave offense.

Basically, sex is something filled with beauty and dignity and watching others do it degrades it.

There were so many other joys that came with learning about and practicing my Catholic faith.  So many wonderful resources, and the sacraments as well.  The sacraments of the Church are transformative.  Confession gave me absolution and helped me to forgive myself, to let go of the shame.   It took time and counseling before I forgave my husband.  In the words of my counselor “your husband was young and stupid.  He knows better now, and his actions show it.  Forgive him; let go.”  Marriage is a journey to Christ, and our detour into pornography was both damaging and dangerous.   But the beauty of Catholicism is that all things can be redeemed through the sacraments and Christ!

Women today have it harder because internet porn is ubiquitous and so easily accessed.  One good thing that has come out of this scourge of porn is that it has raised society’s awareness of how destructive and addicting it is.  Pornography exploits, objectifies  and uses women.  It devastates marriages and families.  According to one study “Pornography users increasingly see the institution of marriage as sexually confining and have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness.”1   Another study finds 56% of divorce cases involving “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”2

If pornography has become a part of your story, you do not have to look far to find help.  Go to your diocesan website to look for resources.  Most dioceses have resources on their websites under the Office of Marriage and Family. You could also search on pornography, but be sure that you are in the diocese’s search bar and not Google!

Here is the link for the Archdiocese of Denver.  It contains links to many helpful resources.

http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/6147/

Editors note:  This author and her husband are blessed. I don’t mean to diminish her suffering in any way but they are truly blessed that her husband did not become addicted as is so often the case with internet pornography. Praise be to God! 

If you or your spouse have an attachment to internet pornography, don’t be discouraged if your journey to recovery involves more of a struggle or effort than has been detailed in this story. In addition to the sacraments, recovery from pornography addiction often requires counseling and/or a twelve step group.  There are many Catholic and Christian counselors who are experienced in dealing with this devastating addiction.

1 Patrick F. Fagan, PhD, The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriages, & Community (December 2009).

2 Jill Manning, Senate Testimony, November 10, 2005, referencing: J. Dedmon, “Is the Internet bad for your marriage? Online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces,” 2002, press release from American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 14.

I’m Alone

I broke up with my fiancé a week ago.

When I was a little girl, I never dreamed my life would be turning out the way it has. I’m 26. I’ve prayed for so many years for God to guide me, to show me His will for my life. I know He has heard me. I’m a good Catholic—I’m not supposed to be one of “those people” who start doubting when things don’t go their way. But I do doubt.
They tell me I’m still young, that I have my whole life in front of me, that God IS answering my prayers, that I just can’t see it yet. They don’t know how infuriated those words make me.

When I was in high school, I thought, “I’m lonely now, but I’ll find the right man when I’m in college.” In college I thought, “I guess he’ll come along after I graduate.” By 24 I was thinking, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.”

I truly believe my vocation is to be a wife and a mother, but I can’t start living it on my own. But I’m also not the type to just sit around and wait for God to plop a husband in my lap, so in the meantime I earned my Master’s degree, I have my own business, I volunteer, I have tons of hobbies that bring me joy. But I’m alone.

There is no “soul mate” out there for each of us, no matter what my ex-fiancé used to tell me. There are probably a dozen men with whom I could live a holy and happy life. But none of us is guaranteed anything, and none of us is promised a spouse. Maybe my husband got distracted along the way. Maybe he found another woman, a holier woman, to marry. Maybe he was aborted.

Just a few short weeks ago, I was imagining our wedding. I was thinking up names for our first babies. I was picturing our first cozy little apartment together. But it wasn’t right, and I had to end it. Maybe I was wrong? I don’t know. I feel more at peace now than I did when I was with him, so I guess that’s a good sign. But I can’t stand the thought that I hurt him by walking away, and I can’t help wondering why. Why has my life turned out this way? Did I do something wrong? Did I take a wrong turn? Why is it so hard for me to pray now, and truly lay everything down before Him? I thought that if I trusted Him for all those years, He’d take care of me. I just don’t feel very taken-care-of.

Marriage, Divorce, and Forgiveness

I’m proud to be Catholic and try to live my life by the 10 commandments. But sometimes, just sometimes, we have to do the unthinkable.

I think marriage is sacred and never in one million years would I have imagined I would be divorced. I found a great man, fell in love, we shared our faith and eventually got married. God blessed us with two wonderful children. We had a loving and wonderful marriage. Everything seemed perfect.

One day I found myself married to a stranger. I didn’t even like this man anymore. I remember thinking, “Who is this man and why is he sleeping in my bed, living in my house?” He had gone from an occasional glass of wine to more, and more, and more. I tried to talk to him and worried about alcoholism but my message wasn’t getting across. I tried sympathy, worry, love, compassion, anger, intolerance, threats: nothing worked. This was not the example I wanted my two small children to have.

It was like that for more than two years. We tried marital therapy, acupuncture (to treat cravings, my idea), yoga (again, my idea), conversations with priests, interventions, rehabilitation clinics, etc. I can say I tried it all – but this was the problem: I was trying, he wasn’t. He finally lost his job and he was completely removed from my life and our children’s lives. The children didn’t see him for days at a time, they would think he was on a trip or something. They would be shocked to see his car in the driveway. I had three priests tell me it was time to leave. “This is NOT what ‘in sickness and in health’ means,” said one. I prayed and prayed and prayed and finally decided to separate, move, file for divorce, and start a new life with my children. While extremely difficult, the divorce gave me my dignity back and saved his life.

