Friday, September 28, 2012

Journal: Step 9, Revelations and Answered Prayers

Hello!  Goodness - it's been a while since I've posted.  My reason for the delay is two fold.  First, I seemed to just be really busy this week.  I have been working on a couple of posts but those posts are dependent on others and so I'm waiting to hear back from them.  The other reason is because my story is going to be promoted by Voices For Virtue soon and part of me didn't want the current post to be a 'journal' post when that story goes live.  So I was delaying posting again in hopes the previous post to this one would be on the front page of my blog.  But in the end I decided it was silly to delay posting and the work must go on.  So here I am!

So here are some happenings that have occurred over the past couple of weeks:

~~~~~~~~~~

My 13 year old son had a great opportunity to work a Step 9 this past week.  He and his 9 year old brother had spent a month up in Montana with my parents over the summer.  While there, something pretty bad happened that neither of them would fess up to and eventually my 9 year old took the blame just to stop the discussion.  Fast forward two months to now.  My 13 year old, through tears, finally came clean and admitted he was the culprit in the incident.  He then had the opportunity to call my mom and sister and tell the truth.  He was terrified to call them and I felt for him because I know how terrifying it can be to come clean about wrongs but I also know how rewarding telling the truth and being released from the bondage of lies can be.  I sat next to him as he sobbed on the phone to my sister and the next day sat shaking as he called my mom.  I am so proud of this boy.  He did the absolute right thing!  And I'm proud of my family for being loving and accepting of his apology.  And I'm proud of my 9 year old for accepting my 13 year old's apology.  And my faith in the Lord and His love and forgiveness has been reaffirmed and strengthened.  The entire experience was glorious!  I am so grateful for opportunities such as this to teach my children the principles of His restored Gospel by way of the 12 Step program.

~~~~~~~~~~

On that note.  I need some advice from you guys.  I've obviously gone way public with my story.  Which I know is my path - I know its what the Lord wants me to do and I have zero fears and no regrets.  Heavenly Father truly has protected my family and I and sharing my story has been completely positive.  My question is in regards to my 13 year old.  Tim and I have decided that we are going to tell him about my addiction and my work in helping bring hope to others.  We have also counseled with our Bishop and he feels we should tell him as well.  We feel it's very important that he learn it from us, in a safe environment where he can ask questions and get the truth of it all, rather from someone else.  Frankly, I'd be mortified if he heard it from someone else.  He already knows I'm involved in addiction recovery so it wouldn't be completely out of left field.  Anyway - I guess my question is what do you think we should tell him?  Do you think it would be OK to give him the basics and then let him read my story?  Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

~~~~~~~~~~

I had an awesome experience with an answered prayer the other day.  I was at a meeting and someone whom I'd had previous negative feelings for (and sometimes still do) was speaking when all of a sudden my mind rushed with more negative thoughts about him/her.  I immediately dismissed it and sent a fervent prayer Heavenward "Heavenly Father - I am so done with these feelings!  I don't want them anymore!  Please help take them from me!"  The meeting continued without incident and by the end I'd completely forgotten the negative feelings as well as the prayer.  As I was leaving the meeting I ran in to this person and immediately gave them a hug.  The sweetness of the Spirit blessed both of us in that moment and I truly felt no negative feelings.  I didn't even feel defensive and closed off as I had in the past.  I know Heavenly Father answered my plea for help.  I admitted I couldn't remove the negative feelings I was having on my own and asked for His help in doing so, and he granted my request.  Love it!

