Category Archives: addiction

Why Do Good People Suffer?

Within our communities of happy, blessed people are also those who are quietly suffering. Some people feel a crushing loneliness. Some are in a painful marriage. Some have constant physical pain. Some people cry every day of their life. There are those who miss a husband or wife who has died. Or agonize over family members who wander in dangerous paths. Some people struggle with their faith. Others have an endless battle with finances. Some feel that they are a disappointment to everyone. Some people think about taking their own life.

Is it possible that someone in your family is secretly unhappy, while you and everyone else thinks life is just dandy? Some people’s struggles are easy to see. Other people struggle much more privately. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are the only one who struggles. That is a dangerous lie that will make you feel isolated, helpless, and unworthy of God’s love.

Everyone you see today is struggling with something. Every person you see – every rich and famous celebrity you see on television, every member of that seemingly perfect family sitting in the front row of your church congregation – is suffering with something.

Frustratingly, God doesn’t often explain to us why we need to suffer. When the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, was crying out to the Lord from the terrible conditions in Liberty Jail, the Lord basically just told him those 5 words that no one wants to hear during adversity, “It’s for your own good.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8)

These words seem so painful and wrong when we are in agony.

After Job had suffered horrible losses and pain, God didn’t even explain to him about the devil challenging Job’s faith and devotion to God. Instead, the Lord just spoke about the goats, stars, ravens, oxen, and a bunch of other things that might have made sense to Job, but leaves the rest of us confused.

Even Jesus Christ asked the question, “Why has thou forsaken me?” and He wasn’t given an immediate answer.  No one is exempt.

Why do good people have to suffer? Why would a compassionate God allow so much pain in the world?

Much of the adversity we face in life, isn’t a trial, but the consequence of sin. These are not punishments, these are the results of our own choices. However, poor choices don’t cause all suffering. The Bible teaches us that difficulties rain down on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

Sometimes we respond to this innocent suffering with resentment, bitterness, doubt, or fear. It isn’t easy to keep an eternal perspective while we are going through the hard times.

“Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with an eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.”  (James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire,” Ensign, May 1979, 53)

Trials are unfair and pointless if this life is the end. If all you ever did was watch the middle part of every movie, they would all seem unfair and tragic. We wouldn’t understand the motives or the results of the character’s actions. We wouldn’t understand who people were or what they could become.

Buzz Lightyear and Woody would be homeless and hate each other.

Rocky Balboa would lose to Mr. T, get depressed and take it out on his wife.

Dorothy Gale would be locked up in the witch’s castle and the scarecrow’s guts would be thrown around by flying monkeys.

Joseph would be sold as a slave by his brothers and he would end up thrown into a prison for something he didn’t do.

The middle part of a story is almost always about pain, suffering, and hardship.  Similarly, every trial in our lives seems unfair and pointless if we view it in the short-term perspective of this life.

The truth is this: Suffering is good for us, and we should be grateful for it.

“…God-fearing people worldwide will never pray for freedom from trials. They will not surrender or panic. They will strive to put themselves in condition to meet and master troublesome trials.” (Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, Nov. 1980, 54 )

I would like to countdown the top 10 reasons why we should thank God for letting us suffer.

#10 We must have suffering in order to have agency

The freedom to choose is the heart of being human. It is the basis of God’s plan of Happiness for us. To preserve agency, the Lord also at times permits the righteous to suffer the consequences of evil acts by others . We would never be free if God always stopped us before we hurt ourselves or someone else. This is why we have commandments. This is why some things are called evil. Heavenly Father didn’t just arbitrarily call some things bad, because he wanted to control us. Stealing isn’t against the commandments just because God wanted to say so. It’s against the commandments because it hurts people. Sin always hurts someone. That’s why it is sin.

To be honest, there have been a lot of times when I’ve asked God to ease my suffering, when what I’m really asking is for him to take away the consequences of sin or bad choices. It showed a complete lack of understanding of why we have consequences.

#9 Pain warns us of Danger

We hate pain. But without pain, the sick would never go to the doctor. When our bodies got tired and worn out, we wouldn’t stop to rest. Children would only laugh at correction. Criminals wouldn’t fear the law. Without the pains of guilt, we would never repent. Without the pains of loneliness, we wouldn’t seek companionship. Without pains of boredom, we might never do anything. And without the pains of emptiness, we might never seek God.

#8 Suffering can bring us closer to Heaven.

Again, if this life is all there is, then a life of pain is not fair. But the reality is that those who grow closer to God through pain, are more prepared for the next step. Those who let their hunger, grief, and poverty drive them toward the Savior, will find the truth in his words, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Those who yield to adversity become weaker. To the valiant it is a stepping-stone to increased power. (Marvin J. Ashton, “Adversity and You,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 54 )

#7 Suffering reveals what is in our Hearts.

