Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Next Best Thing

Most of us are familiar with the phrase 'the next best thing'. A generally negative phrase, it sounds as iif we are losing out. As though If we can't get the actual best thing, we have to settle for the next best thing.

But in recovery, the next best thing actually means something entirely different  
Something beautiful.
Something hopeful.
Something progressive.

There are so many times in our addiction that we get stuck in a rut. Whether it be acting out, stinkin' thinkin', denial, or any other form of addictive behavior. It can feel so hopeless, like we can't get anything right or ever change.

We might think; 'I have to start somewhere', yet have no idea where 'somewhere' actually is. 

The thing is, 'the next best thing' is where we start.

It occurred to me the other day...

I was having a pretty blah day and didn't feel like the greatest human being. 

My house was a mess. 
I'd been impatient and snappy with my children. 
I didn't get much work done, and I felt pretty low.

But as I lay in bed at the end of the day, I looked to my left and saw my scriptures. And I thought; 'the next decision I make is how I start. I just have to choose the next best thing that I can do for myself.'

It really is that simple. 

A Rigid Hag?

This is a difficult post for me to write. It's vulnerable. It's raw. It's real. And it's honest. But sometimes I don't like to be those things about this particular topic, because I feel like there are so many opinions out there that just want to 'fix' me. And I'm just not sure I want to be, am ready to be, or even need to be said 'fixed.'

This is another intimacy post about my marriage, so if that is of no interest to you, no hard feelings.

The thing is, although my husband is now doing really well, there were a great many years that he sexually and emotionally acted out in his addiction on me. And although we have both begun a beautiful journey of healing from that trauma, there are still things I don't feel safe with.

I don't feel safe when he touches me, especially when he touches me with his hands.
I do feel safe when he hugs me, but only from the front, not from behind.
I don't feel safe when we lay in bed and his leg, hand, arm, or anything else, bumps against me.
I don't feel safe when his hand is laying on the blanket next to me, but I can feel the resultant push from the blanket into me.

It is really difficult for me to feel physically safe around him.

That is not to say that we don't have sexual intimacy. As explained in my previous blog post , we aren't perfect in that category, but we are progressing. 

The problem comes when sexual intimacy ends, I just want it to end. I don't want to get lovey dovey or touchy feely. I just want to go on with life until the next time we connect on that level.

How horrible does that sound? Really, I feel horrible for saying it, but it's my reality.
And I feel the weight of obligation, like there is something defective about it and it's my responsibility to somehow fix myself.

I have been conditioned to know what physical touch leads to sexual touch. So, I avoid physical touch to avoid the foreboding sexual tough that I perceive will follow.
I really don't know if it WILL follow.
He often promises me it won't.
Believing him is hard.
But what if it's not just that. 
What if I just don't want to be touched?
Is that not OK? Is that not my right?

What if I don't want to be fixed?
What if I don't want to be touched in that way, ever?
What if I want to keep the two full sized beds we bought when we separated, instead of buying one king?
I don't mind then smashed together to make one giant bed, so long as he understands they are still separate beds and I need him to respect my space.

And now I feel the weight of disappointment.
Disappointing him, because I know what he wants.
And I think what he wants is righteous and good.

He wants to be physical.
Hold my hand
Snuggle
cuddle.

He wants it all..... but I want none of it.
And I don't know if I'll ever want it.
So what does that make me? 

A rigid hag?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear Stake President: You Told Me Otherwise

Dear Stake President,

I have kept these thoughts and feelings to myself for quite some time, for sometimes when one is so hurt by another's comments, they tend to go into hiding, like limping off to lick their wounds.

That is exactly what I did.

It's been months since I have spoken to you. I've seen you a few times at various church functions, but always from a distance. I still don't know what I would do if I came face to face with you. I think I have forgiven you, but I'm really not sure. I can't tell if it's true forgiveness or if the wound has just scabbed over.

I'm not sure I'll really know unless we talk again.
I'm not sure we'll ever talk again.

I do know this, however.
I don't trust you.
Not one bit.
I don't think I will ever trust you again.
And I am confident that trust is not the same thing as forgiveness, so there is no conflict there.

The things you said to me in your office were not only unexpected, but completely inappropriate. I was there, simply to share with you a struggle that my husband and I had faced the previous week. I actually didn't really need to meet with you, but I'd already made the appointment with you on the advice of my bishop whom I'd visited in the thick of it all. But I was worried that if I canceled, you'd be worried. And so I wanted to come in, even if just to reassure you that all was well in the world again.

Our meeting started off well enough. Because I'd previously worked with you, I'd already established a pretty strong link of trust. I was happy to see you again and you, me. We chitchatted for a bit and then I spoke of why I was there.

