Friday, August 31, 2012

The 12 Steps

The 12 Steps are Gods way of simplifying His gospel and teach us how to utilize and rely on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.  The Steps are not a 12 week course or a one time fix.  They are principles we should take exquisite care to adopt into our daily lives. 

The Steps:

Step 1 - I have come to realize I cannot overcome my addiction on my own

Step 2 - But there is hope because with my Savior, healing is possible 

Step 3 - It seems so scary but I'm going to trust God and do my part

Step 4 - If I do this work

Step 5 - God will heal my shame

Step 6 - If I do this work

Step 7 - God will heal my thoughts and behaviors

Step 8 - If I do this work

Step 9 - God will heal my relationships

Step 10 - I must work daily to keep myself in line with the Steps; with the principles of His restored Gospel.  Practice makes progression!

Step 11 - I am now a well oiled machine at communicating with and receiving revelation and inspiration from my Heavenly Father.

Step 12 - I must not keep the gift of recovery to myself.  My Savior did not heal me so I could selfishly keep it.  I must do all I can do to share His healing with others.
Beautiful

Thursday, August 30, 2012

P.A.S.G.

P.A.S.G. (Passage) - Pornography Addiction Support Group is a subsidiary of the (Mormon) church's general Addiction Recovery Program specifically created for those who struggle with sexual addictions which include but are not limited to: viewing pornography, masturbation, inappropriate sexual relationships, or reading romance novels.

Some may wonder why there is a separate program for those that struggle with pornography/sexual addiction; especially since everyone uses the same Addiction Recovery Program Manual.  I want to bear my testimony of the PASG program and express why I feel it is not only heallthy, but necessary to have it separate from ARP.

Sexual addiction is not socially accepted as some other addictions are; such as alcoholism or drug addiction.  There is an extra, very dark, measure of shame attached to sexual addiction; especially amongst the LDS community.  Satan knows how deep those rivers of shame run and he uses that knowledge to his advantage in every way possible.  Sexual addiction is easy to fall victim to, easy to hide, and easy to get trapped in:
It’s free
Most evidence can be deleted
Physically acting out can take place with no one knowing. 
It is insatiable; a rabid hampster in a running wheel; never-ending.
The secretive nightmare of sexual addiction is the perfect breeding ground for shame.  Once we are hooked and Satan has us in his grip, he then uses shame to keep us bound.  It is a deadly, isolated and very personal cycle.

The beauty of the PASG program is it is designed specifically for those struggling with sexual addiction.  A participant doesn’t have to worry about being compared to others with more socially acceptable addictions and they don’t have to worry about being in meetings with anyone of the opposite gender.  It is difficult enough confessing such sin to a Bishop let alone letting others in.  That is the catch-22.  Satan wants us to isolate, but in order to heal we must have a support system of loving and caring individuals that we can lean on and work with in order to combat our addictions.  There needs to be a safe place for those struggling with sexual addiction to go, to share their struggles and triumphs, to hear stories of healing, to learn specific and targeted tools of recovery and especially a place where they can learn how to utilize the power of the Atonement in their lives.  This is a place where in a safe place they shed the shame that has kept them perpetually bound.

My Savior has saved me through this program.  I went from feeling lost and broken to feeling whole and free.  I went from feeling devastating shame to wanting to share my story with the world in order to help my Savior release my fellow brothers and sisters from Satan’s grip.  I am so grateful for this program and the Atoning sacrifice of my Savior and I pray for the day when a person can enter any city on this whole earth and find a meeting to attend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beginnings

I want to share with you how I started my recovery.  How I was able to jump from the realm of active addiction and being bound by seemingly insurmountable levels of fear and shame to finding the courage to reach out to my Bishop.  This is a line that for a very long time I worked to avoid.  Looking back - the events that led up to me finally finding the courage to visit with my Bishop was nothing short of a miracle.  This courage did not come from within me - it was instilled in me.

It was the spring of 2009.  I was active in my addiction and even though I had previously sought out help to get better I had since given up hope of ever recovering.  I wasn't currently looking for help and I had no intention or desire to stop acting out.   

But then one day early in April something happened.  I came home from one of my softball games to find my Bishop fixing my neighbors car in our shared driveway.  I was instantly nervous.  I would avoid the Bishop at pretty much all costs and here I was put in this predicament where I would have to say hi to him, probably have to shake his hand, or worse, actually make eye contact with him.  Of course, all of the above happened.  I rushed the entire exchange and then entered my house with a sigh of relief and promptly forgot the encounter.

