An Invitation to Attend the ARP Group Meetings

As a general rule, I don’t talk about what happens in the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) group meetings or anything about the people in them.  However, today I’ll make a little exception since this is going to be about some of my experiences with the group and an invitation to come join us.  I hope this doesn’t come off as narcissistic or haughty but rather in the spirit of sharing.

12-step-meetingsWe have a standing invitation for Bishops and Stake Leaders to come and see what the group is about (with at least a one week notice so we can give the participants a heads up).  We want them to experience and feel the spirit of the group so they will not be hesitant to refer others who could benefit from participating with us.  Some time back, we had a Bishop visit us and he seemed to leave with a good impression.  At least when I saw him last, he remembered me.

But a few weeks ago, we had the High Councilman, who supervises our Stake’s ARP groups, visit us to see what these meetings were about.  The group was given notice the week before and again that evening so they had the option to participate or not.  Thankfully, most stayed and participated as we had our usual meeting.  At the end of the check-in portion of the meeting, I asked him what his thoughts were because I visibly saw that he was moved.  He had difficulty telling us his thoughts because, and it was obvious, he was quite overwhelmed with what he just experiences and witnessed.

With very few exceptions, the strongest places I have felt the spirit are in these meetings.  Our Father in Heaven loves the sinner who is trying to learn to get through tough times.  Besides, He is our Father, He freely gives support to those who seek and ask for it.  So it’s no surprise that He pours out His spirit into these meetings of sinners who are struggling to learn to be submissive to His commandments, in other words, trying to learn to be humble.  This submissiveness is what humility is, to submit ourselves to the will of God.  Humility, for me, was a really tough, even an almost impossible pill for me to swallow but once I did, life became a whole new ball game.

When I was asked to be a facilitator, I readily accepted, thinking I would have a chance to help others, knowing I not only had the experience but I was also further along the journey than most that would be in the group.  But I was to be given a big dose of humility because the first thing I learned was that being a facilitator necessitates that I keep myself ready or I’ll miss out on being a tool in the hand of God to minister to others.  And make no mistake, it’s more than just giving good advice, it is ministering in every sense of the word and if I’m not ready, I’m left to be one big quivering mass of stupor.

I’ll explain: one meeting not too long ago, I was not ready.  I was not reading my scriptures like I should and I let my pride get the best of me.  So when I was at the meeting, I was, as I mentioned before, a big quivering mass of stupor.  No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get a single thought or sentence to make any sense.  After a while, I just shut up, having learned my lesson.  Conversely, recently, I was buried under a mound of work that I knew I would not be able to attend a meeting (we have two PASG groups that I help with).  In the middle of working, I looked at the time and said to myself, for the umpteenth time that day, “I’m not going to be able to go to group tonight” but then I got a jolt to the system and a very unmistakable prompting that I MUST go that evening.  So I finished the task and went.  I won’t go into detail but I can assure you that there was a reason I was told to be there because there was a person who needed the benefit of my experience.  It came clearly to my mind what needed to be said and it flowed easily.

Both lessons are priceless.

But if I were to pick the #1 thing I learned as a facilitator, and the whole reason for this po12steps1st, it would be this: God loves the sinner who is sincerely trying to overcome this world so much, that it doesn’t take much movement on their part to get close to Him that He will begin to bless them immensely.  It may not seem like it at first, but He is there, involved and waiting to give.

So if you are hesitant to go to an ARP meeting, GO!  Listen to the spiritual prompting that is directing you to go to a place that is filled with good.

The Prodigal Son: My Interpretation, My Lesson

So a few months back, I was interviewed by Bill Reel about my journey from addiction to recovery to rebaptism and ended with my testimony.  I have to say that hearing myself talk about it really is kind of strange, but strangely reassuring.  There was the time a few weeks ago that life really weighed me down so listening to the interview reminded me where I was and where I am.  That reminder and reassurance was what I needed at that moment, but I digress.

A very good friend of mine listened to the interview and email me his response.  But there were a couple of lines in there that really struck me and made me think really hard.  Withtall-and-short-man-cartoon his permission, these are the two sentences: “You are now a missionary giant and way above me.  After listening to you I feel like a puny dork.”  This really troubled me because that is exactly how I don’t see myself, ESPECIALLY compared to him.  This is a man that had accepted me from the very beginning (almost two decades ago) for who I was, didn’t let my offensive, crass nature turn him away and after I told him my whole, unadulterated story, he didn’t push me away and shut me out.  When it comes to spirituality, he’s got it!  So when he said he felt spiritually puny to me that really shook and troubled me to the core.  But I wasn’t able to talk to him about it yet because I was not sure why I felt the way I did. I turned on my self-analysis tools, said lots of prayers, and these many months later the spirit finally gave me the answer.  And it really reshaped how I view others.

