Monday, July 30, 2012

Salute to My Friends!

I had the opportunity this past Saturday to spend the day up the canyon at the Theater in the Pines at Sundance attending our annual ARP conference.  This was an absolutely wonderful experience!  I drove up there with the most awesome people and experienced some much needed laughter along the way.  

When we first arrived there were some people making leaf crowns and my dear friend Carlyn and I got one!  Here is a picture of us together sporting them:-)  Isn't she just gorgeous!?
(picture and name posted with permission)

We had the opportunity while there to listen to some wonderful speakers and learn from each of their recovery journeys.  We also had the opportunity to listen to and participate in a very powerful and spiritual sharing meeting which is always awesome.  It sure helps solidify my own recovery to hear others share their experience and especially learn the tools of recovery they have utilized along their path. 

During dinner (it was scrumptious BBQ chicken Sloppy-Joes stuff, potato salad, chips and watermelon) I was carrying on a conversation with one of my awesome friends that I drove up with and out of the blue it hit me.. "she is your friend, she is REALLY your friend"... and all of a sudden I was filled with the utmost gratitude for the very special friends I currently have in my life.

During my teen years and early twenties I didn't really associate with good people.  As I began recovery I was worried that I was going to have to give up all of my friends and in doing so, be left completely alone.  I already didn't have that many friends so to do this was a huge leap of faith.  I am very loyal and so having to let people go was heart wrenching for me.  I came to find however, that what I perceived as loyalty was more codependency.  I felt I needed them to the point that my existence depended on them; a belief that obviously isn't healthy. 

I remember one day a couple of years ago being faced with the decision to block one of my best high school friends on facebook.  She kept posting extremely inappropriate content on her news feed; content that I would never want my children to see or anyone else visiting my wall.  I asked her to please not post that type of content; that children could see it, in which she responded: "It's my life and my wall and I'll post what I want."  I respect that and I thought at first of just limiting what I see, since facebook has filters, but then I thought - why?  Why would I keep people in my circle that I feel I need to sensor?  I came to the conclusion that for my own recovery, I needed to do some serious pruning of my friends.  This was a gut wrenching process and I thought I was going to hurt a lot of peoples feelings as well as mourn the losses of those friendships myself.  But I didn't find either to be true.  We (those friends and I) had grown so far apart that after deleting them neither of us really missed the other (I assume, since they never contacted me again).

That process cut my friends list about in half and I was worried that I'd been totally stupid in cutting those ties, but I decided to have faith and just spend good quality time working on myself and not so much worrying about others (Besides, it's kind of awkward to re-invite someone once you've deleted them hah!  Come on, you know you've been there).  A miracle began to occur after a time though.  The more I worked recovery, and the healthier I got, the more new friends I began to accumulate.  Not just friends as in people with bodies, but good healthy friends.  Friends from all over too, not just from my recovery circles.  I was able to give more of myself and also let more people in.  I have found the most awesome friends in my ward, in my recovery circles, in my World of Warcraft guild (I know my geek is totally showing now) and I've even found long lost cousins doing Family History work mixed with facebook!  It's important to note also that not all of my friends are LDS - I don't think being a specific religion matters at all when it comes to having good friends.  What matters the most is integrity, love, laughter and the ability to roll with life's waves that toss us about without giving up on one another.

I am so grateful for (and to) those I call my friends.  I am also grateful for the friends I have yet to meet (and I welcome you wholeheartedly into my circle).

I love you guys!



Friday, July 27, 2012

Captain of My Soul

I recently watched a popular television show that profiles fisherman as they work diligently to accomplish the task of fishing for crab.  These fisherman show the utmost courage, strength and stamina as they diligently strive to adapt to the constant unpredictability of the Bering Sea.

During this particular episode I watched fisherman that had been up for close to 3 days straight, literally barely functioning on seven hours of sleep in the last 60+ hours of straight labor.  They were absolutely exhausted; stumbling and wandering around the deck, seemingly lost with no direction.    The intricate system of smoothly catching crab began to crumble as each of them had lost all direction of what they were suppose to be doing.  They were weary and had given all they could to complete the task on their own.

Just when all hope of ever being able to complete the mission was lost, the captain who was positioned in the wheelhouse where he has a birds-eye view of all operations, spoke over the loud speaker of the boat to each individual crew member; greenhorn and deckhand alike: "Walk over to the port side and adjust the line", "Finish counting the crab on the table and then go help at the block", "Drop the pot and watch your footing."  The captain was clear and precise in his direction.  He was not impatient or abrupt, rather he was kind.  The captain explained that he knew his men were tired.  He knew they had been up for 3 days straight and they were losing their resilience and endurance.  He had compassion for their circumstance and was there to direct them as to what to do.  The captain's goal was united with the crews goal.  They were all on the same page: finish the task at hand and return home.

The kind and precise direction that the captain offered to his crew is reflective of the loving and individual direction that our Savior gives each of us.  He clearly and warmly leads and guides us.  It is only by way of His guidance and His direction that we can return home to our Father.

Ezra Taft Benson testifies in I Testify:

I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation.  He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fullness of joy.
The story of the crab fishers does not end there however.  The captain freely offered his perfect direction, but it was up to the crew to accept and follow his guidance.  They each had agency to choose whether or not to act upon the direction given as well as agency to do it with a good attitude.  Folly turned to order as each crew member listening to the captain and willingly followed each instruction he gave.  One of the deckhands even acknowledged that he was bone-weary and couldn't function enough to complete the job on his own.  He was happy to have a captain who could see the big picture and decisively and accurately lead each of them to efficiently complete the job.  They expressed great gratitude for their captain and his guidance.

The captain and crew worked together as a team, the captain leading and the crew following, to successfully return home together.  We must do the same in order to return home safely.  The Savior leads us and we must follow. 

