Saturday, December 20, 2014

The 'B' Side of Phone-Sex

This is an exposure post, of sorts.

I had a conversation with someone a day or two ago regarding phone sex. More specifically, what the whole interaction really looks like.

I was reminded of an old co-worker of mine, Filamer. I know, strange name, but awesome woman. Kind of like me. Haha, just kidding.

Fil and I worked together at the Coco's in Torrance, California. We worked so well together, in fact, that the manager would schedule just the two of us on Monday nights, leaving each of us to man a full half of the restaurant on our own. Some nights were crazy busy, but other nights were slow; giving us plenty of time to talk and get to know one another.

On one such slow night, I noticed Fil studying some papers and asked her what she was doing. She said that she was memorizing scripts for her second job. Not knowing she even had a second job, naturally, I asked her what the job was. Half laughing, she said she was a phone-sex operator.

Keep in mind, this was long before I started recovery, so instead of being shocked, I was actually quite intrigued. So much so that I asked to see the scripts myself.

Now, they shocked me.

EVERYTHING was scripted. NOTHING was allowed to be ad-lib'ed.

I'm dead serious. It was like this...
  1. Operator greets caller and works to determine what caller 'likes.'
  2. Depending on what caller responds, operator chooses one of a number of different scripts at their disposal, and begins the role-play.
  3. Throughout the interaction, operator is scripted to respond a, b or c in response to caller's direction of conversation.
  4. Rinse and repeat as many times as possible in an effort to keep caller on the line.
  5. If caller does not stay within the boundaries of the script, operator responds 'd' in order to get caller back within written (and legal) boundaries.
I just sort of stared at her, marveling that phone-sex is nothing like it is advertised.

She laughed again, and agreed, and even continued to tell me that the 'stereotypical' phone-sex operator more matches the actual truth of things, rather than what the advertisers would like us to believe.

Women behind the scenes who are:
  • Kicked back with their feet up, filing their nails
  • Working on homework
  • Watching TV
  • Listening to music
  • Crocheting
  • Reading 
And sadly, even:
  • Putting callers on mute; mocking and laughing at their requests

The operator is not emotionally or even sexually invested in the call. It's just words to them. Their goal is simply to keep the caller on the phone as long as possible in order to increase sales which, in turn, means more money for them.

It's very real and sad how both participants can get sucked into the false world of lust. One feeding their lust by way of sexual encounter, the other feeding their lust by way of making money.

The adversary has honed his cunning; telling the operator that they are not being immoral because they are not 'physically' participating with the caller, and that they can make easy money doing so because they will never lack for callers.

On the flip side, he tells the caller the same, that they are not being immoral because they are not 'physically' interacting with the operator, while also telling them that no one will ever find out because 'it's just a phone call.'

To both of them, he whispers; "It's OK, you are not hurting anyone."

The truth is, everyone effected by such a callwhether knowingly or unknowinglyis harmed; starting with both parties participating in it.

This is not the life the Savior wants for them, for me, for us, or for anyone.

It's simply a big fat trap.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do As I Do, Not As I Say

So, I learned something today.

Let me first back up a bit, before I share what I learned.

I was visiting with a friend of mine a week or so ago, and she shared with me a struggle she was having with someone living with her. The person was not being responsible, not contributing to the household and basically being a nuisance. My friend was frustrated because they allowed this person to stay with them for few weeks only, just to help them get on their feet. Also, the person was not on my friends lease, which disallows extended visitors.

The situation was really stressing my friend out, and she wasn't sure what to do.

As a complete joke, I blurted out; "You should totally write a fake letter from your landlord stating that she is aware of the unauthorized tenant, and that you have only a few days to get them out or everyone will be evicted."

Today, I found out she did just that.

My heart dropped when I heard she'd done it, because I knew that I had given her the idea.

It taught me that even the slightest whispering of actions without integrity can lead to dishonest behavior.

It taught me that both the Spirit and the adversary are gardeners of sorts, each patiently waiting for me to plant seeds with my words so they can, in-turn, nurture them to grow.

On the plus side, the note worked and the squatter moved out.
I might be just a little bit happy about that,.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Sobriety

So I want to talk a bit about being sober, or sobriety, and what it means, or can mean.  

Most of us relate being 'sober' to Webster's definition: "not intoxicated or drunk."  Over time this definition has also come to encompass drug abuse, and even more recently has come to include a multitude of behavioral addictions.  When sobriety is announced at the beginning of a recovery meeting, it is generally referring to how many days one has not acted out in their addiction.

But, what does it mean to be sober?

1 Thessalonians 5:5-10
5 Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

D&C 6:19   
19 ...Be patient; be sober; be temperate; have patience, faith, hope and charity.

Winning the War Against Evil - Elder James Hamula
"Being sober means being earnest and serious in assessing your circumstances and careful and circumspect in weighing consequences of your actions.  Soberness therefore yields good judgement."

So, why is it important to be sober?

1 Peter 1:13
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 5:8, 10  
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
10 But the God of all grace , who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that which ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

So, what does it really mean to be sober?  
  • It means keeping our body free of all chemicals and behaviors that will inhibit us from doing the work of the Lord. 
  • It means girding ourselves up with the armor of righteousness and doing all in our power to not offend those Heavenly beings who desire to protect us.
  • It means keeping our minds clear of all worldly noise so that we may hear the sweet promptings of the Spirit.
  • It means knowing our adversary and keeping ourselves aware of all his tactical advantages over us, and acknowledging that only in the protective fold of our Savior are we safe from his destruction.
  • It means to strive to refine our virtues by constantly connecting with our Father in Heaven, and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • It means constantly striving to remain humble, for the quality of our recovery is directly proportionate to the quality of our surrender.
  • It means finding gratitude and hope in all things, and above all it means constantly fighting with all determination to get home to Father.

