Sunday, May 7, 2017

Willingness to Reject Unwillingness

Step Six:

“As long as we could see the possibility of becoming willing, we were still in the program. At times of unwillingness, we prayed for willingness.”

I love the phrasing “see the possibility of becoming willing,” as though it’s a target I’m aiming at, missing consistently but getting closer. Though honestly, as an addict I don’t always have the most realistic grasp on my attitude—“I could overcome my porn problem any time I want.” Still, when I learned to be honest enough with myself, all I need is the realistic desire to be willing. It’s like the desire to believe as a seed (in Alma 32) that I have to let work within me until I believe. If I’m letting my willingness work within me, I’m still working towards recovery in good faith.

“Although [character weaknesses] tended to pop up anew every day…”

Step six isn’t a magical removal of my character weaknesses—it’s a daily surrender as they arise. What I don’t think the text expresses is that the character weaknesses lose their power and I become increasingly purified as I rely on the Savior’s help to root them out of my chest (Alma 22:15). Over time I learn to become a new being, cleansed of impure motives and desires. Over a long time. Very long.

“…our defects can teach us humility and wisdom.”

This is a concept that I struggle with…I’ve heard a number of addicts say that they were grateful for the addiction because it taught them positive things. Yes, I think I can learn some very powerful lessons from recovering from my addiction that I don’t think I could learn in any other way. And I’m grateful for the miracle of forgiveness and that I’m making the progress that I am. But I think I could have saved myself a lot of misery and learned these same principles in other ways. When I compare the danger of me being lukewarm without the addiction (not being forced to the atonement of Jesus Christ by an uncontrollable compulsion), vs the danger of getting lost in my addiction never to get out…I think I’d take lukewarm. Actually, I’ll take recovery, but you get what I’m saying.

“…what appeared to be a character defect in one situation could be an asset in another…conscientiousness to the extreme of perfectionism, concern for the opinion of others to the extreme of dependency on their approval.”

I don’t know that I agree that character weaknesses suddenly change just based on the context, but I do think many, if not all, of my weaknesses are based in good impulses. The addiction itself is mostly based in a desire for acceptance and love, which is not a bad thing. Independence, a desire to take care of myself without hurting others, can also be a good thing. The way that it manifests in my life, though, is an unhealthy, corrupted version of these otherwise positive attributes.


"As I become willing to admit that I'm wrong...I become willing to surrender more defects."  

Part of the reason I think I turned to my addiction is because I connect my sense of personal value with how people view me. If I look good, then I can tell myself I am good. To admit error, then, is to undermine my value as a human being. A funny thing happens when I become willing to admit wrongdoing--I learn that I didn't need to hide my flaws in the first place. I'm still a valuable individual even with weaknesses. I'd like to partake in the cycle described in this quote--constantly humbling myself, constantly surrendering defects, and constantly making progress.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

I Am Powerless Over My Character Weaknesses

Alright! I'm going to just dive right in where I was commenting on the Step Into Action step five:


“I was horrified to hear myself recite behaviors and attitudes of a very different person from the one I had hoped to become.”

The memory of my addiction behavior is shame inducing and hard to come to terms with, for sure. But when I think of all the chances I’ve missed to lift others and improve myself, the years of isolation and self-destructive behavior, all the hobbies, skills, relationships I didn’t build on…that’s when I really feel shame and self-loathing. Still, I can’t change my past—it’s set in stone. Thinking of the serenity prayer, I need to accept the things I can’t change (like my “might have been” self) and change the things I can (like my “might be” self).

Step Six
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” (emphasis added)

Firstly, I like the ARP version of this better, since it doesn’t make me sound so defective…which I guess technically isn’t incorrect, but still.