Ezra Taft Benson reflects this in Born of God:

Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ.  Men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and  born again.
There are many times during this battle against my addiction that I find myself absolutely exhausted.  There are times I get sick of being an addict; tired of the constant bombardments of triggers that I can never seem to get away from.  Sometimes I get tired of all that is required of me to sustain my recovery.   Other times I get tired of the constant annoyance from Satan and his minions as they poke and prod at me in hopes to get me to slip and fall.  But no matter how I exhausted I get, I know that I have my Savior as the captain of my soul.  He is there leading and guiding me.  He is not weary, rather He is strong and alert of every circumstance I am in.  He sees the home port and knows how to direct me to get there.  All I am required to do is trust and follow Him.  And that - I will do.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

90 Tools for Sobriety


1 ) Stay away from that first drink, hit or view.  Taking the 1st step daily.
2 ) Attend meetings regularly and get involved.
3 ) Progress is made ONE DAY AT A TIME.
4 ) Use the 24 Hour plan.
5 ) Remember, your disease is incurable, progressive and fatal.
6 ) Do first things first.
7 ) Don't become too tired.
8 ) Eat at regular hours.
9 ) Use the telephone. (not just after the fact but before too.).
10) Be active - don't just sit around. Idle time will kill you.
11) Use the Serenity Prayer.
12) Change old routines and patterns.
13) Don't become too hungry.
14) Avoid loneliness.
15) Practice control of your anger.
16) Air your resentments.
17) Be willing to help whenever needed.
18) Be good to yourself, you deserve it.
19) Easy does it.
20) Get out of the "IF ONLY" trap.
21) Remember HOW IT WAS. Your last slip or relapse, the feelings, etc.
22) Be aware of your emotions.
23) Help another in his/her recovery, extend your hand, listen.
24) Strive to turn your life and your will over to your God.
25) Avoid all mood-altering drugs, read labels on all medicines.
26) Turn loose of old ideas.
27) Avoid situations/occasions that will trigger you.
28) Replace destructive relationships with healthy relationships.
29) Read recovery material.
30) Strive to not be dependent on another (sick relationships).
31) Be grateful and when not make a GRATITUDE list.
32) Get off the "Pity Pot"...the only thing you'll get is a ring around your bottom if you don't.
33) Seek knowledgeable help when troubled and/or otherwise.
34) Face it! You are powerless over your addiction, people, places and things.
35) Try the 12 and 12, not just 1 and 12 or 1, 12 and 13!
36) Let go and Let God.
37) Avoid codependency.

38) Find courage to change through the example of others who have.
39) Don't try to test your will power - give an addict one shovel and one pail and in one hour he/she will need 100 wheel barrels.
40) Live TODAY, not YESTERDAY, not TOMORROW - projection is planning the results before anything even happens.
41) Avoid emotional involvements the first year – you end up putting the other person first and lose sight of "your" program.
42) Remember addiction is - cunning, baffling and powerful.
43) Rejoice in the manageability of your new life.
44) Be humble--Humility is not in thinking of your self more, but in thinking more of yourself less often. Watch your ego.
45) Share your experience, strength and hope.
46) Cherish your recovery.
47) Dump your garbage regularly - GIGO = Garbage In Garbage Out.
48) Get plenty of "restful" sleep.
49) Stay sober for you - not someone else – otherwise it won't work.
50) Practice rigorous honesty with yourself and others.
51) Progress is made ONE DAY AT A TIME, not 10 years in one day!
55) Make no major decisions the first year.
56) Get a sponsor and use him/her. (not just selectively share).
57) Know that no matter what your problems, someones had them before. Don't be afraid to share, as a problem shared is one 1/2 solved.
58) Strive for progress not perfection.
59) When in doubt ask questions. The only stupid question is the one not asked. You weren't afraid to speak before, so why start now.
60) Use prayer and meditation ... not just pillow talk, get on those knees.

61) Maintain a balance: spiritual, physical, emotional and mental.
62) Don't use other substances as a maintenance program.
63) Learn to take spot check inventories.
64) Watch out for the RED FLAGS ... things that give excuses for poor behavior and inevitable relapse.
65) Know that its okay to be human ... just don't use over it.
66) Be kind to yourself; it's about time, don't you think.
67) Don't take yourself so seriously- take the disease seriously!
68) Know that whatever it is that's causing pain – it shall pass.
69) Stay as away from the DRY DRUNK SYNDROME as humanly as possible.
70) Don't give away more than you can afford too, your sobriety comes first and must be the number 1 priority. Protect it at all costs.
71) Take down those bricks from the wall around you; you'll be able to see the daylight better. Let people know who you are.
72) Get a home group and attend it regularly.
73) Know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train, but actually a ray of hope. Drop the negativity.
74) Know that you are not alone, that's why the "We" is in the steps.
75) Be willing to go to any lengths to stay and be sober.
76) Know that no matter how bleak and dark your past may be, your future is clean, bright and clear if you don't drink today.
77) Stay out of your own way.
78) Don't be in a hurry--remember "TIME = Things I Must Earn".
79) Watch the EGO. "EGO = Ease God Out".
80) Protect your sobriety at all costs. Keep the light on you.
81) Learn to listen, not just hear. Be open-minded and nonjudgmental.
82) Know that if your insides match your outsides, everyone looks good.
83) If the rest of the world looks bad, check yourself out first.
84) Gratitude is in the attitude.
85) When all else fails ... punt! Up the number of meetings!!!
86) Remember FEAR = FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL!
87) Remember FINE = Fouled up, Insecure/insane, Neurotic and Emotional...watch the FINE.
88) Handle what you can and leave the rest, don't overtax yourself. You can only accomplish so much in a given 24
hours.
89) Honesty and consistency are key factors in recovery.
90) Let the little kid in you out - learn how to laugh from the gut.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Personal Tithes

The concept or act of paying tithing has come to my mind lately.  Tithing is a huge part of our lives as Latter-day Saints and blessings are poured out upon us as we pay the allotted 10% of our earnings to the Lord.  As important as paying our financial tithing is I believe paying tithes to the Lord encompasses much more than just offering 10% of what He has already so graciously given us. 

