Thursday, October 30, 2008

Covenant Eyes

I just want to give a quick plug for a tool I have found very valuable in my recovery from pornography addiction. The tool is Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is web tracking system which records every site visited. It is not a filter (at least the version I use). It doesn't attempt to block access to web sites, it simply records each site visited. I have set my wife up as my "accountability partner" so she has access to a report on all of my web activity.

The reason I like this tool is not because having a tracking system is the only way I can control myself. If I need web tracking in order to not look at pornography, then I am not truly recovering. The reason I like it, is because it helps shape me thinking. Other addicts will understand when I say the urge to indulge often comes over time. It starts small, perhaps brought on by an image from a TV show or by boredom. If the urge is not dealt with immediately and in a constructive way, it builds until I cannot control myself.

Covenant Eyes helps with that process. Because I don't have a computer with which I can indulge, the thought never really takes hold in my mind. My mind knows I can't dive into pornography at that moment, so it doesn't open itself to the possibility.

Covenant Eyes is not THE solution to pornography addiction. Jesus Christ is the solution. But Covenant Eyes is a very useful tool in the process of reshaping myself as a disciple of Christ, completely free from addiction.

P.S. I would recommend Covenant Eyes for any home computer. Even in households where pornography has not been a problem in the past. It is always better to be safe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sticking to the Basics

I have a son who just finished his first year of tackle football.  He is in 5th grade and is a bigger kid, so he got to play on the defensive line.  He spent weeks learning the basics of staying down low in his stance, not standing straight up too quickly, rolling his hips into the blocker for strength, etc.  Heading into their scrimmages, he had these basics down pretty well because he had worked on them over and over.  

The first practice game came up against a 4th grade team.  My son was in their backfield all game, sacking the quarterback and making tackles for loss on running plays.  He came home that night full of himself.  "No one can block me" was his mantra as he strutted around the house.

A few days later his team had their second scrimmage.  This time it was against a team their own age, and it just happened he lined up against a Polynesian player with a lot of strength.  My son was full of confidence because of his past success.  On the first play, he went against all the basic skills he had been taught, stood straight up...and got knocked flat on his back by the offensive lineman across from him.  His over-confidence had caused him to forget the important basics he had taken so long to learn.

I am happy to report that my son learned from this experience and had a fun and successful year in football.  But I learned a lesson from watching him.  As I have worked to overcome my addiction, there are certain fundamentals that are necessary to my progress.  These include:

-Daily capturing in the scriptures
-Sincere prayer asking for my desires to be changed
-Asking the Lord what his will is for me and the strength to carry it out
-Communicating daily with my wife about my progress and challenges
-Working the 12 steps of the addiction recovery program
-Paying attention to everything I listen to or watch to ensure it is uplifting

These basic steps are easy for me just after I have a relapse or am in a humble position where I am desperate to change my life.  As time wears on, I start to become confident.  I start to feel "I am doing this, I can overcome this addiction.  I am doing fantastic, I don't need to pay so much attention to these small daily tasks".  Inevitably, as soon as I start to feel that way, the key things start to slip.  And that is when I can start to go down hill.  

Clinging to the basics, making them a priority every day of my life, is the ONLY way I can make the lasting change of addiction recovery.  These steps draw me closer to Christ and build my faith in him.  Without the Savior, I cannot succeed.

Maybe this is a lesson only I struggle with.  But if you are working on a gospel change,  be cautious of the overconfident attitude which can lead away from the very basics that enable lasting change through a relationship with Christ.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Sweet Message of Hope

When I learned about the church's Addiction Recovery Program, I dove in with both feet.  I was desperate for anything that could help me overcome an addiction I had been fighting for 20+ years.  Step 1 came easy to me.  After trying and failing to overcome my addiction by myself so many times, it was easy to admit that I was powerless against it.  Then I got to step 2.  

"Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health."

My initial reaction was, "Yes, I believe God can restore people to complete spiritual health."  Then I thought about what I was saying more deeply.  I believed God could save others.  I had seen it on my mission.  I had witnessed it with good people in my life.  Our Savior had literally changed them.  So yeah, I was sure God could restore others to spiritual health.

But then it hit me, did I believe God could restore ME to righteousness.  Not my neighbor, not the other people in my ARP group, not the guy in the blog,  but ME personally.  Could God look at my 20 years of sins and actually change my soul?  That may have been the most soul searching step for me.  It took much fasting and prayer, and many trials.  But once I gained a firm witness that God could and would actually save ME, my life and approach to addiction recovery changed.

