Sunday, September 22, 2013

Deliverance in His Word

"They were in captivityand again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his Word" Alma 5:5

I must commit to studying the Scriptures or listening or reading conference talks every single day because by the power of His word, I will be freed.

The healing power of Christ can heal me emotionally and spiritually if I turn to my savior for his living guidance and strength.  He has a perfect love for me that no person on earth can offer.  It is my need,  not just my want,  to be redeemed,  liberated,  and transformed by the power of Christ in my life.  It is essential for happiness.

There are so many things in life beyond my control.  But He is in control.  He cannot change human choice,  and so wickedness and sin exist and hurt and suffering occur.  He doesn't stop that,  but He will ease the burden so it is not impossible to bear.  He can take in all suffering-He has taken all the suffering of the World upon His shoulders. So that we can be uplifted and strengthened in this world of sadness.  There can be peace inside the storms and afflictions of the World.

Faith is that candle that makes the darkness flee and brings hope and peace.  Christ did this for me. It is already done.  He is waiting for us to just turn and let Him take away our burdens.  All we must do is let Him.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Step 2: Hope

Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.

Step 2 Reading

Here I was struck by the line to replace trust in ourselves and our addictions with faith in the love and power of Jesus Christ.  Because I have been trusting in myself too much.  But I am nothing without Christ and I cannot go through this life successfully alone.  To gain the happiness I long for, I must rely on my Savior for help and guidance.

I love this quote from David A Bednar:
"We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord's tender mercies.  The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live..."

It is true that even in times of darkness I have been able to recognize the Lord's hand in my life to make things more bearable for me.  He doesn't often take away suffering, but He makes it bearable.  For example, when my family got really sick I kept waiting to catch the germ too but it didn't come for over a week.  Then, when I finally did get sick it was remarkably when my mother was in town and able to help care for my family while I got the rest that I needed while I was so sick.  That was the Lord's tender mercy for me.  He made it bearable and took care of the things I could not control.

If I look for it every day, I will be able to find something to be grateful for.  It does mention in the Action Steps to "Take a few minutes every day to seek what the Lord desires to communicate to you." Often I find that He communicates His divine love through these simple tender mercies.

In the Study and Understanding section, at the very beginning it quotes a scripture from Mosiah about believing in God's existence and His greatness.  This struck me more then it has in the past because as I read it, I thought to myself that if I truly believe in God and His greatness, I can truly believe in His ability to help me and I can truly find the hope I need to go forward.  Because there is hope!  I can beat this with His help, because with the Lord I can do all things.

I also really like the definition of grace as the "divine means of help or strength" given through the "bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ."  The greatest gift of God is grace.

Honesty Continued

"Some may regard the quality of character known as honesty to be a most ordinary subject.  But I believe it to be the very essence of the gospel. Without honesty, our lives... will degenerate into ugliness and chaos" (Gordon B. Hinckley,  "We Believe in Being Honest," Ensign,  Oct. 1990, 2.)

I lied to myself a lot about my addiction.  I would tell myself it wasn't that big a deal, I told bishops I was over it,  I told myself it would even help my sexual response in my marriage.  This is a lie I got from reading worldly advice, which often gets things backwards.  I was told that female masturbation was a healthy thing to enhance sexuality and understand your own body better.

The exact opposite is true- as I tried to improve my response in this practice it only made it harder for my body to respond in the right way at the right times, and made me prone to turn to self gratification more instead!  How frustrating!

But dwelling on the behavior only makes more behavior.  So let's focus on the doctrine.

Let's be honest.  I am not over it.  It might be less often,  but it still has happened. Hopefully never again, but it's still a big deal.  It's ruining my life because it's created a wedge in my marriage.  That reminds me of the story President Monson once told about the tree where someone stuck a piece of wood in it and the tree grew around it until there was no way to get the wedge out and it had major damages.  I found it here! And I guess the story goes back a long way, because I found that it was first told in a 1966 Conference Report by Spencer W. Kimball!  I love it when I have something come to mind that seems so timeless because it testifies to me the truthfulness of the concept.  But I never thought about his story in this way before,  but it's true.  Addictive behaviors do just that, drive a wedge. They must be removed or it someday can seem impossible to change, and can have devastating consequences.

As I humble myself and be honest,  it softens me enough to receive the help I need to receive. There is hope for anyone softened to repentance.