One thing I've come to learn is that I have my own personal tithing that I have the fortuity to pay to the Lord. I have the opportunity to say:
Here is this thing that I love so much, that I am attached to, that I feel I cannot live without, that I feel I will die without. Here is this thing that I want so bad; this thing that has owned every part of me for most of my life.  Here it is; and I will give it to you.  I will give it to you because as much as I love it - I love you more.
Bruce C. Hafen counsels in The Atonement: All for All:
We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.
Once I finally sacrificed that which I felt my ultimate survival depended on and actively began working on loving my Savior more than my addiction; only then did I begin to heal.  But I didn't begin to get better until I first offered my sacrifice to the Lord.  I offered on the altar, my Isaac.  No, my love for my addiction wasn't the pure love that a parent has for their child as Abraham had for Isaac.  My love for my addiction was perceived and false, but for me, at that time, it was what I knew and it was very real.  It wasn't until I reached for help and trusted the Lord that the dense fog of Satan's lies began to lift and I began to see all the lies I had been led to believe for what they really were.  But it took my acknowledgement of my circumstance, my initial reaching, and my sacrifice to get to that point.  I had to have faith that on the other side of my sacrifice I would find rescue from the soul sucking destructive pull of my addiction.

Thomas S. Monson teaches us in The Key of Faith:
We need the key of faith. No locked door can withstand its opening capacity. Faith is a requisite to this work. There is within our grasp the key which will unlock to our view that which we earnestly seek.
Sacrificing the very behaviors that we so blindly believe gives us freedom and in turning to our Savior we in essence strengthen our faith and our trust in Him.  For every sacrifice we make He pours out an unimaginable amount of blessings upon us.  Those blessings then leave a trail for us to continue to follow. We are children, we like rewards.  Somehow Satan gets us to believe that the Lord doesn't love us.  That is a lie.  The Lord loves us and only wants us to love Him in return.  He wants us to love Him first.  That entails offering our personal tithes to Him.

Robert D. Hales explains in Tithing: A Test of Faith with Eternal Blessings:
(Personal) tithing develops and tests our faith.  By sacrificing to the Lord what we may think we need or want for ourselves, we learn to rely on Him.  The obedient payment of (personal) tithing fortifies our faith, and that faith sustains us through the trials, tribulations, and sorrows in our life's journey.
At times it may seem impossible to sacrifice that which gets in the way of returning home to the loving arms of our Father.  Sometimes we have to tell loved ones that we have hurt them on a very personal and intimate level or admit to mismanagement of finances.  Sometimes we have to do really hard things like quit jobs that threaten our recovery, break ties to destructive relationships or even discontinue internet usage for extended periods of time.  But no matter how hard the sacrifice - the blessings on the other side will always be worth it.  Always.

Dallin H. Oaks sums it up perfectly in Reach Out and Climb!:
When we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the fulfillment of righteous responsibilities, we should remember that when we are involved in the work of the Lord, the obstacles before us are never as great as the power behind us. We should reach out and climb. Handholds will only be found by hands that are outstretched. Footholds are only for feet that are on the move.  We are told that faith precedes the miracle. We have also learned that personal efforts precede it.  Nothing is impossible to those who keep God’s commandments and follow His directions. But the blessings that carry us over obstacles do not precede our efforts; they follow them.  What do we do when we face obstacles in the fulfillment of righteous responsibilities? We reach out and climb! The blessings that solve problems and carry us over obstacles come to persons who are on the move.
Let us always be on the move.  
Let us ever be mindful of our circumstance.
Let us continually keep at the forefront of our minds what we can be giving as personal tithes to the Lord. 
Let us never get so lazy as to think we have nothing left to sacrifice. 
Let us never give up. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Skittles

This story is a contributed piece regarding the desire to keep unhealthy things that enable our addictions and the process of giving them up.

Skittles - by Michelle:


For the sake of this, I'm going to say that eating Skittles makes me sick. I love eating them, but I know that eating even just one will make me ill. The more I eat, the sicker I get. I used to keep Skittles in my pockets. Because they were there, I would be constantly snacking on them so needless to say, I felt horrible all the time. I've tried to stop eating them by just "white knuckling" it but I found I always went back. Sometimes I'd take out most of the Skittles so that I'd stop eating them, but I'd leave a few in there just in case I was craving them. I'd end up crying most days because I wanted to stop eating them but I didn't know how. It was very frustrating.

Finally, one day it dawned on me--if I don't have any Skittles, I won't eat them.  I found this to be easier said than done though. That day I decided to start cleaning out my pockets. It took a long time and it was hard to get rid of them all. In a way, I didn't want to get rid of all of them because they were so good but I did it anyway. I let go of it all. I threw out anything in my pockets, or drawers, or any other hiding place I had been keeping them. I even got rid of the ones that were in my couch cushions that I never thought I would eat, just so I wouldn’t be tempted. I tried so hard to stop thinking about them and I avoided even getting near where they were kept when I went to the store. I even got a friend to remind me how sick the Skittles made me and if I ever got a single one, I’d hand it over to Him immediately.  He helped me avoid them as if it were the plague. So far, it's working. I no longer crave them. Sure I occasionally think about them but I quickly chase out the thought. For me now, the joy of not feeling sick is so much better then the taste of the Skittles. I feel so happy now and I feel free to live my life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Why me?"

