Monday, December 23, 2013

Just For Today

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

I'm one lucky girl!

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

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

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

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

Just For Today

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

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

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

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

Just for today
I will be unafraid.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Losing the 'Struggle'




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

So we do it.

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

I learned from him.

He spoke of 'struggling.'  

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

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

It is ingrained in me.

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

And I did.

Think about it..

strug·gle

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

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

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

Only then do we begin to heal.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lessons of the Lost: A Book Review



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

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

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

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

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

I had no idea either of them would be there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now was my chance!

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

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

I had to find and tap into courage.

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

There is power in that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost and Found
Kim Taylor


Monday, December 16, 2013

Journal: Depression

I am depressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

... typical addict denial.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Birth of Crave


Ever wonder why we crave our addiction?

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

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

Dopamine  
This feels sooooo goooood!

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

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

Resistance is futile
Recovery is fruitful

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Lost' Accountability

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

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

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

The list is endless...

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

lose

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

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

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

But that is not what happens in addiction.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Journal: Twenty Questions

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

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

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

So here goes...

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

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

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

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

I cannot make it with Him.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Waterfall Concept: a Book Review


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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

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

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

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

And?

I loved it!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

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"