While addiction may be one of the most hopeless situations to find yourself in.  I wonder if other changes we try to make don't suffer from the same problem.  

It's easy to believe that others are blessed when they pay tithing, but harder to believe that those blessings will happen to us when our finances are already tight.

It's easy to believe that others have been blessed when they prayer for someone to boldly share the gospel with, but harder to put ourselves out there and believe God will bless our undertaking.

It's easy to believe others have gained a firm witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, but maybe harder to believe we can receive that some witness.

My testimony is, no matter how big or small a persons spiritual wounds or needed changes are, God can and will restore YOU to complete spiritual health.  

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Morning #1: My alarm goes off at 5:15 AM. I roll over, glare at the clock, put the pillow over my ears, and rationalize every reason why I really don't have to get up so early this morning. Sometimes I win the battle, sometimes I lose. Why is it so difficult to get out of bed?

Morning #2: My alarm goes off at 4:30 AM. I hop out of bed without a single thought, eager and ready to go. No struggle, no mumbling about that dirty alarm clock, no complaining. Why? I am going fishing on the Green River this morning. Nothing is going to stop me from my appointment with the great outdoors.

What is the difference in these two scenarios? My DESIRE. When I am doing something I truly want to do, the steps necessary to get there are almost effortless. Even if those steps may have been difficult under other circumstances.

When making difficult changes in our lives, our desire may be the single most important factor in our ability to maintain the change. What we truly desire becomes easier to do. In fact, if our desire is strong the change almost naturally follows.

I started to make real progress on my addiction recovery when my desire to change became greater than my desire for the addiction. When I wanted the change so bad I was willing to do anything to get it, that is when it became easier to do the difficult tasks addiction recovery requires.

"God granteth unto men according to their desire" (Alma 29:4).

In the end, it was what we truly desire, deep down in our hearts, that we become. Therefore, it important that we pay honest attention to what our true desires are.

Neal A. Maxwell said "Remember, brothers and sisters, it is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations" (Ensign, Nov 1996). If I am tempted in ways that are hard for me to resist, maybe the first place I should look are the desires of my heart.

Do I want to change, or do I actually still want to be a part of the world?

Is my desire to read the scriptures every day, or would I rather spend time watching TV?

Is my desire to pay a full tithing, or would I rather use the money on myself?

Is my desire to fully repent of my sins by confessing them honestly, or is it more important for me to save face?

If I desire the things of the Savior, my actions will follow.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lessons of a 50 mile hike

When I was 12 or 13 my scout troop joined in an event called a 50/20.   The goal of a 50/20 was to walk 50 miles in 20 hours or less.  Several hundred scouts started walking from the "This is the Place Monument" in Salt Lake about 6:00 PM.  Those who made it finished on Center Street in Provo sometime the next afternoon.  

Throughout the night we had cars meet our group with food and drink.  Sometime around 3:00 AM, scouts started to drop out during these short breaks.  By 6:00 AM, as the sun was almost ready to peek out and brighten the day, my dad and I were the last people from our group still walking.  A truck pulled up for our next pit stop, and  I gratefully grabbed a cup of hot chocolate.  I walked around to the back of the truck,  peering in I saw several of my friends wrapped up in a heap of  blankets.  They were warm, and they were asleep.  I had never wanted anything so bad as to climb in that truck, curl up, and get my own rest.  As I stared longingly at my snoring friends, my dad walked up to me, put his arm on my shoulder and said "Are you thinking about quitting?"

"Yes I am", was my quiet reply.

He looked thoughtful for a few minutes.  Then gently grabbed my hand.  "You've come way to far to quit now.  Let's go."  I followed him away from the truck and back on to the dark road.  We finished that walk the next day in just over 19 hours.  To this day I am proud of that accomplishment.  

Years later as I struggled with the difficult changes I needed to make in my life.  I have had many moments where I have looked at the task ahead and wanted to give up.  Each time I have felt the Lords guidance telling me "You've come to far to quit now".  He has been there for me every time I have been ready to give up.

