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.
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 had an interesting visit with my counselor on Monday. Interesting usually means I learn something valuable and it’s generally not an easy lesson to learn (which no doubt is why it becomes valuable). The lesson this time was about giving our hearts to God, nothing held back. That’s not an easy thing for me to do. In fact, I think I do it more “letter of the law” than “spirit of the law” and that’s kind of my problem. But, the valuable lesson I learned is that I can see the difference now. I know that I am not all in yet. It means I struggle a lot on my own instead of turning to God for help. But the good news is now that I’m aware, it means I can work towards improvement. And it all began with a question, “Do you believe in God?” 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
This last Friday was my last day with the company I’ve been with for the last several years. I work in a remote office that was part of a San Francisco based company. There were 30 of us in our office and we were all let go at the same time. We were close, like family. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life to say goodbye to everyone last week. I would equate it to the pain I felt when my grandfather, who was a major part of my life, passed away suddenly. I felt SUPER sad. I felt lost. I felt some fear and anxiety. It was like a massive storm was upon me in the open ocean and I was just getting pummeled by wave after wave! Continue reading