Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Interviews: Nena

The Story

How old were you when your addiction began?
Hmmm…I can see traces of fantasy thinking from early on, 6-8. I started with addictive substances (drinking, smoking, drugs) at 13 and started acting out with guys at about 12, seriously by age 14 with my first boyfriend.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?  
In a family of six kids I felt unwanted as a child and wanted more attention from my dad. This was the root of the drug for me. As I matured physically, I learned that I could get attention from men, and I got huge dopamine & power rushes from this.
How did your addiction progress?
I went through three specific addict cycles in my marriage with varying levels of infidelity at each cycle. The first cycle was a single affair with a single man, but the next cycle involved online and physical relationships with several men. The third would have been the worst, I’m sure, but it was broken (see the next question).
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
My sweet husband had warned me after the second cycle that he would not go through this again, and as I began drifting into the third cycle, he recognized it and left me. This was the point where I realized I was an addict and had ruined my life. I was totally broken and fell out of the addictive cycle.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I actually felt strangely compassionate towards myself, because I knew I was sick and had been for years.  That feeling was helped by feeling God’s love and care for me while I was otherwise completely alone. I’m sure that was a protective measure, because if I hadn’t been able to feel those feelings of love and self-love, I wouldn’t have been able to do the hard work of recovery – wouldn’t have felt worthy of becoming something better than I was.
Where did you turn for help?
I went to my bishop, but also researched sex addiction online and found the LDS Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. I started attending 12 step meetings and attended a meeting almost every day for about four weeks.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
I assume you mean, turning point, as in, turning to recovery?  That point of brokenness, where I had been abandoned by my husband and had to face the shame of the person I had become, was the turning point – it was my step 1, my honest admission of “I can’t,” so that I could learn that “God can,” and could decide that “I will let Him.”
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
When my husband decided to leave me, it was as if the mantle of his care and protection lifted from me. I physically felt it go. I felt like I was falling – he had promised to stay with me forever, to protect me, to go through life with me!  And now I wasn’t his anymore!  “Whose am I?” I cried in my soul, and I felt the answer. “You are mine,” said Jesus, and he caught me in his hands. He never said, “Well, it’s your own fault, stupid!”  Instead, He said, “I know it hurts.” I only felt his love, and compassion, and healing grace, all things I needed in order to recover myself.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
My life consists of BR (Before Recovery) and AR (After Recovery). Knowing Jesus personally is an amazing thing; I love Him so much, and want nothing but to be on His team for the rest of the game. I continue to grow in His grace and goodness, trying to learn the lessons He wants me to gain from this life.
How is life different for you today?
My heart is completely changed from the natural woman I used to be.  I know The Gods and love Them; I love the scriptures and every day I find messages from Them to me. I feel Their love as I seek Them. No matter what happens with my relationships, or my job, or the rest of my world, I am sustained by the Bread of Life, the Fount of Living Waters – there is enough love here to fill the world.
What is your perception of yourself?
I know that God loves me (my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ). They loved me enough to save me from myself in a real and personal way, which means I must be pretty awesome. I want to be like Them and let Their love pass through me to the world.

ARP Meetings

What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
I wasn’t afraid at all, I was so broken and so desperate for help that I was glad there was somewhere to go. 
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
Go! Trust! Be honest! Let your heart and your mind be open to what God wants for you there.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
I have seen a few people from ARP around the area. Sometimes we acknowledge each other with a nod; sometimes we don’t; and sometimes we greet and hug and are like old friends. I try to be respectful of what the other person is comfortable with.
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
The more I went, the more I grew to love it: a safe place where I could feel the spirit, say what I needed to say, and learn about recovery and God’s love from others who had travelled the road I was on. I have gained some beautiful, loving friendships from meetings that I hope will be with me for the rest of my life.

Experience with Priesthood Leaders

What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery? 
I met with my Bishop frequently to report on specific levels of abstinence that were part of my repentance and fellowship in the Church. He was inspired in the plan he laid out for me – he worked with me to create specific rules that I had to comply with, things I had to remove from my life – small things that applied to me, like only using the computer for work.
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
Let Heavenly Father inspire you, as I’m sure he already does. Don’t be afraid to ask your addict to do hard things: when my Bishop asked me to hand him my temple recommend, I didn’t bat an eye, but when he asked me to give up all online relationships, even the “good” ones, I started shaking and crying: that’s because these were a component of my addiction. Your addict needs to give up ALL of their addiction in order to get clean.
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
Go! Your Bishop is a direct line between you and the Priesthood authority of the Church, and part of getting right with God is getting right with the Church. Do what you must to get your membership in good standing.

If you would like to leave a message for Nena, please do so in the comments.  She is reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clearing the Swirling Fog of Confused Sexual Intimacy

This is going to be somewhat of a personal post but I'm willing to put myself out there and be honest about my struggle because I feel it's a topic that never gets talked about, but needs to be talked about.

Sex.  How, after years and years of filling my brain with soul destroying pornography, do I then expect to have a healthy, beautiful and Spirit inviting experience with my husband?

As an addict to pornography it has been very difficult for me to determine what is "good" (clean) sex and "bad" (pornographic) sex.  I had spent 25 years in consistent active addiction where sex was pounded into my brain as being dirty. Of course it was.  What I was watching and participating in was dirty; an offense to the gift of procreation and an offense to the very God who gave me that gift.

Based on the images I filled my brain with I conditioned myself to act out those very scenes with others.  I grew to believe that the single one thing men wanted from me was my ability to perform in the bedroom.  I grew to believe that that performance was what I was good for, what I was made for.  Sexual intimacy became completely carnal and there was no love or peace or tenderness associated with it.  In fact, often I would roll over into a fetal position and just cry afterward. 

Little did I know that all of what I had seen was fake.  The actors I was watching didn't actually enjoy what they were doing.  Most would use means to chemically numb themselves in order to emotionally survive.  All of them, both men and women, I know, felt worthless afterward.  There is no joy or happiness in being used for your skin.  