Every story of greatness and achievement is generally the story of a person overcoming handicaps. There are lessons that can only be learned through the overcoming of obstacles. The Scriptures are filled with stories of prophets – ordinary men with extraordinary callings – who are faced with trials. Sometimes, the real trial of our faith is just to remain faithful without murmuring. Our own capacities for love and compassion, or even envy, hatred, and pride often lie dormant inside of us until brought to the surface by some sort of adversity.

Howard W. Hunter told of a young man who asked him why his mother had to suffer through a painful life if God is all-knowing and already knew how she would handle it. His response was,  “God already knows how your suffering mother will handle it, but she does not.”

And this is a principal that we often get. wrong. Heavenly Father didn’t send us here so that HE could find out what we are made of. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows our potential and our weaknesses. This life is for US to learn the depths of our OWN love, compassion, and humanity. It is for US to learn what our weaknesses are, and then make them strong with the Lord’s help. This Life isn’t so much a test with a pass or fail grade. But more of an aptitude test, to show us what areas of ourselves that need work. We can never learn how strong we are, until we are tested with resistance.

#6 Suffering builds our faith.

I mentioned earlier that God rarely reveals why we suffer. Job never learned why he lost all he had. There is a good reason for this. Job was left to conclude that if God had the power and wisdom to create everything, then it makes sense to trust Him in times of suffering. (Job 42)

If we always got the answer, then it wouldn’t really be suffering. It would just be annoying. When in crisis, our feelings make us THINK we need an explanation. However, what we really need are the resources to get through the trial.

#5 God always suffers with us.

Any parent who has had a child in the hospital knows the agony. Any parent who has watched their child make dangerous choices, understands the frustration and sorrow. Anyone who has felt the pains of a loved one, has a small taste of this principle. If we, being imperfect and worldly, can feel these feelings so strongly, how much more does a loving and perfect Fatlierin Heaven suffer along with our pain?

#4 God’s comfort is always greater than our Suffering

In 2 Corinthians 12, The Apostle Paul pleads with the Lord three times to remove an unidentified source of suffering that he compares to a thorn. The suffering isn’t removed, but the lord says, “my grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was comforted. He felt better.

Elder Richard G. Scott said,

To the sightless or hearing impaired, God sharpens the other senses. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him.” (Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, July 2003, 16)

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Paul writes, Blessed be God, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Which brings us to …

#3 Suffering helps us find and unite with our fellow men.

If you have ever been through a tragedy with someone, you know the bond that can form through suffering. Army buddies, missionary companions, spouses. Those people who have endured with us, understand us like no others.

The Jewish Community is bound together by thousands of years of persecution and hardship. They share a common history of trials that allow them to relate to each other in a way that outsiders can not understand.

Similarly, Mormons stand on a mountain of history that is filled with people united by suffering. Kirtland, Jackson County, Carthage, Haun’s Mill, Clay County, Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, Zion’s Camp. They all are synonymous with suffering. It is their history. The suffering helps create a feeling of brotherhood.

#2 God can turn our pain around for our good.

Remember, don’t only look at that middle part of the movies. There is an ending that makes us understand the hardships. Buzz and Woody become friends and find their way home. Rocky Does get back up after being knocked down. Dorothy does find her way home. Joseph of Egypt becomes the King. There is nothing admirable about a person who overcomes nothing. If we give up during the struggle, we will never know what happy ending might have been in store for us.

#1 Pain loosens our grip on this life.

As we get older, our bodies become worn out. Our joints get stiff and ache. Our eyes grow dim. We feel obsolete. Sleep is difficult. Our problems seem larger and our options seem smaller. I have spent a great deal of time with people as they get close to death. And I have come to see pain as blessing. Each new trial makes this life less inviting and the next more appealing. In a way, pain paves the way for a graceful departure. We stop looking back, and begin to look at what is next.

Each of us will have a time of suffering. No one is exempt. Each of us will, sooner or later, have to pass through that garden gate as our savior did, kneel, alone in darkness, and fiercely battle despair.

When we do, hopefully we will knowingly say, “Not my will, but thine be done.” And be thankful for what our suffering is helping us to become.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, depression, family, LDS, mental health, Mormon

That Can’t Possibly Help My Addiction — Part Two — Positive Affirmations

Image

Preface:

Every once in a while, someone in a 12-step meeting will confidently testify of a treatment for addiction — something that changed their life and gives them power to get through another day.  My first reaction to these suggestions is almost always a cynical one.  Come on, it can’t be that simple!  However, I am learning to not discount the effectiveness of something just because it doesn’t make sense.   I started trying some of these crazy ideas and discovered that they actually worked!  I’ve decided to make a series of blog posts about a few of these counter-intuitive actions that make recovery a reality.