I believe I am now ready for step 2.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Being Imperfect

I didn't go to the meeting last night because I had to let my husband go by himself since we didn't have a babysitter again, and I went alone last time.  I miss it.

Support group meetings are like a breath of fresh air once a week.  Church attendance is important too, yes, but there is something extra special about attending a meeting where everyone takes off their masks and lets everyone else see the imperfections and pains and struggles, and still feel loved.  Church should be more like this.  Someday I hope the program merges into the church's regular programed system and helps people to open up and realize everybody is struggling.

There's a woman who attends my group who expressed feeling completely and utterly alone when she attends church because as she looks around it feels like she is the only one that isn't put together.  This is the terrible lie I feel everyone at church sometimes thinks they must live up to.  Especially the women (in my opinion) although the men have their masks too.  Women seem to have more to hide.  I mean, we are of course the ones expected to cover up with makeup and panty hose and modern-day corsets to hide our physical nonconformities...and then emotionally and spiritually it's even worse, because of this.  Men have the freedom to allow physical imperfection and seem to have more lee-way in their social psyche when it comes to any kind of expectation.  (Of course, they go completely the opposite direction and are expected to have the emotional capacities of snails, but that rant is for another post).

Women expect perfection in ways that are completely and utterly impossible.  But what is important to note is that most women expect this of themselves more then others, and because they expect it of themselves they feel like everyone else is  expecting it.  When, in truth, everyone else is just as worried for themselves.   No one really pays attention to judge how perfect other people are, if only to compare someone's greatest talent to one's own weaknesses, degrading oneself all over again.  I rarely could even imagine seeing someone say "Oh look, she's not a good mom because her daughter didn't get her hair in a neat ponytail for church today."

All that?  At the Addiction Recovery Support Group Meetings? Gone.

Instead, we are sitting there with the combined understanding that we all are imperfect, we all make mistakes, we all need our Savior, and that this is ok!

On top of this, we discuss our struggles and our faith, and a beautiful spirit is always there in each meeting that testifies the truth of that sentence above.

So if you are struggling with anything, be it an addiction, or just a weakness, or pain from someone else's wrongs.  Come to a meeting.  You are welcome here.

Go to the Meeting Finder to find a meeting near your area.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Female Addiction Tendencies

It was brought to my attention last night that female addicts are more common then we realize and many women wouldn't even recognize their own addiction because it doesn't manifest itself in the same way a man's addiction manifests itself.  Women are by nature more emotionally stimulated, thus addictions are more emotionally geared.  A woman's sexual addiction does not manifest itself often by outward sins, such as masturbation or the common definition of pornography.  Women become addicted to fantasies of another nature.

The problem with this is, a woman can obtain a high (create the same addictive brain chemistry) from an emotional connection.  Thus, it could be from a seemingly harmless relationship online with someone anonymous, or a secret crush on a celebrity or even a member of her community.  A woman could envy another married couple because the husband (to her) seems to have great characteristics that she feels her own husband lacks.  This seeking of love and fulfillment from other sources then her husband can become addictive because if she finds it, she gains a high off this other source and therefore does not seek the closeness from her husband anymore.

I know I have been guilty of this in my past.  It is difficult because being married to an addict also means my husband cannot emotionally connect to me on the level I long for.  I have tried.  I have tried really hard.  But there always seems to be a barrier between us as he just won't or can't open up.  And the most painful thing about it is that I can see his effort!  I can see that he's trying so hard to give me what I long for, but he still isn't succeeding.  Just talking to me seems to take so much effort.  I can see him writhing inside because it is so uncomfortable for him to try to talk to me - even to have a simple conversation.  That's what hurts me the most.

And this is one of the reasons I have become addicted to media, to internet relationships in my past which I have since eliminated, to movie or book fantasies where I rewind and play a scene over and over because of some emotional connection being portrayed on the screen that I long to have.  It is never something pornographic, but it triggers that emotional high and so I seek it again and again.  Of course, this is not related necessarily to my self-gratification addiction, but if I get to a place where I am vulnerable maybe that's when I have failed with that addition to, on those rare occasions since my marriage began.