There are two parts to this; the first is a reminder to me about “negative pride.”  This is what I spoke about in the talk I gave:

“In my experience, the one biggest factor getting in the way of letting sins go is a type of pride.  We’re all familiar with pride being where one thinks they’re better than another, but I have found that there is a pride where one thinks they’re worse than others; a reverse type pride.  Instead of a person artificially putting themself above others, this person artificially puts themself beneath others.  It is, in a sense, a competition of who’s the worst sinner along the line of what President Benson has told us that “Pride is essentially competitive in nature.  We put our will against God’s… It is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.”  He goes on: “The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.” (April 1989 Gen Conf)

When we refuse to let go of our sins or when we look around and tell ourselves that “no one has sinned worse than me” or when we wallow in how bad a person we are,  we are running contrary to God’s will to repent and allow God to heal us.  This is pitting our will to be miserable against God will to give us joy.  And thus, we refuse to forgive ourselves when our Father in Heaven already has.” ( blog post; 15 Years In The Making: My Sacrament Meeting Talk)

This explains the reverse pride that I was caught up in before.  I relished the thought that I Pridewas more sinful, more evil, more “experienced” than everyone else in my ward and stake.  It wasn’t until I really began to see myself for who I was, a son of God who mattered, that I began to have a change of attitude.  Once I got to that point, I perceived that I was less than the folks in my group, not necessarily because I had pride in my sins, but sorrow for who I was and what I had done.  And just to pile on even more, at that time, they had the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I didn’t.  So I looked at the others who did have the gift and saw them as much better people than I was.  I later began to better grasp the concept of being a son of God and began to have a reassurance that it wasn’t a matter of me being better or worse than the others, but that I was sharing the same path that they were; the path to becoming better, godlike people who did our best to learn and obey the commandments and quickly repented when we messed up.

So here enters the second part, the part that really hit me hard today, the part where I was spiritually taught, the part where I was taught humility; the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

We all know the story, son wants more, son goes to father and demand his share of the inheritance, son goes off on riotous living, son loses it all and shares food with the pigs, son decides to go back to be a servant to his father since they not only eat better than he does, they have a bed to sleep in.  The father was constantly scanning the horizon, looking for the return of his lost son.   When he saw him from “afar off” he ran to him, kissed him, all the while his son protesting telling his father that he is not worthy to be his son.  So how many of us feel that way?  I know I did.  But then what did the father do and, more pointedly, what did his brother do?

The brother: “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thyprodigal_son commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:29-30)

The Father: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

This parable is a similitude of our relationship with our Father in Heaven.  He loves all his children including the wayward sinner.  But my lesson was this: the one who never strayed has the better life. 

Now don’t get me wrong, those who repent of their sins are “restored unto righteousness” so we all have the opportunity for eternal life.  But my good friend, who never strayed, has the better life because he is not burdened with the consequences that I burdened myself with:

  • Addictions.
  • Guilt.
  • Shame.
  • Remorse.
  • Images and acts constantly popping up in my head.
  • The knowledge of the hurt I left my victims with.
  • The knowledge of the swath of destruction I left behind.
  • Being the reason why my marriage failed and I lost my family.
  • Being the reason why my children do not have their father.
  • Having a felony record.
  • Having been excommunicated.
  • Having a bad reputation.
  • The Lost years and years to an unproductive life.
  • The loss of years and years that could have been spent with the Holy Ghost and communing with God.
  • Having to work to overcome all these.
  • Much, much more that is too many to list.

Now I’m not bemoaning this list, I’ve come to accept that these are the results of my bad behavior.  But I also come to accept and know that with the Lord all things are possible, including forgiveness, which he has given me in spades.  But I can’t help but be sad about having to pass through some very dark, lonely, dreary places just so that I could learn what I know now.  So while one doesn’t need to smoke crack to know it’s bad, with the same token one does not need to do some heavy-duty sinning to learn to be spiritual.  Those who do not have a lot less consequences, a lot less baggage and, I believe, are a whole lot better off.

straightpathSo to my good friend I would tell him: “Those who know that fire burns without needing to stick their hand in the flames never get the scars from being burned.  If it weren’t a sin, I would say that I am envious of you because I have a lot of deep, self-inflicted physical and spiritual scars that may never go away in this life.  But there is one thing that consoles me and that is that I am almost right up there with you on the path to being restored to happiness and righteousness in the kingdom of God.”