~~~~~~~~~~

Fun things are happening this weekend!  I attend group with some of the most amazing sisters that I have ever met.  They have become my best friends.  I love and cherish them dearly.  Well, tomorrow we are heading up to Salt Lake City to attend the General Relief Society meeting at the conference center.  If you haven't attended this meeting - I highly recommend it.  There is something exquisitely special about sitting in the presence of the Prophet with 20,000+ of your fellow sisters.  It's also such a privilege to sing sacred hymns to the Lord as a giant choir.  This opportunity gives me a small taste of what the choirs of Heaven must sound like.  There is nothing on this earth like it. 


~~~~~~~~~~

Just a reminder of my continual request for more topic ideas!  If you have the question in your head chances are good someone else does too!:-)


 


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Hurdles of Life: How to Get Up After Slipping

Many would think that slips are awful and want nothing to do with them.  I mean, how could anything positive come from something so dark and shameful, right?  Wrong!  We have the unique opportunity to humble ourselves and allow Heavenly Father to teach us through the Spirit of the Lord after we make mistakes.  

My last slip was over two years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday because I learned the most important lesson of my life from that one slip.  I learned how to get back up.  I learned how to not let my addiction own me.  I learned how to not dwell on the mistake and keep going.  As weird as it may seem, if I had to do it over again I would keep that slip.  I would keep it because the lesson I learned from it is that valuable to me and I wouldn't have learned it otherwise.  I would like to share with you the journey of how I learned to get back up.

September 8, 2010 was a very dark day for me.  I not only touched darkness, I invited him in.  I fell incredibly hard and in the wake of that fall I was wrought with heartache and pain.  I felt horrible and wretched shame and I felt so worthless and hopeless.  I had no hope of ever getting away from this ugliness within me.  I wanted to give up so bad but I didn't  know how to do that either.  I felt stuck in the middle in some time warped limbo.  

But even through all the dark feelings I had a glimmer of Godly sorrow and I truly believe the humility that fed that Godly sorrow, even though small, is what allowed the following miracle to unfold.  The sweet revelation from the Spirit came as I sat in group the day after my slip and with tears streaming down my face I expressed genuine sorrow for messing up. 

I shared that I imagined myself in a giant arena, much like you would see at the Olympics.  I was a lone runner on a track of endless hurdles.  Each hurdle represented a challenge in my life, whether it was addiction related or something else.  My goal was to jump each hurdle without knocking it over and smoothly transition to jumping the next one.  I found that the further into recovery I moved, the more hurdles were left standing as I continued to jump them.  With every hurdle I would jump the crowd would roar with support and encouragement.  I felt invigorated and full of life! 

My race was running smoothly when all of a sudden I lost my footing.  It happened so fast; the rhythm was gone and as I jumped my senses became keenly aware that I wasn’t going to make it over the next hurdle.  My foot clipped the top and I crashed to the ground.  I was stunned.  What..... just..... happened? I laid there motionless for a good period of time trying to mesh what seemed like a dream into what seemed to be my reality.  It was surreal.  I looked at my hands and knees and noticed they were raw and bloody.  My head was spinning.  I was so confused.  I'd been doing so well and I didn't understand why I tripped.  I glanced at the track looking for some obstacle that would have caused my fall but found nothing; no reason, no excuse, no scapegoat.    

Then I heard them.  The crowd was no longer cheering for me but were now laughing at me, mocking me, telling me I was a failure and that I was stupid for ever thinking I had a chance to be a worthy runner on this track of life, let alone actually finish the race.  I was devastated.  I recoiled from their sneers and ridicule.  I felt sick.  I began to believe that the crowd was right.  Why did I ever try in the first place if I'm just going to fall and disappoint my friends, my family, myself and especially my Father in Heaven and Savior.  I felt my body go limp as I began to resign to defeat. 

Just when I thought failure had completely consumed me I heard a fervent voice in my ear.  Every cell in my entire body heard that voice; KNEW that voice, for it was the voice of my Brother, my Savior.  His voice was quiet and tender, yet commanding.  Although I heard and recognized His voice, I couldn't quite make out what He had said.  The intensity of the crowd was absolutely deafening.  I strained to listen; willing Him to repeat what He'd said and doing my best to ignore the crowd.  Again He whispered.  This time it was closer to my ear and it pierced right through the taunts of the crowd.
"Get up.” 
Surprised I asked: "Get up?  What do you mean?  Do you not see what I did?  I fell.  I failed.  I'm broken and I am bleeding.  If I get up I'll just fall again.  I'll just fail again.  I'll just disappoint you again."  
He responded even louder this time: “Get up!”  
I felt as if He was kneeling down right beside me, on all fours, injecting all of His will and energy into me as He said it one last time with all the fervor He could muster… 
“GET UP! I believe in you!  You are not a failure.  You can do this.  Please.  I love you.”  

I felt such love in His voice and I couldn't deny Him.  He was down on the ground in all the muck with me – right next to me in the spotlight of the taunts of Satan’s minions.  I couldn't blatantly defy Him, I loved Him way too much to do that, so I did just as He directed me; I got up.  It was slow going.  My knees were skinned up, my body ached and my head was spinning; but I was not broken as Satan would have me believe. 

I stood and faced the crowd whose degrading shouts had by then reached inhuman decibels.  Relentlessly they continued to bark their accusations at me:
"You aren't good enough"
"He is lying to you"
"He doesn't love you"
"He will never forgive you"
As I looked at My Savior and listened to the crowd I realized that I was faced with a decision, a very simple decision.  Who do I believe?  The entire crowd who is laughing and pointing fingers at me, led by one who has worked so hard to see me destroyed?  Or my loving Savior who knelt beside me on the track when I fell and told me He loved me?  The answer was clear and my decision came with ease. 

I faced forward once again, full of determination and again began running.  The first hurdle I came upon I met with trepidation.  I was terrified that I was going to fall again and relive the previous nightmare.  But I didn’t focus on that fear, I focused on my Savior who had taken His place next to me again, running beside me and encouraging me.  I reached that hurdle, jumped as hard and high as I could and flew over the top.  I landed with a re-invigorated heart and Spirit.  I kept running and again began jumping over hurdles one at a time as I came upon them.  With the sure consistency of working my dailies, following the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, I had once again found my rhythm. 

Further down the track I afforded myself one glance back.  I had completed so many hurdles, that the one I’d missed was invisible among the sea of hurdles my Savior and I had mastered together.  It was as if my slip had never happened.  I was again just as clean as I was prior to my slip - but with greater knowledge and wisdom of His plan and His love.

In reflecting back on how I'd fallen I realized the process had started many hurdles prior to the one I'd missed.  I realized that I was spending more and more time looking back and gloating over all the hurdles I had conquered.  Forgetting that it was my Savior that had helped me jump each one I began to take full credit for my progression.  I listened to the chants of the crowd and the power and prestige fed by their cheers to puff up my heart.  There wasn't an object on the track that caused me to fall, it was my own pride.

I also learned that as I lay stunned on the track that it was pointless to mourn the loss of the fallen hurdle.  As much as I wanted to, there was no way to restore that hurdle to it's upright position.  However I realized that as much as I could not pick the hurdle up, I could pick myself up.  And I did just that.

I am forever grateful to my Father in Heaven and the Spirit for revealing this picture to me.  Without it the gulf of misery I'd been feeling surely would have swallowed me. 


I have learned to not listen to the crowd.  I simply tune them out and constantly look to my Savior and make sure He is still running next to me.  Not once have I looked and He wasn't there.  He is always there, and will always be there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Testimonials of First Meetings

I think for each of us we all experience some level of fear in regards to attending our first meeting for the first time.  To help dispel that fear and to give each person a sense of what to expect I've asked some sisters to share their experience of their first LDS Addiction Recovery Meeting.  You will find some common threads as you read each sister's story.  Hope, the feeling of not being alone. the Spirit and the sweet rewards they have received for not giving up.  I invite you, if you have attended a meeting, to also submit your story of your first meeting.

