Thursday, January 31, 2013

Journal: Facepalm's and Surprises

I want to report that I am doing SO much better than I was a week ago.  I hit a really dark spot didn't I?  I felt so cut off from my Heavenly Father and my Savior.  I was wandering around lost in darkness.

But, something amazing happened over the last couple of days that has cleared the fog...

First, a friend of mine sent me a quote:
You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.
At first this quote was just "cool"... but later it became much more.

The next thing that happened occurred yesterday as I was standing at the mirror blow-drying my hair.  Don't you love how God is good to us that way - speaks to us when we are doing everyday mundane tasks like blow-drying our hair and doing dishes.  Anyway - I was standing there and the thought entered my head:
You are worth the same to God whether you are beautifully blow-dried or whether you are lying in bed sick, with gross hair you haven't combed in 4 days.
It was a simple thought; a thought I didn't pay near enough attention to.  I simply responded with "oh that's cool, I should blog about that."  Here God was trying to talk to me and I was flippantly dismissing Him.

::: facepalm :::

I had other things on my mind.  I was meeting with my Stake President later that night.  He's new.  Even though I already have a good relationship/friendship with him (he is the former 1st counselor in the Stake Presidency) I was still very nervous.  I was seeing my previous Stake President every 6 months or so for added support for a specific struggle I've been having for quite some time.  It's a struggle that I'm actively working on but it's taking a really long time to kick.  I still carry a lot of shame for that struggle and in turn there is a lot of fear surrounding sharing it.

I was really nervous...

So I met with him and shared my struggle.  I had this belief that all the turmoil I'd been feeling was due to this particular struggle.  He saw it differently.  In fact, he didn't really even acknowledge the struggle.  See, the Lord had already whispered to him what my true problem was before I even began reading the letter I'd written to him.

My issue, I came to find out, wasn't what I am struggling with but rather my inability to forgive myself.

I knew he was right.

::: facepalm :::

As soon as he said it I knew it.  The Spirit spoke to me and told me it was true.  The Spirit told me:
I tried to tell you when I sent you that quote through your friend... I tried to tell you that you are holding on to the past; that the struggle is a struggle because you are holding on to it.  There is no one on the other end of the rope.  Stop pulling on it.  Let it go.  I tried to tell you when I spoke to you when you were blow-drying your hair to tell you that you are forgiven and loved NO MATTER WHAT circumstance you are in... even WITH this struggle you are forgiven.  I've tried to tell you that the very fact that it is a "struggle" means you are resisting it and within that fight comes automatic forgiveness.  You are not held accountable for that which you are given to fight, you are only held accountable if you give up that fight.  And you have not given up, in fact you have continued to fight and continued to look for new ways to bolster your arsenal against this struggle.  You have recognized when you are separate from the Lord and you are not comfortable there and you fight to get back to Him.  You are doing everything right.  So stop reading the chapters in which you have not done so well, and focus on the future chapters in which you can write successes and new knowledge and happiness.
Ohhhhh!

It all made sense.  The rest of the meeting was just beautiful.  He talked, I listened and drank my Heavenly Fathers counsel.  And because my anxiety earplugs were now out and my spiritual antenna's were up I could actually hear what the Lord had been telling me for quite some time.
I love you.  I forgive you.  Forgive yourself.
I am so grateful for the precious moments that I get to spend with my Stake President and just sit and drink my Saviors counsel.  I truly am so grateful for the Priesthood and it's designated keys.  I recognize them.  I recognize those keys at work when those that hold them for me will say something that is so uniquely personal and pertinent to me in that single very moment that there is no other explanation than that the Lord is speaking directly to me, through them.  

What a beautiful blessing.

So I'm committing now - to let this struggle go.  I have been given permission to no longer let it torment me so I'm going to do just that.  It is officially kicked to the curb!!!

