Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Step 8: Seeking Forgiveness

Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them.

Step 8 Reading

This step reminds me of step 4 in a way.  It's like taking down another inventory but this time instead of focusing only on internal things, it's a focus on external things.  How have I affected other people/events?  How have other people/events affected me?  Step 8 is about prayerfully choosing people to apologize to in step 9.  I have done step 8 twice, mind you, and I have a habit of apologizing to people whenever it weighs heavily on my consciousness, but I think when it comes to my addictive tendencies there are always things subconsciously swept under the rug that I need to face.

So, that's what I'm going to try to do this time with my step 8.  It can't be a rushed thing, which is one of my tendencies.  I need to be more prayerful and open to what the Lord shows me needs to be done.  Writing about it has helped me immensely.

It's interesting to write about how we once felt about something and then about how we feel about it now.  It helps a lot to really dissect the effect of something.  How did I feel then?  How do I feel now?  What has changed and why?  What still needs to change?

Acknowledge and face resentments. Honestly attempt to let go of offenses and resolve feelings.  This can only be done by really figuring out the cause and the reasons for the feelings, which honestly have more to do with internal reactions because of history then about what actually happened to trigger the feelings.

This time with step 8 I was writing a persons name, then writing a short paragraph to them in my journal that I would decide to share or not share later in step 9.  I wrote first what I forgive the person for, and then I would write an apology for how I wronged the person.  It really helped me clearly put into words how I felt and be honest without any excuses when apologizing.

It mentions to add your own name to the list of people, so I did that too.  I ended up writing a letter to myself as though I were writing to another person.  It was actually quite therapeutic.

I forgive you for hurting me in your ignorant childlike curiosity and not dropping bad habits.  I forgive you for being in denial, lying to me, and letting things happen to me that shouldn't have.  I forgive you for disrespecting me and for lowering my standards.  I'm sorry for being blind and self-righteous without valuing you.  I'm sorry for putting you down and making you feel like it was more righteous for me to think you were ugly or worthless.  I'm sorry I didn't care for you more and take care of you like the daughter of God you are.  I love you now an I feel freed to say I always have and I'm sorry I didn't say it more often when you needed to hear it.  You are beautiful and you better believe it.
Love, Me

Another thing it says to do is deliberately pray for someone in whom I have hard feelings for a couple of weeks.  This really helps us to sort out the hard feelings because the Lord always blesses us with love when we ask for it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Step 7 Progress Continued

My feelings of humility have drastically changed since I began recovery.  Completely changed.  Humility before to me was just another way to be righteous and in a way I thought putting myself down would make me humble.  But it was pride, really, because it was all about how I looked to other people or got attention.  Really I was putting on a facade like so many people do when they don't know who they are.

Now I think of being humble as really seeing who I am and how much I depend on the Savior, and seeing others the same way.  I love who I am.  I love my creativity, my compassion, my beauty, my kind and caring demeanor, my loyalty and the way I highly value what is good and right.  But I also have dastardly messes that I have to rely on my Savior to help me overcome and clean up because I am not perfect.  I have a bad temper, with a scary violent side I despise.  I can be too prone to rescuing others which is actually not helpful at all.  I can get too lost inside my thoughts, and I sometimes can be closed minded in my intent to be open minded.  :)  If that makes any sense at all.

So I need the Savior.   That is real humility, acknowledgement of my need and reliance on my Savior.

In the working part of Step 7 it has a scripture that gives guidance on what to do.

If I...
*Believe in God and His mighty power and wisdom
*Repent and forsake sin
* Humble myself
*Ask His forgiveness
*Remember the greatness of God (His goodness/long-suffering) and my own nothingness
Then He will...
*Grant me greater knowledge of His glory (just and true)
*Give me constant reasons to rejoice
*Fill me with His love

What great blessings that I truly do desire to have as a constant.

Another scripture in Step 7 is quoted from 2 Nephi 25:25 and it asks what it means that the law is dead to us.  I really had to think about that one a lot.  If you know better then me, please comment because I really thought hard about this.

I was thinking it was referring to the law of Moses and how that has changed because of Jesus adding to that law, but then that doesn't make the law dead...So then I was thinking maybe when the law is broken it becomes dead.  Because all men are imperfect, we break the law and so it is dead to us.  But we (and the law) are made alive again through Christ.  Showing faith by turning to Him and repenting makes us alive again and in Him.  He never did break the law, so the law is alive in Him and if we let Him, the law can then be alive in us again through Him.  In order to keep it alive after that, we must not break it again.

Keeping the commandments from here out expresses my love to God because it is the only gift I can truly give to Him that is not His already.  My will is mine and so when I surrender that to Him, it is a true gift.  Keeping the commandments also means I won't hurt my Savior more then I already have.  This is also an expression of love.  I do feel like my capacity to feel God's love for me and for others has grown as I have worked the steps and started into recovery.  I feel like the greatest act of love is part of step 7 because is HIS greatest act of love to take away my shortcomings through His merciful atonement and sacrifice.

One blessing I've gotten from realizing my addiction(s)?  Now the way I react to my husband is so different, and so much better.  The other night he confessed to me that he hasn't been doing as well as I thought he had been doing with his own addiction.  Instead of feeling hurt and playing victim (inside) and struggling to keep my cool and be supportive, I just...was!  I was supportive in the way I would support anyone struggling.

