I can handle Legos

LEGO Hogwarts Castle and Diagon Alley

Recently I’ve focused my recovery reading on the first of the Twelve Steps of addiction recovery: “Admit that I am powerless over [my addiction] and that my life has become unmanageable.” My addiction is sexual lust.

The idea that a person can have zero power over something is still a tough one for me to grasp, and yet my life to this point has demonstrated that I am one of those people.

The word “powerless” is an interesting one in this context. It means “without ability, influence, or power.” Its synonyms include impotent, helpless, ineffectual, ineffective, useless, defenseless. Defenseless catches my eye.

On my own I am defenseless against sexual lust. My own efforts to withstand it are ineffective and useless. I cannot simply “change what’s playing on my brain’s stage,” or distract myself with a good book. That’s not enough anymore. Even remembering my loved ones is insufficient. These things, while helpful in any other struggle in my life, are ineffectual when it comes time for me to do battle with sexual lust.

In most areas of my life I am disciplined. I know how to set a line and not cross it even when I want to cross it. I know how to set and keep limits.

For example, I really enjoy creating new things with Legos. I have enjoyed it since I was a child. Legos cost a pretty penny though, so I can’t always purchase them when I want to. If I did I’d have monster credit card debt! I know how to plan a budget and stick to it, even when that Lego set I’d really like to have goes on sale. When it goes on sale, I stick to my budget. “It’ll just have to wait,” I tell myself. I feel tempted, to be sure; and I don’t have a perfect record. But I can say No without waking up in the middle of the night with a sudden overwhelming urge to make the purchase.

Here’s another example. My dad taught my siblings and me how to work hard at a young age. I started getting small summer jobs when I was twelve so I could pay for the Legos and video games I wanted. When I was fifteen I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant. I was also in high school, marching band, Boy Scouts, and a number of other extracurriculars. But I wanted money to pay for the things I wanted. My parents taught me self-discipline and I exercised it often and well for the most part. Fast forward twenty years and I served an honorable two-year service mission for my church, I have a solid career in software engineering, I’ve completed a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and I work hard to teach and train my children. All thanks to God, without a doubt! It wouldn’t have happened, however, had I not worked hard, delayed gratification, and followed God’s and my parents’ counsel.

Put me in a room alone with a smartphone and an Internet connection and I have discipline up until the moment something catches my eye. At that point something changes. At that point I no longer have self-discipline. If I don’t reach out for help, I will inevitably succumb.

Doesn’t sound right, does it? The idea that a person can have self control one moment and zero control the next. Seems like an all or nothing sort of deal, or so I’ve thought. Either a person has the moral fortitude and practice to Just Say No, or they haven’t learned that skill yet. Or maybe they don’t want to Say No, not badly enough. Maybe they could Just Stop if they really wanted to.

I cannot recall how many limits and ultimate plans I’ve made to keep myself safe from sexual lust. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve drawn a line and genuinely pledged to my loved ones, myself, and my God, and said, “no further,” only to find myself across the line days later, wondering how I got there. Those moments are bewildering and frightening.

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me.”

Jesus Christ, Ether 12:27

According to Jesus, there are some things we cannot do on our own.

I’m not talking about staring down a plate of warm cookies (unless you face a food addiction). I’m not talking about the self awareness to walk out of the kitchen to escape the scent of those cookies. I’m talking about a prison wherein one is unable to escape the pull on their own, when one’s brain stops functioning inside the frontal lobe where reason and decisions are made and instead shifts into autopilot.

Do you know what that’s like? Do you know what it’s like to know deep inside your heart and gut that what you’re doing or about to do is wrong and harmful to yourself and others, and you want to stop with all your being, but you don’t know how? Have you ever felt that kind of fear, the kind that surfaces when you know you need to stop because your job, marriage, or life depends on it, but you can’t? Have you ever wanted so badly to stop your behavior without knowing how that suicide seems like the only way out?

