Friday, December 7, 2012

The Interviews: Michelle

The Story

How old were you when your addiction began?
I started my obsession with anything sexual at probably around 6 but I wouldn’t consider myself an addict until probably about 13.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?  
I had a sibling become seriously ill when I was very young and my parent’s attention went to my sibling and totally off of me.  After that, I didn’t want to be a nuisance to them so I started isolating myself emotionally.  
How did your addiction progress?
It really just started out as an interest and curiosity but the older I grew, the more I explored until I found something that made me feel exactly what I wanted.  My main thing was books for a long time until I discovered everything the internet held and along with that came anything physical that those findings would stir up which included masturbation and eventually involving someone else in my “acting out."
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
I always considered myself a good girl who does things that good girls do and who stays away from the really nasty stuff (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) but as my addiction progressed, I found myself straying farther and farther from that good girl idea.  I also was suffering from a very serious illness which put me into a terrible depression.  I overdosed on some medication first and when that wasn’t enough, I turned to a guy “friend” and one thing led to another until I found myself doing almost all those things I said I’d never do.  Down the road, I wanted to stop being with this guy, my mind and heart were telling me to run, but my body took over when I didn’t want it anymore and I knew at that point, I couldn’t feel any lower.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I really loathed who I was.  I was no longer this good girl but I also felt that because, my some miracle, I was still a virgin that I wasn’t completely terrible either.  I felt like I was in limbo and I hated it, I hated me.  I felt like I was alone and didn’t fit in with anyone.  I felt like I had spit in God’s face and that he was either mad at me or super disappointed in me and the person I’d become.
Where did you turn for help?
I first contacted my bishop when I realized I was doing something wrong.  He helped some and helped me to see a therapist.  She identified me as an addict (which I’d never in a million years consider).  I stopped seeing her and my bishop changed and I saw a new bishop.  He helped me find the PASG group in my area just for women and through that group, I found hope and healing and recovery.  I did end up seeing a therapist again for a while to tie up some lose ends.  I also employed my dear friends because they always accepted me and they always supported me in my decisions.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
I remember, not long after my rock bottom, moving on to step 3 in the recovery manual.  I was working on giving my will to Heavenly Father and I don’t mean just thinking about it, I mean really working hard to give him my will.  I don’t know what it was but something just clicked about how to do it (probably Him being merciful) and I started to be able to give up my will, my addicts will, and because I was able to do that, my recovery really took hold and I started going up.
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
I always thought I understood the atonement of Christ.  I had been taught it my whole life but until I actually felt forgiven for the first time, I realized I knew nothing about the atonement and what it could actually do for me.  I had felt so gross, so lowly, so unforgivable, so unlovable but when I finally felt truly forgiven, I felt hope and love and acceptance from not only the man who died for me but also from my Father in Heaven.  I felt something I hadn’t felt in years.  I felt happiness.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
The atonement didn’t just make a difference in my life, it changed my life.  It changed me.  I always felt like I had this huge hole in me that couldn’t be filled.  I felt so empty because of it.  The atonement filled that hole, its completely gone.  There isn’t even a scar from where the hole was.  The atonement got rid of that too.  I feel like how I’ve always wanted to feel.  I’m happy and peaceful and hopeful and loved and loving.  I love others and I love myself and I allow others to love me.  That’s not something I ever thought would be possible.
How is life different for you today?
I have this peace in my life that I never had before.  Now, when things go bad, I know it will all be okay in the end.  I don’t just believe it, it know it.  I had a rough year this year.  I had a lot of heartache and disappointment and insecurity.  In my addict state, it would have ruined who I am but because of recovery and because I have Heavenly Father and Christ always in my life, I was able to ride out the storm and see the rainbow at the end.  I have been able to see blessings in my life that I used to either take for granted or never saw before.  I have relationships with people that I never had before because I was so isolated.
What is your perception of yourself?
I actually like who I am.  I think I am funny (although others may disagree), I feel like I can take criticism and learn from it instead of getting mad and defensive.  I feel like I am a nice person who people enjoy being around.  I feel like I am beautiful and someone worthwhile in this world.  I feel like I am genuinely a good person but I also recognize that I am still human and do make mistakes but I no longer beat myself up over them.  I accept it, learn from it, and move on.  I also feel like I am positive about how things are and how things will be.  And this may sound clichĂ© but I feel like I am a lot more humble now then I used to be although that is always something that I feel will need to be worked on.

ARP Meetings

What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
I was terrified of my first meeting.  I was worried that I’d see someone I know or that I would be stuck somewhere where I didn’t fit in.  I was also worried that I would be alone and you know what?  I was, I was the only one sometimes but I always felt love and acceptance from the missionaries and so I never felt alone even when I was literally alone.
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
I don’t think I’d give past me any counsel about meetings.  I went at a time in my life where I really wanted change and would do anything to get it and I did do anything to get it and I regret nothing of how that happened.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
I’ve had my anonymity and confidentiality broken a handful of times by a handful of people and it was terrible, humiliating, and terrifying but with that said, I always feel safe in group.  I always feel like my best interest is at heart and that I will be protected because the other people in that room want the same thing. 
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
I’m so glad I was able to find support from someone who truly understood what I had and was going through.  She was able to guide me through various things in my life and get me back on the path to follow Christ.  It was so nice to be able to ask her questions that I couldn’t ask anyone else and get real honest answers, even if I didn’t always like them at first.  She always had my recovery in mind and I didn’t always like what she had to say but if I humbled myself and actually listened, I would always avoid heartache.

Experience with Priesthood Leaders

What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery? 
If I had not been completely honest with my bishop, I would not have been completely honest with myself and it would have stopped my progression.  Without him, I also would have chickened out about finding a recovery meeting.  I also felt so much love from him even though he knew the worst of me which helped me to understand Heavenly Father’s and Christ’s love for me a lot better than how I understood it.
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
I think having an open mind is a huge thing.  A lot of people, even some bishops, don’t find masturbation or pornography to be a very big deal even though it can destroy a soul and so the idea of a woman having a problem is completely absurd.  So having an open mind and being accepting is very important.  I also think that being willing to learn is also very important.  If its not something you understand or are familiar with, learn as much as you can because chances are you aren’t going to just have one person ever come talk to you so if you know about sexual addiction and what it does and how to recover, you can help so many people find the atonement.  Also and I think most important, show them love.  They are terrified already and aren’t feeling any love from anyone so your love is important so that they can understand Heavenly Fathers love for them.
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
As terrifying as it is to reveal your deepest and darkest secrets to someone, the feeling of relief and hope and love after is amazing and totally worth it.  Nothing else can compare.  Also, if you haven’t found or attending a recovery meeting yet, the bishop is so important in getting you on the right path so you can actually be happy.. 

Additional Thoughts
Happiness is real and obtainable in this life, it really is.  This isn’t coming from some yuppy Molly Mormon who’s never had anything bad happen in her life.  This is someone who has walked through the very pits of Hell and not realized there was a way out.  I can say I have come out and I am happy, really happy.  It’s the kind of happiness you can’t describe.  There is an eternal sense about it that you have to experience to understand.  It is the ultimate joy and it is something I wish everyone in this life can experience.  I believe it is something that Heavenly Father wants everyone to experience.  I believe it is a reason behind the atonement.  You can’t have happiness and have sin, its as simple as that.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of terrible things happening in my life but I trust and know that Heavenly Father will take care of me and everything will work out for the best and because I know that, my happiness continues despite trials.  Oh what a wonderful feeling that can never be taken from me.  Thank you Heavenly Father for letting me experience it.
If you would like to leave a message for Michelle, please do so in the comments.  She is reading!

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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"