Early in recovery and even sometimes now when the winds blow hard, or more often when I get overtired, I sometimes ask God "why me?"  Why after almost three years of recovery do I still trigger so bad sometimes?  Why can't I just have a break?  Why is it so hard?  I begin comparing my problems with others around me and get upset that their challenges seem to be easier than mine, or worse, I think other people don't have challenges at all.  I let feelings of entitlement seep in and begin to justify feelings of self righteousness.  I lose my gratitude for what I have been given, and even lose the gratitude I have gained for the challenges specific to me.  Even though at times I struggle with these thoughts I already know the answer so I am fortunate that I don't sit in the question very long anymore.

I had a sister recently ask me:

 Why do you think we are given these struggles?
I answered:
Because these struggles are what will most efficiently refine us to a state in which we can boldly approach the throne of Grace and return home.
Satan molds his temptations to exploit our vulnerabilities while Heavenly Father presents us with challenges to strengthen us in our vulnerabilities.  We all have unique rough spots that each need smoothed.  It would be pointless to give us challenges that bring a buffer to an already smooth spot.  Instead, we need challenges that will chisel, sand, and buffer our rough spots. 

A good friend of mine summed it up perfectly as he expressed in one of his missionary letters home his thoughts on why we have been given the challenges we each face:
We have been prepared for our specific challenges in life for far longer than we have even been here in mortality. Don't we realize there is a divine reason we are all in our situations that we are in? God has known us for a very very long time and has seen us grow and knows exactly what we need to face now to be able to become Kings and Queens in the worlds to come. It is so easy to say life isn't fair. But how is it not fair? We are blessed with the trials that we need not the ones that someone else needs. To me, that seems very fair. To me, that seems like we really do have a loving Father in Heaven who really does know us and really does want nothing else but for us to succeed. - Spencer Carrier
Dwelling on the 'why' of our challenges is dangerous.  It takes our focus off of our Savior and halts our progression.  Early in recovery I hit a turning point that really helped free me from the bondage of asking 'why' I was an addict.  I finally decided that I wasn't ever going to know why and more importantly, that it didn't really matter why.  I just simply had to accept that I was.  Once I was able to reach a level of accountability that allowed me to just accept that I was an addict without seeking to place blame elsewhere, I was then free to stop wasting time looking for answers myself and refocus my attention instead on accepting the Lords will and using His counsel to better my circumstance.  I was finally free to feel gratitude for the challenges I'd been given.

Feeling gratitude for our challenges is like submitting ourselves to a lifetime of bufferings and compression from the power of universal elements that constantly refine us to become the smoothest stone possible.  It takes time and it takes patience.

One of my very favorite scriptures brings me such hope when I lose my gratitude for my addiction:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
9.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am grateful for my addiction.  Without it I would not have the drive to spur me to lean on my Savior everyday; to cry out to Him everyday; to surrender to Him everyday.  Without it I would be apathetic and complacent.  I would be stagnant.  I would be lost.


 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dailies

Dailies were and continue to be a huge part of my recovery.  Step 10 is considered the "Dailies" step but I actually decided to utilize the concept of dailies really early in my recovery.

I used to have the hardest time remembering to do simple things like praying and reading my scriptures.  It's amazing to me how easy it is to forget such simply things and really, the fact that it's that way tells me Satan has his hand in influencing me to forget.  I was struggling with selective memory loss of spiritual things so bad that I decided to create a check-list for myself.  Now, I know there is some negativity surrounding the idea of "check-listing" and I definitely discourage"check-listing your recovery," but this is different. 

What I did is created a checklist that I could review each night before I went to bed and just determine how I did for the day.  It was a way for me to stay honest and accountable with myself.  I first started off with two or three questions such as:

Did you read 10 minutes of scripture today?
Did you pray at least one time in your head today?
Did you entertain any music or media that would offend the Spirit today?
I found that this list provided clear direction in the form of written words.  I was able to consult my goals each night and determine if I was on the right path to achieving them.  I found that the days I didn't do so well on my dailies, were the days that I would struggle with my addiction.  There was a direct correlation between my lack of movement and the level of my struggle.

The awesome thing about this list is it was malleable.  I could adjust it as needed with my ever growing recovery.  I would remove questions as I would master them, and add questions where I felt I needed work.  The Lord would guide me as to what He wanted me to work on and I would add His questions to the list.  It even helped me continue to work on my steps as one of the questions was "Have you worked on your Steps today?" 

Some other questions my list has contained throughout my recovery are:
Have I avoided depressing or negative thoughts today?
Have I done something nice for someone today?
Have I told my husband I love him today?
Have I expressed my gratitude to my Father in Heaven today?
Do I feel good about my actions today?
Have I felt the love of my Savior today?
Have I avoided manipulation tactics today?
Have I strived to be a patient mother today?
Have I hugged my kids and told them I love them today?
Has my love for my Savior grown today?
Do I believe that I am an elect daughter of God and can return to His presence?
Have I text my Bishop/sponsor to check in for the day? 
The important thing to remember when writing a dailies check-list is to keep the goals specific, simple and achievable.  If our goal is ten minutes of scripture study a day yet we struggle with achieving that, we can start with ten verses of scripture a day instead; or even one.   If we struggle with saying prayers on our knees, then we can start with the goal of one prayer a day simply whispered in our heads. 

Remember, that the overall goal is to create habits of the heart.  We are not to be discouraged if we have a bad day with accomplishing our dailies, but left with determination to do better the next day.  It takes picking up and trying again and it takes practice


'30-in-30'

The '30 in 30' is program of step assignments given by sponsors to sponsee's.  The 30 in 30 program specifically is not endorsed by the church but it is commonly used in the ARP Program.  I have sponsored many 30 in 30's and wrote the following outline of how to work them. 

This can also be used as a general guideline for those working the steps on their own.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How the 30 in 30 works: 30 assignments in 30 days to be worked everyday by the sponsee doing daily Step assignments and reporting each day to the sponsor what they have learned.