The following Sunday the Bishop spoke to the ward members from the pulpit.  I felt like he was speaking directly to me as he told us how much he loved us and that we were welcome over at his house anytime.  But the most important thing he said that day was that he wanted to hear from us.  He wanted to hear how we were doing; good or bad.  He wanted to know us.  It was at that moment that a seed of desire started to burn within me; desire to share with him and to give him my pain.  But I was terrified.  I kept having these thoughts pop up that I was dirty and would be judged; that I was the only one with this problem and my Bishop would scoff at me.  These thoughts quickly squelched the ember of desire that had begun to burn.

Another week went by and I found myself at church again.  I was so torn up inside though.  Because of the desire to reach out for help that had sprouted in my heart seven days prior, I had spent that whole week bouncing back and forth between courage and fear.  My awareness of all the ugly things I was doing was at it's peak and I felt so awful that I didn't even feel worthy to step foot inside the church building.  I couldn't handle the idea of going to Sunday School so I ditched and went and sat in on Primary.  I was sitting enjoying the children singing when I sensed the door open to my left and in came my Bishop.  I immediately felt embarrassed that I wasn't in class and felt like a student who got caught ditching.  He did see me but didn't say anything.  He quickly finished whatever he came to do and then left the room.  

Feeling like I'd dodged a bullet I left primary and went and stood outside the Sunday School room.  As I was standing there my Bishop opened the door and stepped out; face to face with me.  He didn't let me get away this time.  He immediately offered his hand to shake (which I took), held on to it, leaned in close and with his piercing blue eyes (that I swear were X-ray vision to my soul eyes) said something that was a total blur and I can't remember. I just remember fumbling over my words and thinking "he knows!"   I felt so rude being so awkward but I still couldn't muster the courage to make eye contact.  Finally he simply let go of my hand and walked off.  

That encounter shook me.  At that moment I felt so impressed that I was to go in and see him.  I knew that it was no accident that my Bishop kept popping up all over the place.  The signs were so obvious that I finally decided to contact him.  That Tuesday I sent him a facebook message and apologized for being awkward in the hall and expressed that I was struggling with depression.  He responded that very day and asked me if I needed to visit or if I needed a blessing.  I responded with the following:
I don't know about the blessing, that may be a good idea.  I do need to visit but I dunno when.  I have to muster up the courage for that.  I have things to say but they are hard to say.  Ahh the chains of fear... fear of disappointment, that's what I fear.

He responded with the following (that I still quote to this day):
My door is always open.  I would love to chat.  You have nothing to fear but fear itself.  We can take baby steps if we need to.  Anyone can eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Those tender words of encouragement were exactly what I needed to hear.  I burst into tears when I read them and my fear melted enough for me to finally make an appointment to see him.

That first meeting with my Bishop was a pivotal moment in my recovery.  I felt no judgement or accusation there.   My Bishop did not reprimand me or tell me I was a bad person.  He did not act uncomfortable or shy away from me.  He was loving and kind.  He encouraged me and reminded me that I was a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and still within the Savior's grasp.  I left his office feeling like a shiny new penny.

Later down the road I was shopping for a greeting card for someone and I ran across one that really summed up the turning point in which I decided to see my Bishop.  I took a picture of it and keep it with me at all times.



  
There is also a song that I want to share with you. This song gives me a lot of strength when I am scared to reach out...




I want to bear testimony to those of you who may be struggling right now who have not found the courage to speak with a loved one, a friend or your Bishop.  The Savior is mindful of you, He loves you and He wants to rescue you.  Look for tender mercies and clues that may be placed in your path to help guide you and offer you courage.  And when the time comes - as scary as it may be - reach back.  It's worth it.

Topics

Hey Folks,

So I want to take a moment and invite you to suggest topics for me to blog about.  Now that the "cat's out of the bag" as my Bishop would say, I'm opening up to write more specifically about sexual addiction.  I do have plenty of topics to keep me going for a while but I also want to write about topics/idea's/questions that you may have.  My goal is to share my recovery with you - specifically- how I gave up things, how I accomplished things, how I cope with things.  So please, if you have specific questions, don't be shy.  Let me know!

If you don't want to respond publicly that's understandable and totally fine - you can also use the 'Contact Me' tab at the top of the page to send thoughts and suggestions - or if you know me personally you can contact me via text, email or facebook.

Thanks in advance!

Sidreis

Friday, August 24, 2012

Touched By The Light Of Grace: My Story



To my dear friends, family members, random readers, church leaders, loved ones of addicts and addicts…

I welcome you and I am very happy that you are here.  It is my sincere hope that you will find something meaningful in this post and on this blog; that you will walk away with hope or a better understanding of addiction and it's far reaching effects, especially among women.

