Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear "Addi", I am completely Broken by my addiction and fear I may never completely heal...

Dear Addi,

I am an addict and I feel damaged. My actions have caused my wife and family to feel damaged. I often feel like the devastation in the wake of my sins are too much for me or anyone else to overcome. The gospel teaches that we can heal from sin. How? When? Am I and those affected by my sins too damaged to be repaired?

Damaged and in Despair.

Addi’s Thoughts:

I think one of the most difficult parts of recovery from any addiction is to finally look at ourselves with honest eyes and admit that yes...we are broken.

Nobody wants to be looked at by others and be seen as broken, flawed, or messed up. That’s why we work so hard to put on the perfect face and to wear a mask of flawlessness. When hard times come, we will often push the hurt, pain, or guilt down deep in order to cover it from the judging eyes of those around us.

But there will come a point in each of our lives when the truth bubbles to the surface and starts to seep out. We may slip up in the use of words, forget to cover our tracks in some way, or maybe we simply crack and melt down in public. It will happen. There is just no way to keep lying, cheating, hurting, hating, concealing, and covering up forever.

At some point we break. Its in the meltdown, discovery, release, and confession  that we are finally willing to admit that yes,  I am broken. And you know what?  Being broken is really not all that bad. In fact, some would say it is a requirement.

In my case, I had spent years in cover up mode. My day was fairly routine and even my sins became routine. If and when I chose to view pornography, I had a protocol in place. I would delete cookies, delete history, manufacture stories for why I was leaving later than expected, and lie lie lie, if questioned too deeply.

When my addiction escalated, my cover stories and lies went deeper and deeper. I found myself not only lying to my wife about how I was spending my time, but I was also lying to friends, leaders, and even myself.  Somehow, in all the madness of addiction, I still saw myself as “in tact”. I was whole in my mind. Sure, I had some flaws but I could get over those on my own.. eventually… and until then… I could keep up the act. Couldn't I?

I couldn't.

Finally, I had to admit that I was not the person that I wanted others to see me as.   I had to take a good long look at myself and realize that, I was broken.  At first, this realization was very humbling because If I wasn't the person I had pretended to be….. then who was I?   I came to think of myself as a blob of Darkness, spending my time and energy in filth and deceit. I did not believe that there was anything left to me that was redeemable.

You're going to have to forgive me now for my Lord of the Rings references but there are so many things in that story that just fit so well.   Do you remember the scene where Sam was mistreating Gollum and Frodo says, ”Why do you do that? Why do Call him names and run him down?”  Sam responds,  “Because... because that's what he is, Mr. Frodo. There's naught left in him but lies and deceit.”   That is almost exactly how I felt about myself. I had fed myself such a constant diet of filth and garbage and lies… that I hated myself. I felt that I was worthless and unredeemable and like Gollum,  who had carried the darkness and evil contained in the Ring for so many years, hiding it in a cave away from the eyes of the world….

I too had been in hiding. I too had carried the weight of hate and filth and sin and had hidden it away from the eyes of the world.  Once it became exposed, I just knew that everyone could see me for the awful creature that I was. Unrepairable… filthy… broken.

And what about those closest to me? They too have become hurt and damaged from my choices. When a pipe bomb goes off, it explodes, sending pieces of metal and shrapnel in every direction. My wife has been standing so close to me for so long, that she received the full force of the blast. And in the aftermath she was not just left broken, but almost completely destroyed.

The repercussions of my choices have left her feeling unable to trust, even making her question our entire life together, She was unable to look at me without imagining x rated scenes playing out in her mind. Her testimony has been shaken and crippled. Her self worth and personal value have been decimated. Some days getting up to face the day can still be too much. It will be years before she will feel comfortable with me taking a personal phone call, reading the news on my phone, or going unattended to a meeting.  All of these things come from my actions. My breaking became her breaking.  My sweet angel of a wife who did nothing to bring this weight down upon her head, now struggles to pick up the broken pieces of her once perceived perfect life and she too, because of my actions, was left broken.

We all are. We’re not all broken in the same way though.   There are struggles with drugs,
lust, abuse, hate, hurt, selfishness, deceit, manipulations.. and on and on. There is no end to how you and I and our fellow men have all been broken throughout this earthly experience.

But If you and I are broken, what's left for us to do except pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together?

If only it were that simple.