~~~~~~~~~~

I first came to meetings because I was getting married. I had struggled for a few years before my mission, and thought that going on a mission would cure me. It didn't, so I knew that as wonderful as getting married would be, it would not fix me. Somewhere, deep down I knew that it could never be fixed without the wonderful program the Lord has set up through His leaders.

My first meeting was extremely uncomfortable. Everyone was talking about hope and recovery and all I could think was, "Yeah, right." The expressions of love from everyone afterward was even more painful, mostly because I didn't understand it and didn't feel like I deserved it. But I had committed to myself and to God that I would do this, so I kept coming. And now I'm the one talking about hope and recovery, and offering hugs to newcomers. Miracles happen!


- Aubri

~~~~~~~~~~

I had no clue there were groups for women like me, let alone an LDS group. I just have heard that there were groups for men, but never did I think there was something for me and that it would be beneficial.  So the first time I went to group, I was cheered on by my therapist at the time as well as my husband. I felt I needed something else to help me get through this struggle so I was excited to go to this ARP meeting. I made a decision to myself before I went to the meeting that I was going to be open minded to this whole thing and if I felt any sort of Spirit there I would know it was the right place to be. Once I got there I quickly sat down and really didn’t say a word to anyone, I just observed how these ladies interacted. They all seemed so happy. How could this be?

Well as the meeting began the missionary said they were going to go around the room and READ the steps aloud. Right then and there my heart dropped!  I have always struggled with talking and reading in front of people so I started to freak out! I remember I was thinking, “I was going to be that person who always passes on their turn!” As we went around the room and as it was getting closer and closer to me my heart was pounding out if my chest! Then I said it “pass.” In probably the quietest voice possible. And then I hid my face with the ball cap I was wearing.  My face I'm sure was as red as a lobster with just saying that one little word. Then the sharing part came. I was not about to tell everyone why I was there and my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings!  Everyone seemed to know exactly what they wanted to say. Everyone was so happy and bearing there testimonies and the Spirit became so strong in that room. I was in tears; tears of hope. I had never felt hope for my addiction, and I had been blessed with it that day.  Then my nerves came back because it was all of a sudden my turn to share: 
“Hi, I’m Carlyn...”
“Hi Carlyn” (group unison)
“...and I’m gonna pass.” 
“Love you Carlyn... thanks for coming”
My face felt completely hot and red and I did my best to keep it covered by my hat. After a while my nerves simmered down and I was able to listen to the sisters again and just like that the Spirit came to me again. And let me tell you I haven’t felt the Spirit like that in I have no idea how many years, probably never.  That commitment that I made to myself at the beginning that if I felt the Spirit I would know it was the right thing, well I’m sure you know it was! And I have never regretted it.  

- Carlyn

~~~~~~~~~~

My first meeting was intimidating to say the least. As a survivor of multiple types of abuse and a difficult home life, I did not trust people at all. Here I was in a meeting with a bunch of other women I didn’t know, who didn’t know me, and I was afraid of being judged, or worse, rejected. The only reason I didn’t cry the entire time out of fear was because I learned not to show weakness. So instead I listened and kept my mouth shut, trying to stay angry and shut off so the tears would not start flowing, because I knew I would not be able to stop them once they started. It wasn’t that hard, abuse had gotten me addicted, now here I was fighting beliefs and actions I didn’t understand. Anger was easy. No way was I going to tell them what I did. I felt completely alone and like no one could ever understand what I did and why. To make it worse, everyone kept expressing “love you’s” and “Glad you’re here’s.” How on earth a bunch of strangers could love each other let alone me was a little hard to digest. I vowed they would never know what my sins were. They would definitly think I was a freak and this, my last chance before I gave up for good and walked away from everyone and everything, would end in rejection and failure, too. So I kept fighting back the tears, passing when it was my turn except to say I didn’t know who I was or if I would even belong here, “But that’s OK, I’m used to it.” I kept myself very closed for about another month before the spirit finally helped me relax, but it took until very recently to believe I was in a safe and loving place.

Fast forward a couple of years and I am thankful I stayed. It has not been easy, and I still don’t trust anyone, in any setting, but I am learning to not see everyone as a threat. I have friends in recovery and friends out of recovery. My family is still in tact and better than ever. The spirit of healing and the Lord’s love for me and these, my sweet sisters, carries me from Wednesday to Wednesday. I did not realize it until over a year into sobriety, but I felt the hand of the Lord guide me every step of the way. He sat with me in my first meeting and has been there every single moment since. In fact, now I see how he has always been there. Thankfully, now I can feel him. Especially at “my meeting.”

