Wednesday, August 5, 2009
He opened his eyes. As looked at me, a huge smile crept over his face and he exclaimed,
"Man I LOVE football!"
He could barely contain his excitement as he talked to me about tackling and blocking and how good it felt to have the coaches yelling at him again.
It was one of those times I learned a powerful lesson from my kids.
Sometimes I feel beat up. Sometimes I feel like all the difficult things I need to do in life are just too much. Sometimes I feel like struggling to stay spiritual, while dealing with the wounds I've caused through my addictive behavior is overwhelming.
But you know what? "I LOVE life" I love the chance I have to get to know my Savior through the repentance process. I love the healing that has taken place in my marriage as we both strive to turn to the Lord. I love early morning time with the scriptures which gives me power and strength. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and his atonement for me.
Attitude. It really does make the difference. Today I resolve to be more like my kids. See the positive. Enjoy the experience. Be proud of a bump or a bruise or a bloody arm because it represents total effort as I strive to turn to the Lord.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
"We are in this life for the spirit to gain control over the body rather then the other way around." - James E. Faust (Ensign. Nov. 2007)
If our purpose in life is to gain control over our bodies, wouldn't that mean many of the commandments would lead specifically to that purpose. I can think of several....from the law of chastity to fasting to the Word of Wisdom. These commandments teach us the control that is absolutely essential to our mission in life.
So if our purpose is to gain control of our bodies, wouldn't Satan choose that aspect to attack? I can think of one weapon that is absolutely effective in taking away that control.
In addiction free agency is gone. Control is gone. We are at the mercy of the addiction. We don't get to make the decisions that we know will make us happy, because the addiction is constantly ruling our lives.
I wonder though, if the actions needed to overcome addiction, are the very actions which help us understand that we can control our bodies and let our spiritual side take over in our lives. Maybe those very actions, from honesty to turning our lives over to the Lord, will help anybody who wants to truly gain control over their body and thus fill their purpose in life.
Monday, July 13, 2009
For me personally, however, I can get caught in a trap. My goal with regards to my addiction is to recover. Stated more scripturally, to "experience the mighty change in my heart" and to "have no more disposition to do evil". Certainly these changes bring with them the wonderful side affect of sobriety. But sobriety is not my goal.
This may be a subtle difference, but it is important. I can be sober for months on end, without becoming converted completely to my Savior and becoming born again through Him. It can be easy for me to think because I am being sober I am being successful. Certainly sobriety is essential, but it's not enough. If I let my success in avoiding pornography make me complacent and keep me from doing the small, daily things which convert my soul, then truly sobriety is standing in the way of my recovery.
Humility is perhaps the key ingredient to recovery. When I am humble I am moldable, teachable, willing to listen to anything the Lord would have me do. Being the prideful man I am, as my sobriety builds I can start to think "I've got it. I can beat this...I....I....I" Nothing is more deadly for me than the "I" thoughts.
Recovery, for me, requires turning my life and will over to the Lord every single day. I have to be very aware that I take this step, no matter where my sobriety number lies. Because the day I forget to turn myself over to Him, is the day I start my slow descent. My goal, now and always, is to be converted to my Savior Jesus Christ.
Oh...and my sobriety is now at 150 days.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
From Russel M. Nelson, Nov. 1988
Exercising the body and the spirit will aid in the climb toward recovery.
Appropriate physical activity helps to combat depression, which so often accompanies addiction.
But spiritual exercise is even more crucial. This battle will be more easily won with fervent prayer. If we truly “counsel with the Lord in all [our] doings, … he will direct [us] for good.” (Alma 37:37.)
Strength comes from uplifting music, good books, and feasting from the scriptures. Since the Book of Mormon was to come forth “when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth” (Morm. 8:31), study of that book in particular will fortify us. President Benson has issued that challenge. Exercise the body and the spirit and choose to exercise faith in God.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
However, today I want to speak simply and from the heart.
Pornography and sexual addictions are devastating.
