Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Marriage - again

I really love my wife. And yet my actions often show the exact opposite.

Marriage requires trust above all else. And yet I destroy trust on a consistent basis.

Working to recover from addition and repair a marriage is tough work. But it's also the most important work I can do.

These are the reasons that the Savior must be a partner in both recovery and healing.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Been reading an interesting book lately called Mindset, by Carol Dweck. The premise of the book is that individuals have one of two basic mindsets.

First is the mindset that our traits, personality, characteristics, and talents are basically set. We are who we are, and we can't change that much. For example, if I am a poor writer it's just simply a talent I don't have. I'm not a natural born writer, and therefore will not be able to write for a living.

The second mindset is a growth mindset. No matter what our characteristic or personality or talent now, this mindset says they can always be improved. This mindset says, if I'm not a good writer now, through hard work, effort, and learning I can become an excellent writer.

The interesting thing about the two mindsets is how much  having the second mindset can contribute to success. The author has done meticulous studies which show how much the second mindset drives our ability to improve and achieve remarkable results.

The first mindset leads us to think of failures as devastating. "If I can't improve, and I fail, that must mean I am doomed to always fail.

While the second mindset sees failure as an opportunity to get better. "If I failed now, that means I'm learning, so I'll try again and learn from each mistake"

It's remarkable how much these two mindsets can play into addiction. I think it's safe to say that most addicts come from mindset #1. We often say to ourselves (sub-consciously)
"I'm stuck in this addiction. No matter what choices I made to get here, there is now no way out. It is who I am, it's a weakness of mine, part of my in-born traits, and there really isn't anything I can do about it".

But the second mindset is the the way of thinking the Twelve Steps teach us. It teaches that growth comes from admitting our mistakes, seeing that there is a way out, and then living every day to improve ourselves and turn ourselves to the Lord. It teaches that through righteous action and positive daily effort, we can improve those traits that led us into addiction.

I know I for one suffer from the first mindset in a severe way. I am going to make a conscious effort to replace my thoughts with growth mindsets thoughts, thoughts that will lead me to truly believe I can make improvements and overcome addiction.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Recovery Meetings

I can't figure out if this post should go under the topic of "whining" or "getting it off my chest" or perhaps more optimistically "constructive criticism".

I attend weekly meetings at the LDS Family Services addiction recovery meetings. These meetings have been a powerful tool in my recovery efforts. They are patterned after SA meetings, yet follow gospel principles to allow the spirit and gospel truth to help is in our recovery.

Lately, the meetings have undergone some changes. Most of which I am struggling to reconcile. My brief summary of each one and my feelings about them:

1) We are not allowed to clap after a person shares their days of sobriety. This one perhaps doesn't seem like a big deal. But unless you've been an addict who struggles to make it through even one day without acting out, it's hard to understand just how good it feels to have a group of men clapping for your honest efforts to be sober. Be it one day of sobriety or 800, the clapping for my brothers and their recovery efforts was on of my favorite parts of the meeting. I'm not sure what damage this caused or what the reason for removing it from the program, but I sincerely miss it.

2) Closely tied to #1, the program no longer gives out tokens for sobriety landmarks. Small tokens were given out such as a CTR ring for 30 days, a tie tack for 90 days, a plaque for 180 days, and a painting of the savior for one year.  Again, for those of us who are addicts, seeing ourselves as being worth celebrating is very difficult. We often see ourselves as not worthy of any praise. These small tokens meant a lot, and it's a shame they are no longer allowed.

3) This one is the issue I have struggled with the most. We are no longer allowed to introduce ourselves as "Recovering addicts from pornography" (or sexual sins, or lust, or anything else specific). We must only say "I am a recovering addict". My issue here is simple. For many of us biggest gain we get from going to these meetings is removing the shame we feel about our addiction. We see that there is hope of recovery. Removing that shame is a crucial part of recovery. Now, it seems that the recovery meetings are basically telling us that we should be ashamed of the type of addict we are, so ashamed that we aren't even allowed to say it in a group of other addicts.

There.  I feel better now that I got that off my chest.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ups and Downs

I've struggled lately, with a lot of things. I slipped up a few months ago. It wasn't a big slip up, until I compounded it by not being honest about it. Instead I tried to sweep it under the rug and hope no one, especially my wife, wouldn't find out. I don't know how long it will take me to learn that this method doesn't work, and is in fact very damaging.  But apparently I haven't learned the lesson yet.

The trouble with this kind of dishonesty is that the lying probably hurts my wife more than the actual acting out. Just as important, I can't really regain my focus on recovery until I am being honest about my sobriety days and what I've done. So I'm held back in the two areas of my life that need the most work. My relationship with my wife, and my efforts to gain recovery from my addiction to pornography.

