Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crossing the Delaware

On Christmas Day 1776, George Washington camped with his troops on the shores of the Delaware River. The war had started with great promise. The tenaciousness of Bunker Hill. A victory in Boston. The signing of the Declaration of Independence. The fledgling nation had held high hopes. Since then, the revolutionary effort had been full of defeat and despair. Driven out of New York, nearly destroyed at Fort Washington and pushed across New Jersey, the army was weary of defeat. General Washington's immediate problems were numerous. His troops had been reduced by nearly 90%. Of the 6400 men he did have left, 1/3 were too sick to participate in offensive action. His next two highest ranking Generals were ignoring his commands, attempting to make a case to take over as Commander in Chief themselves. Food, clothing and shelter were scarce and the winter was ruthlessly cold. Many of his men were from New England, and they bristled at the thought of following a Virginian they viewed as uppity. Desertions were an epidemic. Topping it off, the enlistment of the majority of his men expired on Dec. 31. Considering the rampant low morale, it seemed as if his entire army would walk out the day they had the opportunity.

In the face of these challenges, George Washington had two choices. He could sit in camp, wait for better weather and hope for the best, or he could make a bold move designed not only to put his enemy off guard, but to lift the spirits of his fledgling country. He chose the hard path. On the night of Dec. 25, he led his men across the Delaware River. A blowing ice and sleet storm stalled the other two divisions of the army, but Washington pushed his troops across the ice strewn river by the sheer force of his will. Landing on the opposite bank at 3:00 AM, knowing his plan for a three way attack had failed, his conviction never wavered. He led his men into battle and routed the army of Hessians camped nearby. This victory was followed by success in Princeton and the defeat of the British forces occupying New Jersey. The spirit of the new country was lifted, the troops morale skyrocketed and reenlistment was nearly unanimous. George Washington's courage to cross amid the ice of the Delaware River changed the face of a bleak situation, and kick started the spirit of patriotism of the country which would become the United States of America. On the night of Dec. 25, George Washington chose to do the hard thing, and it made all the difference.

What's my Delaware River?

What's yours?

What is that one hard thing that if done, will make all the difference. I know in making difficult changes, in particular overcoming addiction, there are often really difficult steps. Steps such as openly admitting and confessing our weakness, or going to an Addiction Recovery meeting, or apologizing to a person we've hurt. Often, however, these steps are the very steps which will propel us to make lasting change.

Is there something out there holding you back? Is there something that you just don't think you can do, yet you know would have a huge impact on your desired change?

Maybe it's a good time to take a lesson from our first President...and cross your Delaware.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Fight for Agency

There are many kinds of addictions, and it is difficult for someone who has one of these serious addictions to change because some of them are mind-altering. A recent article on addiction said, “In the brains of addicts, there is reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, where rational thought can override impulse behavior.” Some addictions can control us to the point where they take away our God-given agency. - James E Faust - Ensign, Nov. 2007

In the pre-mortal life we learn that we all fought a battle with Satan. There was one principle reason for this battle...free agency. At that point, I thought gaining my agency was important enough to side with my Savior and fight the powers of Satan.

Now here on this earth, I seem to be re-fighting that same battle. Addiction takes away my agency. I become a slave to the addiction and lose the ability to choose rationally. My battle to recover really is a battle against Satan for my agency. The same battle I fought all that time ago.

And the victory will come in the same way. By siding with my Savior.

It's interesting how Satan attacks agency so forcefully. Addiction, drugs, alcohol. All of these seem to have a way of taking away our ability to choose rationally. It's also interesting how through misuse of this precious agency...we can lose all that we fought so valiantly for.

In my mind now, I often consider how I willingly gave that agency up with choice after poor choice. And now I have to regain it with choice after wise choice...each of which involves leaning completely on my Savior.

It is a glorious blessing each time I realize that I truly can choose...and then I choose freedom through righteous choices.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making Change Easy

The title of this post is meant to be ironic...change is never easy. But sometimes we make it harder than it needs to be.

I enjoy running. With the busy schedule I have, it's often hard to find the time to run. In order to get a jog in, I generally have to do it very early in the morning. There is only one problem with this plan...waking up early is HARD.

I've learned something about myself. If I get everything...and I mean EVERYTHING ready for the run the night before, it's much more likely I will get up and run. If I lay my running clothes out, get a sports drink in the fridge, get my iPod ready, even having the right song cued up, have my watch ready, and in general prepare in every way possible, then I am launching myself to a greater chance of success.

Sometimes we think in order to make a change it needs to be all will power. But I think the opposite is true. The less we have to rely on will power, the better chance the change will stick. The more preparation we can do...the easier we make it to change...the better off we will be when the going gets tough (like when the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM).

How does this apply to more spiritual changes, such as recovering from addiction?

