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.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

Still shaking my head over this, too

quote-uchtdorf-sunset-beach

 

I really, really love this talk by President Uchtdorf. Here’s an excerpt:

Not long ago I was skiing with my 12-year-old grandson. We were enjoying our time together when I hit an icy spot and ended up making a glorious crash landing on a steep slope.

I tried every trick to stand up, but I couldn’t—I had fallen, and I couldn’t get up.

I felt fine physically, but my ego was a bit bruised. So I made sure that my helmet and goggles were in place, since I much preferred that other skiers not recognize me. I could imagine myself sitting there helplessly as they skied by elegantly, shouting a cheery, “Hello, Brother Uchtdorf!”

I began to wonder what it would take to rescue me. That was when my grandson came to my side. I told him what had happened, but he didn’t seem very interested in my explanations of why I couldn’t get up. He looked me in the eyes, reached out, took my hand, and in a firm tone said, “Opa, you can do it now!”

Instantly, I stood.

I am still shaking my head over this. What had seemed impossible only a moment before immediately became a reality because a 12-year-old boy reached out to me and said, “You can do it now!” To me, it was an infusion of confidence, enthusiasm, and strength.

Brethren, there may be times in our lives when rising up and continuing on may seem beyond our own ability. That day on a snow-covered slope, I learned something. Even when we think we cannot rise up, there is still hope. And sometimes we just need someone to look us in the eyes, take our hand, and say, “You can do it now!”

So many words here remind me of myself,  my addictions, and my ongoing recovery “I tried every trick to stand up, but I couldn’t—I had fallen, and I couldn’t get up… I began to wonder what it would take to rescue me.”

Continue reading

Video

“Don’t You Quit”

As an addict I watch this video and I can’t help but think of the frustration and despair that accompanies relapse, especially while sincerely striving to abstain.

If you’re not an addict or if you’re an addict who doesn’t know this yet, please know that I’m talking precisely about a lack of willpower. By definition, addicts don’t have willpower sufficient to stop ourselves from acting out.

Continue reading

Guest post: Deliverance from Pornography’s Poisonous Whirlwinds

tornado

 

This spring we planted a new orange tree in our backyard. Four feet tall we have watched it take hold over the last two months. Strong winds on Saturday blew off all the tiny green fruit that were starting to form after the blossoms. Elder Anderson wrote in his recent conference address about whirlwinds.

“In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.

“You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead” (Read the full talk here)

How do you prepare for your whirlwinds?

“Remember … it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … his shafts in the whirlwind, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down … because of the rock upon which ye are built” (The Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12).

This is your safety in the whirlwind.

I read in my scripture study this verse from Zeniff’s “rescue” temple address to his people after Ammon and his three brothers showed up.

“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage” (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 7:33)

My recovery is like the young orange tree in my backward. The whirlwind of addictions seem to swirl around all times and everywhere from the media I consume, to the people I encounter at work/church/shopping to the old memories Satan likes to choke me with like a dust devil. I know if I “sow filthiness” I will reap the chaff and the effects thereof – this is interesting – Zeniff writes, “are poison.”

I cannot think of a better description for porn than poison. Turning to the Lord, TRUSTING HIM (step 3) and serving him brings the assurance he will deliver me.

Burt Williams

My Savior vs. My Train

TRAIN_TRACKS

 

 

Matt over at EmbracingPowerlessness.com wrote another great blog post that got the squeaky hamster wheel in my head turning. He shares some hard truths about why we addicts don’t want to get sober. He employs an insightful analogy about the lust train of addiction and the stoic addict who vainly tries to stop it head-on. The Lord has taught me some beautiful principles as I’ve pondered Matt’s words and testimony, and I’d like to share some of them with you.

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times” (Mark Twain).

Continue reading