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.

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"