I AM SO HAPPY!!!!

~~~~~~~~~~

The other thing I wanted to report is I have a huge surprise coming for you guys.... but I'm nervous about it... but the idea was planted in my head and I know it's the direction the Lord wants me to take so I'm going to get working on it and it will be presented in the next week or two!

ARE YOU OFFICIALLY CURIOUS!?!?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Dreaded "M" Word

Yep.  I'm gonna say it.

MASTURBATION

Did you cringe?  Most do.  I used to.  Now, I refuse to.

I remember the very first time I went in to see my Bishop.  You can read the complete story here, but for the purposes of this post I'll just reflect on a segment of the experience.

I was terrified.  I'd spent nine months trying to work up the courage to go in and see him, but I couldn't seem to muster it up.  Through an amazing sequence of tender mercies (that you can read in the story linked above) I finally found the courage to make an appointment.

I remember my Bishop catching me in the hall the Sunday before I was to meet with him.  He asked me if I'd made an appointment and when I told him yes, for that Tuesday, he said "good, don't stand me up."  Little did he know I had been contemplating excuses to get out of it.  But, I committed to him that I wouldn't stand him up, and I was true to my word.

Fast forward to Tuesday...

I remember it being a hot August afternoon.  I remember wearing my favorite jeans, a loose navy colored Old Navy jersey top and my favorite Doc Martin sandals.  I wanted to be comfortable.  The entire experience was terrifying so I needed to find comfort somewhere and if the only place I could find it was in the clothes I was to wear - well, at least it was somewhere.

After getting ready I left my apartment and began walking across the complex toward the building.  Time seemed to stand still.  The internal conversation I was having with myself seemed eerily similar to Smeagol and Gollum in Lord of the Rings:

Dude, what are you thinking? Are you crazy?
No, this is good - it's time to do this.
You know you'll have to give up what you love after this.  You can't just keep doing it.
I know
You won't be able to (give it up)
I know
You will fail, just like all the times before
Probably
Then why are you going?
I don't know
You can turn around right now and not go
I already told him I'd come...

I looked up and there was the door.  Terror.  A door named terror.

I waited in the lobby for a while.  I remember someone walking out of his office and him taking the time to shake their hand and say goodbye.

Tick tock...

He approached me and shook my hand, welcomed me, and put his arm around me John Wayne style as he walked me to his office.

I was absolutely dreading what was to come.  It amazes me that I could feel so much fear in a place where I now feel comfort and safety.  Reflecting on this experience has opened my eyes to the intense influence the adversary had over me.  I guarantee I had legions of his followers walking with me to my church building door that day.  But I also know that I was protected.  Just as the adversary's minions were following me, so was I being personally escorted by my angels.  I have many of them.  And they are awesome.

I sat down in the chair across from him, separated only by his desk.  It was at this point that I wished for a Catholic confessional.  You know what I mean.  The kind of confession where I'd be completely anonymous and I wouldn't have to look him in the eye and see whatever expressions my filthy confessions provoked. Ya, that's what I was wishing for in that very moment.  To fall in a hole and die.

I don't remember how I started exactly.  I do remember being super fidgety.  I babbled a lot and kept changing the subject.... but in the end, after much procrastination, I finally took a deep breath and blurted it out:

"I'm addicted to pornography"

I stared straight at him and after a moments pause and a head nod he quietly responded:

"And masturbation?"

I wish I could take a picture of my internal reaction to this question.  I can't even describe my outward reaction because my internal reaction was louder than a nuclear bomb with a megaphone.  I'm sure, at the very least, my eyeballs full on bugged out of my head, threatening to pop out and dangle on my cheeks.  Good thing I wear glasses.

I couldn't believe he said it.  And thus began yet another round of mental banter...

Holy sh**
He said "THE WORD"
The "M" word.
My BISHOP said the M WORD!!
How can he be so comfortable saying it?
Like, is that even allowed?
To say the "M" word in a Bishops office?
It's so dirty, it has to be disrespectful.
I'm sure the Spirit is totally offended.
Ugh, I can't believe he said it!

Eventually I breathed... and although I could not make eye contact, I did muster a response:

"Um, yes"

And there was my first experience with serious shame excavation and removal.  Being honest, for the first time, about something I felt so ashamed of that I couldn't even say what it was.

How many of us still feel ashamed of the "M" word?  Of the word 'masturbation'?  Why?

For me, coming to terms with the word is part of Step 1.  Admitting.  How can I expect to acknowledge, gain and accept hope, healing and trust in subsequent steps if I can't first admit the problem?  No, I first needed to be completely honest with myself and my Heavenly Father about my struggles

  1. What do I struggle with?
  2. How often do I struggle with it?
  3. Are my actions born from habit or from an insatiable need?
  4. Have I worked with previous Priesthood leaders to overcome it?
  5. Was I honest with them about my struggle?
  6. What have I done in the past to overcome my struggle?
  7. What worked/didn't work?
  8. What can I do differently?
  9. How can I let the Lord help me with this?
  10. How can my Bishop help me with this?

All of these questions are a part of the Step 1 process of admitting.  It's not just admitting the problem.  It's also uncovering and acknowledging the why of the problem.  We seek these behaviors to numb uncomfortable emotions.  We aren't just shameful people that deserve to be swept under the rug with the rest of the filth.  We are worth so much that our value isn't measurable.

'Masturbation' is not a dirty word that describes an act that dirty people do.  Masturbation is simply what is. It describes a coping mechanism that we as beautiful sons and daughters of God do because we have lost our way and can't figure out how to see God.  It happens when we get lonely and scared and forget who we are.

Yes, the act of masturbating has consequences that we need to face.  But the consequences are NOT that we become disgusting and unwanted.  The consequences are NOT that we have no value or purpose.  The consequence is simply that we distance ourselves from our Savior.  The act itself does not negate our worth.

So I say, instead of fearing the word, that we embrace it.  Not the act itself, obviously, but instead, embrace the act of admitting, acknowledging and simply stating the truth of our current or past circumstance.  In doing so we are left with a well paved road to hope, healing and trusting in the one true God that can keep us safe from the chains of active addiction forever.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happiness: A Healthy Contagion

I ran across this clip and I had to share it with you.  I absolutely LOVE it!  I love how a simple act of vulnerability and kindness, a simple stretch outside the usual safety of our comfort zones, a simple expression of the desire to touch another human being can bring so much joy.  It's not just a few smiles that we witness in this video, it's literal joy.  I don't think anyone can watch this without grinning inside.

I also feel like the end song and the exquisite happiness felt from it is how my welcome home party will be in Heaven when I die... or, I'd like to imagine it being something like what's shown here!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Dear God: Help Me

I am stuck
I feel numb and confined
I feel isolated and lonely
I feel like I have lost my purpose
I feel apathetic
I feel the touch of the adversaries influence crusting over my heart
Why?  
Such a selfish question I know
I'm tired Heavenly Father
My family has been sick for three weeks now
And now I'm sick
My two year old stood in front of me today, crying his beautiful face off because all he wanted was his mom
... and I had nothing to give.
I couldn't even pick him up.
I know that pride has settled in, like a bad disease in a lonely town
I long to be humble again but am lacking the knowledge to get there
I feel blind
Old thoughts of harm have been haunting me
It would be so easy to just 
STOP
I had the thought today, that if I just slipped I'd be humble again
Humility has always followed a slip since I started recovery
Bad idea, I know
I won't
I know I have so much to be grateful for
Where is it?
Please help me find it, help me remember it...
Feel it
Embrace it
Nourish it
I know gratitude is the lifeblood that will sustain me through this dark time
But it is so dang elusive
Detachment sucks
I know I shouldn't say "sucks" to you but no other word really fits
It's like ripping off a huge scab on my heart and standing there while it oozes
I know that my Savior is the balm for that wound
But I don't feel Him
My fault...
... of course
I need to write more of these God letters when I'm in a good place rather than just a dark place
It would be good for me to reflect back on them
I feel like I should end this with some fiery words of determination and perseverance
But they would be a lie
I don't feel it right now Heavenly Father
I just don't
I'm sorry
I need your help
Please

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Interviews: Rachel


Getting to Know You

How old are you?
21
What country do you live in?
United States
Are you married and do you have children?
Yes, I am a newlywed. Only been married 5 months. No kids yet.
How long have you been sober?
146 days today
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I work full time at a doctors office, which I love! I love watching documentaries, eating healthy, random adventures, hot weather and goofing around.

The Story

How old were you when your addiction began?
When I was a very young girl. Probably around 6 years old.
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?  
I had a neighbor who taught me at a very young age to masturbate. I did not know it was wrong at the time. I remember feeling uncomfortable and telling her to stop. I ran home, but couldn't stop thinking about how much I liked it.  I was curious, but wanted to stay away.  My parents wanted me to be-friend her so I kept hanging out with her.  At first I didn't want to hang out with her. But I couldn't stop thinking about what I had learned and how it felt. I began to learn more. Over the years I craved more.
How did your addiction progress?
Because I was “be-friending” this girl I spent a lot of time with her. I began to love what she told me, and how it felt. It helped me fall asleep. It helped me escape from anger, sadness, loneliness but it especially helped me fall asleep. When I was twelve my family moved to a new country. I was so excited. However, when we got there is was so different than I thought. I was home sick and wanted to go home so badly.  I began to be overwhelmed with new things, new people, new school, etc, and I felt isolated. My addiction grew a lot in this time. Not only because I isolated, but because I heard words and saw things that I was not familiar with. I grew more curious. I loved when I was introduced to more explicit terms and actions. I started to find books that talked about things that I “loved”. Then it turned to watching “sex scenes” in movies. I also wanted more and as I grew older I learned that men could help me feel “satisfied” in my addiction.  It was a hole that could never be filled. I always wanted more, needed more. It began to rule my life, my entire will.
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