It means to never, ever give up.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Warm, Godly Hug

hug [huhg]
verb (used with object), hugged, hugging
1. to clasp tightly in the arms, especially with affection; embrace
2. to cling firmly or fondly to; cherish
3. to keep close

*         *     *     *        *

What does it mean to hug? No, really. What does it genuinely mean to hug?

A hug is one of, if not the utmost expression of the purest love.
It communicates...
... compassion
... kindness
... charity
... affection
... understanding
... empathy
It presents as a courageous expression of actively listening to the needs of others, as well as our own needs.

Sometimes we don't realize that a hug is more than just giving. In fact, it is much more, because we receive so much in return:
  1. Hugs are warm; physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
  2. Hugging builds trust and a sense of safety; nurturing open and honest communication.
  3. It also boosts oxytocin levels; healing feelings of loneliness, isolation and despair.
  4. If we hug for an extended period of time, our serotonin levels elevate; resulting in increased happiness.
  5. Hugging boosts our self-esteem, showing us that we're special and worth loving. The associations of self-worth and touch sensations from our early years remain embedded in our nervous system as adults, therefore the cuddles we received as children remain imprinted at a cellular level; connecting us to our ability to self-love.
  6. Those hugs that are especially tight help relax our muscles; releasing built up tension in our body. They can also take away pain and soothe our aches by increasing blood flow in our soft tissue.
  7. Hugs teach us that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to warmth; connecting and sharing. In essence, hugs teach us how to flow love both ways.
  8. Much like meditation and laughter, hugs teach us to be present in the moment. They free us from our circular thinking patterns and connect us with our heart and feelings. They allow us freedomif even for just a momentfrom the weight of the past and doubt about the future.
  9. The energy exchange between participants results from the deliberate emotional investment in the relationship that the hug represents. It encourages empathy and compassion; two of the most powerful emotions for good. 
  10. Hugging is also synergistic; meaning the whole is more than the sum of its parts. 1 + 1 no longer equals 2, but 3 or even more!
Hugs are absolutely delightfully delicious!

Lately I have been thinking about the day that I will, again, see my Savior...
Oh, how I long for that day.

I want to...
...see Him
...touch Him

I want to...
...feel of His warmth
...feel His strong arms around me

I want to...
...hear Him say my name
...hear Him say 'well done, thy good and faithful servant'

But mostly, I want to hug Him.

I want Him to...
...wrap His strong arms around me.
...pull me close to Him.

And, I want to...
...grip His robes
...and, never let go

In that one Hug, we would each communicate so much to one another:
  1. Warmth
  2. Trust, safety, openness and honesty
  3. Healing, connection
  4. Happiness, joy and belonging
  5. Self-worth, self-love
  6. Comfort, relief, satisfaction
  7. Giving, receiving, sharing, and flowing love both ways
  8. Pure enjoyment of the present
  9. Transparent willingness to live in empathy and compassion
  10. A bold claim to the absolute abundance the hug will surely create
Unfortunately, there are times when my longing for that day erodes my gratitude for my present, because I fail to acknowledge that I actually have access to this very relationship with my Savior right here and now, in my present.

Accessing the many powers of Grace acts as a virtualyet tangiblehug from our Savior. Each time we do so, we increase in love for Him, loyalty to Him, and connection with Him.

Each time we do so...
  1. We feel warm
  2. We trust, and therefore are able to be courageously open and honest
  3. We become healed, for He is the great Physician (no need for a 2nd consultation)
  4. We experience the utmost and unabashed joy
  5. We come to accept, embrace and even love ourselves
  6. We are validated, comforted and calmed
  7. We experience a flow of love both ways, strengthening our bond with Him
  8. We not only feel satisfied, but actually happy, in our present
  9. We gain the ability to feel, express and receive empathy
  10. We are granted the courage to boldly approach His throne of Grace
Ultimately, we become more like Him
We become love

All, from a hug...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Drop of Oil

The experience I am about to share, I do not share out of pride or bragging, but in an effort to document the feeling I received afterward; the whisper from the Spirit that what I felt was the very preparedness I'm striving for when the bridegroom comes.

A couple of Sundays ago, my Relief Society President approached me at church and gave me my visiting teaching list. Admittedly, I wasn't in the best place when she handed it to me. I'd just spent the past hour and a half wrestling my youngest in Sacrament meeting, leaving me irritated and on edge.

It got worse when I glances at my list.

Six people on my list.

I begrudgingly thanked her and rushed off before my face revealed my feelings.

I steamed over it through the rest of church, until later that day my companion text me and said she didn't think it would be as tough as it looked.

She was right.
  1. Two of the sisters live together, and welcome visiting teachers.
  2. One is my companions mother, who is on a mission.
  3. One is my son's primary teacher, and also super easy to visit.
  4. One isn't active - and we aren't sure how to handle her - but we are making contact.
  5. One is on the the edge of inactivity, but I've already spent a number of hours in her home and text her all the time.
Due to my companion being out of town the latter part of this month, we quickly got to work and visited all, but number 4, within a week.

It sure feels great to get my visiting teaching done. Not for the numbers, but to actually be in the home of our sisters and see them, feel them and strive to identify their needs.

The lesson, however, came a few days after we'd visited #5.

I was recently invited to organize this year's ward Christmas party. We are a newly organized ward so none of the organizations were assigned to this particular event. In preparation for it, I was invited to the most recent Ward Council, in an effort to employ the help of each organization in the ward. We spent thirty minutes or so working through the food, decorations, set up/take down and entertainment.

As my time was coming to a close, I asked if anyone had any further suggestions or questions. In response, the ward mission leader raised his hand and said:
"Tell me about the #5's" (he said their last name)
I was a bit surprised with the gear shift, and fumbled a bit over my thoughts and words. But then it just spilled out of me.

I'd recently spent hours in this sister's home and was able to communicate and express how she is doing, what she has gone through, what she is feeling, why she is struggling with activity, and what her needs are.