What is interesting to me is that ever since I have decided to begin working the steps toward this addiction in particular, I have been finding others that can relate and share with me their own experience.  The first week I attended the support group meeting after I began this endeavor, a woman sat next to me for the first time in the meeting and introduced her sharing with telling us she is a recovering addict.  Then the next week a woman I've known for a while in the group shared how she had discovered within herself that she had other addictions.  We had a conversation later that prompted this post.

I recall reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and being completely encompassed by that world.  I enjoyed reading it, even though I felt some of the writing wasn't very good.  It was the idea, the romantic notion of being with someone who really showed his love.  I didn't just read it because it was a good story, I fed on it with a hunger that could not be satisfied, and when I put the books down I was still caught up in that dreamworld.  I read it and then reread it because I didn't want it to end.  I became addicted to the fantasy land, and it disconnected me from my family and my kids and my husband.  I felt completely unhappy in my reality because the world I lived in did not hold the fantasies I craved, and my depression grew.  And my blame grew - everything was my husband's fault.

Later, the series was banned from Deseret Book and I read that they discontinued selling it because they felt it was "emotional porn".  At the time I was affronted.  I snorted and thought they were being snobbish and I rationalized my own fantasy addiction.  It eventually wore off for that particular story, but my addiction continued in the form of writing poetry and posting it and dwelling on the other people's writings on that website.  That finally came to a head with a relationship that became too emotionally charged and I had to take a step back and began visiting with the bishop.  By that point I didn't think love existed in my marriage at all.  My husband was clueless to all this because he lived in his own contented world with no progress and everything is rosy.  He ignored me even when I was blunt.  He just shrugged it off and forgot I even ever said a word.

I would become so emotionally involved in television shows the drama would make me crazy.  I would react openly when the plot would take a turn I didn't like and my husband would look at me like I was crazy, because I was!  The story was my life!

Ok...this post is turning into more history and I'm losing focus.  My point is, the addiction my husband has is not the only source of our troubles.  Focusing on the here and now has helped me a lot but I am still prone to this addiction of escaping into that fantasy world of movies or television shows.  I have to be careful.

I think some people (online men) even sort of prey upon women like this because we are very vulnerable and unhappy and seeking intimacy where we should not be seeking it.  I'd never thought about all this as addiction, but now that I have it makes more sense then before.  So I will also be working the steps for this as well as the self-gratification thing.

Monday, September 9, 2013


It seems strange but interesting that just when I'm going through the process of being called as a facilitator for the support group for women with addicted loved ones, I realize I need to work the steps for my own addiction to self gratification.  I started to wonder if I needed to attend the meetings for female addicts.  Maybe I will sometime, but for now I know I'm where I'm supposed to be and I am still being spiritually led to where I need to be.

Even though I am still only working on step one with this particular problem, I am feeling very close to the Lord and very guided.  It's wonderful how much the spirit helps us once we are set apart for a specific calling.  When I was set apart to facilitate, I felt the same precious spirit that I feel in the meetings and I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and the Lord would help me be there for these wonderful women.

I can also testify that step one is a big step, even though it seems small.  It appears to be a baby step in the right direction - just to realize your position, your helplessness and dependence on the Savior.  But it's big.  Because simply doing that makes a big difference.  I felt it in the past when I took this step in other ways, but I am feeling it work it's miracles now as I do it for this particular problem.

I know the Lord is there and cares about us.  He cares about you.  No matter what problems, habits, sins, or addictions we have, He cares and wants us to be free.  We are important to Him, vastly important!  Turning to Him is all we need to do in order to gain the freedom to escape from the tangled web we might find ourselves in.

For me, it was simply this that has already made positive results in my marriage.  I have begun to feel!  It's real and I am beginning to treasure my experiences.  I realize now that I always used to feel rather dirty sexually.  I felt uncomfortable opening myself up to that mind-frame at all because it seemed to be all interconnected with negativity.  People talked about how this part of married life was so precious to them and I couldn't understand how they felt.  I wanted to feel that way but didn't know where to begin.  I thought maybe we just needed practice, but the day never seemed to come when I really felt good about it.  There were times when the experience was positive, but I still couldn't let go.  I see now that I couldn't let go because I needed to give those things away.  My Savior has always been there to take away the burden and now I've handed it to Him.  What a relief!