One of my many character weaknesses is all-or-nothing thinking. If I can’t be perfect in something then I might as well not do it. “I missed one day of my goal to read the scriptures every day, I might as well give up.” This step is the “all” part of that—I have to be “entirely” ready for “all” of my weaknesses to be removed. Maybe I’m wrong about the all or nothing thinking…maybe it’s just a lack of determination and diligence, looking for an excuse to give up and judge myself. That’s not what this step is. Recovery means I forgive myself for not being perfect and commit to healthy choices regardless of the ebb and flow of my emotions. Rather than perfect surrender, this step is asking for consistent commitment to keep trying to surrender.

“We were looking for rescue, not recovery.”

When I think of rescue, the image pops into my head of being stuck on a housetop in a flood and needing a helicopter crew to save me. It presupposes that I’m powerless over the water, with no hope of living except someone else helping me. I was ready to say this image is incorrect, but I think there's something to it…I'm powerless over my addiction, just like I would be over a raging river. I need the help of the Lord, who is the only one who can help me (like a helicopter crew would be). I tried making the analogy working by saying I need to be willing to hook myself up to the harness rather than expecting others to or cutting corners and just trying to hold on (until I lose my grip when the winds start buffeting me again). That still implies rescue, though, which I don't think is quite right. Still, it's interesting how I started wanting to refute this image but found a fair amount that was accurate.

“We had to change if we were to live a useful, meaningful life…If we could have changed on our own, we would have done it long ago.”

My experience has taught me that I don’t have to change—nobody is making me do it. God won’t. My wife or family can’t. My church can’t. However, if I don’t change I’m going to be stuck in a self-centered, downward-spiraling existence where I hurt those around me while trying desperately and futilely to fill the hole in my soul. I recognized this (to a certain degree) from the beginning of my addiction. I honestly tried to throw away the porn and force myself to not return to it. But it takes more than I’m able to generate on my own to overcome this addiction and become the kind of person who has a useful and meaningful life.

“We found that we were powerless over our character defects in the same way that we were powerless over lust.”


Yes, very much this! I’ve discovered recently that I’m a terrible parent, with or without my addiction. With my addiction I didn’t have as frequent angry outbursts, but I was distant and selfish with my time. Now I go from the extremes of patient and involved to angry monster (we use the term “momster” when my wife is angry at the kids. I wish there were an equivalent for me). I’ve tried changing, willing myself to calm down and be reasonable when the kids kick the ball in the house and shatter their light fixture (true story). I’ve realized I need to treat my anger issue just like I do my addiction—surrender and reach out in prayer, calls to recovery buddies, journal, my wife (unless she’s the momster, which, in fairness, she never was before the trauma I put her through), etc.

Rather than a conclusion, here's a picture. 
Yes, that's a tree growing through the engine block of that car. It's pretty powerless...just like me! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taking Up Residence in Reality

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from posting. In the interest of honesty, let me address what happened. I was making good progress working in and writing about the Step into Action books, but when I tried actually doing the step work I needed to, I ran into problems. That’s not code for admitting a relapse. In fact, I’ve done pretty well at keeping up my recovery (my current sobriety date is from right around my last post—November 28th). Instead, I struggled getting my step four completely done and shared with my sponsor: having no idea what to write about, taking my time to be complete, losing motivation, focusing on my family and marriage, my sponsor being busy, and me being busy. Eventually I did, though—I wrote a thorough step four that addressed my character weaknesses as well as my most recent acting-out behavior. Now that I’ve shared all that with my sponsor, I’m working on continuing where I left off in my step work. Let’s hope when I get to step eight and nine I don’t drop off again. J

Step into Action Step Five:
 “We began to practice being the same person on the outside as we were on the inside.”
I was about to write that this is what recovery is all about, but then it struck me. This alignment of who we are and who we appear to be isn’t inherently good. I mean, of course honesty and lack of duplicity is good, but it's also possible to give up on recovery and collapse my double lives into the worse of the two. Instead, though, I’m striving to have integrity by admitting the worst in me but embracing the best.