I had broken up with a particular guy to turn away from my addiction. I claimed I was going to change this time around. Within a few days, maybe weeks, I couldn't any longer. I relapsed. I thought if I started going to church it would help.  As I began to go to church I started seeking a boyfriend. I quickly found a boy in my ward. We quickly began spending a lot of time together. Within a few weeks we were seeing each other.  With my cravings still there I would masturbate every once in a while, also saying it would be the last time. But I couldn't tame my desire, my craving. So I got in contact with an ex-boyfriends friend. I started seeing this guy, as well as the “good guy” from church. This other boy did exactly what I wanted him to do and I for him, that is, physically. I told no one about him for a long time. I would go over to his house very late at night. Yet, that still wasn't enough. I starting chatting with men online, I had a “good” boyfriend in the day and saw that other guy at night.  couldn't get off the computer. I really was living a double life. I surely didn't realize it at the time.  However, it hit me really hard when I thought I was expecting a baby. I wondered what I would tell people that saw my “good girl life."  What would I tell the “good guy” and would the guy I was seeing at night really stay with me? I was so deep in my addiction. I didn't know who I was or what I really wanted...besides sex and masturbating.  Soon after, I figured out I was not pregnant. At first I was so relieved . But anger followed quickly. I thought I was going to lose the guy I had been seeing at night. So I lied, I used pregnancy to make him stay. I was so desperate. I was obsessed with my addiction. My heart was yelling STOP, but my body was controlled, mesmerized. I could never get enough, ever. My life was lies, chaos and complete desperation.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I hated my life. I was so depressed. My life was so dark. I loathed everyone who told me how good I was. I “knew” I wasn't. I absolutely hated myself.  I felt completely out of control. I was certainly out the reach of the Lord’s love.  I was so exhausted from lying.  Living a double live took a lot. I hated lying all the time, but I felt I had no other choice. Words cannot express the soul wrenching pain I felt during this time.
Where did you turn for help?
I had been in and out of a bishops office for years. Of course, I had always justified my addiction(s) with a bishop or I wouldn't bring it up at all. This time I knew I needed more. I went to my single’s ward bishop. I didn't tell him everything at first. I did tell him I needed help. Lots of help. Although I felt like he didn't help a lot at first I began to grow close to him, over a long period of time. I felt like it was nice to have someone to talk to. Nice to have someone who didn't judge me.
What was the turning point of your addiction?
My turning point started with fully giving up both men in my life who I had been seeing. But more so, giving up my double life. I stopped seeing them completely. I was miserable at first. I had so many cravings. I slipped and would see them. I would slip on my own. But my bishop was there for me every time (and looking back I know the Lord was too). I still slipped, but once I found a wonderful women’s group with people who understood me, who struggled, who didn't judge me... I was changed. I was surrounded by earthly angels in group. I felt the spirit. I finally felt hope. And I began to find the Lord through the LDS Addiction recovery program (ARP) group.
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
I grew up in the church and I always thought I knew what it was, how to use it and how it felt. By being in recovery my view has been changed completely.  I didn't know what the atonement was before. I thought I prayed and asked for forgiveness and it was granted to you through the atonement. It is so much more then that.  The atonement to me means that every single day I have the Lord, my brother there for me. He literally feels every single pain I feel. He knows the pain of the sins I have completed. He knows how I feel with physical, spiritual and mental pain. But more importantly He knows how it feels to feel the mercy of God. He knows how it feels to be clean and virtuous. He knows what it feels like to be in the arms of our loving Father. I could list things forever, because He knows everything. He has experienced everything we have.He can succor me perfectly. I  think of it as: when he was in the garden he went through my entire life. He saw every moment of my life. He felt every high and every low that has been and is to come. He experienced the pain of all of it, so I don’t have to. He has felt the joy, and we can celebrate together.  The atonement is something so miraculous. I am grateful I get to learn more about it and learn how to apply it through the steps of the addiction recovery program.
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
As I am coming to know Jesus Christ better and understand the atonement better it is mind blowing. It is so incredible to think about.  The atonement made me who I am and put me where I am. It is a part of my daily life. It has filled the huge hole of my addiction and continues to fill every little gap. The atonement is perfectly beautiful and amazing.
How is life different for you today?
I am happy!! I don’t feel soul wrenching pain. I don’t feel trapped! I am able to love others and be loved by those around me, especially by my father in heaven. I am not controlled by something or someone. I am free...not only free but happy. Truly happy!!
What is your perception of yourself?
I feel of worth. I feel accomplished. I feel so blessed. I am a miracle, through the Lord. I still struggle with being hard on myself about my past or about mistakes I am currently making. (It is something I am working on.)  Deep in my addiction it was the complete opposite. Every mistake I made pushed me back deeper and deeper into isolation. Now, I have the opportunity to choose to turn to the Lord or to be prideful and do my own thing. How wonderful it is to know that I am a daughter of God. That I will and do make mistakes, but that I have a sweet and loving Redeemer who will be there for me always.

ARP Meetings

What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
I actually was really excited to go. I wanted to change. I had hope. Yet, I doubted that I would really find someone who understood my addiction. No one else was like me. No one had done such terrible and awful things.  Once I went into the room where group was held I was overwhelmed by all the girls that were there. I got really nervous. What would I say?  I started to doubt why I even came. The meeting began and I was so worried by what they talked about. As we went around the circle they used terms that I didn't understand. I felt out of place, at first.
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
I don’t know if I would have done something different. I was searching for someone, something that would help me stop. Really once and forever stop my addictions. I wanted someone who understood what I was going through. Group gave that all to me and more!
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
I am so very thankful for it. I have had confidentiality broken in my life (outside of group). It is painful and so humiliating. I am so grateful I have a safe haven ARP groups provide. It makes it so easy for me to feel the spirit, to really open up and be honest with others and myself.
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
I searched for a long time to find just one person on earth who understood what I was really going through. The first time I went to group a woman shared her story about what she has been through. It was beautiful and I could really relate to her. I felt the spirit (which at the time was not something I felt very often). It is so amazing to have a sponsor, someone who supports me always. Someone who has been somewhere similar to where I have been. Someone who has felt the devastation of sin and addiction, but has felt the power of the atonement work in her life.  Members in group are amazing! Every week I bring my notebook and record what people have said that has impressed me. I leave group with a sore hand and so much inspiration. I am able to feel the spirit. I am able to be who I really am, talk about what I really am feeling and not be judged. It gives me a time and place to reevaluate my life and where I am in my recovery.  But the most important thing is that I am able to feel the spirit and draw closer to the Lord.

Experience with Priesthood Leaders

What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery? 
The last bishop I went and saw played a huge role. I wanted to change. I wanted to stop acting out, but I couldn't  My bishop was hard on me. He helped me see the reality of what my addiction did. He helped me see where my life was going if I continued in my addiction; which at the time was HUGE!
He also gave me a manual to the Addiction recovery program. He helped me get started on the steps, even though I felt so unready. He was there for me. He didn't judge me. He cared for me. He was a great example of the Savior.
What advice would you give to a Bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
First off, follow the spirit, of course! You are set apart for this. The lord knows you. He knew you could be a bishop.  He is trusting you with this precious individual. So even though you may not understand an addiction or why they are doing what they are doing. Have an open mind. Be accepting! No judgement.
Think of all the strength it took for them to come into your office and confess. Show them that love and acceptance, because at the deep points of their addictions they do not feel love.  Learn about the LDS addiction recovery program. Go to groups. Do the steps yourself! Learn about addictions!!
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their Bishop?
It is scary, but it will pass. It will be such a relief to talk with someone. The bishop is set apart to help you. He is a servant of the Lord’s. He will not tell anyone what you have told him. It is safe with him. He can lead you on the right path. Be completely honest with  your bishop.  I was to scared to tell my bishop everything, so I wrote him a letter and gave it to him. This way I was not justifying or leaving anything out.  It helped me be honest with him. Maybe consider writing him a letter or an email. He will keep it confidential and safe. 

An Added Experience Regarding the Posting of Rachel's Interview

Literally five minutes after I posted this interview, Rachel sent me the following text message:
Feeling so triggered.   Craving it and not wanting to tell you or anyone because I just want it.  I don't want to tell myself no.  I feel like I deserve it.  I know it's all lies.  Know it's not worth it.  So hard.  Aww, what happened?
I immediately saw what was happening and quickly responded:
I know why.  It's because I just posted your interview 5 minutes ago and Satan's ticked.
Rachel gave permission for me to share this text exchange because we both feel it is important to recognize that Satan is hyper aware of the reach and influence we have when we act as an instrument in the Lord's hands.  He knows that through the courage and bravery shown in these interviews that many will be touched with hope and light will begin to dissipate their shame.

Rachel was attacked at the very moment her story of trusting and leaning on the Savior was shared with the world....  She was surrounded in absolute darkness and she REACHED!

I'm so proud of you Rachel!

Let this be a lesson to us all!

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Butterfly Circus

How often do we feel run down by our trials?  That they own us and we can never overcome them?  How often do we feel forgotten by God and that we have no purpose?  How often do we feel as if our trials are a stain upon us and that we can in no way ever turn them around and be an inspiration for others?

Too often...

The Lord has promised us that He can and will turn our weaknesses into strengths.

We are never forgotten.

A Tribute to Hollow Promises

A tribute to all of those times we have promised ourselves it was the last time and we'd never do it again...

Angels or Devils
Dishwalla


Friday, January 18, 2013

Overcoming the Stigma of Being an LDS Woman with a Sexual Addiction

I recently wrote a guest post for the blog Rowboat and Marbles where I shared my thoughts on what I want the LDS community to know about LDS women who struggle with sexual addiction.  I want to share that post with you here as well.

I also recommend you peruse Rowboat and Marbles... a lot of great stuff there!