Addendum: A big realization came to me as I was talking to a friend this morning and I risk hurting some people’s feeling with this, but it dove-tails into the intent of this posting.  That realization is that the people who made the biggest difference in my life, helped me the most and have become the dearest, closest and most trusted of friends did not do what I did, sin like I did or (as far as I know about them) dive down into the darkest places like I did. Don’t get me wrong, they had their trials and they had their moments where they had to decide which path they were going to trod but they did not act in a way that their consequences came close to mine.  It may sound counter-intuitive but really, I don’t know many people who have been where I’ve been.

It was (and still is) the guidance of those who’s hands are clean who became the people I looked up to and gave me the best of advice and, next to the Savior, the best of example.  They knew how to talk with the Lord and they had testimonies of the love God has for his children.  This gift they were more than willing to share with me and, at times, it made them very vulnerable.  But they risked it and I am eternally grateful for their patience and willingness to extend their friendship to me.

For what it’s worth, my love and undying loyalty they will always have.

Feelings Analysis or Good Gosh, This Is Progress???

So I’ve had a pretty interesting summer.  One daughter got married, others got their patriarchal blessings and my son got the priesthood and that’s besides my baptism.  So why do I feel like I do?

father_son_111110-thumb-640xauto-1534To begin with, I had two months of having my son to pal around with.  We did all kinds of “guy stuff” and really had a ball all the while getting to know each other better.  Then, as with all things, it ended; time for him to go back home a few states away and back to school, football, etc.  So again, why do I feel like I do?

So I began doing what I’ve been trained to do all these years of psyco-stuff and that is to do some self-analysis; break down what I’m feeling to its constituent parts and analyze.  This is what I’ve come up with:

The Breakdown
What am I feeling?
– Lonely
– Sad

When did these feelings start?
– When I dropped off my son for the last time.
– When I went to church for the first time in six weeks without him.

The Analysis
When was the last time I felt this way?
– Never

In a few words, what is the root reason I feel this way?
– Actually, one word: Attachment.

And that is the process my mind goes through whenever I feel something for the first time and this feeling of attachment is a first.  So let me go back a little ways to try to put this all into focus.

In my childhood, I learned that one way to protect myself emotionally is to have the ability originalto cut people out.  This is one big reason that I can meet friends from my youth and not really have much of a feeling for them.  To give an even worse example; when my children were born, I felt the joy of having babies in the home, but I never really felt that overwhelming attachment to them.  To me, they were a responsibility, where to others, they are an extension of their parent’s beings.  Even when I was married, I would look at my wife and it all felt so disassociated.  So I lacked that natural skill to become attached to a person, even a family person.

When the time came where my children moved a few states away, I missed them, but I didn’t really feel a whole lot of grief over it.  In my mind, it would be the same type of relationship I had with my parents.  They’re there, but then they are not.  No hard feeling, just that we’re on separate life tracks.  Again, no really attachment.

But I knew something changed in me when one evening I looked out at the ARP group and I really felt a love for all the men there.  That’s not exactly empathy, there’s something else, there’s a different how and why.

Well, here one answer:

Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

There is no improvement we can make of ourselves without the hand of God.  I truly believe that.  If the scripture that says that if we obey the law, we get the blessing (D&C 130: 20-21) then it stands to reason that this law extends to every single person on the face of the earth and beyond.  It explains to me how really bad people I have met in past group therapies can turn into good people because as they began to strive to better themselves and treat others honorably, they got the blessings that are tied to such acts; God made those weak things strong.  So as I strove to obey God’s laws, strove to be of service to other people, strove to build people up, I received the gift of being able to love others.