“Living life from a foundation of honesty and transparency was easier and felt better than hiding.”
Note the verb form—“living.” I don’t think this is saying that building a foundation of honesty and transparency is easy, but that once we've done that work it’s easy and more satisfying to maintain. I have seen this, especially as I don’t have to always doubt my recovery and be paranoid of a relapse. I feel like real, long-term recovery is possible. For me, personally. I’ve always believed I need to maintain a healthy level of mistrust of myself, but the way this quote works in my life is that I feel really good knowing that I can trust myself more than I ever have been able to in the past.

There are four good reasons to share our story with another person: perspective, humility, empowerment, and insurance.
That is, I need to share my step four inventory in order to 1) see where I’m still off, 2) feel that I’m not capable of recovering just by myself, 3) gain power over the addiction, and 4) do what those who have found recovery do. I think this list is also true of making daily calls to support friends. The group I’m a part of is really good at encouraging and modeling the daily call. When I call someone or admit my weaknesses to someone who gets it, all four of these benefits come into play.

“[After sharing our story with another,] we no longer needed to swing between grandiosity and despair. We saw that we were actually imperfect and worthwhile members of the human race.”
I love the “imperfect and worthwhile” phrasing—it says to me that I may be deeply flawed, but that doesn’t make me worthless. My flaws don’t define me or my value. That doesn’t mean I can ignore them, but I’m ok. This connects with the recovery paradox of “I can do it only when I accept that I can’t do it.” This quote also reminds me of a Brene Brown idea—we can work through shame when we stand our ground and don’t let it puff us up or shrink us down.

“We began to be more honest about ourselves and to take up residence in reality.”
I love the phrase “take up residence in reality,” implying that I was living in a fantasy world. And I guess I was—a place where I was justified in “taking care of myself” (selfishly acting out), judging others, writhing in self-pity. Where I needed my drug of choice in order to cope with life. Reality, though, is a place where I take responsibility for my problems—self-caused or not—and address my trials head on. This is what recovery is all about.

Member share: “I always strive for completeness, but as the fog clears, I always see more things that should have been included [in my inventory] but weren’t. This narrowing of the path is a wonderful thing to look forward to.”
A recovery buddy (kind of a sponsee) is working towards completing a disclosure document (basically a step four inventory) in the next week or two. He dreads finishing it only to discover he will have missed something and will have to disclose something else to his wife. This quote illustrates a different attitude—actually looking forward to a “narrowing path,” what I would probably call purification. I can see how it is exciting to recuperate my past, jettisoning my baggage and celebrating my strengths and successes. My past mistakes aren't a ghost, haunting me forever, but they are a pile of junk I've been carrying around with me for years...that I need to learn to throw away. If I find more junk under my bed after my first cleaning, all the better. Perfect cleanliness, especially with the mess I’ve had, isn’t a reasonable expectation all at once.

Member share: “I believe that even in the depths of our disease, each of us tried to choose the least destructive options we saw at the time. As we learn better options, we improve. I need to let go of my shame for not knowing what I had never been taught or shown.”

I have mixed feelings about this one. I agree that I tried to minimize my destructiveness and was honestly trying to solve the problem in the best way I could…however, the best way I could involved still clinging to it even as I tried to get rid of it. I don’t think it is, but I’m uncomfortable how close this quote sounds to justification: “I did the best I could—it wasn’t my fault!” But at the same time, I really did try. Yes, people told me to avoid porn and that it was evil, but the shame-based lectures and lack of clarity about what porn is and how to deal with life didn’t help me avoid becoming addicted. I gave my dad honest answers when he asked me about it…but he never followed up or delved deeper. He did more than others did for me. I have to take ultimate responsibility, but at the very least I don’t want to drop the ball for others who are struggling and who don’t know the way to overcome this addiction.

