Recovery = Accountability

Susan & Jeff are sharing their personal recovery journeys to help others in similar circumstances.

by Jeff

Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. Step 10 is Daily Accountability with the key principle to “Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.” Following steps 4 and 5 had helped me learn the importance of daily accountability. I did not want to build up another inventory of 30 years of sins that continued to escalate.

Some counsel I received early in my recovery was that the higher the accountability, the higher the rate of recovery. I took this to heart and established a high degree of accountability for myself. I am accountable to the Lord for everything each day. I am accountable to Susan to let her know when I am tempted and what I did about it. I established a clear definition of relapse and committed to accountable to the Lord, my wife, my children, my coach, my bishop and my father in law. I had talked with all of these people during my repentance and recovery process and they were all supportive of my efforts to remain clean from addiction. I had started a personal accountability chart early in my recovery to keep track of my days sober. I posted the chart in the kitchen and marked it daily (or weekly when I was traveling out of town) for my progress.

checklist

After the cleansing process of step 9, the desire for my addiction had really diminished. For me, this does not mean my addiction was a done deal. I still had stresses from my job and from life that I am learning how to process. There were still consequences of my addiction that I was dealing with included trying to rebuild trust with Susan and we continued to have good day and bad days. Sometimes trust was growing and other times there was doubt. The daily accountability to the Lord and to Susan helped me grow in my confidence in my Savior. I saw progress and was learning what I needed to do to receive the blessing of the spirit each day.

Over the next few years, I continued to go through the maintenance steps and daily accountability. Sometimes I would get busy and distracted and slack off for a period of time and then come back. Over time, I started to get casual in my daily accountability and allowed myself to slip into complacency. This was followed by denial. I wasn’t back to full acting out in my addiction, but I was not being accountable and I started letting my thoughts wander and my eyes linger longer when temptations came. Of course this led me down the path to relapse.

Susan was visiting family in the US and I was in China. It was a terrible day. I felt like I had made so much progress and was so disappointed in myself that I was so weak and stupid. I knew better and yet allowed myself to be pulled back in. Fortunately, as I went through the remorse cycle I remembered the commitments I has made that I would talk to Susan within a day and call my branch president. I knew if I didn’t pick up the phone and call Susan immediately and tell her, that I would rationalize my relapse and return to my addiction. I called several times and got her voicemail. I also called my branch president. When Susan called back, I told her about my relapse and it was extremely difficult.

It was like we were back at the starting point in the hurt and pain when she first discovered my addition. I talked to my counselor and he said I could use this as a great learning opportunity to get stronger in my recovery. I worked things through with my bishop and I talked to everyone in my accountability circle. These were some very good conversations that helped me learn from my relapse and re-commit myself to continued recovery and daily accountability. They were so understanding and helpful that it was a huge comfort to know that they were still with me even when I messed up. One tender mercy from the Lord is that because I was honest upfront with Susan, the path back to healing and working on the recovery of our marriage went faster.

I have a new perspective that daily accountability is a blessing and not a punishment from my addiction. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ for everyone and helps me stay focused on my Savior and doing His will. It is a much easier way than the addiction or relapse. It opens the way to personal revelation to know the Lord’s will for me each day.

Step Five: Acknowledge to Heavenly Father, to ourselves, and to another person experienced in 12 principles, the exact nature of our wrongs.

burdenBy Sandra

In the How to Apply The Principles of Step 5, I have learned when I humbly go to my Heavenly Father and confess to Him my fears, struggles, pain, and my desire to change, He hears my prayers and sends the Holy Spirit to help make changes in my life. Elder Neuenschwander explains; “Our confession to God will…ultimately bring us closer to Him. Confession is a statement of personal responsibility for our actions. Our complete openness with our Heavenly Father reveals a desire to become clean and whole.”

In Step Five I have learned that I have 9 character weaknesses, well we all have 9 character weaknesses. They are as follows: 1-feelings of low self worth, 2- anger, 3-resentment, 4-selfishness, 5-self pity, 6-fear, 7-dishonesty, 8-envy, 9-pride. “These nine character flaws are the underlying , motivating force behind almost all our negative behaviors and mistakes.” I personally can attest to the truth of this statement. I have found anger and resentment have been 2 of the flaws that I have dealt with the most.