Toward the end of my recount of the week's events, you asked me how my husband was doing. I replied honestly, saying I felt he was distant. Strangely, you then asked how our sexual intimacy was fairing. I was taken aback by the question, but answered honestly anyway. I shared that considering the struggle I have with my own sexual addiction and striving to heal from the sexual abuse at the hand of my husband, things weren't exactly great. I wasn't ready to be sexually intimate. I just wasn't ready to be that vulnerable yet, but things were progressing, even if slowly.

We sat a moment in silence as I felt the energy in the room completely shift from light and carefree to... something else.

Then you said it.

You looked me square in the eye and told me it's my responsibility to have sex with my husband. You told me that if I didn't, he would eventually stray, because men need sex.

Horror washed over me.

Everything felt so surreal, like I was in a dream, because I couldn't believe that my Stake President, the man that I'd already established so much trust in, this man of God that holds keys for me and is supposed to receive revelation for me, would actually be saying these things.

I repeated several times in my head; "Is he really saying what I think he's saying?"

And I still couldn't believe it. So I asked; "So you're saying it's my job to service my husband?"

You hummed and hawed about the terminology, but in the end, confirmed that yes, it's my job to provide sexual relief for my husband. I sat there in silence, my usual witty responses in just as much shock as I was. So, in order to fill the silence and attempt to satiate the shock on my face, you kept going, and the following conversation ensued;

SP: "It even says it in the church handbook."
Me: "Where? I want to see it. Show me in the church handbook where it says that."
SP: "Well, it says something like that, that one of the purposes of sex is to bring couples closer together."
Me: "I know that one of the purposes of sex is to bring couples closer together, but don't you think after all that I have shared with you that there may be extenuating circumstances in my marriage?" 
SP: "Well, the brethren also mention it in conference talks."
Me: "Really? Who? I want to see that, too."
SP: "Well, they don't just come out and say it. We have to read between the lines."

By this time, a war had begun to rage within me. Part of me was screaming to tell you to shut-up. The other part was telling me you're my Stake President and I need to respect you.

Be quiet. Nod. Agree. Be a good little Latter-day Saint.

Gratefully, through the help of the Spirit, I found a middle ground that, to this day, I am still happy with:

Me:"I'm sorry, but I don't agree. I don't feel God placed us here on this earth to be slave to our sexual drive, but to rely on our Savior in order to rise above it, and master it."

You didn't hear me though. All you seemed interested in was getting me to believe what you believe. So I grabbed my purse, rose, said I couldn't listen to it anymore, and walked out.

Just as I burst out the door, I burst into sobs.
Painful, heaving, racking.

Due to the depths of my sexual addiction, I have felt like a piece of meat for most of my life. Just a body, ripe for the taking for anyone who wants it. Since starting recovery, I have fought these feelings, truly striving to see myself as the beautiful daughter of God that I am. Divinely worthy, and valuable far beyond the function of my body.

And then, somehow, you stripped me of all that work in a matter of moments.

'How COULD you!?'
'How could YOU!?'
'HOW could you!?'
'How could I let you?'

Gratefully, it's easy to not meet with you. People can go their whole lives without meeting with their Stake President, so it won't be difficult to avoid you. But I now find myself reluctant to even meet with my bishop. Rational or not, I fear I cannot trust him; the person I said I'd always have a good working relationship with in order to keep my recovery strong. Worrisome thoughts about him invade my head;

What if you talked to him about what happened?
What if you made me out to be crazy?
What if he takes your side just because you are the Stake President?
What if he believes the same things you do?

As much as I am fighting it, you have managed to instill doubt within me:

'Maybe you are right... simply because you are my Stake President.'

But, you aren't.
I swear it on everything I hold close.
My value does extend farther than the function of my body.
This I know, because my sweet brother, my Savior, has born witness of it.

And I will keep fighting to heal far passed when you told me otherwise.

Sincerely,

A healing daughter of God

(Continued, here.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Message of Hope

A message of hope for women and young women who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and who are struggling with compulsive pornography use or other forms of sexual addiction. To you I say, you are not alone. You are not a freak. You are valuable and loved. Mostly, you are not alone.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sometimes a Lie

I enter the church, sit on the pew and wrestle my kids for an hour.
If I'm lucky, I can sing a hymn uninterrupted.
That doesn't happen all that often.

I walk little man to primary.
I stand at the back because he constantly stares at me, afraid I'll leave.
Sister Stewart asks me how I'm doing.
I tell her I'm good, which is sometimes a lie.
Maybe more times than not.

