HOW IT WORKS
…we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.
What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?
… if the rest of the world would only behave…
What ever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the [addict] is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we [addicts] must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.
Has anyone in authority ever told you, “if you didn’t know, you should have asked”?
Say what???? I’ve always thought that was such a bizarre statement. If we don’t know something, we generally aren’t even aware that there IS a question to ask. We aren’t being stupid or devious, we just didn’t know that we didn”t know.
That can be a stumbling block in recovery as well. Many of the answers that will help us in our quest for complete freedom are locked behind questions that we have never asked.
“Why did I react that way?” What am I really feeling?” “Why does she bug me so much?” “Has anyone ever made me feel this way before.” “Why are the cravings so strong today?” “What do I need to do to make it through just one more day without acting out?” . . .
There are so many questions that…
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For years I watched the thread of hope dangling above my head—the hope that recovery could happen for me. I tried repeatedly to grab it and hold on for dear life (literally) only to grow weary of my white knuckle grip and fall. After a few hundred falls I dared not attempt to hold on anymore. I was too afraid of more heartbreak and disappointment. This time around, however, feels different.
Tomorrow will mark one hundred days of sobriety for me. The 12 Steps are working!
Honesty: I admitted that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
Hope: I came to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health.
Trust in God: I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Truth: I made a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
Confession: I admitted 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.
Change of Heart: I became entirely ready to have God remove all my character weaknesses.
Humility: I humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings.
Seeking Forgiveness: I made a written list of all persons I have harmed and became willing to make restitution to them.
Restitution and Reconciliation: Wherever possible, I am making direct restitution to all persons I have harmed.
(Obviously, I’m on Step 9. You can read the rest of the steps here.)
I read through these steps and their simplicity floors me. Make no mistake—I have done nothing to earn the precious gift of recovery! It is a gift. I don’t deserve recovery. I thank my God I don’t get what I deserve!
I’ve been working on Steps 8 and 9 recently, which include forgiving others and seeking forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve done throughout my addiction. It’s been very difficult for me… much more difficult than I had anticipated. Working these steps and recalling so many painful memories has directed my thoughts towards a question that I think both addicts seeking recovery and their loved ones have contemplated at least once: “How could an honest addict ever relapse?”
I can only share what I’ve learned and am learning, so I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I think there’s more to this question than what I’m about to discuss; but I think the following still merits consideration. It’s helped me, at least.
This is from an article written by the folks over at the Sexual Recovery Institute. It’s titled, “Sex Addiction: An Imperfect Path to Recovery“:
“While recovering alcoholics do the work to avoid taking a drink, and recovering drug addicts do the work to avoid using their substance of choice, the work a sex addict must do is different and possibly more complicated. [Sex] is a part of our lives simply by virtue of being human….
Working with oneself around sexual feelings, urges, and triggers is an important part of recovery and may well take a lifetime. In fact, it is not unheard of for people to continue to have patterns of addiction even after libido diminishes or sexual function fails; the root of sexual addiction is almost never about sex…” (emphasis added).
The article contains a few incongruities with the gospel of Jesus Christ (which I attempted to filter from the above excerpt), but I like the key points it makes. I think this sentence especially deserves attention: “…the root of sexual addiction is almost never about sex.”
From what I’ve learned about addiction, the aforementioned principle applies to any type of addiction. “The root of eating addiction/disorders is almost never about food.” “The root of drug addiction is almost never about drugs.” “The root of alcohol addiction is almost never about alcohol.”
The LDS Addiction Recovery Guide shares the following insight:
“Your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are actually the roots of your addictive behaviors. Unless you examine all your tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will, and self-pity, your abstinence will be shaky at best. You will continue with your original addiction or switch to another one. Your addiction is a symptom of other ’causes and conditions’ (Alcoholics Anonymous , 64)” (Step 4, p. 21, emphasis added).
What are the “causes and conditions” that hide behind addiction? I think they vary and depend on the addict. No two persons’ lives are the same, and neither are their challenges or weaknesses. For myself (based on what I’ve learned so far), my weaknesses of anger, lust, self-will, fear of rejection and abandonment, a warped sense of self-worth, and a genuine craving for acceptance and love all combined to make me a prime candidate for sexual addiction. To be honest with myself, my past decisions to view pornography and indulge in inappropriate physical relationships also led to my addiction.
But why did I ever attempt to use pornography to numb my ill thought patterns, nurse my depression and anguish, or distract myself from misguided beliefs about myself and others? Why would anyone ever think to use alcohol or drugs or sex to self-medicate in order to handle life’s real problems and pains?
My experience has been this: My recovery from addiction began when I started working the 12 Steps. Why? Because the 12 Steps help me discover, examine, and cope with my real problems… the ones that lurk underneath my addictive thoughts and behaviors; and most importantly, they help me do so while wholly relying on a Power greater than myself. Those real problems—my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—were conceived in the fog of sin, the despair of depression, and the pains of a mortal life impacted by imperfect people, including myself.
Facing these underlying problems is painful for me. It involves digging up memories that I purposefully buried with my addiction. It involves recalling hurts and pain and horrible experiences that I would much rather try to forget with distance and distraction. I can only speak for myself, but I think this is one reason why recovery can be so difficult for an addict, and why an addict who is honestly seeking recovery can still be susceptible to temptation and prone to relapsing. It’s not that the addict isn’t sincere. It’s not that the addict doesn’t want it badly enough, or hasn’t considered the consequences, or isn’t trying hard enough. It’s because recovery is painful. It can be a grueling, bitter, even traumatic process, and it isn’t the same for every addict. That’s why I’m learning that I simply cannot do it alone. I am incapable, in fact. I need my “Higher Power,” to quote the original AA 12 Steps. I need my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Being an addict in recovery also has its rewards. Today I’m more free of my addiction than I’ve ever been. I can feel it. I enjoy life more. I feel more. I have better relationships with my wife, my daughter, and my God. I understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ better. And the scriptures! I feel like they were written just for me… just for an addict seeking recovery and salvation from addiction. Thanks to my Heavenly Father and His Son, I now have hope.
Jesus Christ himself explains and promises:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27, Book of Mormon).