But this doesn’t answer the question of why?  Why do I have to have these emotions?  Why is it that the more I learn to behave, the more I feel?  It just seemed unfair.  Emotions have always been a negative for me.  If I felt it, I did my best to drive it away.  This is why I became addisad_facected to stuff; to suppress these emotions that I didn’t want.  So by the time I imploded my life, I was pretty dead inside.  It took many years of back and forth to be able to feel alive and, more importantly, not be afraid to feel that way.  I became better at coping but the habit of suppressing my feelings and emotions was an addiction unto itself that was almost impossible kick.  Eventually, I got to the point that when I felt something new, it became not a terrifying experience, but a curious one.  Something as simple as a feeling of friendship was a curiosity I analyze to death.

It wasn’t until I had a friend suddenly pass away that I really learned what it was all about.  I won’t go into how I learned this because it’s a very sacred experience.  Suffice it to say that I learned that emotions are a gift from God, they bind people together and they make life beautiful.  That in-and-of-itself was an extreme eye-opener to me and instantly changed the way I viewed emotions.  It’s still a curiosity, but I’m not scared of it.  Matter of fact, whenever I get angry I relish the chance to break it down and really discover why I got so mad.  No, I don’t go looking for things to get me angry and yes, I do apologize to the person I got mad at but feeling has become fun.  I know, it’s strange.

Back to this past summer: this is why that out-of-the-blue new emotion became a source of analysis and curiosity to me.  But there is one difference; where I said before that feeling became fun, this one is not.  It doesn’t scare me, but for the first time, to this extent, I really, truly and deeply miss my children.  And it hurts.

Am I depressed?  Maybe.   Am I sad?  Yes.  Do I feel the sting happy-faceof separation?  Most definitely.  Will these sad feeling last?  No, they won’t.  But it’s a necessary part of life to feel these things, just as it is to feel happiness and joy.  And for me, it’s necessary to feel this sting so that I know that I can have a healthy connection with someone and not be driven back to the habits of the past in a desperate attempt to try to escape it.

So yes, this is progress because I now know that I have the skills to not only cope and live with sadness, but to, in an odd way, enjoy the feeling.

15 Years In The Making: My Sacrament Meeting Talk

So this past Sunday, I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting; the first in 15 years.  To say I was nervous doesn’t do the word justice.  But I think it went well.  At least that’s what I was told.

The topic given to me was the Atonement which is a pretty big topic so I narrowed it down to what I learned about the Atonement and repentance from my experience in coming back into the fold.  So while it was personal, I think I laid out some doctrinal points worth thinking about.

The nice thing, though, was that there was a surprise visit from a past group leader from the ARP program; the one who had to be the most patient with me because I really treated him pretty bad.  But I was quite pleased to show him how I’ve changed and what I learned.  So his patience really did make a different to me.

I tried to record it but it didn’t take.  I didn’t push the correct button out of nervousness.  So I give you the text of my talk.  I wasn’t able to give it word for word and I had to cut out a few lines because of time but I got in all my points and was able to deliver 90% of it.  So I post it as I had it in front of me:



Brothers and sisters, good afternoon.  It’s good to be here and share some thoughts with you.  I’ve been asked to speak to you about the Atonement so I decided to take a personal approach.  This past June, I was rebaptised back into the fold so I kind-of have a bit of an understanding about the Atonement as it applies to some major repenting.  But what really mattered was how I applied the Atonement in my daily struggles.  But within those struggles are some key moments and lessons that I’d like to share.  So today, my talk is titled “Three Overall Lessons I Learned on the Road of Repentance.”

Quite frankly, I think that as I give this talk that many of you will look at me and say “well, no duh!” because of the basicness of what I learned, but while I may have been taught all these things in the past, I really never integrated them into my being so in reality, these really are things I learned for the first time.  So I beg your patience and I hope that at least these thoughts I’m going to share would, at a minimum, be a reminder or a trigger for some personal thoughts of your own.

Lesson 1: Repentance is a Choice – Towards the beginning of my journey, I came to a fork in the road.  I either turned left to continue down the road I was very familiar with, or turn right down a road I’ve never traveled.  On the left was hardness, darkness and destruction; all the things that I was quite comfortable with and good at.  Conversely, on the right was light, goodness and life; all the things I was severely lacking in.  With me standing here, my choice is pretty obvious, but I believe we are all constantly being nudged towards God just by nature of having the Light of Christ and one really has to do a severe about face to get away from that nudging.  But once that choice is made to turn right, our Father in Heaven stands ready and willing to do what He feel is necessary to help us keep our eye on the ball.

