Honesty and Vulnerability go well together

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A couple weeks ago I attended a Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meeting for the first time. It was powerful! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. I was also struck by how honest and vulnerable everyone was.

I’ve been to multitudinous LDS Addiction Recovery Program meetings and they’ve helped me immensely. In those meetings I first learned I’m not alone in this war, and through those meetings the Lord gave me faith to not give up. The most memorable and meaningful ARP meetings I’ve attended were the ones in which I and my brothers were vulnerable, when we openly shared our fears and doubts with each other. No hiding, no shame, just open honesty.

Unfortunately in my experience a common theme in many ARP meetings I’ve attended is “hope-imonies.” Instead of being vulnerable by sharing what’s on our minds, or being honest about where we are and where we want to be, the meeting becomes a “testimony” meeting where we all say we “know” that the 12 Steps work… except most of us haven’t worked them to full recovery (with the exception of the facilitator and a veteran or two), so we don’t actually have a witness that they work. We certainly want them to work, and we may believe that they work, but that’s not the same as knowing it. I was describing this to my therapist and he said, “Ah yes, a hope-imony meeting.” For me those kinds of meetings aren’t so helpful because they’re not honest, vulnerable, or even truthful. And don’t get me wrong—I’ve done it too. I have shared many a hope-imony in those meetings.

I remember the first time I heard raw vulnerability in an ARP meeting. That evening I went because I needed hope. I had recently relapsed and I wasn’t sure the meetings were helping me. When my turn came I passed. A couple shares later, one man’s words caught my attention. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “I’m grateful to be alive. Years ago I was in a dark place. I had borrowed my drug of choice from a dealer I’d known for a long time, but I didn’t have the money to pay him. A couple guys showed up at my apartment, dragged me into the basement, tied me to a pole and beat me till they thought I was dead. By the grace of God someone found me and I woke up in a hospital some time later. I should’ve died in that basement. But God rescued me and gave me another chance. I’ve not been perfect since then, and I’ve relapsed since then, but after that night I knew God was with me—not just because of the fact someone found me, but because when I woke up in that hospital I felt it. I felt Him with me. I thought, ‘How can you be with me? I’ve done so many terrible things. I’ve hurt everyone I’ve ever cared about. I’ve pushed you away countless times. How is it you’re still with me?’ And I felt His love for me there in that hospital bed. That’s how I know God loves me. So I’m grateful to be alive today. I still have things to learn and I’m still working on this addiction thing, but I know God’s with me. And that keeps me going.”

This man’s story gave me hope! It still does every time I recall it.

I’ve found this genuine openness and honesty in numerous ARP meetings since then and it’s powerful every time. For whatever reason, I find it more often in SA meetings. And I love it! I need it! It strengthens me and encourages me to be honest and vulnerable with myself, others, and God. In my experience, honesty breaks my cycles of acting out, and vulnerability keeps me from going back. So I try to be honest and vulnerable when I share in meetings. I get so much more out of them when I do. I’m learning to practice these principles in all relationships and areas of my life.

I want to be clear I’m not trying to encourage people to abandon ARP meetings in favor of SA ones. I plan to attend both meetings. I only want to share what’s helping me on my road to recovery. I hope someone reading this finds it helpful.

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None are Forbidden

Open-Gate

 

Frequently Satan tries to make me feel shame. Sometimes he dredges up old, painful memories related to sins for which the Lord has already forgiven me; other times he whispers lies about my self worth, that I am not cut out to be a good man, or that there’s no point in continuing onward given my history of repeated failure. Whatever the play, when I listen the effect is the same: I end up feeling like a lost cause.

What a crock!

I am not a lost cause because Jesus Christ has cleared the path for everyone! No one is too lost, too addicted, too depressed, or too beaten to fall beyond the reach of the Savior. He gently prompts me to not give up, to keep going especially when I see no point in trying; and He never misleads me. When I choose to listen to His voice, the effect is always the same: I feel uplifted.

These scriptures from the Book of Mormon have comforted me the past few weeks:

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.

He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.

Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

2 Nephi 26:23-28

Free Food

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I’ve been reading the first five chapters of Mosiah. These words of Christ are pure and simple. They uplift me. They fill my soul with peace. I just can’t get enough!

He freely offers and provides a feast that never ends.

“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. …

“I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

Journey before Destination

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“Life before death. Journey before destination,” Sil whispered. … “I like that.”

“Why?” Caladin asked.

“… Because,” she replied, as if that were explanation enough. “I know you want to give up, but you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you can’t.”

“I can’t do it again,” he thought, squeezing his eyes shut.

What was hope, except another opportunity for failure? How many times could a man fall before he no longer stood back up?

“I can’t save them, Sil,” Caladin whispered, anguished.

“Are you certain?”

“I’ve failed every time before.”

“And so you’ll fail this time, too?”

“Yes.”