It is important to note that I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or a Mormon.  If you are not a member of the Mormon church, some terms may seem foreign to you as I relate the below story of my addiction and how I found my recovery.  I don’t want to interrupt the flow of the story by stopping and explaining each term so if you have questions, ask a Mormon friend.  If you don’t have a Mormon friend, get one, we’re pretty cool!  Or, you can also check out Mormon.org which can answer a lot of your questions about our beliefs.

Please know that my story is a very personal one.  I do not share my story lightly and I admit I do have fears that there will be negative repercussions both for me but especially for my family.   But, I trust in the Lord and I continually find safety in the words of King David: “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what can man do unto me.”  It has slowly been revealed to me over the past couple of years that it is my mission in life to spread hope to those who currently feel the shame that I have felt; who are bound by the chains of the adversary as I was and who feel totally and completely lost as I once did.  To you I say; you are not aloneThere is hope.  To the rest of you, if you have negative things to say, please just don’t.  My target audience is to spread hope to those who can relate to what I have to share and awareness to those who have loved ones that may be struggling, or just to those who want to hear a great story of how the Savior rescues and heals the broken.

With that… 

I am Sidreis and I am daughter of God recovering from a pornography and masturbation addiction; an addiction that is difficult for many to comprehend or understand.  My addiction started in my early childhood and it has made most of my life very dark, hopeless and lonely.  During the times I acted out in my addiction, I felt as though I was stuck in a very deep, sealed well; completely dark and cramped, with walls so high I couldn’t see the top. I felt completely alone with no hope of ever getting out.

As a result of the shame I felt from my addiction I doubted that anyone cared about me; I felt that no one loved me and that I had no purpose or value in this life. I felt that even if I tried as hard as I could, there would always be better, more righteous people than me.  I felt that if I wasn’t going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom anyway, then why try at all?  Why even be here on this earth where people would waste their time and energy on me?  I felt my spirit and my soul literally wither from the inside out.  For as long as I can remember I trudged through life, day after day, keeping a pasted smile on my face so no one would know the real pain that ruled every aspect of my life.  I was not happy, I was merely surviving.  I have struggled with suicidal thoughts throughout my life, and have attempted twice, most recently in 2007.

There finally came a point though, about three years ago, that I realized that throughout my life I had been trying to overcome my addiction my way, simply striving for abstinence rather than reaching for my Savior.  It was at this point, when I finally admitted just a bit that I was powerless over my addiction, that I made room for a glimmer of hope to finally shine.

I decided to go see my Bishop and go through the process of yet again confessing my indiscretions.  This time was different though.  My wonderful Bishop introduced me to the LDS Addiction Recovery Program.  He gave me the 12-Step manual and suggested I attend meetings.  I promptly dismissed that suggestion as I was too scared to face other people.  I still felt very alone and couldn’t believe anyone else actually struggled with the same thing as I did.  I did, however, decide to work the steps on my own and continued to see my Bishop weekly.  Those meetings with my Bishop were instrumental to my recovery.  Satan was working day and night to keep me down, but I found that he was left at the doorstep of the church building when I would meet with my Bishop.  His office became my sanctuary and I longed for those meetings each week.  I drank in his counsel and the constant reminder that my Savior loved me.

It took time, but as I worked through Step 1 in the manual my heart softened a little and I began to realize that there was no way I could recover alone.  I needed strength in numbers to be able to overcome my addiction.  I realized that Satan’s influence is much stronger when I am alone, and even though my Bishop was amazing with me, there was no way he could remain in that role of sole supporter forever.  I needed to find and maintain my own support system.  So, I decided to attend my first Twelve Step meeting. 

When I first walked through the door of the meeting there was only one sister there.  She welcomed me so warmly that my fears dissipated a little and I felt relatively comfortable.  However, as I sat there and more women filtered in, I felt my fear return.  I shrank in my seat and didn’t make eye contact with anyone.  I squeezed my recovery book close to my chest not wanting anyone to see it—as if hiding the book would hide my addiction from them.  I found myself wondering what I was doing there and how it would help me.  At that time, I felt no person, no God, and especially no program could release me from the binding chains of hell.  Looking back, I really can’t pinpoint exactly what got me to group, except that I wanted to be able to tell God in the end, at the judgment seat, that I had done everything I could to fix myself.  So there I was, trying to make that happen.  I didn’t expect it to work, but I was there. 