In The Promise of Step Five Elder Richard G. Scott cautioned… “Satan will press you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts make forgiveness seem unattainable. In this way Satan attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet.” We place a barricade against the healing power of the atonement of Christ whenever we indulge in self condemnation and self punishment over mistakes we have made in our lives.

I take great peace, comfort and courage from Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s hopeful assurance: “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as he does about where you are, and with his help, where you are willing to go. …it is important to understand that admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another person does not necessarily mean that we will disclose the details of transgressions and specific sins.”

It is also important to remember that that the person you choose be of the same gender. “We do not choose our spouse, a family member or loved one in addiction.” They are too close to us or too involved with the events we will discuss.

The first time I got with a friend that had completed Steps 4 and 5, I was very concerned about her reaction to my confession. Would she ever speak to me again? Would she tell someone else? I was a nervous wreck! But all went well. We prayed first that the Holy Spirit would guide each of us in our time together. I found that I had a friend that had similar experiences as I. What a huge relief to find I was NOT ALONE on this journey. A big burden was lifted off my shoulders!!

President Thomas S. Monson testified, “Cast off forever is the old self, and with it defeat, despair, doubt, and disbelief. To a newness of life we come – a life of faith, hope, courage, and joy. …. No responsibility weighs too heavily. No duty is a burden. All things become possible.”

Step Five for me can happen at any time. For example,  if something comes up that I have put off due to fear or pride, I know I must do Step Five. Confess to my Heavenly Father then to my friend in recovery. This is a way for me to keep peace, joy and happiness an active part of my life .

President Monson states in The Promise of Step 6: “When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.” The Healing Through Christ Support Group program has and continues to help me make those changes!

When the Light Goes Out

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Here are some excerpts from an excellent article in BYU Today magazine, “When the Light Goes Out.” While the focus is on the struggles college students can have with anxiety and depression, the insights are valuable for all of us, especially those with children who are trying to help develop emotional resilience in all members of the family. You can find the original article at When the Light Goes Out.

In a recent survey of 574 BYU students, ancient scripture professor and psychologist Daniel K Judd (MS ’85, PhD ’87) and his colleagues found a strong correlation between those who felt that their salvation was primarily dependent on their own efforts and those who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental-health problems. In contrast, Judd notes, “those who understood and embraced the principle of grace had dramatically lower scores.”

_________

On his mission and at BYU, Jordan became a master at appearing okay. “I went into my mission imagining myself being a great missionary. I would follow all the rules, I would be perfect, people would love me, and they would be converted to the gospel,” recalls Jordan. “That just wasn’t the reality.” The discrepancy, he says, resulted in a struggle with depression throughout his service.

Upon returning to BYU, Jordan’s emotional state spiraled downward, but he didn’t tell anyone what he was feeling. “I was very good at masking it,” he says. “People thought I was the happiest, nicest guy, but internally I tortured myself.”

He turned to pornography as a coping strategy, and he feared telling his parents how much he was suffering because he thought they would be ashamed of him. Jordan also confused the feelings he recognizes now as anxiety and depression as messages from God. “I interpreted those feelings as God’s disapproval of me: He didn’t want me to feel good about myself because He wasn’t happy with me,” he says.

It was during a drive with music blasting—something Jordan often did to cope—that he finally recognized he needed help. It was a turning point.

Jordan found a therapist through campus resources, and his physician prescribed medication. “To talk to a therapist who could explain the science behind what I was experiencing was so refreshing,” Jordan recalls. “[It] was the most weight-lifting, revelatory experience I had.”

____________

As stresses arise, it’s natural for young people to try to replace the negative feelings with pleasurable ones. Unfortunately, Smith says, many of the common go-to methods for young people can be unproductive and even harmful. Some turn to pornography or excessive video-gaming. Others may binge on anything from potato chips to Netflix. While this destructive sort of “self-medicating” may temporarily allay negative emotions, it ultimately creates more problems than it resolves.

