The other night I had the wonderful experience of helping one of our group members do his 5th Step. Step 5 is where you share the contents of your “Fearless written moral inventory” from Step 4. Step 4 is daunting and isn’t called “Fearless” for nothing. But it can be done and has been done by millions of people. I’ve done it. It was hard but totally worth it. Then comes Step 5 where you share that inventory with another addict who has done their 12 steps and will understand. I was super nervous to do my own and I was also nervous to do my first with another sponsee a number of years ago. But since then I’ve grown to absolutely love doing them!! They truly highlight God’s power to transform people — sometimes in an instant. It is a real life miracle right before your eyes.
Last night was a great lesson in doing the steps even when they seem small and not important. It was 15 minutes before bedtime and I was kind of feeling a little bit off. Some of the mini-cravings were in the back of my head and it was like they were saying, “Just look up one photo that’s totally safe. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Except I knew that was a big fat lie! The next thought was, “I should probably do a 10th step real quick.” Followed by, “Nah, I’m headed to bed right now. The night is almost up and I can muscle through this.” Then something else clicked in my head and said, “Uh, how many times have you been down this road and you know you HATE the destination!”
Wow, I picked the photo and wrote the title months ago but never wrote my article. I think I was still reeling from the shock of going through a relapse after almost two years of sobriety. So much shame, anger, and frustration I didn’t know how to handle the emotional barrage at the time. The first thing I will tell you is that you can live through it even if it feels like you can’t. It is not the end of the world. It’s definitely not desirable, but it’s far from over. Here are a few things that I’ve learned from my experience.
One of my last posts was on the power of the 10th step. It’s still one of my favorites and I use it all of the time. But all of the steps are powerful and they have deep meaning for me. Overcoming an addiction is a literal battle. But not one fought person to person. Rather it’s one you fight within yourself and with the help of caring friends and ultimately a loving God — or a higher power according to your own understanding. I’m going to write about each of the steps and thought I’d go back to the beginning and start at one. Which was the beginning of my journey to true sobriety as well. Continue reading
I’ve wanted to start a series on what each step from the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous mean to me. Believe me when I say they mean the world to me! I can’t imagine my life without them. Just last night at our support group gathering after our ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meeting I mentioned, “I wouldn’t trade my addiction and the things I’ve learned through recovery for anything — especially the relationship I now have with God.” I got several head nods and smiles of agreement from the rest of the group. Those of us that have worked the steps and continue to work the steps know how wonderful and valuable the steps are — especially when we’re helping others with their own steps. I’d like to share what the 10th step means to me. Continue reading
There is a power that comes to me whenever I am in the service of others with no thought to my own self and whether or not I am “getting something” out of the experience. It is the purest kind of love. It is what lifts others as well as ourselves at the same time. Service unlocks in me the ability to let go of the darkness and pain of my own struggles for a brief period of time. Service helps us look outward instead of inward. Unfortunately, even trying to do something noble like serving others I can over do things — I get caught up in creating complexity where simplicity would suffice. I start out with no expectations but sometimes that changes and I lose the selflessness of the act. Or maybe I over do the amount of service I’m trying to provide and instead of lifting me and providing peace to my life, it creates anxiety and stress (I’m convinced my therapist thinks this is some sort of strange super power that I have!). Continue reading
Last night I had the honor of speaking to a group of women called the Relief Society. It is a group within the Church of Jesus Christ whose purpose is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they: Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; Strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and Work in unity to help those in need. It is a group filled with charity for each other and for those in need. Last night that charity was about helping the wives of pornography addicts and concerned parents or grandparents wanting to protect their children from the harms of pornography, or to help those who have fallen prey to its addictive powers and cannot help themselves any longer. They sent me a list of questions to answer that were heartfelt. I felt the heaviness of the burden of answering those sometimes wrenching questions. I immediately turned to God in prayer to ask Him what message I should share with them the most. There was only one answer and it stood out to me like a beacon of light: “Tell them how much I love them!” I was blown away by the power of that answer and I felt that power again when I shared that love with those women and their husbands (who were invited to attend as well). Continue reading
I’ve always wondered what would happen and what I would do if I ever relapsed. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I can now answer that question. When I first went through the 12 steps almost 2 years ago I had such a miraculous spiritual transformation I was convinced I would never struggle again. And then I quickly realized that struggle was part of the human experience but as long as I stayed true to the maintenance steps I would struggle but with the help of God, not fall. I read that half of addicts struggle to gain full sobriety off and on for a number of years before finally finding recovery and staying recovered the rest of their lives. I was so thankful that wasn’t going to be me, or so I thought. Continue reading
The last couple of months have been filled with some interesting, difficult, life-altering, wonderful, sad, and joyous moments. In other words, everything is normal. The kind of normal where I continuously find myself struggling to do my best and trust God to help me handle the things I can’t (which is a lot). I still feel guilty asking for God’s help sometimes, but thankfully I have a wonderful wife, insightful children, and great friends to help me along the way.