When serving as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I would teach others about the restoration of the gospel. My approach was to treat the gospel as if it were a perfect mirror.  There was one nail in the top (representing the Savior) and 12 Nails in the bottom (representing the apostles). When the Savior was crucified, we lost the top nail and as the apostles were slain over the next several years, we lost the remainder of the nails. Without anything to hold up our perfect mirror,  it fell and shattered into pieces. It was no longer perfect. So the Lord called a prophet to restore the mirror to perfection,  not just put it back together.

I used to think that, like the gospel of Jesus Christ,  Our Heavenly Father wanted us to be restored to perfection.  I thought that somehow, through repentance,  we would no longer be broken but instead,  be perfectly restored by the process.

But I know now that my thinking was wrong. I will never ever be restored to a perfect flawless sinless person, at least not in this life. In fact, I'm not sure I would want to be. You see, I can never completely forget my sins. Though my Savior can cleanse me of them and they can be wiped from the book of life, I still have them as my experience and my history. They will always be there and the ramification of my sins will always be there as well. They can't just be deleted. They happened… and they are a part of me.

So unlike my analogy of the restoration of the gospel the best I can hope to do with my broken self in this life is try to put the pieces back together. Cracked, rough edges, glued together.

And that's actually ok.

There is a type of pottery that is known as Kintsugi. Its is process by which broken pots are mended with resin mixed with gold. It started When a Chinese leader, was having some of his favorite broken pots repaired. When they were returned to him, he felt that , though they were now usable, they had lost their beauty. He contracted with a couple of craftsmen to find a better way to mend the pots and still find Beauty in them. The men discovered that if they mixed gold dust into the resin, that not only did the pots become useful again, but the mended seams glistened and became a thing of beauty to look at.

The Chinese leader was thrilled with the new discovery. Since then it has become tradition to mend broken pots with gold resin. No one would think to actually use them though… for in the mending of the pots, the items became far more valuable and precious. The beauty came in the mending.

I love this process. That is what the Savior does with us. He does not seek to remake us without cracks… but instead, looks at our cracks and fills them with gold. In so doing, He not only draws attention to the fact that that weak spot is now stronger than ever before but also making it more valuable and desirable and precious.

There is a line from a song sung by Lindsey Hahn Called ‘Broken’ that comes to mind...

“No matter how much your heart is aching
There is beauty in the breaking”

The broken parts of our lives need not be things we hide. Once they have under gone the repair process, they can become our strengths.

After all, the Lord Never said he required instant perfection from us. No, on the contrary! What He asks of us is “A broken heart…” He knows that unless we bring it to him broken, He will never have the chance to repair it.

In Alma 34 Amulek reminds us that All mankind would perish due to our lost and fallen state. ALL of us are broken. there is no repair without the savior.

“...all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.” (Alma 34:9)

The Lord is merciful to all who come to him.  For those of us who are damaged by our own sins and those who have been damaged by the sins of others, the process of giving Him our broken pieces for repair is the same. It requires the healing balm of the Savior, the great Physician.

While writing this I discovered a song By Kenneth Cope. It says in song what I wish I knew how to say in words. I have posted the link below.

I pray for your success in healing. I pray that you will allow the Lord to piece you back together so that you too can find strength in the mending.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dear 'Addi', I fear my friends will desert me when I need them most.


Dear Addi,
Recently, one of my best friends inadvertently found out that I take prescription meds for depression, anxiety, and OCD. We've been friends for seven years and she's the only friend from high school I still talk to. Initially, I wasn't too worried. She grabbed my phone when I wasn't looking and saw I had looked up side effects of the drug online. She read the whole article, then handed the phone back to me without a word. In the past few weeks she hasn't spoken to me. If she can't handle knowing this much, just the tip of the iceberg, then how am I going to trust her knowing about my addiction? I feel left out and very hurt. And confused! I'm the same person she's always known. What can I do?


Addi's Thoughts:

Well….. Ouch… right? I  mean ouch. It feels like a bit of a betrayal when a close friend casts a quick judgment and then ignores you.  What I want to say is, “well, if she doesn't love you for who you are then who needs her?” But the reality is… you need her. Friends are hard to come by in the self imposed world of isolation that accompanies addiction.

I sometimes feel that the church as a whole does not know how or what to do with certain addictions. Please don't misunderstand.They do everything they know how to do. They have created support groups. They have provided us with loving priesthood leaders. They truly want us to heal through the atonement of Christ and through self mastery. All of these things are amazing and helpful in recovery.