Positive Affirmations

ImageThe whole concept of trying to change your life by repeating positive statements about yourself seemed like a joke to me.  Admittedly, my opinion was probably shaped a great deal by Stuart Smalley, the effeminate Saturday Night Live character created by Al Franken in the 1990’s, who was a a member of many twelve-step groups and stands in front of the mirror in his powder blue sweater chanting, ” I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone It, people like me!

It all seemed so wimpy and New Age.  I could hardly even entertain the idea of actually trying it.  But then someone explained it to me in a way that rang true in my mind.  He pointed out the fact that almost since birth, everyone around me has told me what and who I am.  “You are adopted.”  “You are fat.”  “You suck at math.”  “Your handwriting is terrible.”  “You shouldn’t try that because people will laugh at you.”  “Nobody is as good a helper as you are.”  “You should stick with what you are good at.”

It didn’t take long before the YOU turned into an I and my inner voice was defined and my self-image took shape.  This wasn’t anything sinister or planned on the part of those other people.  It’s just a part of growing up.  And some of us are more susceptible than others to these external voices around us.

So doesn’t it make sense to keep reminding yourself of the person you want to be?  Shouldn’t we at least try to counter balance the external voices that have bombarded us on a daily basis since we were old enough to understand?  This is where positive affirmations come in.  And here is the amazing part:  They actually work!  And they start to work almost immediately!

So how do you make your own affirmations?  It’s not rocket science.  First, decide what areas of your life you want to improve.  In the case of addiction, you want to improve the parts of your life that LED to the addiction.  Get to the roots of the problem.  Remember, addiction is a symptom of other underlying issues.

Next, write out a few positive statements for each of the areas you want to work on. Your statements should be short, positive, and in the 1st person present tense.  And keep your list small — work on a few at a time.  Affirmations are most effective when they are few and repeated often.   Remember to focus on the goal, not where you are now.

For example, if you have a sexual addiction that developed because of your need to feel loved and accepted, your affirmation would not be, “I am not a sexual addict.”  It might look something like:

“I am more than enough.”  “I fully accept who I am.”  “Other people enjoy being around me.”

It’s that simple.   Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s prideful to make these statements about yourself.  These are worthy goals and eternal truths.  You are only helping yourself become convinced of their reality.

My list of affirmations changes and adapts.  I add affirmations and remove them, depending on my current need.  But but some of the more important ones, never leave the list.  My list of affirmations that don’t change are as follows:

I choose my behavior

I am a Child of God with infinite worth.

I am always taken care of.

God loves me and accepts me.

I am always more than enough.

The worth of my soul is great.

I now fully accept myself.

My body is now in perfect balance.

I am always healthy and strong.

Everything I touch prospers.

Other people feel their worth when they are in my presence.

Everything works together for my good.

I don’t fear, because God is protecting me.

I choose my actions based on long-term prosperity.

My Spirit and my Physical body are in tune and in perfect sync.

I enjoy physical activity

I eat only when my body needs nourishment.

Okay, okay, I am fully aware that I am not as far down the road of accomplishing some of these as I should be.  That’s why I they are on my list.  Some of them are simply factual statements that I need to be reminded of on a daily basis because I tend to forget them, and when I do, my life goes to hell.

So now that you have a few affirmations, how do you get them into your head?  There are many ways that people choose to do it.  Most of them aren’t something I could keep doing on a consistent basis.

1. Stand in front of a mirror and repeat the affirmations to yourself.  (Too much like Stuart Smalley.  I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t do this.)

2. Write them down several times a day while repeating them in your mind.  (Way too much work for me.  I know I would give up after a couple of days.)

3. Subliminal recordings.  (I’m just not sold on this method for me.  I wanted something I could do myself and something that I could focus on with my conscious mind as well.)

I knew I needed a way to get these thoughts into my head without having to put in much daily effort.  That’s just me.

Years ago, I learned that classical music (especially Baroque music) stimulates the brain.  When I was in high school, I would sometimes play Handel while I studied for a test, in hopes that it would help the knowledge to sink into my brain.  I decided to use music to help me with my affirmations.

I simply recorded myself saying my affirmations clearly and slowly.  Then I looped them to repeat over and over again for 15 minutes.  Then I added a background of Bach and Handel.   So I have an MP3 that I can listen to each night as I fall asleep, because it’s believed that the human mind is most accepting of affirmations when it is at rest.  Sometimes I listen to it first thing in the morning, as well.  I also burned it onto a CD and sometimes I listen to it in the car.

I can tell a difference in my attitude, confidence, and choices when I listen do my affirmations on a regular basis.  It’s just another one of those wacky things that has to be tried to be understood.

Change your thinking and change yourself.

Below is a list of affirmations that I like.  Maybe they will inspire your own affirmations.  Good luck!