It honestly feels great to have completed an expanded step four. Anything that I wondered about--"should I have shared that?"--is now shared and behind me. And not only that, but I've now put a lot more thought into who I am. I have a better sense of the patterns of character weaknesses that have added to my addiction or been made worse by it. I feel like I'm taking up residence in reality more, though I still have frustrations. For example, today my son--ignoring what my wife and I have told him several times--kicked a ball inside and smashed a light fixture all over the carpet. I freaked out and had to reach out to a recovery buddy, though not until after I tried calming down on my own. I'm learning that not only am I powerless over lust and sex, but I'm powerless over my character weaknesses. I can't change my weaknesses into strengths by myself, no matter how hard I try. But if I surrender my right to impatience and anger and pride, humbly asking God to help me, I can change with His help. And that's reality.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Our Sobriety Becomes the Most Important Thing Each Day in Every Circumstance"

Part of me is not really comfortable with the way I think about the steps--I think, "now I'm done with step one, so I'm going to start step two." The problem with that kind of thinking is that nobody ever finishes step one. Or any of the steps, for that matter. I think a more accurate and appropriate way to think about it is "I feel like I've learned some important things as I've been working on step one for the last while, so I'm going to leave explicit study of it for now and apply the things I've learned as I move on to learn important things in step two." That said, this week I did finish reading through the first book of Step into Action, and I'm starting step four and the second book. It'll be interesting as I rework my step four inventory...since what I count as my step four inventory is really just a thorough step one inventory. Still, I'm not sure if this weekly post is going to look the same moving forward, but I've still enjoyed this last week of working through these books.

11/7/16

The solution [to alchoholism] is to not take the first drink...The solution [to sex addiction] is to become sexually sober.

I thought it was really interesting the difference between these two. I think the reason it doesn't mention "lusting" or "becoming sexually stimulated at all" in the second one isn't because that isn't the equivalent of the first drink, but because the solution and the addictions are inherently different. Even though it's called "Sexaholics Anonymous," there is no such thing as "sexahol." However, I consider part of sexually sobriety as progressive victory over lust, not complete victory over lust. To accomplish that, the addict would have to go live in a cave somewhere. And even then...

11/8/16

While we may feel we will die without sex with self, our experience is that this simply does not happen.

I once read a troll comment in the Rowboats and Marbles webpage that tried making the argument that not masturbating is really damaging (maybe I even wrote a post about it?). I can attest to the feeling that I might die, but not so much in a physical sense--more that my faulty core belief that "sexual fulfillment=my being a good person" means that I have control over my value. Not being in control of feeling that way feels like abandoning myself in a scary dark pit. However, as I do without I realize that I have inherent value and that not having sexual fulfillment isn't the end of the world.

When we stop these behaviors, we find that the urges pass, and we go on with our day. Our sobriety becomes the most important thing each day in every circumstance.

This line struck me probably more than any this whole week. It seems so strange to say that sobriety is more important than my relationship with God, my relationship with my wife, kids, friends, family or self. How is that possible? Every circumstance? What if I have to choose between making a good decision for my recovery and keeping my job? How could I choose sobriety over that? The answer is that sobriety is like salt--you might think by tasting salt directly that it will overpower any food you put it on...when in actuality it brings out the inherent flavor in everything. So by putting recovery first, my relationship with my wife becomes stronger. By choosing recovery first, my relationship with God becomes more powerful. So, yes, choosing what's best for my sobriety needs to happen "every day in every circumstance." If I lost my job standing up for my recovery, I will eventually be better off for it.

11/9/16

[Anonymity] teaches humility and also protects the well-being of the Fellowship if one of us loses sobriety or takes a public stand.

I wrote in the margin: "so no 'I've become sober because of SA.' More 'I've learned some really great principles that have helped me on my path to recovery.'" I think learning humility is one of the best benefits of 12-step groups. Taking ownership of my recovery and realizing I'm only a few dumb decisions away from relapsing is important. I think occasionally about people who considered themselves healed from pornography addiction and openly proclaimed so during meetings. Then I think of one guy I know who's approaching his second year in recovery and is still making daily calls, attending weekly meetings, actively working steps, and sponsoring two guys (which he never mentions...I found it out indirectly). He has humility and the kind of recovery I want.

