My Maladaptive Strategies

tree_roots

At their root, “all addictions are maladaptive coping strategies,” says Professor Butler. Children who have not learned how to deal with guilt, shame, sorrow, or pain will often turn to addictive behaviors to numb their negative emotions. Even less serious emotions such as stress, boredom, or loneliness can lead to addictive behaviors if the child doesn’t understand how to cope.

Parents can help their children develop healthy coping strategies by modeling that behavior themselves. The following questions may help you evaluate your own coping strategies: When you are stressed, tired, or in despair, do you isolate yourself? Do you rely on entertainment to escape your problems instead of addressing them? Do you demonstrate that the healthiest way to solve problems is to rely on Heavenly Father, the Savior, and your relationships with others?

Children must learn to recognize the signs of spiritual wounds such as grief, guilt, and pain so they can turn their pain into learning experiences. Emotional pain is not bad.

Healing Hidden Wounds, September 2014, lds.org

“By the Light of Grace”

Click here to get a free copy of “By the Light of Grace.” I just ordered one for myself and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The author’s name is Sidreis. She shares her personal experiences as an LDS woman in recovery from a sexual addiction. Her blog posts (bythelightofgrace.com) have helped me through many a despair and doldrum. In fact, reading her blog inspired me to start my own.

Her book is free for today.  Kindle only, but Amazon has a free Kindle reader app for any device out there.

Michael

I pray I never forget to wave my white flag

This video speaks for itself. I remember watching it for the first time almost one year ago. My heart ached. I remember lamenting, “I want to stop more than anything. Why can’t I stop?! What’s wrong with me?”

I just watched the video again. Instead of heartache I feel gratitude for my God’s mercy and grace. I know I was lost and He found me.

I noticed something at the end of the video that I didn’t catch before and that a friend in recovery mentioned in a group meeting a few weeks ago. The video references a website: combatingpornography.org. If you go to that website you’ll notice that it redirects you to overcomingpornography.org.

I agree with my recovery brother. This is significant! It has made all the difference in my recovery—ALL the difference.

When I fight against my addiction I lose. I will always lose. I’m addicted! I literally don’t have the ability to stop myself from acting out. (If you disagree, I invite you to prayerfully reconsider and learn more about addiction from both church leaders—A.K.A. prophets and apostles—and empirical evidence.)

I remember acknowledging my addiction without admitting defeat. This led me to countless oaths and relapses. I thought I was going insane. I think I was! I thought I had to fight it out and win, but I couldn’t.

The irony of an addict fighting addiction.

I think Satan uses my desire to be free against me. I’m certain he does when I let him. It goes something like this:

Me: “I can do this!”

Satan: “No, you can’t.” <— ** Truth mixed with lies! Deception alert! **

Me: “Yes, I can! I won’t give up.”

Satan: “You can’t do it. You’ll never beat this.” <— ** Deception alert! **

The truth is I can’t, but here’s the part that the devil leaves out: I can’t on my own; I can with God!

Of course, Satan doesn’t want me to think about calling upon God when I feel discouraged. He would rather I focus on my inner drive and make this fight my own. Of course he would! So long as he can keep me fighting solo, he knows he’ll win. I know from personal experience that he’ll win unless I call upon my God for grace in times of need, even and especially when I don’t think I deserve it.

So I’m an advocate of waving my white flag when temptation or cravings hit. Oh, it definitely wounds my pride… thankfully! It goes something like this:

“Father in Heaven, I acknowledge that part of me wants to indulge. I can’t do this on my own. I’m powerless. Please give me grace to overcome this. Please save me!”

Then I ask Him what He wants me to do, and I do it. Sometimes He asks me to call a recovery friend. Other times He asks me to apologize and make amends to my wife for the dumb thing I said earlier that day. The specifics vary, but trusting Him always works.

I like to think of waving my white flag as a three-step process.

(1) I admit my powerlessness.