That is the down side. Still struggling with both recovery and sobriety, and still struggling with honesty.

The good side. When my wife confronted me with what she knew, it caused some really deep reflection on my part. Instead of insisting I was "doing better" I tried to honestly look at where I was in relation to recovery. This wasn't pleasant. The truth is painful. Over the last 12 months I have regressed. However, returning to Step 1 and admitting honestly where I am is the first step to getting better.

So now I feel on an upward slope. Gaining some ground and feeling better about myself.

It seems to be an endless roller coaster.

One day at a time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fulfilling Our Duty

Sometimes there are blessings just for showing up.

This morning was General Priesthood meeting in our stake. Started at 7:00 AM, and while I wake up early nearly every morning, for some reason this morning it was extremely difficult to wake up and go. Even after I showered I wanted to crawl back in bed.

But through it all one thought kept running through my head:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33

I need a lot of things "added unto" me. Not the least of which is a healing from an addiction that threatens to destroy my life. But as the scripture says, it's my job to seek the kingdom of God first. And laying in bed on a cold winters morning, when my duty was to be in a meeting, is definitely not putting the kingdom of God first in my life.

So I braved the winter storm and I went.

I wish I could say I was greatly inspired and the meeting contained the keys to happiness for the rest of my life. It was a good meeting, but nothing particularly stood out. But as I set here this morning I feel a calm and a peace, simply because I showed up when I was supposed to.

Baby steps.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life is Busy

My life is extremely busy right now. Between a demanding job, kids, family, marriage, and school, my wife and I do not lack for ways to spend our time. This may sound like a complaint, but as I think about it, I don't think it is.

For an addict like myself, I think busy is good. Keeping my time occupied is fulfilling and productive. Being productive is the complete opposite of acting out in addiction. When I'm acting out, I am destroying rather than producing. So when I am being productive and active, it gives me a natural high rather than the chemical 'fake' high I get from pornography.

Still, there are some challenges that come with being so busy. There are activities which I know will benefit me that are hard to fit in. Exercise, writing, spending time on recovery efforts all fall into this category. Not to mention that I enjoy cooking and wish I had the time to cook more healthy foods for our family.

Add on to all of that the simple fact that a strong marriage takes a lot of quality time together. When a marriage has been damaged the way ours has, it takes even more time. This is time I freely want to give. I want to do what it takes to build our marriage. But again, it's easy for the busyness of life to overwhelm even our best intentions in that regard.

So I am trying to manage my time wisely and with the guidance of the spirit. I don't always do it right, in fact I may be wrong more than I am right. But as a classic addict, the one thing I need to avoid is getting down on myself because things don't always go perfect.

I wake up everyday early, and I try to be as productive as possible, and for not...that feels like the right approach.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lessons of Travel

I have a job which requires a fair amount of travel. I actually enjoy traveling, I like seeing new cities and I love spending time with clients. However, many of my mistakes have been while I have been on the road. It seems that the down time, combined with being away from home just adds up to serious issues for me.

Naturally this causes great concern from my wife whenever I have to travel, to the point that it becomes difficult for us to even really talk about my travel.

Well, I am on another trip now. I know it's hard for her. And I also know travel has been hard for me in the past. The last thing I want to do right now is make a mistake.  Sobriety stands at 32 days, and feels great.

So what lessons am I learning which will help me on this trip? Well, first of all, I am recognizing that this is a time of weakness. I prayed to my Father in Heaven as I drove this morning, specifically asking for strength over the next three days. Acknowledging that I am weak, and asking him for the strength that I do not have.

Amazing things happen when I recognize my weakness and ask Him for strength. He blesses me.  He strengthens me. He helps me feel his love.

So here I am, in a hotel room, feeling the love of the Lord and the support of my wife. And you know what? I feel like a clear thinking, rational, non-insane person. I feel like someone who can actually travel and not have it turn into some porn watching binge. Is this how normal people feel? 

All I do know is, today has been a good day. And tomorrow morning I will wake up, acknowledge my powerlessness, turn my will over to my Savior, and ask Him for strength one more day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I don't handle stress well.

Maybe you are saying "Yeah, neither do I".  But I really REALLY don't handle stress well.

As in, when things turn stressful I often turn to images and chats that go completely against everything I believe. These actions have nearly destroyed my life. For 26 years I have medicated my stress to a point of numbness with sexual imagery.

So as part of recovery I have had to learn basic stress coping skills. One of the most effective that I have found is exercise.

