Journey before Destination

living

“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”

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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).

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.

I’m hungry

In a previous post, I likened my addictions to hot water. Interestingly enough, the longer I stand in a hot shower, the more my body becomes accustomed to the heat, and the less hot water I have available for use.

Eventually the hot water will run out. Addiction is like this for me.

Another metaphor:

I’m invited to a great feast. The host has laid out everything I could possibly want to eat. I eat till I’m stuffed.

A few hours later, I’m hungry again. I return to the table and eat till I’m full. I feel better. I notice that I ate more this time.

Thirty minutes later I repeat my previous actions, only this time I have to eat even more before I feel satisfied. The food still tastes great, so I’m glad to eat more!

After some time I realize that I can’t get full anymore. I’m always hungry… always eating and never satisfied. But the food still tastes good.

What happened? It’s the same food, same menu, same table.

I look around and see others eating quite happily. They’re having a good time. Some of them look full and satisfied. Why can’t I still enjoy the food and have a good time?

I grab a pile of food and sit in a corner to eat and think. Next to me are seated other eaters with their own piles of food. They’re all skinny even though they’ve clearly been eating copious amounts of food. I notice I’m skinny, too.

I look around the room, peering into the darker corners of the great hall. I see men and women of all ages. They each sit alone, isolated and emaciated. They look horrible. They look miserable, but they’re still eating.

I’m still hungry but I can’t get enough food.

I get up to inquire about the food. Something must be wrong with it.

The host must have noticed my concerned expression because suddenly he’s at my side.

“What can I do for you?” he asks.

“The food isn’t filling anymore. Something’s wrong with it,” I reported.

“Oh, is that so? You’re probably thirsty. What you need is something to drink.”

“Of course! I must be thirsty. I am thirsty!”

“Here, let me show you to our open bar. You may have water if you like, but the drinks are much more satisfying…”

Over the past twenty years I’ve learned the truth. I learned it the hard way, but now I know. Now I know where to find real food for my soul—not the counterfeit stuff that the world offers me.

Jesus Christ had this to say about the water offered by the world:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

I now enjoy more peace than ever before. My soul finds satisfaction and health from my Higher Power daily. He is the bread and water of life for my soul, and when I partake, I am filled with His Spirit.

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).

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Patiently running my race

I’m going to start my Step 4 inventory tomorrow (again). I’m feeling mixed levels of excitement and fear. I’m doing my best to trust the Lord in this. I believe He wants me to do it, so I’ve decided that I won’t let my fears stop me from moving forward. Easier said than done, obviously, but I feel good about it.

The 12-step recovery guidebook counsels me to be patient with myself as I work this step. Patient? I want to get this done as quickly as possible! I’m told I also need to be thorough in order for this inventory to be helpful. So, patience… yeah. Until a few weeks ago I still wanted an immediate recovery.

Heavenly Father reminded me recently of one of my high school cross country races. I can’t recall every turn and hill in the course, but I still remember vividly the emotions and adrenaline of that day.

I remember the cold air searing my lungs with every breath. I remember my coach kindly yelling reminders to relax my shoulders. I remember running through muddy stream crossings and charging up slippery grass hills. I remember feeling confident as I passed other runners on the course. I remember feeling discouraged when other runners passed me (I felt discouraged more often than I felt confident :-)  ). I also remember thinking to myself, “I should’ve worn an extra layer of clothing.”

Perhaps more clearly than any other memory of that run, I remember two things. Here’s the first one: as a relatively inexperienced runner, I quickly learned that I wasn’t running against everyone else on that course; I was running against myself. My brain was the one telling me to slow down, not the boy running next to me. My body was the one screaming for rest, not the spectators on the sidelines. Running can be a constant battle within myself between what I want now and what I’ll actually want later.

I’m sure you’re picking up on the metaphor.

By the end of the race, everyone’s body was approaching exhaustion. Well, mine was at least. At what turned out to be the final bend in the course, we exited a clump of trees and entered a red- and yellow-flagged straightaway to the finish line. Once the trees and foliage no longer obstructed our view, we saw that the straightaway went nearly straight up a grass-covered hill. Did I mention it was wet? The course was still soaked from the previous night’s rainfall. I didn’t much like the race organizers at that moment.

An interesting thing happened. Some runners continued with their same pace at a slightly quicker cadence (similar to how one might shift to a lower gear while riding a bicycle up a hill). Other runners took off at a full sprint up the hill. Some attempted to follow them. Others began plodding up the hill.