The purpose: To allow the sponsee to sink themselves into the 12 Steps, saturating themselves with the Spirit of recovery and allow daily work with the Steps to direct their lives toward healing by way of their Savior.


General Guidelines for sponsors
  1. This program should be sponsored by someone who is strong in recovery and has sponsored a ‘30 in 30’ before.  The reason for this is that there is often despair and hopelessness surrounding those new to recovery and would be easily absorbed by someone who is not already strong in recovery.  Sponsee’s also may say something that may trigger the sponsor so it is important the sponsor be well equipped to handle such situations.
  2. It is recommended that the sponsor tell the sponsee prior to starting the ’30 in 30’ that the program lasts only 30 days.  It is up to the sponsee how much work they put into it, but in the end, it only goes for 30 days.  If the sponsee is doing well and would like to, they do have the option of continuing with a ’60 in 60’ or ’90 in 90’ if the sponsor agrees, or with another sponsor.
  3. “The quality of our recovery is directly proportionate to the quality of our surrender.”  The sponsee will get out of it what they give, it’s that simple. They have complete control over their own recovery.  If you find the sponsee is not committed to the program, are giving shallow answers, or are ‘check listing’ their assignments, they may just not be ready for the ‘30 in 30’.  Don’t hesitate to point this out, and suggest they take some time to re-assess where they are and how committed they are.  Encourage them to continue coming to Group and reach out for help if needed but to move at a pace that progresses their recovery.
  4. Sponsee’s should be checking in daily at a previous specified time.  It is OK to have the time be different each day as long as both parties agree. 
  5. Urgent situations arise and at times sponsee’s are not able to call resulting in skipped days.  It is at the discretion of the sponsor to extend check-ins for any days past the 30.
  6. The call itself should be the sponsee reporting on what they learned from the previous day’s assignment.  Calls generally last 20-30 minutes.

General Guidelines for sponsee’s
  1. The sponsee should find a quiet time each day where they can devote 30-60 minutes on each assignment. 
  2. The sponsee should open each assignment with a humble prayer on their knees, asking Heavenly Father “what would you have me learn?”  Suggest to them that they not ask for anything specific, but just to be taught.
  3. It would be beneficial if the sponsee obtained a hard-copy of the Addiction Recovery Manual.
  4. It is also recommended that the sponsee keep a journal specific to their 30 in 30.  A lot of miracles, personal revelation and tender mercies will manifest throughout this process and it is wonderful to have a place to record all of it.


The following is a general outline of assignments to be given, but it is very important to follow the promptings of the Spirit when giving assignments.  Each individual is unique in their recovery so assignments will often be personal just for them.  Heavenly Father uses the sponsor as a conduit to work His miracles in the lives of his precious children.

It is also important that the sponsee actually work the Steps.  The 30 in 30 is not an overview or quick rundown of the Steps; rather it is a program where the sponsor guides the sponsee through actually working the Steps; learning from them and growing from them.   

Introduction

The introduction is an excellent first assignment for someone who is brand new to recovery.  The introduction bears a sweet testimony of the power of the Steps by people in recovery.  It invites the sponsee to trust in the Steps and to join in the journey back to the Savior.


Step 1 - Honesty

  1. Read and report on the body of the Step.
  2. Read and report on the action Steps (make sure to specifically ask the sponsee how they feel about the first action Step and if they feel confidant that they have the ‘willingness to abstain’ aspect of it down)
  3. If the sponsee is having any hesitation about their willingness, have them write a list of the pro’s of continuing in their addiction and the con’s of continuing in their addiction.  Have them list anything and everything, including selfish reasons.  If done correctly their pro list will be much shorter than their con list.  Don’t hesitate to send them back to work on it more if you feel their list isn’t complete.
  4. A good talk regarding choice is ‘The Three R’s of Choice’ by Thomas S. Monson.  Plainly stated, it talks about choice being a privilege and makes it seem powerful and much less daunting.
  5. Read and answer the questions in Step 1.  The questions should not be checklist style.  Much can be learned and revealed to the sponsee by praying about and answering each question.  If the sponsee is having trouble with a specific one, it is OK for them to leave it, pray about it and revisit it later.  Invite the sponsee to talk about their feelings surrounding roadblocks they may run into regarding them.  Offer them encouragement in return and invite them to pray about it and ask Heavenly Father for guidance, reassurance, peace and answers.
  6. Once all the assignments have been completed for Step 1, have the sponsee pray about moving on to Step 2.

Addition helps for Step 1
Suggest that the sponsee see their Bishop on a regular basis and to be honest with him, so that anything that happens is not something they have to add to their Step 4, but rather it is taken care of right away.

Step 2 - Hope

  1. Read and report on the body of the Step.
  2. Have the sponsee read ‘The Tender Mercies of the Lord’ by Elder David A. Bednar.  This talk is very powerful in offering hope that Heavenly Father really does love us and is not only able, but wholly willing to help us.
  3. Read, answer and report on the questions in the Step.
  4. Once all the assignments have been completed for Step 2, have the sponsee pray about moving on to Step 3.

Addition helps for Step 2
The blessings, tender mercies and miracles that the Lord so freely gives us are direct evidence of His love for us.  Invite the sponsee to start looking for miracles in their life each day as they work the ’30 in 30’ and have them report these miracles.  This helps them begin to recognize miracles and actually see that their Father in Heaven is actively blessing them; actively showering them with his love.  This recognition helps the sponsee increase their gratitude to their Heavenly Father which begins a wonderful cycle of give and receive with the Lord.

Step 3 – Trust in God

  1. Read and report on the body of the Step.
  2. Have the sponsee read ‘The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing’ by Elder Richard G. Scott.  This talk is very powerful in helping the sponsee understand that life is hard, for everyone, but God loves us all and invites everyone to trust Him, no matter their circumstance.
  3. Read, answer and report on the questions in the Step.
  4. Once all the assignments have been completed for Step 3, have the sponsee pray about moving on to Step 4.