~~~~~~~~~~


I would like to take a moment and express my thoughts regarding the stigma surrounding LDS women who struggle with sexual addiction.
It is a common misconception that sex addiction is a “man’s disease.”  For some peculiar reason it even seems to be a socially acceptable addiction among men, even Latter-day Saint men.
I’ve often heard phrases like “Oh, it’s normal for men to do it” or “Men are hardwired for sex.”  I feel this perspective is engrained in us early in life.  Young men are labeled as the predators and young women as the prey.  Often times we hear young women being counseled to “watch out for ill intentions of young men.”
Although it is widely known that many young men and men struggle with sexual addiction, it is important to recognize that women struggle, too.  Think about it.  We as human beings are each given the gift of sexual intimacy.  This intimacy is comprised of two purposes.  First, for procreation; a very special and sacred gift designed to grow new little bodies for those sacred spirits waiting to come down from heaven.  The second has been granted to us to nurture and secure loving relationships between husband and wife through sexual closeness.  Both of these gifts help sustain God’s central plan of nurturing the family.
Knowing that Satan’s ultimate goal is to destroy families, would it not make sense that he would utilize all his tactical advantage to destroy something so beautiful?  Would it not make sense that he would not only attack men but also women in order to hasten as much soul rotting destruction as possible?
Absolutely!
Sexual addiction is not a man’s disease, nor is it a woman’s disease.  It is a human disease.
Even though there are no differences between men and women at the very core of sexual addiction, to the world there are distinctive variances.  Oftentimes, men high-five each other for their sexual conquests. Sometimes, male behavior is just dismissed as “men behaving like men.” In contrast, sexually aggressive women are commonly stereotyped as loose, promiscuous, slutty, diseased, dirty, used and untouchable. Each gender suffers from its own set of stigmatized standards, in and out of the Church.
I can’t judge others too harshly here though, because I myself used to fall subject to the false belief that LDS women who struggle with any sort of sexual addiction “look” a certain way or “act” a certain way.  I thought for sure I’d be able to pick them out of a crowd.  They were the ones in high heels, short skirts and revealing tops.  They were the loud, obnoxious ones, the black sheep, and the inactive members of the Church.
I remember the first time I went to a 12 Step support group for women with sexual addictions.  After two months of visiting regularly with my bishop and trying to work my recovery program on my own (in isolation), I came to realize that I needed more support.  I finally surrendered to the fact that as awesome as my bishop was, he couldn’t offer me the support structure that I truly needed to kick this thing.
But I was still scared.  I thought I was the only one “like me” who struggled with addiction to pornography and masturbation.  I was a good person, a mom and a wife.  I didn’t attend church much but that was because I felt too ashamed to go.  I had already created many levels of separation in my head between me and the sisters I was preparing to see at the support group.  I am not kidding when I tell you I full on expected to walk into that group meeting and see a bunch of women in “hoochie boots and miniskirts.”
I was wrong.
Instead, I walked into a room full of beautiful women; bright, happy women; women who, if I saw them in a Relief Society, would completely blend in.  Women that looked just like me.  Women who attend my support group range in age from mid-teens to mid-60s.  They are Relief Society presidents, visiting teachers, wives, mothers, single women, daughters of General Authorities, students and professionals.  They are shy and outgoing, reclusive and extroverted.  They are your sisters, your aunts, your nieces and your mothers.  They are your friends, your friend’s wives, your co-workers and your teachers.  They are temple workers and missionaries.  They are the very women that you love and cherish.  We come from ALL walks of life.
There are women walking among us right now who struggle with sexual addiction but are silenced by fear and shame.  They feel alone and lost.  They feel worthless and hopeless.  They feel isolated and judged.  Satan’s whisperings fill them with such intense dread that they are terrified to talk to their sweet bishops for fear of being scrutinized and hated.
Please know that you have a voice in this.  By recognizing that sexual addiction is a human disease, affecting both men and women, from all walks of life, we are in essence crippling Satan’s army.  It is imperative that we work together as addicts, loved ones of addicts, bishops, stake presidents and fellow brothers and sisters to spread awareness of the far reaching ripple effects of this disease.
Less judgment…more acceptance.
Less separation…more inclusion.
Less addiction…more connection.
Less fear…more faith.
Less shame…more hope.
Let us recognize that we are innately virtuous and noble sons and daughters of our loving Heavenly Father and that through the power of our Savior’s Atonement we can each be healed and freed from Satan’s grasp.  Of this I bear solemn witness.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Power of Vulnerability

I watched this clip in my Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships class today and fell in love with it.  I am a big advocate of exposing shame and letting it dissipate into rich Celestial air.  It's a beautiful process as we come to know our Savior, trust Him, believe Him, lean on Him and give it to Him and in turn He frees us from the devastation of shame.

Brene Brown researches the relationship between vulnerability and shame.  She is amazing and I hope you guys can glean knowledge from her as I have.  I wish I could take a class from her!

BAD WORD ALERT: There is one bad word in this clip.  Feel free to choose not to watch it:-)

A Call For Input: Topics For My Husband

Hey Folks,

My husband wrote a post while back that became hugely popular.  We were both surprised at how many people enjoyed reading it.  It really is a good read.  You can check it out here.

There have had a number of requests for my husband to write more guest posts.  I for one, would LOVE for him to write more.  He has great insight and I think his perspective is very unique.

He is willing to write but he isn't sure exactly what to write about... so I told him I'd ask you guys what you would want to hear from him.

You do NOT have to be an addict or a codependent to offer up questions or topics.  You can be anyone!  If you have a curiosity - state it!

So pose some questions or offer some topics, please!

Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Journal: When It Rains, It Pours

This last week has been absolutely crazy.

Last Tuesday both my 9 year old and myself woke up with pretty bad sore throats.  With no relief by Friday I took us both to the doctor.  We had strep and were put on Amoxicillin.

The following day, Saturday, my 2 year old and my 13 year old started complaining of a sore throat so I took them to the instacare.  They were both diagnosed with strep and were placed on Amoxicillin.

By Saturday evening my husband had a sore throat also - so at that point, we all had strep.

Early Monday morning my 9 year old woke up with a fever and a terrible headache.  I gave him ibuprofen and within 30  minutes he was back to his normal perky self.... off to school.

He returned home that afternoon and within an hour the fever was back as well as the headache.  Over the next couple of hours his fever spiked to 103.  I posted what what happening on our ward Facebook message board and a sweet sister from my ward, who is a nurse and I didn't even know it, showed up on my doorstep with a Powerade for him and to check on him.  How awesome is that?   Finally, after a blessing(thank you hubby and our awesome neighbor), peppermint essential oils (thank you to our home-teacher), Tylenol AND ibuprofen  his fever finally broke.

The next morning (yesterday), after a good 10 hours of sleep, he woke up to his perky self... off to school.

By 2 O'clock I received a call from the school nurse saying he was throwing up and we needed to come get him.  I did.  He threw up in front of his entire class.  Poor guy.... home safe and snugly.

