Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest Post

I’ve never written a blog before and do not know where to start.   My husband had been encouraging me for some time to write a guest blog and perhaps read his blogs.  Unfortunately, I picked a time to read his blogs when I was feeling down and upset.  As I read, I felt like a scab had been peeled away and instead of revealing fresh, newly healed skin; it pulled tender flesh away and left it deeper and bleeding profusely.  It was at this time, that I lashed out at the man I love more than anything in the world. 

On March 18th he wrote, “I'm writing to let you know that I'm still in the fight.  I've been knocked down.  I'm bloody.  I'm tired.  I'm staggering a little, but I'm back up off the mat.”  I then proceeded to knock him down again, and this time he’s still trying to find his feet.  I only hope that he can forgive me for my insecurities and weaknesses. 

My husband and so many other righteous men are truly white knights.  They are fighting a battle to the death and Satan is afraid of losing.  Satan doesn’t fight fair; he uses weapons of mass destruction and small thin rapiers.  Pornography is akin to chemical warfare and has the power to destroy families.  My husband was on the lookout for this, but when I twisted history and used bitter words, they were like a knife straight to the heart. 

I wish I was the wonderful wife that he thinks I am.  My goal for this life is to be as loving, and serving, and forgiving and Christ-like as my husband already is.  I wish you all the best as you continue to fight this battle; either as a warrior, or the ground support personnel.  God bless you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Fight

I'm writing to let you know that I'm still in the fight.

I've been knocked down.  I'm bloody.  I'm tired.  I'm staggering a little, but I'm back up off the mat.

A consequence of relapse is having to detox again.  It sucks, simply put.

My interview with the bishop went well.  He is patient and understanding.  He is interested in what I have been learning about addiction and addiction recovery.

My SA meeting last night was interesting.  Someone with over a year of sobriety lost it this past week.  He was upset, to put it mildly.  Not verbally so.  Barely said anything.  Looked a lot like I feel. 

My sponsor told me that relapses aren't a part of recovery.  I knew that, of course, hypothetically.  Still want to believe that I will have learned something from it, though.  Something that will help me prevent another slip. 

It's an awful transition, to go from a place of sweet surrender to a place where I'm battling from moment to moment. 

This week I'm determined to make calls daily.  I need to read recovery lit. daily.  I need to journal daily.  I need to inventory daily.  I need to read scriptures daily.  There are a lot of things I need to do daily.  It's harder when you don't want to do any of it. 

And then there's the danger of thinking that by doing all of those things, I am saving myself.  It can just be self-effort.  Self effort without surrender is precisely what brought me to this point.  Surrender without following the plan won't work either.  I've gotta do both.  Consistently.  I need to be concerned with pleasing my Savior more than myself.

I cannot indulge the temptation to take lust hits if I want to be free of the misery.  Not even from my wife.  Not even in the most innocent (to the outward observer)of ways. She can be very willing to appease me, bless her heart.  I love her very much.  She doesn't get all of this.  Heck, I don't know if I really want her to. 

Triggers stink.  And now the world is suddenly full of them.  It wasn't!  Looking at a blank wall can trigger me!  What happened?

I let it in, and now I don't like it.  It is a guest that has overstayed its' welcome.  I knew it was a bad guest.  Why did I let him through the door? 

But today is a new day, just like each day, what will I do with this one?

God Bless,

Love, Dan

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Uh, Oh.

I'm feeling like Boromir after he tried to grab The Ring from Frodo.  You know, when he came out of his stupor and was distraught that he had betrayed and attacked the one he was sworn to protect.

Or perhaps it was more like Mowgli, entranced by the eyes of the snake.  Now I've been shaken out of it.

I accessed porn yesterday and masturbated (there, I spelled it all the way out) for the first time in 116 days.  I have complicated it for myself by not "finishing" the act.  Kind of anti-climactic, pardon the pun. 

I feel awful.  The addict inside of me is screaming for me to hide it.  After all, it didn't "really" happen, did it?

Then I remember the line from the SA white book,  "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.  Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally  incapable of being honest with themselves."

That's been one of my big struggles, like all other addicts.  Kind of doesn't even need to be said, right?  Addicts struggle with honesty. 

But, a few months ago I committed to a certain course.  I knew this day could come.  I just didn't want to believe that it would.  I said that if I should slip, that I would confess it to you, my wife, the bishop, and my sponsor within 24 hours.  The bishop could be tough, but I'll see him on Sunday, at the latest.