11/10/16

Step one in AA vs SA: "...powerless over alcohol/lust"

I wrote in the margins the exact same thing with arrows to "alcohol" and "lust": "not a specific kind--the underlying addictive ingredient." It doesn't say "powerless over beer" or "liquor." It's the addictive ingredient, alcohol. Similarly, it doesn't have to say "powerless over porn" or "strip clubs" because the common ingredient in all of it is lust. By the way, my wife shared a great explanation of how lust addiction is a real thing, contrary to outdated beliefs that addictions can only come from outside chemical sources. I have the feeling that neurology will help sex addiction be treated seriously in years to come.

Step four: "searching and fearless moral inventory"

To me "searching" means "as complete as possible" and "fearless" I take means "as honest as possible." Also, maximum honesty I think includes positive things about ourselves. I don't know if I'm afraid of admitting positive things about myself, but I think as part of my accepting myself and not trying to punish myself by wallowing in shame after each relapse I need to acknowledge that I have good qualities. Should be interesting to do that without minimizing or rationalizing.

11/11/16

From the book two foreword: "We learn to take action to heal our anger and our fear. We learn to see ourselves more clearly. We begin to repair our relationship with ourselves so that eventually we can repair our relationships with others."

I really like the focus on action, seeing myself more clearly, and the concept of having a relationship with myself that needs to be repaired. Also that anger and fear are things that need to be healed...and can be healed. I feel like the two are related--my fear and anger have been part of my coping to my (largely unsuccessful) attempt to stabilize my life using porn and acting out to deal with life issues. I lash out or hide because porn doesn't actually solve my problems--it's simply a smoke screen that makes me feel better and hides the issues, which are actually getting worse. I need to heal from the damage my addiction has caused directly, but also the fear and anger I resorted to to deal with the fact that it doesn't work.


Also, my grandmother died on the 11th. I had all kinds of guilt for not being closer to her, but also thoughts of how I will one day be where she is now. I know it will be sad to be at the end of my life, but I really don't want to get there and know that I've ignored the resources and direction that's been given to me about how to be happy. I don't want to choose the easy path of indulgence and selfishness and get to the end of my life and realize that the easy path is the wrong path.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I Am My Biggest Stumbling Block to Developing Christ-like Attributes

10/30/16

"What does sanity mean to me? How would I like to be different?"

I would add to these questions, "what does recovery look like?" And answer them with the most recent realization I have about myself: I am stuck in a lot of ways, and I don't want to be. I don't do the things I know I should--and I'm not just talking about addiction stuff. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Fully sane, fully in recovery to me is there's nothing in my life that I want to do and can't because of addiction, fear, or pride.

10/31/16

This was the day where I read the description of a writing exercise to strengthen belief in God and gain a better understanding of my false beliefs in Him. It was generally good, but nothing particular stood out to me. I think it was that Satan has extra power on Halloween. Stupid Halloween. :(

11/1/16   STEP THREE

Essentially, when we took Step Three, we committed to stop living by self-will...We did this one day at a time by working the Steps in a spirit of willingness, striving for progress, not perfection.

I love this strong connection between my decision to change and action that will get me there. When I first read step three (and I've heard several other addicts say the same, including later in this chapter), I felt like this step would be super easy. "Make a decision!? BOOM! Done." To which I might respond back in time, "really? show me." My past self might point to my same (failed) good intentions or my future plans, but could I really say I was in it for the long haul, willing to sacrifice every weakness that stood in my way of progress? I definitely couldn't say that honestly.

In recovery, we saw that self-knowledge and intellect were overrated.