She fell silent. “Well then,” she eventually said. “Let’s say that you’re right.”

“So why fight? I told myself that I would try one last time, but I failed before I began! There’s no saving them!”

“Doesn’t the fight itself mean anything?”

“Not if you’re destined to die.” He hung his head.

He realized what was happening to him—this melancholy, this sense of despair. He’d become the wretch, not caring; but also not despairing. It seemed better not to feel at all, rather than feel pain.

“I’m going to fail them,” Caladin thought, squeezing his eyes shut. “Why try?”

Wasn’t he a fool to keep grasping as he did?

The Wretch seemed to be standing before him. He meant release. Apathy.

Did he really want to go back to that? It was a false refuge. Being that man hadn’t protected him. It had only led him deeper and deeper until taking his own life had seemed the better way.

Life before death. Journey before destination.

Doesn’t the fight itself mean anything?

– Excerpts from Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

Guest post: I’m Flying

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I’m gonna make another sincere plug for arpsupport.org’s 90-day program. It’s simply an intense effort to work all 12 steps in 90 days with the encouragement and guidance of a sponsor—someone who’s worked the 12 steps and now enjoys the miracle of recovery and sobriety. My sponsor showed me how to work the steps of recovery. I wouldn’t be sober today had the Lord not led me to arpsupport.org.

I love to see the Lord rescuing us from our addictions as we submit our lives and will to Him.

One of my recovery brothers recently began working the 90-day program for himself. He’s about two weeks into the program. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“I can’t begin to fully explain how doing this 90-day program has already made a huge impact on me. In simple words, it has given me hope. Hope that I didn’t have before.

“A friend of mine told me that when he was caught up in his sexual addiction, the guilt, shame, and self-loathing was so overwhelming that he felt he had to pretend that he wanted to commit suicide so he could be committed into rehab. He wasn’t suicidal, but he felt his life was so out of control that really wanted to die. He stayed there for several weeks to try and get his life back under control. I can relate to my friend, because I have considered trying to get into rehab myself, just to get myself out of the environment where I continually fail to resist my addiction. With this 90-day program, I have the opportunity to have a rehab-like experience without actually having to go through the expense and disruption of being committed to a hospital.

“Rehab helps people detox from their addiction, and that is what this 90-day program is doing for me. It is helping me create the structure and environment where I can detox. And this is so much better than going to a rehab facility, because when a person comes home from rehab, their environment is the same as when the were in the addiction. This program is helping me change my environment so I can achieve permanent sobriety and recovery. It is helping me to replace bad habits with good, such as daily scripture study, prayer, and journaling.

“I recently watched a YouTube video that my sister-in-law posted about on Facebook. It was of a comedian on the Conan show, and though it was hilarious what he was saying, it really made me think. He was pointing out how just in his lifetime there have been some amazing technological advancements. He talked about rotary phones, and how today people complain when their apps don’t download fast enough on their iPhone. ‘Come on, it’s going to space to download it, and you can’t wait a few seconds?’ He talked about how people get on airplanes and complain that they have to wait on the runway for 40 minutes. ‘Have you stopped to consider that you’re sitting in a chair and will soon be flying through the sky, like a bird, flying through the heavens? Everyone who flies on an airplane should just be sitting there in total amazement that we can fly. It takes five hours to get from New York to LA, when before it took 30 years by oxcart, and you’d probably die along the way.’

“That video really helped me see that there are some miracles happening all around me every day, that I just take for granted. Not just technological miracles, but spiritual miracles as well. Rather than complain about how challenging this program is, I am holding on to my seat in amazement that I can actually fly. I am amazed at the miracle that is happening in my life right now.”

Which way is easier?

The following excerpt is from one of my favorite talks. Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy gave it. It’s titled, “The Way.” (Read the full talk here.)

There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. He is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness.

…We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?

…There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way.

…One of the most popular and attractive philosophies of men is to live life your own way, do your own thing, be yourself, don’t let others tell you what to do. But the Lord said, “I am the way.” He said, “Follow me.” He said, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”

Don’t think you can’t. We might think we can’t really follow Him because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now. Don’t ever believe that. While the standard of the Lord is the highest, don’t ever think it is only reachable by a select few who are most able.

In this singular instance life’s experience misleads us. In life we learn that the highest achievements in any human endeavor are always the most difficult and, therefore, achievable only by a select few who are most able. The higher the standard, the fewer can reach it.

But that is not the case here because, unlike every other experience in this life, this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God. It is God’s work and it is His “glory … to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” There is nothing else like it. Not anywhere. Not ever.

No institution, plan, program, or system ever conceived by men has access to the redeeming and transforming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, while the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind [everyone, living and dead] may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. “There is an opposition in all things,” everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?

He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; … and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Life is hard, but life is simple. Get on the path and never, ever give up. You never give up. You just keep on going. You don’t quit, and you will make it.

There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way is foolishness.