It was a bit whirlwind'ish at the time, but later when things calmed down, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

I felt grateful that I'd actually gotten my VTing done. That's I'd fought through the fear of walking over to this sister's house to knock on her door, and grateful that I'd taken the time to listen to her; really listen to her.

I felt peace because I'd been prepared. When the ward mission leader asked me about the family, I was sitting before the bishopric and the president of every organization. How embarrassing would it have been if I'd had to respond:
"I don't know, I haven't visited her."
In that moment, I knew I'd tasted a bit of what it means to fill my lamp with oil; that I'd experienced a bit of what it feels like to be prepared at the last day.

And it's not like I did something over-the-top, huge and grandiose.

I just did what the Lord asked me to.
I just did my visiting teaching.

Friday, November 7, 2014

If I Could Just Buy a House

I've been thinking a lot about belonging...

What does it mean to belong?
How do I belong?
Who do I belong to?
What do I have to do to belong?
... and
Where do I belong, if anywhere?

Feeling like I don't belong is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

I think being so transient through my younger years has severely contributed to these feelings.

Let me map it out... these are all the places I have memory of living:
  1. Mission, South Dakota (I could have lived in multiple houses here)
  2. Libby, Montana 
  3. Troy, Montana
  4. Glendive, Montana (house 1 - Nana's backhouse)
  5. Glendive, Montana (house 2 - Apartment)
  6. Glendive, Montana (house 3 - Trailer)
  7. Glendive, Montana (house 4 - Sargeant Street)
  8. Helena, Montana (house 1 - Church farm)
  9. Helena, Montana (house 2 - Government housing)
  10. Adelanto, California (house 1 - Dad's roomate's house)
  11. Adelanto, California (house 2 - Rental along the highway)
  12. North Edwards, California (house 1 - Dump that we stayed in for a month)
  13. North Edwards, California (house 2 - Better house than the previous)
  14. Boron, California (Nicest house we ever lived in)
  15. Lindsay, Montana (Left home at 16, living with friends of the family)
  16. Glendive, Montana (house 5 - Lived with  a member of my ward)
  17. Glendive, Montana (house 6 - Lived with another member of my ward)
  18. Glendive, Montana (house 7 - age 17 - my first apartment)
  19. Acton, California (Back with my parents, living in the bus)
  20. Glendive, Montana (house 8- Living with my boss from Hardees)
  21. Torrance, California (house 1 - Living with my ex boyfriend)
  22. Torrance, California (house 2 - Same circumstance, different house)
  23. Torrance, California (house 3 - Split with the ex, moved in with a ward member)
  24. Torrance, California (house 4 - Moved in with another ward member)
  25. Orem, Utah (house 1 - Moved in with a woman from a conference I attended)
  26. Orem, Utah (house 2 - Moved in with another friend and her family)
  27. Orem, Utah (house 3 - Married now, moved in with the inlaws)
  28. Lindon, Utah (house 1 - First apartment together)
  29. Orem, Utah (house 3, again - Living with in-laws in-between moves.)
  30. Lindon, Utah (house 2 - First house together)
  31. Orem, Utah (house 3, again - Living with in-laws in-between moves.)
  32. Orem, Utah (house 4 - Legacy apartments, where I found recovery)
  33. Price, Utah (house 1 - current)
Seriously... where do I belong?

When people ask me where I'm from, I jokingly respond 'everywhere,' but really, where do I belong? I claim Montana, because it's where I have lived the most; where I spent most of my childhood, but do I belong there? Does Montana claim me in return?

I just don't know.

I've had a very painful memory recently come up for me regarding belonging, or lack thereof.

I was about 10 years old. I was visiting my biological father and his new family in Mission, South Dakota while my family moved from 'Helena, Montana (house 1)' to 'Helena, Montana (house 2)'. I remember feeling really excited to spend time with him because I hadn't seen him in a very long time. I was also anxious to spend time with my brothers, whom I'd never met.

The plan was for me to spend a month with them, the first week of which went just fine. I spent most of each day at the swimming pool, taking full advantage of the summer pass they had purchased for me. After that week, though, I got tired of the pool and communicated to my stepmother that I'd rather stay home that day.

It was at this point that her true beasty colors came out...

She became incredibly nasty; sequestering me to the younger children's room where I spent every single day of the rest of my visit. I was made to sort the pieces of multiple Smurf puzzles that were strewn all over the floor; pieces that to my young eyes, all looked exactly the same. I spent my days struggling to sort each piece into piles representing each puzzle. I would leave that room at night with the floor covered in little piles, hopeful that I'd be able to finish the following day, only to wake to the floor in such a state that there was little to no evidence of there ever being any piles. I do not know if it was the kids who destroyed the piles, or my stepmother herself.

Regardless, I was made to start over.
Every day.
For weeks.

I didn't tell my biological dad what was going on because I feared he'd side with my stepmother. And I also didn't tell my mom because I feared that my stepmother would find out and retaliate.

The only happiness I experienced during that time was the occasional phone call home to my mom. I longed to hear her voice, and began asking to call home more often. Each call brought comfort; helping me pass the time until I could return home.

I survived well enough on those phone calls, until the day I called only to be met with the dreaded beeps, followed by the words; 'We're sorry, the number you have dialed is no longer in service.' I eventually learned that the disconnect was due to the move; a lapse between one phone being shut off and the other being connected.

But I didn't know that. I panicked.

I called that number again, and again, and again, only to be met with the same result.

I felt defeated.
I felt alone.
I felt abandoned.
I felt scared.
I felt forgotten.

I prayed, begging the number to work.
I tried again.

I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing.

After dinner, I asked if I could go to the park.
The beast agreed.

I walked to the park and sat in a swing.
No one else was there.
Just me.

I sat there, and let the tears roll like thunder down my face.
I felt hated.
I felt despised.
I felt like a burden, even disposable.

I remember looking in the distance and seeing cars on a highway. I wondered if I hitchhiked, if I would be taken to a place where I would be loved, cared for, cherished.

