Thursday, September 22, 2016

Personal Update

Hello friends,

I just wanted to take a moment to share a personal update for my wife and I. We are so thrilled to report that after 3 years of begging, pleading, and convincing, our area will finally be starting a pornography addiction recovery group. Our first class starts in just 2 weeks.

As I began my personal confession process almost 3 years ago, I knew based on my habits and hungers that seemed to be on auto pilot, that I was not going to be able to beat my addiction with out help. We went to the LDS church addiction recovery website and searched for a class nearby. Unfortunately the closest group to us was an hours drive away. We committed to making the drive every week. At the same time, we asked the stake what the chances are that we could have our own class. After all we lived in a tri stake area and there was nothing for pornography addicts at all.

The request was accepted and agreed with, but with the bureaucratic process being what it is, it either got sidelined or back burnered  for any number of reasons. We never stopped asking though. At least 3 or 4 times a year (probably more) we would suggest again and again the importance and need for the class. Our good stake president wanted to make it happen but was battling some oposing forces from other local stakes.

We never gave up. We continued to drive an hour north every weeks for 3 years time. We, with the bishops permission, started our own little group within our ward for brothers that were struggling but unable to make the weekly drive. With a group of about 4 to 6 brethren, we were able to work the steps and find healing together.

Approaching the 3 year mark of my initial confession, We continued to plead for a local group. Finally the 3 stake presidents were able to agree on the need for the group and informed us that we would be starting one in just a few short weeks.

Be careful what you wish for! Our stake president was only to happy to tell us that not only would we have our own group, but that he would like my wife and I to be the group leaders!.. Honestly not what we were looking to do, but thrilled none the less.

The Moral? Never give up!. Our leaders know this is needed. If you don't have a pornography specific group in your area... then ask... and keep asking. Part of the reason so many areas don't have groups is because the leaders don't know how badly it's needed.

We simply kept sharing the stats and encouraging the stake president to ask his Bishops how many brothers they knew of in their wards that were struggling. The numbers make a very compelling argument.

Here are a few of the stats we shared and a link to many more if your interested.

- 64% of Christian men look at pornography at least once a month. (source: covenanteyes.com statistics).
- there is no evidence to suggest that the numbers are lower inside the mormon church. (Source: rowboats and marbles)
- in fact it seems to go against it. If your a fundamentalist Christian (like a mormon) you are 91% more likely to have a pornography addiction.. (source: covenanteyes.com statistics).
- in Salt Lake Valley the ratio of general addiction to pornography addiction groups is nearly 1 to 1. The church recognizes this is needed. (Lds addiction recover Web site, find a group near you)

For some quick stats go here... http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

To download the complete statistical report (its big, and very detailed) go here. http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornography-facts

Good luck on your quest to get a group started in your area.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dear Addi, Should I Confess?

Dear Addi,

Thank you for your posts. It has helped me a little with what I've been struggling with.

I really need help right now. My heart is broken right now. I just got back from a successful mission and it's been almost three years since the last time I've viewed pornography. I was addicted to porn in my teenage years but was able to resist it a few months before my mission. However, I didn't confess until I arrived in the mission. I had told my mission president that I had a pornography and a masturbation problem. And he asked me to surrender my temple recommend and all that. I have gone through the repentance process with him for months and I have been able to complete a successful mission without viewing pornography.

Back when I was confessing to my mission president, I had thought that I had completed everything that I needed to tell him of. In fact, I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost. However, just recently as I read and pondered your posts, I remembered something that I may have missed something. Back when I was 14, I had written and submitted this fictional story to an online site with sexual stories. I am not sure if it was ever published and I really don't want to go to check it out with the fear that I might trigger myself to reading pornographic materials again.

My question is this: Do I need to confess that to my bishop now? And if I did, would I be excommunicated or disfellowshipped?

I really hope you can help me go through this.

Regards,
James

Dear James,

Thank you so much for writing and sharing your questions with me. I am a bit of a ‘read between the lines’ kinda guy, so forgive me for honing in on certain words or phrases you used in your letter.

The first thing you said is my favorite; “My heart is broken right now.” Oh how I love this statement! This should be the mantra and theme of each of our lives. I think that you intended this to mean you are hurt or saddened or disappointed by your own actions. Which is also good. But when I think of being Broken, I am reminded that this is exactly how our Savior wants us… with a “broken heart,” humbled and ready to receive his help and comfort. So three cheers to you for being broken. That is awesome and no matter how you got there… it's exactly how He needs you! The real trick is staying that way. Our broken hearts have a tendency to heal in ways the Lord did not intend. Sometimes they heal the heal the wrong way. For example,  when I was 10 years old I accidentally put my hand through a small window shattering the glass and slicing a 2 inch cut in my arm. We rushed off to the emergency room where I received stitches. The Dr. told me to leave it alone and covered with the bandage. I followed his counsel at first, but over time, the bandage came off, and then I picked at it, and played with it, the way a 10 year old will do. The stitches began to spread a little. It healed with the stitches spread apart. The result is, that instead of a nice clean scar that is unnoticeable. I have an ugly wide scar... that is obvious and even numb in parts of my arm… all  because I chose not to leave it alone and allow it to heal properly.



Our broken hearts sometimes are not protected and allowed to heal the way the  Savior wants them to. Sometimes we ignore Drs orders and uncover them exposing them to the pollutants in the air. Sometimes we pick at it. Sometimes we pull at the stitches… and sometimes… we're left with some pretty nasty scar tissue. And, as was my case, we even can become numb to feeling the pain any more.
I am not suggesting that the Lord doesn't want us to heal.  I am saying that if we don't follow the exact instructions given us by the master physician, we are likely to heal improperly. And in the case of us porn addicts, that means relapsing, or even worse. Keeping our humble hearts broken provides us one more layer of protection and shows our Heavenly Father that we truly need his continuous healing to keep us safe and strong. But only if we are exact in the way we allow it to heal.

Let me jump ahead to what I believe is the crux of your questions.