Prior to recovery I was plagued with objectifying people.  I objectified everyone.  My brain was so saturated with the need for insane levels of dopamine that it would find content to fulfill that need anywhere and everywhere.  I feel like even if I submerged myself in a vat of dopamine that it wouldn't have been enough.  It was never enough.  Even through my short periods of sobriety I would always struggle with my thoughts.  The images I'd seen would haunt me and call to me.  I was imprisoned by my own brain.  I felt so alone and so hopeless.  Who could I talk to?  Who could I tell?  I felt such deeply embedded levels of shame that I was barely functioning.

The struggles I had with my thoughts would of course effect my endeavors for clean intimacy with my dear husband.  I didn't know how to be intimate and feel the Spirit.  I only knew what I'd been taught.  I didn't believe there was any other way.  Of course I'd heard people talking about having beautiful Spirit filled intimacy, but I thought they were either lying or it was just completely unattainable for me.  Remember, I thought I was made to please men.  I felt that was my purpose.

When I first began recovery I was asked to give up my addiction.  I was asked to stop viewing pornography and stop masturbating.  This, I did, willingly (not necessarily easily).  But on the same token I was also asked to be intimate with my husband.  Intimacy is a part of God's plan. It's purpose is not only to create bodies for new little people but also to bring us closer as husband and wife and create unity within our marriage.  That is what healthy intimacy looks like.  That was the goal.  That goal seemed ridiculously impossible.  All intimacy I had ever experienced offended the Spirit.  So as I was trying to give up my addiction (pornography), intimacy with my husband got lumped in as well and I began to recoil from sexual relations with him.  I wanted nothing to do with sex because it was so terribly impossible to keep my mind clean while in the act.  I'd immediately go to places that I'd seen on the screen.  I'd start playing a role and perform as what I thought my husband would want me to be.  I became a robot of sorts.  My addict would kick in and I'd lose control.  Of course, this would kill the Spirit and at the end I would just feel horrible gut wrenching shame.  I would feel completely hopeless that I would ever be able to be intimate with my husband and feel the Spirit at the same time.


I avoided intimacy for a very long time.  


After a while I came across a list that really helped me.  It is called God Ordained Intimacy vs. Worldly Sex. When I first came across the list most of what I felt was on the worldly sex side.  No, I wasn't cheating on my husband, or abusing my children, or engaging in multiple partners, in fact, none of what I was doing would necessarily keep me out of the Temple. But, I was disheartened as I read through that list because my state of mind and thought processes weighed on the worldly sex side and I was left feeling very hopeless.  I felt like a failure and again kept thinking I wasn't worth anything.  But then my eyes caught one sentence on the God Ordained Intimacy side.  It said "take exquisite care to not offend the Spirit."

This simple sentence became a huge blessing in my life.  It gave me a starting point and offered me direction in how to achieve pure, Spirit inviting, intimacy. I asked myself "how do I not offend the Spirit?"  I remember that first time attempting clean intimacy after I'd read the sentence, that first time 'testing it out.'  I prayed to Heavenly Father beforehand and I asked Him "Please Heavenly Father, please tell me REALLY loud if I am doing anything to offend the Spirit, please give me the opportunity to correct my actions before the Spirit leaves.  Please let Him guide my actions and let me know what is and what isn't OK.  I want this so bad.  I want to feel this perfect love for my husband and I want to share in this beautiful moment with Him and not have it haunted and ruined by my past mistakes.  Please help me."

He answered that prayer... and every other prayer afterward.  I'm not going to lie.  It takes work.  I'm still an addict and it is very easy for me to fall into old habits.  I have to be very careful what I do and say in the heat of the moment.  Another excellent tool is having awesome communication with my husband.  We work together to make sure neither of us offend the Spirit and work to spiritually unite one with another, and in turn, with God.

Recently I had the opportunity to revisit the God Ordained Intimacy vs. Worldly Sex list as I pulled it out to post it on my blog.  I hadn't read it in over a year.  I was truly surprised to see that I no longer weighed on the side of worldly sex.  But through relying on my Savior to heal my addiction He has also healed my perception of sex.  I could see, written in black and white, that I could have a beautiful; and joyous intimate relationship with my husband and feel good afterward, feel happy and feel closer to him and to God.

I no longer feel a separation from spiritually blessed intimacy.   God knew my fears.  He knew my struggles.  He also knew that my Savior could heal me.  He simply asked me to trust, and to 'be still' and allow Him to do so.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Journal: Moving, Crazy Wave and V4V

We've been talking about moving forever.  I'm sure people are sick of us talking about it.  I know I am.  We had definitive plans to move this past September but they fell through which bumped the move to January.  But, as January approaches I sense apprehension in all of us.  We love where we live, but we are simply out of room.

I remember a couple of weeks ago someone asking me where we were planning on moving to and I responded "wherever the Lord sends us."  It's funny to me.  My mom used to say that all the time and I'd roll my eyes at her.. like, whatever mom.  I had no faith then.  Now, I truly believe the Lord will send us where He wants us to go.  But it hit me, what if He wants us to stay where we are?  I hadn't consulted Him on the actual move.  We were faced with a need of more space and it felt natural to address that need.  But I was prompted pretty strongly the other day that I wasn't going about making this decision the right way in the form of the following question: "You say that you trust the Lord and will go, do, move to wherever He wants... then why have you not consulted Him on such an important matter?"

I realized I had been selfish.  I was afraid of the answer I suppose.  Not so much because the answer would be bad, but because then I wouldn't have control of making the decision any longer.  But really, I don't want to make the decision.  If I make the decision without the Lords counsel and blessing then I will not feel secure where I move.  I need Him with me on this one.

So my hubby and I both have taken a step backward and have not finalized any decisions on whether or not we are going to move.  Instead we are taking some time to pray and fast about the decision.  We have also asked our children to pray and fast about it.