No child should feel like that; like they will find happiness on the other end of a highway hitchhike. I shudder at what could have happened if I'd acted on that impulse. I was obviously being watched over.

Transience has always been a huge part of my life, and I feel that because of it I was not able to establish essential healthy relationships with others. I also feel that on some level I actually began to fear making those connections, because as soon as I did we would move, and they'd be torn away from me.

One major realization that I have recently discovered, is that if I had made healthy connections, I would not have the giant hole in my heart that I'm continually tempted to fill by acting out in addictive behavior.

So, what does all this have to do with buying a house?

I've recently realized that I'm living in somewhat of a desperate state. I'm extremely anxious for my husband to get promoted to the next level of management, because that will provide our family with a level of geographic permanency that I've never experienced.

No matter where we land with that promotion, we will likely be there for a very long time. Knowing we would be there for a lone time, we would buy a house. And it would be in that newly purchased house that I would feel physically and emotionally safe enough to open up and establish all of those connections I have longed for my entire life.

If I could just buy a house, I would feel like I belonged.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grace; the power by which we are able to do hard things

The Togetherness Project
October 2014

* * *
Music: Grace by David Tolk

I don't pretend to know everything about Grace.
I'm not Brad Wilcox and I don't hold a high position in the church.
... and
I don't have what one might consider 'credentials,' on the topic.

But I do know something of Grace, because I have been...
... found by it
... touched by it
... encompassed by it
... healed by it
... rescued by it

The story, of which, I share here and here..

* * *

So, what is Grace?

We know that Grace has many powers, but how do those powers actually manifest in our lives?

I posed this question to the women I presented to, and was honored by their responses (paraphrased):
"Grace helps us find our rock bottom, when we can't find it ourselves."
"Grace has given me the physical strength necessary to do what I need to do."
"As I let Grace into my life, I am given the desire and strength to forgive."
"I feel Grace speak to me and guide me through the hard decisions that lay ahead."
There are many powers of Grace that He uses to:
  • Comfort us
  • Validate us
  • Heal us
  • Raise us up
  • Relieve us
The list is endless and unlimited, and we are free to call on them at any and all times.

* * *

Barriers to Grace

As many powers as Grace has to offer, there are just as many barriers to accessing them:
  • Lack of faith
  • Lack of understanding
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Isolation
  • Pride
  • Unwillingness to ask for help
  • Fear of judgement
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of __________ (insert)
  • ... and shame
"Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we're supposed to be. And it's a straitjacket." - Brene Brown
"Shame . . . is an attack on our character, on our very being, on who we are; a deviant assassination on God's very own creation." - Sidreis Keller Agla
The list is lengthy, because there is no tool that the adversary is not willing to use to keep us separate from the love of our Savior; from His saving Grace.

Fortunate for us, our Savior's power is much greater than the enemy to our soul, and He is willing to do all that it takes to keep us close to Him.

* * *

Breaking Down Barriers

Throughout my recovery, I have discovered three major mindsets that have hastened my journey, ultimately bringing me closer to my Savior.

The Twelve Steps of Recovery
I have adopted the Twelve Steps of Recovery into my life.
I don't just work them, rather, I live the principles they teach.

I do not advocate any one particular twelve step program. I advocate all of them:
And many many more.

Each program teaches principles, and provides literature, that can be a great strength to us.

Becoming a Seeker of Knowledge
I asked questions in order to gain a better understanding of addiction, addictive behavior, how the Lord perceived me, and really - anything else that I felt would benefit me.

Seriously, Amazon loves me.

I researched as much material on addiction and began buying a whole collection of recovery books.

I read them.
And then I read them again.

I talked to people.
I asked them about their experience.
I asked them what they learned.
I listened to them.
And, I chose to believe them.

The Power of Belief
In the end, with all the information I had gathered, there was still one thread left holding me back from a life of freedom.

I had to believe.

I chose to set fear and doubt aside and believe:
  • The program
  • The books
  • Those in my group
  • My Sponsor
  • My Bishop
  • In myself
  • And, Christ.
trusted Him; and trusted that the burning feeling that my belief sometimes lacked would eventually come.

That is the beauty of belief.
We can do it anytime, independent of anything else.
We can freely give it any time, whether we have a burning testimony, or not.

The ultimate act of trust and humility.

To raise our hands high and solemnly declare, "I believe you."
"Faith is stepping into the darkness and trusting that the light will follow." - Unknown
* * *

Does Grace free us from pain?

Yes, and no. More so, it embraces our pain.

Meet, Aaron-Hulk.
He's my youngest.
And, he suffers from chronic nosebleeds.
Looks pretty tough doesn't he?

He is a little toughy...  most of the time.

But those moments, at 2....3....4 in the morning when he wakes to his face covered in blood;
All due to a condition he didn't ask for or do anything to cause.
That is when the toughness melts into a humble puddle of goodness.

Those moments are special to me.
The moments he calls out to me, confident that I am right there.
That I will come running at his first peep of need.

They are special because I get to wrap him up in my arms.
I get to whisper to him:
It's ok
I know it's scary
I'm so sorry you are bleeding
Let me clean it for you; wash it away.

I get to hold him as he cries; comforting him in his most terrifying moments
And stay there until his eyes again begin to droop, reentering a blissful slumber.

It is in those moments that the greatest attachments with him are born and nurtured.
It is in those moments, when we are bleeding and broken, that our greatest attachments to our Savior are born and nurtured.

How glorious is that?                                                                            
* * *

No Expectation

One aspect of Grace that I didn't understand, but learned as I prepared this presentation, is that Grace has no expectation.

Think about it.

Grace does not tell us, 'I will comfort you for X amount of time, but then you have to:
... get up
... be happy
... stop moping
... forgive'

Seriously, that's all He wants.

The opportunity to sit with us and comfort us.
Simply to be near us.

Although not expected, when we allow Him to be near us, our desire to get up, to be happy, to stop moping, and to forgive naturally increases. A natural progression; we cannot help but do otherwise when we let His Grace into our lives. When we let Him sit with us, comfort us, warm us and heal us.

