Monday, December 23, 2013

Just For Today

I am fortunate in that I get to attend a lot of AA (Alcoholic's Anonymous) and NA (Narcotic's Anonymous) meetings for my job.  I love it!  How awesome is it to get paid to go to meetings?

I'm one lucky girl!

I have been paying special attention in these meetings lately; listening and learning.

In each meeting, we are taught that practice makes progress; that we are never to aim for perfection, but rather, to aim for being better than we were yesterday.  We are simply to strive for greater knowledge each day.

Specific to NA, there is a tradition called 'Just For Today - Daily Meditation;' something they read out loud at each meeting to help ground their conviction and knowledge in recovery.

I want to write my own Daily Meditation to help ground and solidify my own recovery:

Just For Today

Just for today
my thoughts will be on my recovery, loving and enjoying life, and on being happy.

Just for today
I will have faith in someone else who believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.

Just for today
I will have a program and I will strive and follow it to the best of my ability.

Just for today
my thoughts will be on my new way of life.

Just for today
I will be unafraid.

I encourage you to write your own!  It is rather liberating!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Losing the 'Struggle'




I am learning so much from SA.  I look forward to my little meeting each week where we gather in a small room in a dusty old church and submerge ourselves into what might be considered socially unacceptable levels of accountability and vulnerability.  Socially unacceptable only because of the level of discomfort such openness can initially cause, but we have learned that it is necessary to get better.

So we do it.

Last week was amazing.  We had a guest speaker; a man with a harrowing story but more importantly, an amazing journey of recovery.  

I learned from him.

He spoke of 'struggling.'  

He said, "What is this thing, 'struggling'?"

I was a bit surprised because 'struggling' has been a big part of my recovery vocabulary since the beginning. 
  • "I struggle with pornography"
  • "I struggle with sexual addiction"
  • "I struggle with masturbation"
  • "My husband struggles with... x,y and z"

It is ingrained in me.

But the words this man spoke tickled my consciousness, like I was about to learn something huge.  

And I did.

Think about it..

strug·gle

  [struhg-uhl] 
verb (used without object), strug·gled, strug·gling.
1.
to contend with an adversary or opposing force.
2.
to advance with violent effort: to struggle through the snow.

To 'struggle' means we are grappling with our addiction; still attempting to exert some level of control or power over it.

Step 1 of the Twelve Steps reads: 
We admitted that we were powerless over lust--that our lives had become unmanageable.
To surrender our will to the Lord means to give up the struggle; to raise our hands high in the air and admit that we cannot contend with our adversary and that we need the help of our ever powerful Savior.

Only then do we begin to heal.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lessons of the Lost: A Book Review



I just finished reading this most amazing book.  The cool thing is, I not only know the man who wrote it, but I am related to him as well!

I admit, he is not someone I am close to.  I'm not sure I've ever actually spoken any significant amount of words to him.

I feel I really just recently 'met' him, and that was by complete chance.

I think I mentioned that I presented at the 'Utah Valley University - Literacy for Change' event a few weeks back.  A friend of mine had written a paper on LDS women bound in sex addiction and asked if I would be willing to share a bit of my story.  Of course I said yes.

As I sat in the classroom waiting for our presentation to start (ours was one of four presentations for the hour block), my cousin-in-law, Rachel, walked in.  What a pleasant surprise that was!  Then, when it was time, my friend vacated the chair behind me to begin her presentation and up off the floor came my uncle-in-law, Scott Hammond, to take her place.

I had no idea either of them would be there.

My friend presented.  I presented.  And then all participants stood at the front of the classroom as a 'panel' to answer questions from the audience.

After a number of questions had been asked, Scott raised his hand and asked one that surprised me, but also filled me with so much gratitude.  He acknowledged that all presenters offered meaningful and helpful information but that he was particularly impressed with Steven (another friend of mine who was also presenting) and myself.  Scott was impressed that Steven and I were able to stand in the arena, in the problem, and speak from the problem--rather than stand on the outside of the problem and speak about the problem.

He then asked why we have chosen to do so. I smiled because I don't have to think about the answer.  It lies deep within me and permeates every aspect of me.  

"I was tired of being scared," I said.

It's true.  Fear had owned me for far too long.  It seemed to captivate every aspect of my life.  No more.  The other reason, which I didn't express at the time the question was posed. was because I saw a need.  Seeing so many other women bound by the same fear and shame gave me the courage to step outside of myself; of my own fear, and talk about it.

As Steven echoed my response, Scott seemed satisfied. At the time I didn't really understand why he asked what he asked--but I've since learned that he has a passion that mirrors my own.

Scott and Rachel had to leave the presentation early and as they rose to do so I saw something left on my desk.  He pointed to it with a silent thumbs-up and mouthed the words 'for you.'  I silently nodded in response.

As I picked up the book he had left me, I recognized the cover.  I'd heard about it and even had it recommended to me, but with all the hustle and bustle of the rest of my life, I just hadn't acquired a copy and read it yet.

Now was my chance!

I was instantly taken by the title, 'Lessons of the Lost.'  I can relate to being lost.  I have spent most of my life being lost.  Not physically lost, per-say, but definitely emotionally and spiritually lost.  Becoming found has been the single most important defining moment in my life.  Being found by my Savior, by my family, but mostly by myself.  

But it all had to start by recognizing and admitting that I was lost in the first place.  

I had to find and tap into courage.

Scott's book details his experiences, with his trusty sniffy dog Rusty, as a search and rescue volunteer for Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue.  He doesn't just focus on the fear and despair felt by those who were lost, however.  But, more-so, he focuses on the power of hope and determination and the fight and desire to not give up, to survive and to live.

There is power in that.