Our Bishops and local leaders are wonderful and loving men who want to serve God and help us, but they are only human men. They do their best to teach the way the Savior would. They pray for us and listen to the spirit to guide us, but they are still just volunteers. I believe they are inspired and directed by the spirit but they have not been trained in or experienced the ways that addiction affects the addict and those closest to them.

The one thing they do know for certain is addiction, of any kind, is VERY BAD. It’s bad for our spirit, bad for our choices, bad for our self esteem, bad for our self worth, bad for our relationships, and bad for our health. That is a lot of things that are bad. The best thing to do would be to never ever fall into addiction in the first place. So,  what do they do? They spend much of their time teaching the evils and repercussions of addiction.. essentially demonizing it and making sure we know that it is ‘Bad, Bad, Bad”. I don't fault this tactic. I dont want my children falling into the same vices that have controlled me for years.

Society too has trained us to see alcoholism, drug abuse, anorexia and other addictions as destructive things that weaker people fall into. Those who are strong can and will avoid those nasty unhealthy practices. Only someone who is weak or broken in some way would give into such awful things.

Sadly, there is a side effect to this.  It’s that we automatically associate anyone who has fallen into those habits as ‘Bad, Bad, Bad’.  So, is it any wonder that when a friend, who has never had to face the struggle of addiction personally, discovers that you or I have been fighting an addiction for much of our lives that they suddenly see us as damaged or broken?

“You take prescription drugs? No! You really shouldn't do that. You should stop!” Or, “You look at porn? That is disgusting.  Can't you just stop? Just don’t do it.”

The awful truth and difficulty for you and I is that no… I can't just stop.  It’s not that easy.  We want to.. with all of our hearts we want to…. but it is so difficult and most un addicted people can't grasp or understand that.

The disservice that is done is that we may end up up spending more time teaching the “don'ts” and less time sharing the ways the Atonement heals and repairs and makes us whole again.  I should clarify, most Bishops do teach the Atonement. It is their calling and assignment to teach of the Savior and His mission to save us all.   But, it often does not become the main focus until after the sin has been confessed.

Again, I am not faulting our leaders. They only have so many tools available at their disposal and it is far better to teach people to stay away from addiction than to have to help them repent later on. But, when one who has conquered this can testify of the healing power of redemption through the atonement, there is a much more focused direction given to the rescue effort.

I have discovered that full disclosure to those closest to me has become my greatest tool for recovery.  It is hard to imagine sharing your darkest secrets with someone who looks at you a certain way… and knowing they are going to look at you differently after.  If she is truly a trusted friend.. one who you can cling to and cry with.. then maybe you should tell her everything and explain that you really want her to know because you love her and would like here to be a support to you through recovery. Let her know that you need her to check on you, to ask you how you're doing, to be a strength in weak moments and to cry with when the pressure and weight is too heavy to carry alone.

I firmly believe our friends are not accidental. They come into our lives to either lift us or to be lifted by us. We share hard times and hold to each other. We share joys and celebrate together. We struggle and they learn. We hurt and they serve. It is a symbiotic relationship requiring us both to be participants in order for us to grow. It may just be that she too struggles with something. You're opening up to her about you might be the exact catalyst she needs to share her own struggles.

What I know is that my friends have not run from me in my confession but instead rallied around me. I am grateful for those who know my weakness. They are my closest friends. I have shared with them my darkest pains and they, now with privileged information, go out of their way to defend and protect me. I could not be more grateful that I have chosen a small group of people to be included in my battle with the adversary.

Satan of course will continue his advance. He has amassed an army of faithful soldiers, whose only mission is to continually break you down. All he wants is to force you into submission, to be unable to handle the pressure and give in. His war continues 24/7, 365 days a year. And who do you have to go against him?

At times it may feel like it is just you.

If those are the odds, then you are doomed to fail. You have to fortify your forces. You of course need the Bishop and other Priesthood leaders. You also need loving and understanding family members. They are the second line of defense. And I know you are also surrounded with the forces of Heaven, including the Savior Himself. When you plead for their assistance, I promise you they are right next to you in the trenches.

As I said at the very beginning of this post, this addiction can be very isolating. So, if you feel  you need them, I suggest you bring on yet another brigade for help...your friends. Include those you trust in the fight. With them you can strategize. With them you can confide. In them you will find strength to fight back. In so doing you will discover that you don't have to carry this heavy burden alone.