One of the greatest gifts He gives us is the power of empathy and validation.
More specifically, He gives us His empathy and validation.

Take a moment and listen to this song.
No expectations.
No Assignments.
Just listen, and let the His validation wash over you.

Here's to you!

* * *

The Togetherness Project
October 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Togetherness Project: Midway 2014

I was honored to have been asked to present at The Togetherness Project at the Zermatt Resort in Midway Utah; an event that just happened two days ago. As well as presenting, I had the opportunity to attend many other classes in which I gleaned much wisdom from the experience of others to help me along my own healing journey. I want to take a few moments and record my thoughts here.

In chronological order, by presenter:

Opening Keynote: Paul Parkin on Empathy

I really loved Paul. His presentation style was so entertaining and meaningful. He had great insights into empathy that I really felt fit well with my own presentation on Grace.

I especially loved his analogy of the rock climber, and how he likened rock climbing to our own journey of recovery. He expressed the importance of strapping ourselves to others who are also climbing so that in those moments when we lose our footing, there are secure people around us who can catch our fall. Additionally, all that we learn along our recovery path act as hooks in the mountain wall, securing us even tighter against the threat of treacherous calamity. Finally, he validated our need to take breaks every now and then; to refuel and refresh.

Empathy happens three places:
  • Head - This is where we inject ourselves into the perspective of another and ask; 'what would it be like to be them?'
  • Heart - This is where we assume what it feels like to be them.
  • Hand - This is the action that follows, the desire to sooth and comfort them.
Active participation in empathy leads to:
  • Compassion
  • Non-judgment
  • Validation
  • Vulnerability
(All of which, Grace does perfectly)

Paul then asked; "What would happened if we took blame out of our life and washed our wounds with empathy?"

I still have yet to wrap my head around this and come up with an answer worth documenting...
"Empathy has the ability to wrap its arms around us and tell us that everything shame says is not true." - Paul Parkin
"People cannot help us unless we have the courage to tell our story." - Paul Parkin
"Empathy is not something that we do, it's something that we are; we become empathy." - Paul Parkin 

First Breakout Session: Paul Parkin on Listening to Our Emotions

The single most important thing I learned from this class is that there is no such thing as negative emotions. All emotions are positive. To call them negative is to shame them, which leads to stuffing, which will eventually lead to exploding. All emotion has purpose.
"Emotions diagnose us." - Paul Parkin
Although none of our emotions are negative, our response to them can be.

The three most toxic and damaging emotions are:
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Hatred
Processing our emotions is just that; a process:
  • Recognize and label
  • Explore
  • Assess
  • Problem Solve
  • Practice
"We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves, but by changing ourselves, we invite change in others." - Paul Parkin
Paul's recipe for happiness:
  • Be true to yourself
  • Leave no regrets
  • Become love
  • Live in the moment
  • Give more than you take

Second Breakout Session: Kevin Skinner on Making Sense of Intimacy

I really love Dr. Skinner. I've attended some educational classes by him and his thoughts in resiliency have always stuck with me. He is a gentle soul, with a pure desire to help others.
"Sexual intimacy is the bi-product of actual intimacy." - Dr. Kevin Skinner
"Intimacy = in-to-me-see" - Dr. Kevin Skinner 

Third Breakout Session: Rhyll Croshaw on What Can I do About Me?

Although I had previously connected with Rhyll at a number of different events, this was the first I'd actually heard her present. I loved hearing her story, and feeling of her valiant spirit.
"Any decision based on fear is the wrong one." - Rhyll Croshaw
"Speak truth through a filter of love." - Rhyll Croshaw
But, then I added: 
"Truth trumps love, because love cannot survive in a lie; so above all, speak truth." Sidreis Keller Agla
"If I'm in my own head, I'm behind enemy lines" - Rhyll Croshaw

Midday Keynote: Ashlee Harmon Birk on The Moments We Stand

Wow, I barely took notes through this presentation because I pretty much sobbed through the entire thing, but I did manage to catch a few:

Five Truths:
  • Find the beauty that is still all around
  • Have faith in the future
  • Find forgiveness
  • Believe in YOU!
  • Find hope in your story
I would like to publicly thank Ashlee at this point, because she really set the tone for my presentation that immediately followed hers. Her ability to be completely open and raw created an atmosphere of potent vulnerability, perfect for my presentation on Grace. I feel that those that attended were spiritually and emotionally prepped to hear how the grace of our Loving Savior can heal them.

Fourth Breakout Session: Sidreis Keller Agla on Grace

Once I write the blog post(s) detailing my presentation, I will link it here.

Fifth Breakout Session: Liz MacDonald on Self Compassion and Emotional Release

One thing that I really loved about Liz is she was funny. Sometimes we seriously just need a bit of comic relief to lighten the load of what we carry.
"True freedom is the ability to pause and respond to a stimulus or trigger." - Kathy Kinghorn

Closing Keynote: Jacy Boyack and Kelli Rhees on Light

To be honest, I didn't take any notes during these two presentations. I just allowed myself to simply relax and feel it. But, I will share the video that Jacy shared, because it is absolutely amazing. It truly does show that true happiness and connection happens when we get outside of ourselves, give freely, and love freely.

I seriously cannot wait until the next Togetherness. How blessed I am to have it in my life.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Journal: A Reason to Stay Silent

Something has become very apparent to me over the past few days. For those of you who read my last post, you know that I am currently struggling with some dark thoughts. In an effort to escape them, I have deliberately reached out to specific people, as well as opened up about it at group and here on my blog.

One of the specific people, someone I am very close to and trust with my life, reacted in a way that I did not expect.