Guess who ended up literally collapsing from utter muscle exhaustion. Nearly without exception, they were runners who sprinted up the hill. Who do you think made it to the finish line without falling over or crawling on their hands and knees (I’m not kidding)? Some of them were the plodders, a select few were the sprinters, and most were those who knew to shift their running gear, so to speak, and pace themselves up the hill. Which one was I? Well, I’m not telling. It has nothing to do with the metaphor. Haha.

I remember people sliding and falling and crawling up that muddy hill. Most of those sprinters who were initially so full of energy and spirit were literally falling over. It was an incredible sight. I think most of us who were running behind them were surprised to feel discouragement instead of motivation to win upon watching them fall.

By the end of that race I thought I was going to pass out. I nearly did. I did manage to learn my second lesson though: I need to learn to run slowly when I want to run fast. Now, as I look back on that race, I describe that lesson using slightly different words: I need to learn to run patiently.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t win (not even close), but my team members congratulated me anyway. I think my peers were proud of me because they could see not only pain but satisfaction on my face. I was pleased that I didn’t give up. I knew I had given it everything I had, and that was a great feeling.

This scripture has always been one of my favorites. I like to think that the Apostle Paul enjoyed running, too.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (The Holy Bible, New Testament, Hebrews 12:1-2).

Honesty

understand-despair-Savior

 

After two years of attending addiction recovery meetings and nearly fifteen years of wrestling this beast called addiction, I can finally and gratefully admit defeat.

This is Step 1 of the addiction recovery program, originally inspired by the Alcoholics Anonymous’ (“AA”) 12 Steps:

Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

I did not want to admit that I am powerless to overcome my addictions and that I can’t control of my life. That concept goes against what I’ve believed all my life. In many ways it contradicts what my culture (including common but not official beliefs within Mormonism) espouses…

Self-reliance. Independence. A strong will can overcome anything. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish. God will never give you more than you can handle. Some accomplishments might take longer than others, but anyone can ultimately achieve the same things with enough time and hard work. You just have to want it badly enough.

I tell you what, breaking free of those beliefs is tough. I’ve struggled vainly to hold on to them. I completely bought into the idea that I can do this, I can overcome my addiction… “keep on trucking, Michael, because you can do this. Just work harder. You’ll figure this out.” I meant well by trying to believe these ideas. I thought I was supposed to.

I am so, so very grateful that God is teaching me to abandon these powerfully appealing false doctrines.

Here’s an excerpt from the LDS Addiction Recovery Manual:

“… the addiction was destroying our lives. When we honestly looked at the past, we admitted that nothing we had tried on our own had worked. We acknowledged how the addiction had only gotten worse. We realized how much our addictions had damaged relationships and robbed us of any sense of worth. At this point, we took the first step toward freedom and recovery by finding the courage to admit that we were not just dealing with a problem or a bad habit. We finally admitted the truth that our lives had become unmanageable and that we needed help to overcome our addictions. The amazing thing about this honest realization of defeat was that recovery finally began (page 1, emphasis added).

I just can’t get enough of those words! An honest realization of my defeat has liberated me from my pride and self will.

Until one month ago I would’ve challenged such notions… “Defeat? Who finds inspiration from admitting defeat? No, I’m strong! I can do this! I just haven’t figured it out yet, but I will!”  I toiled and cried and doubted and clawed my way through my addiction. I white-knuckled with a fierce commitment to sobriety. And I relapsed countless times. Interestingly, I thought I had already completed Step 1, but I hadn’t admitted defeat.

I pleaded and begged for God to help me. And He did help me. He blessed me with debilitating depression. He blessed me to feel and be utterly spent. He blessed me with exhaustion. He loves me so much that He let me break. He let me lose. He blessed me to see that I lost my war on addiction. I was defeated.

Never, not in my entire existence (I honestly feel that I can make this statement) have I ever felt so defeated and beaten as I did one month ago. I didn’t have any strength left. I had nothing left to give. I’ve ran up mountains (literally). I’ve served a full-time mission with every ounce of energy I had in me (I slept for a very long time after returning home). I’ve worked forty hours a week while attending college full-time with a wife and a baby. I’ve been poor enough to worry about how we were going to eat our next meal. I’ve contemplated suicide. But nothing beat me like addiction beat me. This was my very own “rock bottom,” as AA puts it.

In the very moment that I conceded defeat—in the very moment—God was there to lift me up. I didn’t feel a surge of hope or faith that everything would be alright. I only felt love from Him. I felt that despite my complete defeat, He was not condemning me. He was not forsaking me. In my moment of despair, He showed me that He will never stop loving me. That’s when I finally surrendered to my God. Yes, addiction won and I lost. But that didn’t have to be the end of it. No, I have the most powerful and loving Being in the universe on my side, and He’ll never abandon me. I now feel like I know this truth better than I know my own name.