The divorce was amicable. He didn’t have a leg to stand on, really. I gave him visitation privileges but under supervision. I didn’t trust him. What if he drank when he had the kids? While I felt compassion for my husband and an incredible amount of worry, I have to tell you I hated him. The relationship after our separation was strictly business. We endured three years of suffering and the destruction of my family, my life, my finances, a broken heart, accumulation of debt, and much worry.

He finally sobered up (if he hadn’t, he would be dead now, it was UGLY). For my children’s sake, I never spoke ill of him and I made the effort to get him Father’s Day presents and have the kids spend time with him. Boys need fathers – not drunk fathers, but he was finally sober and I caught glimpses of the man I had married.

Some time has gone by and I can honestly say that there has been a miracle. I prayed for a miracle, not the one I got, but God knows best. The miracle happened in my heart. I have forgiven him fully and my children are enjoying a different kind of family, but a family that cares for each other. He just celebrated 2 years of sobriety, he is always welcome in my house, and he spends all the holidays with us. I see him and while we are not legally married, I know he is my husband in God’s eyes. We are friends and I wish the best for him.

There must have been a lesson God wanted to teach us. I still don’t like to think of myself as “divorced” but I do like to think of myself as living the true Christian value of forgiveness. I struggle in other areas, but I can say forgiveness is wonderful. It brings peace, it sets a great example for our children, and I like to think that maybe, only maybe, I am a little closer to Jesus. I have no interest whatsoever in meeting another man. I want to dedicate all my energy to being a mother and I want God to feel pleased with the way I live my life. I don’t know what the future will bring. “One Day at a Time” is good not only for alcoholics. St. Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

Submitted from Alabama

Ditching Bikinis

I´m a student at a public college, so modesty is not something I frequently hear talked about in a positive light. Nor did I initially think of it as something good. Something that I fought about with my mom? Yes. Something that I should do as a good Catholic? Sure. But something awesome and to be embraced? Nah, modesty is just an annoying set of rules on how to dress, right?

Over the past six years, my opinion has changed quite a bit on modesty. Don´t get me wrong, I never dressed incredibly scandalously; I usually tried to follow the rules. But now I view modesty as more than just a set of annoying rules. I have come to realize that modesty is a virtue that I want to be striving for. Modesty is something beautiful that can show off my femininity. Modesty can even be stylish!

So how did I come to change my mind? It started with this book that I read at the end of my sophomore year of high school called For Young Women Only. It´s a cute little book, and it´s all about how boys think and how their brains work – fun stuff! And it turned out to be full of information I´d never heard before, important information to know if you have to deal with males on a regular basis, which almost every woman has to do. I learned that boys are incredibly visual and that their temptation to lust after a woman is almost automatic; they have to try extremely hard to control this urge. Well, that was a bit hard to believe, but when I talked to my guy friends about it, they confirmed that it was true. This was something that my friends, really great Christian men, struggled with whenever they came across an immodestly dressed woman. And to think that I had been adding to this temptation!

I remember shortly before I read this book, there was this really nice guy in my high school who came up to me one day (when I was wearing a rather short pair of shorts) and asked me in a kind of frustrated and confused tone of voice “Why do girls always wear such short shorts?” At the time, I didn’t get why this was a problem, but looking back, I understand. He was trying to be a good guy and show women the respect we deserve, and I was unintentionally making it harder for him to do so. I finally understood why modesty was a good thing and short shorts were the first thing to be purged from my wardrobe.

My freshman year of college, I was blessed to find a wonderful group of friends in the Catholic Campus Ministry. The upperclassmen girls quickly became my role models, and they helped me to learn and grow more in the virtue of modesty. From their examples, I saw that it was definitely possible to dress in a way that was both attractive and modest. One girl described her reasons for dressing modestly in a spiritual way that really moved me: Mary carried Jesus in her womb and in doing so, sanctified all wombs. We veil things that are holy and beautiful, like a bride on her wedding day or the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle. And since our wombs are so beautiful and awesome, we veil them in the way we dress. This particular example was especially helpful when I made the decision to ditch bikinis in favor of classier one piece suits. (And there actually are some really cute “vintage” one pieces out there!)

I dress modestly to respect myself and the men that I know, but more importantly, I dress modestly to respect God and the dignity that He gave me. I don´t claim to have it down 100%. If modesty is a virtue, all we can do is to continuously strive for it, and sinners that we are, we´re going to mess up. Sometimes I want to wear a dress or pair of shorts that are a little too short for me. But that´s why I´m grateful for the community of girls I call my friends and sisters in Christ. We´ve got each others´ backs; we are all striving together towards holiness, and we consider modesty to be a part of that. We pray for each other, advise each other, and charitably call each other out when necessary. We´re all women and we´re all in this together. We can show our love for ourselves, men, and God all through the way we dress! Isn´t that both crazy and wonderful?