He teaches us, through his own experience and the experience of others, deep lifelong lessons of personal survival that would otherwise by glanced over.

I was particularly impressed with his ability to be vulnerable.  Most of you know that I am a huge advocate for vulnerability.  I even made up a word to describe myself: a 'vulnerablist,' because I advocate so strongly for vulnerability.  He shares of his own experiences being lost, both physically and emotionally, as well as the experiences of his close family  members; my family members.  He pulls lessons from each in hopes to teach others the tools to avoid the pains of being lost.  

And for those who have been lost or are currently lost, he teaches that our experiences are not in vain, but that we can become stronger and wiser because of our circumstances.

I am most grateful for his willingness to speak of shame.  My desire to be vulnerable stems from my desire to be free of shame.  I cannot feel shame for that which I do not hide.  I was somewhat surprised to learn of the shame felt by those who are physically lost... they often mutter words such as:
  • I'm so dumb
  • How could I let myself get here?
  • I should have taken a different route
  • My family is going to be so mad at me
  • No one will ever look for me
  • I am alone
Are these thoughts and feelings I have experienced myself, even though I wasn't physically lost?  Yes.  Because shame is universal and derived from the same place.  Satan.  It keeps us bound in isolation where the dark one can strip of us our conviction, resolution, belief, testimony and strength.  Shame is death row.

In the end, I am left more resolute to nurture a relationship with my extended family.  They are amazing and I love them.  If you would like a copy of Scott's book, you can purchase it on Amazon here.  I might even be able to land you an autograph!

As a tribute, here is one of my favorite recovery songs.  It fits perfectly with the message Scott has so beautifully communicated:

Lost and Found
Kim Taylor


Monday, December 16, 2013

Journal: Depression

I am depressed.

I was hit with it a couple of weeks ago when I finished up my fall semester classes and it has been a steady decline ever since.

I have very little desire to do anything.  I just want to lay in bed... all.day.long.

I am fighting to even acknowledge how I am feeling because I have generally been depression free for a good three years now.

But, although I feel the majority of my past depression has been due to my addiction, I do need to recognize that I also suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which causes depression in the winter months.

Basically, I need sunlight, which I've had very little of because it has been hovering at 0-10 degrees for the last 3 weeks or so.

Even now, as I write this, I am thinking "if I could only get a nap - I would feel better."

... typical addict denial.

Anyway - I am not sure where I am going with this; not sure what to do.  But one thing I do know for sure is I do not want to isolate in it - so I am putting it here.  Now the whole world knows....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Birth of Crave


Ever wonder why we crave our addiction?

Neuro-transmitters, or chemicals, are released by our brains when we act out.  The more we act out the more these chemicals are released in unhealthy massive amounts.

Epinephrin 
Ohhh something exciting is coming and I can't wait till it gets here!

Dopamine  
This feels sooooo goooood!

Seratonin   
It feels so good that I'm going to brand how good it feels into my memory.

Oxytocin  
... and nurture it, this euphoria that I'm feeling; take care of it, keep it warm, love it.

Resistance is futile
Recovery is fruitful

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Lost' Accountability

I was attending an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting this past Friday with clients from the treatment center I work at.

There was a man in attendance, a regular; or known more commonly as an 'oldtimer.'  I want to share something I learned from him; something that really spoke to me.

We often speak of all the good things we lose because of our addictions:
Spouses
Families
Jobs
Self respect
Sobriety
Church privileges/membership

The list is endless...

But what does it really mean to 'lose' something?

lose

  [looz]  verb, lost, los·ing.
verb (used with object)
1.
to come to be without (something in one's possession or care), through accident, theft, etc.,  so that there is little or no prospect of recovery: I'm sure I've merely misplaced my hat, not 
lost it.
2.
to fail inadvertently to retain (something) in such a way that it cannot be immediately recovered: just lost a dime under this sofa.
3.
to suffer the deprivation of: to lose one's jobto lose one's life.
4.
to be bereaved of by death: to lose a sister.
5.
to fail to keep, preserve, or maintain: to lose one's balance; to lose one's figure.

Do you see how precious accountability seeps from us when we use the words 'lose' or 'lost?'

The word 'lose' disperses a good portion of said accountability to circumstance, chance, bad luck, accident, or the actions of another person.

But that is not what happens in addiction.

In addiction we choose our fix over the things we "lose."  It is our choice.  It doesn't happen because of happenstance or accident or because someone else made us or because of karma.

No, it happens because we make a very deliberate choice - whether at the trigger moment or days before - to love our addiction more than anything else.

...Instead of
"I have lost so much because of my addiction."
... Let us say
"I chose my addiction over all that I held dear."

And in that honesty we will find hope, strength and accelerated healing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Journal: Twenty Questions

I have begun my journey in working through the SA White Book.  I'm so anxious to learn I can hardly stand it.  I have thought a lot about where to journal what I learn, whether it be physically writing in a journal, a compilation of word documents, or an entire other blog.  I have settled here, though.  I want to keep everything centralized, and ultimately, this blog is my journey and my experience with SA is part of that journey.

I admit, I'm a bit nervous to share here.  It will require me to be super vulnerable.  I do feel I have achieved deep vulnerability already, but this comes from a different angle.  Like, I've been chopping the tree on one side for quite a lot of time and have a huge healthy chunk carved out, but now it is time to move around to the other side and start chopping from there.

I am practiced at chopping, but I am still starting over in a sense.

So here goes...