She got very fixy

We were speaking on the phone when I told her. An hour and a half later I found myself completely emotionally shut down. I'd spent the entire phone call listening to holistic remedies, emotional solutions and therapeutic approaches. I listened as she boldly proclaimed that the Spirit was telling her that I needed to completely open up to her and tell her everything, which I found odd because in that moment all I felt was resistance. I really feel like I am sensitive to the Spirit, so how could our experiences with Him be so different in the same exact moment?

I do know that she loves me and only wants me protected, safe and happy. It's not that her intentions aren't pure, but rather, it was her approach that left me feeling reluctant.

It's been a struggle since then. She treats me different. She treats me as if I'm fragile
You know that voice that's used; an octave too high and slow and tentative. Like vocal volume will somehow break me.

Sadly, it just makes me not want to be honest with her. 
It makes me want to remain silent about my struggle. 

It kind of throws me back into fear about being open and honest; being vulnerable. That is one of the biggest reasons we don't open up about our addiction; fear of being treated differently. We already think we are a freak. Treating us differently only confirms that belief.

I called her tonight regarding something completely unrelated. I purposefully changed my voice to make myself seem more chipper than I actually was, not that I was really even in a bad place. 

She answered with a tentative, "Hi, how are you feeling?" 
Up went my defensive walls as I fought the urge to tensely respond; 'I'm fine.'
"I'm doing good," I said.
"Oh I'm so glad, I can tell in your voice that you are doing better."

Of course, then the shame crept in, whispering; 'you are such a liar.'
I'm not, though. I'm not a liar. I might be isolating, maybe. But not lying.

This is not to say that I don't welcome advice, or ideas or even empathy and compassion.

I do.

And, I'm not really even clear where the line is, between the stuff I welcomed and what I experienced with her... all I know is it just felt different.

A number of you have responded with amazing thoughts and comments, all of which I received well and didn't feel an ounce of resistance. So again, I have no clue what the difference is. Maybe someone reading this can help me identify it.Ya, that would be nice.

Anyway, I'm not really sure how to end this. I just wanted to get it out of me and put it somewhere.

Friday, October 3, 2014

And Still, He Holds Me Together

It's been a dark time. A heavy time.

I've been plagued with a rash of very heavy suicidal thoughts lately. They have escalated past my usual desire to simply escape, and moved into thoughts about how I'd actually do it. Someone close to me called it 'suicidal drive,' and the term felt familiar to me.

I'm scared.
I don't want to be here, thinking these things.

But, the loneliness I am feeling is so heavy.

I have worked to integrate into my new ward and community, but my efforts haven't really awarded any results. The one person I felt connected to moved last week, and it's been difficult to connect with my new bishop. Spending my time in primary while my youngest acclimates to his new environment hasn't helped, either.

I haven't touched this level of despair, I think, ever.
Because it's different this time.

There was a time when I would have welcomed the loneliness.
It would have given me reason to use.
It would have validated my desire to isolate.

But now, such thoughts and feelings rub up against everything I know and stand for.

Logically, I know that suicide is not the answer.
Logically, I know that ending my life would devastate those that love me.
Logically, I know that I would not earn a higher degree of glory if I take my own life.

However, although logic has a strong voice, the voice of my feelings screams much louder.

Logic manifests as a small thought in my brain, whereas my feelings affect me physically, psychologically and spiritually, and manifests as splashing waves of emotion.

I experience my feelings, but simply touch my thoughts.
Thoughts are fleeting and can come and go, but my feelings are rooted within me and swirl around me.

Logically I know that I will not be happy in the long run if I were to intentionally leave this life, but the desire to escape the pain of loneliness screams much louder than the logic telling me to stay.

Surprisingly, I'm not even tempted to act out. Acting out would just add the pain of telling my husband and confessing to my bishop, not to mention bearing the weight of the guilt and shame that would surely come.

Adding to the despair I already feel doesn't make sense when my feelings are begging me to escape it.

I just want to go home.

Even though I know that such a decision would forfeit maximum happiness in the long run, what I would inherit would be a much happier place than I'm at now.

I'd be home.
I'd be welcome.
I'd be connected.
I'd belong.

I just want to belong.

I'm holding on, even if barely.
The wind blows wildly on my branches.
My roots are stretched; threatening to snap.
And still, He holds me together.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Tribute to Mark

I have a friend who, since meeting him, I've adopted as my older brother. His name is Mark W. Miner. He is one of the most inspiring people I know. 

He doesn't know this, but I used to sort of think he was a celebrity. Someone had shared a bit of his story with me prior to meeting him and after hearing it I just knew he was amazing. 

So amazing that I really wanted to meet him. 
Heck, I wanted to be him, or so I thought. 
Really what I wanted, was to have what he had. 

Freedom from the everyday bondage of addiction.
Knowledge of how to achieve such freedom.
... and
A personal relationship with our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

I remember the first time I met him. It was on a Sunday evening after an ARP fireside. I managed to muster up the courage to walk up to him and say hi, expecting in return a handshake accompanied by an inquisitive look that said both, 'do I know you?' and 'what do you want?'

I received neither.

Instead, I felt big burly arms wrap around me and with pure sincerity, he said: "Hi! How are you!?' Still to this day I wonder if he thought I was someone else, but I choose to take my experience at face value and believe he really was genuinely happy to see me.

The fact is, he exemplified the Savior that day, because he greeted me with pure love.

I'd like all of you to meet Mark, to feel of his goodness and be touched by the redemptive power of our Savior's Atonement by hearing his story. You can do so by watching his video. I'm warning you though, you'll likely need a tissue:

Mark also recently wrote a poem and, after reading it, I wanted to share it here, by permission:

Faith is a Breaking Dawn

On the edge of faith, the choice is mine.

Chilling winds of doubt gust and eddy about,
pushing me towards the wide-mouthed chasm of the past,
that devouring pit of bottomless regrets
which weigh me down and suck me into
the monstrous maw of broken-boned hopes;
and all around, the faint but piercing screams
of unkept promises and dying dreams still echoing,
unforgiving, accusingly calling my name.