This reminds me of a line in Helping Her Heal with Dr. Doug Weiss. He's talking about not trying to understand what your wife is saying (the facts) but instead listen to what she's emoting (the emotions...I wish that were a more common verb). He says, "Get off your brain!" That the facts don't matter, and might not even be right. I think the same here--I might have the facts of recovery all wrong! I need to rely on the following facts: I can't handle lust. There is a loving God who wants to help me. I should let him by strengthening my relationship with Him and working the twelve steps. Those facts don't always make logical sense, but my intellect has led me wrong before. However, I think self-knowledge is extremely important in this...in recognizing specific ways in which I'm flawed.

11/2/16

"When our will was aligned with God's will for us, our lives became richer and fuller than we could ever have imagined."

The benefits of recovery is a topic that I feel doesn't get hammered as much as it needs to be. I don't even think I can comprehend or remember the difference between my active addictive life and my mostly-in-recovery life that I'm pursuing now. I get the sense, though, that the self-loathing and numbing/high doesn't hold a candle to the blazing inferno that is living honestly and authentically. I don't even think I'm close to the full feeling, but the little I've experienced makes me want more.

11/3/16

"Deciding to turn my will and life over to God's care is more of a process than a one-time event."

I like the way it's described in the ARP manual--that I was worried that by offering my will to God and then fearfully withdrawing it over and over would cause God to tire of me. But He doesn't, even when I have to learn the same lesson in recovery multiple times.

"Gradually, I found that the more I gave it over to Him, the easier my life became."

I think there's a paradox here because I'm not sure it's a realistic promise that "your life will get easier when you're in recovery." Here's what I wrote in the margins: "It's a difficult process, but the results are easy. Hard to stick with the easy." And I don't know, maybe it is easy. Not that life suddenly loses its trials and difficulties, but that I know I'm doing my best. I've heard from a number of guys with long-term recovery that the lust-temptations never go away, but the sense I've gotten is that the recovery impulses become so natural and comfortable that recovery is who they are, rather than an inconvenience.

11/4/16

My best thinking was self-will run riot.

Firstly, that's just fun to say. Self-will run riot. There's a kind of poetry to it. Besides that, though, I agree with the implication; I get the image of frantically playing whack-a-mole with all the impulses that pop their heads into my life. Rather than that, I'd rather just say to myself "what am I doing playing this stupid game when there are much more important things I'd rather be doing with my time?"

Story about a guy reaching out to check himself: "With you as my witness, I'm acknowledging my powerlessness to God."

I really liked this story, though I won't share the specifics. Here are the basic strategies I saw him implement: 1) a willingness to be open about past shameful behavior, 2) humbly questioning his perception of reality, 3) knowing where the addiction will eventually lead, and 4) publicly acknowledging his powerlessness as part of surrendering his addiction.

11/5/16

When I affirm my powerlessness to another sexaholic, I'm giving it to God; I know I'm no longer alone with it.

This is part two of that last quote. I love the idea that it's not enough to affirm powerlessness to God. There's a power that comes from doing that with another person who has been through a similar situation. That's been my experience. I can do all the work I can think of by myself, but unless I make contact with another human being, preferably a recovering addict who I trust, I'm not going to be successful.

Actions speak louder than words. "Half measures availed us nothing." 

It's true that my actions don't necessarily reflect my heart--I can give away a lot of money to the poor so people think I'm awesome. However, I would argue that actions more genuinely reflect my heart more than my words. Actions, especially when taken together as a whole, are more difficult to fake than what I say. Also, I think that "half measures" quote is something I need to put on my wall. And keychain. And a t-shirt. Seriously, I think every time I've gotten in trouble in the last year has been because I've tried relying on half measures...and while it might appear they were good enough, they weren't actually giving me anything valuable in the long-term.

The list of action steps: "Get a sponsor," "Heed your sponsor's direction," "Develop a network of program friends."

I feel like the last one is particularly difficult and helpful, though they're all significant. No more isolation and doing it on my own.