Personal change can be difficult.  But by putting one foot in front of the other, and never giving up, it happens.  The Lord will guide us by the hand as long as we are willing to continue the journey.  If we climb in the truck and give up, there is nothing he can do for us.  The journey may be painful and will almost certainly be hard, but by continually pressing on in the faith of the Lord, we will reach our goal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Struggles of Addiction

I haven't shared a lot specifically about my addiction and my recovery.  I want this to be a place to share the ideas of personal change for all people looking to improve their life and live close to our Savior.  However,  I do think addiction recovery rates as one of the most difficult changes a person can make.  Occasionally I would like to share some personal feelings about my recovery from addiction.  My hope is that anyone dealing with trials, big or small, or attempting to turn their life to Christ can learn something from my difficult and painful journey.

I am full of gratitude tonight.  You see, tonight is a night in which the old me would have struggled mightily to avoid the draw of pornography.  I happen to be a big BYU fan, and in the past I have felt extreme frustration when BYU loses.  To the point of feeling sorry for myself and feelings of anger.  Frustration and self-pity are key triggers for me.  I have realized over the past 22 years of addiction that when I am frustrated it is easy for me to turn to pornography to numb the pain.

Tonight BYU lost a football game.  To make the situation even more dangerous, I am home alone.  The combination of those things in the past would have been deadly to my spirit.  But tonight I feel none of those familiar feelings.  I feel no desire to turn to temptation.  I feel no frustration or anger.  I don't feel sorry for myself.

If I look honestly at the reasons those feelings are gone, I can't help but settle on the fact that it is a miracle of the Lord.  One of his true tender mercies.  The incredibly painful experiences of the past have each prepared me to understand the thoughts and ideas which lead me down the wrong path so many times.  The Lord has blessed me to see those danger signs, and turn to him.

None of this is to say I am perfect or I have won.  I have constant work to do every day (just like the Olympic Athlete) to ensure that I stay close to the Lord and listen to Him.  I just am feeling very grateful tonight for a loving Savior who has taken me in his arms and blessed me.  Not to mention an incredible wife who has stood by me and supported me.  

I love my Savior.  He has never left my side and has had faith in me through uncountable sins and relapses.  Tonight I feel his love.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lessons learned from Olympic Athletes

What distinguishes Olympic athletes from Olympic spectators? Well, talent for one. But there are a lot of talented people and many athletes with amazing abilities. Some of those incredible athletes compete in the Olympics, while others, with perhaps as much natural talent, watch from home. What distinguishes one from the other?

It is the activities they choose every single day of their life. The elite athlete chooses hard work every day. A swimmer chooses to wake up at 5:00 AM to dive in the pool rather than sleep in. A hurdler chooses to get on the track rather than sitting in front of the TV. A gymnast often chooses to leave their family and work 8 hours a day on their tumbling skills.

What is the lesson for us? I believe their is something simple which determines those who have a close spiritual relationship with the Lord, and those who don't. What is it about people who can making lasting spiritual change in their lives and those who can't?

Like the Olympic champions, it is the activities they choose every day of their life. It is choosing to pay a full tithing in faith rather than hold something back, it is kneeling morning and night in a prayer of faith pleading for the Lords help, it is being immersed in the scriptures every day, it is faithfully fulfilling a calling.

The small choices I made throughout today will determine my closeness to the Savior and my ability to make lasting change as I recover from my addiction.

The Olympic Marathon is not won by the athlete who spends one week committing to out run every other athlete, and then rests on his laurels. It is won by the runner who gets up every single day and does what is necessary.

Lasting gospel change (including addiction recovery) is not made by the person who commits to one week of complete gospel dedication. It is made by the humble disciple who follows Christ in thousands of simple ways every day of his life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Personal Change through Jesus Christ

In many ways, our entire purpose in this life can be summed up in one word..."change". We are to be changed to become like our Savior. We are commanded to "be ye therefore perfect" (Matt. 5:48). We become perfect through a series of changes in our lives which lead us to this ultimate goal. Dallin H. Oaks said "the Final Judgement is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts - what we have done. It as an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts - what we have become." (Ensign, Nov. 2000)

All of us have modifications we wish to make in our lives. Whether we desire to be more consistent in scripture study, improve kindness in our marriage, do a better job of home teaching, give more service, become a full tithe payer, remove a certain sin from our life, forgive another for a serious offense against us, or a thousand other important personal changes. What we become is a sum total of the key changes we make in our life.

Perhaps one of the most difficult changes a person can make is recovery from addiction. Addictions powerful grip makes change extremely hard. For this reason, I believe addiction recovery is a powerful metaphor for any gospel change we are attempting to make. The principles that lead out of addiction can be applied to any change with powerful results.