In the preface of the White Book there is a list of Twenty Questions; questions that help readers identify not only if they are addicted, but different facets of sexual addiction.  I am going to answer them here:

*Some of these questions do not really apply to me, meaning I will answer 'no,' however, I want to list them here so anyone reading has the list in its entirety

  1. Have you ever thought you needed help for your sexual thinking and behavior?
    • Yes - all the time.
  2. That you'd be better off if you didn't keep 'giving in?'
    • Yes - I long for freedom.
  3. That sex or stimuli are controlling you?
    • Yes - I definitely feel controlled. Mostly by my thoughts these days, which is currently the primary focus of my battles.
  4. Have you ever tried to stop or limit doing what you felt was wrong in your sexual behavior?
    • Yes - many times. It is a dreaded cycle.
  5. Do you resort to sex to escape, relieve anxiety, or because you can't cope?
    • I don't feel my use is due to relieving anxiety but more to escape.  In reflecting on this question I can confidently say that I am 1000% times more present than I was when I was active in my addiction.  Most of the time I get in trouble these days is when I am bored.  It is a double edge for me, because I rarely have downtime, but when I do I can't seem to just relax and enjoy just being.  My thoughts inevitably begin to wander and if I let them go unbridled for too long I really get into trouble.
  6. Do you feel guilt, remorse, or depression afterward?
    • YES!!! And SHAME!!
  7. Has your pursuit of sex become more compulsive?
    • When I was active in my addiction it definitely progressed from always wanting more more more...
  8. Does it interfere with relations with your spouse?
    • Yes.  I think I can safely say that we both struggle in this aspect.  I cannot be connected if I am selfishly looking for my own fix.  It is really easy to justify getting that fix from my husband because it is'legal' in the eyes of God (not true - just my rationalization).  What I strive to pay attention to are my feelings.  Often, shame for my actions-even premeditated motives-begin to seep in right at the onset of the thought.  If shame is present, then I am not in a healthy place.  I have previously blogged about it here.
  9. Do you have to resort to images or memories during sex?
    • Yes, this is something I struggle with off and on.  
  10. Does an irresistible impulse arise when the other party makes the overtures or sex is offered?
    • This is something I have previously experienced but I don't feel I do now.  I don't allow myself to be in a position for this situation to even manifest.  
  11. Do you keep going from one relationship or lover to another?
    • Not currently, although I did struggle with this quite a bit in my early twenties.  My boyfriend, whom I had lived with for two years, had recently broken up with me.  During my time with him I learned that to receive love I had to give sex.  After we split (I felt like I had severed a limb) I felt starved for companionship, love, attention and connection.  I felt in order to get it I had to have sex.  I didn't feel worthy of any other type of love, or that anyone even would love me any other way.
  12. Do you feel the right relationship would help you stop lusting, masturbating, or being promiscuous?
    • This is a difficult for me.  Meaning, I'm not sure.  I do resort to fantasy at times - not even necessarily sexual fantasy - but just fantasy in general; a whole other world that helps me escape my own.  I don't think that if that world were really mine that I would be free of my struggle.  I think I would end up wanting to escape that reality too, with a different fantasy.  My addict does not seek connection.  It selfishly seeks isolation.  If the connective fantasy I create were real, my addict would not be satisfied and would seek out another that more suits the isolation it craves.
  13. Do you have a destructive need--a desperate sexual or emotional need for someone?
    • Yes.  I have experienced this in the past and I continue to do so at times.  Most of the time this manifests with people in authority.  Older men that I see as father figures.  I have huge abandonment issues and I feel these feelings derive from feeling abandoned.
  14. Does pursuit of sex make you careless for yourself or the welfare of your family or others?
    • My addiction has never put anyone else in physical danger, but it has put me in physical danger; namely risk of STD's.  It has also definitely put the welfare of my family at risk on an emotional and spiritual level.
  15. Has your effectiveness or concentration decreased as sex has become more compulsive?
    • Yes - it has the power to completely steal my attention and very little will bring it back.  I have to really get mad and silently or audibly yell "STOP!!" in order to wake myself from the trance it puts me under.
  16. Do you lose time from work for it?
    • No. I've kept my addiction pretty separate from work.
  17. Do you turn to a loser environment when pursuing sex?
    • I have, yes.  Sadly.  Same time period as previously mentioned.
  18. Do you  want to get away from the sex partner as soon as possible after the act?
    • I have experienced this as well. It happens when I am in addict mode and just want the fix.  During those times I am not interested in love or connection.  The two simply cannot coexist.
  19. Although your spouse is sexually compatible, do you still masturbate or have sex with others?
    • Masturbation has always been a huge branch of my addictive tree, so yes.  It is not about my spouse.  Masturbation, even in the presence of a spouse, is completely selfish.  
  20. Have you ever been arrested for a sex-related offense?
    • No. But, I do humbly recognize that I am susceptible to my addiction leading to such a consequence.  I recognize my disease as progressive.  Eventually, I would have likely moved into more deviant behavior.
In reflecting over these questions I am filled with gratitude.  I am grateful for the ability to be honest about where I have been and where I am now.  That is not to say it is not uncomfortable answering some of the questions, but even so, I have been blessed with the ability to look at myself and practice hard honesty.  I am also grateful that I can express where I am and have no shame for any of it.  It just is what it is.  I desire to recognize where I am so that I can give it to Him and, through His Grace, get better.

I love Him.  So very much.  He is my King, my advocate, my confidant and my crutch.  

I cannot make it with Him.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Waterfall Concept: a Book Review


I want to post a plug for my good friend Roger Stark, author of The Waterfall Concept: a blueprint for addiction recovery.  He was gracious enough to send me a copy to review and, wow, am I one lucky girl.

This book is a must have in any recovering addicts library.  It combines Roger's personal experience, both as an addict and an Addiction Counselor, personal experiences of others, and plenty of relatable analogies.

Roger's writing style is both smooth and easily understandable.  He combines strong recovery principles speckled with hopeful Gospel truths, paving a very clear path toward deliverance.