Decision pending....

~~~~~~~~~~

The last two days have been pretty awful. It's crazy to me how fast it can come on.  The prior week and a half was great.  I was great, my family was great, life was great.  And then boom, Saturday was a mess.  My house was a mess, I was tired from working a graveyard the night before, I was faced with some family drama and I just started to feel generally not good enough.

Then the next day, Sunday, I felt the same way.  I woke up exhausted even after a good solid 9 hours of sleep.  I had no motivation and just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep.  I used to skip church all the time prior to recovery and even early in recovery.  I used to come up with any and every excuse in the book to not go.  But I haven't ditched church like that in a long time and I was happy to realize that yesterday it wasn't really even an option that entered my head.

As I sat in relief society I had the craziest emotions running through me.  I kept having thoughts that I was so inadequate.  I felt that with every comment I made people were rolling their internal eyeballs at me and thinking "ugh, here she goes again."

I know the adversary is working on me right now.  I know my ward loves me as I love them and that  none of the thoughts I was having were true.  And even if they were, that's not my burden to carry.  So I'm working on staying close to the Lord and just riding the crazy wave until the storm passes.

~~~~~~~~~~

On the good news front:  A while back I had contacted Voices for Virtue to add my voice to their fight against sexual addiction.  They had agreed to blog about me and promote my blog.  As awesome as V4V's blog is, it's their Facebook page that gets the most traffic.  They have over 121,000 likes.  I was looking forward to the article about me being posted on their Facebook page to spread awareness to a larger audience; an insanely large audience actually.  Well there seemed to be a disconnect in our communication and although they did blog about me, it wasn't quite what they were looking for in order to post it on their Facebook page.  They explained that they didn't want to just promote my blog, but they wanted a personal story from me regarding my struggle and recovery.

At first I had a bad attitude about this.  I know my story is important - but sometimes I feel selfish and prideful talking about myself so much.  I've explained before that it's difficult for me to promote myself.  But I knew this venue for spreading awareness and hope could not be passed up.  So I gave myself a few days to let the idea settle within me and with the help of the Spirit, I wrote an excerpt about my tangle with the adversary and how my Savior rescued me.  A few days after I sent my submission I received the following response from V4V:
Sidreis!  What a very touching story.... It will be an honor to use it in an upcoming blog... WOW! The Spirit is strong.... Thank you so much.  As your time permits if you have other thoughts/blogs you want us to post like this one please let us have the chance.... The Lord has blessed you and we'll try to help you bless others... Thanks so much.
This sure brightened my day!  I felt as if the adversary has worked to put a kibosh on the original blog post but now his tactics have been thwarted and the good guys won!

I'll of course let everyone know once that story has been published!


~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you all for being my friends.  I love and cherish each one of you.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Interview With God

I have to share this absolutely wonderful video that has provided me with much inspiration and comfort.   The comfort for me lies in the fact that I can interview God anytime I want and through direct revelation, promptings from the Holy Ghost and teachings from our leaders He answers every inquiry my aching heart presents to Him.

Love this!

(make sure to turn the volume up)

Joshua 1:9

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Hebrews 13:5
... I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Step 12'ing My Eye Doctor

Recently I was due for a vision check-up.  I don't fear the eye doctor like I fear the dentist or other doctors that perform other necessary invasive procedures (you know what I'm talking about ladies) so I didn't hesitate to call and schedule my appointment.

You should know that I love my eye doctor.  My husband starting seeing him when he was a young boy and when we were married we continued the tradition and now Dr. Eye has been my eye doctor for close to fifteen years.  His office is warm and inviting and he is very personable and interactive with his patients.  He is also LDS so we have that in common with him as well.  He's just awesome.

As appointment day approached I kept getting the impression that I should tell Dr. Eye about my addiction.  This seemed so odd to me.  Ha.  Like, why!?  But one thing I have learned is not to question the Lord.  I have told many people under His watchful direction about my struggle.  In most instances I don't know the result, but sometimes He allows me a glimpse into His work by showing me the miracles that occur because of my faith and courage to share my story.  I had no idea why He wanted me to tell Dr. Eye but it didn't matter, following His direction was a higher priority than knowing why.

On appointment day I told my husband "Guess what!  I'm going to tell Dr. Eye about my addiction!"  My husband just laughed and said OK.  He knows about this little agreement Heavenly Father and I have.  I'm lucky to have a husband that trusts the Lord and doesn't question who I tell.

Fast forward to Dr. Eye's waiting room....

Out of his office he comes with a patient in tow and as soon as I catch his eye he says:
"Hi!  How are you doing??  What's new in your life?"
"Oh, you just wait, I'm going to tell you!"
"Oh really?  OK"

Fast forward to walking into the exam room...

I sat down in the giant exam chair and he turned the lights off (so it's dark).  He sat on his swivel stool and rolled up next to me and put the giant lens machine up to my face.  I gently settled my chin into the cup and listened to the gentle quiet "click, click" rhythms as he began working to reset the lenses back to their base settings.  Finally he asked:

"So what is this news that you want to share with me?"
"OK, well I am an addict..."
Click, click
Pause
"Oh OK"
"... and I recently had the opportunity to film an interview regarding my addiction and my recovery for the church which is so awesome!"
"Wow, that's great!"
"Ya, I feel so blessed to be able to share my struggle and how my Savior rescued me to be able to help others."
"Wow that really is great.  I have a nephew that struggles with drug addiction too...
Pause
(eyeball bug in the dark - O.O)
...and he really has had a hard time with it.  It's hard to know how to help him."
Pause
Click, click
"Oh.... well, that's too bad.  I wouldn't know about that.  I'm not addicted to drugs.  I'm addicted to pornography."
Pause
Click, click
Pause
Click....... click......................................................click

Dr. Eye rolled his swivel stool back a couple of feet from me and just sat there.  All of a sudden I was overcome with the most intense fear.  Remember, I couldn't see him.  I'm stuck behind the giant lens machine, in.... the.... DARK!  