(2) I plead to my God for grace and to know what to do.

(3) I do it.

My white flag comes in handy for more problems than just triggers or cravings. I also wave it when I feel overwhelmed, stressed, or lonely. I can even wave it when I’m stuck on a homework problem. I’m still learning to wave it when I feel inadequate or angry, but I’m learning.

Waving my white flag by admitting my powerlessness, praying to my God, and obeying His will lets Him fight my battles for me. I’ve found that He is eager to do this! He did it for the Israelites countless times in the Old Testament. Why wouldn’t He do the same for me?

The truth is, He already did.

I see no shame in admitting defeat, not when I immediately and sincerely reach out to God. This has become the foundation of my recovery.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NT, Holy Bible).

I’m hungry

In a previous post, I likened my addictions to hot water. Interestingly enough, the longer I stand in a hot shower, the more my body becomes accustomed to the heat, and the less hot water I have available for use.

Eventually the hot water will run out. Addiction is like this for me.

Another metaphor:

I’m invited to a great feast. The host has laid out everything I could possibly want to eat. I eat till I’m stuffed.

A few hours later, I’m hungry again. I return to the table and eat till I’m full. I feel better. I notice that I ate more this time.

Thirty minutes later I repeat my previous actions, only this time I have to eat even more before I feel satisfied. The food still tastes great, so I’m glad to eat more!

After some time I realize that I can’t get full anymore. I’m always hungry… always eating and never satisfied. But the food still tastes good.

What happened? It’s the same food, same menu, same table.

I look around and see others eating quite happily. They’re having a good time. Some of them look full and satisfied. Why can’t I still enjoy the food and have a good time?

I grab a pile of food and sit in a corner to eat and think. Next to me are seated other eaters with their own piles of food. They’re all skinny even though they’ve clearly been eating copious amounts of food. I notice I’m skinny, too.

I look around the room, peering into the darker corners of the great hall. I see men and women of all ages. They each sit alone, isolated and emaciated. They look horrible. They look miserable, but they’re still eating.

I’m still hungry but I can’t get enough food.

I get up to inquire about the food. Something must be wrong with it.

The host must have noticed my concerned expression because suddenly he’s at my side.

“What can I do for you?” he asks.

“The food isn’t filling anymore. Something’s wrong with it,” I reported.

“Oh, is that so? You’re probably thirsty. What you need is something to drink.”

“Of course! I must be thirsty. I am thirsty!”

“Here, let me show you to our open bar. You may have water if you like, but the drinks are much more satisfying…”

Over the past twenty years I’ve learned the truth. I learned it the hard way, but now I know. Now I know where to find real food for my soul—not the counterfeit stuff that the world offers me.

Jesus Christ had this to say about the water offered by the world:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

I now enjoy more peace than ever before. My soul finds satisfaction and health from my Higher Power daily. He is the bread and water of life for my soul, and when I partake, I am filled with His Spirit.

Hot Showers

mormonad-you-are-never-alone

 

I realized recently that I’ve been afraid to let go of my addictions.

For most of my life I’ve depended on them for immediate relief from stress, anger, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fear, and the list goes on. My addictions were reliably consistent—I always felt relief when I acted out. Of course, that relief was fleeting and was always quickly replaced by remorse, self-loathing, and an increase of everything I was trying to avoid in the first place.

I think my addictions are like hot water. Life happens and sometimes it stinks. Sometimes it really hurts. It’s as if the pain of this life makes me feel cold and desperate for warmth. As it turns out, hot water feels pretty darn amazing when I’m cold.

When I take a hot shower on a cold winter morning I like to take my time. It feels great. Why would I ever want to step out of that warm shower?

My addictions have been my hot shower. I’ve become completely dependent on them. I’ve used them—pornography, lust, and sex—in a futile attempt to warm my soul from the cold pains of my life.

Turns out hot water is not a good way to stay warm.