I’ll illustrate with this with one experience: I was in a church interview where, in an attempt to encourage me and help me understand where I was going wrong, the church leader bore his testimony to me.  Now I was sitting there feeling the spirit and I was even having that burning bosom experience.  But I decided to become obstinate, let my frustration and anger over-ride the spirit and I shoved it out of me.  I then shot back at the interviewer and shot him down. I left the building with that same contentious spirit until I knelt down and started to say my prayer for the evening.  Well, as I was kneeling there, I got spiritually chastised and I felt a prompting telling me that I was going to be without God’s spirit until I apologized and then it was gone.  One would think I would be on the phone that moment but my pride wouldn’t let me even think of apologizing for days.  But every time I knelt down to pray, I got that spiritual “I don’t think so.”  It wasn’t until that next Sunday morning that I finally changed my attitude.  I then apologized to that person and immediately at humbling myself and begging forgiveness, I felt the spirit return.  Did the spirit really leave me?  I think it may have but I definitely left him.  I chose to surround myself with the spirit of contention and rebelliousness.  It wasn’t until I humbled myself and chose to repent that I was able to, once again, enjoy the movements of the Spirit.

So it really did become what Moses asked the Israelites which is “whom will ye serve?”

Lesson 2: A Godlike People Seriously Repent Often; Seriously Learn to Obey – One of my jobs in the church is to be a Facilitator in the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP).  As such, I’ve often heard too many people tell me that they have lost hope because they cannot stop the behavior they’re addicted to and they’re nigh unto give up.  But, I can’t help but wonder, “Who told them to stop?  Who told them there is a limit on God’s love and mercy?”  The difficult answer is family, other people or members.  The easy answer is Satan.  This is one of the weapons in his arsenal; to tell the children of God that they cannot achieve perfection if they have to repent of something more than once.  That they should have learned and stopped the first time, but they made a mockery of God by repeating the same offence.

How destructive this line of thinking is!  I believe it to be totally un-doctrinal.  We can pull scripture after scripture of how the Nephites and, Lamanites became righteous, fell, and became righteous again and enjoyed the blessings of their repentance.

But I’ve come to understand that the goal of repentance is not necessarily to rid us of sin.  There is no way now or ever that we can gather up all our sins and dispose of them.  We pretty much lost that ability the first time we did something wrong.  This is why we needed Christ to answer and pay the demands of justice for all our wrong doings and he has done just that with the Atonement.  This grace is given to us by what Elder Gene R Cook defines as the “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” He further states that “If we can obtain the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that divine enabling power to assist us, we will triumph in this life and be exalted in the life to come.” (April 1993 Gen Conf)

That being said, the goal of repentance is for us to learn, practice and get better at being obedient to God.  It’s what Elder Christopherson says that “repentance means not only abandoning sin but also committing to obedience.”  He also states that “Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving.  Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul” (Oct 2011, The Divine Gift of Repentance)

In other words, Congratulations! We’re human!  We will need to make repeated attempts to change a behavior in able to enact real change, real repentance and real obedience with the outcome being real forgiveness and refining.

But we need to be careful that we don’t turn the repentance process into a checklist of ‘do’s and don’ts.  I’ll explain this with another experience I had which became a pivotal moment in my journey.  During the time when I was preparing to, once again, go back before the High Council but this time to petition for reinstatement, I was reading in Alma 41, where Corianton was being taught about the resurrection and being restored to who we are.  But there were a few verses that really caught my attention.  I’ll read a couple of them:

Alma 41: 5 (speaking of the resurrection) The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil;….

That was easy enough to understand, good to good, bad to bad.  But then I read the next verse:

 6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

This verse hit me hard because I didn’t fully comprehend what it was saying.  It bothered me so much that after a fireside (that happened to be the next evening) I grabbed one of the Stake Presidency to explain this to me. Once we got into his office and I read these verses to him, I asked “What does the High Council want?  What does the Lord want?  What am I supposed to do? I don’t understand!?”  Then came the lesson; I learned that we’re not going to leave mortality, walk up to the pearly gates and hand Saint Peter out resume.   That’s not the way it works.  Life is not about going down a checklist of deeds such as church, prayer, temple, mutual, home or visiting teaching, etc.  It’s about developing the attitude of what King Benjamin described as a “disposition to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

Elder Spencer J. Condie taught that “The seeds of our disposition toward good or evil are largely sown by our desires.”  He goes on to say that “In teaching the wayward Zoramites how they could gain a knowledge of the truth, Alma admonished them to “exercise a particle of faith,” and if they could “no more than desire to believe, [to] let this desire work in [them]” (Alma 32:27). What begins as a fleeting desire, when cultivated and pursued long enough, becomes a habitual form of thought or behavior.” (Aug 2001, Ensign, A Disposition To Do Good Continually)

This then circles back to what instigated my question in the first place, that how this “particle of faith” then turns into a desire for happiness through Christ and the Atonement, which then leads to a change of attitude, outlook and perspective leading to the reward of righteousness, a closer communion with God and eventually, eternal life.