Because I have been working on my own stuff I was able to simply call him on his justifications and encourage him to do what was right and take the steps needed to move forward.  It was so great that I was able to keep a clear head through it and that I didn't have any underlying emotions of hurt bubbling up from underneath.  I genuinely cared about his progress while keeping it about him.  His addictions have nothing to do with me.  It feels good to see that clearly the way I should.

The whole conversation began with me spilling over about how horrible I feel because of my own addictions.  I started stating that I felt like my addictions impacted my life more then his did to him.  My problem began at an age I can't even remember...something like two or three maybe?  He was twelve.  But making comparisons never help anyone, and he reminded me that he struggles too.  Although, I do feel like my identity has been tainted more then his.  I was looking at myself and wondering who I really am.  After I strip away all the negative behavioral patterns, weaknesses, and problems, what's left?  Who am I?  My husband didn't help much with that.  Maybe it would have been better for him to remind me of my good qualities at the time, but he was too caught up in how I had belittled his own struggles.  I don't blame him for that.

I do still argue with myself about managing my husband's recovery, however.  I am constantly asking myself if it's ok for me to go ahead and schedule his appointment with the bishop for him because he still hasn't done it.  But then I tell myself it is not my place to do it.  If I continue to do that every time he will never do it for himself.  And if he never makes his own appointments with the bishop, those appointments will always be someone elses idea and therefore not his own personal progress.  I really am feeling impatience for him though because I know.  Being in recovery myself makes me realize how much easier it can get if he will just submit to the Lord and really work those steps.  He is reading the steps, and writing about them because I told him he needs to.  But he doesn't enjoy reading and writing.  You'd think that would mean he would do the rest more.  But no, he just reads it, writes about it, and thinks he's done and moves on.  I don't know how much he's really applying the steps but I really hope he's applying them more then I can see. In just this week he's gone through steps one and two and is on step three now.  It seems fast, but then I guess I could look back at how fast I took those steps.  I think I might have done the same.  AND there are no comparisons!  Everyone works at their own pace anyway.

I guess I'm just having a hard time because I'm feeling kind of stagnant about many things in my life right now.  I don't know how long I will have to just sit like a floating leaf on still water, waiting for another ripple to come take me on my way, but for now I'm just going to have to wait.  I need to try my best to take advantage of the time to work on preparing myself for harder times, and getting the rest I need for whatever is to come in my life.  I just need to focus on TODAY better and so I can just submit to the Lord's will for me.

I really need to attend the temple again soon.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Step 7: Humility

Humbly ask Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings.

Step 7 Reading

Notice it doesn't say "all" your shortcomings.  I have a tendency to try to do everything all at once, but this is impossible.  These are the baby steps to the atonement.  They have to be taken like baby steps, again and again, and we are never finished.  Last night someone at recovery meeting related herself to an onion (kind of like Shrek) and the steps are helping her to peal back the layers of that onion so it takes time.  I also added to myself that sometimes we try to put the layers back on our onions because we feel vulnerable and expose removing all the layers, but then the Lord asks us to again remove those layers to get to our core again.  And there are lots of layers!  Going once through the steps won't remove them all, and that's ok.  So don't try to do the steps perfectly.  Just do them.

Last night we talked a lot about perfectionism too, because we were reading about step 4, and it talks about trying to be too perfect when writing our inventories.  Lately, I've really been compelled to be more patient with myself.  I'm just waiting, trusting, hoping, anticipating...because I know God is helping me.

Now that I'm getting in a better state by stopping my bad behavior, I also need to humble myself even more to change my very NATURE.  This is what step 7 is about: changing my nature through turning to the Lord.  I find it interesting in the reading, there's a verse quoted from Mosiah, "They did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  I hadn't ever previously considered submission to the Lord being a "cheerful" thing.  But as I rely on the Lord to become complete in Him, I have to give Him all of myself.

Last night as I drove to the Addiction Recovery Meeting, I realized that there are still pieces of me that withhold myself from questioning whether my addiction is really a problem.  I asked myself if I really needed to attend meetings.  By the time got to the meeting, I decided it is really what I need to do so I can get the support I need.  Because even if my addiction to self-gratification/masturbation is under control, I have behavioral patterns that stem from this addiction.  These behavioral patterns are still impacting my life at all sides.

That's where step 7 comes in.  I don't need help in only stopping my destructive behaviors, but in changing my NATURE.  I need to change my desires, my instinctual reactions, my coping mechanisms, my very core reality.

But I don't like this word "changing".

When we turn to the Savior to "change" I don't think we are "changing" who we really are, but returning to who we really are, and maybe even improving what we used to be.  Turning to the Savior is recalling ourselves from before birth, and then growing from there to get that much closer to our potential.

"We finally abandoned the idea that we could become perfect by ourselves, and we accepted the truth that God desires us to conquer our weaknesses in this life by coming to Christ and being perfected in Him."

Step 7 has a lot of prayer involved in it, and I can't necessarily blog all about it.  But as we continue to work toward this recollection of ourselves, we need to remember that perfection is only in Christ, and we will not be made perfect until after this life.  So we must be patient with ourselves.