As the meeting started I felt the Spirit enter the room and surround me with beautiful healing light.  Tears immediately started streaming down my face as I felt the tender hand of my Savior touch me and whisper to me that He loved me and that I was in the right place.  Never in my life prior to that moment had I ever imagined there were others like me, and here I was in the presence of a room full of beautiful daughters of God, my very own sisters, that were faced with the same challenges as I was.  I left the meeting that night feeling more accepted, loved, empowered, and committed than I had felt in my entire life.  But most importantly, I felt hope. 

That hope that I felt that night is what has kept me going back week after week.  First it was only hope for my own recovery but over time I began to find joy in offering hope to others.  Through this journey hope has been essential to my recovery process and I am so grateful for it.

I feel the most exquisite gratitude for my Savior forI would not be where I am right now if it were not for His loving guidance and Grace; for His rescue.  I have been blessed with a sure knowledge through personal revelation, tender mercies and undeniable miracles that He loves me.  This knowledge helps me everyday to strive to stay on the recovery path, and keep my Savior as my focus.   

There was a time when I would struggle with my addiction on a daily basis; whether it was through stress, anxiety, depression, or at times just pure temptation.  This world can be so dark and sometimes it just seems like it would be so much easier to give up.  But now, since I have kept focus on my Savior, His Atoning sacrifice and His infinite love for me; and strive everyday to be humble and full of surrender to my Heavenly Father’s will, I have finally been freed of the chains of active addiction. I feel full of purpose now and I know the reward for doing what is right and fighting this disease is far more rewarding than the false sense of happiness I get from acting out.  My sexual addiction is only a symptom of a greater personal tragedy--not realizing my own self-worth.  If I can combat that, then I have won. But that is only possible by way of my Savior.

I did love my Savior prior to finding recovery, but it was from a distance.  My shame was so great that I didn’t believe I was worthy to call on Him.  I never knew how to personally rely on His power to save me.  But I have come to find that all I had to do was believe that if I reached out and trusted Him, He would be there.  And as I did that, I found that He was.  He provided the means for me to learn and live the principles of His restored Gospel by guiding me to the 12-Step Addiction Recovery Program.  I could no longer deny His outstretched hand.  It was then that I began working my recovery program—by admitting I was powerless to overcome my addiction on my own, reaching out to my Bishop and trusting God.

The message I want to carry is of Hope in the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; hope that each mistake that has tarnished us can be washed clean as if it was never there.  And hope that when we meet Him again we can be confident in His presence and boldly approach His throne and feel absolute peace as our gaze meets His.

I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for patiently working with me, molding me, and helping me gain clarity and understanding to be able to see, learn and absorb truth; and for rescuing me from the bondage Satan had me in.  Instead of believing that I am the runt of God’s children, I now know that I am His beautiful daughter; I know I am worth the world to Him; more than the world, for He created this world for me; for each of us.  I no longer look in the mirror and think I am ugly and worthless.  I now look in the mirror and see a change in my countenance, I see myself glowing in light with the power of Christ to protect me.  I no longer shy away from my own image, for I am made in His image, and I am clean.  

In the wake of my addiction the most important virtue that I lost was my ability to choose.  Agency is the single most important gift my Father in Heaven has given me and by action of my own my ability to choose had been stunted. I am so grateful to have that gift restored to me and know that no matter what challenge is placed before me that I once again have full capacity to choose for myself the path which I want to take.


I pray constantly that those who are struggling will be blessed with courage to see their Bishops and seek out meetings so they may be able to experience the Spirit that dwells there.  That they may also feel such undeniable love from their Father in Heaven and know, without any doubt, of His absolute love for them; that they may find refuge in the arms of our loving Savior; our brother.

I am grateful everyday for my addiction.  If I didn’t have it I’d be a complete fence sitter.  But because of my addiction I am presented with opportunities everyday to turn to my Savior, to rely on Him and to love Him.

Some of you may find that some of what is written above may look/sound familiar to you.  Early in my recovery I had the opportunity to share some of my story in the book He Restoreth My Soul by Dr. Donald Hilton and more recently my story has been published on the LDS Addiction Recovery website.  I also had the opportunity to film an interview for the church regarding key points in my recovery process.  That interview, among others, is available here.

I do understand that some of you reading may not be members of the Mormon Church and may not believe that the aspects of sexual addiction that I struggle with are wrong.  That is OK.  We are taught in the Mormon faith the principle of the law of chastity which counsels against (among other things) participating in masturbation and pornography. 

I want to thank you for sticking with me this long. This totally turned into a novel!  Crazy!  But, I felt it was important to share this story as complete as I could as an introduction to my struggle, journey and continual recovery.