I looked heavenward and said a fervent prayer:

"Heavenly Father what are you doing to me!?!  This was a BAD idea!  He thinks I'm a freak!  He rolled away from me because he doesn't want to be near me!  He thinks it's inappropriate to be in here with me in the dark!  UGH!!"

Then Dr. Eye spoke again:

(Cringe)

"... and then there are those ignorant people in the world like me that assume when someone says they are an addict that they fall under the umbrella of  socially normal addictions such as drug addiction or alcoholism."

(Whew!!!!)

The conversation that followed was amazing.  We just sat and chatted for 10 minutes.  I gently pulled my chin away from the rest and ducked under the giant lens machine and made eye contact with Dr. Eye in the dim light.  I shared my journey and my hope.  He then expressed that he is in a Stake Presidency and all of a sudden it all became clear.  He is in leadership where the hope I shared can be put to good use.  I still don't know what that use is and I may never know.  But I know each of us left his office that day a different person.

He left with a better understanding of addiction and more tools to help others and I left with a deeper level of trust in my Father in Heaven and his direction for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Interviews: Anna

The Story

How old were you when your addiction began?
My addiction began as a child. Of course being that young I didn't recognize it as an addiction.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?  
I was very sexually curious from a young age. So partly I think it was curiosity. But I think what led to dependence on my addiction was the feelings of isolation and inadequacy. I was never a confident girl, and my addiction was my coping method.   
How did your addiction progress?
As I grew older I felt less and less important. I became very self-conscious and isolated myself after many hurtful experiences. I never wanted to bother my parents or siblings with any problem I had. My problems seemed minute in comparison to all the other things that were always going on in our home. As a result I turned to my addition to calm down or feel good. The more I turned to my addiction...the more I turned to my addiction. Through High School I struggled a lot with my body image, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not the right clothes etc. My addiction became an avenue to change all of that. I patterned my life after what my addiction had taught me. SEXUALITY. My sexuality became a tool. But I was never satisfied. It was a cycle, I didn’t realize, that was ruining my life.
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
At this point I was married for 2 ½ years. Never had I spoken a word of my addiction to my sweet Husband. I was still active in parts of my addiction, and hid it very well. I began to lose all spiritual feeling. I resented my Heavenly Father. I wanted nothing to do with the Gospel. I was depressed and angry. I kept trying to figure out how I was going to get out of this without hurting my Husband. I expressed to him many times that I no longer wanted to go to church, that I didn’t see the point in it. How I must have broken his heart by speaking those words. Not once did I consider my addiction to be the problem, until a dear friend of mine inadvertently showed me. I will never forget that walk, and the conversation we had that evening. I was still so angry and stubborn. But there was no question what I had to do to change it.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I felt so worthless. I thought I was dirty, I was a liar, I was weak, I was a hypocrite, and I was nothing more than an object.
Where did you turn for help?
I turned to a friend of mine that was struggling with the same addiction at this point. I didn’t know what to do next, or how to do it. She told me what she had done and how it had helped her. Reluctantly I scheduled an appointment with my Bishop. And later told my Husband, which proved to be a major help.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
As soon as I had confided in my Bishop and my Husband, I felt more responsible to change. I had to take action, I knew I might slip, but I had to try my best. My Bishop had counseled me to pray to my Heavenly Father and ask if he loved me. Which I thought was silly, I had been taught all my life that he did. But I am glad I followed his counsel, because after I did, I knew without a doubt that my Heavenly Father loved ME. All of me. That was my turning point. I chose my Heavenly Father.
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
I can remember in years past, going into Bishop's offices and confessing my sins. I never felt the Atonement work in me. I didn’t have a testimony of it. How could I expect to feel the miracle of the Atonement if I didn’t understand it? This time was different. This time was wonderful. I realized that repentance has so much more to it than just the confession of ones sins, as I had previously thought. It is a process of change. It is a total overhaul of one’s spirit and life. As I have humbled myself and come to my Savior in true sincerity expressing my love for him, and my deep sorrow for each drop of blood that was shed for me, I have felt His love and forgiveness. I feel His compassion and grace. The Atonement has made me want to do better; it has changed me from the inside out.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
I have realized that the Atonement works in so many ways. It fills the gap in so many different aspects of my life. I have found so much comfort in knowing that because of the Atonement, I can feel whole at the end of each day. I no longer feel weighed down by burdens or worries. I know that on my happy days, my sad days, or my mad days, I am not alone. My Savior felt all of the exact feeling I have. He felt what Anna feels each day. And after recognizing the severity of the pain my Savior suffered on my behalf because of my carelessness, I am determined to prove that it was not in vain.
How is life different for you today?
I have never felt so free and happy. That doesn't mean I don’t have bad days, or slip ups. What it means is that the adversary no longer has me bound in the chains of addiction. I don’t feel helpless or hopeless anymore. I know that I am not alone in this. My relationship with my Husband is better than I could have ever hoped for. I am more honest in all aspects of my life. I am more patient. I have a firm testimony of the Atonement. I am grateful, for everything. I always thought it was so strange when people would tell you to be grateful for your trials, and hardships. I now understand how you can be grateful for them. I am grateful for my trials because without them, I wouldn’t have the testimony I have now.
What is your perception of yourself?
I now see myself as a Daughter of God. I am a good person. I can accept myself for who I am. I love myself. I know I am of importance to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I respect myself. I recognize my strengths, as well as my weaknesses.