Much better, say experts, is for young people to counter stress with their own unique set of healthy coping strategies. Those might include shooting hoops, having a heart-to-heart with a friend or a parent, keeping a gratitude journal, or finding someone to serve. And nearly everyone does better when they avoid isolation and foster social connections.

Young people can also learn to adjust their physiological response to stress. Strategies range from using deep, abdominal breathing to learning to relax one’s muscles to replacing negative self-talk with more productive internal conversations. Smith says thought processes that involve words like should, ought to, must, or have to (as in “I have to get into medical school or I’ll let everyone down”) are rarely healthy and represent a rigid, perfectionist orientation. He says, “People who are resilient tend to have more flexibility in their thinking” (“I hope I get into medical school, and I’ll do my best. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll succeed elsewhere.”).

The good news, Smith says, is that such strategies really do help reduce stress in just about anyone who is willing to commit to them and practice.

These excerpts are just a taste of a comprehensive discussion of the challenges and solutions to issues that affect almost all families at some time. Follow this link to read the entire article. When the Light Goes Out

Step Four–With Honesty and Gentleness

fear not

My initial reaction to Step Four went something like this: “A moral inventory? Why would I ever want to do that—it sounds terrible!” I had been through the steps two or three times before I began to see something different in Step Four. Assurances of comfort stood out to me; in block letters at the top of the page I wrote the Lord’s words from Isaiah “FEAR NOT; I AM WITH THEE.” The Promise of Step Four in Healing Through Christ gave me courage to begin: “By opening our hearts, we learn valuable lessons from our past and see ourselves with honesty and gentleness.”

Honesty and gentleness. Those words kept running through my mind, as did the assurance that I would not do this alone; President Faust’s counsel “include [the Lord] when you take inventory of your personal worth” gave me courage to start, because I knew I was not doing it alone. I took several weeks to examine my life decade by decade, and as I did, I realized I was seeing things from a wiser, gentler point of view than I had at the time.

And how the rest of the steps opened up to me! With my inventory, I was able to work more deeply in Steps Five through Nine. I was working the steps in a way I had never done before.

When I came back to Step Four last week, I realized I needed to do an inventory of a situation that had developed over the last few months. I needed the clarity, and honesty and gentleness, that comes from applying Step Four. The process is flexible enough to work with a lifelong inventory or an inventory of just one specific issue or event. I’m no longer afraid of what I will find in my Step Fours inventories; I’m eager for the opportunity to learn with the Lord by my side to enlighten, comfort, and give my hope for change.

Heartbreak and Hope

from February 2017 Ensign

man-woman_1864731“No individual’s journey of healing is the same as another’s, and each one is a process—not a destination. Common in many stories, however, is a realization that no amount of pornography use is OK or normal. As a result, when someone engages in any frequency of use or any level of involvement, his or her spouse will experience feelings of heartbreak, betrayal trauma, rejection, shame, and questioning of self-worth. Pornography use damages the connection, trust, and communication essential to a healthy relationship—making it vital for a spouse to seek hope and healing.

“Also common is the comforting discovery that in this bitter experience, spouses can come to know the sweet not by finally finding it on the far side of their trials but by turning with hope to Jesus Christ in the midst of them.”

Read more at https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/02/heartbreak-and-hope-when-a-spouse-uses-pornography?lang=eng

 

Receive, Then Share

In the beginning of Step Twelve in Healing Through Christ, it says “Our hope for the future is bright because we have come to realize that applying these spiritual principles will empower us to face all of life’s challenges. What is the message we offer? Our spiritual awakening has brought us to understand that our Savior knows us and our needs perfectly and can give us the power to do what we could never do on our own…. We have learned to personally rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal our wounds, open our hearts and literally transform our lives.” And then Elder Scott counsels: “There are many around you who are confused and are seeking solutions to life’s perplexing problems. Share your testimony of truth and the power of faith with them.”