...They diminish free agency
...They make the addict feel worthless
...They turn the addict into a habitual liar who cannot be trusted
...They destroy happiness, trust, and support in a marriage
...They spend money with no regard for common sense
...They put the addict at risk of breaking laws they normally would never consider
...They densensitize the mind to the point where disgusting things become acceptable to the addict
...They destroy the ability to have the protection and peace of the Holy Ghost
...They can take away the privilige of sacred God-given opportunities such as exercising the priesthood, taking the sacrament and attending the temple
...They restrict the addicts opportunity to guide and teach his children
...They lead to divorce and a loss of those things that are the most precious in the addicts life
...They often lead to loss of employment
...and perhaps most damaging and difficult to deal with for me personally. They destroy the tender feelings of the incredible daughters of God in our lives. It can make them question their testimony, their emotions, and their trust.
I just want to make it clear. Addiction destroys lives, breaks up families, and reaks havoc wherever it rears it's head. If the fish hook of addiction is stuck in you, get it out. If you aren't in it, avoid anything that could draw you in.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Not long ago I was fly fishing with my son and a close friend. My fly was floating along the river until it suddenly got caught on something. My natural reaction was to jerk the fly loose. The line had a bit of weight on it, so this little jerk caused the fly to burst out of the water and come jetting straight for my face. My reactions must not be what they used to be, because I soon realized I had a large fly embedded in my bottom lip. A gentle tug on the hook confirmed my fear. The barb was deep into the flesh; this was not going to be a pleasant experience.
My friend and I spent the next several minutes trying to gently extract the fly. We tried pulling, backing it out, tugging with tweezers...no luck...and painful. As my son watched this exercise, he piped in with this helpful thought. "Well Dad, at least now you know how the fish feel."
After several failed attempts, we realized the best approach was to push the hook all the way through my lip, cut off the barb, and then pull it out. With some pushing, a bit of pain, and maybe even a few tears, the hook popped through my lip. We were able to remove the barb and pull the hook out.
I have to be honest, having a fish hook stuck in my lip was not the most pleasant experience of my life.
Do you know how to say "addicted" in sign language? You make a fish hook sympol into your lip and turn your head as if hooked.
I cannot think of a more apt description of addiction than being hooked and not being able to get yourself free. As I think about my experience with the hook in my lip, and the effort it took to get free, three thoughts come to mind.
1) Do everything you possibly can to avoid getting hooked in the first place. Once the hook is in, there is no simple or unpainful way to get it out.
2) If you do have the hook of addiction in your lip, you cannot simply back it up and think it will pop out easily. The best way to deal with it, is face it directly, work through the repentance process, and clip off the addiction.
3) A friend's help in handling addiction is an amazing blessing.
As painful as the hook in my lip was, it was nothing compared to the pain and agony of addiction in my life. Whatever you do, don't get stuck with that hook. And if it's in there, get it out though the love and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Howbeit this kind goeth not out by prayer and fasting-Matt 17:21
This teaching seems to indicate there are some problems, some challenges, some demons so great that an extra measure of faith and power is needed. In Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage teaches this principle:
Have you some besetting weakness, some sinful indulgence that you have
vainly tried to overcome? Like the malignant demon that Christ rebuked in
the boy, your sin may be of a kind that goeth out only through prayer and
I have written about the power I feel fasting has had in changing my life. The key component of recovery and true gospel change is faith in the atonement and healing power of Jesus Christ. Maybe the secret of prayer and fasting is the building of faith that comes through it's power.
I do know that with an addiction as damaging and controlling as mine...and perhaps with whatever struggle you are dealing with...these words may provide the added measure of strength needed. "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting".
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
"You can't pray your way out of your addiction. You can't fast your way out of addiction. You can't study the scriptures so much that your addiction goes away."
This seemed to go against everything I had learned and believed. Prayer. Scripture Study. Fasting. Those are the things we do when we are in trouble. I had learned from day 1 of Sunbeams (3 years old) about prayer and how it will bring me out of difficult times. How can he possibly say such a thing? I was mentally checked back in, but only because of my disagreement with what I was hearing.
He continued. "The way out of your addiction is step #3. 'Decide to turn your will and your life over over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ'"
I've heard the saying "Hit me like a ton of bricks" but I never really understood it until that moment. For years I had thought if I prayed enough, if I studied enough, if I fasted enough, if I just did...enough...I would stop acting out in my addiction. Everytime I would fall, I would make a new plan listing all the actions I would take, figuring those actions would save me. They won't. Only one thing will save me.
The atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ.
Prayer, scripture study, and fasting are powerful tools. They are essential and they are commandments. But the reason I am commanded to do them is because they build my faith in my Savior and they bring me closer to the Spirit.
I now view my scripture study differently every morning. I see it as an opportunity to have my faith strengthened so I can more fully turn my life and will over to my Savior. When I fast and pray, I ask for the ability to "yield my heart" to God.
The Savior heals. The Savior is the way back. He is "The way, the truth, and the life." And it is His mercy which heals us from whatever is damaged in our lives.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
As I have studied, the sheer amount of healing the Savior did is shocking. Everywhere He went He healed. He healed by touch, He healed by statement, He even healed a lady who touched the hem of His garment. As I have thought about this I have pondered the message of his healing. For one, I believe He was showing His authority and blessing as many lives as He could.
However, as I thought more deeply I believe there is a real message for me. He truly is the master Healer. I may not need healing from sickness, or blindness, or dumbness...but as an addict I truly need to be healed. I need to be healed just as much as those who the Savior blessed. In fact, just as with those individuals, there is no physician or man who can heal me. There is only the Savior Jesus Christ.
He is healing me. He is the one who can and will take this affliction from me. As I study His life, I learn that His mission is to heal. The atonement is about healing from spiritual wounds and death. I am so grateful for the great Healer in my life. As I turn to Him, He heals me just as He healed so many in the Holy Land.
I love Him.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Over and over again we see that the scriptures promise us we will have trials and tribulations. Never are we promised temptation won't come, trials won't come, or times will be easy.
As a recovering pornography addict, this is a hard truth for me to swallow. I keep hoping for the day when temptations will be no more. In my mind I guess I am picturing that if I study the gospel, follow the 12 steps, and turn my life and will over to my Savior, that temptations will be removed from my life completely. But it doesn't happen.
My parents left on a mission not long ago. I feel blessed to have them serving, and I know there are real blessings which come into the lives of families of Senior Couples who serve faithfully. As they prepared to leave, I spent much time praying that while they were gone I would not be tempted, that my desires would be removed, and I would no longer feel any draw to my addiction.
During their farewell I had an interesting experience. The message that came to my heart was not "You won't be tempted. Your addiction is no more." What I did feel was this...
"Over the next 18 months, you will have the power to overcome any challenge or temptation you face. Those challenges will be real, and some will be difficult, but I will bless you with the ability to face them and overcome them."
In the end, isn't that the blessing I would rather have? In my life I will always experience temptation. It's a part of being mortal. I will always experience trials, pain, and challenges. It is a much greater promise to know I can have the Lords strength in those trials.
I am grateful to a Savior who teaches us, who carries us, and who stands with us through all trials of life.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
The quickest and easiest way out of selfishness is to serve others. By it's very nature, service is about someone else. Suddenly, as we serve, we feel for others. Our life becomes about someone else, about their happiness more than our momentary pleasure.
Whatever gospel change you are trying to make right now, I encourage you to find someone to serve, and then serve them diligently. It will have more affect on your ability to change and turn to Christ than almost anything else.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I go to recovery meetings and I hear great men speak about their recovery. They testify with the spirit of the power that has changed their lives. I believe them because the Holy Ghost testifies to my heart of the conversion these men have gone through. The thoughts in my mind go something like this:
"Boy, that's great. This guy has truly be converted, he has maintained sobriety from pornography for such a long period of time, what an great example to me. Maybe if I continue to work hard, and go many days without viewing, and do all the right things...maybe just maybe I can experience that conversion too"
These thoughts are correct as far as they go. But where I make a mistake is always thinking about conversion or redemption as a future event. Something if I strive and work for could happen to me in months or years. The striving and working and turning myself over to the Lord is important, and this truly does take time. But the redemptive power of the atonement is not just available to change me in 6 months, it is available immediately.
Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, IMMEDIATELY shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
Did you hear that? The redemption can take place in your life and my life immediately. Right now. Today. There is no greater message for someone like me, someone who needs to change. I can have that change, that redemption, that salvation immediately if I will repent with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It may take years to heal completely from addiction for me. But the atonement and tender mercies of my Savior I can have in my life right now. That is truly a great blessing.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I truly believe without humility it is impossible for Jesus to change my heart. Humility is the essence of the statement "I will yield my heart to God". But what exactly does this humble yielding look like?