I've found if I put some boundaries in place, I have a much easier chance of staying away from pornography. I can do things such as putting my home computer in a public place, having internet restrictions on my mobile phone, or using a tracking service such as Covenant Eyes.

None of these items are "the cure" to my addiction. The cure is healing by my Savior Jesus Christ and my reliance on him.

However, each of these things make it easier to change. They help me rely less on will power. And for me, this change is hard enough already.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Story - Part 3

(I'm not really sure how I feel about telling my story...this is a long and painful journey. But my heart is telling me to write it down for two reasons. First, because there may be some therapy in it for me, and second, because maybe someone out there can relate and learn from my pain. I don't know if this will be as much a narrative as a brain dump of events. To start at the beginning of my story, click here.)

Acting out

As I have earlier described, I spent a good part of my younger years battling thoughts that were not clean. I wish I understood better where those thoughts came from, but even after deep contemplation I cannot locate their source. However, they were the stepping stone to my next behavior.

In the 80's there were not the avenues to seek sexual material the way there is now. I couldn't get online and find pornography. Growing up in Utah County I couldn't go to the magazine rack and find a Playboy. But I did find my "pornography" in romance novels. Yep that's right, romance novels.

I would go to the store with my mom, and tell her that rather than shop, I wanted to go to the magazine rack and look at the sports magazines. I was obsessed with sports, so this little lie fit in perfectly. I would then locate the romance novel with the steamiest cover, and look for a sex scene. It took several efforts to find a scene that excited me. However, once I did it left an incredible impression on me.

How do I know it left such an impression? To this day, 20+ years later, I not only remember the name of the book, but the exact page number in which I found the scene. That day I got a hit of a drug so strong, that this many years later, I am still trying to overcome my bodies desire for it.

That drug has destroyed a marriage, and left a path of destruction through my life which is strewn with carnage. And now, my biggest desire is to live a life completely without that drug.

It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that i will be healed from an addiction that has lasted through all of those many years.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I read this article today about the affect of pornography on wives, and it absolutely broke my heart.

I am in love with my wife. Completely and totally in love with her.

And yet every emotion described in that article is an emotion she has felt due to my acting out in my addiction.

I believe there is a difference between shame/guilt and godly sorrow. It's easy for me to feel guilt and beat myself up my actions.

But when I think about the pain I have caused my wife, what I feel is a deep sorrow. This is a woman I love, who has had to suffer incredibly acute pain because of my choices.

True godly sorrow leads to change. And when I contemplate the destruction my choices have caused, it leads me to desire to turn myself to my Savior completely and totally, and do whatever he requires of me to heal my life, and my families lives.

Perhaps only those who have been in my position can understand the complex feelings that come from acting completely counter to how they feel. I believe that many men who live in pornography addiction truly love their wives. We would jump into a freezing cold river to save her. We would protect her life by giving up their own.

...and yet, in moments of weakness, we can't stop ourselves from behavior which brings her world crashing down.

That is the devastation of addiction. It destroys the wife...and it destroys the addict.

But their is great hope. Hope in Jesus Christ. He wants nothing more than to heal those painful wounds. And he can.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Story - Part 2

(I'm not really sure how I feel about telling my story...this is a long and painful journey. But my heart is telling me to write it down for two reasons. First, because there may be some therapy in it for me, and second, because maybe someone out there can relate and learn from my pain. I don't know if this will be as much a narrative as a brain dump of events. To start at the beginning of my story, click here.)

Part 2 - Confession
I guess confession might be a weird place to pick up this story, but these events had a powerful impact on my life. About the time I was 11 I watched a couple of movies at a sleep over party that I knew I shouldn't have. Based on some of the thoughts I had been having, these movies excited me, but they also shamed me. I knew it was not the kind of thing I wanted to have in my life.

I carried these actions with me for a long period of time. They hung in my heart and cast a shadow across so much of my life. I just couldn't stop thinking about I had watched and how I needed to repent of it.

I learned during this time about the act of confession as part of repentance. In my heart I knew I had to confess what I had done. But then that thought which has haunted me for the past 20+ years came into my mind.

"You CAN'T tell anyone what you've done. If you tell them they will hate you, they will think you are a terrible person, they will shame you. You simply have to keep it secret".

I can't count how many times I have told myself that during my struggle with addiction. Unfortunately, I have listened to that message many times.

But this time, as an 11 year old, I finally got the courage to tell my mom as I was in bed one night. She listened to me, she talked to me, she told me she loved me, and she gave me a hug.

I wish I could say that night turned around my life. Unfortunately, as my story goes on you'll see that it didn't. However, I learned a valuable lesson that night. Confession is an act of humility which is necessary for repentance, necessary to have a clear conscience, and can lead to an outpouring of love.