And I'm only beginning.  Step 1 is Honesty.  Admit that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.  Check. :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Step 1: Honesty


Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

Step 1 Reading

Our Heavenly Father and our Savior can and will heal our broken hearts but we have to give him ALL of the PIECES. <3

This time when reading through step one, I felt like I was reading it for the first time.  Actually reading it and applying it to my addiction, I felt like every single word was for me.  I've read it before...more then once.  It's so interesting how just simply reaching a time when I was able to REALLY be honest with myself, I am listening.

I found it interesting how it even says that rarely people caught in addictive behaviors admit to being addicted.  I knew this already, but I hadn't applied it to myself because I was doing just that!  I was denying the seriousness of what was going on, minimizing it and lying to myself.  I even would blame my unhappiness on outside things, like my family members or my situation.  I often said "It's not that bad!" all the time.  But I have come to that point where I can see that it has been destroying my life and damaged my relationships.  Now that I can acknowledge it, I can truly turn to the Lord.

 I realize now that back when I was a youth at Youth Conference (read this story here) I was taking Step 1 when I prayed to the Lord.  I was admitting my dependence upon the Lord, and in turn He took away my burden.  I know it can happen again and happen for anyone because the Lord can help, and will.

Action Steps

Again here I am taken back by the words that so fully apply to me when I was closed off to them before.  "Like a degenerative disease, it eats at your ability to function normally."  Truly, it has done this to me.  But the truth is this: all you need is the desire and that's where we can begin.  Even if it is small...and if it's not hardly there at all, you can pray for the Lord to give you the desire.  Think about priorities and goals.  What do I want in my life?  How is the addiction preventing this?  Am I willing to do what it takes to have what I want in life?

I also realize how much I actually was being prideful.  I felt I could do it on my own and told myself no one else needed to know.  I kept telling myself I didn't act out in the addictive behavior enough for it to be that big of a problem, so it must not be an addiction.  I told myself I had it under control now so I didn't need to confess anything and I didn't need any help.  These are distortions that have allowed my addiction to survive.  Deep inside, I know and have always known it's something that is nagging at my conscience because it needs to be taken care of and put into the past so it will never happen again.

This stubborn pride is the same for anyone when making any unrighteous choices that are not aligned with God's will.

I love this quote by Boyd K. Packer from a Conference Report in 1986, "The study of the doctrine of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.  Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior.  That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel."


The Study and Understanding Portion of the steps is very important to participate in, because this is where the true change happens internally and the step is not fully taken until this happens inside.

The Nature of Addiction

Today people say childhood masturbation is natural.  It's ok as long as you teach your child to touch him or herself when others cannot see.  Even parenthood websites and medical advice may point you in this direction.

From my experience, I can testify to you, this mentality is very wrong.  I have seen the effects this can have on the body.  When the brain practices one way of thinking for a long time, the neurons become larger and it creates a highway in your brain.  You have lots of side roads, but those that are used the most become the highways.  Addictive behaviors are highways, and other more natural behaviors become the side roads.  In my case, I have a big highway in my brain now for self gratification.  I don't use it very often anymore, but it's still a highway, and I'm now trying to widen the road of marital intimacy, and it's going to take lots of time.

May I also add that the body practices with the brain.  So, an addicts body has learned to respond only to what it knows best.  It simply won't respond as readily to a side road in the brain then it will to the highway.

I know someone who is married to a military man.  They attended a conference together about military marriage, and the expert there informed them that the advice men were given before to masturbate while away for long periods of time is now becoming more and more apparent to be bad advice because this bad habit is ruining marital intimacies between couples.  Men are coming back having built a highway in their brain and retrained their bodies to respond in ways that are not compatible to a healthy marital relationship.

Furthermore, habits that are also addictive in nature (because they create chemicals in the brain similar to drugs, but are more powerful because they are also natural) also becoming a coping mechanism under stress.  (Pornography can be categorized here, although I haven't ever allowed myself to personally succumb to this temptation I know that because of the nature of my own addiction it would have a strong hold on me if I ever did.)
Much of this information on the brain can be found in this book called He Restoreth My Soul, by Donald L. Hilton, Jr., MD

When a normal brain is met with stress, the natural reaction is to enter fight or flight mode.  When studies have been made on the brain, rational thought is located in the frontal area of the brain.  Fight or flight mode is located in an entirely different place within the brain.  This is why when someone enters fight or flight mode, they are no longer thinking rationally, but are acting purely on emergency instinct.