Step 4 has multiple Steps throughout it.  In the Addiction Recovery Manual there is only one inventory, however for the purposes of the 30 in 30, there are 3 or 4.

Step 4 - Truth

Inventory 1 – Lifelong Timeline (allow 1-2 days)

Have the sponsee document their life in a timeline.  Include moves, major events, milestones etc.  If the sponsee has any memories come up that need to be inventoried in their Step 4, have them write them off to the side so as to not forget, but not worry about it until they begin their Step 4 inventory.  There is not a specific way this is suppose to ‘look’, it is simply to help the sponsee organize their thoughts and get thinking about the past in preparation for the next 3 inventories; it in a sense gets the memory wheels greased and moving.

Inventory 2 – Christ like Attributes (allow 2-3 days)

Have the sponsee list all of their Christ like attributes.  This can be very difficult for sponsee’s because they have lived in self loathing for so long, but through prayer Heavenly Father will reveal to them their worth.  A few steps can be taken to help facilitate this process:
  1. Have the sponsee list adjectives that they feel describe their Christ like attributes.
  2. Have the sponsee ask friends and/or family they trust, including a Bishop and sponsor what they think the sponsee’s Christ like attributes are.  Make sure it is people they not only trust, but will believe.
  3. Ask the sponsee to consider that all these attributes are gifts from God.  Have them pray and ask God why He has bestowed these gifts upon them and what he wants the sponsee to do with them; how he wants the sponsee to emulate them; how they can use those gifts to help others and further the work of the Lord.

Inventory 3 – God’s Hand

Have the sponsee inventory times throughout their life, from their earliest memories, where the Lord’s hand was present in their lives.  Miracles and tender mercies are abundant, but often the sponsee is blind to remembering them.  Have them pray and ask Heavenly Father to open their minds and hearts to remembering them.  It is very easy for sponsee’s to get general when listing these tender mercies.  Instill in them that they are to look for very specific instances throughout their lives where the Lord has bestowed a tender mercy just for them.  The goal of this assignment is to help the sponsee recognize that the Lord has been with them throughout their entire life, not just now when they are working on recovery; to help them understand that the Lord never left; that He has always been there.

Inventories 2 and 3 are important before the 4th because it creates a foundation of worth in the sponsee before they begin remembering all the dark stuff to inventory and move toward confession and telling their sponsor. 

Inventory 4

  1. Encourage the sponsee at this point to begin considering people to be their permanent sponsor if they do not already have one.  This is a prayerful process and should be pondered and prayed about.  Offer the sponsee the Support in Recovery sheet on choosing a sponsor and bear your testimony of how having and utilizing a sponsor has helped you throughout your journey.
  2. Read and report on the body of the Step.
  3. Read, answer and report on the questions in the Step.
  4. Begin the inventory.

It is strongly recommended that the sponsee work their Step 5 with their sponsor as soon as possible after their inventory is complete.  Encourage the sponsee once again to prayerfully choose a sponsor during their Step 4 inventory, so that sponsor is in place and ready to listen to the sponsee’s Step 5 as soon as the inventory is complete.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guilt vs Shame

There has been some debate over the years in my mind what the difference is between guilt and shame.  Although it is now crystal clear in my mind what the difference is between the two, I still come across many who haven't quite grasped the concept like I have.  I hope and pray I can express it clearly here.

Webster defines each as the following:

Shame
The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of doing something dishonorable. Disgrace. To disgrace or cause to suffer.  

Synonyms: mortification, humiliation, degradation
Antonyms: self esteem, self respect, honor

Guilt
A feeling of responsibility or remorse.

Synonyms: contrite, liable, regretful, sorrowful
Antonyms: innocence

Based on these definition’s it is clear to me that shame is an attack on our very being, our existence, our soul.  Shame tells us we are a disgrace; it humiliates us and is a piranha that destroys our sense of self worth.  On the other hand, guilt is a necessary emotion that comes as a consequence to something we did wrong.  It is the sensation of heat on our hand when we touch a hot burner telling us “don’t do that, it will hurt you.”  Guilt is a warning to keep us on track. I see it as a consequential gift to detour us from dark and painful paths. 

There is a common saying that sums the difference up perfectly:
Guilt is “I’m sorry for what I did,” where shame is “I’m sorry for who I am.”
Guilt is an absolute essential part of the process to get home.  Spencer W. Kimball teaches us this concept:

As repentance gets under way, there must be a deep consciousness of guilt, and in that consciousness of guilt may come suffering to the mind, the spirit, and sometimes even the body.  In order to live with themselves, people who transgress must follow one or the other of two alternatives.  The one is to sear their conscience or dull their sensitivity with mental tranquilizers so that their transgression may be continued (addiction).  Those who choose this alternative eventually become calloused and lose their desire to repent.  The other alternative is to permit remorse to lead one to total sorrow, then to repentance, and finally on to eventual forgiveness.
Shame on the other hand is an attack on our character, on our being, on how God made us.  Shame isn’t an attack on something we have done; it’s a direct attack on who we are.  Does that sound like something from God?  No of course not.  God loves us.  God would not instill in us anything that would leave us feeling hopeless and worthless in its wake.

Gordon B. Hinckley teaches:

How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.
Shame can derive from the dark whisperings of the adversary, from us choosing to feel sorry for ourselves and also from not correcting our wrong doings as they happen.  Step 10 teaches us to have daily accountability.  When I do something wrong I immediately (or as close as to immediately as remaining emotionally and spiritually healthy permits) correct my wrong.  If I don’t correct that wrong as soon as I can then it sits in me and festers like bacteria in a sauna.  I must expose that wrong to the open air, to the Light of the Savior as soon as I can so He can take it from me and heal the damage it caused.  The faster I get rid of it, the less damage it creates.