Because I get our kids ready for school in the morning, I have to get up at 5:00 AM if I want to exercise.  This fact has held me back for a long time, even though I know how much I benefit mentally when I exercise regularly. 

Rather than use this as an excuse, I have decided that this year I need to make it happen. Ever since the first of the year I have got up 5 days a week, including Saturday, to exercise.  And you know what?  It works. I feel more fresh mentally. I feel better able to cope with stress. I feel healthier and happier.

Exercise doesn't solve all my problems, but right now it is a key to the mental stability I need to deal with all of the difficulties my actions have caused.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Life goes on, and it's going fairly well. I stand at 26 days of sobriety.

Recovery is an interesting thing. It can consumer my life, and yet I have to continue to live life as well. Things are extremely busy in our family. Our kids are active with a lot of activities. Work is busy for me and my wife. I am going back to school to finish up some of that work. All of it adds up to not a lot of free time.

In addition to that, I am trying to exercise every day. Plus, I have an incredible wife and I am trying to work on that relationship. So at times it feels like recovery work can take a back seat. One of the things I am not good at is balance. Right now I am trying to figure out the correct balance in my life.

I'm not discouraged, and in fact I feel like many areas of my life are going well, including my spiritual life and my recovery. But I have failed in recovery so many times, that it becomes easy for me to question what I am doing.

I need to hit this weird combination of living life without stressing about the addiction every minute, and focusing enough on recovery to make the progress I need to make.

It's not easy. But then, real growth is never easy right?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marriage and Pornography Addiction

Addiction is tough on a marriage. That is a pretty obvious statement I'm sure, but until you are in the middle of trying to recover from an addiction and repair a marriage, I don't know if you can understand just how much pain an addiction causes. And a sexual addiction only increases the strain and stress on a relationship.

Why is addiction, and sexual addiction in particular, so painful and devastating to a marriage? Some reasons are obvious, some perhaps are not. I put some thought into this question and from my experience, here are a few answers.

1) The feeling of being cheated on
Even though in many pornography addictions there is no actual physical acting out with another person, the feeling of infidelity is the same. Spouses of addicts feel as if their mate is going outside their marriage for sexual satisfaction.  These feelings can be just as real as if their spouse had an affair, and just as painful.

2) Dishonesty
Addiction nearly always brings with it half truths, deceptions, and outright lying. Eventually a spouse gets lied to so often that they start to question everything the addict says. They wonder if anything the addict has ever said is true, including "I love you".

3) Emotional Immaturity
I can't speak for all addicts, but I know for me, and for many, the addiction developed at a young age. It replaced many of the productive strategies youth learn to develop meaningful emotional relationships. Instead of developing these skills, I was too busy building "relationships" with porn. I did not learn to share my emotions, or even deal with them. In a marriage, these emotional skills are crucial to developing intimacy.  Being married to someone who lacks these skills can be a very lonely place.

4) Emotional Distance
Closely related to #3 is the fact that whenever the addict is tied up in planning to act out, or thinking about acting out, or acting out, or fantasizing about the chance to act out, they almost always withdraw emotionally. This can cause a difficult roller coaster affect, where the spouse wonders what happened. Things in the marriage were going well, and suddenly their spouse withdraws for seemingly no reason.

5) The Need to be Supportive
This is one of the more subtle strains that an addiction puts on a marriage, but also one of the most difficult. Addicts need support, it is one the most crucial aspects to recovery. Some of the best support comes from the people love the addict the most. Nobody is in a better position to support and build up the addict than their spouse. Yet, the spouse is also generally the one who is the most hurt by acting out. It's nearly impossible to be supportive of an addicts recovery, when their acting out cuts so deeply. This causes great strain on a relationship, where the spouse feels like they want to support, but is emotionally unable to because of the pain. And the addict knows the pains they have caused, yet needs the unconditional support of their spouse.

6) A Feeling of Inadequacy
No matter how much a spouse understands in their mind that they did not cause, nor can they stop, an addiction, the feelings of not being good enough are nearly impossible to suppress. A sexual addiction can cause the spouse to feel unattractive, not good enough, too out of shape, and a million other negative feelings.

I'm sure this list is not exhaustive, but I do think it covers much of the pain caused by an addiction in marriage.

How to solve all of these issues?  Well...if you know, I hope you'll tell me.  Because they are not easy problems to solve. But I do know that it takes a concerted effort and a lot of thoughtfulness.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Story Part 4

(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 4

After my experience with romance novels, my cravings were nearly constant. At the time I was 11-13 years old. In all honesty, I don't think I even understood what I was reading. I didn't know what the sexual act even was at the time. I just knew that I was excited by what I was reading, and that I couldn't get enough.