I pray you will find success and the support you need in your friends. May the Lord Bless you in your battle as well.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dear “Addi” I am about to be Excommunicated and I'm scared! (Part 1)

Dear “Addi”,

In the next few weeks, my Stake will be holding my disciplinary council. My Stake President has already told me that I will most likely be excommunicated. How do I prepare to face the council? If I am repentant, is Excommunication necessary? Im willing to change, I'm ready to change, Why isn't being disfellowshipped enough? I'm nervous for this council. What is going to happen when I get there? How will my life change after being excommunicated? How will I have the strength to withstand the temptations of addiction if I no longer have the gift of the Holy Ghost?

Scared but willing

Dear Brother,

Oh how I know these questions and feelings. I have reflected on and prayed about each of your questions many, many, many times. I think the easiest approach is to take them in order.

How do I prepare for my disciplinary council?

I'm not sure there is a way to prepare. It is going to be what it is going to be. And honestly, that is OK. It needs to be honest, humble, and completely real.  The hard truth is that you nor I would have need for a council at all had it not been for a series of bad choices. The true culprits in our lives are both Pride and Fear.

Pride drives us to think of ourselves and our own desires. It fills us with a false sense of confidence and a mistaken feeling of being invulnerable. It launches us head-first into lies and deceit. It feeds us with irrational and unfathomable impulses, all of which led us to making decisions that ultimately brought betrayal to the ones we love and led us to the breaking of sacred covenants. Pride tells us that we don't need a council and can handle this process on our own.

Fear is what Satan has used to keep us Idle and in check for so many years. He has spent countless hours and days telling us that if we follow our true Godly desire to escape this mess and confess, that our lives will fall apart. He has convinced us that we will lose our wives, our children, our homes, our friends, and even our membership. He has frightened us with the thought that we will end up sitting at the end of that large council table, staring at our peers as they decide our fate. Yes, fear keeps us in check by filling our minds with all we might lose and replaces it with a compromise… the loss of our souls. Fear tells us that a council will be scary and horrible and that we should run from it at all costs.

Walking into that council is scary. It was is one of the scariest things I have ever had to do but, this was a true rebirth for me. This was my opportunity to completely come clean and escape the snare and darkness of the adversary. So, I decided it was time to face my fear head on.

My Advice…. Be sincere, Be humble, Be Forthright and Be complete.

Your Humility and Sincerity are obvious signs that you are now ready to turn your life over to the Lord. Don't make excuses for your actions. Nobody in that room or out of it is responsible for your sins but you. Humbly accept your choices with a willingness to change. Humbly accept the council's decision as well. It will be bitter to actually hear those words leave the stake president's lips but it will be a blessing and a restart the likes of which you can get no other way.

Being forthright offers a willingness to answer questions directly without hesitation. Don't assume that you are entering a room filled with people that are trying to trip you up or catch you in a lie. It is exactly the opposite. You are not entering enemy's territory but instead, coming home to friends and family who want nothing more than to see you heal and whole. No one in that room is a stranger to sin. Truthfully, most of the men in that council will be in awe at your humility and willingness to go through such a difficult process.

Be complete. Don't set yourself up for failure by only sharing what you consider are the “Worst Offenses." Don't think that simply because you have confessed your darkest sins that the rest of them are automatically covered. The last thing you want is to have to return over and over to your Bishop or Stake President with new details to divulge. My council was about a month after my confession. In that month the onion layers began to unravel more and more. I was slowly able to open up and confess all of the issues in my past, dating back to when I was a child. This was a blessing for me. That month gave me time to realize that no stone should be left un-turned. And, since I assumed my fate would be excommunication, I might as well get it all out and have complete cleansing. And so that is what I did.

Remember, you are loved by the men in that room. They are your friends. I promise you there will be both tears and hugs as that council concludes.

Dear “Addi” I am about to be Excommunicated and I'm scared! (Part 2)

Excommunication part 2: "If I am repentant, is Excommunication necessary? I'm willing to change, I'm ready to change, so why isn't being disfellowshipped enough?"

First, I want to dispel a rumor about excommunication. As far as I know, there is no list of things a person might do that will trigger an automatic excommunication. There certainly are things that make it more likely, however there are always many factors that go into a council's decision including how repentant the individual is and what evidences he can provide that he has changed and turned his life away from sin. We have to remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about punishment. It is about compassion. The goal of every council is to help the member draw closer to their heavenly Father and take advantage of the atonement of Christ. The men in those councils carry a heavy responsibility as they administer the justice and mercy of the kingdom.