For me, I feel humility when I have a willingness to do anything the Lord would ask of me to make the change I am seeking...in my case the healing of my addiction. Addiction in particular thrives in secrecy. When I feel pride, I am not willing to talk to others about my struggles, to openly admit that I have this problem and that I still struggle with it. When I am humble, I am able to respond to the promptings of the spirit to be open about my problems with the people I love.
This small test of humility is a good litmus test for me. Am I today, willing to admit my problem to those close to me, and admit my current struggles and temptations, or is it more important for me to appear righteous?
I have also found that taking myself out of my comfort zone by speaking to someone about my addiction, helps push me back into humility when I am not feeling particularly like yielding my heart that day.
I pray every night that I can be humble, yield my heart to the Lord, and do anything he asks of me. That is the answer to true gospel change. It is something I am still seeking and striving for.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
From my experience, here are 10 ways to make time to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.
1) Learn to breathe
I'll admit, over the years I thought breathing techniques were cheesy. However, recently I learned a simple technique which quiets my mind and body almost immediately. Called "Square Breathing" it is simply breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4, breathing out for a count of 4, and holding for a count of 4. Repeat a few times until you feel your mind slow down. This practice has helped me to find quiet time in almost any situation. Try it sometime, then just take the time to listen.
2) Pause after prayer
We here this one so often it is almost a cliche, but there is a reason it comes up over and over...it works. I've found if I take time to focus on breathing immediately after finishing my prayer, I feel quiet and peaceful. Even just a few minutes on my knees after prayer can be a powerful experience.
3) Use your commute
A few years ago I decided to try to put the time in my car to good use. I've had success on and off over the years, but I've found that turning the radio off and just listening as I drive can be an excellent way to hear the spirit.
4) In the shower
Another cliche possibly, but some of my most powerful insights have come in the shower. It is a quiet and relaxing place, take advantage of the soothing power in the water and calmly listen.
5) Write things down
Often the spirit will give me a simple, strong impression. I will know immediately it is something I should pay attention too. Then I get on with my life and forget. Take the time to listen, then take the time to write your thoughts down. Looking back on some of my notes, I'm amazed at the wisdom the spirit has whispered to me.
6) Focus your listening
Rather than just finding quiet time, make an effort to ask a question and then listen for answers. I've found if I focus my mind on something specific, and ask my Heavenly Father a question, it helps my mind turn to the the spirit. I can receive instruction directed to my need.
7) Make listening a priority
No matter where or how, if we don't make the time to listen, we won't listen. Make it a priority in your life. Make a specific plan to spend time just listening to what the Lord would like to say. It can be a powerful influence in life.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Early on in the process of change I found that listening to General Conference on the way to work was a powerful way for me to feel the spirit. I downloaded the conferences on to my iPod and would occasionally listen as I drove and try to learn from the teachings.
This effort worked well, and while I may not have done it as much as I should have, it definitely had an influence in my life. I would generally skip over the prayers and songs to get to the "meat". One night as I was praying, asking Heavenly Father what he would have me do, I felt a strong impression that I should listen to all of these recorded conferences...Songs, prayers, sustainings, that little introduction they voice guy does at the beginning...the whole thing.
What an odd impression. I was expecting some great revelation, and what I got was "listen to the boring parts of conference". Or at least that is how I took it. I had committed to obey any prompting, so I figured I needed to obey this one.
It slowly became a habit. I didn't particularly find these sections useful, but it became natural to listen to the whole session straight through. One night I was driving home from work, after a really tough day. One the major triggers for my addiction is stress, and this night I was definitely feeling stressed. The temptation was strong. As I turned on the car I was at the end of a conference session, and the choir was singing "How Firm a Foundation". Listening to the third verse, I had one of the more spiritual experiences of my life. It was as if the spirit were imprinting the words in my heard.
Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,That experience changed me. I was a different man after that night. I wish I could say I never faltered again, but I can say I have never lost hope in the ability of the Savior to change me. I walked away with faith that I could and would be changed, and that the Lord would "strengthen me, help me, and cause me to stand". My fear was gone.