1. Do I need to confess? And 2. Will I receive church discipline if I do?

Let me start with 1. As we all know… repentance without confession is not real repentance.  But it sounds to me like you did confess. You shared with your Mission president about your addiction. I realize you did not tell your mission president every nitty gritty detail. I personally am not sure that this one more detail, as you have described it, is far beyond the confession you have made. When I was 10 (a lot happened in my life at 10 years of age apparently) there is a chance I may have borrowed 2 or 3 dollars from my mother’s purse without her knowledge. Now, years later I did confess that I had an issue with “Borrowing” money from time to time, but I did not go back and detail every time and event.  This is because they were all small parts of the whole… the real issue was that I was being dishonest and I needed to repent. The same principle applies when I consider my pornography addiction. I did not walk into the Bishop and detail out every single instance in which I looked at, read, or wrote something inappropriate, I confessed to the problem as a whole and then detailed the most egregious sins. The rest, were just parts of the whole. So do you need to confess this to your Bishop? I don't know, I will leave that to you. If you feel that you have truly put this behind you and have not acted out since long ago, then I think you may be able to consider the matter has been dealt with.   HOWEVER…. Since I know from personal experience that confession is by far the most freeing experience one can go through and is in my estimation, the most important part of the repentance process, if sharing this with your Bishop helps to relieve you of the weight.. then you should absolutely go see him and get this off your chest.

2. Will I receive church Discipline if I go and confess this sin.

Based on your description of this sin alone…. I can with complete confidence say that you will definitely NOT receive any formal discipline.

I think somewhere down the line we, (I include myself in this) as leaders in the church, may have done ourselves and the youth of the church a disservice. In our completely righteous effort to steer the youth away from making critical mistakes, we may have gone too far by demonizing them and the punishment that follows such forms of sin. We spent years teaching the youth to run from the evils of pornograghy or else ‘you will become a slave’ to it, to avoid word of wisdom issues and law of chastity issues because  your soul and your very membership will be at risk. While I agree that we need to avoid these things and  YES, we can become slaves to them… we failed to spend the same amount of time discussing the fact that you will most likely mess up somewhere along the line and you will need to use the atonement and here is the process. Perhaps it was taught to the youth in the proper way, but the youth in their fear only heard… Bad Bad Bad… No No No.. Hell fire… damnation… excommunication…. Is it any wonder that we are afraid to go in and confess? Somehow we missed the most critical element of the atonement …. Love!   Confession takes a broken heart.  If you walk in with a heart broken and a willingness to repent, then no matter what the leader asks of you, it won't matter… you will want to follow through.  That is how we heal our broken hearts the Savior’s way.

Let me put your mind at ease though by sharing a quick story from when I was a Bishop. I had a very good and active brother come in to me after church one day. (I promise this is a true story, your situation reminded me of it). This good brother had been off his mission for over 4 years. He was married with 2 adorable little children. He was serving as ward mission leader and asked to speak with me one day after church. When he came in, I could see he was beyond nervous and obviously uncomfortable. He sat before me and began to share with me that prior to his mission, he had fallen into the trap of (You guessed it) Pornography. He said he had stopped before his mission but had never confessed it. He felt like he had served a successful mission, he felt he had repented, but he had never confessed and so felt like he hadn't finished the process. He was certain that he would lose his recommend or be disfellowshipped.

I asked him, “When was the last time you sought out to view pornography?”. “ Not since before my mission,” came his answer.  “Brother Smith,”  I said, “Your confession process is complete. Please don't let this past sin burden you any longer.” We then talked for a few minutes about how he could avoid falling back into transgression and the importance of not delaying the confession process. Then I excused him back to his beautiful family.

You see, what good would extra discipline have done him at that point? He had already beat himself up for years. He had been chastened and humbled. He had carried the weight of unrepented sins because he simply skipped one step of the process. And now that it was complete… he could move past it.

I believe, if the unconfessed sin is as you described, that a good Bishop will see you with love and recognise the weight from sins past. I can not promise you that he won't ask you to stay away from the sacrament, or to surrender your recommend (though I think it unlikely), but I can tell you with certainty, that you should not even hear the words excommunication or disfellowship mentioned.

I will state again, nothing feels better than confession.  When in doubt, confess. The Lord will always bless you for seeking his forgiveness through the proper channels.

Finally, I want to offer one more reason that you may want to see your Bishop. As you stated above in your letter to me, You have ’Just completed a mission’ so I am guessing you have been home any where from a few weeks to a few months. You also stated that you were able to “resist pornography for a few months” prior to your mission. I see a few red flags here that I think we should try not to over look.

After spending months and even years seeking, hungering and craving after pornography, a few short months of abstinence does not make one a recovered addict. I understand that you did well on your mission and as you put it,  “Even felt the spirit.” However, the mission field is a highly charged spiritual experience and in that atmosphere finding strength to win each day to win is far less daunting. But you are home now and the glow of the mission will eventually begin to fade, and with it, your determination will be tried and tested. The adversary already knows your weaknesses and as you stepped off that plane, he immediately sized you up as ‘Fresh Meat’. I implore you to not be naive enough to think that you have beaten this. We addicts know that it will try to creep back into our lives over and over. It is with this in mind that I suggest that you DO go to your Bishop. Share with him everything from your teen years in Pornography to your repentance process with the Mission President, to your desire to be clean now. Make him an advocate and ask him to check on you regularly to see how you are doing. Let him and the Lord help you to stay clean.   How is it done? By being humble enough to recognize that this is a real life long struggle… and that requires...wait for it… a Broken heart. It all comes back to that doesn't it? . Break your heart wide open and hide nothing. You will find strength in exposing the wound.

I will pray for you my brother. May the Lord bless you as continue to battle the adversary in this life long battle. Win the Day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dear Addi, What goes through his mind during a slip?

Dear 'Addi',

Can you help me understand what goes through My husband's mind before, during, and after a slip? I can't wrap my mind around why he still gives in when he has been fighting so hard and winning for so long.

This is a GREAT question. It is the same question that your husband and I and every other man afflicted with this nasty addiction ask ourselves every time we feel the urge to slip.