  • I feel God’s love for me each hour.
  • I trust him and I walk in confidence through life, knowing that he protects me.
  • I trust that everything that happens to me is for my good and long-term happiness.
  • My relationship with God is very trusting.
  • I know that He loves me and desires my happiness.
  • I am directed each day through the spirit as I seek His guidance in my life.
  • I clearly see and recognize God’s hand in my life as I take time to listen and be still.
  • It feels good receive promptings and be an instrument in the Hand of the Lord.
  • I feel peace and confidence knowing that God is with me each day.
  • My relationship with God grows as I have meaningful daily prayers and scripture study.
  • I talk with God as a friend and take time to listen for answers as I seek His guidance.
  • I feel uplifted, peaceful and strengthened after I pray.
  • I receive answers to my questions and inspiration for others as I search the scriptures.
  • I take time to apply what I read into my life.
  • I receive instructions from God continually for me and for those in my stewardship.
  • I live righteously enough to receive those messages when they come.
  • I see people’s lives blessed and my life blessed as well
  • I am always inspired in the council I give to others.
  • God puts me in the right place at the right time.
  • I ask God for what I need. He freely blesses me.
  • I know my prayers are heard.
  • I expect to receive inspiration
  • I take opportunities to ponder and meditate each day
  • I am still and know God
  • I experience now in this moment how it feels to have this connection
  • I see myself taking steps to connect with God
  • I am filled with his love
  • I see myself as God sees me
  • I am always aware of the help that surrounds me
  • I am a valiant son of God.
  • I have great faith in Jesus Christ.
  • My faith guides me every day.
  • I am calm and steady throughout my life, no matter what is going on around me.
  • I am an example to others.
  • I find joy in obeying the commandments.
  • I am confident with who I am, and how I live my life.
  • I have a kind and sensitive heart and genuine desire to help others in need.
  • I am creative.
  • God expects me to be a creator of things.
  • I am excited to try new things.
  • I experiment with new ideas and techniques.
  • I am artistic.
  • I love meeting new people and I am a friend to those around me.
  • I’m a positive person who looks for the good in everyone.
  • I respect myself.
  • I take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs so I am at my best
  • Others feel better about themselves and uplifted after being in my presence
  • I treat others with kindness and love.
  • I am calm and steady in the direction I’m going
  • All things work out for my good.
  • I connect with my higher self and learn from his wisdom.
  • My relationship with my wife, family and friends is one of love, respect and support.
  • People feel and know the love I have for them through my words and actions.
  • I have balanced relationships.
  • I give great service to others
  • I experience connection, camaraderie and fulfillment as I support them and they support me.
  • I contact my friends often.
  • I enjoy having friendships.
  • I am a supportive husband.
  • My wife’s callings are also mine.
  • I respect others for who they are.
  • I take time to savor my relationships.
  • I am a good listener.
  • I don’t try to “fix” other people or change them to suit my needs.
  • My outside reflects the inside.
  • I have an abundance of energy.
  • My body and mind are renewed each morning.
  • I enjoy starting my day by waking up early in the morning feeling rested and clear .
  • My body is in complete harmony physically, both inside and out.
  • I am in tune with my body.
  • My body tells me what kind of nutrition, exercise or rest it needs.
  • I take time to listen to my body.
  • I am attracted to the foods that help my body perform at a higher level.
  • I feel great!
  • I eat small meals, several times a day.
  • I eat when I am hungry.
  • My body is attracted to foods that serve me
  • I am always healthy and strong
  • My body is now in perfect balance
  • I experience myself doing the work of keeping my body strong
  • There is harmony and balance in all of my systems
  • I’m attracted to foods that allow my body to function at the highest levels
  • There is a bounce in my step
  • I take time to experience health
  • I experience vibrant athletic energy
  • I regularly exercise my body
  • I listen to my body and take care of its needs
  • My body regulates itself and works to be at my proper weight.
  • My body has perfect balance.
  • I live debt free.
  • I am in alignment with the spiritual laws of abundance
  • I have more than I will ever need.
  • I have more than enough to store away.
  • I have enough to share with others.
  • I live in a home that is paid for.
  • I always have more than enough
  • I spend my time and talents doing the most important things for my purpose
  • I trust that God will always provide for me, so I share freely and I know it always comes back to me 100 fold.
  • I Experience how it feels to have everything paid for, and several years of resources available.
  • I Experience how it is to have such abundance and tranquility in my life.
  • I Experience financial power and the ability to enact my vision
  • Our house has room enough to welcome others in need.
  • I feel secure because I know I have enough money to live on for years.
  • I have skills that make me very profitable.
  • I have investments and businesses that continually provide a generous income.
  • I am my own boss.
  • I pay my tithes and offerings with gladness and gratitude.
  • My prosperity prospers others. Their prosperity prospers me.
  • I constantly find ways to help people.
  • I leave everything more beautiful than I found it.
  • I make the world a better place.
  • I know that I deserve love and I accept it now.
  • I give out love and it is returned to me multiplied