ARP Meetings

What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
I was so scared that someone I knew from my ward was going to be walking by when I went into the room. Or that I would get “found out” by someone who I didn't want to know what I was struggling with. And most of all, I felt that by going to a meeting it was getting really real. That scared me.  I was grateful that my friend had traveled 4 hours to go to my first meeting with me. If she hadn't  I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get there.
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
I would have told myself of the great friends and support I found there. I would tell myself that by going I would find out that I am not alone. I would talk of the strength that I would find by going to these meetings.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
Knowing that these meetings were confidential was reassuring. In my past, I have had many experiences where confidentiality was promised, and not kept. Of course these things hurt and are hard to overcome. But knowing that I was at my wits end, I had to have the faith that these meeting really were confidential. 
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
I have felt so much love and support from the sisters I have met in meetings, from the Missionaries to the addicts. We all have the same goal. We are all working to progress, no matter where we are on this journey. I have found that if I am having a bad day or if I am stuck on a step I can reach out to them and there will be help. It is so nice to know that some of these sisters have walked the road you’re walking, and that they know the ways that work.

Experience with Priesthood Leaders

What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery? 
My Bishop is a wonderful man. I think he was very na├»ve when it came to women and sexual addiction. At first he was very cold. He didn’t mention anything about ARP. In fact I was the one who told him that I thought I might go. He wasn’t very supportive of it, but as he saw the progress I was making through working the steps, he was so much more curious. He wanted to know what he could have done better from the first meeting we had up to now. He is learning at the same pace I am. At first I was angry at this; I thought he should have known exactly what to do, and what to say. Now I realize that what I have helped him learn will benefit the next woman who comes to him with this problem. 
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
I would tell him to suggest the ARP program. To reassure them that it is something they can change with the help of their Savior.
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
I would encourage them to do so. I would tell them to be honest with their Bishop. When I went to my Bishop with this I knew it was the beginning of change. I wanted to get it all out and I wanted to start moving past it. I couldn’t have done that if I had held back. I would suggest saying a prayer before meeting with him, a prayer to have the spirit help you say what you needed to. 

You can read more about Anna on her blog by clicking here.

If you would like to leave a message for Anna, please do so in the comments.  She is reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Interviews

The Interviews is a series of interviews of other women who also struggle with sexual addiction.  You will find information regarding how their addiction started and progressed, how they found recovery, how the Atonement has worked in their life, how their relationship with their Bishop has aided their recovery, their experience at ARP meetings and other random tidbits.

I would like to extend an invitation to any woman who struggles with sexual addiction who would be willing to be interviewed for this feature.  Please email me at bythelightofgrace (at) gmail (dot) com if you are willing to participate.

Also - for any reader - if you have any specific question that you would like to see answered by women who struggle with sexual addiction, please post it in the comments or email me at the above email address and I'll consider adding it to the list.  I would like this feature to spread hope and awareness to everyone so I would like the questions asked to be specific to answers you are seeking.

My Insanity

A while ago another blogger, April at Eat My Scabs, posed a challenge to her readers: to personify their insanity.

I have been avoiding this challenge.  I don't like my insanity and the idea of putting a face to her is rather terrifying.  I avoid her like the plague.  But I've decided I want to flush her out and expose her for what and who she is.


So here is my official entry for the "Insanity Challenge:"


Watt's 
from
"Some Kind of Wonderful"


+

Evil Queen
from
Snow White and the Huntsman


+
Isolation




What emotions can you depict by the faces and body language in the pictures above?  I see anger, defiance, intolerance, entitlement, contempt, spite, rebellion, indignation, rage, power, pride and hate (to name a few). But really, mostly I see hurt because no one feels these emotions without experiencing  tremendous pain.  All of these rotten emotions are simply the result of being consumed and smothered by deep hurt.

My Insanity's Physical Appearance:  She is not thin or fat, but she is muscular, well defined and perfectly proportionate.  She is about 5'7", not too short but tall enough to master a commanding presence.  She has long flowing black hair with bright blue eyes and the most perfect eyebrows you have ever seen; eyebrows that are always in a constant sneer.  She has perfectly straight white teeth but you hardly ever see them because she rarely smiles.  She wears casual clothes that show off her figure but she shies away from femininity.  In her mind femininity equals weakness.  Although, she does like to feel sexy, but she in no way relates feeling sexy to femininity.  Dressing to show curves and to attract the attention of others is always a priority.  Her clothes are normally dark in color and tight fitting.  She loves to wear boots.
My Insanity's Presence:  She is commanding in her presence.  When she enters a room she wants everyone to notice her.  She wants everyone to pine over her and to love her.  If they don't, she gets very angry, after all, no one is more important than her.  If they still continue to ignore her, she throws an emotional tantrum and isolates, all the while swimming in her own seething anger.
My Insanity's Tastes:  She loves powerful music.  Anthems that make her feel like she is indestructible and powerful.  She likes her music loud so it drowns out all other emotion.  She loves to be competitive, especially in sports such as softball and volleyball.  The fire of competition feeds her pride.  She also loves horror movies.
My Insanity's Behaviors:  She is a manipulator first and foremost but she will also use other tactical behaviors such as lying to facilitate her manipulations.  Her manipulation is her way of controlling her circumstances and surroundings.  Sometimes she will manipulate for no real reason but just to reassure herself that she still has control over something.
My Insanity's Insecurities:  My insanity is driven by a deeply embedded insecurity.  She usually only flares when I am feeling vulnerable and out of control.  She is my rescuer. 
The problem with allowing My Insanity to rescue me is she doesn't just create a barrier between me and that which she fears will hurt me, but she also creates a barrier between me and the One that can truly rescue me.  I work diligently each day to reassure myself that I no longer need My Insanity and I also work to reassure My Insanity that I'm OK without her.  I have to be careful to not hate My Insanity because that just feeds her.  I must love her, reassure her, accept her, and work to find the Golden Mean between my two extremes (complete isolation and complete power).  That Golden Mean is where I find refuge, security and safety in my Savior.  I must expose my deep pain to my Savior in order to let Him heal me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pocket Sponsor: Chapter 1

Do you need some Pocket Sponsor quotes?  A Pocket Sponsor is a list of sponsor quotes that can be accessed at any time to help lift, give hope and bring things into perspective.