Please feel free to share this post.  As I said, my goal is to spread awareness and hope among the LDS population, especially women, but also to the world; that through the cleansing power of the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can all be healed.  That won’t happen unless we share – so by all means, keep it moving!

Much Love,

Sidreis

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear God Letters: I Need Your Counsel

Dear God,

I love you so very much.

I am grateful for all thou hast given to me.
I am especially grateful for my Savior; for His pure love for me and all His grace.
I'm grateful for being rescued from the grasp of the adversary and all the shame that came with it.
I have a question in my heart and I need your help.  
I want to know if I am suppose to share my story with the world now, or if I am to wait until the church publishes my video and/or my written story.  
I have been praying to you for a while now asking this question but you have been quiet, or maybe I am just not hearing your answer.  
I'm sorry if that is the case.
Here is my dilemma.  
Part of me wants to wait till the interview and/or written story is published to add some legitimacy to my story.  
I want people to take me seriously.  
I'm scared that if I share my story without linking my interview with it, that people will see my story as a joke and not pass on my story to others.  
I feel like I need people to take me seriously and pass on my story so it will reach my target audience: other women who struggle with the same addiction I do.  
That is my ultimate goal; to help others.  
But then part of me doesn't want to wait because the longer I wait, the longer people go without my message of hope and recovery.  
But I fear that I am lacking faith and hiding behind the church instead of trusting you.  
I also just have this overall foreboding feeling of fear but I feel this fear is unfounded because I can't necessarily pinpoint what exactly I am scared of; I just know that I feel scared.  
I am concluding that my fear is simply Satan clouding my faith.  
I feel like maybe I need to just take this scary leap of faith and trust that you will protect me and comfort me; and bring me peace if there are any negative repercussions.
Please help me Heavenly Father.  
Help me see the light and to feel thy love.  
Please help me to see the path in which I am to take.  
I feel my fear is clouding my faith and I need clarity.  
I will pray and fast for an answer for the answer to my question is very important to me; and may be very important to others.
Thank you for loving me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Going Home

This post isn't so much going to be about principles of addiction recovery but more about how awesome and supportive my family has been.  I want to express my utmost gratitude for them and especially for my Savior, for through His healing power He has not only managed to heal me but also mend the relationships I have with many of my family members and bring us closer together.

I have been MIA from blogging for the past 10 days or so because I had the opportunity to head up to Montana to pick up my older two boys who spent a good portion of the summer at Grandma and Grandpa's.  I was fortunate enough to also be able to spend a few days up there in the process.  My husband was also able to go which was awesome.  It was the first time he's seen my hometown so it was great to be able to show him around and let him glimpse my childhood.  Let me tell you, Glendive Montana (and the surrounding rural areas) is the picture perfect hometown to grow up in.  I absolutely love it there.  I would love to move back - but I hesitate just because it is a bit isolated from the rest of the world (which is probably why it is so beautifully untouched).

I just wanted to share a taste of Glendive and the small, six homestead, town of Lindsay where my parents live.  Prior to recovery going home would stress me out.  The emotional and spiritual turmoil I was in would spill over and effect the relationships I had with my family.  But now that I am much more spiritually and emotionally healthy I long to be home again. 

This is a picture of the view from my parents front yard... this is so beautiful.  I see God's hand everywhere in this scenery.  It's so beautiful (I know I said that already).  I feel such gratitude for this beautiful earth that God gave us.




This picture reminds me of the Savior. Do you see how?  His light is behind the clouds.  There are so many times during my day to day struggles that I forget He is there.  Because my Spirit cannot feel Him past the turmoil I experience, just as my physical eyes cannot see the sun in this picture, I can be so quick to forget He is there.  I dismiss Him and lose my faith.  But He is there.  Sure as the sun is behind these clouds, my Savior is always there.


Other pictures that fill me with gratitude or simply make me happy...

My Mom's yard.  Isn't it so beautiful and welcoming?  Picture perfect farmhouse yard.




The beautiful Bell Street Bridge that connects both shores of the Yellowstone River that runs literally right through the middle of Glendive.



View of the picturesque Yellowstone river from the Bell Street Bridge.



Happy brothers!!  My boys felt so much love and acceptance in Montana.  I want to give a shout out also to all the people in the ward in Glendive for making my kids feel at home.



Water!!  I'm so grateful for water!!  This is the dam, right across the street from my parents.  It's privately owned by good friends of our family, the Young's.  It's the local watering hole and so much fun!


Scratching and smiling dogs:-)  This is Chief, the newest adoptee into the Keller family.  He's a wonderful, loving dog and quite the watchdog too!  Oh, and he plays hide and seek! Ha. 