So I’m no longer fighting this battle on my own because I’m no longer fighting according to my plans. I’m no longer struggling to win my way. My way lost. My way led to deeper addiction, more anger, and hardened pride. My will and not Thine be done was my way. “I’ll figure this out, and I’ll ask you for help when I really need it.” I’m leaving all that behind now, and I’ve never felt so free.

Now I work the steps of recovery every day and together with my Lord and Savior we are winning! We are moving forward. I still have rough days. I still have need to repent almost every minute, but I’m no longer losing against my addiction because I’m no longer trying to fight it on my own. I don’t have to win or lose anymore. I just need to learn to trust my Heavenly Father and in His power to deliver me.

And here’s the miracle: He knew that I would lose. He knew that I would desperately need divine help. He knew that I would literally need saving. That’s why He gave me a Savior! That’s why He offered His Only Begotten Son as a sacrifice for my sins and fallen nature. He didn’t let His Son die because He thought I was a failure but because He knew I would fail, and He couldn’t let me fail without any hope of recovery. That doesn’t contradict the fact that He thinks the world of me as one of His children—it supports it! It’s the epitome of loving support.

God let His Son, Jesus Christ, die for me because He loves me. And Jesus Christ died for me because He loves me, too. I am that important to God. I am worth the best blood this world has ever seen (I think I heard someone use that expression before, but I can’t find it).

Twenty-seven days ago I went to http://www.arpsupport.org out of desperation. I asked for a sponsor and I got one. I thank my Father in Heaven for leading me to do that. My sponsor helps me to be rigorously honest and not overlook the details. He’s helping me work the steps of recovery thoroughly. He shows me that he cares and doesn’t condemn. He understands what I’m going through and he’s helping me come to know that Jesus Christ understands what I’m going through.

As it turns out, the steps really do work when I work the steps. I need to work them constantly, every day. That simply means I need my Savior constantly, every day. My Higher Power is my only way out of this, and I’m learning to do it His way.

Tonight in a group addiction support meeting I heard the most profound and sincere declaration that I’ve ever heard, and I heard it from a fellow addict in recovery: “Today I know that God loves me.” He was overcome with emotion, as were we all. I’m so grateful God led me to that meeting tonight so that I could learn from my fellow addict brother. I add my testimony to his, that today I know that God loves me. I owe everything to Him. I love Him!

“I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things” (Book of Mormon, Alma 26:11-12).

It’s been a while

Hello. I haven’t written anything on here for quite some time. I’m feeling tempted to act out right now, so I thought I’d do something to keep my mind on recovery. I already feel better. I had forgotten how much writing on here helps me break my patterns of isolation.

About five months ago a bout of severe depression settled in my mind and heart. It really felt like something snapped in my brain and spirit. I’ve dealt with major depressive episodes before, but I’m still surprised by how completely it drains my body, mind, and soul. It takes away my hope and leaves me inert… I can’t focus, can’t think, can’t feel or even want anything. It’s truly debilitating.

I don’t want my blog to leave anyone, including myself, feeling burdened instead of uplifted. I just felt I needed to share what I’ve been experiencing—not in the attitude of complaining, but in an effort to find healing.  If I’ve learned anything from attending group recovery meetings, it’s that recovery involves sharing and vulnerability. Somehow it’s liberating when done as an expression of faith and with a desperate desire to move forward. So, thank you for listening. Sharing doesn’t work so well without a listener.

I just went to arpsupport.org and requested a sponsor. Of course, I have no way of knowing with absolute certainty that working with a stranger who’s found recovery from addiction will help me obtain the same, but I believe it will. I feel weary and I think it couldn’t hurt to have an additional voice of hope and encouragement in my life. I’ll be sure to share how it goes for me.

I do feel a kindling of faith and hope within me. It feels good. I haven’t felt them in a long time. I’m grateful to have them again, as I definitely didn’t will them into my being. The Lord has been good to me and my family. I’m now taking a dosage of anti-depressant medication that seems to be finally taking effect. I feel more able and less worn out. Modern medicine is a miracle.

A few weeks after the depression had taken root, I heard a talk that helped me feel less alone. I’ll share it here. It’s called ‘Like a Broken Vessel,’ and it was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I’m grateful I heard his words when I did. May they bring some light into your life as they did mine.

The Roots of Addiction

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 [2001], 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).

statue of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ – statue