But faith is a breaking dawn,
and each step forward, towards the Son,
erases that dark vortex of doubt from my mind,
stirs harmonies of hope and light in the now-gentle breeze,
and awakens the yellows and golds of joy within my heart.
The hymn of life pulses in my veins and sings in my soul,
a warming witness that love is real, and forgiveness,
a testimony that the choice I've made is life eternal.

~Mark W. Miner~

Thank you for being my friend; my brother, Mark. 
I'm a better person for knowing you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Journal: The Truths That I Know

It’s me again.

I’m not doing very well today...

I poured out my heart to my Father as I stood in the shower.
I let the hot water soak up my tears and I shared my deepest fears with Him.

That I am...
...less than celestial material
...not clean enough 
...not righteous enough
...not mature enough

And then this song came on the  EFY playlist I had playing in the background:

I Am Enough 
Nicole Sheahan

As I heard the words, the tears began to flow even more freely. 
I heard Him. 
I heard Him speak to me through the song, that I am enough.

I am struggling right now, but I refuse to let my struggle silence the truths that I know.

I know that when I struggle this bad, something huge is coming. 
I don’t know what it is, but the adversary does, and he wants to keep me from it.
I know that I am under attack because of it.

I know that the Lord lets the wind blow on my branches to strengthen my roots.
He uses the wind, this struggle, for my good...
So long as I weather it, I will be stronger, wiser and ultimately closer to Him.

I know that weathering this storm does not translate to weathering it perfectly.
I am not perfect...
My Father doesn't expect me to be so.
He only expects me to remain faithful

I know that I am bigger than my body. 
Even though my body is triggering, and I feel completely burdened by it right now...
I am still bigger than it.

I know the tools of recovery. 
I have learned them, worked them, lived them.
I know they work. 
I have lapsed in these basic principles a bit, and that is one of the reasons I am struggling so much.

I know of my love for Him. 
I want to return to Him and dwell with Him more than anything. 
I want to feel His arms around me...
Feel His soft robes on my cheeks as I inhale the smell of their goodness. 

More than anything I want to hear Him speak the words: 
Well done, my good and faithful servant."

And therefore, 
I will not give up. 
Because in order for me to hear those words 
I must exemplify them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Ties that Bind

As a man was passing the elephants at the circus, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg and a stake in the ground.

There were no chains or cages.

It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds, but for some reason they did not. He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well.” the trainer said, “When they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them down. At that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they stood.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we didn’t succeed at it once before?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Journal: Dusting off the Keys

It feels like ages since I have blogged (because it has been), and as I lay here sick in my comfy clothes, I feel it time to dust off the keys and get back to writing. I have really felt the strain of separation from my online recovery community and I really miss connecting with those seeking recovery from all over the world.

So, as you know, we recently moved to Price, Utah. The transition was somewhat bumpy; meaning, actually getting here was riddled with obstacles, but we did eventually make it and we are nicely settled in now.

Everything is absolutely great. I really, truly couldn't ask for anything more. Our house is huge, and wonderful, and completely within our budget. Everyone has their own room, we have a giant kitchen, a dishwasher and a functioning ice-maker, which are all luxuries we didn't have in our old place.

Our house is also located on a quiet street, incredibly close to the city pool (which happens to be open all winter because they cover it with a bubble), and I can see my middle sons bus stop from my front porch. I feel all warm and fuzzy everyday as I watch him get off the bus and greet him at the porch.

Everything is perfect... yet still, I struggle.

The loneliness comes in waves. One day I feel great and then the next I feel completely separate. Gratefully, I have a pretty good routine down so no matter how I'm feeling, I'm still up, showered and contributing to my family and society.

And then there are the triggering thoughts. I haven't been so great at blocking them, or even getting up and moving when they enter my head. Sometimes I just sit in them; drown in them.

I knew I needed help, so last week I fumbled through making an appointment with my new bishop. Nice man. Knows nothing about addiction. And I'm still not sure what he thinks about me. I feel like I completely over-shared with him (even though logically, I really didn't) and I'm still suffering from a major vulnerability hangover from that meeting.

But, the one major good thing that came out of it is I feel like I have, once again, found my recovery footing. I have been deliberate in my battle to manage my thoughts since meeting with him (that's 9 days). And except for a 10 second lapse in judgement a couple of days ago, they have remained clean.

Now, that is not to say there haven't been many knocks at the door from thoughts that wished to enter, but besides the 10 second lapse, none have gained entrance.

So even through the somewhat minor struggles...
I am doing pretty good.
And I am doing pretty good, because God is good.

Tomorrow is a new day... and on that note, I'll end with an awesome meme I ran across today:

Amen to that!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Call for Input: Codependency in Addiction

Hi Folks! I know I know, long time no hear. Life has been so incredibly busy these past couple months. We moved out of our place in Orem, Utah and then I spent the next month gallivanting around the Western United States with my kids visiting friends and family. And then, when we finally returned, we promptly moved to Price, Utah.

I'll blog more about the move and my emotions that have manifested since being here, but for now, I have a specific request.

We are currently writing a section on codependency for the Healing Through Christ Sexual Addiction Workbook, and we are looking for shares regarding codependency in addiction.

So I ask those who struggle with addiction:

What codependent behavior have your recognized in yourself since starting recovery?
How has your codependency manifested?
Who has it manifested with?
Who/what have you tried to control?
Who/what have you blamed your addiction on?
How have you played the victim card?

Feel free to answer what you relates to you and what you feel comfortable with. And thank you in advance to your contribution to the Healing Through Christ manual that is being written for those trapped in sexual addiction!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Get my book today, for FREE!!!!

It is pioneer day today, and in celebration of the pioneering movement of sexual addiction awareness, I am offering my book for free.Tell everyone! Your friends, family, and/or ecclesiastical leaders! Link it to everyone you know that would benefit from an amazing story of rescue and hope, someone who may be struggling with sexual addiction themselves, or someone who might be working with someone struggling with sexual addiction. My goal is to spread awareness and hope, and give voice to a commonly mis-labeled disease. The more books that get out there, the more hope spread!