This part of my life is when I can start to identify "insane" behaviors. If I had a couple of hours alone, I would hop on my little one speed bike and ride 10 miles to the store where I knew I cold find this type of book. I remember riding through rain and snow storms just to get a little fix. It was a long ride on my small legs, yet I would make it whenever I thought I could get away with it.

This is when I can remember the beginnings of my lying as well. I would make up elaborate stories to get a few hours on my own in order to look at magazines or books with sexual content. The magazines weren't even that explicit, but in my young hormone driven body the excitement level was something I could not deal with.

It's interesting to look back now. I was an honest kid, one who tried to do what is right. I willingly went to church, listened to what I was taught, and believed it. I wanted to live the teaching of Christ. And yet with but one or two exposures to sexual content, I suddenly lost control of many items I knew were wrong.

I wasn't a lying kid, and yet in order to look at more exciting books, I began to lie. All the time. I can even remember the feelings of shame and guilt in these times. Sexual content completely changed my approach to what I would and would not do.

It's a bit scary to remember just how quickly my ethical decisions changed. Obviously I didn't see it at the time, but I can see it clearly now. And the habit of lying and deception has proven extremely difficult to overcome ever since.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

False Beliefs

I recently finished reading Treating Pornography Addiction by Dr. Kevin B. Skinner. It's a terrific book, with many thought provoking ideas about recovering from a sexual addiction.

He spends a lot of time talking about the false beliefs which enable an addiction. Dr. Skinner discusses the fact that while buried in the addictive cycle, it is our false beliefs which allow us to give in to the addiction. These false beliefs play directly in to the addicted part of the brain. Combine them with the extremely strong cravings of addiction, and it is a recipe for disaster.

In the book, he asks the addicts to analyze their false beliefs. This analysis starts with recognizing what they are.

So here is my effort to identify a number of my false beliefs regarding my addiction, both in my life in general, and when the desire to act out has become very strong.

False Beliefs

1) I cannot over come this addiction, it is too ingrained in me and there is no way out.
2) The damage done if I act out this time will not be THAT bad.
3) I won't get caught and I will be able to keep acting out a secret.
4) Acting out is the only way to ease the pain that I feel.
5) I will feel better after I act out.
6) There is a "secret formula" to recovery.
7) I do not need to reach out to others when I struggle.
8) If others see me as I really am, they will reject me.
9) I can get by with minimal effort.
10) Sharing my emotions is too dangerous.
11) If I've come this far into thinking about acting out, I can't stop now, it's inevitable that I will get online.

In a subsequent post I will try to break some of these beliefs down, and see what reality is.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words of Inspiration From Strange Places

Who would have thought that Eminem of all people would give me words that inspire me to overcome:

And I just can't keep living this way
So starting today,
I'm breaking out of this cage

I'm standing up, Imma face my demons

I'm man enough, Imma hold my ground

I've had enough, no I'm so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

I'm not afraid to take a stand

Everybody come take my hand

We'll walk this road together

Through the storm, whatever weather, cold or warm

Just let you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Moving On

It has been an up and down couple of weeks.

On the positive side, I have remained sober. My current sobriety count is at 18 days. This is really not a surprise, after a serious relapse I generally am able to go for a month or so without much temptation. Still, 18 days feels good.

If you've never dealt with an addiction, it may be hard to understand just how good even one day of not falling prey to the destruction in your life can feel. But certainly for me, after a couple of weeks of living without pornography, my thinking starts to come back together. I feel a little more productive, a little more unselfish, a little more clear-minded. In a word, I guess, I feel a little more sane.

But then there is the other side. The fact is, addictive behavior is destructive. It wreaks havoc in the lives of the addict, and the people who are close to him. My last relapse caused severe damage in my personal life. Trying to repair that damage, while also trying to work on the self-care recovery requires is a balancing act that at times feels beyond me.

And yet, here I am. 18 days sober, with a great love for my wife and a desire to heal the damage I have done in her life. The faith that through the Savior my life, and hers, can be healed is what keeps me going. And right now, that hope feels more powerful than any of the difficulties which are on this path.

So I keep walking, every day trying to take the actions that lead from insanity to sanity.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I really only have two this year.

1. Staying sober from pornography the entire year
2. Working to repair the damage to the relationship with my wife

How are goals achieved?

By taking action daily which leads towards accomplishing the goal. You don't lose weight by starving yourself for 24 hours, you lose it by changing your daily actions to fit a healthy lifestyle.

So to accomplish my goals, it's a daily commitment to these two things. I have to live in recovery every day, and I have to be unselfish and loving with my wife every day.

One day at a time.