I was not rejected by my mom because I told her that night, I was loved. I have had many times since then where I have known confession was the required step. Those times have never been easy, and many times I have not taken that step like I should. But I've never forgotten the lesson I learned that night that confession leads to peace.

Mosiah 26:29
... and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drop the Rope

In 2003 Rick Moody gave a talk entitled: For Ecclesiastical Leaders, Family, and Friends: Supporting Those Who Struggle With Sexual Compulsions.

In that talk he gave a metaphor which has been powerful for me as I think about recovery. He talked about picturing my struggle as a tug-of-war with a monster. I pull and pull as hard as I can, putting as much resistance on the rope as possible, but the monster keeps pulling also. As I fight, I am slowly pulled towards the pit which seperates us, and no matter how hard I fight, eventually I get pulled into the deep dark abyss of relapse.

Bro. Moody says that rather than fight and fight a losing battle, what I really need to do is drop the rope and walk away.

How does this apply to me?

I spend so much time fighting the addiction. I despise every sexual thought I have. I sing a million hymns and quote a thousand scriptures trying to get these thoughts out of my head. I tell myself I "cannot think that"... and I battle to clear my mind of it. I white knuckle my way through situations where temptation feels so strong I can't breathe. And often I end up losing the battle.

So how do I drop the rope?

I guess maybe that is the real question, and I'm not sure I have an answer to that question completely. But I do think that focusing my life on other pursuits is a good start.

Perhaps a concerted effort to build my marriage and get closer to my family.

Maybe an exercise program designed to lift my health and my spirits.

Or a program of service to help others.

This blog acts a bit as an outlet for me that leads to recovery, but hopefully isn't obsessed with a constant fight against addiction.

What I do get from this metaphor is a desire to set my sights on what is good, and what is uplifting, and what is encouraging, rather than spending all of my time fighting against the evil that seems to invade my life.

I can drop the rope. I can let it go, and spend my efforts pursuing righteousness and a relationship with my Savior.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Story - Part 1

(I'm not really sure how I feel about telling my story...this is a long and painful journey. But my heart is telling me to write it down for two reasons. First, because there may be some therapy in it for me, and second, because maybe someone out there can relate and learn from my pain. I don't know if this will be as much a narrative as a brain dump of events. To start at the beginning of my story, click here.)

Part 1

When I hear people talk about what lead them into a pornography or sexual addiction, there is often a specific event. For some it is something traumatic such as sexual abuse. For others it is a particular sleepover where they were introduced to pornography, or an uncle who thought they should "see the world" and showed them something pornographic. I have searched and searched my mind, but I cannot remember a single event which led me down this path.

I remember very clearly taking long road trips in the car with my parents. I would often lay on the floor, or lay down in the backseat and try to sleep. My brother was much better at falling asleep in the car than I was, and he was also older than me, so I would get crammed into a small space and would make every effort to sleep away the long hours. About the age of 9 or 10 I started thinking thoughts while I was in this stage. Dirty thoughts. I can't remember exactly what they were, or what even led me to those type of thoughts. But they were there at a young age, and they were real.

There was a time when I heard a primary lesson or a talk in church, or maybe even a Family Home Evening, which talked about controlling your thoughts. I felt the impact of that lesson deep in my heart, and I knew that I needed to stop thinking these thoughts, these early 'fantasies".

So I did. For a time. But for some reason I didn't keep that control, and about a year later I started thinking those same thoughts. In some ways it is very odd to me. We were very careful in my house about what we watched on TV. I wasn't reading anything sexual. What led me to those thoughts? I really don't know, but they were real. And if I analyze my life carefully, they were the beginning of a long and painful road that has led me to being a 39 year old sex addiction who continues to destroy his own life and the life of others.

Alma 12:14
...and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peace and Sin

One of the most difficult parts of living in addiction, or living in sin of any of it's forms, is the lack of peace in life.

Over the past six years I have been actively seeking recovery from my addiction to pornography and other sexual sins. (The 20 years before that I was living in addiction without really trying to overcome it). During those six years I have had several stretches of 60-180 days of sobriety. When I am living a clean life, free of pornography, I feel such peace in my daily life. I wake up without an ache in my heart. I feel no fear of getting caught. I take the Sacrament with my head held high. I pray and feel close to my Savior. My heart is at peace.

When I am acting out in my addiction...when I am sinning...I feel the opposite. I feel turmoil and pain. I feel constant fear that I will be caught or that I will just have to admit to my failings. I feel like a failure in nearly all aspects of my life.

Living a life without peace is very difficult. In fact, after having experienced so much pain, I would have to say that peace is one of the greatest gifts of the Spirit and of the atonement.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

When I have relapsed, along with all the pain of letting myself, my savior, my wife, and my family down. The loss of that peace is one of most difficult aspects. Peace is a true blessing from my Savior. And it comes from living the commandments and serving others.