A brief tidbit (The Waterfall Concept: A blueprint for addiction Recovery p. 86):
Serenity is the change in our lives that tells us that our recovery work has not been in vain.  Sometimes it is easier to describe what serenity is not.  When we are in our addiction, our lives have a chaotic feel, and we might experience torment, despair, loss of control, fear, anger, self-hatred, frustration, disappointment, isolation, selfishness, loneliness, anxiety or depression.  Serenity is the absence of those emotions and manifests as that sweet, calming influence, that gentle, kind spirit, that profound feeling of peace and comfort, the knowledge that all is well, the very feeling of the pure love of Christ, directed by Him, to us.
Isn't that beautiful?  I seriously can't wait to read it again.

You can purchase his book and read more about Roger at his website, here.
You can also purchase it on Amazon, here.

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Journal: Becoming a Seeker - Part 2 and 'The Gathering'

(Read 'Becoming a Seeker - Part 1' here)

Well, I did it.  I attended my very first SA meeting.

And?

I loved it!

Even mushed into a cool room with probably 30-40 other guys (and one other woman), I felt like I was at home; like I was family.  It felt so good to say my name, announce that I was new and have the entire room erupt in exuberant clapping simply because they were happy I was there.

I even received a 'hope chip' given out to newcomers...


My husband and I, along with one other newcomer, were invited into a separate room to have a 'newcomers' meeting.  There, we learned about the focus of the meeting, what the meetings offer, step 1 inventories and sponsorship.  I was mostly already familiar with most of the information presented but there was some new stuff as well.

I admit, I wanted to be in the big meeting; learning from all the oldtimers.  That is why I am there.  To learn.

I have decided to become a regular attendee of SA.  I feel they have a lot to offer me and will seriously help me refine my recovery.

I think i mentioned this in part 1 of this Seeking series, but I've really come to recognize that my pornography and masturbation use truly is only a symptom of a much deeper problem, rather than the root.  As good as it has been to focus on stopping that behavior, I really have only been focusing on treating symptoms that will continually return if I don't acknowledge and treat the infection; the disease.

Now, being almost the only woman, there really isn't much to choose from for sponsorship.  Fortunately www.sa.org offers some resources there so I'll be reaching out to them for more information.  I'll also look into attending some women only phone meetings.