I love my family and the opportunities I have to go home.  Thank you dear family for always loving me, for accepting me and for forgiving me.  I love you all very much!



Friday, August 10, 2012

Dark Side

There is a new song by Kelly Clarkson that has been playing on the radio called "Dark Side" and I absolutely love it.  Music is a huge part of my recovery, it speaks to my soul and at times it can offer so much healing.  Dark Side does this for me.  At first I was just relating the lyrics to my early recovery when I carried so much shame and I was absolutely terrified to admit to myself everything that I had to admit.  I was bound by soul gripping fear that my Bishop would think I was the worst person in the world and that my Savior would be so ashamed of me.  There were songs along my early journey that really helped me work through this fear.  Even though Dark Side wasn't out at that time, this song is one of those songs and I want to share it with you. 



Like I said, I at first related this video to my early recovery but today I realized that it relates more to my current circumstance than I first thought. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with the 12 Steps, in the 4th step we inventory our entire lives; everything.  In step 5 we share that inventory with our sponsor and also with the Bishop if anything inventoried requires it.  My first inventory was like pealing the first layer off of an onion.  After that first layer was gone it exposed other layers, or other memories.   I would then repeat the process with those layers.  Sometimes I would find that a new layer isn't an entire new memory, but instead is just more accountability for previous layers.  Such is my current circumstance.

A memory has recently come to my mind of something I had previously confessed, but I was not completely honest with myself or my Bishop when doing so; I was not completely accountable.  So now I get to go back and do it again; do it better.  But I am terrified. Will my Bishop think less of me?  Will he roll his eyes at me and think "again?" 

This song describes exactly how I feel about that meeting and the sometimes overwhelming fear that my Savior will leave me...
There's a place that I know
It's not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away

Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try and push you out
Will you return?
And remind me who I really am
Please remind me who I really am

Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

Like a diamond
From black dust
It's hard to know
What can become
If you give up
So don't give up on me
Don't run away
Don't run away
Just tell me that you will stay
Promise me you will stay
Don't run away
Don't run away
Just promise me you will stay
Promise me you will stay

Don't run away
Don't run away
Don't run away
Promise you'll stay...
 

War Stories

"War stories" is a term we commonly relate to the stories of war veterans detailing the impossible odds they have endured and overcome.  These stories can leave us feeling an array of emotions: angry, sad, passionate and can also instill in us the most significant pride for our country or cause.

"War Stories" is also common term used in recovery circles but it doesn't hold the same meaning as it does for war veterans. 

As addicts it is common for us to tell war stories about our addictions: "Oh you think that is bad?  Let me tell you what I did!"  These stories may seem harmless in the moment but in reality these stories focus on and even glorify our addictions.  They make our addictions seem exciting and can trigger the desire to continue acting out.  War stories are detrimental and damaging to recovery.

It is important in recovery to continually face forward, toward God.  A quote that I love sums this idea up perfectly:
It is better to be ten feet from hell and facing heaven than to be ten feet from heaven and facing hell.
We are taught constantly that it doesn't matter where we are on the path, but what is more important is the direction we are facing on the path.  I know for me at times as I hold tight to the iron rod, the winds will relentlessly blow, there will be dust swirling around me and storms threatening to destroy me.  Through these trials it often seems all I can do is barely muster the strength to just hold on and not get blown off course.  When this happens, and it seems as though through the trial I made little or no progression I am sometimes left feeling that I have failed.  I have to remind myself that this is not true.  If we are measuring our progression by how far and how fast we are moving we will be sorely disappointed.  It is important to find value in the simple accomplishment of just holding on and not being blown off the path.  Holding on is a form of facing forward; holding on is recovery at work. 

Talking about war stories is detrimental to recovery because it is telling ourselves that it is OK to think about the past and all the bad we have done.  It is glorifying the sin by calling it exciting and eliciting laughter and shock in others as we recount that story.  How can we walk forward when our heads are rubber necking at our past?

Elaine S. Dalton, General Young Women's President, teaches:
As you climb the mountains of life, stay on the path of virtue. There will be others to help you, your parents, family members, bishops, advisers, and righteous friends of all ages. And if you are weary or take a wrong turn, change your direction and get back on the path of virtue. Always remember that the Savior is there for you. He will enable you to repent, strengthen you, lighten your burdens, dry your tears, comfort you, and continue to help you stay on the path.
The further we get away from our indiscretions of the past, through proper repentance and working Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 Steps, the more they will fade from our memory.  I know for me, I rarely remember, let alone entertain, thoughts of all the heartache in my past.  Really, the only time it ever comes up is when the Spirit brings a memory to the surface in order to help someone else.  And even then, I am careful what I share, and how I share it. 
 