By 3:30 my 13 year old was late - really late - coming home from school (school lets out at 2:15 and he usually walks in the door at 2:45).  I called the mom of his friend that takes the bus with him and found out he didn't ride the bus home.  We called the school - the school couldn't find him.  I started driving all over the neighborhood looking for him - nothing.  By 4:15 Tim had called the police and I drove home.  Cops show up and  I found myself giving them a detailed description of my child and showing them pictures of what he looks like and what he was wearing.  I seriously hope to never have to do that again.

10 minutes later my son walks in the door, with the cops standing right there.  A wonderful ward member, after hearing my plea, jumped in his car and went looking for him.  My son was simply dilly dallying in a ditch when walking home from school and lost track of time.  He also said he forgot to call us.

 ::: facepalm ::::

The cops scared him - hopefully he'll never do that again... but I'm glad he's safe.

On top of all that my 2 year old has a rash all over his body from his strep medication.

AND... on top of ALL that - last week was the first week of the semester too!

Today I am tired, stressed and triggering like crazy.  Like really bad triggering.  Images and thoughts long forgotten have been awakened in my mind.  I just want to melt into my addiction and escape.

But I won't...

Another thing that I'm going to let you guys in on - a little bit - is I'm trying to not rely on my Bishop so much.  Early in recovery I leaned on him really hard.  I would text him all the time and through emails I would spill my pain and fear on him.  He never turned away or made me feel like the total freak I thought I was.  No, instead he took it all as a perfect representative of my Savior would, all in stride, and just accepted me for who I was.  He's awesome. But because of my attachment disorder, and some abandonment issues I have, I became over-reliant on him and somewhat attached.  I used to wish he was my dad.  I knew I was getting too attached but didn't know how to let go.  He'd become an integral part of my recovery, even my sobriety.

But the time has come for me to not rely on Him so much and instead rely on my Savior.  I find this difficult at times, especially today.  With all this stress... I'm missing him extra today.

My Bishop knows all of this already.  I'm pretty good about being honest about every aspect of my emotional and addiction symptoms.  I can't get better unless I'm first honest about all that is going on within me.

So ya - it's been a very trying week...

BUT...

I am really grateful even through all this stuff.  My ward has been absolutely amazing to our family this past week.  I can't even express how grateful I am for them.  When I was at the instacare on Saturday I posted on the ward message board asking if anyone would be willing to bring us dinner in that night since we all had strep.  Within mere minutes people flocked to the opportunity to serve.  10 minutes later there were two meals lined up for my family, for that night and the next.

Yesterday, I had the brother from my ward go out and search for my son without being asked and another sister contacted me and offered to bring us dinner again tonight.

I also had a sister offer to have a girls night out with me.

Can it get any better?  I don't know why all these trials have been dumped on us...  but I looked at Tim last night and asked "do you think we (we, as in anyone) are given trials sometimes for the soul purpose of giving others the opportunity to serve us and us the opportunity to receive service?".... because my ward and my friends have completely rallied around us.

I'm exhausted right now, and triggering like crazy... but, my heart is full of gratitude and I'll get through it.

After I post this I'm going to get up, eat, and get moving on my house.  I need to get moving to shake the funk.  After the house is clean I'll put my 2 year old down for a nap and try and get a nap myself.

Maybe I'll go to group tonight too...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Let Us, Let Him

When we invite in, listen to and follow the seductive whisperings of the adversary we embark on a dark and lost journey. Sometimes we may think we are hiding our addictions from our loved ones. We think we have the entire world fooled and that we aren't hurting anyone but ourselves. Even worse, we sometimes don't even realize we have an addiction. We feel our actions are conducive to our happiness and feel we have absolute control over our own choices. This very selfish and self serving attitude comes when we listen to the worm-tongued temptations of the adversary.

2 Nephi 26:22
And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.

We are fortunate however, because even in our darkest moments, when we are bound so tight by the flaxen cords of the adversary, there is one who fears not. One who will tread into the darkest places and face the most sinister tempters, all to save us. He has absolute power. He has absolute love. He will come for us.

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.

He will sit with us, nurture us, guide us, care for us, bandage us, tend to us, minister unto us, teach us, counsel us, love us, lead us, heal us and cleanse us. He will do this continuously as long as we will have Him. And He will never ever leave us.

John 4:6-7,9-11,13-14
Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.  There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?  Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.  The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.


If we allow Him to reside within us He will instill within us the most exquisite happiness we have ever known. We will receive the most exquisite love we have ever known, witness the most exquisite miracles and be endowed with the ability to love, serve and conquer beyond any ability we have ever possessed.

Mosiah 2:41
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.


Let us see the light and come unto Christ and let Him rescue us.
Let us anoint His feet with our tears and never leave the comfort of His robes.
Let us secure ourselves in His teachings and continuously strive to love Him.
Let us.... let Him.

Helaman 5:12
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Interviews: Rachael


Getting to Know You

How old are you?
31
What country do you live in?
USA
Are you married and do you have children?
No and No :(
How long have you been sober?
95 days
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself…
I'm a Gemini, who loves to read, do puzzles (word and jigsaw), play games, and make a difference.