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
I learned a few things there in my car that night. Among them the power of music to touch my soul. But perhaps most important, I learned that no matter how small the prompting seems, I am always blessed when I follow the Holy Ghost.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
When I first started going, it was a profound experience to meet other men who had struggled with this addiction for just as long as I had. As time went on, I learned that the great strength in the meetings was to see hope shine in the eyes of men who had suffered for so long. It gives me hope to see others stand up, admit their problem, and then talk about the blessings of the Lord which help them overcome the addiction.
Meeting night has become a highlight of my week. I feel the spirit and feel a renewed commitment to allowing the Savior to change me.
The other resource of the Addiction Recovery Program is a 78 page manual/workbook produced by the LDS Family Services. This workbook lays out the 12 steps in clear language. It also has writing exercises for each step. Much of the writing is done by recovered addicts. Their perspective brings a unique voice to the manual, a voice which demonstrates the power of following the steps.
I love the manual and I use if often in my studies. The writing sections have led to some of my greatest inspirations and moments with the spirit.
I would recommend this book to nearly everyone, but for those suffering from addiction it is nearly an essential tool to being guided back to the Savior.
I have a strong testimony of these programs, and will continue to work them throughout my life as I maintain recovery.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
This may be a trivial example, but in our family we have been learning to snowboard. Those of you who have tried it know that the first few snowboarding trips can be painful. Bumps, bruises, and falls all play a large part of the experience. In the middle of all this tribulation, there is no staying neutral. Either you force yourself to learn the necessary skills quickly or you give up. Tribulation tends to eliminate the middle ground.
We've seen both happen in our family. Some kids have hated the falls so they don't want to try anymore. Some have hated the falls, so they want to do everything they can to get better.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:4 teaches "For after much tribulation come the blessings." This principle applies to snowboarding and it applies to the changes in our lives.
When we make a commitment to the Lord to change, and ask for his help, we often receive immediate blessings. From my experience; however, before receiving all the help we need and desire, we generally have to wade through tribulation. This tribulation either makes us stronger and more committed to our goal, or it deflates us and we give up.
Without tribulation our snowboarding would not improve. Without tribulation, we will not develop the faith and humility necessary to make the kind of personal changes the gospel requires.
I have many spiritual bumps and bruises from my tribulations. But on the far end as I have pushed through those trials, I am always grateful I did not give up.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Alma 32 carries many messages which have affected my deeply and helped me understand the principles of faith. Near the end is a passage which I often mentally skipped over in my study. Alma is speaking of a tree which we have already grown from a seed. In other words, we have already put forth the effort to gain a testimony of some principle. He then warns us:
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it whithers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. (Alma 32:38)This principle of nourishment has caused me to contemplate how I neglect principles of my testimony and the damage it can do when hard times come.
I wrote earlier about my testimony of fasting. This testimony was planted on my mission and the tree began to grow. I knew fasting worked. In the 12 years between that time and the time I finally was thrust down to my knees due to the horrible decisions I had made, I neglected that simple testimony. When the hot sun beat on me, I wavered. I didn't turn to fasting and prayer like I should have. I hadn't consistently strengthened my tree and it had stopped bearing fruit.
Henry B. Eyring in his powerful way, taught the principle in October Conference, 2005
It will take unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to choose the way to eternal life. It is by using that faith we can know the will of God. It is by acting on that faith we build the strength to do the will of God. And it is by exercising that faith in Jesus Christ that we can resist temptation and gain forgiveness through the Atonement.
We will need to have developed and nurtured faith in Jesus Christ long before Satan hits us, as he will, with doubts and appeals to our carnal desires and with lying voices saying that good is bad and that there is no sin. Those spiritual storms are already raging. We can expect that they will worsen until the Savior returns.
However much faith to obey God we now have, we will need to strengthen it continually and keep it refreshed constantly. We can do that by deciding now to be more quick to obey and more determined to endure. Learning to start early and to be steady are the keys to spiritual preparation. Procrastination and inconsistency are its mortal enemies.
What did I do today to nurture my faith and testimony in the principles of the gospel? What did you do? Can we do more?
There are strong warnings in these words for me. As important as it is for me to build a testimony in principles such as tithing and turning my life and will over to my Savior, it is just as important that I nurture these testimonies every single day.