The church seems to have changed its stance in recent years on why and when an excommunication is favored over being disfellowshipped.  As a former Bishop I witnessed this change first hand and felt a real tenderness in this shift. But, to our great sadness, many of our excommunicated brothers and sisters simply never return to activity. Their reasons for inactivity may result from embarrassment, humiliation, loss of testimony, the struggle to recover from addiction and sin or any number of things. It’s my opinion that the church might have felt that they were doing some of these good saints a disservice by cutting them off from membership altogether. When they become excommunicated, their connection to the church may have felt severed and in that loss of connection came a lack of motivation and an increase of temptation from the adversary.

On the other side, those who are disfellowshipped maintain their membership. They have a lifeline of hope and a connection to support. They keep the gift of the holy ghost and are able to rely on his assistance when they are worthy of his influence during this difficult journey. I have no data to back up my assumptions but I would guess that there is a much higher level of retention with fewer excommunications.

That is not to say there aren't cases in which excommunication is necessary. Obviously there are. I am evidence of that. One could spend hours contemplating why this case ended in excommunication and that one ended in disfellowshipment. But, this is both a fruitless and useless waste of time. The reasons are so varied that trying to dissect them is foolishness. Each council is taken case by case and done completely in connection with the spirit. It comes by way of a great deal of discussion and prayer, weighing what is best for the individual.

My case was one such case. I lived with a pornography addiction most of my life. I lied to cover it up not just once but hundreds of times. I accepted assignments that I was not worthy of. And I ultimately committed adultery and broke the covenants I had made to my wife and my Father in Heaven. I believe my council could have gone either way if those were the only facts. But my good stake president and his counselors knew that this had been a plague in my life for more than a few months or years. They knew that I did not simply wake up one morning and trip into an affair. They understood that its root was a dark and corrosive addiction that had plagued me for most of my existence on this earth. And so after over an hour of private prayer in the stake president's office, they emerged with the decision of excommunication. I could not have been more grateful to hear those words. I almost think that it would have been a disappointed to have been disfellowshipped.

If I were to ask my stake president to share with me the process of the council, I imagine he would say something like this.

1. I met with the High council prior to your arrival and shared with them the very basics of your transgression.
2. You were invited to join us and I asked you to share in your own words what had happened, how you felt you got here, and where would you like to see your life moving forward.
3. I allowed the High Council to ask you questions, to which you answered honestly.
4. Two of the brethren were given the responsibility to restate your words to make sure that we all understood properly and that there were no misunderstandings.
5. We dismissed you and then spent 20 minutes discussing their thoughts, concerns, and love for you.
6. The stake presidency dismissed ourselves into the Office and spent the next hour in discussion and prayer. We went back to the Lord several times seeking his guidance.
7. After feeling confirmation of our decision we returned to the council and shared with them our decision and asked for a sustaining vote.
8. We invited you back into the room and shared with you the decision of the council.

This is the process. This is how a council works.

At the end of my council I was invited back into the room.  As I sat at the end of that large intimidating conference table next to my Bishop, who had come to be my advocate and support, I looked around and realized I was in a room full of friends. The decision of the council was announced and I was given a series of instructions to live by over the next year or more. We concluded with prayer.  I stood to exit the room… and was swamped by brethren who came to embrace me with tear filled eyes and whispering words of love and compassion. This was going to be a rebirth.

In a post council visit I asked my stake president, what was the deciding factor? He said, (I am paraphrasing his words) “We really struggled. We really truly wanted to err on the side of compassion and if possible only have to disfellowship you but we just didn't feel comfortable with that decision. So we went back to the Lord over and over trying to understand the conflict we felt. Then the first counselor offered an insight that helped us understand why the Lord needed excommunication for you. He Said, "Do you remember the story of Joseph Smith's leg when he was a boy? It was riddled with infection. The Dr. recommended a course of medicine at first but he could not guarantee that the infection would be completely eradicated and there was a chance it would flare up again. Then he said that there was a treatment that he could offer. It required opening up his leg and cutting out all of the disease. It needed to be rooted out completely in order to allow the leg the best opportunity to heal. Well, Brother Arnold is just like that diseased leg. We can't just treat his disease with an ointment. The infection has run far too deep and for too long for that. He needs to have the disease completely cut out. Excommunication, in this case, is his best chance to heal.”