These principles, as taught in the Addiction Recovery Program, can be summed up in four thoughts.

1) Realize the need to change.
2) Admit that the change cannot be made without help.
3) Realize the Lord's help is the key to making the change.
4) Allow the Lord to change our nature by turning our will and life over to him.

I believe with all of my heart that applying these principles to any change will yield amazing results.

I hope that in sharing my story of recovery from addiction and the personal change it has required, others can see ways that may help with their own lasting personal change.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Protection of The Holy Ghost

When I was 12 years old, I loved to hike with my dad. On one of these numerous hikes, we were on a steep rock slide just below a 200 foot cliff. As we walked along, we heard rocks slipping at the top of the cliff. Immediately we both looked up to see rocks careening towards us. My dads first reaction was to push me towards the cliff and cover me up. In the process a rock glanced his head and another hit his back. Because of his protection I came away unscathed.

I have thought about that experience often. It reminds me of the role of the Holy Ghost. Among the many things the Holy Ghost will bring into my life, the protection of the Spirit is the blessing I pray for the most. I have been protected physically by the Holy Ghost, on one notable occasion I feel I was protected from a serious car accident by the promptings of the spirit. But more importantly, the Holy Ghost will protect me and you from spiritual danger.

I picture the Holy Ghost as my dad, protecting my spirit as rocks fall all around me. I have felt this protection as well. At times I have pushed it away. Either figuring I could make it out of temptation on my own (I can't) or not using the offered protection because I wanted to wallow in self-pity.

Speaking to children, Pres. Ezra Taft Benson said something that is applicable to all of us. "Pray to Heavenly Father to bless you with His Spirit at all times. We often call the Spirit the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is also a gift from Heavenly Father. The Holy Ghost helps you to choose the right. The Holy Ghost will protect you from evil. He whispers to you in a still, small voice to do right. When you do good, you feel good, and that is the Holy Ghost speaking to you. The Holy Ghost is a wonderful companion. He is always there to help you."

I try to set accomplish two goals every day. First, to turn my life and will over to God, and second to actively work to keep the spirit in my life. The Lord has blessed me with a great shield known as the Holy Ghost, and I am grateful for it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The parable of the wheelbarrow

One day a man took a tightrope and stretched it across Niagara Falls. A crowd quickly gathered as the man walked out on the rope. He confidently took a few slow steps and then picked up the pace until he was in the middle of the rope. The crowd clapped at his daring and skill.

He stood in the middle, and suddenly executed a perfect cartwheel on the rope. This solicited more applause as the crowd watching grew larger. His next trick was a front flip, landing perfectly on the rope and never once losing balance. This truly impressed the crowd and they broke into full blown applause.

The man walked back to the edge of the canyon and grabbed a wheel barrow. He proceeded to push this wheel barrow out to the middle of the long rope. He stood there for a minute, and then did a hand stand with one hand, the other grasping the wheel barrow. The impressed crowd wondered what the next trick would be as the walker pushed the wheelbarrow back to the edge. He approached the crowd and singled out a man who was standing in front. This observer was enthusiastic in his cheering and whistling for the amazing stunts.

The performer looked at the man and asked "Do you believe I can push this wheelbarrow across the rope all the way to the other side of the falls?"

"Yes Sir, I do" came the reply.

The performer looked more solemn, and asked again "Do you truly believe I am capable of pushing this wheel barrow to the other side of this great, deep canyon?"

The man looked surprised by the question, but calmly stated "You are the most amazing tight rope walker I have ever seen. There is no doubt in my mind you can push the wheel barrow across the rope."

The tightrope walker bent down, picked up the handles, hefted the wheelbarrow and said "Good...climb in."

So it is with us. It is easy for me to believe God can change me. It is easy for me to believe if I follow the teachings of the prophet I will be blessed. It is easy for me to believe studying the scriptures every day will bless my life. It is often more difficult to live the principle or make the difficult change I know is required.

Faith without works is dead. Faith which includes a firm resolve to climb in whatever wheelbarrow is required of us, is alive and powerful.

Friday, October 3, 2008

But undaunted still he trusted...

As Joseph Smith knelt to pray in the sacred grove, his heart was full of hope. He prayed in faith fully prepared to act on the answers he knew would come. Before he received the glorious vision, something interesting happened. He was "seized upon by some power which totally overcame me". In fact, the darkness was so thick, it seemed to him "as if I were doomed to sudden destruction." For most people, let alone a 14 year old boy, this would have been too much to bear.