11/6/16

"At the end of this 24 hours you are free to choose this sobriety for another day"

I would say that there isn't anything magical about a 24 hour period--sometimes I need to realize that I can go minute to minute having to decide if I want to continue with recovery. There are no permanent decisions in our lives. We need to recommit to the direction we're headed through the actions we take every moment we're alive. However, it would be pretty hard to change all at once, either for the good or the bad, so shorter goals (like a day) are good to work with rather than trying to bite off more than that.

Here's the thoughts I had today in Priesthood meeting:

The lesson was about how to develop Christ-like attributes. My question was, "why do I not possess these qualities already?" I've learned about them all my life, yet I'm not really even close to being the person I want to be. Why not? I'm tempted to blame life and others--I could say that my brother introducing me to pornography and my jobs being difficult and my wife, my kids, temptations, etc. are to blame. I really don't think that's fair, though. I really do believe that if I had a better understanding of who I am, who God is, and what His plan is for me, that I'd be able to improve in a way that I don't now. I am stuck--content to be where I'm at, willingly ignorant of my need or ability to improve, or given up that I even can change. I'm the only person who can give up the things that are keeping me from righteousness; I have to be the one to choose charity, faith, discipline, humility, etc. I am my biggest stumbling block to developing Christ-like attributes. And I've come to the conclusion that becoming more self-aware--recognizing my need to change and the specific ways I fall short--is a prerequisite to change.



Sunday, October 30, 2016

"What is the Next Right Action I Should Take?"

10/23/16

Have I harmed myself or others physically, emotionally, or spiritually?

This is one of 36 questions Step Into Action asks at the end of step one to get me to realize the exact ways and the degree of my powerlessness/unmanageability. Many of the other questions were a "not really" or a "not recently, but in the past yes." This one I feel confident is going to be a resounding "YES!" for every addict. By definition, addicts' behavior damages 1) our brains and thinking, 2) the way we cope with life difficulties, and 3) our relationship with God...all in profound ways. I suspect (and I wrote this in the margins) that I can't even comprehend the degree that my addiction has set me back or hurt those around me. I probably will never know in this lifetime.

What have I done that I didn't want to do?

My first reaction to this question was a kind of "duh, lots of stuff." But then I started thinking--why did I do it if I didn't want to? I amended my answer to "see my step one inventory. Everything (and nothing) fits into this category." There was part of me that wanted to do everything I did. There was another part of me that was repulsed and knew what I was doing was wrong. That second part didn't know how to stop or gain traction against the other part. What is the real me? I'm choosing the better part of me, no longer listening to the self-destructive ideas and not giving up because I don't know exactly how to stop and stay stopped. I have faith that I will be able to say "I've been in recovery for 35 years" in my future.

10/24/16

How has my illness affected my reputation, my social standing?

A lot of my answers to these questions revolve around the fact that I've isolated myself a lot in my addiction. I haven't really made an impact in a lot of ways because of fear, selfishness, and pride. On the other hand, now that I'm working on improving myself, I've had to make decisions that are right but also not the best. For example, there are a number of my female colleagues at work that view me as distant and cold because I've gone out of my way to not talk with them or be friendly. I defend that behavior until my recovery is more rock solid, but it still makes me sad that my addiction still affects me, even though I'm working my recovery more now than I ever have in the past.

10/25/16

Our fear of returning to our addiction was greater than our fear of how the group might react.

This was in a section where they were talking about sharing the first step inventory, but I would expand this to all recovery behavior. My fear that I will return to my addiction is greater than my desire to not reach out to recovery buddies in a phone call. Fear of addiction is greater than my unwillingness to face X thing that I'm stuck on and really not wanting to do. Also, in the margins I comment that this isn't the same as jumping from a burning skyscraper because we're afraid of the flames behind us...this is abandoning a sinking ship in favor of a life raft. I admit that to the addict who's been caught, the former analogy might seem appropriate (hmm...lose my addiction or lose everything I have...is there a third option?), but what seems like jumping out of a window to certain death is actually the much more certain fate of being saved in a life raft.