Hot water only warms me so long as I’m immersed or doused in it. The second I step out of my warm shower, the warmth immediately begins to leave my body. In fact, the warmth leaves my body faster than it would have otherwise. It leaves faster because my body is wet.

When my addictions were at their worst, I was desperately trying to stay in my warm shower as constantly as possible. I didn’t know how to deal with life any other way. When I attempted to abstain from my hot shower the cold quickly became unbearable. I thought I needed the hot water and couldn’t survive without it.

Today I know that my God has the power to keep me warm. He has the power to calm my soul and soothe my wounds.

Yes, I could turn to my addictions for a quick hot shower. Such a course of action would be a guaranteed instant fix… except for the part when the hot shower ends and I suddenly find myself bare, exposed, and freezing. When that happens, I’ve historically done one of two things out of desperation: turn on the hot water again, or turn to my God for warmth and healing.

Today I truly stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. He never turns me away from His warmth. He never tells me to go away. He is always there for me when I sincerely seek Him.

Today I am warm and I am learning to depend on my God for warmth, strength, and health. I need Him! I need Him more than I need my addictions. My addictions will never warm me or take care of me the way my God does. My Heavenly Father loves me infinitely and eternally.

Looking back, I do feel regret that I didn’t learn this sooner. But I also feel so grateful that I know it now. I feel so grateful that my Father in Heaven has never and will never give up on me. He’ll never abandon me. I struggle to express what that means to me. It’s changed my life.

I no longer depend on hot showers for warmth. Today I depend on my God, and He always provides. I love Him!

No, I’m not simply guilt-ridden or lacking willpower

LEAVE THE CHAINS

“Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.” Elder Russell M. Nelson (1)

 

Yesterday I started reading Patrick Carnes’ Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. He’s amassed decades of clinical and empirical research. His insights are helpful.

I frequently face the temptation to get caught up in self-pity while going through recovery. It often sounds like this: “No one understands me. I’m alone. They don’t understand how hard this is. They’re judging me. They don’t want to understand.”

In the interest of combating my own self-pity and attempting to address my feelings of loneliness in a world that commonly advocates sexual exploration with concern only for the inherent physical health risks, and in a Christian culture that often lacks understanding concerning the slavery of addiction, I’d like to share something.

I hope I’m not appeasing my own self-pity by doing so. I think this is a sincere and honest attempt to bring awareness and tell the little red Loneliness devil sitting on my shoulder to can it and go away. If this is, however, a moment of weakness, then please forgive me and enjoy Mr. Carnes’ insights nonetheless.

“To view sexual addicts as people who are simply guilt-ridden because of sexual behavior is to completely misunderstand the nature of the addiction. This viewpoint assumes that addicts need to be more free and enjoy sexuality and that they feel bad because of unhelpful scruples and misinformation. An example is masturbation, which is now generally accepted as a developmental phase and a natural expression of personal sexuality. For the man who masturbates so often that he has at times severely injured his penis, it is no longer just a question of accepting his desire to masturbate. His masturbation is seriously affecting his life and bringing harmful consequences to his body.

“Sexual addicts feel the pain and consequences. They recognize the personal emptiness. If they are lucky, they may have some sense of the exploitation and harm to others. They wrestle daily with the fear of discovery of their compulsivity…

“… Were [one] to experience periods in which he repeated the behavior frequently with damaging results, he clearly would have an addictive pattern. Many addicts describe their experiences as episodic—that is, they occur in periodic binges that have severe consequences to their work, relationships, and self-esteem. Between binges, they may experience extended periods with no problems. Being able to stop for a period of time provides the illusion of control, which makes it more difficult for the addict to acknowledge that there is a problem. As years pass, however, a pattern of bingeing reveals an unmistakable addiction. For some addicts, the bingeing becomes so frequent that the behavior is almost constant.”

Carnes, Patrick J. (2009-06-21). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction

(1) in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7.