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, Affirmations, LDS, mental health, Mormon, physical fitness, Recovery

That Can’t Possibly Help My Addiction – Part One – Walking

Image

Preface:

Every once in a while, someone in a 12-step meeting will confidently testify of a treatment for addiction — something that changed their life and gives them power to get through another day.  My first reaction to these suggestions is almost always a cynical one.  Come on, it can’t be that simple!  However, I am learning to not discount the effectiveness of something just because it doesn’t make sense.   I started trying some of these crazy ideas and discovered that they actually worked!  I’ve decided to make a series of blog posts about a few of these counter-intuitive actions that make recovery a reality.

Walking

Don’t we all know that walking is one of the best exercises a person can do?  It is low impact, it prevents heart attacks and stroke, it keeps you young, it builds bones, it wards off diabetes, it tones your muscles, and it burns calories like crazy.  But can walking actually help someone recover from addiction?  Believe it or not, the answer is a huge YES!

For over a year, I heard recovering addicts talking about how walking helped them, but I always thought it was ridiculous.  But then I started noticing how many “Stop Smoking” programs included a daily walk as part of their road to quitting.  And I knew that taking a daily walk is one of the fastest ways out of depression, so maybe there was something to this after all.   The final straw for me was when I discovered that Life Coach Tony Litster who has a program to “attract wealth, improve relationships, make more money, eliminate self-sabotage, reconnect spiritually, and find self-acceptance” insists that his pupils take a walk for at least 5 minutes each day.

So I tried it.  At first, I walked only for the 5 minute minimum.  It seemed like a waste of my time and I couldn’t tell any difference.   Then one day I was standing in line at Costco.  Now, if you are familiar with Costco, that’s all the information you need to know.  I had been in line for 30 minutes, surrounded by crying babies, impatient shoppers, and giant shopping carts loaded with over-sized items that kept bumping into me.  The walls were closing in on me.  For someone like me, who hates crowds and would never leave the house unless he had to, I was in hell.   I could feel the panic welling up inside me and my frenzied mind started to scream, “I’ve gotta get out of here and take a walk!”

What?  I was literally stunned when I realized what I was thinking.  Here I was in a stressful situation and my mind wasn’t begging for the comforting escape of my addiction.  It was craving my little 5 minute walk.  Somehow, I had rewired my brain.

I’m not going to try to go into a long explanation of how walking helps brain function, emotional health, and cognitive development.  You have access to Google.  You can look it up yourself.   I just want to convince you to try it.

This is how walking helps me recover from addiction:

  1. Walking is a healthy escape.   Most addiction comes from an uncontrollable desire to escape — escape reality, life, stress, feelings, abuse, fear, depression, boredom, etc.   Walking helps fill that need.
  2. Walking clears my head.     There is something about the combination of walking and fresh air that makes me thinking clearly and make better choices.
  3. Walking grounds me.   When I feel that little shift begin to happen inside me, and I know I am getting to the point when cravings are heading into full blown addiction mode, I feel outside of myself.  I feel like I am a different person.  I can hear my own voice inside my head telling me to stop, but I just keep moving forward.  (It’s like when everything inside you is telling you that a hot fudge sundae is bad for you and will only make you fat, but you just eat it anyway, and then afterward you wonder why you ate it.)  Going for a walk puts me back in control of my actions.  There is something about that rhythmic drumming of my feet against the ground and the swinging of my arms harmony with my legs that grounds me to my surroundings and puts my world back in order.
  4. Walking awakens my senses.   I feel so alive when I feel the rain on my face, or the warmth of the sunlight on my arms, or the cold wind biting my cheeks and stiffening my fingers.   I understand my place in the world when I hear the birds, or see the flowers bloom, or watch the leaves fall, or witness kids playing, or see a dead animal, or wave at a neighbor, or feel my heart pumping.
  5. Walking helps me explore.    It’s amazing how many addictions began as curiosity.   Walking in new places, along different paths, fills the need to explore and discover.