I can become very enthusiastic about some new thing and urge others to try it out, too, and then loss interest. But the step material is not really a new thing–this is an expression of the faith and beliefs upon which my life is founded. So it is new but also tried and true. And it is probably the most important thing; to know and love Jesus Christ, to feel the power of the Atonement in my life, to be cleansed of sin so I can receive the Holy Ghost–that is what is of most worth. And I am so eager to share these gospel principles and Twelve Step tools.

frans-schwartz-gethsemane

When I was starting to come out of a horrible depressive period, when all I wanted to do was leave it behind and never look back, the Lord asked me to share my experience. It was agony to do it. But this is pure joy. I’m so grateful for the joy I’ve felt as I’ve worked, and worked hard, on the Twelve Steps these past months. I’m grateful for the way the Lord has walked me through them, given my mind understanding and my heart the experiences to feel deeply His love for me, and provided a glimpse into what my life can become as I become worthy to feel the Spirit more deeply every day. I’m grateful that I can share without hesitation and without personal pain. President Faust says: “To whom do we look, in days of grief and disaster, for help and consolation…They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?” I’m grateful that there have been people I can look to who have suffered and brought forth the riches of sympathy and example to me. And I hope I can become part of this circle of giving by doing that for others.

 

 

 

Forgiveness

by Jeff

Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. Step 9 in the Addiction Recovery Program is Restitution and Reconciliation with the key principle to “Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.” I had very mixed emotions as I started step 9. I had prepared and was wanting to make amends from my preparation in step 8, however I still had some people on my list that I was apprehensive about talking to and asking their forgiveness. I decided to split people into groups according to how reluctant I was to talk with them and decided to start with the “easier” ones first. (I anticipated that some would be “easier” but none of them were “easy”).

I can see the wisdom in not waiting to start because I felt the temptation. I rationalized that maybe I needed more time in my recovery to prove that I really had changed before starting. I also anticipated that several of the discussions would be bad experiences and might cause harm to others so I should wait. As I prayed about it, went to meetings and talked with others in the path of recovery, I heard encouraging experiences. It helped me remember what the Lord had done for me in forgiving me and helping me through each step in the process. I resolved to start with the “easier” conversations and leave the “impossible” ones for the end.

I started with Susan, and my first apology did not go as planned. She was obviously hurting with the effects of my addiction and working on her own recovery. At this point we had both agreed to put our marriage “on hold” and not make any drastic changes or decisions for 12 to 18 months. This was great advice from our counselor because we had good days, bad days, and some very bad days. Selfishly, I had put Susan first on my “easier” list because I had already told her everything in step 5, had asked her forgiveness many times along the way, thought it would help her see that I was serious about fully repenting and finishing the program, and I thought it would be easier on me to start with her to see how it went. What I didn’t see at the time was that my thinking was all about “me” and what I wanted. I wasn’t really thinking about Susan and making amends and restitution. When I talked to her, apologized and asked for her forgiveness, she said forgiveness was a process and she was working on it with the Savior. She expressed that the conversation felt like I was going through a check list to get it done rather than being genuine and real and wanting to repair our relationship. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear in order to understand the real point of step 9 – talk to people to really make amends and in the process restore a relationship or start to build a new one. She asked me to have her be the last person I talked to in completing step 9.

So I revised my approach in preparing to talk with people. I reviewed the specific things I needed to discuss with each person and prayed and thought about what kind of relationship my Savior would want me to have with them going forward and what I really wanted. My children were now first on my “easier” list. This did not mean it was easy to approach them. While I thought they would quickly say they forgave me, I worried that they would lose respect for me as their father or would be angry at the emotional distance and the emotional damage I had caused them while acting out in my addiction. After praying about each one, I talked to each them individually and had a wonderful conversation with each of them. Each reacted a little differently but they were each so forgiving and understanding. It opened up real discussions about feelings, emotions and experiences that we had shared through the years. The healing for each of us was tremendous and strengthened our relationships. This has opened up my communication lines with my children to talk like never before.

cleansed-nov-2016

This same patterned continued as I talked to my family and my wife’s parents. With each positive experience, my realization that the Savior was helping me connect and heal through the process grew. I found added strength in my daily recovery efforts and a broader circle of love and friendship than I had ever felt before because of my self-imposed isolation. I decided to do as many in person discussions as I could. We took our family vacation in Utah and I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with most of the people that remained on my list. All but one of the conversations were positive experiences that I now cherish.