I'm excited to start this leg of my journey.  I feel the Lord has really put His stamp of approval on it and I'm gratefully looking forward to what He has in store for me next.

~~~~~~~~~~

Also - there wasn't really enough interest to have a formal gathering similar to Camp Scabs so I'm going to hold off on that idea for now.  I understand that women in sex addiction are still bound by a ton of fear and shame so it doesn't surprise me that not much interest has been shown.  But, I also know that the time will come when it will be right - and I will revisit the idea when that moment arrives.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Gathering: Do You Want One?


My dear friend, Scabs, started hosting gatherings this past year called 'Camp Scabs,' which I find to be somewhat of a quirky and lovely title.

She has reached out to me on numerous occasions practically begging me to host such a gathering of my own for women in sex addiction.

What would such a gathering look like?

"They are so amazing and healing" she says, "you meet other people, reach out, get rid of shame, tell your stories, burn things, make paper crafts and bird houses out of Popsicle sticks.  There's camaraderie, friendship, support, love and you'll stay up all night giggling and crying. You'll learn something new, gain strength, lose fear, be brave and then you'll go home with the strength of your new friends at your back, cheering you on.  Camp is power."

Sounds aMaZiNg, yes?

A lovely weekend full of solitude, sharing, connecting, unifying, talking, discussing, honesty, tears and laughter.  On top of the emotional benefits, there would also be super yummy food and maybe even some shenanigans!

What else?  I'm not really sure.  I don't really want to get to completely planning it unless there is interest shown.

So I'm posing the question to you.  Would you come to such an event?

It would most likely be here in Utah, spots would be limited to about twenty, but if  there is a large turnout - I'd definitely plan more in the future.

Questions?  Comments?  Ideas?  Please share!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Journal: Becoming a Seeker - Part 1

The intensity of my seeking new recovery information often comes in waves.  I will seek and find new information or resources that bolster my recovery and then spend a good portion of 'quiet time' digesting the information I've discovered.

Once the digestive process is over I begin, again, to hunger for more information.

It is entirely cyclic, just like the addiction I battle.

::: sigh :::

I am hungry.

I have been hungry for a while now, but my hands have been dipped in so many projects that I haven't quite found the time to really seek out more information.

It is time that I make time.

I am hungry for information to help me with my thoughts.  Even after a solid four years of recovery and all the work I have done, I still strongly battle my thoughts.  I long for one single day that I don't actively struggle in my head.

As I sink myself into contributing to the new Healing Through Christ workbook, I have learned something about myself.

I am addicted to lust.

For so long I have worked to maintain my sobriety by not viewing pornography or masturbating, yet pornography and masturbation are simply symptoms of my lust.  They are tools or pathways that I use to unleash and access the lust within me.

I don't want to just be sober.  I want to be clean - on the outside, yes, but especially on the inside.

I need to get honest about where I'm at.  Sometimes I lose vision of that because I'm so busy working in so many other areas.  But as recovery states, I cannot help others if I am not first helping myself.

I must keep focus on my own recovery.

I don't want my recovery to be small defensive battles but, instead, I want it to be an all-out war.  I want to gather as many tools and resources as I can and ROAR in the face of the corrosive lust within me.  I want to be honest about where I am and what I struggle with so I can give it to God; so I can allow my Savior to cleanse and heal me; heal my heart.

I liken my thoughts to pesky mosquitoes.  For so long I would lay limp and let them attach to me and suck me dry.  Now, I actively swat at them as they come for me; as they threaten my peace of mind.  But I refuse to believe that I am destined to swat mosquitoes, my thoughts, for the rest of my life.

There must be something better than this.

So - I have sought out SA (Sexaholics Anonymous).

I've never attended an SA meeting.  I do own the White Book and have studied it some, but other than that I don't have any other experience with SA.

It is time.

SA targets lust in all forms and identifies the monster within us, rather than focusing on the symptoms of our craving.

I will be attending my first meeting this coming Sunday.  Fortunately, it is an SA meeting with an LDS focus which already makes it much more comfortable for me.

Will I be the only woman?  I don't know.  I don't care.  I'm there for knowledge.

I need more knowledge.
I need to hear voices of others who walk the path ahead of me.
I need to hear what their pitfalls are - so that I can avoid them.
I need to hear of their triumphs - and find hope that I can be healed.
I need to find unity in a safe place.

And maybe - I can find a sponsor - a woman, of course.  Maybe.

I need one.

As you can see, this post is Part 1 of a planned 2 part series.  Part 2 will detail my experience at my first SA meeting and hopefully be brimming with the new found knowledge I seek.

Till then  . . .

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Devil's Playground



Playgrounds are meant to be fun.  They offer slides to zip down, monkey bars to swing across, teeter-totters to bob up and down on, parallel bars to dangle from and penny-drop off, sand boxes to play marbles in and plenty of much needed joy and laughter.  

I have very fond memories of the playground I grew up on.  Lincoln Elementary School, in Glendive Montana, had the largest swings my little eyes had ever beheld.  The swings were so popular that the school had to implement a rotation schedule to ensure each class got a chance to use them-otherwise the older students would monopolize them.

I remember a specific time during recess on a blistery winter day.  My friend and neighbor, April - a high school student at the time, was walking through the playground on her way home.  Excitedly, I asked her for an underdog, to which she graciously obliged.  I felt like the coolest kid alive; swinging high and carefree, and laughing... so much laughing.

I miss those days, the days before the darkness.  The days when my biggest worry was losing my glasses for the umpteenth time.  

If only all playgrounds were so innocent...

They aren't.

As scary as the devil's playground is, it is imperative that we talk about it.  It is essential to recovery that we come to know our enemy; that we recognize his tactics.  If we do, we will soon realize that his stratagems are also cyclical.  As impossible at it seems sometimes, we can come to recognize them, and with the help of our Savior we can launch a counterattack. Satan does not battle head on.  As soon as we stand tall, turn and face him, we begin to gain the upper hand.

Part of this process is learning of the exact moment in our rituals that we lose our agency.  Often times when we slip or act out we come out the other end of it wondering what happened; wondering where our choice went and how it had so easily escaped us.

There is a point in which we fully surrender our agency to the dark one.  
We must identify it so that we can completely avoid it.

Imagine a slide, much like the one pictured above:
  • The playground where the slide is found - We enter the playground when we leave the protective wing of our Savior.  When we stop working our dailies, stop working the steps and stop focusing on recovery. This is when pride sets in and we feel we can survive without Him for a time.  Sometimes we are just lazy and other times we are blatantly rebellious.
  • The slide - The slide represents our crave. our ultimate fix, or acting out.  It is what we want so badly.  The initial tug isn't that strong as we stare at it from the outside of the fence, but it is there, and we are aware of it.
  • The other playground equipment - These tools act as distractions that we use in an attempt to satiate the crave, but in reality, they just end up feeding it. We find that even though we are playing with the other equipment to avoid the slide, we are also slowing moving closer to it. We constantly know where it is and we thirst for the frantic glances that become more and more rapacious.
  • The ladder leading up to the slide - The time always eventually comes when we can no longer stand the pull of the ladder. Addiction is never stagnant.  We are always either moving toward it or away from it. Our mind is consumed with justification and rationalization as we approach the foot of the ladder.  We hear seductive whispers in our heads telling us that we can just climb a couple of rungs and still remain safe; that we can choose to not act out.  We hear some truth in the words, so we do it.  At this point we still do have some agency, but at this very moment we are also listening to the whispers of the adversary more than the warning screams that are sounding all around us. The chances of us actually using our agency decreases significantly with each rung we climb.
  • The landing at the top of the ladder - The landing is the threshold at which we lose our agency.  We often linger here for a long period of time as the hot internal battle wages within us.  The warning screams are mere whispers at this point and the once seductive whispers of the adversary, now deafening screams.  They tell us that just one trip down the slide won't hurt; no one will know, you can repent after, if you do this - the crave you are slave to will go away.  The taunts are endless.
  • The descent - Robotic now, we choose as we have chosen so many times before. The Spirit leaves us as we sit down, preparing for the descent to the bottom.  The initial push to gain momentum provides a rush of anticipation and, once moving, there is no looking back.  We cannot stop mid descent.  
It is gone.  In mere moments, we have completely surrendered our agency to the dark one.

This cycle is the same every time we act out.  Our playground's look different, yes, but the ritual is the same.  It is up to us to determine where the gates to our individual playground's are and then strive to completely avoid them.  We must be honest with ourselves and admit that when we enter the playground, even though sometimes out of seemingly innocent curiosity, we fall.  

Every. Single. Time.

The devil's playground will not, under any circumstance, ever be safe for us.  

Our safety lies in the rest of our Savior where we find happiness, joy, connection, love, hope and nurturing.  We find feelings of value and worth, and we come into a great knowledge of our divine purpose.  

Let us never give up
.... and always get up
Let us remain in the safety of His fold
... of His love

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Skeleton: A Query From a Friend

This is a guest post from a sweet friend of mine.  She is struggling with some things in her past and is reaching out to see if she is the only one, or if others can relate to what she is feeling.  I have already responded to her personally, but she is hoping that she can get insight and direction from others as well...