I meander over to Sunday School.
Sister Johansen greets me with the warmest spirit you could ever imagine.
She asks me how I'm doing, and genuinely wants to know.
But I tell her I'm good, which is sometimes a lie.
I need to be better about that, but I really don't know how.

I quickly walk to Relief Society to get seated first.
I want to avoid the awkwardness of looking for a seat among perceived cliques.
Then, when people sit next to me, it's because they want to, not because they have to.
They, too, ask me how I'm doing.
I tell them I'm good, which is sometimes a lie.

Sometimes I feel lonely at church.
Even among the hustle and bustle of leaders, neighbors and friends.
Sometimes I wish people could see me.
I wish that I felt safe to share me.
The real me.

I'm active in church and in my callings.
I look outside myself for opportunities to serve.
I have faith.
I have hope.
I know God.
I know He knows me.

Yet, still... I struggle.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Because We Are Good Samaritans

I don't pick up hitch hikers. I just don't.

See, I love serial killers. Or, rather, I love studying them. The criminal mind absolutely fascinates me. However, because of my obsession with psychopaths and sociopaths (which are now referred to as having antisocial disorders), I usually think the worst of people.

If I see you in a dark alley, you are a killer.
If you follow me for too long in a car, you are a killer.
If you are parked by yourself in a parking lot, you are a killer.

You get the idea. I just get paranoid. And for that reason, I don't pick up hitch hikers.

Until two days ago, when I broke my own rule.

My older two boys are in Texas with grandma, so Tim and I decided to pile in the car with the youngest and the dog, and take the hour and a half long trip to Arches National Park. We'd never been before and were really excited for our spontaneous adventure.

The drive was beautiful. The sun was shining, the weather was clear, and the air warm. Life was good. For us, anyway. For on the other side of the road, we passed at least three drivers stranded with bum vehicles. It was about the time we passed the third driver that I heard the nudge.

You need to help someone on the side of the road on the way back.

And before I could stop myself, I let the idea settle in and I quickly reiterated it, out loud, to Tim; "If we run into anyone on the way back that needs help, I think we should stop and help them."

He nodded and agreed.

We made it to Arches in no time, toured the park, got out, hiked a bit, took lots of pictures, ate some snacks on a giant rock, watered the dog, and got back on the road about 7:30.

We'd made it about 5 miles past Moab when we saw her.
Yes, her.
A woman.
Hitchhiking.

I...freaked...out...

"Oh my gosh!! That's a woman hitchhiking! We have to stop!"

And I started to pull over.

But see, Tim is a good man. And, because he loves me, he watches my murder shows with me sometimes, and listens to all the fascinating things I learn about the criminal mind. And, as a result, it has left him somewhat damaged and scarred  paranoid as well.

So he countered my freak out with a bit of a freak out of his own...

"No!! I don't want to pick anyone up! What if they're a murderer!"

"But she's a woman!"

Our banter went back and forth for another 15 miles or so. I wouldn't say we argued or fought about it, but I can say we were both very set in the way we felt. I do want to mention that even though I was adamant about picking her up, I still had empathy for the way Tim felt. It's his job to protect his family, and we did have the little man with us. So even though I felt strongly about stopping, there was still significant risk involved.

We drove on for a bit, tension in the air. Thoughts began to fill my mind, and so I asked, somewhat rhetorically, but mostly not; "Are we good Samaritans? Do we just pass by the person on the road that needs help, or do we stop and give aid?"

The car was quiet for a bit as the miles piled behind us, and then the silence broke; "Turn around, go pick her up."... "Are you sure?" ... "Yes, just do it."

And so I did.

Meet Hue...

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And the facebook post I published on facebook, just in case.

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(And yes I spelled her name incorrectly in the Facebook post)

But, she wasn't a killer...

In fact, The first thing she asked for was water.
She was just thirsty.
And hungry.
So we stopped and got her some food.
Because we are good Samaritans.

And then we started to think ahead, to her destination. She had been hitchhiking all the way from Arizona, and her final destination was to reach some of her cousins in Salt Lake City. We, of course, were only going as far as Price, two hours short of Salt Lake.

Which meant, of course, that she'd have to hitchhike through the canyon.
At night.
In the dark.
With the killers.

I couldn't.
I couldn't let her.
So, I didn't.

When we got to Price, we filled the gas tank, dropped Tim and little man off at home, and I drove her to Salt Lake.

Here is the truly special part. She told me that just prior to picking her up, a Sheriff's officer had stopped to talk to her. He gave her some water, but wasn't allowed to give her a ride. So she kept walking. Desparate, she began to pray; "Please God, help me. Please send someone to help me. I really need help." And it was at that very moment that we pulled up.