If you are like me, you can’t come to know the benefits of walking until you do it yourself.  So get out there and do it!  Now, if you are walking to stay physically fit, just get out there and do whatever kind of walking makes you happy.  But if you are walking as part of addiction recovery, here are a few pointers that will make it bring you the greatest success:

  • Don’t bring your Ipod.   Don’t listen to music, talk radio, audio books, or anything else.  All of those things are used to distract you from what you are doing.  That’s why people who walk for exercise use them — it distracts them from their workout.  But you don’t want to be distracted.  You want to be focused.
  • End up where you began.   The point of your walk is not to go to the store, or a friend’s house, or anywhere else.  The point of your walk is only to walk.   The walk is your goal; getting somewhere else is not your goal.
  • Breath.   Before you begin, take several deep breaths to expand your lungs and get oxygen rushing to your brain.  It makes a big difference.
  • Go alone.   Not only do you not want the distraction of a walking partner, but you don’t want anyone else setting your pace or choosing your path.  This is your time to explore and discover.  Stop when you want to stop.  Look at what you want to see.  Be still when you need to.   This is your time.

Walking will require some commitment.  Ultimately, all I can say is try it yourself.   That’s the only way you will ever really find out if it works for you.  Give it a week.  It might make all the difference in how successful you are in your recovery.

1 Comment

Filed under addiction, depression, diabetes, mental health, physical fitness, Recovery, walking

Lessons Learned From a Leaky Roof

leaky roof

My wife and I have been struggling with something for a while. Our roof is leaking and we don’t have $8000 for a new roof. We have been praying and praying that Heavenly Father would help us.

Last Winter the water was beginning to damage our ceilings and sheet rock. So why didn’t I just get up there and patch it?  Well, I had never been up on a roof in my entire life. Fat kids don’t get on roofs. Fat teenagers don’t get on roofs. And Fat old men definitely don’t get on roofs.  The thought of getting up there terrified me.  I just knew the roof would cave in, or I could take a bad step, resulting in death or a long and painful injury.

I had talked to several people at church about our problem, hoping that someone would offer some advice, or even offer to help me patch the roof, but no one did. I felt utterly helpless.  I couldn’t understand why my prayers weren’t being answered.

Finally, it got to the point where something had to be done.  Inching my way up the ladder took everything I had, but I finally made it onto the roof and put a tarp over the area that was leaking.  I secured it with boards.  I was shaking with fear as I came down the ladder, but I was so glad that I had done it.  That night, a big windstorm came up and ripped down the tarp. I went off by myself and cried.

Then I had an impression. I needed to go to Home Depot and figure out what I needed to patch the roof myself.  I’d never done roofing before, so I was clueless.  I remember my wife praying that night in our family prayer that I would be guided in figuring out how to repair the roof and that my hand would be guided as I worked.

I took 3 gallons of roof tar and headed up on the roof.  I was worried that if I fell, there would be no one to call 911 because my wife was at work.  I tried to get someone to come over, just to be here in case something happened, but everyone was busy. So I was on my own.

I told my wife to call me every hour on my cell phone, just to make sure I was still alive.

While I was up there, I could feel my mind being enlightened as to how to fix the problems. I could suddenly see areas that needed fixing that I hadn’t seen before.  In fact, I hadn’t even known what to look for until I was up there.

When I was done, standing up there on my roof looking around at what I had accomplished, I suddenly knew why I had to do this alone.  The Lord had to show me what I can do. I needed to learn that I could reach beyond what I thought were my limitations.  I needed to learn that I can do hard things.  I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

Some folks may think this is silly, but I’d never felt more like a man than I did at that moment.  I felt so alive.

Our roof had no more leaks that year.   I thanked God for giving me the precise experiences and trials that I needed to learn and grow in faith.

But apparently, I still had lessons to learn.  And since the leaky roof proved to be a good teaching vehicle in the past, Heavenly Father decided to use it again.

Yesterday, I noticed a brown spot on our ceiling.  We had another leak.  But I knew from past experience that I can do hard things.  Heavenly Father taught me I can patch the roof. I checked the weather report and saw that a storm was coming in today.

So I went back to Home Depot and got another 3-gallon bucket of patching tar.   I came home and said a prayer asking for help, similar to the prayer my wife had offered last year.

As I made my way up the latter, it began to rain.  Hard.

Why wasn’t God helping me?  Why didn’t he answer my prayer?  I was feeling abandoned and alone as thunder cracked in the sky.

And then I realized something.  As the rain steamed down the roof, I could see the areas that needed to be patched.  I followed the water paths and discovered the places that puddled.  Had it not been raining, I never would have been able to find the problems.

I sat there on the roof, cold and soaking wet, and thanked my Father in Heaven for making it rain.  I asked His forgiveness for doubting Him.

I know that to find happiness I must turn my entire life over to God.  As I do so, I am amazed to find Him patient and accepting of my faltering efforts.

1 Comment

Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon, Recovery, Writing

Just Stop

Image

I was only eleven years old the first time I sought council from a spiritual leader for an addiction.  I was terrified, but resolute.  I felt like it was the only place I could turn for help.  Without telling anyone else, I called on my own and made an appointment with my Bishop.