The Story

How old were you when your addiction began?
12 to 13
What were the life events and circumstances that led to your addiction?
From the time of my earliest memory (around 2-3 years old), I was sexually abused by my brother and dad until I was 8 or 9 and then again when I was 12sih by another brother.  From a young age my sense of healthy was distorted and skewed from circumstances experienced.  I was left feeling scared, unwanted, bad, lonely and needed something to fill the void.  During my childhood, I escaped through reading and school work. I was exposed to pornography around age 8, but pornography did not truly enter my life until 12 or 13.  I had checked a book out at the library on childhood sexual abuse and it spoke of masturbation and my curiosity was peaked and I began experimenting.  
How did your addiction progress?
The only thing I had access to growing up were the magazines my brothers had.  I first ran across them on accident around age 8, but didn't take interest until I was 12.   Later found myself looking through their stuff for something new. I limited myself to only viewing the pornography at night or weekends and it always paired with engaging in masturbation.  Which in my day and age, no one talked about.  I remember staying up 2-3 hours a night, looking through magazines, which ultimately left me so tired at school.  I always attributed my tiredness to so much school work, which is partly true, but not the only contributor.  I left for college at 18 and a whole new world opened up. With the internet and access to a computer, I had unlimited access and no one watching over me.  I soon found myself everyday looking forward to coming home from class and consuming myself with pictures on the internet. I was exposed to much more than I ever wanted to be and  some images I have seen, I'm not sure will ever be erased from my mind.  I spent the next 7 years fully engaged in porn and masturbation, not involved in anything spiritually.  I plunged deeper into isolation and addiction and shut most people out.  
What experiences did you have that led to your breaking point, or your rock-bottom moment?
My mom passed away in May 2006. I couldn't cope with life, although I really wanted to think I was. I started working 2 jobs (70 hours a week)  and plunged deeper into isolation which fueled my addiction to numb all the feelings I couldn't cope with-anger, sadness, lost, loneliness,  worthless.  I felt alone, sad, and scared for where I was heading in life. September 17, 2006 my life changed forever. I had worked 36 hours in two days and HAD to go to Stake Conference because (as an answer to a prayer that wasn't ever said out loud) I was being released from a calling and was asked to meet with the Stake Presidency prior.  I went and met with them and the whole time they were saying such positive things about me,  I just wanted to run far away.  If they really knew the real me, would they say the same things? I stayed for stake conference, why I don't know but something kept me there, which I am so grateful for the influence of the Holy Ghost, even when I was not in a state of being worthy of receiving inspiration.  My newly called Bishop approached me this same morning and asked me one question, how are you? My face said it all, I wasn't doing well. He invited me to come and meet with him. I left Stake Conference, determined to not ever go back. Why would  he care about me? I am just a number in the ward. I knew I needed to meet with him, but really didn't want to and was not ever going to allow him into my life.  I was sitting at home, so lost and sad and an overwhelming sense of peace came over me and I knew what I needed to do. It was clearly communicated to me, write a letter to your Bishop and let him know what was going on.  I sat down and wrote a letter and put it in the mail, therefore it was out of my hands. I called an made an appointment with my Bishop and the rest is history.
What was your perspective of yourself at this point?
I hated myself. I felt so dirty, gross, abnormal, basically a freak. Women don't struggle with sexual addiction, I really believed this. I felt I was the only woman who struggled and if someone found out I would be labeled and branded a freak.
Where did you turn for help?
I first disclosed to my Bishop who responded with nothing but compassion and concern. He didn't treat me any differently and loved me. Soon after I mustered up the courage to get professional help from a counselor.  
What was the turning point of your addiction?
When I finally realized, with the help of a counselor and the love of my Bishop, I was not a freak, as I had lived so long believing, I was able to step outside of myself and start healing.  It took some time in counseling, for me to realize I turned to pornography and masturbation as my way of coping with childhood trauma.  It was, as I call, my drug of choice. I finally realized that I could have chosen many other paths, much more destructive, and I am grateful I did not.  It was me accepting this as my challenge and being okay with my challenge and realizing I could not ever turn back.  I had to keep moving forward.
How did you experience the Atonement of Christ?
It was not until I humbled myself enough to speak with my Bishop that I allowed the atonement to start working.  Even after my initial disclosure, I was not in a spot where I could fully understand the Atonement and the role it can and will play in my life. I was not willing to forgive myself for my past mistakes and move on.  It has only been the past two years, I have fully been able to embrace the magnitude of the Atonement and all it can offer me as a person. The Atonement has changed me as a person and as a Daughter of God.  I will be forever grateful for the sacrifice of our Savior so I could experience life and trials and come out a better person.  
What difference did Christ's Atonement make in your life?
The Atonement has allowed me to forgive myself, and others who have harmed me. The Atonement has given me the peace and freedom I have longed for. Lastly, I know I don't have to make this journey alone.  
How is life different for you today?
Life, today is great, tomorrow may not be the same story!  Actually, I have so much to be grateful for.  Each day,  I wake up with a renewed hope that I can live in recovery for one more day.  I am blessed to have a job I love and have the opportunity/privilege to work with great employees and clients.  I have recovery time under my belt. I have a great support team.  I love my calling in church. I love my counselor and attending ARP meetings. I have a relationship with my HF that is stronger than ever.  Lastly, I live each day to its fullest and don't take for granted the small things and people who make a difference each day of my life.
What is your perception of yourself?
I am still working on loving myself, but I do not see myself as broken and unlovable. I am a daughter of God and HE loves me as I am.  I now understand myself and this has brought me the most freedom from the labels I have given myself for so long.  I am worthy of living an life in recovery. 

ARP Meetings

What was the scariest thing about going to your first ARP Meeting?
The Unknown.  I hate the unknown, who is going to be there, what will it be like, how will I be treated. 
If you could go back in time, what counsel would give to yourself about going to a meeting?
To not be as scared and to go back consistently. I was so scared after the first 3-4 meetings, I did not go back for years.  I also would have liked to realize I needed meetings for support and understanding.  For the longest time, I thought I was too good for meetings.....my pride stopped me from seeking recovery.
Everybody reads the confidentiality statement. What is your experience with confidentiality?
I have not had my confidentiality compromised in any way.  
What is your experience about finding support from others in the meetings?
It's hard when only 2-4 people show up for the meeting I attend.  Generally speaking, there is very little consistency of who, as in participants, returns to the meetings.   However, the Sister Missionaries who facilitate group have been such a blessing in my life.  They offer, love and a renewed hope each time I see them.  It takes a special set of Sister Missionaries to facilitate an ARP PASG Group for women and HF is watching over who is assigned to the meeting.  I am a better person today for the interactions I have had with both participants and missionaries from ARP Meetings.

Experience with Priesthood Leaders

What was the role that your Bishop played in your recovery? 
I tried to tell 2 bishops, prior to the one who did help me, of my struggles and they didn't take it seriously.  It was taken lightly and I was sent on my way.  So part of me was like if they don't see it as a serious issue, why should I.  I knew better, but didn't really care at that point in my life. I have worked with 2 bishops on recovery.  My first Bishop was and still is to this day one of my greatest advocates. He was newly called around the time when my mom passed away and I was determined to have nothing to do with him.  Why would I trust someone 3 years older than me who had no idea of how hard life for me was. (I have since learned, everyone has trials, seen and unseen.  No matter how perfect someone life looks from the outside, you never know what someone may be struggling with.)  My Bishop acted on inspiration and invited me to come speak with him. He didn't know me, but knew enough to know I was struggling. He just didn't know what with. He is the first person I ever trusted enough to share my struggles with. Why him? I don't know other than Heavenly Father made it very clear to me that this was my opportunity to start healing.  I knew if I didn't reach out at this point, I don't think I would ever reach out. I couldn't close this door that had been opened for me.  I feared so much the label or judgment that would be placed on me, and you know, neither happened. He showed nothing but care and concern for me as a person.I  moved to a new ward and luckily got to work with a new Bishop.  He again, was/is an advocate for me. He has counseled with me, gave me assignments  and gave me a renewed hope.  This Bishop was the one who really made me see the value and importance of attending ARP meetings.  He encouraged me and kept after me until I did.  It was one of the best things I have done for myself. 
What advice would you give to a bishop working with somebody with your addiction?
My advice for a Bishop, especially if a he is working with women who are struggling with sexual addiction, it's one of the hardest things we have had to do, come confess sexual matters to a MAN.  Sex is supposed to be an intimate part of our life, yet, it has been taboo for so long and most are ashamed about sex.  I would also want to help Bishops understand, that most women who struggle with sexual addiction, the addiction often stems from trauma experienced in childhood or adolescence.  Often, addiction is not something we choose, but the way we survived as a child, who was experiencing trauma on a daily basis.  Bishops, be gentle and patient with women you are working with. Don't judge and shame them. We already do enough shaming to ourselves.  Know that relapses/slips will occur and confessing relapses/slips will be one of the hardest steps to recovery. Encourage, love and support the person coming to see you.  
What advice would you give somebody who is considering speaking to their bishop? 
Don't wait. I wish I would have spoken with someone sooner, as in my teenage years.  Don't let your Bishop pass this issue off as not big deal. I tried to tell two Bishops prior to the one who took me seriously.  The only person who will hurt if you wait, is you, and those around you. As soon as my struggles were out in the open, it was like giving myself permission to move forward. As long as I was living in secrecy, there was no reason to move forward.