This is where "the rubber meets the road."  This is where I see whether or not I'll just continue to do what I've always done.  Hide it.

Another thing I've always done is beat myself up really bad afterward.  I don't think that is helpful.  I've got to be nicer to myself.  After all, this is a good thing that I'm doing, isn't it?  So many times I've read about the deep pain that the addict causes his spouse, not so much because he is weak, but because he can't be honest with her.  I don't want to be that guy anymore.  I won't be. 

She instinctively pulled back last night.  A part of her knows.  Maybe not her conscious mind, but some part of her.  I'll tell her in the morning.  I couldn't sleep, it's been bothering me so.  We have a God-ordained spiritual connection.  I feel her pain, she feels mine.  I need to let her know, so that she can see that her instincts are right on. 

I'm in mourning.  It's such a sad thing. 

The up-side is that I had at least 114 lust free days that I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I'm still new to the path of real recovery.  It's painful sometimes.  That's the nature of addiction.  It's painful for me.  It's painful for my loved ones.

I'm learning about the atonement.  I'm learning that lust addiction and the associated sins are just like all of the other sins we commit.  They are always covered by the atonement if we are willing to confess and forsake them.  Not just if we "never do it again", anymore than if we never do any other sin again.  When we are in active rebellion, endeavoring to hide our sins, all of the old sins return.  When we are in honest active repentance, begging for the mercy of our Lord, and showing enough faith in him to do the hard things, all of our sins are covered.  We become white as the driven snow.  I'm feeling the truth of that settle upon my soul as I write this.  Yeah, there are still some tears to dry, but I feel peace starting to enter into my heart, and I know that is the way God communicates with me.  I have Godly sorrow, thank God. 

I'm hoping that this turns into a breakthrough, rather than a relapse.  I think it has the potential. 

Love, Dan

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tender Mercies and Repentance

A tender mercy has happened.  Something that gives me courage to keep fighting the fight.

Two of our own have had a major breakthrough.  Those of you reading the blogs know who I am talking about.  I am just SO happy for them!

I came out publicly because something inside of me told me that I was ready to do so.  There have been many who have done so prematurely and regretted it.  I was warned about it, but felt that I needed to give up some of my anonymity in order to have a greater measure of accountability.  So far, I am glad that I have done so.  All indications lead me to believe that our friend has hit his rock bottom and found that place of surrender that is so critical to a lasting and real recovery.  I rejoice when someone repents!  I rejoice!  I REJOICE!!  This is not a place where we judge.  This is a place where we come to feel safe and express our challenges; a place that we record our struggles and successes so that others coming after us might have an easier time of it.  Hallelujah for our friends!  The wise observer should take note of the goings on in the lives of the participants, and how all of this came about.  Perhaps there are lessons in this that all of us can benefit from.

On more of a personal note.  The past few weeks have been ones of great things for me as I have welcomed home a son from his mission in Brazil.  The challenge was in going for three weeks without a meeting.  Brazil can be a triggery place for sure, even if one avoids all of the typical danger zones, which we did, by the way.

This past Sunday I was on my way to my SA meeting, 1 1/2 hours away, when I realized that I was about out of gas and that I didn't have my wallet.  Ugghh!  I found a few dollars in the car and put enough gas in the tank to get me home.  I had to call my sponsor and tell him that I wasn't going to make the meeting for the third week in a row.  I have felt the absence.  I have not re-lapsed.  I am on day 114 of recovery, but have felt a little bit of stagnation, which most of us recognize as a loss of traction, backsliding, if you will. 

This is what I think I have learned.  One, I need my mtgs.  Two, the character of lust that I struggle with has changed as my recovery has deepened.  I used to struggle with inappropriate web-sites, and with out and out lusting, mentally undressing a woman etc.  I have found that now I don't have to go that far to give myself trouble; in other words to feel a loss of the Spirit.

In Sunday School this week, someone made the comment that the Spirit could be thought of as a continuous radio broadcast.  It's always there.  It's just whether or not we tune into it.  Thinking about looking at something that might give me trouble, for example, thinking about looking at a "People" magazine, is all it takes to spin that tuning dial away from the station carrying the Spirit's broadcast.  I don't actually have to look at that magazine.  I don't have to mentally undress anyone.  Just looking, in any way other than charitably, spins my dial.  For months I haven't done that at all.  For a few weeks I've been struggling with it.  That's all I've been struggling with, but it's enough, and I want to change that, pronto. 