God knew she was going to need help.
God knew that we were going to be there to help.
God asked us to help.
So we did.
Because we are good Samaritans.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Feeling Through the Veil

Sometimes I wish I was home, with God. That this life was over and I was free from pain, temptation, impatience, physical ailments and all other infirmity.

Sometimes I think about how much longer I have to go. That if I live to the ripe old age of 80, I'm only half way there.

Sometimes, that seems like FOR-EV-ER.

But then, sometimes, God stills my heart by allowing me to feel through the veil.

I had such an experience tonight as I read through the Healing Through Christ step on the true nature of God. As I read the step, God literally allowed me to feel His nature.

It was as if time didn't exist and I felt as if I was going to be with Him tomorrow. That's not to say that I will actually pass through the veil tomorrow, but I felt His promise; "This shall be but a small moment."

I felt the Lord reach for me, and instill in me the knowledge that He desires me home with Him, just as much, or more, as I want to be with home with Him.

I felt Him wrap around me.
And I let Him.

Monday, April 27, 2015

By the Light of Grace - GoFundMe Book Fund

Hey all!

I'm working to raise funds to publish my Kindle book, By the Light of Grace, in hardcopy format. Your donation, however small, is significant to me, for it is a simple way to help wage this war on addiction. All donations $50 or over will receive a free autographed copy of the book. Thank you so much in advance!

Click here to donate!! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Father

I was struck by something very profound by a friend of mine as she shared her testimony from the pulpit this month.

She said...

Heavenly Father is magnificent.
He is alpha and omega.
He is royalty.

He could choose many different titles to reflect His position...

King
Highness
Majesty

(to name only a few)

But the title He most often chooses is that of 'Father.'

He is tender, loving, kind, and compassionate because we are his children.

He loves us, each one. Wholeheartedly and unabashedly.

Because, He is our Father.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Pray


I was recently privy to a conversation that took place in which a number of people were discussing the proper way to pray. I heard many a 'thee' 'thus' and 'thou' in the conversation, as well as instruction that we should not speak to Heavenly Father as we speak to our peers because He is royalty.

I don't quite agree...

Yes, I believe that there is a time and a place for proper prayer etiquette; family prayer, sacrament prayer, and really any public prayer in which we are not only praying on behalf of ourselves, but others as well. However, I truly believe that such level of propriety is not required in our personal prayer.

Here is what I know about my God...

He wants to hear me.
That's it.
He simply wants to hear me.

I don't pray as if He is on a giant throne and I am bowing in front of Him, ten steps below.
No, I pray as if He is sitting right next to me.
His big burly loving arm around me.
My head resting on His shoulder.
My tears falling on His robe.

I don't worry about propriety or etiquette.
I don't worry about sounding or looking pretty.

I just pray; raw and vulnerable, much like this song by Kelly Clarkson:

Irvine


Whether we confidently pray to Him out loud, whisper silent prayers to Him deep within our hearts, or write Him letters and read them out loud to Him... It is no matter.

He cherishes all of it, for He loves us, and simply wants to hear us.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Same Sex Attraction is Not 'Wrong'

I had an experience today that really offended me, and I'm struggling to release the resulting anger.

It happened in the second hour of my church block; Sunday School. We were discussing the beatitudes, as well as the new laws the Savior delivered to replace the law of Moses, when we came to the following verse:

Matthew 5:28:
But I say unto you, That whosever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 
Knowing that so many struggle with the concept of lust, and what it really means, I raised my hand andreferring to the text of the scripturestated (and I quote); "Being triggered or tempted by a woman is not a sin, and does not lust make. It is what we do with that trigger or temptation that can lead to lust."

At the end of my comment I heard a man (who I will henceforth refer to as 'The Man') on the other side of the room half whisper under his breath; "Wow Sister Agla, are you into women?"

And then came the laughter.

Even though it was only a handful of people, who were also within hearing distance of his comment, it was deafening to me.

I flushed a deep hot red as my countenance darkened.
I wanted to run.

My struggle.
My shame.
I thought I was over it.
I thought I'd let it all go.

But his one little comment, followed by the laughter of the crowd, struck incredibly deep.

I wasn't sure if my husband had heard, even though he was sitting right next to me, so as to not call attention to myself I reached inside my purse and quickly sent him a text asking such. He confirmed that he'd heard it and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry."

It felt good to be validated.

When the meeting ended, I rushed out to avoid facing The Man. He'd repeated "I was just kidding" a few times after his comment, in what I assume was an effort to minimize what he'd said, and I wasn't about to satiate his desire to get me to agree with, or even applaud that effort.