With that, they had received both their understanding and their decision. And they were right. Excommunication was the right decision for me. Here's why:

1. I had filled my life with so many toxins over the years I began to believe there would be no way for me to recover. I felt my soul was lost. My eternity was taken from me. Excommunication represented a way to change that mind set. Only a complete loss of everything would help me to see an open door that was waiting for me off in the distance. And for the first time in my life, I wanted to walk through that door completely and totally worthy to do so.

2. Baptism is a physical representation of the spiritual rebirth I have been experiencing. So deep is the corrosion of one who has let themselves degenerate from pornography to lust to adultery, that although the process of repentance can cleanse me from my sins, I also needed this physical act to show to my wife, my leaders, my Savior and myself that I am truly willing to take upon me the name of Jesus Christ and to stand as a witness of Him and His Atonement.

Excommunication is not a punishment but a blessing. Those who see it for what it is know that it is not exile but instead, the death of a broken, sin filled life that can be used, if we choose, as an opportunity to truly be Born again.

Dear “Addi” I am about to be Excommunicated and I'm scared! (Part 3)

Excommunication part 3:  "How will my life change after being excommunicated? How will I have the strength to withstand the temptations of addiction if I no longer have the gift of the holy ghost with me?"

Yes… your life is going to change.  I'm not going to sugar coat this and tell you how wonderful excommunication is. It's not wonderful, fun, or something I would ever tell someone to seek after.

I'm going to break this blog into 2 parts……1, things lost and 2,things gained.

Things I've Lost from excommunication:

- My temple blessings and my sealing to my Wife and kids
- The Gift of the Holy Ghost
- The automatic trust of my wife
- My membership.
- My temple recommend
- My temple clothing
- My right to pay tithing
- My Ability to hold a calling
- The Sacrament
- The Priesthood authority
- The priesthood in my home
- The ability to give my children blessings
- The ability to baptize my soon to be 8 year old next year.
- My name on the records of the church (even the phone list)
- My account access
- The opportunity to volunteer to help at camps or projects without permission.
- Public Prayer at a church meeting
- The opportunity to bear my testimony in church
- The opportunity to teach a class or substitute.
- The respect of some of my ward family and peers.
- The ability to attend any stake function without feeling a thousand eyes
- The Moral authority to promise success or blessings when living the gospel
- The comfort that comes from knowing that if someone calls on you to pray.. you don't have to say I'm sorry… could I please pass today?
- The innocence of a 10 year old daughter who just can't understand why Daddy doesn't take the sacrament like everyone else.
-The Comfort of having a casual conversation and knowing you won't have to explain when someone asks you what your current calling is.
- Anonymity and privacy as the rumor mill speculates about your release and what kind of things you must have done that made it necessary.
- The safety of not having to dodge questions at family reunions about why you were released and what the church has you doing now.
- The once less than awkward run ins from the men who were at my council.
- The opportunity to speak at the funeral of someone I use to home teach.

Things I've Gained

- An Intimate knowledge of the Atonement
- A much richer closer relationship with my Father in heaven
- A clear, clean conscience
- A more loving and personal relationship with my wife
- A future that is not filled with uncertainties
- The knowledge of my Savior and his love for me
- A true lifting of the burdens that have weighed me down
- A change of heart
- A stronger desire to avoid temptation
- A full recollection of All my guilt
- The desire to faithfully and righteously serve in a calling
- A desire to have my sins washed away
- Empathy for other as they struggle
- A desire to help and share my story with any who find strength from it
- Instant reaction to fall to my knees when temptation or struggles cross my path
- A constant desire and willingness to do anything to regain my wife's full trust
- Excitement to be asked to do even the smallest thing in the church
-The Pornography 12 step program which has been my lifesaver
-The knowledge that I am not the only one who struggles with addiction. I am not alone.
- A vision of what my Father in Heaven has in store for me.
- Escape from the dark hole that has held me bound for so many wasted years of my life.
- An actual understanding that the Savior can absolutely lift, change and direct me when I let Him.
- The ability to feel the spirit in ways I have never felt before.
- A deeper respect for even the most humble callings in the church.
- The hope of one day entering the temple, fully worthy to be there and to partake of the blessings within
- the knowledge that my eternity is not lost.
- A full remission of my sins.
-I no longer feel guilty about serving in callings unworthily.
- The confession of addictions by loved ones that found courage to come forward through my example.
- A deep love for my priesthood leaders, family, and friends as they have rallied to support me.
- A new way of reading the scriptures filled with insights that I had never seen before.
- A testimony of the Rescuer of all mankind and his desire to save me once and for all.