Additional Thoughts

Write about your teen years:  
I never was popular. I did not live in the right part of town, wear the right clothes, and my last name definitely was not right. When you live in a small town you are pre-judged and labeled for anything in the past your family has done and are not able to make a name for yourself.  My teen years were a mess.  My parents divorced in 7th grade. Also, in 7th grade, my brother was arrested for sexual abuse of another child. During his investigation, he admitted he had sexually abused me as well.  I was pulled out of class and interrogated at school (the one place I considered safe) by two police officers, who happened to also be my softball coaches.  I was forced to go to counseling with a man and I shut off from the world.  I withdrew, quit participating in class, church, with friends, etc.  My kids were my life saving grace.  I had recently started babysitting for a family everyday after school and my kids helped me cope with life. My focus had to be directed towards them and not on me and my problems.  In High School, I absorbed myself in school work and my kids so I didn't have to feel anything.  This is where my addiction flooded my life. I was pushing all of my feelings away and coped with engaging in pornography and masturbation to make myself feel better.
If a woman came to you and told you she was terrified to share her struggle with her Bishop – what advice would you give her?  
If you are scared of verbally telling your struggles, write a letter to your Bishop and send it.  I know for me, writing a letter was the only way I knew how to express all that was going on.  This will give you a chance to put your own thoughts on paper and be thorough. As hard as it is to be honest, it is better to confess all at once than to save stuff for later.  Also, send it so it is out of your control and make an appointment to see your Bishop.  Trust that your Bishop is a servant called of God to minister to those of us here on earth. He holds the keys to help you begin healing.  If you have any hesitation of trusting you Bishop, make it a matter of prayer with our Heavenly Father.  HF will help you find a trust for you Bishop, for HF does not like to see us suffering when there are people around us to help.
What has helped you shed shame enough to the point that you are willing to share your story here in this interview?  
It has taken seven years to be at this point and it seems each year, tiny steps (talking with my Bishops, not being judged and shamed even more, seeing a counselor, attending ARP meetings, having pornography addiction being talked about in the open from people and professionals from all walks of life, seeing a  CSAT who helped me to see connection between childhood trauma and my addiction, other women sharing their stories) have been taken to help get me to this point.  I now realize the empowerment of sharing my story to help others who are in the same place I was 7 years ago, alone, scared and shamed of my addiction.  I now realize that I am not alone and healing power come through those willing to share their struggles and triumphs.
If you would like to leave a message for Rachael, please do so in the comments.  She is reading! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tapping Into Our God-Given Supah Powah's!

Did you know that we all have super powers?  I didn't for a very long time but a few years ago mine were revealed to me.  It was an awesome and very powerful discovery.  

It started when I was asked as part of my 30-in-30 to inventory my Christlike attributes.  I thought for sure I'd be able to list a bunch.  After all, I'd had a lot of practice being prideful and thinking how awesome I was.    But I turned out to be wrong.  Listing my Christlike attributes was hard.  I felt guilty for even trying to think of good qualities in myself, as if it was prideful to think of myself in a positive light.  I'd hit a mental block and I seriously couldn't think of anything to write.  

I didn't realize it at the time, but Satan was working hard to blur my vision of who I really was.  It stands to reason that he in no way wanted me to see that I possessed beautiful Christlike qualities or that I in any way magnified qualities of my Savior.  No, he wanted me completely blind to that knowledge.

Fortunately, I had an awesome sponsor who when I expressed these concerns shared that working a Christlike inventory actually helps us to see and accept ourselves with increased compassion and love.  

I chewed on that a bit and as I pondered and prayed the following revelation unfolded...   

Quoting my own journal written January 2010:
What is the 2nd Great commandment?  To love thy neighbor as thyself.  Not love thy neighbor more than thyself.  I strive everyday to serve people around me, to love them, to have compassion for them, to be patient with them and understanding.  I put their needs above my own.  In this commandment, we are told to do the same for ourselves, and to do it first.  This inventory will help me with this; to be able to see myself as a good person, as an innately good person, not just a good person in the last year.  I truly believe that as I ask for and gain a testimony of my Christlike attributes that they will be revealed to me and will strengthen my sense of self worth.  I will gain a stronger understanding of God’s love for me and be able to see myself as He sees me.  My worth is a precious gift from God.  Working a Christlike attribute inventory will help me reshape any distortions I have about myself.  Still it is difficult to actually write good things about myself.  I mean, I don't want to just list descriptive words about myself.  So I have been thinking – knowing these Christ like attributes are gifts from God, and that they have been given to me for specific purposes, I decided to pray and ask Heavenly Father to impress upon me what those purposes actually are.  So instead of writing my inventory as a list of “I am” characteristics, I am going to preface each of them with “God gave me the gift of...” because they really are all gifts.  I am also praying to know what God would have me do with the Christlike attributes He has given me.  If He gave them to me, there must be a purpose in which I am to use them.  
It was at the moment that I prayed for my Christlike attributes to be revealed to me for the soul purpose of wanting to know what the Lord wanted me to do with them; for what purpose He gave them to me, that my mind was opened and the Lord revealed to me who I really am.

Keep in mind that the following attributes revealed to me didn't necessarily reflect how I felt about myself at the time.  I was still very early in recovery, scared, timid, hopeless at times and struggling to maintain my sobriety.  I wasn't a secure rock in recovery or the Gospel.  I was just a girl, a girl who wanted to be better... and the Lord showed me how I could.  He showed me how He saw me...