~~~~~~~~~~

I am an imperfect person. I have high standards of myself and I have messed them up royally. I think that all of us probably have skeletons in our closet. I don't think mine are as bad as plenty of people's out there, but my big skeleton is something that really makes me ashamed of even existing. I simply can't fathom sometimes that I have done some of the things I have done. And I am not going to tell you what I did. Because to you it doesn't matter. It could be any sin and it would be equally repulsive because any sin is enough to keep us from God's presence. So no, I won't tell you specifics.....But I am going to tell you the dilemma I have now because of my skeletons.

I believe in repentance. I believe that people CAN change. I believe that most people don't change and that belief is terrifying when applied to myself. I believe that IF people are going to change it MUST be done through the atonement of Jesus Christ and in turning to him for support. I believe that is the only way a person can be clean again after sinning and I believe that is the only way a person can change part of who they are. And who are we all if not our daily actions?

Once you have acted in a way that is grossly against your moral code, you find yourself hopeless and helpless. You hate yourself for existing. You think about other good people in your life and if they knew what kind of a horrible person you were how disappointed they would be.  It feels very much like what I imagine drowning feels like. It presses in on you from every side. It brings with it darkness that there is no escaping. Here is the thing. I have felt that. But I also have felt what it feels like to know without a shadow of a doubt that I have been made clean again and that Christ forgives me. I can't explain how. I can't explain why. I can only explain what it feels like and my joy. He knew that we would come to earth and make mistake after mistake. That is why a merciful God allowed the atonement. He knew we needed a way to be saved from ourselves. I have felt that first breath of air after months of drowning. That first light of hope that says that it might be ok. Not what you did is ok, but Christ is paying for it and he loves you anyway, and you are clean again. You are redeemed, despite your wretched choices. It feels like a 100 pound weight is lifted off your shoulders. It feels like the release of a buildup of years of tears finally allowed to flow. It feels like sunlight after a storm. It feels like flying. It feels like freedom.

You would think that after feeling that I would be immune to sinning again. You would think that the thought of Christ spending another drop of blood on me would be enough to make me make perfect choices for the rest of my life. I would think so too. And we would be both wrong. I wish I could. But I keep failing. And do you know what? It is easier to fail the second time. And easier the third. The more you fail in that area, failure in that area becomes a part of who you are. You doubt your ability to ever change. It feels like a trap even worse than the one you started in.

I suppose it is as simple as drawing a line in the sand. You decide, you know what? I am going to be the "one" of ninety and nine. I am going to be the anomaly. I am going to be the one who changes. I will never, ever, ever repeat this behavior again in any form. I will screw up in other ways I am sure, we all do, but this dreadful specific area will no longer be my sin, my curse. I think it must be like alcoholics.....You have to recognize when something is more of a temptation than you can actually stand up to. Once you know that, you have to find ways to keep yourself from being in a position that would allow you to cross the line. You have to make hard, solid, fast rules for yourself and never let yourself cheat those rules.

I have been working on this step. It isn't as easy as one might think however. Just when you think you know all of your triggers, something new pops up. A new way for you to disgust yourself with your choices. And then you have to start over. You add new rules, you repent again, you wonder how Christ can keep forgiving you when you yourself are feeling how old it is getting. Time after time, "Here I am again, sorry....." But you keep coming back. Why? Because the alternative is to submit and be that filthy grotesque person that you couldn't live with. So you accept the grace and mercy that you don't deserve one more time because it is your only option at hope..... you rebuild your boundaries and you try again.

And it works. Step. By. Step. You start to really feel different. You start to really feel stronger. You start to believe in yourself. You start to feel that you are strong enough, with his help, you might actually be the change you previously doubted possible.

But what comes next? You start to fall in love. And the feelings start to get so confusing. I have to tell him what I was so he understands who I am. He has to hear it from me, not anyone else. For a healthy relationship, he has to know all my secrets. But if I tell him who I was there is no possible way he would stay. How could he possibly understand the changes that have taken place in my heart? How can he possibly understand the years and years of infinitesimal changes I have made by sheer brute force, constant determination, and recommitted dedication? How could he love someone who made such filthy choices in the first place, even if he can see the change? He will think what I would think. "How can I be sure she has changed? People can change, but they usually don't. Is she worth the risk? I have been burned before. I am not looking for a risk. I can't be burned again." And you hope beyond hope that he will see that we are all a risk. I am not the only person with skeletons in my closet. I am not the only person who needs the atonement to beat out the filthiness in me. I am not the only sinner. But can he see? And is He right anyway? I do continue to make mistakes. I am always improving, but I am so far from perfect. What if he takes a chance on me and I one day collapse? What if he is right and people really don't change? What if I destroy him for a second time? Is that a risk I can take? Would it be better for me to just be single for eternity? No one can crush me, and I won't crush anyone. There might be so much less hurt that way. And so much less joy.  I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Why do humans have such a need to find the cutoff. "That is too far. There is no coming back from that." It is wrong. It is so wrong. There is always coming back. There is always repentance and hope from the Savior of the World. There is always hope.