Someone that I sponsor recently sent a list of memorable counsel I've sent to her over the course of our relationship.  It was interesting to see it again.  I thought it would be cool to share it here, in case any of you wonder what I tell people who are struggling .  I know that in re-reading it, it has helped me.  I've gone back through a few of my text conversations with others and added some of my own as well.  I think these quotes reflect my testimony of my Savior, my grasp of hope and grace, and my awareness of the very personal battle we each have with the adversary.

I do want to credit the Spirit for giving me the below quotes.  I feel the Spirit's influence so strong when I am conversing with those that are struggling.  The Spirit knows what that person needs to hear, He just uses me as the voice to say it.  I'm honored and privileged to serve in that capacity.

Which quotes stand out to you most?

  • You aren't crazy.  You aren't alone.  You aren't the only one.  You aren't unique in your struggles.  Those are all lies.
  • Ask yourself: is their potential reaction determining your action right now?
  • Just ride the wave and don't fight it.  The more time goes by the less it becomes an issue.  You feed the wave by stressing about it.
  • Faith is stepping into the darkness and trusting that the light will follow.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Recovery turns your rock bottoms into trampoline bottoms
  • Time to use your backbone instead of your wishbone
  • Spending a lot of time focusing on what your needs are may lead to selfishness.  It'd serve you better to focus on what the Lord wants of you which INCLUDES taking care of your needs... You just gotta filter your needs through Him.
  • Just worry about tomorrow.  For all you know you could die the day after.  So just worry about today and tomorrow.
  • My concern doesn't lie in talking about problems.  My concern lies in if you just sit in them and do nothing.  Saying stuff like "I can't" when you can etc.  If you choose to talk about things and then just sit in it them it's just whining and there is no healing in that.
  • Remember it's just as dangerous to blame yourself for things as it is to blame others.
  • It's not about fault.  It's about what is.  Just accepting what is.  Admitting powerlessness, recognizing and welcoming the need for change and then just relying on the Lord to facilitate that change.
  • You still a baby :-)) (baby as in early in recovery - give yourself a break)
  • It is worrisome that you don't feel bad.  I recommend praying for that Godly sorrow.  In essence you tested how close you could get to the edge without falling over.  But you still looked over the edge.  That in itself is dangerous.  We have to stay as far away from that edge as possible.
  • It's good to acknowledge it so you can work on it.  But saying/thinking you suck in the process is no bueno.
  • Did it ever occur to you that perfection is boring?
  • Opening up will break destructive cycles.
  • There is a foggy line... You will have the adversary on one side of this whispering in your ear... What do you suppose he's saying?
  • Stupid Satan!  I said a prayer.  Angels on the way!
  • Working the steps through detoxing or times of trouble is a good way to keep your focus on your Savior and not so much on how wack you feel.
  • Recovery fills the void; the hole that is left in sobriety's wake.  It gives you the Light of Christ that heals you from within.
  • Don't worry about sobbing.  Sobbing is good.  You are doing better than you think you are.  Heavenly Father is aware of your efforts and progress as well as your worries and anxieties.  Trust Him.  Turn to Him.
  • Get to bed safe tonight.  New fresh day tomorrow!!!  Put a smile on.  It looks great on you:-)
  • Proverbs 16:20 - "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.":-)
  • Satan is the one telling you that you aren't progressing and aren't doing good.  Don't believe him.  Remember, anything that leaves you feeling frustrated, less than or worthless is not from God.
  • "As you and I come to understand and apply the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than for our circumstances to be changed.  We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon." - Elder Bednar.
  • Satan is telling you right now that it's worth it.  But as soon as you do he's going to drop you - and laugh at you.
  • Heavenly Father loves you.  Turn to Him.  Rely on Him.  Trust Him.  Heavenly Father says "I didn't say it would be easy, but it will be worth it." Satan says "I didn't say it would be worth it, but it will definitely be easy."
  • Just remember that Satan wouldn't be working on you so hard if you weren't doing something right.
  • As long as you hide behind the fear you will be bound by it.
  • The more you rely on your Savior the more your love for Him will grow and He will heal your false beliefs about yourself.
  • It's hard to let go.  But the reward far surpasses the immediate gratification... which really isn't all that gratifying anyway.
  • Satan molds his lies to fit our vulnerabilities.
  • Keep your chin up!
  • You will not find peace without prayer.
  • Getting mad is going to create feelings in you that will make you want to numb again.  Be careful to not entertain those feelings too long.
  • By mourning your sobriety you are standing on the track staring at the fallen hurdle and wishing you could pick it back up.  You can't.  Don't waste more time staring at it.  Look forward and start running again!
  • Sometimes we have to give up something that is 99% good just to forsake the 1% that is bad.
  • You have to work hard right not to get rid of the darkness.  Remember Moses has to tell Satan to leave three times.  Don't give up!
  • PRAY about it.  Just thinking about it gets us in trouble.
  • You have to believe you are qualified for the same grace given to others.
  • Yes, it is easy to believe Satan's lies but it's not impossible not to.
  • You are doing great.  Heavenly Father is so proud of you.  You keep doing what you are doing and all will be well!
  • Always remember - something super awesome comes after intense opposition.
  • "Nothing fixes a thing so intently in the memory as the wish to forget it." - Michel de Montaigne
  • Jealousy is like a piranha with an insatiable appetite.
  • We all have to traverse our barren wastelands to get to our paradises.
  • Remember that anything that is discouraging or that leaves you feeling heavy is from Satan.  Don't listen to him.  He's on oaf!  Chin up!  You are a daughter of God!  He is a King and that makes you a princess... Celestial Royalty!! Call on Him.  He loves you.  As do I:-)
  • I am only as strong as my Savior.
  • Remember: "Nothing changes if nothing changes."
  • Just look at his eyes.  Imagine your Savior and then put an old man body on him.:-) (regarding fear of talking to a new, younger, bishop)
  • Once you work your step 4 and 5 that shame you feel will lift tremendously.  You'll get to give it all away:-)
  • YOU are doing AWESOME!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who Touched Me?