- Lacy

~~~~~~~~~~

The first recovery meeting I ever attended was easily one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. It almost didn't happen. I remember walking through the building looking for the right room and feeling my heart pounding. I wanted to run. The last thing in the world I wanted was to walk into a room full of people who would know why I was there and know the secret I had kept hidden for so many years.

After finding the room however, I was warmly welcomed by a kind sister missionary who guided me to a seat. As kind as she was the fear was still intense. I recall shriveling into my seat looking around at everyone and feeling so certain that they were judging me for being there. As the meeting began something incredible began to happen. I started to realize that the people there were not so different from myself and that we were all there for the same reason. They knew why I was there but I felt nothing other than acceptance and love from each of them. I was still afraid but I was starting to understand that I wasn't alone anymore.

I listened to the sharing that was given by some of the women who had been in the program for a while. They were full of hope and faith. So many of them spoke about how they had felt wondrous changes in their lives and that they were now filled with gratitude for the program and for God and Christ who had brought about the changes in their lives.  Deep inside me something clicked and I realized that I wanted what they had found more than I had ever wanted something before. I started to cry. I had the overwhelming feeling that I had been guided to the group and to the program because My Father in Heaven wanted me to recover.

When I left the meeting that night the tears didn't stop. I had not cried with such emotion in over ten years.  I cried for hours, but they were tears of hope. Every bit of me wanted to feel what I had begun to feel that night in the recovery meeting. That desire inside me has kept me going and I have also seen many changes starting in my life. The fear that had been so paralyzing and nearly kept me from that first meeting has been replaced by the acceptance and love that I feel in group and the hope for recovery that I had not felt before that first meeting.

- Lisa

~~~~~~~~~~

When I had even first heard about the PASGs group from my Bishop it had been fall of 2011 and I just put it off like, "I don't have a problem. I don't need that..." Then towards the end of January 2012 I had been relapsing and realized that my life had become unmanageable on my own. I knew I had to do something to get my life finally on track because I'm a mother to a young boy and I need to be the best version of myself that I can be so he grows up stronger than me.

So the Wednesday night of my first meeting, I drove to the meeting place for group and I have to be honest, I was so scared of being judged or outed that I was fully prepared to use one of my aliases if and when they asked for my name.  However, when the time came for me to introduce myself, I forgot that and had just said my real name instead. LOL. (You can tell I do not work for the CIA because I'm horrible at the littlest thing like that.) So that happened and then I really felt accepted by the ladies there at group. I remember choosing to pass my sharing time though and later wished I hadn't. That was my time, my safe place to say what it was I was feeling...I should've just grabbed the bull by the horns and shared. It would've started my healing and recovery process off so much quicker had I opened myself up that much sooner.

I have been going since January now and I love group. I really do. I can't stand having to miss group because I notice that I'm not as strengthened during the weeks when I have to miss.  Group has changed my life and I'm thankful I went that first time.  I'm in such a better place now in recovery than I was without it.  Yes, it was scary to go at first, but just realizing that I wasn't alone or awful for my addictions made me feel so much better.

- Penny

~~~~~~~~~~

I remember the first time my bishop gave me a large sheet of paper that had all the meetings on it. I took the paper, but told him he was crazy. At first I felt like he was crazy, even delusional, that I would go sit with a bunch of people and tell them my problems. Yet in the back of my mind I felt hope. I really felt like there would be someone out there that really, truly would know what it’s like, and who knew where I come from. I hoped that for once in my entire life I would not be completely alone. It sparked so much hope. I got online and I came across a lot of groups. I got so excited! I was ecstatic, really I was. Full of hope. I went to what was to be meeting within a few weeks...However, when I arrived I just in sat in the parking lot and watched men and women go into the building. And I admit, I judged them. I thought no way would that girl have a problem, she is gorgeous! She probably is just going to another church meeting. As I sat there judging every single person going in I started looking over the paper my bishop had given me. I saw that it was a men’s AND women's group. COMBINED!! Panic filled my entire body. My mind was racing. All I could hear was my heartbeat. I drove my car out of the parking lot, and fast, before anyone could see me. I remember thinking how stupid of an idea it was to go.

Within a few weeks I was back online, looking over lists of other groups available, only to end up sitting in the parking lot time after time. I begged and pleaded with the Lord to give me something, anything, just one person that knew what I was going through. That’s was all that I asked, and I knew He could do it. One day, while searching online, I came across a women’s group. I was ecstatic, but tried to stay calm. I was so nervous, but I knew the Lord would answer my prayer...at least I had hoped. I went to the group on a Saturday morning and entered the room, very hesitantly.  It was small room and there were only 2 other girls in there. I was still so excited. Little by little more and more filled the room. I couldn’t believe it. My heart was pounding and I was pleading with the lord and thanking him at the same time. As the first girl began talking she started crying, pouring out her heart about how hard it was for her. How hard it was for her to watch her husband slip again and again. How she didn’t understand such a “terrible addiction.” I was overwhelmed with guilt. I wanted to scream and tell her that I didn’t pick this addiction, that it was terrible for me, and that it is terrible for her husband too. How rude could she be I thought. Woman after woman spoke about the same thing. I knew I was in the wrong place....but I was frozen. Guilt, shame and anger were weighing me down and I felt glued to my seat. When the meeting ended I ran out, got in my car, and sped away. Bawling, barely breathing, crying, and begging the Lord to help me. I didn’t want this addiction. I didn’t want this to be part of my life. After getting angry at the Lord and relapsing yet again I decided to look for another group. I am not sure why I did, I just needed something, anything. I had hit rock bottom, and I was screaming for help. I wanted to really change.


I kept going to women’s groups that I had found online, and yet again they were women that were there to support there husbands. I would quietly get up and leave, feel hopeless and try again. I couldn’t keep living like this. I hated the life I lived, but “loved” it to much to give it up. I felt trapped, I craved it. I couldn’t stop lying, manipulating and justifying everything. However, I didn’t want to let anyone else down. I didn’t want to pretend anymore.

I’m not sure why but I decided to try to go to one last meeting. It was a group that I had found while looking online. All the website said was “Women’s Addiction Group”. I was so excited. I knew that it had to be different. It was a Wednesday night. I went in to a room full of women. At first I was nervous, but then ecstatic. At first I thought, “Oh, they are all here for eating disorders.” I was nervous and knew I wouldn’t fit in, but hey, improvement I thought. At least there are this many girls that have issues that want to change. That brings hope right. I remember growing more and more anxious as more women came in. I didn’t want to say my name, I did not want them to know the real reason I was here. My mouth was dry. I was re-thinking everything.

Towards the middle of the meeting a gal introduced herself and said that she felt like she should tell her whole story. This beautiful lady told of her struggle with masturbation as a young girl. Her struggle with pornography, but most importantly her journey back to the Savior. I was bawling. I don’t remember half of what she said. But I knew that the Lord had brought me to that one girl. The one girl who knew, really knew, what I was going through. She had been there, yet now she was so happy. She was glowing. She wasn’t pretending. I wish I could express the beautiful feeling I had. I actually felt the Spirit. I literally felt angels in that room. It had been such a long time since I had felt that good. Girl after girl spoke of their relapses, of their struggles, of their joys, their days of sobriety. I was overwhelmed with this new world, this new hope. And for the first time I realized how beautiful the steps were. But more importantly that I was not alone. That all along it was just Satan making me feel like I was the only girl like this; that I was unworthy and hopeless. What a beautiful feeling to realize that that was a lie. I have been attending this same group for about 8 months now. I have still had my ups and downs, but now I have found a family in group that supports me in my journey toward Christ. A family who really truly gets me, uplifts me, and bring me to Christ. And Christ brings me peace, true peace.

I am so truly blessed to be surrounded by so many beautiful ladies. I am so thankful for their support, their love and their example. I am a new me.


- Rachel