Remember, the promotion is TODAY ONLY!! So don't wait!

And, if you are willing, please share on your Facebook walls and forward via email. My goal is to give away 100 books today!  I'm already at 21 so lets keep the ball rolling!

Click HERE to get your copy now!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Learning From the Sin I Commit

I attended my mom's ward this past Sunday, in my hometown. I have so many wonderful memories in this town and in this ward. It's that type of town where you visit twenty years later and all the same people are still there, just with a few additional gray hairs.

It's a feel good town and I am wholly in love with it.


During the Sunday School lesson, a statement was made by the instructor which caused a great deal of defensiveness to bubble up within me. I refrained from verbally responding to her comment because I wasn't exactly sure what the source of my defensiveness was, and I wanted to chew on it for a while and process what was said before drawing any conclusions.

Unfortunately, I don't remember what the actual lesson was on. My four year oldwho refused to go to primarydrew most of my attention, so I simply did my best to pick up bits and pieces here and there.

But the comment that was made struck me like no other throughout the entire lesson. I don't remember her exact words, so I am paraphrasing; and I acknowledge that my paraphrasing may be muddied with an imperfect perspective.

She remarked:
"Members of the church sometimes say that they are grateful for their trials in which they have sinned, because they could not have learned the principles they learned from them any other way. But they are wrong of course, because we can learn those same principles without sinning."
Maybe I was defensive to the tone in her voice that I perceived.
Maybe I didn't perceive it.

Regardless of perception, I have concluded a number things after pondering on what was said...

There is never a time that it is NOT okay to be grateful for our trials.
For them, and in them.
President Uchtdorf has confirmed as much.

We have been placed here to learn.
We have opportunity to learn from making mistakes.
The mistakes we make are often sin.
We learn from the sin.
We get better.
God's simple plan.

I suppose it is possible that I could have learned the principles and truths that I have learned from sin some other way, but I feel that I would not have learned them at the depth in which I did. I know that I would not appreciate the Atonement, and the light of my loving Savior as I do if I did not feel the personal touch of His outreached hand as He pulled me from the pit of everlasting despair I was bound in.

I feel as Alma the Younger did as he exclaimed;
"Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding was my pain!"
Although I may have been able to learn what I have learned another way, I am grateful that I learned it the way that I did. I wouldn't give my experiences back. Too many ripples have been created in the course of my spiritual journey to wish otherwise.

I am both grateful for what I have learned and the way that I have learned it.

So no, I do not seek to commit sin just so that I can learn from it.
But I do seek to learn from the sin I do commit.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Presenting at The Togetherness Project

Hello my friends, I am honored to have been invited to present at the next Togetherness Project. 

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Little Place

"Father, Where shall I work today?"
And my loved flowed warm and free
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, "tend that for me."

I answered quickly, "Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me."

And the word he spoke, it was not stern;
"Art thou working for them or me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.

- Author Unknown

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"You're Doing Just Fine"

This is a guest post, written by a beautiful friend of mine. I recently heard her share this story and felt compelled to ask her if she would be willing to share it on my blog. She graciously agreed.

I think it would be great if Elder Perry were able to hear the follow-up to this brief moment he shared with my dear friend, so if any of you actually know Elder Perry (or have less degrees of separation from him than I do), feel free to pass this on to him.


Just a few short years ago, I was a total mess. 

Years of physical and emotional abuse
at the hands of members of my familyhad sent me running from them, and my Savior, straight into the arms of a young man who took advantage of my insecurity. 

I hated myself and I hated my family.
So much so, that I attempted to take my own life. 

Satan had me convinced that even my Father in Heaven hated me, and that I was a waste of time and space. 

Around this time, my parents decided that it would be a good idea to go to the Martin Harris pageant. I wasn't at all interested in going, but my protests fell on deaf ears, and they refused to take no for an answer. 

I sat on an uncomfortable metal bench, waiting for the pageant to begin. Busy playing with my cell phone, I barely noticed the buzz making its way through the crowd. I glanced up and saw numerous people jumping to their feet. I was totally confused until I saw a man whom I'd only seen on TV. 

Elder L. Tom Perry...

I slowly stood and watched him make his way to his seat. I then noticed people beginning to line up to meet the towering member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 

Before I knew it, my younger sister asked me to go with her to see him. 

Fear gripped me. 
I did not want to go.
I felt unworthy and ashamed to be in his presence due to my past sexual sins. 

But, again, my parents made it clear that I was to go anyway. 

I stood in line, heart pounding as as I got closer to Elder Perry, this stout man of God. 
The temptation to run was intense, however, my time finally came and I approached him with timid steps. 

He smiled at me and extended his hand. I hesitantly took it and chanced a brief glance at his eyes. I saw and felt an intensity there that I had never experienced before. It was like he could read my very soul. I did not feel judgement or scrutiny as I expected but, instead, I felt an indescribable wave of love envelop me. 

He seemed to sense my hesitation. And so he leaned in a little closer and squeezed my hand a little tighter, and said;

"You're doing just fine." 

My eyes welled up with tears as I smiled my first real smile in months. I felt an immense weight lift from my chest as I posed for a picture with him and my sister. 

I turned to him, with gratitude in my heart, and said, "Thank you so much." 
He smiled and said, "No, thank you. Your Father in Heaven loves you." 

That very moment proved to be a huge turning point in my life. Elder Perry's words helped me find the courage to meet with my bishop and begin working through my sexual sins. I also began to heal from the many years of abuse that I had endured. 

I am so thankful that I was able to meet one of Heavenly Father's most choice servants; that he told me exactly what I needed to hear, in the very moment I needed to hear it. I don't think I would be where, or who, I am today without this experience. 

I know that God has a plan for me.
I know that He loves me.

And, I feel so blessed to have that knowledge.

~ Anonymous ~

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"