It was really hard for me to differentiate between guilt and shame early in recovery.  I had been immersed in shame for so long that I didn’t know different.  I even felt shame for actions that I’d already gone through the repentance process for many years prior.  I had no idea how to give that up.  It took time and patience.  I worked to not focus on shameful feelings.  Instead I allowed myself to feel sorrow for my actions as they came, repent for them by apologizing to anyone I’d wronged and/or taking it to my Bishop and choosing to believe that I’d been forgiven.  Then the miracle came.  I finally grew to believe that I had the complete agency to, after proper repentance, simply choose to let it go.  I came to decide that if I accidentally pooped (made a mistake) that I’d apologize for the mess and then clean it up and move on.  There is no point in pooping and sitting in it.  It’s messy and stinky, and no one likes a stinky poopy Sidreis, especially me.

My definition of the difference between guilt and shame:

Shame

I am horrible.  I’m the worst person in the world.  I am a waste of skin.  I can’t believe God even made me.  I should give up.  I’ll never make it.  I hate myself.
Guilt
I’m sorry for what I did.  I’ll strive to not do it again.  I will make the necessary changes to ensure it won’t happen again.  I will utilize the Atonement of my Savior to wash myself clean and renew my covenants with my Father.   I will learn from this mistake.  I will let this experience refine me.  I can do this
Crystal clear:-)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meetings

I want to take a moment and talk about the LDS Addiction Recovery Meetings.  I know a lot of you may have never attended a recovery meeting and so I want to give you a run down of what what to expect and my experience as well as answer some general questions that I myself asked before I attended for my first time.

Most of us have some idea of what a recovery meeting will look like even from limited exposure to the AA format through TV shows or movies.  Generally, this is how a meeting looks.

The seating arrangement in LDS meetings is always in a circle although the seats themselves can vary depending on location. 

Most LDS 12 Step meetings are an hour and a half long.  Some noon meetings last only an hour to accommodate a lunch hour for those that are working.

When first arriving at the meeting the room will be set up and there will usually be two missionaries and one or two facilitators to greet the participants as they filter in. 

There is a very light and war feeling in these meetings.  Remember, the Spirit dwells there.

When entering the room participants sit in the circle and wait for the meeting to begin.  For the first half hour of the meeting the missionaries conduct the study of the steps.  We study one of the 12 steps each week, in order, by each participant reading a paragraph of the step and progressing in the circle until the entire step has been read.  In some meetings we stop every few paragraphs and have discussion on the paragraphs just read.  I love this part of the meeting.  This is where we teach one another how to use the Steps.  It's awesome. :-)

Once the study of the step is complete, the facilitator (an addict with good recovery) then begins the sharing portion of the meeting by sharing their own experience of the step discussed and bearing testimony of their recovery.  The facilitator will then open it up for group sharing.  In 12-step tradition each person starts their sharing with some variation of "Hi, my name is ____."  In LDS 12-step tradition one person will start the sharing and then sharing will progress in a circle around the room giving everyone the opportunity to share.  It is NOT a requirement to share.  If someone doesn't want to share, that is totally OK.  We simply ask that they say their name so we can welcome them and then say "pass."

Once everyone that wants to share has shared, the time is turned back over to the missionaries for closing thoughts and a prayer.  Most meetings then have a "meeting after the meeting" period where participants linger to ask questions and to get phone numbers.

Some other questions that some of you might have:

How large is the group?

Group size really can vary.  I've seen as little as 3-4 people at a group all the way up to close to 30 in a group.  It depends on the type of group and the season.

Is it men and women?

General ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meetings for family support and addicts are mixed men and women.  PASG (Pornography Addiction Support Group) meetings are separate meetings for men and women.  Currently there are only PASG family support group meetings for women (in the Utah County mission).

Is there sponsorship?
Yes.  Sponsorship is a huge part of recovery.  I am going to be writing an entire other blog post on sponsorship.  Once I do, I will link that post in here.

Group has been an absolute essential part of my recovery.  I would not be as far along as I am in my recovery if I didn't have it.  Group creates an environment of unity in the Savior but also unity with each other.  There is something very powerful about numbers.  We are not as alone, exposed and vulnerable to the predatory advances of the adversary.  On top of that I have made some of the sweetest most exquisite friendships that I have ever had with women from the group I attend; friendships that I know will last throughout all eternity. 

One song that I really love that sums up beautifully how I feel about group is Utopia by Alanis Morissette:





If you have any questions that were not answered in the post, please either post in the comments section to this post, or you can use the Contact Me feature located in the tabs above.  I would love to hear your questions!

Also - if any of you have had experience with these meetings and would be willing to share your testimonies of your experience there, whether anonymously or not, I'd love to hear from you.  Depending on the response I may just add the stories to this post or create a whole new one:-)
Oh and if you are looking for a meeting - you can find one here. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parable of Being Stuck in a Tree

Brayden got himself stuck in a tree. He wasn't sure how he ended up there and was pretty nervous.




He asked his dad for help and patiently waited for his arrival, not trying to take control of the situation and jump himself, possibly resulting in injury.




Finally, Dad arrived and Brayden was happy that he was no longer alone but felt a sense of trepidation as awareness of his predicament set in.




"Don't panic Brayden, it's ok.  Just sit down and be calm. Trust me."




"Ok dad, I trust you"




"Just reach out for me, I'll catch you. I promise I will not let you fall"




Rescue would come so much sooner if we were all only this trusting...




"There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness." - Boyd. K Packer

Friday, July 13, 2012

Memory

I've been struggling lately.  I've just feeling really tired, overwhelmed and stressed.  I have learned over the years that stress leads to the desire to act out in my addiction so I take extra precaution when the winds of struggle begin to blow.  One of the precautionary measures I take is to keep the wheels of communication with my Bishop well greased.  My Bishop represents my Savior and in his office I find sanctuary, hope, healing, love and especially much needed counsel.  This past Wednesday as I sat in his office with tears streaming down my face he counseled me to remember where I came from; to remember what I have been given.  He offered this counsel to help me find my gratitude, for I had lost it.