Obviously, I was in a very rough, sensitive and vulnerable place.

After church, my husband let me know that he felt he needed to talk to The Man, so he stopped him in the hall after church. He didn't get mad or blame, but simply desired to shed some light on my perspective. He said; "there is no way you could know this, but my wife works with many women who struggle with same sex attraction, so she is very sensitive to the topic." The Man responded positively at first, stating; "Oh I didn't know that. I didn't mean anything by it," but then quickly rationalized by saying; "but it is wrong."

My husband's efforts were valiant, and I thank him. Not only did he defend me, but he also kept my confidentiality, for I don't just work with people who struggle with same sex attraction, but I myself struggle with it as well. I wrote about it once before, here.

The fact is, same sex attraction is not wrong.
How we respond to it can lead to wrong doing, but the innate temptation is not wrong.

I am not wrong.
I am not wrong.
I, am not wrong.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"How Did Your Addiction Start?"

If you guys haven't checked out Addo Recovery, please do. They are rockin' the addiction recovery world, So very proud to be working with them on multiple different levels.

Anyhoo...

I recently interviewed with them for their new online TV show, 'Addo TV.' The interview has been produced in segments...

One of which, is below:

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Progression of Sorts (draft 1)

Once surrounded by darkness, now an ember of light
Hopeless, once was, a future now bright

A progression of sorts, her journey has been
Striving not for perfection, but for courage to reign

Fear, once easy, her weakened heart to grasp
Vulnerability and compassion, true virtues at last

The battle, forever, for her happiness, her soul
Forever facing forward, eternity her goal

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Impurity

Fifty Shades of Grey has become somewhat of an epidemic; threatening to destroy what little innocence remains in this world. 

I will preface this post by acknowledging that I have never read the book, nor ever will. The same, of which, applies to the film being released on Valentines Day (of all days). 

The spread of such nightmarish spiritual toxicity reminds me of an experience I had a while back. I was sitting in my 12-step group listening to a woman expressing how she wished she could handle "touching the gray like normal people." Her statement struck me, not as funny, but as worrisome. It led me to deeply ponder the concept of light and dark, and the resulting 'gray' when the two become blended.

What do I mean by 'touching gray?' Well let's first examine what the word actually means.


gray: adjectivegrayer, grayest.
  1. of a color between white and black; having a neutral hue
  2. dull, dreary, or monotonous
  3. of a neutral tone, intermediate between black and white, that has no hue and reflects and transmits only a little light.
  4. dismal or dark, especially from lack of light; gloomy
On one end of the gray spectrum we have white, or light, which is clean and unstained from the blackness of the world; purely untainted from sin. It represents the pure Light of Christ and everything that is virtuous and of grace.  

On the opposite end we have black, or dark, which represents the inky blackness and impurity of the world. It represents the ultimate culmination of sin and defiant abandon into the grasp of the dark one's grasp.  

Our goal in this life is to actively strive to get as close to the white as possible. Of course, perfect whiteness or perfect purity will never happen in this lifetime, but our God given gift of agency allows us the opportunity to choose to get as close to white as possible. Gratefully, so long as we persevere toward such a worthy goal, the Atonement of our Savior cleanses us of all other impurity.

Mixing even the tiniest amount
of black (darkness of Satan) with white (the Light of Christ within us) will surely produce a shade of gray. I venture to say, even one of fifty shades.

So the question is this; Why, when our mortal goal is to be as close to white as possible, would we ever knowingly and willingly mix with dark?

Satan wraps his inky blackness up in a beautiful gift wrapped box; telling us the gift is special, just for us. He makes it enticing and exciting. He uses powerful manipulation so that we will justify and rationalize 'touching gray'.


As easy as it sounds, it is actually quite difficult to give up the things that taint our spirit, and it definitely doesn't happen over night. We simply must come to the point in which the balance shifts. 

Imagine standing in the middle of a teeter totter, our weight evenly distributed, allowing both ends of the devise to hover equally in the air. One side light, one side dark. We need to lean toward the light in order for the weight to shift in that direction. Our desire to be near our Savior must outweigh our desire to be of the world.  

Does Heavenly Father expect perfection? No, and good thing. But He does expect progression
All He wants is for us to continuously strive to do better.  

It really is that simple.

This world is full of darkness that continually threatens to dim our light. However, the Light of Christ can reside in each of us; purifying us from within. 

Let us be spiritual fireflies; allowing our Savior to charge each one of us with His light as we go out into the world providing illumination for others in their dark places. So long as we remain in the presence of our Savior for rescue, refuge and rest, our light will forever burn bright and never be dimmed by even the darkest shade of gray.

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"