Being so young, my problem wasn’t a big one in the grand scheme of things, but it was big to me.  And within my little problem lay the seeds of addiction that were already beginning to take root and would someday become the unstoppable force that would lead me to alcohol, tobacco, pornography, pills, and other self-destructive behaviors at different times in my life.

I tearfully explained my problem to the Bishop.  I remember feeling exposed and unsteady as I waited for his response.   His solution came along with a tone of voice that said it should be obvious and simple.  He said, “Just stop.”

I left his office feeling misunderstood and, frankly, unimportant.  However, I’m not saying it was that Bishop, fault.  In 1979, who could blame the guy for knowing nothing about addiction?

And yet, if you pay attention, you will still hear those same sentiments expressed today.

“Honey, you keep putting on weight.  Why don’t you just stop eating so much?”

“You have lung cancer!  Why are you buying cigarettes!”

“Do you look at porn because I’m not pretty enough?”

“Don’t you think you have had enough?”

Even addicts themselves usually spend years telling themselves they will stop someday, eventually, when the time is right, soon.

The greatest gift God has given us is our agency, the power to choose our own paths.  So why can’t people just choose to stop doing a certain thing?

If that were the case, addiction wouldn’t exist.  We would have no need for the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) because everyone could control themselves.  Let’s be honest, a little wine every once in a while isn’t going to hurt you.  But the Lord in his wisdom knows that not everyone will be able to have just a little wine.  That’s why the Word of Wisdom states that it is given for the “weakest of all saints” (v. 3)

As difficult as it is for me admit, I am the weakest of all saints.  I gave up my agency a long time ago.  I no longer have a choice.  Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve observed:

“Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7).

It takes years, sometimes decades, for an addict to get the turning point when they can take Step One of addiction recovery: “Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.”   And that turning point is usually only found at rock bottom.

In my role as Group Leader of an addiction recovery support group, I have heard dozens of stories very similar to the one I told at the beginning of this post.  Church leaders, employers, judges, spouses, children, and friends who tell the addict to “just stop” what they are doing.  And they wish they could.  They desperately wish they could.  But they can’t.  I can’t.

But there is hope.  Take that first step and admit.  Then take that Second step: “Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.”

The Addiction Recovery Program is nothing more than a workshop in how to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Church leaders must become educated in this process and learn how to help those who suffer.

I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different had that Bishop in my youth been able to steer me onto the path of recovery.  But I know I sin in this thought, because the experiences God has given me have been exactly what I needed to arrive where I am today.  The only thing I can do is promise to help others who struggle.  And maybe I will be able to spare someone else the anguish that I have felt.

Things are getting better.  There are LDS Addiction Recovery support groups popping up all over.  We help with every kind of addiction, and we help people of all faiths.

One of the fastest growing addictions we see is pornography addiction.  It is estimated that 70% of men view pornography at least once a month.  The Church says this number is the same within church membership, and they estimate that 40% of men in the church have a pornography addiction.  And that’s just pornography addiction.  When you consider alcohol, drugs, food, and the countless other addictions that exist, it boggles the mind.

Sometimes when we are in our little Addiction Recovery Meetings we joke that if everyone who needed to be there came to our meetings, we would have to rent Arco Arena.

So I tell my little group that they are warriors.  They are the ones on the front lines fighting their demons and working hard to become followers of Jesus Christ.  They are the brave ones.  And they are being trained to help others do the same.

Someday, someone will come to them for help.  And instead of ignorantly saying, “Just stop,” they will be able to put their arm around that person’s shoulder and share with them the hope they feel.

2 Comments

Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon, Recovery

“I am encompassed about”

The Book of Mormon begins with Nephi, the son of the prophet Lehi, recording the story of his family fleeing the wickedness of Jerusalem.  Throughout the record, Nephi appears to be perfect.  When his brothers express doubt, he boldly reminds them of the power of the Lord and the miracles that have been done in the past.  When his parents lose hope and murmur, Nephi is the one who restores the proper order of things.  Angles swoop in to protect Nephi when his brothers harm him.  It seems like Nephi can do no wrong. He never gets discouraged. And nothing can stop him.

The image that Nephi paints of himself is one that I can look up to and aspire to be like, but not one to which I can easily relate.  Nephi doesn’t seem like anyone I know.

But then something happens.  Nephi’s father dies.  Suddenly he has much more responsibility and the mantel of authority rests firmly on his shoulders.  His brothers immediately begin to murmur again.  Up to this point, whenever his brothers murmured, Nephi seemed thrilled to chastise them and teach them about the Lord.  But now it is his duty.  He says he felt “constrained” to talk to them about the things of the Lord (2 Nephi 4:14).  The other time when he said he was “constrained” was when he didn’t want to kill Laban, but the Spirit commanded him to.  It seems like Nephi was feeling the burdens of his new calling, and I imagine he was grieving because of the loss of his father.  Of all the trials and tribulations that Nephi had experiences, I believe this time was the most stressful and difficult for him.  