Richard G. Scott speaks of focusing on virtues rather than vices:
Order your life more effectively and eliminate trivia, meaningless detail, and activity. They waste the perishable, fixed, and limited resource of time. Choose to emphasize those matters that have an eternal consequence.
I have a testimony that if we don't waste our time on war stories and smearing ourselves all over again with our muddy pasts that we will truly be blessed.  It is important to use what precious time we have now to create new and worthy memories and experiences that will benefit us and our posterity throughout all eternity.


 
 
 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

700 Club

Today I joined the 700 club; 700 days sober club. I'm so grateful for my recovery!  It truly is a miracle that I have come as far as I have.  Never in a million years did I ever believe it possible to have the relationship that I have with my Savior, or the knowledge of my Father in Heaven's plan. 

Prior to beginning recovery three years ago I hated myself.  I believed I was a waste of skin and wanted to not just die, but I wanted my spirit to be exterminated because I believed my very existence was an offense to God.  I know this sounds extreme - but that is literally how I felt and I feel it important that people understand how dark life can get when in the midst of addiction.  Now however, I know that I am a beautiful daughter of God.  I know that He loves me.  I know that He has specific purpose for me on this earth and I feel that my life now has direction. 

The biggest and best miracle however though is the love that I know feel for my Savior.  I love Him at a capacity that I never thought possible.  I never thought it possible to love someone so much that I cannot see or touch and that I have no real tangible memory of.  This truly is a gift for it is this tender love that I have for my Savior that enhances my progression and growth. 

The more I love Him,
The more I want to be like Him. 
The more I love Him,
The more I become like Him.
The more I love Him,
The greater chance to return to Him.

... and counting...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Champions of the Heart

I have enjoyed watching the Olympic events of the 2012 Summer Olympics this past week.  I believe the Olympics bring a healthy spirit of competition and pride for each of our countries.  I also feel that the Olympics bring a more eternal theme of unity among God's people. 

A couple of days ago I saw an excerpt aired by NBC, profiling the journey of Kerri Strug, an Arizona born gymnast who, representing the United States, competed with six other gymnasts in the 1996 Summer Olympics.  Together they formed what was endearingly termed the "Magnificent Seven."  Magnificent, because as a team they swept Russia for the team gold; a feat that had never before been accomplished.

What stood out to me in this story were the incredible odds that Kerri faced, and overcame, in order to bring home the gold for her beloved country.  With four vaults left, to be performed by Kerri and one other gymnast, the United States found themselves within a fingertip's reach of the first team gold medal ever won by the United States in this event. 

Entering the final rotation the United States had a mere 0.897 lead over Russia, leaving them vulnerable and susceptible to the historically dominant Russians in the team all around.  With the first four gymnasts landing their vaults, but not without flaw, and the 5th gymnast falling on each of her landings, the entire weight of ever winning the gold fell on the shoulders of little Kerri Strug.

I must stop here and speak a little of the character of Kerri Strug up to this point in her career.  Spoken by Kerri herself on the recent NBC interview, she painted herself as a very timid gymnast, often falling under the radar.  More often than not she would reside in the shadow of the spotlight often cast on other, more vivacious and extroverted, gymnasts.  She felt frail much of the time; scared and unsure of herself. 

Yet there were hidden embers burning within her...

As Kerri approached the vault run, one could sense trepidation in her.  She seemed feeble and apprehensive.  The crowd went crazy as she ran and vaulted herself into the air.  The atmosphere thickened with the crowd's anticipation.  Kerri, however, had under-rotated her first vault.  She landed at an odd angle, fell, and tore two ligaments in her leg.  

Pain and disappointment clouded her face.  

She was hurt, ashamed and scared.  She didn't want to continue and, looking to her coach Bela Karolyi, asked him "Do we need this (next vault)?" (Meaning do I have to go again?  Can I quit?)  Bela knew Kerri was hurting and wanted to quit, but he also knew they that their current scores did not reflect a first place position.  Looking at her, he replied "Kerri we need you to go one more time.  You need to go one more time for the gold.  You can do it!"

Tears stung my own eyesas I began to see the Savior in Bela.  

The Savior doesn't rescue us from our trials but, rather, He lifts and sustains us through them.  He doesn't give up on us but remains our greatest cheerleader, forever at our side.  

Such qualities were apparent in Bela as well, for from the sidelines he continued to scream over the crowd "You can do this Kerri!!  I believe in you!  You can do this!!"  Bela's encouragement resonated with Kerri.  She explained that in practices Bela would always tell her that she could accomplish great things that she didn't even think possible.  Bela would push her and encourage her beyond her perceived limits, and even though what he promised to her seemed impossible, she trusted him.  