I know what that’s like.

Today I understand that even though my willpower is insufficient when it comes to sexual lust, the fact is I still have agency and options because I know a Being who has more power than me. My Higher Power is my only way out, and often I lean on my brothers in recovery to help me stay close to Him in moments when I feel the pull to start walking paths which I know from experience I cannot safely navigate.

I’m certain I wasn’t always powerless over sexual lust. I give myself plenty of credit for creating my addiction. I also give my Higher Power some credit because He gave me this weakness so that I would “learn to be humble.” He knew the choices I would make in this life. That’s also one reason why He died for me. Because of Him, I don’t have to remain a slave to my addiction.

I thought about quoting medical science publications and general conference talks to support what I’m saying. Those helped convince me, to be sure. If you’re interested in those then I recommend Dr. Hilton’s book, “He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” He quotes both kinds of sources.

“I can do this on my own” is the most effective lie Satan has ever told me.

“I cannot do this on my own” is one of the most important truths God has ever shown me.

The Good News is God has the power to restore any addict to sanity, and He freely lets me partake in His power. I believe His promises apply to me too. I have found that the more I submit my will to His, the more peace and sanity I enjoy.

3 thoughts on “I can handle Legos

  1. Oh, how I understand the days of helplessness and hopelessness. I remember the days when you feel that if you don’t give in to your addiction, you feel like you’ll die, yet you know that what you are doing is wrong. You promise God and the angels that you’ll never go back, you’ll never look again and then the monster in the bushes pokes its ugly snout out and pulls you in. The compulsions take over and you simply cannot resist. You’re powerless to stop it and, afterward, you can’t believe you gave in again. You promise again, you try again, but after a few days, you begin to feel that compulsion creeping up on you. It builds and it builds and it builds. You pray to God for strength, but that compulsion keeps building and you know deep in your heart that you’ll be giving in once again. It is a vicious cycle and you have no idea how to stop it.

    There is a way to stop it. It all comes down to correct knowledge. The problem is not your body even though that is where all the research is focusing. The research is headed in the wrong direction. Some scientists want to blame the persons’ body by claiming that there is some sort of gene mutation or defect that causes a person to be an addict. The Chairman of the American Society of Addiction Medicine stated that “addiction is not a choice.” There is a real problem with this. “Calling pornography addiction a disease or that it is the result of a defective gene, or a brain disorder that eliminates free choice places the fault of the addiction totally on a person’s body. The idea is that a ‘normal’ person can stop looking at pornography at any time. The addict cannot do this because of physiological defects beyond his control. Therefore, because pornography addiction is a disease, it gives the “diseased person” a medical vindication for his behavior, thereby putting the blame on the ‘defective’ body. Because the Church teaches that there is ‘no condemnation for our doing what we could not help,’ if the addict’s body were defective, he would be blameless in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.”

    “The main problem with this line of reasoning is that it eliminates the consequences of wrong choices by saying that the fault for the behavior is that of the body and not the spirit, because the behavior is not from freedom of choice. This would put us on the same level as animals, because they do not have moral agency. When that line of reasoning is taken one-step further, the ultimate logical conclusion must be that the addiction is actually our Heavenly Father’s fault, not the addict’s, because He created the defective body, therefore the ultimate responsibility for the addiction would be His. Therefore, the addict would bear no responsibility for his actions” (Pornography, Sickness, Evil Spirits and the Priesthood, pp 4-5). It all comes down to this. Pornography addiction “is not a disease of the body, but a disease of the spirit that has some physiological manifestations” (ibid, p 5). The problem is your spirit, not the body and the problem must be approached from a completely spiritual perspective.

    There isn’t enough space for me to continue. Google the paper I quoted and read it. It can give you a lot of help.

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    1. Thank you, Scott! I have read your paper and I found it helpful and insightful. I completely agree I still have agency as an addict, only that it’s limited. And I believe addiction is an emotional, spiritual, and physical sickness. At least, that has been my experience. I really appreciate your comments and support, brother!