     On the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee was a large city called Capernaum.  Some of the Lord's greatest miracles and sermons were given in this city, and something happened there that is of profound importance in the understanding of the Lord's love for us.  (See Matthew 9; Mark 5; Luke 8.)
     One day, while Jesus was teaching the people along the shore of the sea, the assembly was interrupted by a visitor of great importance.  It was Jairus, one of the rulers of the Jewish synagogue there in Capernaum.  Jairus had come to plead for the Savior's help in healing his only daughter, a child of twelve who lay in bed, only moments from death.  Unable with all his wealth to find a physician who could heal the girl, Jairus cast aside all pride and status and threw himself at Jesus' feet, worshipping him and begging him to heal his daughter.
     Because the rulers of the synagogues often led the ridicule and opposition to the Savior's mission, this was a missionary opportunity of tremendous implications.  Jesus agreed to interrupt his teaching, and they left immediately on this urgent errand.  They were followed by the crowd of people, who were eager to see a miracle, eager to be near the Lord.  In fact, so many people were in the crowd, each one trying to be close to the Lord, that it must have been difficult for him even to walk.
     In this crowd was a woman with a terrible Goliath, a woman we could say represents each of us.  She also wanted to be near the Savior, to look into his face, to feel his love.  But this she could not do, because, according to Jewish law, she was unclean.  For twelve years she had suffered a flow of blood, an almost constant hemorrhage.
     The woman's sickness was terrible, but perhaps even worse than the physical weakness and suffering caused by this plague was the public scorn it brought upon her.  Judged unfit for marriage, unfit to mingle with the community, unfit to worship in the temple, she was regarded as an outcast, worthless and unclean.
     During those twelve long years of illness, she had spent all her money going from one physician to another, always hoping that the next one would have a cure.  but none of them had an answer.  The scripture says that she suffered many things at the hands of the doctors, things that were sometimes worse, perhaps, than the illness itself.
     For all her money and humiliation, her plague had only grown worse.  And now, after twelve long, lonely years, there was only one hope left, and that was Jesus.
     She believed that if she could only touch the hem of his robe, she would be healed.  But unlike the blind or the crippled who called so boldly for his help, she dared not ask.  She was not even suppose to be out in public.  She was unclean, unfit.  And she was separated from Jesus by a crowd of clean people.
     Many people have felt that way; that they aren't good enough to be with the Lord; that they have no right to ask for his help; that surely he would want only the clean, moral, righteous people around him; that they are forever separated by what the others are and they are not.
     There is good news for people with such feelings, because that is exactly the kind of people the Lord specializes in.  Jesus often assured us that he came not to call the righteous but the sinners.  He frequently said that the reason he came was to seek and to save those who were lost, those who needed his help.
     This woman was free to receive his love because she knew that she had no more defenses, no more substitutes, no more hope but him.  It is to that point that we each must come, and when we do we are ready for the message of this woman's experience.
     You know the story.  She did manage to push her way through the crowd, probably with her face covered so as not to be recognized, and when she touched his robe she felt the flow of blood stop.  Immediately she knew she was healed.
     But then, to her horror and the amazement of the disciples, Jesus, who was rushing to heal the dying daughter of Jairus, suddenly stopped and asked one of the most interesting questions in all of scripture: "Who touched me?"
     The apostles were incredulous.  They asked, "Master with all these people shoving and pushing, how can you ask 'Who touched me?'"
     As his eyes searched the crowd for her, he explained that this touch was different; that it was a touch of faith; that he had actually felt virtue or power flow from his body.
     "Who touched me?"
     There are other ways to ask that question:
     Who trusted in my power?
     Who believed in me?
     Who applied their faith and made claim upon the blessings I am so anxious to share with each of my brothers and sisters?
     Who touched me?
     This simply question teaches us volumes about the Lord, about who he is and what he is like.  
     It shows, for example, that nothing escapes his notice.
     It demonstrates that no act of faith goes unnoticed, that no petition for help will be ignored.  No matter where he is, no matter what he is doing, he will never miss the petition of one in need.
     It tells us that he can be pressed in a crowd, he can be occupied with important matters, like saving the life of a dying child and influencing the stubborn and blind Jewish leaders - and yet know in an instant when he has been touched by one in need.
     It shows that it is the poor and needy, the hurting and hopeless, that come first on his list of priorities.
     It demonstrates that it is okay to interrupt God.  Our prayers do not "bother him" when we plead for help.
     "Who touched me?"
     The movement stopped.  The crowd was silent.
     All eyes turned to the woman, who came in fear and trembling and fell at the feet of the Savior to confess why she had touched him.
     For one terrible moment, she must have felt that the whole world had stopped, and her rejoicing must have turned to fear.  What if the Lord was angry with her? What if he would rebuke her boldness?  What if he took her healing away?
     "Who touched me?"
     Why would Christ stop and ask that question?
     His custom was to tell those he healed not to publicize the miracle.  So why did he want to expose this woman to the crowd?  He knew who she was.  He knew that she was already healed.  He knew how urgent it was to help this Jewish ruler who had opened such an important missionary door.
     Why delay him?
     Why bother the woman?
     Why make her confess?
     Why not let her go her way in peace?
     Or could she?
     "Who touched me?"  What a divine act of kindness is wrapped up in that question.
     To begin with, by asking the woman to come forward, Jesus was able to eliminate any doubt or guilt she may have felt about receiving the healing deceptively.  He said to her,  "Daughter, be of good comfort."  Of even greater value than the healing would be the assurance that he granted the healing willingly, knowingly.  "Who touched me?" was a way to put a stamp of approval upon her faith.  It was a way of showing her and the public that she was acceptable and worthy of his notice.
     A second way this question showed his kindness was by giving her confirmation that her faith was valid.  There was no magic in his robe.  "Thy faith hath made thee whole," he said.
     Third, by asking "Who touched me?" he was able to remove any doubt that the healing was permanent.  "Go in peace and be whole of thy plague." he said.
     The fourth reason is that it removed from her the burden of proof.  It would now be public knowledge that she was clean.
     And I think the fifth and most important part of this kindness was the healing of her lonely and aching spirit.  What a treasure to remember for the rest of her life that he knew her; he noticed her; he accepted her.
     There is a similar act of kindness in the Book of Mormon.  It happened when the brother of Jared took sixteen stones up on the mountain  and asked the Lord to use his power to make them shine so that they would have light in their barges and not have to cross the ocean in the darkness.  (See Ether 3:1-6.)
     What happened is significant.  One by one the Lord touched the stones with his finger and caused them to shine.  He could have done it with a silent command or with a wave of his hand.  Instead, he touched them one by one because that was a way of saying sixteen times: "Yes, my son, you are correct.  I do have the power to grant your requests."
     Sixteen times he was saying: "Yes, my son, you are right to ask me for help when you have done all you can."
     Each time he touched a stone, he added another assurance of the Lord's desire to be part of our life and to have us walk in the light of his love.
   "Who touched me?"  What a profound demonstration of the Savior's love and willingness to help us conquer our Goliaths.
Steven A. Cramer
Conquering Your Own Goliaths
p. 89-93
1988 © Deseret Book Company
Used by Permission