There are three experiences I’d like to share with you that I hope help you on your own journey: a quote, a scriptural insight from a friend, and a loving conversation with my wife.
I read this quote in my church magazine, “The Savior doesn’t want us to try harder; He wants us to turn to Him sooner.” (An article on spouse recovery when the other spouse is addicted to pornography). We have quoted it often in my Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) meetings. It has been an intense source of relief when I feel guilty for not being stronger, or for struggling with emotional triggers, or not praying hard enough, or not helping others more, or, or, or … Then in a moment when my mind can be quiet I’ll remember God doesn’t want me to try harder, He wants me to turn to Him sooner. Then I feel peace and relief.
One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:27:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
What’s so fascinating is how I continue to learn new things from and about this single verse over the years. For a long time I interpreted it to mean if I had enough faith and worked hard enough “I” would be able to turn one of my weaknesses into a strength. Then I learned that God gave us our weaknesses not so we’d work on them harder, but so we would go to Him for help. That wasn’t a sign of weakness for going to Him, it was exactly what I was supposed to do.
Then just last week I was at lunch with a friend and he said, “Did you know that Ether 12:27 says God gave us “weakness” but everyone thinks it says “weaknesses”? I stared at him for a second realizing that I did in fact always think it had said weaknesses and then I immediately realized the power of what I just learned. God gave us “weakness” not as a set of various weaknesses but rather as a singular characteristic of being mortal. That’s not something that we’ll overcome on our own or one day will be gone. It will always be there and we only rise above it by realizing we “don’t have it” and by asking God to help us. Easy to talk about, harder to do. But it was helpful to learn that and to keep it in mind.
For whatever reason I got hit with a huge bout of anxiety before our trip. It rattled me and left me feeling raw and exposed. Add to that the excitement and wonder of being on a new adventure which ended up creating feelings of uneasiness followed by feeling triggered. It really started to get to me and finally I opened up to my wife. I was worried how she would take it but it was completely the opposite. She helped me see how I was being way too hard on myself. That at the end of the day I’m human and can only do my best and that was what I was doing. Just being able to open up to her and have her help me see myself in a better light was a treasure. I am so grateful to have an understanding and thoughtful wife. I couldn’t be half the person I am without her support.
Life is great, life is hard, and it’s all going to be okay. I hope you’re not too hard on yourself. I hope you have friends and family who support you. I hope you have a budding relationship with God. If not, then try hanging out after one of your 12 step meetings. Find a friend or two or three. Don’t worry, even if you feel uncomfortable at first it will become something worthwhile in due time.
My name is Mike
One of the most important things I stress to new people who come to our 12 step program for the first time is to join our support group afterwards — you’ll make friends, you’ll be able to ask questions and get answers, you’ll get contact info, and be able to text or call each other throughout the week. Most importantly though, you’ll stop feeling alone because you’ll no longer be alone! Having our support group has made all of the difference in the world for each one of us. Continue reading