I can relate to these feelings of Joseph Smith. There are times I have felt complete darkness gather around me. Perhaps not literal darkness like Joseph may have experienced, but spiritual darkness. I have felt the power of Satan as he has led me down the path of my addiction. I have felt near destruction, as if there was no hope for my soul.

What has been my reaction? Often I have felt sorry for myself. Wondering why this is happening to me. I have wanted to give up. There has even been anger that the Lord has abandoned me in my time of great need. The thought has been in my head "Lord, I have asked and asked for relief from this addiction, why am I still in darkness?"

Compare my thoughts to those of the Prophet Joseph Smith. "Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me...". Joseph didn't feel sorry for himself. He didn't wallow in self pity or think "I can't ever do this, why am I trying." He turned to the Lord even more fully than before. He let his only thought be upon the Lord, knowing that whatever power had him in his grasp, God could save him. He cried to God until the very moment he felt he would be destroyed. At that moment of total despair, inches from losing everything, the light came and the word was changed forever.

What a lesson for me. Will I choose to give up when change doesn't come easily? Will I choose to feel sorry for myself when the buffetings of Satan come? Will I choose to turn away from the Lord just when I need him the most? Or will I face my trials and temptations by crying out to the Lord with every piece of my soul? I will commit to turn to him during every darkness and every trial until my own "pillar of light" appears. It is in darkness and struggle that I need him the most. Someday, perhaps it can be said of me as of Joseph..."But undaunted still he trusted, in his Heavenly Fathers care."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


It was one of the darkest days of my pornography addiction. I had relapsed yet again. My wife had been supportive through multiple mistakes, but this time was just too much. She was struggling with all of the natural feelings that come from being married to a man who falls to this devastating addiction. I had to pick our dog up from the vet and I was moping around, feeling sorry for myself. There happened to be a Deseret Book next door, and something led me to walk in and browse. I was guided to a book called Clean Hands, Pure Heart, by Philip A. Harrison. Even in my dark mood, I recognized a glimmer of the spirit gently nudging me to buy the book and apply it.

As it turns out, the book is a terrific look at recovery from pornography addiction. More important for me, however; was a short principle in the Appendix called "capturing". Capturing transformed the way I approach the scriptures and has led me to insights I never thought were possible.

In nutshell, for me capturing looks like this:

1) I study the scriptures intently, looking for passages or verses that catch my attention or touch my heart.
2) I then jot the verse down, word for word. For me it is easiest to type it in a document.
3) I then record every thought and impression I get as I contemplate the verse. The longer I take to let the verse sink in and allow the spirit to talk to me, the more insight I seem to get.

That's it. Pretty simple. It is hard to quantify how much this simple process has improved my scripture study. Instead of trying to plow through the Book of Mormon so I can claim I am "done", I find myself thinking about each verse, searching for the meaning that applies to me.

One example of how this has looked for me may help. So here is a verse I "captured" recently.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:28

And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong
They key to strength is humility. Strength is not about building up powerful muscles so I am strong enough to resist temptation. It is about learning to rely on the Lord. Humility means accepting the fact that I cannot do it, but the Lord can. So if He can do it, why don't I let him. I am strong when I choose to follow what the Lord wants me to do. I am weak when I try to decide how the Lord should answer prayers or figure I don't need to listen to the things he asks me to do. Humility = strength. That is an incredibly powerful concept.

and blessed from on high,
With humility comes blessings from heaven. The concepts follow each other. If I become humble and rely on the Lord, I start to follow all of the things he asks me to do. As I do that, I gain his trust. He knows if he commands I will obey, which means he can provide me with more instruction and with that instructions comes great blessings.

and receive knowledge from time to time.
As I obey and humble myself before the Lord, I then am worthy and able to receive knowledge from him. The "pure knowledge" that Joseph Smith talked about. Boyd K. Packer mentioned that learning Doctrine will improve behavior more than learning about behavior will. Pure doctrine from the Lord will increase my humility and my reliance on the Lord, and also my strength in the Lord.

I still have a lot of progress to make in studying the scriptures. There is so much power there. I hope I can continue to grow. But capturing has been a powerful tool for me to understand and learn from the scriptures. Perhaps most importantly, the Lord has been able to speak to me as I focus on learning his word.