The question is.. why? Why after months of strength does it suddenly feel too heavy to resist on this particular day? Why, after fighting so hard for so long, do I all of a sudden want to plot and sneak and indulge? Why after months of battling back, do I suddenly feel so overwhelmingly triggered by something seemingly innocuous to the point that I have chosen to act out? WHY!?!

I don't know the perfect answer… but having lived through the process several hundred times, let me take you through what I think  is the ‘anatomy of a slip’.

I’ll set the stage by stating that I am a firm believer that Pornography is more than an addiction. It is mind altering and blinding.

The 90% Rule.(My totally made up statistic)

We each have free will. We have the ability to choose, however I think that for many addicted to pornography, when we reach those critical decision points, the decision is already 90% made for us in advance. I call this my 90% rule. It works like this. If you were to ask me to smoke a cigarette I will say no 100% of the time. I have no desire or interest in cigarettes at all, in fact I am totally repulsed by them. If you were to offer me a glass of wine or a beer, I would say no 100% of the time. I will never be interested in those things. I have trained myself throughout my  life to reject those things. However If you were to offer a cigarette to a previous smoker,  he may remember the taste, the enjoyment, or satisfaction he felt when he used to smoke. He will have a harder time saying no.  In fact the Journal of the national cancer institute says that a former smoker who has been free of smoking for 6 months or less has a 40% chance of relapsing if offered a cigarette in a week moment. (resource http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/89/8/572.long)

This is similar to an addict of pornography, except, everything we know about pornography tells us that it is far more powerful and more addictive than almost any other substance. One addict was quoted as saying “I have been addicted to both crack cocaine and pornography. The crack cocaine was by far easier of the 2 to give up permanently. In fact I have not smoked crack for several years now, but to this day I still struggle with overcoming my porn addiction.”

For a porn addict, the draw is so strong that instead having a 40% chance of relapse, I think it’s more like 90%. Meaning, that its my belief, that 90% of the time we are presented with actual porn and have the opportunity to indulge, we will.

Sometimes the fight seems unwinnable. It's the feeling of being inches away from a slip all the time. That given the opportunity and circumstance, I will probably give in every time (I have no statistics to back this up, only my many observations and conversations with other porn addicts and my personal experience.) I have spoken with dozens of porn addicts and they all agree that when it comes to whether or not they will slip again it's not a questions of ‘If’ but feels more like a matter of ‘When’.

You may say, “I have seen drug addicts on the verge of giving in, I have watched the tv show ‘Intervention’, and my husband has never looked that strung out or eager for a hit. It doesn’t look like he is waging that kind of war all of the time”. True, but that’s because porn addicts are not feeding themselves an artificial chemical substance to get their high. Smokers, drug addicts, and alcoholics, if they are willing, are able to detox the chemicals out of their system. In most cases, their bodies can be clean of those addictive chemicals in less than 30 days. Porn addicts brains, on the other hand, create the the chemical for them. There is no need for an artificial, external chemical, when the ‘crack house’ resides inside your own head.  When the porn addict lusts for a “hit”, he can easily conjure up the images or fantasies without you ever knowing and, since porn addicts are extremely adept at manipulations and dishonesty, you may never even notice that he is on the verge of giving in to the pressure of the 90% rule. For some reason, as we have mastered the deception process, we have also become experts at twisting guilt, gas lighting, and distracting. So, though it may seem all is normal, I still believe  the 90% rule holds true for many addicts of pornography.



I know this from personal experience. I had fed myself a steady course of filth for so long that it was nearly impossible for me, who had pretty much made a practice of giving in every day of my life, to simply ignore the flood of endorphin's when a trigger presented itself.

Some men have spent their lives practicing and preparing to turn away from porn when it is presented. They were taught from a young age not to give it any attention and to run from it. For them, it’s not a draw and maybe never will be. I, on the other hand, gave it soo much attention, that it became second nature to let my thoughts run rampant when a trigger was presented. It is counter to everything I have always done to simply look away or push off the thoughts.

When they come, if I have not prepared myself to stand up to the attack, they will take over. When presented with an opportunity to fantasize, I have to fight with all my heart not to engage those thoughts. In fact, the pull to let my thoughts run, even for a few seconds, is still monumental. But when I am prepared to fight back, though it be a battle of epic proportions, I know I become stronger for engaging in the fight.

C.S. Lewis said it this way, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

Those in the throws of this addiction are not practiced at standing against the wind let alone an army. We are used to lying down. “Standing up to the wind” takes practice. Lots of it. Years and years of practice. With practice, we will get stronger, but until that time, we will continue to struggle. And not just sometimes…. but everytime. There is no quick path to recovery. It is long and continuous and filled with ups and downs.

Even the man who has been in recovery for years is still under constant attack. Every time he walks out the door he knows he is going to see something that will fire up the lustful desires he is trying so hard to bury. Over time, if we continue to work the steps and do everything in our power to battle it,  it gets easier, but, as far as I can tell (so far), it never quite goes away.

It is with this in mind that I will attempt to go through what I think are the stages of a slip.

Before The Slip:

 Tiny allowances over time make us ripe for the side show provided by the adversary.
  • We have to be careful and constantly vigilant. Over time we can become confident in our recovery. Our confidence feels good. We are putting weeks and months and perhaps even years between slips. We may falsely believe we have this beat for good. But, Satan is patiently watching and waiting for us to offer any kind of opening. All it takes is a stray thought or an unexpected trigger for our brain to begin pumping out the endorphin's. Those endorphin's start the craving, the want, the desire, the hunger. And that is when the adversary strikes. Simple things such as going for a run, playing a video game, driving to work, walking through a grocery store or mall, watching tv or a movie, even listening to music with suggestive lyrics can all be filled with triggers. You may think that some of these things are tame and certainly your husband wouldn't find a trigger in such simple actions or activities. But you would be wrong. Especially if he is trying to eliminate pornography from his life. These ‘lesser’ triggers can become a feasting ground and a compromise for ditching the darker filth of our habit. Not intentionally, at least not at first, but they slowly begin to creep into our view and gradually overtime become an acceptable substitute for the ‘Real Thing’.