Monday, November 5, 2012

Journal: Releases, Teaching and Gratitude

I have some sad/happy news to share.  You know that type of news that you know is for the best but you wish it could play out differently?  Ya, that kind of news.  Anyway, I've asked to be released as a facilitator in the program.  Now, before y'all panic, let me 'splain!  My recovery is not in jeopardy   I didn't slip or anything.  And I have zero plans of stopping attending group.  In fact, I'll probably be MORE involved with group now that I'm back to being a regular participant.  I'm just simply tired and I need a break.  I have lost the passionate fire that I started with when I first became a facilitator and I felt it was time to pass the torch to someone else whose fire is burning brightly right now.  I am excited to just get back to the basics and just be for a while.  

Let me tell you though, this decision did not come lightly.  I've been thinking about it for quite a long time but my fear of disappointing my Father in Heaven always got in the way of me actually praying about it or seeking counsel from others on it.  There came a point recently that I finally decided to pray about it.  I told myself I was going to pray about it for two weeks straight so I could be sure of my answer.  My prayers lasted three days.  Each night I would pray for an answer I would feel this overwhelming sense of peace confirming that asking to be released was the right decision.  After the third night I thought if I continue with this for two weeks it would be an act of faithlessness and I would just irritate my Father in Heaven and He might withdraw His answer and I didn't want to risk that.  So I decided to trust Him.  I told my leaders that I just need six months and after that time period passes I'll revisit being a facilitator again and offer my services if they need me.


But in the meantime I get to switch back and forth between both meetings, cultivate and nourish new relationships with my recovery sisters and just bask in the Atonement for a while.


Also - I've had a couple of inquiries as to whether this would effect my ability to sponsor.  So to answer that, not in the least does it effect my current or future sponsee's.  Sponsoring isn't contingent on being a facilitator.  So that institution remains in tact.


I'm definitely grateful for the opportunity to have served as a facilitator.  It was a wonderful and meaningful time in my life.  Not only was facilitating wonderful in it's own right but it offered me the opportunity to interview with the church regarding my addiction and spread hope that way.  I'll be blogging about this soon - and I'll post pictures of me in the sound studio - it was pretty awesome.


I am grateful for my time as a facilitator and look forward to serving again after my 6 month vacation:-)

~~~~~~~~~~

Sad news.  That friend I blogged about a couple weeks back... the one I lost.  She blocked me on Facebook.  I'm not sure that's ever happened to me before.  I'm surprised I'm not more upset about it but I'm grateful that I feel at peace with the situation.  I'm grateful that Heavenly Father has instilled in me the courage to turn her over to His care (in my mind) and give her the space she needs.  I hope she turns around, but I will no longer expend energy on wondering if she ever well.  

~~~~~~~~~~

So I'm not sure if I've shared this or not but my husband and I are teaching an LDS Addiction Recovery 12-Step class in our ward.  We are teaching it as a 12 week Sunday School class.  It has been an absolutely amazing experience so far.  I'm secretly hoping that we can teach it again in our new ward when we move in January.  I was surprised to find teaching to be such an amazing relationship builder for my husband and I.  It's so awesome to be able to talk about the Atonement so much with him.  I love him so much and I'm so happy he's my husband:-)  I'm one lucky girl!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This... is Why We Rally

I sometimes sift through the most viewed videos on YouTube to see what's hot and happening.  Most videos I skip over just because I can tell they wouldn't be good for me but some are worth watching.

This morning I started the below video but quickly turned it off.  I couldn't stomach watching what was happening and my anxiety level went through the roof.  But something told me to start it up again and keep watching.  As I did I witnessed a miracle of epic proportions unfold.  I saw a  number of what normally would be victims rally together to save one of their own.  Some of them even stepped into the territory of courage and bravery and stood up to those who would normally bully them, tear them down, hunt them, isolate them and ultimately destroy them.  

By the end of the video I was sitting straight up on my bed yelling "YES!!!" while my two year old stared at me like I was a crazy person.  But it was worth it.  All was not lost.  The young, the weak and the seemingly hopeless was rescued.  All because its friends and family rallied together to fight.  They did not cowardly run away.  They did not give up.  They formed and held the line and found strength in numbers.  

Such an inspiring video..... 



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"