So I will tell him. And I will trust in Christ. He will either run away because he has valid fears of me from my past or he will stay. But God does have a plan. One for me. I know that he wants me to be happy. He didn't promise me riches. He didn't promise me a trial free life. But he promised that if I am faithful to the best of my ability and endure to the end and I turn to his atoning grace I can live with him again. What else matters in the eternities. If he runs, it will hurt. It will crush me. It will build another foot thick layer in the already 8 foot thick wall around my heart. But if he runs all I have to do is close my eyes and feel my saviors warm embrace because he won't run. He will never run. He believes in me even though I am not worth his belief. He will always give me another chance. He will always be my support. My guide. My light. My hope. My foundation. My rock. My savior. MY savior......wish me luck....or better yet....pray for me. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you my sweet friend for sharing a piece of you with us.  I applaud your courage and willingness to look at hard things in order to get better!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

@bythelightofgrace

I wanted to make you all aware of a change I've made.

I absolutely love Instagram.  It is by far my favorite app.  I feel that with a click of a couple of buttons I can catch and preserve moments that otherwise would be lost.

My personal Instagram account is @iamsidreis.  I post my everyday happenings there as well as meme's I create for my blog.

Well, at least, I used to.

Today I felt impressed to create a separate Instagram account specifically for my blog - @bythelightofgrace.  I did this strictly to house meme's of hope, recovery and that bear testimony of the Grace of our Savior.

Anyone is welcome to follow me on either account - but for my meme's I will be housing them from now on @bythelightofgrace. (Links below)

So you can follow my personal account here or my blog account here.

Thanks!

P.S. I've added a new Instagram widget on the right side of my blog as well!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Still . . .

During one of the classes at The Togetherness Project, the presenter posed a challenge to us.  He gave us each a note-card and asked that we write down one of two things:
  1. Something that we have never told another soul; our deepest darkest secret.
  2. If we no longer hold any secrets, how do we feel now about the secret we once held.
This is what I wrote:
In case you can't read my handwriting:
"Shame - fear of judgement, stigma/stereotyping & labeling.  I would be socially branded."

I still feel shame for things that I have given to God through His ordained repentance process.

Things that I have:  
  • Inventoried it in Step 4.
  • Shared with my sponsor and Bishop, free of rationalization and justification, in Step 5.
  • Committed to do better in the future.
  • Worked to not focus on, not feed, and to face forward.
Yet - I still feel shame for it.  
Why?  Because I am scared of what others will think/feel/say/do.
I am not perfect in my surrender.

Even though my mission is to bring shame awareness and help others find hope, I am not perfect at it myself.

In my recent post, Lustcrave, I expressed my feelings surrounding a recent struggle that I faced and didn't handle as well as I would have liked.  I succumbed to temptation and looked at some things I shouldn't have.

I received some feedback on that post that led me to believe some may think that I am 'recovered' or 'cured.'  

I want to make it clear that I have not been miraculously cured. 

I still trigger
I still crave
I still feel shame
I still battle my own human hormones
I still struggle to keep intimacy with my husband clean

But... (and this is one time I advocate using the word 'but' which usually negates what came prior)

I am grateful for all of it.  Because without it - I would not so passionately rely on my Savior the way I do.

If I don't speak of my specific struggle, it is not because I don't struggle, because I surely do. But rather, I choose to expend my energy on furthering the work, spreading hope, and creating connections.

I no longer feed each little trigger or temptation that I experience by dwelling on it, or wallowing in the 'why me' of it.  

Recovery comes more swiftly when I focus on the Lord and work toward Him, rather than focusing on that which keeps me away from Him.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Journal: Lustcrave

