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).

Still shaking my head over this, too



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.”

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Running with a Friend hurts less

I’m working Step 4. I’m writing down my entire life… everything I can possibly remember and all that the Lord wants me to recall… all my pain, sins, mistakes, fears, achievements, strengths, weaknesses, and wounds. Everything, for the purpose of building “a framework through which [the Lord] could help [me] sort out [my] past honestly” (LDS Addiction Recovery Manual, p.31).

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Doing step 4 hurts. Fragile is the best word I can think of to describe how it makes me feel. It’s a painful experience.

A few weeks ago I went for an early morning run in the mountains. After a few miles I turned to head towards a canyon. At the mouth of the canyon I ran into (not literally) another runner. He was from out of town and asked if he could run with me so that he wouldn’t get lost. I’ve found that trail runners are often friendly people.

We started up the canyon together and soon noticed that most of the snow on the trail had been packed into ice. I also realized that I had forgotten to bring my trusty ice spikes. Don’t ask me why we didn’t turn around right then and there… mountain running makes me feel invincible (maybe I can blame the altitude? :-) ).  We settled into a steady pace running up the canyon while we talked about races, favorite trails, and our families. We slipped and nearly fell frequently but we kept going. I was enjoying the run.

After a couple of miles we came to a fork in the trail. I told him where I was headed and he said he wanted to explore the other direction, so we shook hands and parted ways. I took a drink of water and then started running up the trail again.

Suddenly my legs were very angry with me, haha. They hurt! The terrain hadn’t changed at all. Why the sudden pain? I did a mental body scan to check my running form. No problems there that I could identify but experience told me it was time to end the run. I turned around to head back down the canyon. I immediately slipped with my first step and fell onto my back and elbows. Another mental body scan… I wasn’t seriously injured. My water bottles had broken my fall and burst open in the process. Better than a broken bone! I took my new friend’s earlier advice and ran down the dry river bed instead of the trail. Much safer.

I only considered it a running experience, one in which I had earned a few cuts and bruises (badges of honor, as my mission president calls them). About a week later I learned a wonderful principle about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I was having a rough day. Life happens. I prayed for strength. I prayed for the Lord to carry those burdens that I couldn’t and to help me carry the rest. He then reminded me of my run up the canyon with my new friend. I had felt pain all the way up that canyon. I even felt fear upon discovering the treacherous terrain. But the pain and fear were pushed into the background of my mind by the companionship of my friend. His company allowed me to focus on something other than the pain. Running up that canyon still hurt, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Because of his company, I was able to endure—and in some ways enjoy—a painful experience.

Upon reminding me and teaching me in that moment, the Lord relieved me of the burdens of the day and week. I felt peace and love from Him. I was able to continue my day and focus on my work. The pain was still there, but it was no longer the only thing on my mind. It had been pushed into the background because the Savior was now my companion.

I felt His companionship and grace again today.  I just read the following from the LDS Addiction Recovery Manual:

“Even as you feel the pains of your own rebirth, remember that His suffering, not yours, ensures your redemption from sin. Your sacrifice is only a humble reminder of His ‘great and last sacrifice’ on your behalf (Alma 34:14)… Your fear of change will diminish as you realize the Lord understands the pain and hard work it requires” (p.41, 35).

I’m learning that my life can be a similar experience to that of my run in the canyon. I’ll have more rough days like today, but I won’t have to face them alone. The Lord is my friend and is walking the path of recovery with me.

Sincere Failure

Fair warning… it’s about to get really open and vulnerable in here. :)

My Heavenly Father continues to bless me abundantly through the 90-day program I’m currently doing (check out arpsupport.org). This program includes my sharing my journal entries with my sponsor every night. It helps me practice accountability, honesty, and vulnerability, in addition to helping me establish healthy habits of daily self-assessment and “checking in” with Heavenly Father.