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      1. From 2002 to 2011, I was addicted to powerful, hard narcotics and during almost all that time, I was suicidal. I was sometimes taking 800mg of morphine a day. I took the drugs because they made me feel somewhat human. I had the deepest, blackest depression you can possibly imagine. I didn’t just want to die; I wanted God to wipe my intelligence from the universe. I wanted to cease to exist. I had a “helpful” pshrink who was trying to give me relief by prescribing anti-psychotics, which only made my problem worse. I was experiencing nightmares about 6 nights each week, 2-3 times a night. The drugs made me sleep 10-12 hours a night, which gave me more time for nightmares. These were kicking, fighting, screaming, throwing-myself-out-of-bed nightmares. The only reason I did not kill myself was that I knew that I would be much worse off if I did. In 1983 I’d had an experience that showed me the power of the Devil. The memory of that experience kept me alive. The problem we have with addictions, including substance addictions, is that, without exception, all of them are spiritual as well as physical. When it comes to behavioral addictions, they are primarily spiritual with a secondary physiological component. When I got high off drugs, the first rush of the drugs when it hit my system was very similar in feeling to the rush I got from looking at pornography. I first got off drugs before I was healed from my pornography addiction.

        I know that doctors and scientists (including some who wrote articles for the Ensign) carry on about the bio-chemicals responsible for the various physiological reactions that happen when looking at pornography, but I have found that those reactions are not the reason for pornography addiction. They are only a small contributor to the problem. The agency an addict has is curtailed by only one reason and that is the evil spirit component that is always present in all addictions. This is where correct knowledge can come to the rescue. Science denies the existence of Satan and his minions. He has worked tirelessly to accomplish this. He works most effectively because of secrecy. My wife and I wrote those papers to bring his activities to the light of day. Understanding Satan’s abilities and capabilities, the laws that govern his activities, and the limits that are placed on him will help free you from this addiction. As a baptized member of the Church, you have the power to control those evil spirits that are at the root cause of your affliction.

        The information contained in the two papers my wife and I wrote were common knowledge among the members of the Church during the first 110 of the Church. It was consistently taught in officially sanctioned Sunday school, priesthood, and Relief Society lessons. The lessons were geared to primary aged children and the youth. Children as young as 5 were taught all about evil spirits and their capabilities and how to control them. All the missionaries knew it and knew how to take care of the problem. I have every single publication of the Church that’s available on PDF since the early 1830s along with many out of print books of the apostles and prophets. It comes to more than 9200 books and magazines and I have gone through almost all of it in relation to evil spirits. We did not include everything we found in the two papers we wrote and, since they were written, we have found much more information. You would be amazed at what is the doctrine of the Church when it comes to evil spirits.

        As I have researched this over the past 7 years, I have come to the conclusion that if we knew how to combat evil spirits, we would solve the vast majority of our problems. Elder George Q. Cannon said, “So long as evil spirits can obtain possession of living, human beings and influence them according to their wishes, so long has evil a tangible existence upon the earth. If there were no tabernacles for them to operate through—no men and women who would allow them to use their bodies (the great object of their desire, because of their own great lack of earthly attributes)—evil and sin would have no existence upon the earth…” (Gospel Truth, p 500).

        Think about that statement. If people would not allow themselves to become possessed, “evil and sin would have no existence upon the earth.” The big problem is that the Latter-day Saints have been taken in by the wisdom of the world. A survey of LDS done in 2001 by the Barna Group asked if they believed that “Satan is a real being who can influence people’s lives.” Sadly, 41% said they did not believe this. The LDS have fulfilled the prophecy of Nephi when he said, “And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Nephi 28:22).

        The Bible Dictionary says, “All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results.” Correct knowledge is the key. Belief in the wisdom of the world and false traditions limits our faith.

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