Today I have read some blog posts that are really helping me to regain that desire to surrender my imperfect thoughts completely.  It's a worthwhile goal!  Time to stop kicking against the pricks!

So let me express my gratitude to all of the bloggers!!  Addicts, and spouses of addicts, in success and in your deepest despair, thank you so, SO much for sharing with us! Without you, recovery would be so much harder.

Love, Dan 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

We're All Special! Nobody is Special.

Hi friends, I'm back from Brazil.  I had an amazing, awesome trip and experience getting to know Brazil and its' people and those who were touched so much by the efforts of my son.  I'll write more about that a little later.

I miss Brazil terribly, it was so great! But I am happy to be back to the recovery scene.  It is clear to me that to maintain recovery, I must stay focused on the task.  For two weeks I had no blogs or blog reading, and no recovery meetings or phone contact with other recovering addicts.  I survived it, but there was some white-knuckling involved.  Just coming back to the blogs has got my head back in the right place.  There are lots of attractive people in Brazil, who wear less clothing than we do here!  I don't fault them for it.  It's hot down there in Recife!  Thankfully, there is a very active church scene, including a temple there.

Today my thinking turns to how special we are in the sight of God, and yet, how nobody is special.

In Mathew 7: 9-11 it says "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask?"  Each of us is a child of God, treasured and loved by our heavenly parents.  He stands ready and willing to give us the good gifts that we seek.

On the other hand, In D&C 1: 31 it says "For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance."  Then, in the same vein we have Alma counseling his son, Corianton, in Alma 42: 30 "Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his longsuffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility."

For the past two weeks I have marveled at the blessings of the Gospel in the life of my family.  I met person after person who thanked me, very sincerely, for sending my son to Brazil.  I met three couples who were sealed in the temple as a result of his efforts.  I met several other people that he had baptized or taught, who were later baptized by others.  I met several who were re-activated, one of whom we found out had just received her endowment in the temple the day that we came to visit.  My son had been out of that area for a year.  What a special surprise!  A lot of people cried when we left.  And yet, in the middle of all of that blessing, if I let my eyes linger a little longer on something, or someone, or some part of someone, than I should have, I could feel the Spirit slipping away.  That saddened me.  No special privileges just because I'm in a foreign country with so many new things to see and experience!  No exceptions just because I'm out of my normal circle of support!  I realize how desperately I need the fellowship of others in recovery to help me keep my spiritual balance. 

Having made this confession, let me say that I did not think any really gross thoughts or lust in the sense that is typically thought of.  I did not act out.  One doesn't need to go that far to begin to lose the Spirit!  All it takes is letting my thoughts "appreciate" a person's beauty a little longer than I should.  A second look.   Pick up a book or magazine that "might" have something inappropriate and "poof", just like that, the Spirit leaves, even if I never see anything.  Lust is cunning, baffling, and powerful.  The Spirit is easily offended, and makes no exceptions.

Thankfully, there is repentance.  Often I am amazed at how quickly I can re-gain the companionship of the Spirit if I get down humbly and sincerely on my knees and re-commit!  If we ask for bread, will he give us a stone?  Nope.  He loves us.  He wants us to succeed.  It's not a set-up, intended to lead us to failure.  It is consistent love, perfectly applied.  We are special!  And yet, nobody is special.

Lots of love, Dan


Friday, February 15, 2013

Brazilian odyssey

A long-anticipated day has finally arrived.  Tonight I board a plane heading for Recife Brazil, where my middle son is finishing up his mission.

The trip will be a long one.  I leave tonight (Friday) at 10:30 P.M. and won't arrive in Recife until Sunday afternoon, more than 33 hrs. of travel.   

In 1983 and 1984 I served my own mission to Paraguay, which has a border with Brazil.  At that time I was able to visit Brazil on P-days, while serving in one of my areas.  We were allowed to go visit the Iguazu falls and the close-by areas, and were exposed to Portuguese, which intrigued me, because it is in many ways similar to Spanish.  I've always wanted to go back to Brazil, and so now that the chance has come, I'm taking it.

The Mission President was excited for me and was very welcoming.  A member family has generously offered to let my son and I stay with them for the week that we'll be there together.  I will be his missionary companion during that time. 