I wrote the following in my journal on 6 Mar 2014:

“Isla got up at who knows when this morning and woke me up at 6:20, which is progress for her. We’ve been training her to sleep till the sun ‘wakes up,’ but the poor kid has a hard time discerning when that happens because of nearby construction lights. We give her some chocolate milk with breakfast when she gets up with the sun. This morning we went downstairs and she said disappointingly, ‘I guess I can have some milk?’ I told her, ‘Yes, of course! Don’t you want chocolate milk? You waited till the sun woke up.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, no. Look,’ and she walked over to the window, opened the blinds, pointed at the construction lights, and said, ‘It’s not light outside yet, Daddy.’ I stifled my laughter and told her she did a good job waiting longer today and she thought it was light outside, so she could have some chocolate milk for doing her best. She smiled and excitedly accepted, haha.”

In response, my sponsor posed this question to me:  “I think there is a lesson in your little girl’s early wake-up experience. How is her reaction to you as her father—her questions, her concern that she wouldn’t get the blessing of chocolate milk—similar to your experience with Heavenly Father? Put yourself in your daughter’s shoes.”

Once he pointed out the potential similarity, I began to see it intellectually; but I did not feel it. I could not understand how God could feel toward me what I felt toward Isla that morning. Yes, Isla is my daughter and I am one of God’s children. Yes, He has shown me mercy when I did not deserve it (isn’t that why it’s called mercy?), but I thought this experience with Isla was different. She was doing the best she could. I couldn’t fault her or be disappointed in her for that.  But me? I’m an addict. I’ve relapsed countless times after sincerely repenting. Surely there’s no similarity between the two beyond the father-child relationship.

I needed almost a week of frequent and deliberate pondering to see the similarities between the two relationships—mine and Isla’s, and mine and God’s. I received my answer from my Heavenly Father while doing my step work on the morning of 13 Mar 2014:

“Q: How does the Savior’s infinite Atonement increase your hope for repentance and healing as you go through the recovery process?
A: Its in-finiteness has become appealing to me because I can trust that it doesn’t run out. I can trust that I don’t have a limited number of chances for repentance, and I’m certain I’m going to need many, many more chances for repentance and learning. I’m not perfect yet, so I’m going to need more chances for healing from my sins and mistakes. The people I love will also need healing from my choices. I feel hopeful knowing that there’s no limit to that miracle.

Q: How does this apply to other aspects of your life?  How is this comforting and reassuring to you?
A: I think it means that failure is okay. I can stumble and fall while I’m learning. I think that’s a part of learning. It must be, otherwise I don’t think Father in Heaven would’ve sent me to a fallen world. I need to live in a fallen world in order to learn that God will always be there for me when I fall and not just when I make the right choices. This is comforting. I’ve feared failure for as long as I can remember. I fear it because I don’t want to disappoint others. I [now] believe that my failures don’t disappoint God; instead, He empathizes with me when I fail. Perhaps He loves me even more when I fail, like the love I feel for my daughter when she’s doing the best she can. In those moments I feel proudest of her.

I think this relates to what happened and how I felt the other morning when Isla honestly thought she had waited to wake me till the sun came up. She was sad because she felt she had disappointed me, when in reality I was feeling a surge of love and understanding for her. I felt proud of her sincere efforts to do what she, her mother, and I had been working on together. Her sincerity and actions merited my praise, not my disappointment. Perhaps my Heavenly Father feels this way about me when I sincerely approach Him and fall short of perfection.”

I believe this principle to be true. I felt it when I learned it in that moment of prayerful study, and I’ve felt it multiple times since then.

I just can’t get over how much He loves me—how much He loves all His children. There’s no end to that. There’s no limit to His mercy. Isn’t that amazing? His love doesn’t run out after one-too-many (or five-hundred-too-many) relapses or angry outbursts or failed attempts at recovery. No, now I believe that He loves me best when I falter. He mourns with me when I struggle. And He forgives me time and time again when I approach Him with full purpose of heart, hiding nothing from Him, and being willing to do anything He asks of me. I’m learning that sincerity means a great deal to God, especially when we fail while sincerely approaching Him.

The prophet Zenos wrote the following, which captures well the thoughts and feelings of my heart:

“And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 33:11).