But the addict under stress, instead of entering fight or flight mode, goes to the addictive behavior.  This is why an addict to something like heroine may do something absolutely unthinkable in order to obtain a fix.  Afterward they may even say "I don't know what I was thinking." and be completely bogged down in guilt and despair, but still completely out of control.  It's because when they enter that stress mode, they leave rational thought and things are completely out of control.  Having this understanding has helped me to understand why an addict needs help and is powerless to conquer the addiction alone.  Step 1.

How "Jane" Began

Hi.  Call me Jane.  It is not my real name,  keeping with the anonymity to go along with the 12-step program and protect myself.  This is my sorry. 

When I was a child, very young, probably around two years old, I showed interest in my own body and my mother wasn't sure how to guide me.  I remember her saying to stop doing it and warning me that it was not a good habit,  but it didn't sink in.   I only became further isolated in my addiction as I hid it from my mother.  People never talked about what I was doing at church so I didn't even know what it was called.  I didn't grasp how bad it was.  I felt dirty and guilty whenever I did this, but I never knew why and I didn't know how to stop.  This continued all through my childhood and into high school.

There was a point in Youth Conference when I was given time on my own and told to pray about something I really wanted to change, a habit I wanted to break.  Immediately this bad habit came to mind because I knew it was something that made me feel bad and I knew if anyone else knew, it would be horrible.  I hadn't wanted to go to my bishop about it because I felt so ashamed.  I had no idea how to approach the subject because no one ever tales about it.  I was supposed to be the good little Mormon girl.  So during this time at conference,  I prayed and deeply repented.  I felt the presence of the spirit so strongly there as I knelt on my own in the middle of the forest.  The leaders had given me a letter and told me to open it only after I was done praying.  I know today they still have no idea how much I got out of that experience they offered to me.  I felt the forgiveness of my God and I made a pact with Him that I would not ever touch myself inappropriately again and that I would keep myself clean through His help.  The letter held beautiful letters of love from both of my parents that made me cry and I treasure them even today.

I am most ashamed to say what happened next.  I can testify that the Lord hears our prayers and answers them.  I can testify that He answered my prayer in a way I never expected.  He took it all away.  He took away the feelings of pleasure and false fulfillment I got from acting out.  When I broke my promise, as I'm sure He knew I would, he held my body aloft and I could not reach any kind of pleasure as I had before.  I knew it was because He was helping me, but instead of taking advantage of His help and using this means to stop, I kept doing it.  I was frustrated that I could no longer gain the release I used to have.  Now, after knowing about the 12-step program, I can understand that because of the nature of my addiction, I was using this habit to cope with things and I didn't replace it with a better more healthy behavior, so I continued.  And then the feelings came back.  I remember the first time I felt it come back I felt absolutely awful because I felt like the Lord was saying, "Ok, you have broken your promise and if you won't stop with my help then you'll have to do it without me."  Of course, the Lord wouldn't have said this to me in those words.  I was just not willing to really let go of the addiction as I should have been. He couldn't force my obedience.  It was a hard lesson for me.

For my seminary graduation interview, my bishop brought up the word "masturbation" and I didn't even know what it was.  But when I asked and listened to his explanation, I knew I was guilty of it.  He informed me that this wouldn't keep me from graduating seminary, of course, but would keep me from the temple.  I had lied and told him that it used to be a problem but it wasn't anymore.  I think this is probably a common out for many addicts.  "I used to do that, but it's alright now.  I have it under control."

Life went on.  I continued to try and fail in my attempts to stop.  I became sexually involved with a boyfriend outside of marriage when I was in college and didn't understand why it didn't feel as good.  After learning about addiction, I understand why now and I will cover that in a future post.  Those were the darkest days of my life.

After repenting the best I could, acting out in self gratification became less common and I was married in the temple.  But the story does not end there.  I continued to struggle to feel within my marriage the way I wanted to feel.  (Further explanation as to why can be found at my next post.)  I was introduced to LDS Family Services' Addiction Recovery Support Group through another need, to support am addicted loved one.   I worked the steps for other weaknesses, as a support person, not even entertaining the idea that i myself was an addict.  I attended the support group meetings as a support person and not the addict.

However after working the steps for over a year I finally can see myself clearly as an addict and am about to take the steps specifically geared to my own addiction to self gratification.  This is the beginning for me.