10/26/16

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is one of the rare times when I criticize SA. I think it's important to not alienate people who don't really believe in God or who believe in God differently than I do. However, as someone who does believe in God, I'm not entirely comfortable with "using" god, thinking about him as a higher power synonymous with the group I'm attending. In the Doctrine and Covenants there's a scripture about how every blessing has a law on which it's predicated--it doesn't say we have to understand the law to get the blessing, only that we obey. So for the people who become selfless and recover thinking of their higher power as the group, I don't have any problem with God blessing them. However, I agree with those in SA-L, who decided to split with SA over the lack of having God be central to the program. That said, I like the ARP phrasing better--"Come to believe" (love that imperative verb form) "that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health." I like the "spiritual health" over "sanity," although I completely admit that I'm insane in my addiction.

10/27/16

We began to accept the stark truth that sex or romance could not fill the hole in our souls.

Addiction is so hard to describe. Any kind of analogy falls short, but I love this abstract concept. What does it even mean to have a hole in your soul? I don't know, but trying to find fulfillment through living a hypocritical double life leads to it.

10/28/16

Lust was another god I held on to. The electricity of lust could give me hope on a bad day. I came to rely on it. 

My last therapist said this to me--that using lust to cope with my problems is one way to deal with life's problems. And it works, to a degree. But it also comes with unavoidable, subtle, devastating side-effects which make it not worth it. I'm done trying to find a way to make it work. I'd rather not cut corners but find ways to deal with my issues in healthy, appropriate ways.

My problem was that I wanted a standing ovation for taking out the garbage. I had to be right. I couldn't say that I was wrong about almost everything in my life. If I admitted that, the very thing I believed in--me--would be annihilated.

If three years ago I could see the amount of work I do around the house I would confused/angry that my wife doesn't bow down to me and do everything I want. But guess what--I'm doing work that I was supposed to be doing anyways! I don't get extra bonus points for doing what I should be doing to make my marriage an equal partnership. Also, I want the confidence that comes from knowing that if I fail, it doesn't mean that I'm worthless. I base my value on the knowledge that I actually am a child of my Heavenly Father and that I honestly am trying to understand and do his will for me.

10/29/16

"What is the next right action I should take?"

I think this is a fantastic question to ask myself. Not "I have X months of sobriety, can I handle this?" As the White Book says it, that's backing away slowly from my own personal hell, not running towards heaven. I would rather not push my recovery to the limits of what I can get away with--I'd rather push myself to the limits of how much better I can be each day. If I took every junction of each day as a chance to decide to do the next right action, as I understand it in that moment, I wouldn't ever fail in my recovery.

I am only insane, not evil.

WHEW! Is that all? :) Seriously though, I acknowledge that my years of indulging in addictive behavior as a crutch to dealing with life problems has crippled my rational thinking. I need to work hard, mistrusting my tainted impulses as I stick to recovery buddies who have the kinds of recovery that I want. I'm not inherently a bad person, even though I've made bad enough decisions for long enough that bad actions come easy to me. But I don't have to stay that way!

10/30/16

3 Nephi 20:23  Behold I [Jesus] am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

At first I was kind of confused with this comparison. Jesus is often compared with glorious objects (the sun, morning star, etc.) or with general things (the shepherd, etc), but not so much with specific people. "I'm like Moses" seems a bit strange to me, but then it occurred to me: Moses was standing on the shores of the Red Sea. He had his back to a body of water, and an army coming to kill him and his people. There was nothing he could do. But through God's power, he was able to part the sea and bring his people through to the promised land. Similarly, I'm standing with Jesus by the shores of an ocean I can't cross. There's an army coming to kill me. There's nothing I can do. However, I can rely on Jesus, who can part the waters for me, letting me escape my inescapable enemies and cross the uncrossable barrier to enter into the promised land. Every time I choose to rely on him instead of justifying my behavior I'm taking a step through the waters, working my way towards a peaceful and happy existence. Of course, if I don't stay vigilant, it might take me 40 years to get there, but I'm hoping not.