I then came to the hard ones where I needed advice and help. I prayed about each case, talked to my counselor, talked with Susan, and for a one case got advice from my bishop. I decided on an approach for each person, prayed about it and moved forward. I needed to spend more time in prayer for these people to make sure my heart was right and that I truly forgave from my heart and could ask their forgiveness without holding resentment. With some people I wrote letters or made phone calls and others I needed to talk with in person. These conversations were brief and to the point, but sincere and heartfelt after my preparation. Some discussions were harder than others but with the help of my Savior I was able to stay focused on my intent to apologize and not justify. I was able to feel peaceful confirmation after each discussion that I had done what needed to be done.

The last person on my list was Susan. While our marriage was in suspended mode, building our relationship was not. We were continuing to re-build our relationship and find ways to really connect with each other. Susan had been observing me through the process to see if I was really making amends and building relationships or just getting my checklist completed. As she saw the connections I was making, it gave her hope that the connections we were building were real and that I was really changing. This time when I apologized and asked her forgiveness, I was thinking of Susan instead of myself and was open to talking about the effects of my actions on her and how we could repair and strengthen our relationship as we continued on our recovery journey.

As far as my recovery journey, the spirit confirmed that my efforts at making restitution and reconciliation were acceptable to the Lord. I was clean and forgiven. This does not mean I am free from the consequences of my addiction with effects on relationships, the temptations I still face daily, and the emotional damage I continue to identify and work through. It does mean that I am able to have the daily companionship of the spirit as I strive for continuing progress in my recovery. I have greater connection with family and friends and there is no one that I am embarrassed or uncomfortable being around. While I remember my sins, the pain is gone and there are no topics that I fear will come up in discussions. I have learned what repentance is for me. My objective now is daily accountability.

Strength in the Struggle

∙Susan & Jeff are sharing their personal recovery journeys to help others in similar circumstances.∙

by Susan

impossible-no-2016Hello friends. A friend of mine just told me of her missionary that is having a difficult time and asked for my advice. As I thought about it I reflected on my own path of discovery, recovery and everything associated with it. There is strength in the struggle. I wouldn’t want to rob this missionary of the growth that he will experience through this adversity, at the same time I understand how as a parent we want to protect our children from things that we know are going to hurt. When they are small, this is easier and obvious. But when they get older the things that could hurt them are not as obvious or within a parent’s control.

I wonder, as these events of my life were playing out, what it was like for our Heavenly Father to watch. He knew what I was heading for, he knew that I could not see the events of Jeff’s life that would have this impact on me. However, he was preparing me. As I mentioned in an article before, the Friday before I discovered his addiction I was driving and the spirit clearly said to me, “Your family is about to experience a tragedy.” The Lord did not prevent the tragedy, but he gave me the opportunity to prepare for it.

Surely the Lord knew all of the hardships that the early members of the church would be facing. Being ostracized by family members, losing loved ones as they came across the ocean or traveled across the long trail to Utah, the persecution that they would face and the violence they would experience, but He did not prevent those tragedies, either. On days of tragic events I’ve heard people express, “Where was God today? Why didn’t he prevent this?” He was here. He was right here. And in D&C 122:7, after outlining all of the possible things that could happen, said, “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” There is a similar line in my patriarchal blessing that tells me I will have the opportunity to grow through adversity and choose to overcome. (Honestly, I did not take that as good news.)