I expect the whole week to be taken up visiting families and investigators that he has come to know while serving there.  I have been studying Portuguese for the past year so that I will be somewhat able to communicate and share my testimony.  I will finish reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese today. 

I expect it to be a week of rejoicing and blessing.  I am not interested in touristy stuff.  I care about people, and I want to get to know as many of them as possible. 

At some point in the next couple of weeks, I expect that we will have some good serious discussions about the hard things.  The things I've learned.  Where I'm at.  The dangers, and the traps, and the hope that I have for myself and for him.  I hope that by doing so I can help to spare him from some of the misery and suffering that I've been through, and that I've put others through.

So, dear friends, you will probably not be hearing much, if anything, from me for the next two weeks or so.  I expect to keep my bottom planted firmly to the seat of the wagon during that time, and I'll fill you in when I get back!

Love, Dan  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Accomplishment and Self Abuse

Today was my 90th day clean mark.  I am thankful to have been able to attend my SA meeting and to be able to celebrate this moment in genuine recovery, with recovery to me meaning no sexual acting out, no masturbation, no viewing of pornography of any sort, and no lustful thinking.  Most people view their sexual sobriety date in terms of only the first three things.  I do too.   Nevertheless I think it significant to acknowledge that without that last listed item, I do not consider myself to be in full recovery.

I attribute my success in the program thus far to the grace of God in helping me come to a place of complete vulnerability, where I am willing to acknowledge my absolute powerlessness over lust, yet giving me the faith to trust in his ability and willingness to remove it from me. 

I have also learned how to use some tools to short circuit the lust cycle, preventing lust from ever being spawned in my head.  Mainly, that means cutting negative thinking off at the ankles.  Any apathy or unsettled thoughts are dealt with promptly by a phone call to a sponsor, by communication, by prayer, by wholesome and uplifting music, by scripture study or by diversion of some other sort.  I have learned the value of regular 12 step meetings, of openness, vulnerabilty, honesty and the companionship of others in the fight.  I am working the steps.

On Wednesday of this coming week I hope to be able to attend a PASG meeting, my first in years.  My schedule has not allowed it.  Today I was released from a calling that required my presence on that night, thus freeing me up to attend.  It's still a ninety minutes one way drive, nevertheless I am excited that now I will be able to attend two meetings weekly, with two slightly different takes on the same topic. 

I remember when I was younger, sort of mocking the term self-abuse.   That is how masturbation was defined in some circles.  "How is it abuse?"  I thought.  I knew it wasn't a good thing.  I knew it was sinful.  It just didn't seem like, I don't know, chopping off finger tips or something.  I remember reading that 90% of boys admitted to doing it, and the rest lied about it.  So what was so abusive about that?  In the church my guess is something more like 30% percent of the boys admit doing it, 40% lie about it, and 30% have it under control.  Now please don't think badly of me because of  my guesstimates.  They are just guesses based on my own, admittedly biased experience, which may or may not be way off base.  But I've had a lot of time to observe human behavior, both at church and at the clinic.  I know a lot more stuff goes on than most people are willing to acknowledge.  It's easy to start justifying myself.  It's normal.  Where's the harm in it?  It's just fantasy, right?

Well, no.  I don't think so.

Look at it this way.  What is God-ordained sex?  I've come to view it as a sacrament.  A God-sanctioned joining of two married humans of opposite gender that were designed from the beginning to complement one another, and  who could come together to complete a divine circle of unity and completeness.  In a way, they are also united with the divine in this act.

Now consider sex with self.  A single individual attempting, and failing because it is impossible by oneself, to find some sort of communion with images on a screen or imaginations in the mind, attempting to share himself in a way that makes no sense from a true sexual standpoint.  Not only does he not find the looked-for communion, he ends up fracturing his persona into two parts, the part that still desires a lawful communion, and the part that has lusted and wants to protect his ability to continue to lust, thus splitting himself, rather than joining.  A division, rather than a communion.  Destruction of self rather than a complementing of self.  And then there's the alienation from God.

So what do I think now of masturbation?  Self abuse, my friends.  Cruel and destructive, the antithesis of self love.

I am coming to view any sexual act that does not promote unity in marriage, and which doesn't strengthen my relationship with God to be unholy and destructive.  Pretty simple really!

May our communion with our spouses be forever strengthened.  May our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ also be fortified.  May we be susceptible to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.

One day at a time.

Love, Dan