The inevitability of Defeat
  • Satan is crafty, but some of his most useful tools are 1. a reminder of how much we craved those feelings before and (believe it or not) how good that craving felt. and 2. a constant feeling that we will ultimately, eventually lose this fight. It may sound strange to one who is not accustomed to addiction, but porn addicts have fought and lost and fought and lost and fought and lost the fight soooo many times that failure starts to become an expected part of the process. So, to the addict, there is often a feeling that relapse is inevitable. It's like a barely audible hum always there in the background. It gets louder whenever we cross paths with one of the ‘lesser’ triggers mentioned above. Even in recovery, many feel that someday they will eventually find access to those strong feelings again. Its because of this feeling that many addicts never fully turn their lives over to the Savior. Even after months and years of recovery, they may discover that they have left the door open a tiny crack waiting for that inevitable relapse. Satan knows this and uses it in his efforts to topple us when weak.
    We willingly loses the internal argument.
    • It is at this point, when our lust is becoming fully charged by the flood of endorphin's, that Satan begins filling our head with suggestions. “Maybe just let your mind wander a little bit”, “ You have done so well, you have earned a little taste.”, “What can a small look hurt”, “You don't need to look at porn, just something soft core.”, “ You see that girl walking out to her car?, go ahead and look again.” ; and on and on. Remember that 10%  resistance I spoke of before? This is where it dwindles to about 5%. We find ourselves overwhelmed by the want, the rationalizations, the influence of the adversary, the feelings of lust and somewhere in all of this, we hit what I term the Decision point. This is where we ultimately choose to give in.
    Tunnel vision darkens the eternal periphery
    • At some point in the battle described above we give in to the hunger and make the decision to indulge in one form or another. Now you may ask yourself, “Why can't he just stop at this point? Why doesn't he look around him and realize that he is about to sin? Why doesn't he think of his wife or his children? Why isn't the forthcoming pain of the repentance process enough to stop him from pursuing this choice?”  I believe the answer is ‘Tunnel Vision’. Tunnel vision is the ability to forget everything of importance in our quest for feeding the lust monster. We shut out our wife, our children, our success thus far, and we lose sight of the Bishop, the commandments, even the painful process of repentance we have already been through. When the scriptures speak of blindness, they are talking exactly about this. It happens because all of a sudden, the endorphin's are pumping at full speed, old familiar feelings are engaged, and nothing seems more important than getting the drug. In this state of mind, everything else is blocked out until you feed the beast. Once you have made the choice to sin, the spirit is gone and the adversary is laying down full and complete coverage to make sure you don't see a way out. That is not to say we can’t change course and make good decisions in tunnel vision, however, once we have advanced to this stage of the slip, we rarely ever do. (I offer a more detailed explanation of tunnel vision in a previous blog post http://dearaddict.blogspot.com/2014/06/dear-addi-how-do-addicts-live-double.html )


    The Plotting begins
    • This is the saddest part of the process. Because it shows the lengths to which we will go to get to our fix. It reveals the level of desperation we have descended to once we have decided to partake. This is where we are in heavy addict mode. The addict knows he must be sneaky. He can't just get on any computer and start searching. Most addicts have already installed filters, watch dogs and devices to keep them from doing exactly this. And hopefully those protections will kick him out of his quest and he will use the 5% willpower he has left to stop himself. But for those that are determined, the plotting to find some way past, through, or around the filters begins. It is a sad state of mind to be sincerely out of control. Unfortunately with the plotting, comes the lies, the deceit and the cover up. The dishonesty is always connected to the relapse. It can be something as simple as hiding in the bathroom with his devices or staying up late to watch TV or internet shows that are inappropriate. Or it can be as devious as creating a false email address or getting a second secret cell phone. The weirdest part is that while in addict mode, these deceitful ideas seem to be justified. Why? Because we make a bargain with ourselves that as soon as we have completed the act, we will never do it again. We knowingly become totally dishonest and rationalize that it is to protect our loved ones from the pain of discovering our sins. It is absurd, It is absolutely maddening, and completely juvenile activity. But, tunnel vision keeps us from recognizing the truth in that moment.
    During The Slip:

    The quest for filth begins.
    • This part of the process is hard to describe. I think it is obvious that one who is addicted to porn is going to have a few frequented sites or places in mind. For me, it started out simple. A search for something pretty basic that will feed the lust hungry demon inside of me. But it escalates quickly. I always felt that there must be more to see or partake of. Whatever it was I was looking at in that moment, was ok, but wasn't completely fulfilling. It gave me a taste of satisfaction, but, surely there must be something better, more exciting, more able to feed the hunger so… Let's follow this link and see where it leads.   I could start in, what I believed to be a fairly tame place, and before 30 minutes had passed I would find myself searching one disgusting term after another, looking for something to heighten my lust even more. Lust leads me to believe that somewhere in my quest through porn I would eventually reach some sort of pinnacle. That is why we keep going back. We never seem to find it.  And in truth,  it is not find-able. Lust is a starving beast whose hunger will never… ever be satisfied. So for hours on end the porn addict will sift and search and watch and view leading himself deeper and deeper into simply wanting more. The problem is…. there is never enough and eventually, as was my case, in order to get even more, the porn had to jump from the page and land in reality. And isn't that Satan's ultimate goal?  My experience has taught me that viewing Porn is simply practicing for adultery. If left unchecked it will always, eventually, lead off the screen and into real life.
    The unstoppable mind set.
    • There is this weird out of body argument that seems to happen while one is looking at porn. Once you are in it, you have already crossed the line into sin, so the argument to turn away now seems fruitless. “I'm already here, I may as well feed on as much of it as I can before I turn it off,” I would tell myself. I can recall moments of such extreme want, that even with the Savior as my desktop image, with pictures and quotes adorning my walls, even when my wife would call me while I was in mid viewing, nothing could distract me from the hypnotic trance I was trapped in. There was one goal and only one goal and no matter the amount of spiritual influence, nothing was going to break my determination to forge on. It is a voluntary hypnosis filled with fantasy and filth. It is a warm and enjoyable quicksand that we willingly step into as it sucks us down to a suffocating death.

