Healing Wounds I cannot Heal

Close-up of a dandelion

 

“Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ. …

“I repeat … there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.”

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995.

I pray as I repent of my sins that the Lord will have mercy on me and heal the wounds I cannot heal, especially the ones I have inflicted on my loved ones and myself.

 

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Small and Simple

red_leaf_fall

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” (Alma 37:6)

 

About two months ago I was driving home from work and feeling overwhelmed by the changes I wanted to make. My faults and sins seemed to outweigh my efforts to repent and change. I prayed for help and wisdom. The Holy Spirit reminded me of certain principles I’ve learned in software engineering named Scrum.

 

One of my favorite parts of Scrum is the retrospective phase that occurs at the end of every work “sprint.” The purpose is to assess the team’s progress and identify the largest bottlenecks, then decide on the smallest changes the team can make that will have the greatest positive impact.

 

As the Spirit reminded me of these principles, I felt the Lord say to me, “What are your largest impediments to progress right now?” The answers came quickly: not taking the sacrament, and not exercising consistently.

Suddenly the changes I needed to make felt doable and my burdens instantly became lighter. I shared my experience with Jess, my therapist, and my bishop. He and I worked together so that I could take the sacrament again, and I did by the grace of God.

That was one month ago. Since then I’ve felt more peace than I have in a long time. Heavenly Father, Jess, my bishop, and my therapist help me keep a healthy perspective. I’m still working on the exercise part, but I’m gaining momentum there too. I am grateful for the faith, hope, and progress the Lord gives me.

It isn’t a Sin to be Weak!

The following questions–among numerous others–have been bouncing around in my head for the past few years:

Should I feel bad for my weaknesses?

Do my weaknesses influence my worthiness?

This weakness isn’t going away. Is something wrong with me?

Why hasn’t the Lord made my weakness a strength yet?

The Lord has been answering these questions piece by piece through wonderful people He’s placed in my life. Today He gave me another piece.

My wife shared this article with me. It is so good! I’m saving it. I can’t stop reading it! I hope it helps and uplifts you, too.

I get to choose my Ice Cream

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

image source: joaquinfsousapoza.com

 

I’ll be surprised if a theme or message comes out of this post. I have plenty of thoughts and I’m not sure what to do with them.

I think I’ve been trying to do recovery on my own again.

I recently took on a new role at work and the stress has begun mounting along with mixed emotions of fear, excitement, and “Holy moley I have to figure out this role and no one here knows how to fulfill it or even define it and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” Make it up as I go? I dunno. I ordered four books yesterday. I hope I find some guidance from them.

New thought: I can surrender my fears to my Father in Heaven and ask Him to guide my efforts at work. That sounds good.

I’ve also been feeling a lot of sorrow lately. Many of my friends in recovery have relapsed recently. I know their pain and it hurts to see them go through it. I look up to all of them, and some of them had years of sobriety. I still look up to them. I’d be lying if I said their relapses didn’t frighten me. I’m afraid I’ll make it to a year or more of sobriety by the grace of God and then relapse. I think I feel afraid that such a course is what God has planned for me.

I don’t want to think that that kind of thinking makes sense, but I have my doubts. I guess it could be that God has a relapse planned for me, but that would have to accompany the notion that I don’t have a choice in the matter, or that my life is only a script written by someone else.

I think God knows whether or not I’ll relapse, but I don’t think that His omniscience determines my choices. That would be like saying I can control my mom’s choice of ice cream simply because I know that she’ll choose butter pecan over strawberry.

I think God knows me so well that He knows what choices I’ll make in any situation. No, that doesn’t determine my actions. Actually, I feel some comfort in knowing that my Father in Heaven knows me that well. Given that my eternal progress and happiness is His top priority, I can trust that He will always prepare a way for me to remain sober.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet Nephi:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7, Book of Mormon).

That feels right. I feel hope when I consider these words. God will not require me to submit to my addictions when He asks me to submit to Him. His will is not my misery or damnation. His will is my joy and progress. His will for me is my recovery.

I’m grateful to the Lord for revealing my fears to me. I feel much better now. I’ve been feeling afraid without being willing to surrender my fears. I feel relief now. I feel hope again. Thank God for my Savior who provides a way for my salvation, even from myself!

My wife just turned on Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I gotta go. :)

Also, I have the coolest wife ever.

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.

Quote

HOW IT WORKS….

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.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Big Book, Chapter 5, p. 60-62

Trying in a new way, a less worried way

meme-bednar-alone

 

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.

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Threads and Pennies

quote-scott-christus

 

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!

  1. Honesty: I admitted that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. Hope: I came to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health.
  3. 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.
  4. Truth: I made a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
  5. 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.
  6. Change of Heart: I became entirely ready to have God remove all my character weaknesses.
  7. Humility: I humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings.
  8. Seeking Forgiveness: I made a written list of all persons I have harmed and became willing to make restitution to them.
  9. 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!

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