~~~~~~~~~~

I feel like my experience is not the norm and that is probably a good thing.  The first time going to group was a terrifying experience and I feel like I faced it so that others can have hope and joy and peace when they enter the doors of group.  That being said, here is how I found group and my first time going.

I had already told my bishop about my struggles with pornography, masturbation, and inappropriate relationships with men when the thought of going to a group first entered my mind.  The idea came from meeting a woman on a website who went to a group that was not designed for women in sexual addiction but instead for the spouses and loved ones of addicts.   At this time in my life, I had been told I had an addiction and was still coming to terms with that idea but I knew that I was absolutely miserable and needed some sort of help.  When I talked with this woman, she still went to this group despite feeling like an outsider.  I remember thinking, “If she can go, I’m sure I can try going at least once or twice.”

I searched online for a few days and came across the church’s website on the different group locations and I found one that said something about a women’s pornography group.  A day or so later, I got up the guts to call the number listed.  It was LDS Family Services and, after probing with questions about where to direct me, they gave me the number to the missionary in charge of pornography groups in my area.  I couldn’t work up the courage to call the missionary so I gave it to my bishop and asked him to call and told him to ask if there was a group just for women with addictions.  A week later, he gave me the location and time of the group and reassured me that it was indeed for women with my same struggles.  I was so happy and scared at the same time.

It was probably a couple weeks later when I finally drove to the building that would house my meeting.  I parked outside; petrified to go inside, desperately texting a friend telling her I didn’t want to go.  She just kept telling me that it wouldn’t be that bad and I needed to just do it.  Finally I walked inside.  I was met by a sister missionary who asked me if I needed help finding a place.  Embarrassed, I told her the exact meeting I was looking for and she said, “OH!!  I’m looking for that same one!  Let’s find it together!”  She proceeded to lead me into a room where there was one other sister missionary, a few empty chairs set up and a mentally challenged woman sitting across from the missionary.  We both sat down and my heart sunk.  I thought, “If the only people who have my addictions are mentally handicapped, I must be a freak!”

The meeting begun and I don’t remember much about it.  Mostly just talking and listening.  I do however remember my feelings when the meeting finished.  I felt hope that I hadn’t felt in years.  I felt some small sense of happiness that I hadn’t felt in years.  I felt a desire to return the next week and I did.  I returned week after week.  Sometimes the mentally challenged girl was there, sometimes she wasn’t.  Sometimes it was just me and one sister missionary but I kept going.  I felt like I had nothing left to lose and this at least helped me feel a little better after.  It was like that for about three to four months and slowly, ever so slowly, one by one, the group grew and as the group grew, hope grew as well until it became what it is today.

I am so grateful that I went and didn’t stop going.  My life has been forever changed for the better and I am a much happier, more peaceful, and loving person because of what I learned in that room.  My spirit was definitely pushed to keep going when there was no mental reason to keep going and it saved my life.  I am forever grateful to the persons put in my path to help me get there and I am especially grateful for my Heavenly Father for guiding me and my Savior for making me clean and pure.

