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
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
For most of my life I always pictured the requirement for having a broken heart and a contrite spirit was to be “broken” in spirit. In other words, to be less than I am right now. To give up my freedom. Or to lose my sense of self. Or to give up my free will. That essentially I would lose my independence and having been broken, become unable to make my own decisions or to standup for myself and be who I want to be. In some ways, those statements are close to the true meaning of a “Broken Heart” and yet in ways that are subtle and very important they also couldn’t be further from the truth. Continue reading
Two weeks ago when I left on vacation I was committed to following my plan to make sure that I studied my scriptures at least 15 minutes a day — most likely in the evening. This would be the difference in my plan this time versus all of the times in the past. Usually when I go on vacation I’m fairly triggered by the end of it and that would always frustrate me. After analyzing past experiences, I realized that it was because I wasn’t doing my morning studies which would result in me being more tempted, more frustrated, and more manic by the end of the trip. But this time would be different. Continue reading
We went for a boat ride on the canals of the south. By the end of the ride I was as relaxed as I had felt in months! It felt so good to be at such an incredible level of peace. Nothing bothered me. I wasn’t tense. I wasn’t anxious or worried. Nothing weighed on my mind. Ahhhh…
It reminded me that my counselor told me to go outside more often and to just pay attention to the little details or listen for the quiet sounds. The 11th step also reminds us to meditate daily.
This morning as I was reading my scriptures I went outside and just listened to nature. There were 4-5 different kinds of birds. There were cows. Horses. Dogs. Just going about their morning but it was so calming to take it all in. With each breath in I could feel how alive everything was. With each breath out I could feel my stress, worries and burdens leaving me.
God will care for my worries and burdens while I am gone. He cares for them when I’m home (and I let him), He always has. As I listened to God’s creations and as I watched His sun climb high into the sky, and felt it’s warmth on my face, I was once again reminded how much He genuinely loves us. Deeply. We’re so important to Him. Each one of us matters to Him on an individual level.
I felt lifted by the gratitude I felt. I am very thankful to be on this earth at this time doing whatever I can to help Him help others.
May I keep feeling His peace. May you feel His peace and love. He does love you!
My name is Mike
My family and I are headed on a vacation for the next week or so. This is a great thing! I love to recharge, I love to visit new places, and I love to be with my family. I’m really looking forward to the time off from work and the other responsibilities of every day life. However, there’s always a tricky part to traveling as an addict. I’m out of my element. I’m outside my normal habits and patterns. It’s easy to get my studying in every morning at home because I get up at 6:00am every day, exercise, study, and then go about my day. Nothing to worry about, I’m usually in complete autopilot mode. But as soon as I leave home and go on vacation all of my daily habits seem to get thrown out the window. In the past I never really noticed the change nor did I notice the negative impact it had on my wellbeing. For example, although I would be having the time of my life I would often feel triggered which would make me irritable and eventually I’d start taking out my frustration with my mood on my family. Not a good combination. But then one of my sponsors mentioned to me, “You know, you can be triggered from high positive emotions as easily as low difficult ones, right?” I did not know that. But it made sense. All the years I used, I primarily used to relieve myself of stress and other difficult emotions. As a result I was not used to feelings the emotional highs and lows. I had been numbing them out for years. Now that I was feeling those strong emotions again it was foreign to me and my brain wanted to get rid of it and looked for ways to do it that were like my old ways.
The good news is that was a long time ago. I’m a completely different person today, thankfully. In large part because of the 12-steps and the transformative power that God has to heal us when we turn our lives over to Him and quit trying to run the show ourselves.
What that means today is that I recognize that I need to put extra effort into doing my daily studies. I also need to make sure that I spend time in mediation — keeping my mind in a nice, level, healthy place. A good example is that this morning we were up at 3:25am and went straight to the airport. No time to study there, nor was I awake enough to really get anything out of it. I slept on the plane and now we’re in the airport waiting for our next connection. I should be reading but my body says, “Nah, you’re on vacation, take a break!” But my mind just smirks a knowing smile and says, “How about I handle this one? Time to study.” So as soon as I’m done posting this entry I’ll be off to my studies and then I’ll know I’ll have a great day. AND I’ll be sure to look for an opportunity to help other people. The more I can make it about others, the less I make it about me and I more easily avoid the trap of selfishness.
To help me stay sober during our vacation I’ll try to drop a line from time to time via a blog entry to just check in. Should be fun.
I hope everyone is having a great Christmas season and if you are able to spend time with family I hope it is uplifting and energizing. Remember the little things — they make all of the difference. I pray that God will light your way forward. I pray that your fellowship will help lift you. I pray that your sponsor will be honest with you and that you’ll have the courage to follow his or her suggestions. I pray that you stay sober — one day at a time :
My name is Mike
Last week was a difficult week for me. I was struggling with stress from work, the time I was spending with my recovery groups, time with family, time with church obligations, and on top of that I felt like I was not giving enough attention and effort to my relationship with my wife. I felt like I was crumbling underneath it all and not doing well in any one of them. I was beginning to feel self-pity, resentment, fear, and anger. I ignored it for a few days, but finally I found the humility to admit that I was once again powerless over this struggle and needed to reach out to someone immediately. Continue reading
This last Sunday evening at my LDS Addiciton Recovery 12 step Meeting we had a visiting leader as the normal leader was out of town. At the close of the meeting the leader will usually share a thought he has prepared for the night. What set this time apart from the others is the visiting leader was a recovered pornography addict himself. You could have heard a pin drop in the room it was so silent. We hung on every single word he uttered! It was amazing. He had us all with his first line, “Brethren, I don’t know if you know this or not, but you are the cream of the crop! You truly are.” Continue reading