    The first signs of guilt arrive
    • In my case there was also, sometimes, a recognition of… “what am I doing?” and “how did I get here again”  This begins to settle in as the addict is trying to get out of this current moment of indulgence. For most porn addicts… it ends with masturbation. What is the point of all of the hours of digging and watching and time wasting if it doesn't end with some form of climax. As we move into the final stage of the process, this is when the guilt begins to really settle in. I can recall reaching this point of the process and looking up at myself in the reflection of the monitor. I was so completely disgusted with who I saw there. There I sat reaping the rewards of my hours long quest,  and thinking to myself… “you are the most disgusting filthy, worthless, weak, person! Look at what you have been reduced to?”  My self loathing, self hate and shame were all I had left from my wasted day of indulgence.

    After The Slip:

    Guilt, shame, anger and disgust.
    • The guilt is immediate. The regret is instant and the shame is heavy and thick. The long wasted hours of looking and searching and watching are suddenly meaningless wasted time. The self hate, and feeling of failure are intense. A hollowness and sense of worthlessness is ever present. And the feeling that I am never going to escape this secret compulsion that is my hell, is the overwhelming thought in our mind.  Anger is present as well. Anger at myself for not being strong enough to withstand. Anger at this addiction that it is still so present in my life. If you ever wonder why your porn addicted husband lacks patience or is in such a foul mood all the time, it could just be that he is hating himself at the moment. I can recall several occasions after coming home from a long hard day “at work” and being in such a cranky mood that my wife would give me a wide berth and encourage the kids to ‘leave daddy alone for a bit”. The weird part is, being so accustomed to lying, I actually thought I was pulling off the cover up.
    Do I lie or tell the truth?
    • The plotting begins again. Telling her the truth will only add pain to our current situation. She will think that I am never going to beat this. She will suspect me and think I am slipping all the time. I don't want to give her the feeling that this is a hopeless cause. I want her to believe she can trust me again...so… I must lie. As an addict, I can only assume that the accumulation of successful lies over the years begins to make us feel invincible.  ‘I have lied and lied and never been caught before so… why shouldn't I continue?’   Lying is so second nature to an addict that sometimes we don't even consider the option of telling the truth at all.  The lies extend into other parts of your lives as well… things that didn't need to be lied about but, since lying is easier than confrontation, why not? I found myself lying about whether I had run out to grab an unhealthy burger for lunch, because I knew my wife would prefer I not get one. Lying just becomes a way of life. It just seemed easier than disappointing her again. It is the most backward thinking of all…”I want her to trust me, so I guess I should lie to her.”
    Self deception ‘Just one more time before I confess’
    • With the lies already firmly in place and since I have gone undiscovered, perhaps I should continue to partake just a little longer before I say goodbye to this forever…again.  And so,  the cycle of stopping starts again. Most Porn addicts have tried to stop hundreds and hundreds of times. After every slip, we promise God and the reflection in the mirror, that this was the last time. And we mean it with all our hearts until tomorrow… when the hunger creeps back in. I can remember relapsing multiple times in the same day, each time believing with all my heart that I was finally done, only to relapse again within hours. The loss of control eventually gives way to the viscous cycle of addiction.

    So,  how then do we as addicts avoid slipping into and repeating this process over and over and over again? Well, as I said before, I believe it comes from practice. Change does not happen overnight. It takes months and more likely years but, It can happen. Remember that 90% rule? Well, just as C.S. Lewis stated, we can't get stronger unless we go to battle. But the more we go to battle, the better we get at beating the enemy. Perhaps we won't win every battle, but slowly, we win more and more. Slowly we learn his tactics and begin to recognize them from a distance. We become stronger and stronger… and 90% drops to 80 and then 70%. Before we know it, we are winning far more often. Maybe a few losses still creep in from time to time,  but our victories out number our failures now. It takes time. It takes practice… but the tide eventually turns in our favor.

    This is the process of finding a change of heart. Hearts can change, but they truly do take time.

    I will close with this last story.

    Following my excommunication from the church, My stake president, a dear friend of mine, who knew I wasn't going to jump ship and go inactive from the church, suggested I take a few weeks and let the dust settle before returning. So my wife and I, in an effort to heal, and talk, and answer some hard questions, went on a vacation for a couple of weeks. After some very difficult but tremendously healing time together, I returned to my home ward and attended church.

    On my first Sunday back, I ran into a sister I had known my whole life. I had grown up with her kids. She is the sweetest kindest person I know. I don't believe she had any idea what my wife and I were going through.

    I conversationally asked her “so how is your Daughter and her husband doing?”, She responded by telling me that her daughters husband had just received open heart surgery and that while they expected a full recovery, it was going to be a long process. Perhaps as long as a year for him to fully recover from the surgery. I was amazed as that seemed like a very long time for a recovery.  She replied by saying “ I know, but I guess hearts just take time to heal”.

    To me…. It was as if she was speaking directly into my soul. Her words felt like they had been prepared for me alone. Of course she was right.   Hearts take time to heal. Miracles happen,  but not in the time frame we want them too.   That healing occurs in the Lord's time.

    Over time, we can find healing to our hearts and minds. We can shift our wants and desires, but they need time to fully heal. We have spent hours and weeks and months and years filling our heads with filth and we can't expect to snap our fingers and have it all go away. Time heals all things, even our broken hearts and our broken, addicted brains...but not without effort on our part, a willingness to finally fight back, and faith in the Lord that with Him, all things are possible.

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    Personal Update. 2.5 Years and Counting!

    A few weeks ago, my wife asked me if I would write an update about where I am now, 2.5 years after my betrayal, confession, and the beginning of my repentance process.  It has taken me a few weeks to start writing this because... there was a lot to consider.

    Where am I now?

    So many thoughts come to mind. I think it will be easiest for me to put my thoughts into categories.