- Michelle

~~~~~~~~~~


The first time I heard about the addiction recovery program was in 2010 at BYU Women's Conference. I was very interested in the program shared by the missionaries, but I did not go to the meeting because I thought that I was doing well and perhaps free from my sexual addiction for 3 years.  Later on in 2011, my heart was broken because I slipped into my addiction again. I decided to take my steps of repentant more serious by asking for professional help and attending a group at BYU.  My first experience with a group for sexual addiction was very scary because I was the only woman in the group. However, I felt very blessed to be among noble and powerful men who love the Lord very much. As the result, I was more aware of how to cope with my addiction.

And once again, I slipped during my last semester at school.  As I prayed and looked for help from the Lord, I remember the LDS Addiction Recovery Program that I had heard about at the BYU Women's Conference so long ago. I decided that no matter what happened, I would be in the meeting on March 14, 2012. For the first time, I felt like I was at home again. The Spirit of the Lord was very strong.  I felt such a privilege to be there.  At that day, I received the answer from my prayer concerning my slip that it's the will of the Lord to guide me to the 12 step program. Thank you very much Heavenly Father to bless me with the opportunity to attend the meeting. I have learned how to come unto Christ and apply the power of the Atonement daily. Thank you Lord to bless with many wonderful friends whom understand, support and love me very much. A lot of thanks to many volunteers including LDS missionaries and my sponsor. They are truly angels of the Lord.

- June

~~~~~~~~~~


My name is Ashley and I am a daughter of God recovering from a sexual addiction. I have been in recovery and sober for 1 year 3 months and 29 days. My first experience at group was actually really nerve racking for me. Let me give you a little background first. I met with my bishop for the first time on Sunday, May 22, 2011, which happens to be my recovery and sobriety date, and the last time I ever viewed. When I met with him, I bawled. I told him that I was addicted to pornography and I could not take it anymore. I could not try by myself to overcome this horrible thing, I was tired of holding it in and trying to seem like the sweet girl that everyone one knew. I was putting on a mask and I felt like no one really knew who I was. I felt like my Father in Heaven did not love me and I most definitely did not feel like I was worthy to even be praying to Him.

My bishop was amazing, caring, comforting, blunt in a nice way, and sat there listening to what I was saying. During our conversation he told me about a 12 step program that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has, and the one that he wanted me to attend was on Wednesday nights at 7:30. The entire 3 ½ days from when he told me and when group actually met, I was so nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time. I did not really know what to expect. I first thought it was going to be a men and woman's group and that we sat around in a circle saying "Hi, my name is so and so and I am an addict..." and just spill all of our feelings out.

When I arrived at 7:30 that Wednesday night, I had my 12-step book in hand, covering it so that no person would "see" it and ask me what it was. I walked into a room full of women and thought it was the room for addicts and sat down. A missionary asked me if I was there for a family member/friend or if I was there for myself. I said for myself and then she then proceeded to tell me that I was in the wrong room due to it being the support room for those supporting loved ones with an addiction. One of the ladies was nice enough to take me down the hallway to the other relief society room.  I walked in to find a group of women sitting in a circle just chatting until it was time to start. One of the ladies asked what my first name was, I told her, and I came to find out that there were actually about 3 or 4 other people there that were also starting for the first time.

Once we got started, one of the sister missionaries quieted everyone down and began to say a few things to welcome everyone and then asked if someone would give the opening prayer. Then we proceeded on to reading the step that we were focusing on that week, which was step 9.  I remember being so nervous and fidgety but was looking all around seeing what everyone looked like. For many of them I thought they were too pretty to be in that room, that there was no way that they could be an addict. Once we started the sharing portion of group, I got even more nervous because I had no idea of what I was going to say. I do not even remember what I said when it was my turn, but I do remember sharing and saying a little about myself. I do remember feeling glad that I was not the only one starting for the first time that night. Afterwards, we all hugged and talked and people were talking to me like I was a friend and they have known me for a long time. They made me feel so included, like I was one of them. I realized after attending for a few short weeks that I AM ONE OF THEM and I love it. I do not have to hide there, I can share my deepest thoughts and secrets there and I know that each one of my girls will love me no matter what and will always be there for. I also know that whatever I say will not leave that room, that is what makes it safe.
               
I have kept going back because I have tried so many other things to overcome my addiction that I thought it was worth it to try this option as well. It involved God, and I had not really tried involving God before, at least not seriously. I had prayed that I could stop doing it and not have to tell anyone about this shameful, awful thing that I have done. That did not work, and nor will it ever work for anyone in my opinion. 
               
I would like to bear my testimony that I know God lives and that He loves each and every one of us. He wants us to be successful and to one day live with Him again in Heaven. He cares for us and is reaching out His hand to us, waiting for us to grab it so that He can help pull us up. I know that He listens to our prayers and answers them in His own way and in His own time. We may not like His answer and we may want it sooner than He gives it to us but He does that so we can learn and grow. He does what is right for us because He knows each and every one of us and does not want to give us something that we are not ready for or cannot handle. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