The following, written January 2010,  are my God given supah powah's revealed!:
  1. God has given me the gift of gratitude, that I may have a soft heart and be grateful for everything He has given me.  When I am grateful, all glory is His, and I am constantly in a state of humility.
  2. God has given me the gift of compassion so that I may be able to relate to other's struggles and trials, and be able to tenderly, lovingly and patiently offer support to them.
  3. God has given me the gift of strength so that I may endure to the end, be an example and a support to my family, as well as others.
  4. God has given me the gift of love that I may be able to love everyone of any age and any walk of life.
  5. God has given me the gift of being trustworthy so that people will feel confident with me and know they have a safe place to express themselves freely.
  6. God has given me the gift of loyalty so that I may cherish the wonderful relationships with friends and family throughout life, that I may love and cherish them and keep them dear to my heart.
  7. God has given me the gift of humility.  As I grow closer to him, the more I invite and welcome humility into my life.  It wasn’t always this way, but it is now a state of mind that I strive for, everyday.
  8. God has given me the gift of finding joy, in myself and in others.  I find that he has also given me the gift of laughter and that laughter goes a long with joy.  I can laugh and find joy with anyone.  I believe laughter and joy are universal languages and can soften even the hardest of times.
  9. God has given me the gift of resilience.  I have always been one to bounce back from hard times.  The closer I grow to God and surrender to Him, the faster and more frequently I bounce back.  Resilience to me is a type of spiritual armor.  Even the word ‘resilient’ has a powerful ring to it.
  10. God has given me the gift of intuition.  This is a very clear and strong gift that he has given me.  I can read people and know how they are feeling, what mood they are in, and their energy without them even speaking.  Somehow, I can feel what they are feeling and immediately be in tune with what they may need.
  11. God has given me the gift of being fearless.  This gift I am especially grateful for as it allows me to step out of comfort zones I would normally stay in.  As an addict I am all about staying where I feel safe and away from any situation that may make me want to numb myself.  But, because I have been granted this gift, it is much easier for me to dive in and trust Him.
  12. God has given me the gift of emotion.  I feel things on a very deep level.  When I feel sad, it is great sadness, and when I feel happy I am overjoyed and my heart bursts.  When I am angry, I go red, but when I am filled with the Spirit my heart soars.  I often get down on myself for being so quick to anger, but I  focus now more on the other end of that spectrum, because as I am quick to anger, I am also just as quick to happiness and the closer I grow to God, the less anger I find myself experiencing.
  13. God has given me the gift of being spiritual and being able to feel the Spirit deeply, and letting it move me and work within me.  To not be resistant to it.  To let it teach me, and help me help others.
  14. God has given me the gift of being a good listener.  I listen attentively to what others say, I look at them, I make eye contact with them, I repeat back what they say with words of affirmation so they know I am listening.  I validate where necessary.  This has helped me so much to be a better Sponsor.
  15. God has given me the gift of maternal instinct so that I may love and cherish my children.  That they may grow up in a house where they know their Mother loves them more than anything.  Where they can feel safe and comfortable.  Where they can laugh and cry.  Where they will learn and grow.  Where through my experiences I will teach them how to show love for their Savior and teach them the love that their Savior has for them.
  16. God has given me the gift of feeling it important to keep my word.  I believe that people trust me more if I keep my word to them, whether it is something big or something as simple as making it to a lunch date on time.  When I keep my word it tells them that I love them, and they are important to me.  This also goes in hand with keeping my word with my Father in Heaven.  Keeping my promises to Him shows Him that I love Him, and that He is important to me.
  17. God has given me the gift of Honesty.  I strive to live myself honestly so that I have a pure slate to work with on a daily basis.  I strive to be honest with myself, as well as others, even when it is hard, but always with the Spirit of progression and recovery.
  18. God has given me the instinct to be hard working.  My day is full from beginning to end with school, work, kids, friends, neighbors and so much more.  I prefer my days to be full for when they are, they are fulfilling.  I feel accomplished and strong and happy when I am productive and hardworking.
  19. God has given me the gift of intelligence so that I can study and understand more clearly, so that I may get a good education to help support my family.  So that I may further my writing and help others.
  20. God has given me the gift of empathy. I believe this is one attribute that has helped me help others through recovery.  I have lived the darkness that others are in, I know how they feel and how hard it is.  How the adversary can whisper the tiniest lie and somehow make us feel like it’s absolute truth.  And, I have overcome that, so through empathy and being an example of Hope, I can use that to gently say to new women that come to group ‘come, look where I have been, and look where I am now.. I promise you can have this, and I will show you how’.  And I can say that with confidence.  
  21. On the flip side he has also given me the gift of sympathy where I may not be able to personally relate to something that someone is going through, but I can see the pain and anguish that they are experiencing because of it, and the pain and anguish I can relate to.  That’s the beauty of the 12 Steps.  It doesn’t matter what you have done or what has been done to you.  It doesn’t matter if your addiction doesn’t look like someone else’s addiction; because the Steps are focused on moving forward, not backward, they are focused on recovery and healing and getting back to our Savior, none of that would have us rehashing and comparing the pain we’ve gone through.
  22. God has given me the gift of wisdom so that I may more deeply understand addiction, how it affects me, learn my cycles, absorb the Steps, be able to discern my everyday situations so that I am aware of the effects of ALL decisions I make.  And in turn, turn around and show others how to do the same, through example. 
  23. God has given me the gift of determination so that I may never give up, even if I slip and tumble down a part of the mountain.  I will reach out, grab on and keep going.  This goes a long with keeping my word and being confidant.
  24. God has given me the gift of feeling comfortable sharing my weaknesses and trials with others.  I find it healthy to talk about my weaknesses and trials to others as long as it’s not in a whiney/victim way.  I think it shows them that they are not alone in what they may be facing.  That they may find relief and comradely in that.
  25. God has given me the gift of vulnerability so that I may keep myself open to the Spirit, remain Humble and be open to constructive criticism and direction.
  26. God has given me the gift of confidence so that I may hold my head high as I trudge through life and that if I do my best, that I can feel confident when I face the Lord at the judgment seat.  Confidence also helps me better be able to approach people, introduce myself, ask them questions someone may not normally ask, quickly get in tune with them and express my love for them.
  27. God has given me the gift of being receptive.  This is a very large gift that I was suppressing with pride for a very long time.  To be able to be receptive and in tune, I must be focused on others and not myself.  But, when I am, I am very open to thoughts and feelings others have for me because all I want to do is learn and better myself.
  28. God has given me the gift of perception which goes along with being intuitive.  I feel this is a gift to help me help others feel comfortable.  Someone may be sharing something where they don’t want to give many details, but through my perception I can “get it” without them having to. 
  29. I have been given the power of discernment.  I have found this very useful when I am in a bad spot.  The Spirit will whisper to me something and I will hear it.  On the flip side, I can feel very strongly when there are bad spirits in the room.  It is like night and day.  This is a very special gift that I treasure.  I only want the Spirit with me, not the other ones and it is so much easier to recognize them and then ask for them to be cast out then to not recognize them and have them following me around constantly.
  30. God has given me the gift of observation.  This goes along with being intuitive and discerning.  When I sit in a crowded room, I people watch, and I wonder about them, and I observe people’s behavior, the way they are dressed, the way they hold themselves and interact with others. 
  31. God has given me the gift of a good memory when it comes to people, their names, faces, and voices.  This goes a long with observing them.  I observe them and they get stored in a special memory box and I will remember them years later.  I know it makes people feel good when I am able to approach them and tell them I remember them from years past, and I am genuinely happy to see them.
  32. God has given me the gift of a contagious personality.  I find that when I am happy and bubbly…. That it bubbles over and is sort of infectious to others.  Magnetic if you will.  At Group this past week a girl was having a really hard time afterward, seemed stone cold and just really upset.  By the time we had moves out to the parking lot, I had her laughing at my stupid jokes.  I have a way with people that way.  I can sense they are sad… and so I gently start breaking out into joy, maybe just by sitting by them, maybe by talking about something stupid with them, but I listen to the promptings and go with the flow of whatever the Spirit tells me to do to help life them.
  33. God has given me the gift of passion.  This one of course is VERY powerful and I have to be careful how I use it because if I’m not, it can lead to my addiction.   Something I am passionate about now is the Steps.  I don’t think I will ever lose that passion.  But because I am passionate about them, I live them, I breathe them, I talk about them constantly, I bear testimony of their truth and of their power.  And people can feel that radiate off of me and then catch the bug. 
  34. God has given me the gift of expression so that I may articulate what I am trying to say whether it be through words, writing, or song.  I am able to express how I am feeling, express my ideas about something in a way that makes it simple for people to understand.  Usually through analogy.
  35. God has given me the gift of writing – namely to be able to express myself on paper and clearly state thoughts and feelings that come to me.  He has blessed me with visions in my head so I can actually see pictures and situations to better describe them.  I truly believe this is a gift I will be using in the future. (Ya, had NO idea I would be blogging!  God did though!)
  36. God has given me the gift of not fearing, but wanting to tell everyone how I really love them, or how they have touched me.  This scared me for so long.  Thinking people would think I was freaky.  But, this life is too short, and I may die tomorrow, or even in an hour, and I would hate to go without telling everyone that I love, that I do love them.  So, now, I tell everyone that I love them
  37. God has given me the gift of leadership so that I may righteously lead by example those that are on the path behind me, all the way encouraging them to catch up so we can reach our goal together, united.
  38. God has given me the gift of music so that my heart may be softened and I may learn from it.  That I may find music for any occasion and share it with others.  Anytime someone is having a hard time I will think “hmm what song do I have for them” and somehow the song makes things so much better.
  39. God has given me the gift of influence. Now, influence used incorrectly is manipulation so I strive to stay away from that.  But, influence used correctly is leading people to the Steps, and good things in life that will aid them in becoming Honest, finding Hope, and ultimately Trusting God.
  40. God has given me the gift of obedience, that I may trust and follow Him always – always mindful of his guidance and instruction, so that I may return to Him through my Savior, for it is only by my Savior that I will return to Him. 
All these qualities don't manifest within me all at once.  That would be insane.  I'd be like twinkled or something.  No, the Lord let's me experience them a few at a time, and even sometimes grants me the privilege of seeing the results of listening to the Spirit and putting to use the qualities given to me.  Those are special moments.

I challenge you to discover your own God given supah powah's!!  To find your Christlike attributes, to find how you magnify the Savior and to find your worth, your worthiness and who you really are.  He WANTS you to know your attributes for by knowing them, you know Him.

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"