In my last post I attempted to explain that the amount of recovery I receive is not in direct proportion to the amount of work I perform.
I do believe, however, that the level of recovery I experience is directly related to the level of trust I place in my God. In other words, the more I submit my will to His, the more recovery I receive.
I don’t have all the answers, but this has certainly been my experience as I’ve sought recovery.
“And now… I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Book of Mormon, Alma 38:5).
For nearly two years I attended addiction recovery meetings almost weekly. If I went out of town, I looked up AA meetings and attended those. I found strength from interacting with fellow addicts. I no longer felt alone.
I was self-evaluating, reading scriptures, praying, fasting, exercising, eating healthily, worshiping in church, and serving others.
I was learning about addiction, reading numerous books and blogs, and meeting regularly with my bishop. I even managed a couple stretches of abstinence, one of which lasted long enough for me to worship in the temple again. I was working hard and progressing.
But I wasn’t getting sober. I kept relapsing.
I wanted to be sober for my wife and daughter, for my God, and for my sanity and salvation. But my angry rage monster kept rearing his ugly face. My sponsor aptly describes this inner conflict as the Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde syndrome. Despite my best efforts, I continued inflicting terrible pain on my wife and daughter. I hated myself.
So why wasn’t I getting sober? What else could I do? Did I not work hard enough? Did I not want it badly enough?
I remember going to meetings and leaving with a surge of hope and determination. Then I’d relapse two hours later. I remember receiving priesthood blessings and feeling God’s love for me. Then I’d relapse the next day. I worshiped in the temple of God. One week later, I relapsed.
On most days I woke up and “the courage to do battle was not there” (Bill, AA Big Book).
I’ve struggled mightily to understand why this happened. I know my wife hated it. She showed me patience and compassion, but my addiction cycle was draining her. It was killing our marriage.
So I recommitted and relapsed, recommitted and relapsed, got angry and recommitted and relapsed.
Looking back, I see better now. I see that I was trying to regain control over my life and my addictions. Honestly, I didn’t want to let go of any of it. I only wanted to control it. I’ll give some examples.
Step 1: Honesty. Admit that I, myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
Admit that my life is unmanageable? Well that’s so obvious it’s easy! Read a few scriptures, sincerely wrote a few thoughts down on paper, and moved on to Step 2. This step work was cake walk. (I managed to skip over the “powerless to overcome my addictions” part.)
Step 2: Hope. Come to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual help.
I read the full description of Step 2 in the manual and skipped the questions. Next!
Step 3: Trust in God. Decide to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Yes! I could do that! Why wouldn’t I do that? I did it… except for that one aspect of my life. I had that part under control, so no need to surrender it. Also, those sins over there didn’t hurt anyone, so I could worry about those later after my addiction was gone. My addiction, though? Yes, I surrendered that… most days.
Step 4: Truth. Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
I did an emotional and mental dump onto paper last year and called that my Step 4. It was incredibly difficult and therapeutic. I didn’t bother with the searching and evaluating feelings and all that stuff, though. I got it out on paper and I felt better, so I knew I was doing something right—or, at least, a step in the right direction.
Step 5: Confession. Admit to myself, to my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of my wrongs.
I wrote out my wrongs in Step 4, so I thought I’d admitted to myself their exact nature. God already knew, so I didn’t really need to review my inventory with Him. I shared my inventory with my bishop. Another person? Maybe some people need that, but I didn’t think I was one of them. I was good to go.
Steps 6 and 7… Humility and Ask God to take away my weaknesses, or something like that.
I didn’t really understand this. I thought I’d had a change of heart. I really needed to work other steps anyway.
I almost acted out again, but that time I only viewed the pornography… I didn’t masturbate. So technically it wasn’t a relapse. And telling Jess would’ve done more harm than good at that point, so I just kept that one a secret and moved on.
… Well is it any wonder why I wasn’t sober?
“Thy will be done,” except when I want to do it my way. I can figure it out. I don’t need to ask for help unless I relapse. I can steal a quick glance of lust here and there. My life may be unmanageable, but I think I could manage it if other people would just change.
Goodness gracious, addiction makes me insane!
Recovery + sobriety for me began when I finally admitted my powerlessness, stopped trying to control everything, and was willing to do anything the Lord asked of me. I’m not completely recovered yet, but I do feel the Lord’s power lifting me up every time I submit my will to His. I find that that’s often my only real choice—I can try to handle things by myself, or I can admit my powerlessness and plead for my God to forgive, strengthen, and enable me.
I still have bad days, but now I also know what a good day feels like. It happens when I don’t try to do life or recovery on my own.
I’m learning that there’s a direct relationship between my happiness and my willingness to submit to my Father in Heaven. Sometimes the best I can do is be willing to be willing to change. And yet, every day I see the Lord working miracles for me. He works miracles for me. And often it’s simply because I’m sincerely willing to submit to Him. I often don’t want to submit to Him (or at least a part of me doesn’t want to), but when I do, He gives me recovery and healing.
“…handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.147).