- Ashley

~~~~~~~~~~

My first group experience was terrifying.  I had started working the program out of the manual about 3 months prior because I was too scared to attend as meeting.  I was still so bound by shame and fear that I couldn't let anyone in.  It was then that I went to Vegas for a pre-planned trip to meet my friend and just have a girls week.  You can imagine what Vegas did to me who struggles with pornography.  It was horrible.  But as awful as it was, it's exactly what I needed.  I needed to walk into the gaping jaws of hell to realize what I was up against.  It was that trip that solidified in me the knowledge that there was no way I could do this thing called recovery on my own.  I needed help.  I needed a support system... you can read the rest of my first meeting experience by reading My Story but I want to bear my testimony of the power of unity and numbers.  None of us can accomplish life and come out the other end feeling like we did our best without others.  We need eachother.  The sisters I have met in each room I attend are just that - my sisters.  I love them.  They are my family.  Each person that attends group is inducted into this family.  We love each one the same and welcome all who are bound by the shame of sexual addiction.  Please reach.  There are hands waiting to help pull you up.

- Sidreis

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

God Ordained Marital Intimacy vs. Worldly Sex

God-Ordained Marital Intimacy
Worldly Sex
Helps put off the natural manAccommodates the "natural man"
Under the influence of the SpiritUnder the influence of the world and the adversary
Involved Spirit-enhanced passionsInvolves carnal, sensual, devilish passions
LovingLustful
Soulful union is the goalSexual union is the goal
EternalErotic
Involves a husband and a wifeInvolves all permutations and combinations of men, women, and even children
Sanctioned following legal and lawful marriageOkay anytime
Blessed by the LordVery politically correct
SanctifyingSinful
Fun and exciting, joyful, delightful, comforting, loving, calming and sustainingFun and exciting momentarily, demoralizing and depressing later
Generates loveKills love
Enlightens and enlivens spiritsDarkens spirits
Prayer, fasting, scripture reading and gratitude are often involvedAlcohol and drugs are often involved
Strengthens relationshipsRuins relationships
Honors men and womenDegrades men and women
The body is the great prize of mortal lifeThe body is a play thing
The greater the union of lives, the greater the intimate experienceNo union of lives, only bodies
Embedded in truthsFilled with lies
Brings forth loving desires that fulfillStirs up lustful desires that are never satisfied
A grand and glorious experience that will continue eternally for covenant-keeping couplesA total obsession: men and women wish they could have sex forever
Unites the bodies and the spirits of a husband and wifeInvolves any two bodies
Involves anything that bring spouses' spirits life and invites the SpiritInvolves any and all forms of sexual gratification
Exquisite care taken that activities don't offend the SpiritIt if "turns you on," go for it!
Involves pure and natural passionsInvolves impure and unnatural passions
Spouses feel more like a couple, more lived, more appreciated, and more cared for followingIndividuals feel used, abused, more lonely after
Supports, heals and hallows livesRavages and eventually ruins lives
Personal revelation encouragedExperimentation encourages
Is partaken ofIs participated in
Private and sacredSeen and discussed everywhere
Brings you wisdom, light and loveDulls your senses and sensibilities
A processA product
Unites spouses and is built on unitySeparates individuals
Invites other loving, caring and supportive behaviors outside the bedroomNot related to what happens outside the bedroom
Sacred language usedFoul language used
Rejoiced inJoked about
Keeps commandments and covenantsBreaks commandments and covenants
Increases the ability to keep and honor all commandments and covenantsIncreases the likelihood of breaking other commandments and covenants
Is commanded and commended by the LordIs rejected by the Lord
Is the foundation of endless worldsSupports an entire commercial industry

Monday, September 17, 2012

Journal: Healing, Answered Prayers and Simplicity

I am really excited to journal this week because a lot has happened!  My only concern is I think this post is going to be crazy long, but in the end I think it will be worth it.

So here it goes...
~~~~~~~~~~

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to call my mom and it turned out to be a really amazing and healing conversation.  Let me back up a bit.  I'd posted my story three weeks or so prior and hadn't talked to my parents since I'd posted it.  I was nervous for some reason.  Yes, they already knew about my addiction and were in the loop on the interview I filmed and I'd expressed to them that I was going public eventually - so none of that information would be coming out of left field, but I was still nervous.  So last Sunday I decided I'd been hiding long enough and I called my mom.  I told her I'd posted my story and she said she knew.  We had a bit of a difficult conversation after that.  She had a lot of questions that I wasn't prepared to answer, but I said a prayer in my heart and asked my Father in Heaven to be with me and to guide my responses.  He did not fail me.  The conversation that ensued was one of the most healing conversations I've ever had with my mom, it was awesome.  I then got on the phone with my dad and answered some of his questions as well.  The result of that conversation was my dad saying he wished we were closer and would like to work on that.  Hello?  AWESOME right!?  Love it!  I'm so happy!  I love my family!
~~~~~~~~~~

I received some excellent news a few days ago! My story has been published on arp.lds.org.  I'm so excited about this.  I love the name they chose for my story, "Made In His Image" and especially the picture - it's absolutely perfect for my story!  The picture perfectly represents how I feel about myself now and the transformation I've gone through.  I'm so grateful for my Savior and His Atoning power that continually heals me.  If you haven't read my story on the church's website you can do so by clicking here.
~~~~~~~~~~

I've felt conflicted about something lately.  I have gone through a miraculous transformation in regards to my desire to actually share my story with the world.  When I first began this journey I could barely stomach my husband and Bishop knowing about my addiction let alone others.  But now that I have been released from the chains of shame I have this crazy desire to share my story with everyone.  It's more than courage that drives me to share my story and it's more than obedience to my Heavenly Father.  It's a true and honest tangible desire to share my story and help others. 