lustcrave [luhst-kreyv] noun, lustcraved, lustcrav·ing.
  1. to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly
  2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness
  3. a moment of absolute insatiable and ravenous desire
  4. the threshold at which we surrender our agency
~~~~~~~~~~

I don't even remember what led to the crave, I just remember being bound by it; being bound to it.

Ten minutes.  That's all it was.  Ten minutes of looking at some things I shouldn't have.

Ten minutes too long.

Hot tears stung my eyes as I silently screamed at myself:
How could you.
You are so stupid.
You should know better.
A smudge; that's what you are.

Self hate and loathing threatened to brand its mark of corrosive destruction on my heart.

Just as my feelings of unworthiness reached its pinnacle and just as darkness threatened to consume me, a small glimmer of hope began to shine.

I was gently reminded that hating myself is not a required step in the repentance process.
The Lord does not require such action as Satan would have me believe.
The Lord simply wants me to get up, face forward and keep moving.

My heart wanted to follow the Lord's plan and rest in Him, but in a split moment and by way of a fleeting thought, I asked my heart to do something I had promised it would never have to do again.

I asked my heart to hold and keep my secret.

But my heart was sick of keeping secrets.  It had already suffered devastating damage from all the caustic secrets I had previously forced it to keep.

I felt anguished as I thought forward to the shame, isolation and hopelessness such a secret would bring.  I would be walking back into the same captivity from which the Lord had worked so tirelessly to rescue me.

I refuse to return to that realm of subjugation and enslavement.

Instead I will move through the God ordained steps of repentance:
  • I released the secret and told my husband
  • I did not take the Sacrament based solely on the intent of my heart during my lustcrave, rather than the extent of my actual actions.
  • I scheduled an appointment with my bishop
  • I recognized that my dailies have been sorely lacking which has weakened my armor.  For added layers of accountability and support I have asked my husband to join me in my dailies.
  • I told my Lord that I am sorry, because I am.  So very sorry.
I am striving for freedom from shame, hopelessness, false beliefs, chains, and anything that keeps me gagged and bound from reaching for and calling on my Savior.

I want to go home.
I must keep climbing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

None Too Deep

A friend of mine recently came out with her struggle with pornography.  She is a wonderful and virtuous woman.  A beautiful daughter of God who is facing her struggle head on.  She has given up her corrosive dark secret in order to become whole again and help others along the way.

When she first went public with her struggle she was met with 'concern' from some of her family members. They were concerned that she had fully given up her virtue by having sex.

Sadly, my friend felt obligated to post somewhat of an explanation to assure everyone that she had not had sex, but rather was 'just' addicted to pornography and masturbation.

My heart immediately ached for my friend...

What if she had slept with other people?
What then?
Would she then be judged and shamed harshly?
Would she be less than?
Would she be used goods?

I was reminded of a story Elizabeth Smart recently told when asked why she willingly remained with her captors instead of attempting to run away.

She reiterated a lesson taught to her by a teacher when she was a young girl.  The teacher, attempting to teach morality through abstinence, told Elizabeth and the young girls in her class to not have sex or they would be likened to a "chewed up piece of gum."

Used.
Dirty.
Disgusting.

Elizabeth believed since her captor had sex with her that she had become as a 'chewed up piece of gum.'  She felt that her family would no longer love her and no one would want her.

She was ashamed.

I remember being involved in a Facebook discussion regarding the interview when it first aired.  One woman responded something along the lines of "she was not a used up piece of gum, 'especially' since it wasn't her fault that she had sex."

Another shaming statement.

So those who do choose to have sex are used up pieces of gum?

No.  They are not.

No one is a chewed up piece of gum, regardless of what they have done.  We are all innately valuable and absolutely equal in the eyes of God.

So what if my friend had actually had sex?

Then she would have had the opportunity to call on and practice the same healing power of the Atonement as she has for her other struggles.
The same healing power of the Atonement that heals everyone's struggles.
The same power of the Atonement that permeates our darkness and bathes us in His healing light.
The same power that lifts our countenance and strengthens our resolve.

It doesn't matter what we have done.  The path back home remains the same.  Through Him.

Through Him who cherishes us...
...loves us
...adores us
...cares for us
...encourages us
...honors us
...preserves us
...comforts us
...guards us
...nourishes us
...nurtures us
...shelters us
...sustains us
There is not one of us but what God's love has been expended upon.  There is not one of us that He has not cared for and carressed.  There is not one of us that He has not desired to save, and that He has not devised means to save. - George Q. Cannon
However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made . . . or however far from . . . God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love.  It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines.- Jeffrey R. Holland

He loves us with a burning passion that not one of us can even fathom.

None of us are too deep.

Each and every one of us can be returned to wholeness no matter what we have done.

Thus is His promise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#nofilter

'#nofilter' is a common hashtag used with pictures to signify no enhancement being used to make the picture look better or different.

No Filter                                               Amaro Filter

Photography filters definitely have their place - they can brighten colors to bring passion and vitality to a picture or they can soften the colors to make the picture more serene and peaceful.

However we filter a picture, even if it hides imperfections and makes it more beautiful, it is still not truth.  We are not experiencing the picture in its true rawness.  

I liken this to us.  

How many physical and emotional filters do we use to cover up who we really are? 
How many do we use to enhance ourselves so that we will look 'socially acceptable,' both physically and emotionally?

Why can't we just be real?

Because we are afraid.  

We are afraid of not looking as good as the person next to us, or being as emotionally healthy.  
We are afraid of being judged and shunned.  
We are afraid of being labeled...
- not good enough
- not pretty enough
- not sexy enough
- not funny enough
- not good enough
- not patient enough
- not spiritual enough
- not.... enough... period.

We are afraid of being shamed.

Oh how fear rules so many aspects of our lives.

But what would really go wrong if we were completely honest for a day? 
About our circumstance...
- about our feelings
- about our dreams
- about our sorrows
- about or weakness
- about our vulnerability
- about our strengths
- about our virtues

Scary?  Yes. But so very worth it.

Let us grasp tightly onto bravery, courage and faith, and embrace our vulnerability and authenticity.

If we are to use any filters to enhance ourselves, let them be the filters of compassion, humility, love, empathy, patience, faith, resiliency and courage.

Let us not filter out our weakness and imperfection, for acknowledging and embracing them is what leads to growth.

Let us not focus on that which we are not, but rather, find joy for that which we are.
Let us know without any shadow of doubt, that even in our rawest state we are enough.

I am enough.
You are enough.
We. Are. Enough.

We are powerful, gorgeous and resilient giants of celestial human beings.

Let us never forget...
We are enough.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Living a Better Story

As The Togetherness Project begins its trek into my past, I am left with feelings of connection, hope, generosity, love, compassion, unity, courage, vulnerability, sisterhood and power.

It was pure goodness.

I absorbed and learned SO much.

I took something important from each and every class I attended.  Over the course of the next little while I'd like to share with you the life altering principles that really spoke to my soul.

The opening Keynote speakers were Josh Brazier and Hollie Henderson, there topic: How to Live a Better Story.

I loved their premise.  They broke the chains of stigma and stereotype simply by acknowledging that we don't have to be the person 'others' or even 'we' think we are.

They shared how we often focus on all that which lies in the way of our goal instead of focusing on the goal itself.

I can relate to this.  I shared, on facebook, a while back that I was frustrated with the fact that even after over 30 years of practice I still manage to spill the freshly filled ice-tray on the way to the freezer.

My wise friend Lucy suggested that instead of focusing on the ice-tray as I walk to the freezer, I keep my eyes lifted and focused on the destination.

Who would have thought, but it worked!  Once I stopped listening to the voices of paranoia in my head - the obstacles seemed to melt away.

We can be the person we want to become.  Life is not written in pen.  Life is malleable, ever changing and growing.

It is alive.

It thrives on what we feed it, how we treat it, and who we invite into it.

At one point during the presentation, Hollie shared the following video.  I cried through the entire thing. In it you will find:

Hope
Courage
Bumps
Strength
Sorrow
Slips
Love
Bruises
Humor
Determination

It in, you will find strength to instill, in your own life, the desire to live a better story.


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"