Do I like being excommunicated? No. I wish with all my heart that I had never journeyed down this path. I never wanted this and I would give anything to change the pain I have caused so many, especially my wife. But, I'm here now. I can't change what has been done and I can't change the outcome. What I can do is not waste this opportunity.

I have made it my goal to gain every insight, learn every lesson, and practice every ounce of obedience that I can. I will not fail my wife nor my Savior again. I have had some of the most powerful spiritual experiences during this time. I feel closer to my wife and children then ever before and we truly have a stronger, more focused marriage.

Now, I want to be careful not to oversell this. This has been the hardest, most humbling, and most overwhelming year of my life. If there were any other way for me to learn these lessons, I would welcome it without hesitation. I wish I had chosen to learn wisdom in my youth. I wish had followed the examples of those who had gone before. I wish I had  listened to the stories of those who have made mistakes (including my own father) and not traveled this path myself.

But I am here. I wear my scarlet letter but… I have chosen not to let it define me.

For those who are willing to finally put their lives in order and truly live the gospel, then Excommunication may be necessary.

Excommunication will most likely be a year. And when you think about it,  a year is such a short period of time. The brethren will also have to wait at least one more year in order to have their priesthood and temple blessings restored.

Again.. Its only a year. If you are anything like me, then you have already wasted years and years of your life sitting in the mire, soaking up the filth. For 25 years of my life I have gorged on the filth of pornography. For 25 years I have played the game of “will I win the battle today?" For 25 Years I have professed to be a disciple of Christ only to privately respond to Satan's call and again lap up his vomit. It has been a 25 year waste of time. If the Lord requires me to give up 2 and a half years of my life to prove to him that I have turned away from sin and turned my life over to him, then I don't see that as a sacrifice any more than I do paying tithing. It is a tithe after all. All He is asking is for me to give him back 10% of what I have wasted... 2 and a half years for the 25 I have spent foolishly.

How do I live without the Holy Ghost?

It is true that when one is excommunicated, they lose the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some might ask, “How will I have the influence of the spirit if I have lost this precious gift?”.  In order to understand this we need to break down the mechanics of the way the spirit works.

One who has received the gift of the holy ghost after baptism, can have its influence with them throughout their life…… so far as they are worthy of it.

Well, when was the last time you or I felt worthy of the companionship of the spirit.? The truth is, we have not been worthy of it for a very long time. I lived with a dark cloud over my head every day of my life. Sure, there were moments of sunshine when I tried hard, but mostly I just watched the clouds waiting for it to rain.

The gift of the holy ghost gives baptized members of the church the blessing of the spirit with them Always. But what about Non- members? Are they just written off in the department of spiritual affairs? Of course not. If that were true we would see very little growth or progress from our missionary efforts.

They of course have the opportunity to feel the spirit when they ask for it and when the Lord feels they are worthy to receive it. They don't yet have the blessing of having it with them always, but they do get to feel its presence when He desires and when they are receptive to feel it.

I, essentially, am a non member. I do not have the gift of the Holy Ghost. But I can testify to you that I feel the spirit stronger in my life now, than I have for many years. Why? Because, I have finally repented. I have finally exposed my wounds to the air where they can heal. I have willingly turned my life over to my Savior. I have decided to place my future in His hands and accept the consequences for my actions.

Now, when I plead for the spirit to accompany me… I feel it. When I beg for a shield of protection against the adversary, I sense its presence immediately. My Father in heaven is aware of me and my efforts and for that… this non-member is being blessed with the spirit.

Once we free ourselves from the shackles of sin, we not only open ourselves up to the presence of the spirit in our lives, but we open the door to redemption. I'm reminded of the old painting with the savior standing at the door without the door knob. He is knocking and knocking… in my case he has been knocking for years and years. Of course, with the only door knob on my side of the door, what could He do but wait? And He did wait. Thank goodness He is patient. But, He would have kept waiting for years, decades, even eons if that is how long it took me to finally grab hold of the knob and turn. The spirit has now found my open door…. and He freely comes to lead me. I'm not wasting another second. What about you?