Why do I believe that?  Because his normally optimistic and faithful writings take a turn into something else.  Suddenly we see a side of Nephi that we didn’t know existed.

 

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

 

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

 

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.  (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

Okay, I know how this makes me sound, but I joy in Nephi’s agony.  Is it a sick form of schadenfreude? I don’t think so.  I’d rather believe that I can finally relate to Nephi.  Instantly I can relate to his feelings.  

Allow me to express in my own words the feelings that I share with Nephi, following his train of thought:

Why do I do what I do, when I know what I know?  God has helped me throughout my life.  He’s been there for me whenever I needed Him.  And yet, I am a sinner.  I am ashamed of myself and my heart aches because I am weak and fall to temptation.  

 

My sins are a strait jacket that keeps me bound while I thrash around and fight against it.  I am helpless… powerless against the temptations that are all around me.

 

When the Spirit fills me and I start to feel the warm light of God shining upon my face, when I thrill at the joyous events of life and the beauty around me, I remember my sins and I groan in agony and withdraw back into darkness where I feel like I belong.

 

And yet, I know my trust is in God.  I know He has protected me and guided me each day of my life.

 

I feel like Nephi understands me.  It’s like he peered into my heart and mind and wrote down what he saw. And then he builds my faith and encourages me to do better with his words that follow:

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercywhy should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

 

And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

 

Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

 

Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

 

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

 

O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?

 

May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

 

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

 

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

 

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I asknot amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rockof my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God.  (2 Nephi  4: 26-35)

Like Nephi, I am encompassed about by my sins.  But I have hope in my God, and I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ is my hope.  I trust in Him.  

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon

What Does Recovery Look like?

Image

When I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and walked into my first 12 step meeting, I was under the impression that 12 weeks later I was going to leave the program cured of my addiction.  Somehow they were going to say a few magic words and I was going to be fixed.  My decades of addiction were going to be undone.

That was several years ago and I am still going to meetings.  Now, I serve as Support Group Leader over several Stakes (a group of LDS congregations) and I’ve never been told any magic words or found a wand to wave around to fix addiction.  It’s a lifelong process, and there are a few things I have to keep in mind.

First, being in recovery doesn’t mean you will never have cravings.  Second, recovery doesn’t mean you have moved beyond being tempted.  Third, it also doesn’t mean depriving yourself of what you really want.

The truth is I might have cravings for my addictions for the rest of my life.  I realize that now.  As a child, I never learned good ways to cope with the emotional needs that we all have.  Instead, I learned how to bury those feelings, mask them, escape from them.  I wired my brain toward addiction each time I indulged in unhealthy behavior that brought me pleasure, or relief, or distraction from whatever was causing me distress.   By the time I was an adolescent, the hooks of addiction were firmly set, and I hadn’t learned any other coping skills to deal with the everyday stresses of life.   It took many years for my addictions to form.  It was silly to think I could get rid of them in a few short weeks.

Image

It took me a long time to forgive myself for feeling tempted.  I finally realize there is no reason to feel guilty for being tempted.  Jesus Christ was perfect and sinless, and he was tempted.  There is no sin in temptation, only in sin itself.   Living in recovery is not about being free from temptation.

And recovery isn’t about denying yourself of what you are craving.  It is about discovering what you are REALLY craving.  All addicts began using as a way to deal with life or escape.  One thing that almost all addicts share is a disconnect from their emotions.  An addict will say “I feel like a drink” or “I am still hungry” or “I want to look at porn” or “I really need a pill”.  In the same situation, a healthy person might say, “I am angry” or “I need to talk to someone” or “I need to take a walk and clear my head” or “I need to go let off some steam”.

Addicts are usually perceived as very selfish people.  But in reality addicts usually never give their body or mind what it is really needing.  Instead, they just mask those feelings with unhealthy substitutes and the real needs continue to build.  Addicts are in a constant state of neglecting their emotional and physical needs.

Being in recovery is a process of discovering what your cravings are telling you.  Try to find out what the real need is, and then look for a healthy way to satisfy it.  Eventually, your goal becomes to learn how to read your own signals and to take care of yourself physically and emotionally BEFORE you feel cravings.

But I will probably always have cravings during times of Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness, or Stress (H.A.L.T.S).   Those are the hardest times for addicts.

Wow, this post has been really disjointed and rambling.  Sorry about that.  I just really wanted to dispel a few myths about what it is like to be a recovering addict.  I’ve seen too many addicts going along fine in their recovery and then get down on themselves when they get tempted, or use, and they start to wonder if there is any hope for them.  

I told my Bishop a couple of weeks ago that I struggle every single day.  But I’m going to keep fighting.

One day at a time, right?

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon