“Recognition is a Sacred Moment”

checklistAs I’ve been working on Step Eight I thought a lot about the process of making my written lists. I had previously thought of them as a huge to-do list, like a bride with hundreds of thank you notes to get out and check off. But my experience of making this list was different than that. I did make an initial list, and then thought more about people to add over the ensuing weeks. But I found that a name would float to the top of the list when Heavenly Father wanted me to pay attention to it. There was one I knew was important for me to think about, and an unexpected opportunity came for me to make amends. But another name, that wasn’t even on my initial list, came to my mind–names of people who were definitely on my “offended me” list, but I had to ponder for quite awhile and open myself up to a different perspective on the situation before I saw that I had amends to make, too. So now when I look at my list, I don’t think of it as a check list. Right now I see it as a pond with a lot of fish, and when it’s time for me to attend to someone, I expect the name will leap out like a fish after a fly.

When the time is right, Heavenly Father will direct me to the person or people I should be pondering, and I believe I will come to understand what I need to do. It’s interesting that I am instructed to make a list first of those who have injured me. That may not seem to fit with the “making amends” part of this, but it’s true that when I think about those hurts, I have an upsurge of whatever emotion accompanied the hurt–anger, jealousy, indignation at injustice, etc. The manual states:  “if we are still struggling with resentments or hurt feelings, we will find it difficult to make amends.” I have to be willing to admit my part in it, even if my part was relatively small, to be able to have my heart right and see clearly. In Elder Maxwell’s words “Recognition is a sacred moment.”

I appreciate this counsel: “Our Heavenly Father will help us recall the names of all those we need to include on our list, for His promise is that the Holy Ghost ‘will bring all things [to] our remembrance.’ We begin by identifying any relationship which causes us to feel discomfort or negative feelings.” I might have a short list when I try to remember who has offended me or I have offended, but when I started thinking of uncomfortable relationships it became much easier.

When I humbled myself and became completely honest about my part in these offenses, I felt freedom and relief. It was worth the sacrifice of my pride and indignation. And it didn’t matter whether other people accepted my amends, or admitted their part, or even were conscious of my efforts–I still felt the cleansing, healing power. In our group one of the members observed that other people’s apologies don’t heal us–God heals us. I invite that healing as I become ready to forgive and to seek forgiveness.


Desire to Change

Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. After working through Steps 4 and 5 I was feeling pretty good about myself. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could now move forward. Looking back, I had some residual pride that I could now keep going in recovery myself and that there wasn’t a lot more to fix. I had the idea in my head that I was a pretty good guy that tried to do the right thing most of the time and if I could just fix the addiction problem, then everything else would be good. I was wrong! At this point in recovery, I had learned that some addicts felt free from their addictions – I did not. While the temptations came less often and they were less intense, I still felt temptations daily either through returning thoughts and images or from seeing advertising and immodesty around me as I went about daily life. Also, I became aware that I had more character weaknesses than just my addiction to pornography. I struggle with eating, my temper, sarcasm, justification, pride – and the list goes on. In addition, my relationship with Susan was improving very slowly and not at the pace that I had hoped and selfishly I thought it should. There were still dramatic ups and downs which added to my stress level. I felt overwhelmed and several times was ready to give up. It was all I could do just to keep going through my daily routing and going to a recovery meeting – and be annoyed that I had to still be there because I wanted the immediate healing so I could get on with my life. A friend helped me recognize that I was sliding backwards and on a path to relapse. I remembered the good feelings I had at the end of step 5 and was resolved that no matter what happened with my marriage, I wanted to stay clean for me and not be pulled back to my addition. So I kept trying.

Step 6 in the Addiction Recovery Program is Change of Heart with the key principle to “Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.” I wanted to stay in recovery for me and that required that I trust my Savior and to do things His way. My prayers took on a new focus in turning my will and my life over to the Savior again. I asked for help to recognize which character weakness he wanted me to work on each day. This is a slow and continuous process for me and one that was hard for me to define success. With my addiction, I have a clear definition of relapse and a defined consequence and recovery plan. Defining success and failure helps motivate me and allows me to see my progress. I was not able to do this with my character weakness and I found it much more challenging to feel successful. For example, I would work on not responding with anger but I seemed to quickly fall back into old habits. I had to learn that this was a process of improving and not an immediate change. When I took small, daily measures of success on a specific character weakness I began to see progress. I began to see that this is the process the Savior has in mind for me. I began to see the tender mercies of the Lord helping me remember the character weakness I was working on during the day and feeling the spirit as I quickly repented with each failure. I began to trust that this was a process I would continue to do for a lifetime – and enjoy the process of becoming more like my Savior.

President Marion G. Romney taught that “In one who is really wholly converted, the desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” Initially, I felt like I must not be wholly converted to the gospel because I was experiencing temptations every day. I still do. What I learned to see is that my desire each day is to do the Lord’s will and to obey every commandment. I live in a fallen world and am a natural man and will have opposition and experience temptations every day. But this does not mean I am a failure or that I am not converted. My faith in my Savior and conversion to His gospel helps me recognize temptations faster and to deal with them appropriately rather than linger on them until they turn into carnal desires. My desire is to do the Lord’s will and dismiss temptation as quickly as possible. As I continue to work through this process and repent daily, I find that I have the companionship of the Holy Ghost more consistently and can receive daily confirmation that I am clean and forgiven. Repeating this process has brought peace and the spirit back into my life and gives me the encouragement I need to keep trying again each day and commit to another 24 hours of sobriety.


“You need to set boundaries and keep to them,” I heard in my first SAnon meeting. “What in the world are boundaries?” I had absolutely no idea! The more I attended meetings, any meeting, I heard more about boundaries. I heard about them in books and counseling and still really didn’t understand how they worked for me. My first thought was that they were lines that my husband would never cross. That sounded great! I set them and he doesn’t cross them! But at the same time I learned the 3 C’s in SAnon, “I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it and I can’t Cure it.” I couldn’t set a line that my husband wouldn’t cross, that was beyond my control. So I was more and more confused with boundaries.


In the 4 years that I’ve been working on my own recovery the understanding of boundaries has come slowly; however, in moments of great need it has come with clarity. The first boundary that I needed to consider was safety, for myself and my children. In my situation physical safety was not an issue, however, emotional safety was. My boundaries began with prayer and asking the Lord to help me identify what I needed. Boundaries included no porn in the home of any kind – period! They also included the way that we would talk to each other, not missing counseling sessions, attending recovery meetings, etc. When both Jeff and I were at a good point was the time to discuss what boundaries were, how we would set them and what the consequences would be. It was also very helpful to discuss these with our counselor. When it was US setting them and not ME, then we were working together for recovery. It sounds pretty cut and dry, but it isn’t, and that’s ok. It just gives us room to grow.

Principle 8 in the Spouse and Family Support Guide is Be Firm and Steadfast”. The first section is We Can Set Appropriate Limits to Protect Ourselves and Our Families. An impactful quote for me from this is, “We often feel torn between supporting our loved ones and setting clear limits with them. We want to show our love for them while at the same time demonstrating our love for the Lord.”

Frankly, at the beginning I didn’t care about showing my love for Jeff, I just wanted the behavior to stop. I wanted my pain to stop and I wanted the life that I thought I’d had back. But this is why these are “steps” and not “destinations.” Every time I redo a step or reread something I learn something new. I don’t consider that I ever graduate from a 12 step program any more than I graduate from keeping the commandments. I think of it in the way that Henry B. Eyring referred to it as related by Dale G. Renlund. He talked about being a lifelong learner. He was asked what he did when someone told a story he’d heard before or used a scripture he was familiar with. He said, “I ask myself, ‘Why is the Lord underlining that for me?’ and ‘What have I yet to learn from that story or scripture?’”

The scriptures are filled with examples of looking past the mortal failings and to the way that God sees each of us as His children. Another section in Principle 8 is Finding the Good That Exists in Our Loved Ones. It helps me to continue to understand that, “In our relationships, the things we focus on largely determine how we feel about a person….If we make an effort to listen and observe with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can see the potential in everyone, even those who have hurt us.”

In those early days I wept on my bed, pleading to the Lord to help me know what to do. A sweet spirit filled my heart and I heard the words, “Be still and watch and listen.” I have reflected on that moment countless times. It was direct revelation to me. It has not been easy to follow this, especially the “be still” part. However, as I have followed this I have been blessed. When I am still, I see more, when I see more I understand, or “listen,” better. When our boundaries are written with a Heavenly pen and we allow the Lord to be our co-author, the story of our recovery is a better one than we could have written for ourselves.

The Fear of Saying Sorry

One day, I was out near one of my flower beds with my niece Jesse. Being excited over the flowers to be seen, Jesse wanted to pick some flowers to give to her mommy. She began skipping along and picking a bouquet. Normally, I don’t like it when people pick my flowers but since it was my niece I had a little soft spot. When Jesse presented her flowers to her mother, her mother knew I didn’t like people to pick them and she said “Jesse, what have you done? You should go say you’re sorry to your Aunt Jane.” I tried to say that it was no big deal, but her mother gave me a look and said “No Jane, this is a teaching moment.” I quickly saw Jesse’s countenance change. Her excitement was suddenly dashed into fear. She feared coming to me because she thought I would be angry with her. She hid behind her mother and didn’t want to look at me. I was heartbroken; I love this little girl and it broke my heart to see her suddenly become afraid of me. At this moment, I realized that this must be how Heavenly Father feels about each one of us. When we realize that we have sinned (intentional or not), there often seems to be an element of shame that sets in. We want to hide ourselves from our Heavenly Father; this is the exact opposite of what He wants us to do. The effects of sin, truly only affect us, His feelings towards us have not changed. Heavenly Father still loves us unconditionally and pleads with us to repent and come back (just as I began to plead with my niece to come and say you’re sorry and give me a hug so you’ll feel better inside). I realized that no matter what, Heavenly Father’s feelings for us don’t change, even if we make the worst of mistakes, it’s only our feelings about ourselves that change. Satan is the one that instills fear within us that our Heavenly Father will be disappointed or displeased with us.

fear not
In Step 8, it talks about becoming willing to make amends in our lives. This experience with my niece taught me so much about how I need to cast off the fear of coming to my Heavenly Father to ask for His forgiveness. His love is truly unconditional. In the end of Step 8, Pres. James E. Faust is quoted “Forgiveness is a liberating gift that people can give to themselves.” And how true that is, forgiveness is all about us. It’s about finding peace once again in our lives, as Elder David E. Sorensen beautifully states: “Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies.” Gaining this perspective on how Heavenly Father feels about each one of His children helped prepare me to go before my ecclesiastical leader to seek the forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for past experiences that bothered me. I now knew how He truly felt about me and knew I had nothing to fear, Satan was no longer going to bully this girl!