Dr. Ben Erwin - ARP Program Manager states:
When someone has received the miracle of recovery through the Atonement in their lives, they want to shout from the rooftops about the Savior’s power to heal. This process of helping someone else come unto Him to be healed is a sacred privilege and blessing. When you share what you have found, you can’t avoid this kind of experience. It changes you and it blesses you.
This feeling of wanting to shout from the rooftops what I have found resonates throughout my soul.  I want to share what I have been so graciously given.  But to do this I have to promote myself and I'm not too comfortable with that.  I feel like it is prideful of me to send my story out to different people/organizations to network with them.  But if I don't send out my story in an attempt to network with others then how am I to reach other women who are struggling?  I decided to take this dilemma to the Lord.  I'm so glad I did too because the answer I received was clear as a bell.  He reminded me of Prophets of old; as they would enter new cities they didn't waste any time gathering people and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.  Heavenly Father reminded me that I am not promoting myself, but I am promoting the Savior and His healing power to restore us.  I immediately felt much better and got back to work sending my story around -which leads me to my next topic...

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm not sure if any of you have heard of Voices For Virtue but it's a blog as well as a facebook page promoting moral values among the youth of the church.  I'm not sure how I didn't hear about them prior to this last week but I've been perusing both sites and they are wonderful. I thought this would be an excellent venue to help spread my story of how the Savior heals me since their facebook page alone has over 100,000 likes!  So I decided to send it to them! 

It took a few days but they wrote back with the following:
Sidreis, we'd love to promote you and your recovery story... write a couple of paragraphs about why you did a blog and a bit about summarizing your story... we'll put in a V4V post... By the way---good job keep it up.
I responded right away and am awaiting the post!  I'm so excited though - my story can reach so many this way!
~~~~~~~~~~

I had an awesome experience with the scriptures this past week.  Since I have been struggling a bit lately and needed to get back to the basics, I started myself over at 1 Nephi.  A few days ago I read Nephi chapter 6.  This chapter only has 6 verses in it and each time prior that I've read it I had completely discounted it's importance.  In this chapter Nephi explains that on these plates he is only writing about the things of God; that it is his desire to turn the hearts of the children unto God that they may be saved. 

1 Nephi 6:4
For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
As I read this verse I felt a very personal connection with Nephi; I felt the love he had for his people and for future generations; for me.  I also related to his desire to bring his brothers and sisters to God; that by Him they can be redeemed. 

My blog is my way of sharing my testimony with the world to bring people unto the Savior.  I often think of my dusty journals and how when I first started writing in them, early in recovery, I questioned why I continued to write in them because I was sure I would never share my story with anyone.  As I progressed my desire to share my journals with future generations of my family increased but I thought I'd only be OK with them reading my journals after I die so I wouldn't have to know what they thought of me.  I was still scared.  I still carried shame for my actions.  After more time passed the Savior healed me even more to the point that I no longer carried shame and I was no longer bound by fear.  And now I will share my struggle with whomever the Lord would have me share it with.  Reading the desire of Nephi's heart was the Lords way of telling me that my blog is not just for me, or just for you, but it is for many all over the world; it is for this generation and generatons to come.   The Lord also revelaed to me that with this knowledge I should always keep my blog centered on the Savior.  Which, I gladly do!


Oh the scriptures are so awesome!
~~~~~~~~~~

I had the opportunity to attend Stake conference this past weekend.  Admittedly, I didn't get much from Sunday's regional conference broadcast due to kids piling all over me, but I really enjoyed the Saturday night adult session.  Tim was working and so I was able to go alone and just absorb everything I heard.

One talk given was by President Miller- 1st Counselor in my Stake Presidency.  His words really touched my heart as he spoke of the Savior and how important it is to prepare to meet Him.  He advised that we not get so caught up in physical preparations that we forget about Spiritual preparations.

President Miller instilled hope in my heart as he counseled:
It is by our obedience that we show our faith.  The more faith we have the less fear we have.
I love this statement.  Faith and fear cannot coexist for they completely cancel one another out.  They are eachothers opposite.  They are the light and the dark.  Even the smallest amount of faith will shine and illuminate the dark.  The dark cannot shut out the light - it is impossible.  The Savior illuminates all darkness - no darkness can shut Him out.  None of us are beyond the reach of His light. 

President Miller ended by stating:
Stand in Holy places, love as the Savior loved, and return home.
I had tears in my eyes as I pondered the simplicity of this statement.  Can the path home really be this simple?  As this question formed in my heart the sweet Spirit answered in return... "yes."  At that very moment my desire to do better was renewed and I left that meeting feeling empowered and capable of leaning more heavily on my Savior and striving to return home.

I'm not kidding when is say I really believe I can make it.  I truly believe I have a spot next to my Savior in the highest kingdom.  I don't know if I will make it there, But I know I can and I am working as hard as possible to get there.

I'm so grateful for my Priesthood leaders.  I love and admire each one of them and I can't wait for the day I can hug them as my brother and cry in their arms as I express my gratitude to them for upholding their Priesthood and faithfully leading, guiding and supporting me.

Thank you President Miller - for your example and your faith.  Knowing you has made me a better person.  I will miss you.
~~~~~~~~~~

I saved the best for last.

Rose reached out again.  She let me know she's still reading but she's just not quite ready to take the next step yet.  That's OK.  The seed has been planted and I know it will continue to grow. 

Still praying for you Rose!  Love you much!

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"