It's easy for me to think back to the circumstances I was in when I began my recovery journey and I probably could have regained a measure of my gratitude by simply doing that but I wanted to take it a step further.  For the first year or so of my recovery I would email my Bishop all the time.  He was my outlet for expressing all the emotions I had bundled up from 25+ years of struggling to handle my addiction on my own.  He was the perfect Bishop for this, a shining gift from God.  I'd email him pages and pages of pain and he would just take it and reassure me things would be OK.  It was extremely therapeutic for me to just be able to express myself and put it somewhere safe. 

So, in order to tap into the memory I had stored up of where I came from I decided to go back and read some of the emails I'd sent him when I began this journey.  WOW!  In sifting through all the emails I realized I emailed him ALOT!  I'm not going to even say how much because it was A-L-O-T.  But once I started reading I sunk myself into my own writings.  I became immersed in the emotions I felt then; the anxiety, the shame and especially the fear.  I honestly didn't realize how bound I was by fear until I read my emails again.

I wanted to share a few excerpts to give perspective on how insane I was back then.  I'm not joking when I call myself insane.  It's common to talk about 'the insanity of addiction' and that's exactly what I'm talking about. My addiction made me absolutely insane.

Here are a few excerpts (1 month after initially seeing my Bishop)

8/14/2009
I am a total mess faced with so many ups and downs.  I'm exhausted from it.  One minute I'm fine and the next I'm not... I often wonder if it wouldn't be better for me to just stop.  Better for everyone.  It would be so much easier to just shut off.  I just cannot wait for the day that I can... be full of hope and joy and love and compassion and good stuff.  Rather than all this bad stuff.
8/15/2009
I had the worst night so far last night.  It was awful.  I lost it.  Ohhhhhh nelly did I lose it! My mind just went NUTS.  I hit rock bottom. I sat in the bath and just sobbed.  And then came the temptation - I wanted to mess up.  Oh MAN!  I wanted to mess up SOOO bad.  It would have been so easy for me to.   I was angry and sad and torn and jumbled and I just wanted some sort of control.  The numbing effect is like a drug and I wanted it.  I WANTED it.  But I did resist.  I did.  I did it.  
I'm this kid with millions of volatile insecurities.  I have serious abandonment issues and I get scared that people will just leave me.  Give up on me.  It's what they always do, right? They always leave.  Sooner or later. 
I knew I'd get down - and that I'd say all the time that I can't do this - that it's impossible.  I just didn't realize it would be this HARD and this OFTEN!! UGH!!
8/23/2009
Lately I have been really doubtful if you can help me at all.  I am just feeling really lost again.  I'm thinking it's pointless to continue our visits on Tuesdays (regular Bishop visits).  I mean really, what's the point? 
Actually, when I think about it, I'm afraid.  I'm afraid the ugly parts of me will show again. 
I have come to a major realization; that I have a desperate need for approval.
While reading my own words I felt so much compassion and love for myself.  I was a scared little girl, terrified of coming out of the dark.  It has truly helped me see how far I have come.  I have memory of these feelings I wrote about but it's as if it's not me.  I didn't realize how truly insane my addiction had made me.  I didn't realize that all my insecurities and fears were false; how they were lies Satan has told me that I'd believed.  I didn't realize how much my Savior loves me and wanted so desperately to heal me.  Little by little I began to trust and in doing so little by little my Savior healed.  His level of healing was directly proportionate to my level of trust and humility. 

For those of you who know me, this might almost seem like a joke because these excerpts are so far from who I am now.  Now I am confidant, I love myself, I am happy and I rarely ever think about giving up.  I myself almost don't recognize the person who wrote these words.  But that is the point.  I can't ever lose memory of who wrote them.  If I lose sight of who wrote them then I lose sight of how far I have come and in doing that I lose my gratitude.  My Stake President once posed the question to me: "What is the difference between someone who sins and repents and a person who doesn't commit the sin?"  The answer?  Memory.  My memory is a gift so I don't forget where I came from.  I have been granted the ability to remember where I have come from in order to better retain my gratitude.  What a wonderful cycle!!

This experience of remembering where I came from has truly opened my heart up to feel the most exquisite gratitude for my Savior.   I am grateful for His love and for the sweet tender care He takes to tend to my wounds, comfort me, lead me and to cherish me.  I am grateful for His ultimate rescue of my lost Spirit and for never ever giving up on me. 

I also want express gratitude for my Bishop who has also never given up on me.  Thank you.


Quick update July 14, 2012:

My Stake President offered some words on this topic after he read this post and I wanted to share them with you.

"As time goes on in life and we fill our lives with the love of the Savior, then we fill our hearts and mind with the goodness of the Lord.  Over the years we fill our hearts with the memories that will help us forget the bad ones.  The Savior will be by our side holding our hand and blessing us with His Grace.

Moroni 10:32-33
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Never forget He is always with you." (Thank-you President J.)

Another update: July 17, 2012

I was researching another blog post and came across this quote by Neil L. Andersen and thought it fit perfectly in this topic!

Repent That I may Heal You

The scriptures do not say that we will forget our forsaken sins in mortality.  Rather, they declare that the Lord will forget.  The forsaking of sins implies never returning.  Forsaking requires time.  To help us, the Lord at times allows us the residue of our mistakes to rest in our memory. It is a vital part of our mortal learning.  As we honestly confess our sins, restore what we can to the offended, and forsake our sins by keeping the commandments, we are in the process of receiving forgiveness.  With time, we will feel the anguish of our sorrow subside, taking away the guilt from our hearts and bringing peace.

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"