    Spiritually

    This is by far the easiest category to discuss  since without question , it is where I have felt the most change and growth. Where before, I believed I was approaching a dead end or a complete halt to my progression, today, I know that even though I have a long way to go, the perfection that the savior has granted to me through his atonement…  is making up the difference for what I lack. Before, I believed I was doomed to an eternal damnation for my thoughts and actions, and now, I know such thoughts are the mind games of the adversary in his attempt to keep me in the dark pit I wallowed in for far too long.

    I have also learned that repentance takes time. It is not a magical moment of clarity that settles upon you with the audible uttering of  transgressions, though the very act of uttering my sins out loud and seeking forgiveness did provide a starting point to my recovery.  I have learned that it is a process that starts with the confession but carries on for months and even years as everything comes bubbling to remembrance. Forgiveness is far more difficult than repentance. Just asking for forgiveness does not mean the damage done is gone. How I wish that were the case. But trust and faith come with time.  At this point,  I am not sure how long it will take, but. with more time, hopefully that too can be made whole through the atonement.

    Marriage relationship

    My marriage is completely different than it was before. In my time B.C., (Before Confession) It appeared that our family was doing good, our marriage was fine, and that we were on the road to the celestial kingdom. Mind you, my wife had no idea at all that I was secretly hiding my addiction and that all of that was a performance on my part. One of the greatest blessing of confession to her and to the bishop was that I no longer needed to hide, lie, manipulate or deceive. And as a testament to my wife, she made it easy for me to share things without being immediately judgmental. This allowed me to be more open and transparent. I will admit this is hard at times, even still as I don't want to burden her with the battle I fight daily against the pull of the addiction that still lingers in my mind.  But she understands now that this takes time, that being in recovery is not the same as being “recovered”. I am not sure that being recovered is something I will experience for many years to come. A true addict of pornography never stops struggling with the hunger that sits in the background, but being in recovery means that I have figured out how to use the atonement, and the tools of recovery to avoid giving into those temptations. My wife has been a huge part of that process. I can say without reservation that I love her more today than ever before. She will be the first to admit that this has been the worst 2 years of her life… and then she will tell you that she wouldn't trade what we have gained and grown thorough and become. I love her with all my heart and sincerely never want to hurt her again.
    Intimacy

    I think I can do this part without being too personal.  The truth is that B.C. (Before Confession), I felt guilty being intimate with my wife. I would avoid it all costs. Being intimate was a reminder of my betrayal and my secret shameful addiction. I would avoid it. She would ask, and I would make excuses. But intimacy is very different now. I feel a closeness and a bond that I never felt before. I hope she would say the same. We snuggle more. We touch more. We are more willing to observe the other’s needs and do what we can to satisfy them. It is a better relationship.

    Now I want to clarify that our intimacy is a safe intimacy. What I meant by that is this: I do not ask her to do things I saw in pornograghy. I do not try to bring the filth found in pornograhy into our relationship. I have heard that many men encourage this as a way to act out what they have seen. I do not believe this brings a couple closer.  On the contrary, what this does is pull the wife into the world of pornography by making her participate in the filth. The last thing I want to do is compare her with the smut that filled my head for years. She represents all that is good, all that is clean, all that is permissible and encouraged by God. She is my Celestial partner in intimacy. Having this outlook on our intimate life has made a world of difference in how we respect each other in those situations and quite frankly, made it a lot more fun for both of us. Perhaps someday I will write a more frank blog about how we accomplish this in our intimate life….. perhaps.

    Testimony

    I think it goes without saying that my testimony of the Gospel has grown. My testimony of the divinity of Christ and of his ability to heal and change the lives of both the sinner and those affected by his sins is solidified in a way I didn't think possible. My relationship with My savior and my heavenly Father is far more real and tangible. My purpose, goals, hopes, and passions have a clarity to them now whereas they seemed fogged in and indiscernible before. And I look at the gospel in a more gritty, organic way. I mean I recognise that the sheer volume of vain oblations we offer daily in living the gospel are just parts of the whole, and that perfection is not gained nor lost because I did or did not do my home teaching this month. But that instead, the true road to eternal life is through the continual process of prostrating ourselves before the Lord and receiving his grace in exchange for our guilt, pride, and pain. Then, we offer him our lives through obedience, not because keeping and living the principles of the gospel will somehow purchase our way into heaven, but because we love him and offer our obedience as evidence of a changed heart and a desire to be like him.

    I may have run on there and this may only make sense in my mind… but needless to say… I Love the Gospel with new vigor and a determination.

    Financially

    I am self employed. Which means, if I don't work, I don't make money. Our business provided a few steady repeat revenue streams, but I was never going to grow the business unless I worked it. My time at work, after the morning calls were returned and the emails answered, would always drift back to my addiction. I could easily find myself sitting there 2 to 4 hours everyday ingesting the smut. It may seem obvious that when a person stops spending hours on end viewing pornogrphy at work and instead focuses on his job, he is going to make more money, but I was not prepared for the added blessing the Lord was waiting to give us for my obedience. In the last 2 years since my confession, Our company has grown in size by over 20% each year. This coming year looks to be a greater increase than that.  

    My point is, the Lord is standing by in our lives just waiting for us to get our ducks in a row, and when we do, he doesn't mess around… he opens up the windows of heaven and… well you know the rest. And I want to be very clear that I don't believe that our company's increase has anything to do with my “brilliance” as a business owner or because we added some tremendously sought after item. I know with all my heart it is the Lord's hand.

    Service/Callings

    If you have read any of my history on this blog, then you may already know that I have held many leadership callings during my addiction. I accepted them because I was too ashamed and embarrassed to confess my sins. I had convinced myself to take them to my grave with me. Therefore, whenever asked to serve, I always said YES. I knew I wasn't worthy, but I couldn't confess so… what choice did I have (or so the voice in my head would say to me). I always hated myself for serving where I did not belong. I muddled through, but I knew I was completely without the direction of the spirit because I wasn't worthy of it.

    About a year and a half ago, after I was re-baptized, I was asked to teach sunday school to the youth. I have loved this calling. It has been eye opening to serve with the companionship of the holy ghost assisting me. I have learned so much in studying the gospel with the spirit in tow. I have since been asked to substitute in seminary about 10 times this year. Learning and teaching has never had such a personal impact on me. You can fake it for a long time, and you may even fool all the people, but you can not fool God. When He withholds his most valuable gift from you, though others may not see it, I absolutely knew it, felt it, and lost it. I had forgotten how much I need it. I have loved having the spirit in my life again.

    In terms of bondage to sin or addiction

    I wanted to comment on how I feel in terms of being in bondage now, versus “Before Confession”. I will say that I honestly still feel the pull. But that is what addiction is. It  is something that starts out as a choice and then slowly becomes a habit and eventually becomes a compulsion. After allowing it to grow in my life for years and years, it felt to me (the addict) as if the choice simply didn’t exist any more. When the trigger hits, I turned to porn, that's just what I did. And if I couldn’t turn to it in the moment the trigger hit, the hunger would grow and grow inside of me until I found some way to act out with it. So when Alma the younger spoke of being delivered from the “bondage” of sin, I fully believe he was speaking to us in our day about pornography. It owns you. It dictates your every move. It leads you to lie, cover up, deceive and manipulate those around you. You become a slave to the hunger and it takes you effortlessly deeper and deeper into perversions and filth that you would never have considered seeking  before.

    I had become this kind of slave.

    2 and a half years later….. I still struggle with the hunger… but… instead of it being a compulsion that leads me, it is now an option. I am back at the stage of having a choice. I have been liberated from the bondage. I still feel the pull towards it, but I have learned through practice and working the recovery steps that I have the ability to move past it. That is something I just could not do 2 years ago. I want to be careful not to paint too rosy of a picture here and to make it clear that it is still tremendously hard for me day to day. Some days are easier than others. Some days,  I just want to climb in bed and sleep to get away from the never ending hungers and triggers of the world. But I have learned that winning is possible… one small moment and prayer at a time.

    Outlook going forward

    Well, I think it's good. Lets just say that although I still don't feel I have this completely put away, I do feel that I am in a state of recovery. 2 and a half years ago, I wouldn't dare to utter such a statement. I was so far from feeling any control at all that the idea of being sober 2 days let alone 2 hours was not even an option. However, I have worked the steps relentlessly since then. I still work them. It is because I still work those steps everyday that I am in a state of recovery now. Will I ever struggle again?  Of course I will. Will I ever get close to the line of slipping? I hope not, but I don't know. What I do know is that as long as I keep my trajectory heading towards the Savior, I will have more wins than failures. And thankfully, experience has shown me that those failures get farther and farther apart.

    In conclusion

    I just realized that using the word “conclusion” above implies there is some sort of ending to this journey. But there isn't.   There is still a long way to go. But the focus of our journey feels so much more personal and directed now. We have accepted that the Lord can not bring us back into His presence until we have been properly prepared and educated through this life. And whether we like to hear it or not, His favorite method of educating us... is through trial. Once we finally decide to accept the fact that this trial is indeed from God, it begins to look and feel different. We become more willing to embrace it and look for the lessons in it. We feel the pain but instead of letting it destroy us, we can engage it and walk through it, hopefully with a willingness to learn this lesson as well. IT IS NOT EASY! Trial…. Simply said… SUCKS!!. Especially when it causes so many so much pain.   But, when we humbly accept that it is his hand guiding us through the pain, there is really something amazing in taking that hand and allowing Him to lead and teach us through it. And that, I believe,  Is the secret to finding joy in this life… for without pain.. We would never know the joy. Thanks Father Lehi…. I’m finally starting to understand.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    Dear Addi: "how do I help my wife heal?" Step 8: Make sure she gets time with her priesthood leaders too!

    Throughout the entire secrecy of my addiction, I always knew that someday I would need to face my priesthood leaders and confess everything. I ‘knew’ I would need to, however, I always convinced myself that if I could just be clean long enough, that maybe the confession part wouldn't be necessary. I told myself that through my will power alone, I would prove to God that I was worthy and therefore, did not need to confess. It's one more of Satan's subtle little lies that, if we can just stop acting out, there would be no need for repentance. But even if I were able to put it away on my own (which by the way, I couldn't) I would still be buried under all the secrecy and guilt. There is no repentance without confession. It is a key part of the process and might I add, extremely liberating. For me, It happened in stages. First I bore my soul to my wife. As I have mentioned before, It was a crushing world shattering revelation. Everything she knew and believed had been flipped upside down and she was left with nothing but a sliver of hope to hold on to. We spent hours negotiating, apologizing, crying, and trying to imagine if there was a way forward. Thankfully she felt that there was and she said to me “the first thing we need to do is call the stake president”. We did. And so, through shame and embarrassment, I finally went before my priesthood leader and confessed everything.


    I don't think he was prepared for what he was about to hear. My lies, cover up, and acting had been so complete that, even though I sat next to him many times a week as his second counselor, he had no idea of what I was about to confess. For the next hour I poured out every detail of my dark addiction to him. Through streaming tears, I confessed a multitude of sins and shame. He, to his credit, said nothing. He just sat, listened and cried with me. He felt the weight of what I had been carrying. He showed me love and compassion. He accepted my confession and then began to explain to me what the road forward would look like. It, for me, was the most overwhelmingly glorious experiences of my life...to no longer be in hiding...to no longer be fighting this alone and to know that I had an advocate that was working with me to see that I succeed. I left his office feeling light and free from the weight of sin I had carried for years..


    Then there was my wife. She waited outside his office for over an hour, at times pacing, walking the church, and ultimately finding herself pleading with God on her knees in the empty chapel. It was a long, lonely,  desperate hour for her. And so as I emerged from his office feeling that I had finally found an escape from my hell, she was feeling heaviness and pain as she entered a hell of her own. She questioned who I was.   If She should leave. She hurt from the pain of betrayal and lies and deceit. She questioned whether she could move forward in a marriage with a man that she did not know could be trusted again. Should she even try? All hope and happiness had been sucked out of her life and into the vacuum of my sins.


    I stepped out of the office and faced a broken wife.  Again, to his credit, the stake president then invited her into his office and spent the next hour with her. I don't know everything that was said in that one on one meeting but he called me back in after that second hour and with her in the room said to me, “You have broken your wife’s heart.”   Of course, I knew that.  It was one of the main reasons that I didn’t want to come clean...I knew what it would do to her.  This simple statement helped my wife immensely.  It told her that he understood her pain and the cause of it.  He was blunt and bold and quickly called me out on the damage I had done to her. She needed that. She needed someone to finally be on her side.  At that very moment, the Stake president asked me to turn over my temple recommend.  My wife witnessed me having to take that very painful step.  He then offered us both a blessing.  I declined. She accepted.  In that blessing,  he told her that this would be her life defining trial. After that initial meeting, we met with the Stake President several times a week leading up to my excommunication and then almost monthly after that.  We also met with our bishop once a month as well for the first year.  We looked forward to those meetings.  Those check ins gave us the power to persevere and the strength to move on.


    And thankfully, that is what we have been doing for the past 23 months.


    Now, here is what I know in talking with both wives, husbands, and from my own experience as a Bishop:  not every wife of an addict gets this kind of an attention.  More often than not, the husband confesses and then the Bishop hones in on him and wants to meet with him a couple times a month. He puts all his effort into helping him stay strong, into helping him heal. And so the husband gains all sorts of strength and help through regular visits. But the wife? Well, many wives and husbands tell me is that she very seldom is asked how she is getting along. In fact, she may not talk to the bishop again until his her next recommend interview or perhaps until right before his next disciplinary council.


    This is not because the bishop is ignoring the wife or doesn't care. It's because just like the physician, he is automatically going to give attention to the spurting wound and make sure that he has stopped the bleeding.  But the truth is.. while he is distracted by the most gruesome looking injury, he may be overlooking the major head blow that the wife took in the process. Not on purpose, and certainly not in every case, but in many cases it seems to happen this way.


    I served as a Bishop for just over 5 Years. I know it sounds hypocritical to say this but, I loved the opportunity to work through trials with husbands and wives who wanted to try and save their marriages. Maybe it was because watching them survive the difficulty of their trial gave me hope that someday I would be able to face mine. Nonetheless, I too fell into the trap of focusing all my time on the transgressor and failed to see the wounds of the recipient of the sin. And in truth, once I had met with a brother and his wife, I would often times simply forget about their issues until I ran into them again. This sounds cold but, with all of the welfare, Youth, missionary, ward staffing and  activation issues that were always in front of me, sometimes those things that deserved the greatest part of my attention simply got pushed off until another time. Then of course I had my own family to spend time with and a job to work. Please understand that I am not trying to make excuses. I truly believe I could have done things better (and wish I had). My point in saying all of this, is that I don't believe my experience as bishop is too different from that of many if not all other Bishops in the church today. We spend a great deal of our time working through things that could (and should) be passed off to a counselor or quorum president and dedicate the smallest portion of our time to that which matters most. And unfortunately that means the wife may end up getting the least time and attention.


    But wives, your  wounds need treatment too!


    Let me offer a couple of quick suggestions to help you in getting what you need from your priesthood leader.


    1. Don't wait on the Bishop to call you. He has a very capable executive secretary. His primary job is to schedule the bishop’s appointments. Use him. He will get you in very quickly if you tell him it's urgent. And don't worry that the secretary is going to ask you all sorts of questions about why you need to see the bishop. He won't. His job is to schedule and that is all. He may ask… “What's this meeting for?” but only to find out if you need a recommend interview or financial help, or something that one of the bishop's counselors can help with instead. All you need to tell him is that it is a personal matter and leave it at that. He will go to work and get you scheduled.
    2. Don't feel that you are wasting the Bishops ‘Precious time’. I promise you, you are not. At one point, we apologized to our Bishop for taking so much of his time every month.  He laughed and said, “This is the kind of stuff I like to do, especially when a couple takes my advice and comes back every month,  having made some progress.”  I can tell you that helping families  heal and helping members overcome sin is probably one  of the things he will remember most from his time as bishop.  He welcomes your call. Please Please Please…. Never feel you are wasting his time. You are the reason he was called. You are his priority.
    3. Insist on equal time. If he spends an hour with your husband, ask for an hour as well, especially early on in your trial. In the first year you will need him the most. Those long nights filled with nightmares, memories, hurts, pains are never more present than during the beginning of this process. Furthermore if, heaven forbid, things between you and your husband can't be resolved or he is unwilling to make the changes necessary to find recovery, you will most likely be the one seeking the support and strength of the bishop. So make time to include him as your advocate.
    4. Don't be minimized. Lets face it, not a lot of Bishops have dealt with lust, pornography, or sexual addictions, and frankly most don't have any counseling degrees to help them through the process. They are human. Which means they may make a wrong call from time to time. I promise you they are praying and seeking help with your situation. However I still hear stories from wives quite often where they say “the Bishop just doesn't get it.” Lets face it, wives of addicts are the real experts. You have spent time studying, reading and researching addiction. You know better than most, the triggers and level of difficulty that lust in all its forms can be. Bishops… generally don't. One wife told me that when she visited the bishop with her husband to witness her husband confess, the bishop simply slapped his wrist and said… don't do that any  more… now go home and be happy. She said that it felt like he didn't care at all how this had hurt her and suddenly they were the good old boys club scratching each others backs and minimizing the addiction altogether. She told the Bishop how she felt about his response and, to his credit, he humbly looked at things differently and decided to do his own study. This good Bishop became an expert on addictions because this wife refused to be minimized.


    Let me close by sharing something my wife likes to say in jest. She says “I believe God has a much more tender and compassionate love for his Daughters on earth than he does His sons. Oh He loves them lots, but just not as much as his Daughters.”

    Even though she says that with a sense of humor, I have considered it. I use to think that statement couldn't possibly be true. God loves us all the same… but… over the last 22 months… I have come to agree with my wife on this point. We men will most likely spend the rest of eternity playing catch up, especially spiritually, to our wives. And I think the Lord knows it. All I can say is thank goodness for the atonement of Christ. It is the only thing that puts men on an equal playing field with the daughters of God. Husbands, let’s make sure that our wives...His precious daughters...get the help they need.