She believed him.  

She believed he could see things in her that she could not see herself, and so she believed his sideline shouts of encouragement .  During the single most pivotal moment of her entire career, and likely her entire life, as the crowd screamed at a deafening decibel, all she could hear were the encouraging words of her coach: "you can do this Kerri, I believe in you," because that is the voice she chose to listen to.

And so with crushed pride and torn ligaments she again approached the vault run.   

This time she began running with new found determination.  Those embers that once burned low had grown into a great flame that burned within her.  

Courage coursed through her as she flew into the air. 

Kerri was no longer the timid and frail gymnast that she once was. But because of her willingness to not give up, and to trust, she exuding the most exquisite faith and courage.  Because of her sure trust in Bela, and belief in herself, she landed a perfect vault.

The United States had won their first Olympic gymnastic team gold.

She did it.  She believed him.  She trusted him.  

She didn't give in to the fear that was so ready to consume her.  She kept her focus and, with fierce determination, tasted the sweet flavor of success.  

Kerri is living proof that we don't have to be amazingly strong people to accomplish great goals.  We can be fearful and timid, and still overcome great obstacles.  

Our strength is not found within ourselves, our strength is found in our Savior and with Him everything is possible.

And hats off to you Kerri and Bela... together you are the greatest...



If you would like to view the NBC interview you can watch it here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Touching Darkness

I have been struggling lately with pride; specifically feelings of being right and feelings of entitlement.  I hate it when I let these feelings consume me.  I sometimes get so caught up in these feelings that I can't tell which way is up.  I recently faced a situation in which I didn't act or react in a way that would be very pleasing to the Lord.  Being right took precedence and became more important than anything else.  Over the last week I have been torn in half emotionally and spiritually as I've struggled for control and justification rather than focusing on my Savior and following His example.

My countenance got so low this last week that for the first time in a long while I again entertained suicidal thoughts.  I admit, I do often think about death, but it's more in my prayers as I express to my Heavenly Father "Heavenly Father, today would be a good day to take me home" rather than thoughts of taking my own life.  But last week I was surrounded by such darkness and was subject to very specific thoughts about taking my life in a manner that I've never really thought about before.  The specificity of these thoughts made it quite apparent to me that they were the result of whisperings from agents of the adversary.  They were not thoughts I really could have come up with on my own.

One thing that surprised me though was that my addiction didn't trigger.  Normally when I'm thrown into tumultuous situations I struggle with the desire to act out in my addiction.  I believe this time was an exception to that rule however, because I feel I descended below that desire; below the point that even acting out in my addiction would bring me joy.  I touched thoughts that normally would help numb my pain, but even those thoughts didn't bring the usual solace and so I just let them go. 

I decided I needed to meet with my Bishop.  I needed to find refuge in his office to feel the intimate love of my Savior.  I didn't really realize how exhausted and torn apart I was until I met with him and began to feel the most immediate and exquisite peace.  I truly believe the adversary was left at the door of the church building as I entered and for the first time in a while I was free of his direct influence.  Through tears I shared my struggles with him knowing he is a representative of my Savior.  After patiently listening to me he opened his scriptures and read the following verse:

Joseph Smith History 1:15
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.  I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.  Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
Thick darkness truly had gathered around me to the point in which I myself entertained thoughts of personal destruction. 

Another verse I can also relate to is:

Joseph Smith History 1:20 (last 1/3 of the verse)
It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me?  Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?
I know I have a lot to offer to others in regards to recovery; specifically other sisters who struggle with addiction.  I have been given so many opportunities to share my story of how the Savior has and continues to rescue me.  I guess that truly would make me a disturber of the dark one's plan. 

Dang right I am a distrurber!  I'm a freakin' warrior!!  Heck if I'm gonna let him win!!

A tender mercy came today in the form of the Ensign.  I quickly opened it and found I'd fallen on the page of the first article titled "Answering the Call of Duty."  The article profiles President Monson's service to his fellow man since he started serving in the church as a Bishop at the young age of 20.  I love President Monson so much and his example is so important to me.  Tears streamed down my face as I realized I had lost sight of my purpose on this earth.  This article helped me refocus on that purpose; to love and serve the people.  To bring other sisters who struggle unto the Light of Christ. 

I am so grateful for this trial and all that I have learned from it.  I'm also grateful for the continuous opportunity I have to rely on my Savior to temper my pride.  Without Him, I would surely be destroyed.

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"