Last month I wrote about the betrayal trauma I’ve experienced. In the depths of my depression, when I could not turn to Jeff, I still did not feel alone. God was right there. Even when I didn’t feel peace and thought that my life was over, there was a microscopic feeling in some remote corner of my heart that things would work out. D&C 6:33-34 spoke solace to my soul and gave me an understanding I hadn’t had before. That understanding was in one little word. As I personalized it I heard: Fear not to do good, Susan, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

LET! That was the word! LET! Let it happen. Bring it on. It is coming so be prepared. What was my preparation? The Sunday School answers! Prayer, repentance, forgiveness, scripture study, fasting, service, attending church, fulfilling my callings, temple attendance, faith, etc…these things do more to thwart the fiery darts than anything that the world has to offer. These things build upon the foundation of my Savior Jesus Christ. “My reward,” as spoken of in the above scripture, is not an earthly one. If I sow righteous choices, it has no bearing if someone else will too. If I am kind, it does not take away the agency of another to not be kind back to me. That is not the cause and effect. The cause is Jesus Christ and the effect is what I will become through Him.

So, “fear not.” I don’t know what is on my horizon. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But I know what I have learned and what I continue to learn. I do better when I put my faith where it belongs, in my Savior. There IS strength in the struggle.

Step Eleven: Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord’s will and have the power to carry it out.

by Paul

As I start to write this article I’ve been thinking on what I can say that will help someone else with their own recovery. So instead of sitting right down and getting to work, I went for a hike in the woods with my dog to think and meditate. I was also thinking of everything that I had to do today, things like helping a family move, going to a ward fall festival, doing the dishes, the laundry, meeting with the missionaries, home teaching, and finding some time to can apples.

I came home from the fall festival feeling very low in the spirit and also like a complete failure because I knew there was no way that I was ever going to be able to get all of these things done. I called my wife and in tears explained my frustrations on not measuring up to what I felt was an acceptable example of what a Latter-day Saint should be able to do. It was then that I remembered a radio program, called Gospel Solutions for Families that I listened to the other day. The part of the broadcast that came to mind was that Satan says like “Are you there yet,” “Have you done anything yet?” Whereas God asks “Are you progressing?” It was then that I realized that I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to do the best that I can. (https://www.mormonchannel.org/listen/series/gospel-solutions-for-familiesaudio/how-to-know-if-you-are-a-good-parent-part-1)

I realized that Satan wants me to be frustrated, sad, and feeling like I don’t measure up. But when I realize that, I know that I need the Savior in my life daily and look for His uplifting spirit in my life. As it states in Step 11, you begin to understand and appreciate your need for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His role in your life, and to treasure the Light of Christ. That is when I went to work and stopped letting Satan influence my life today.

not-aloneFirst, I told myself that I am in control here and I have three great co-pilots in my life, God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. I started to pray and ask the Lord how I can progress today. So I went to see a less-active family and had a great visit. Then I was able to get some things done around my house and have a nice dinner with my family.

So in the past when I have had a frustrating day I would turn to my addiction. But through prayer and meditation, the Lord put me to work, much like President Hinckley’s father told him on his mission “forget yourself and go to work.” So a day that could have been a disaster has actually turned into a pretty good day.

In John 14:26 we read: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” When we turn to the scriptures, pray to the Father, seek personal revelation that we are entitled to, and seek the Lord’s will and carry it out, then the Lord will bless our lives. When we turn to the Lord we will be better able to resist temptations, have more faith that the Lord will strengthen and help us from being deceived.

There is a Mormon message that I like. A man goes to cut wood for his family in the winter but gets his truck stuck while driving. Through all his efforts to get unstuck nothing works. He finally says a prayer and goes to work cutting wood. After the pick-up is full, and he is ready to go home, he says one more prayer starts the truck. He is able to get out. It was the load of wood that made the difference. We will always have challenges and trials, but if we pray read our scriptures and trust the Lord then the Lord can work miracles in our lives. (https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/series/mormon-messages/bearing-ourburdens-with-hope)

I am grateful that the Lord has blessed my life with trials because it is through these trials that I have learned that He does truly love me and accepts me even with all my faults. I know that as I read my scriptures and seek for personal revelation daily in my life that I will continue to grow and learn more about myself and God’s plan for me