Lesson 3: Forgive Others, Forgive Myself, Move Forward and Be Happy – One of my favorite talks is “Remember Lot’s Wife” given by Jeffrey R. Holland at a BYU devotional.  One passage from his talk has always struck me as parallel with the admonition to “concider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.” (Mosiah 2: 41)  President Holland states:

“Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).”

He continues:

“The proviso, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with their earlier mistakes—and that ‘someone’ might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves, often much more so than with others!”

He goes on to tell us that we need to not only forgive [ourselves] but to also “do that which is harder than to forgive: Forget…” He continues: “You can remember just enough to avoid repeating the mistake, but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to those Philippians. Dismiss the destructive and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family and your friends and your neighbors. 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…”

And if you’re wondering about that “dung heap” scripture, it’s in Philippians 3: 8.

In my experience, the one biggest factor getting in the way of letting sins go is a type of pride.  We’re all familiar with pride being where one thinks they’re better than another, but I have found that there is a pride where one thinks they’re worse than others; a reverse type pride.  Instead of a person artificially putting themself above others, this person artificially puts themself beneath others.  It is, in a sense, a competition of who’s the worst sinner along the line of what President Benson has told us that “Pride is essentially competitive in nature.  We put our will against God’s… It is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.”  He goes on: “The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.” (April 1989 Gen Conf)

When we refuse to let go of our sins or when we look around and tell ourselves that “no one has sinned worse than me” or when we wallow in how bad a person we are,  we are running contrary to God’s will to repent and allow God to heal us.  This is pitting our will to be miserable against God will to give us joy.  And thus, we refuse to forgive ourselves when our Father in Heaven already has.

In closing:  Bear Testimony and Witness

  • Repentance is a Choice
  • A Godlike People Seriously Repent Often Seriously Learn to Obey
  • Forgive Others, Forgive Myself, Move Forward and Be Happy

These are three big topics with a lot of little experiences, moments, lessons and episodes nestled within each one.  As each one of us are unique and different, so are our approaches and experiences.  But understanding these lessons has been a miracle to me and only proves to me that I am loved by my Father in Heaven and it still boggles my mind that it is the will of Him who created countless worlds, this world and all that is on it and created me, both spiritual and physical, that it is His will to so richly bless me in such an intimate and personal way.

  • I am a witness of the power of the Atonement to change people.
  • I Love the church, I love this gospel, I love God and Christ and the Atonement.  It has changed me, it has saved my live in more ways than one.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen



Why Didn’t I Just Stop? – One Person’s View of my Interview

For starters, I frequent an “LDS” forum where I posted about Bill Reel’s interview of me and asking for other thoughts about it.  Thus far, it’s been very positive.  But I had one poster give a heartfelt response that I had to respond to.  Here it is:


I had recently discovered your blog a few weeks ago while searching for hope that my husband will be able to overcome his lust and porn addiction. Coincidentally, I saw this thread and noticed that you were the guy from the blog I have been reading. I have to admit, that was the first podcast I have ever listened too.

 Please forgive me if I sound unsympathetic or judgmental. I respect your tenacity and commitment to straighten out your life. It was a great interview and you have worked very hard to make yourself worthy to be re baptized.

 My husband’s actions of being involved with lust/pornography have left me pretty beat up emotionally. He kept it a secret from me for almost 13 years until he exposed himself last year (we are approaching our 14 year anniversary). My 18 year old step-son who lives with us is also addicted to lust/porn and has been since he was really young. It’s heartbreaking.

 My goal that I wanted to achieve from listening to your interview was, to have a better understanding from the addicts view so I can stop being so hurt by my husband and be more understanding.

 As I was listening, I felt bad for the little boy that was innocently exposed to pornography. I was upset that your childhood was robbed because of an inappropriate image and felt sorry that had happened to you. As the story progresses my feelings of sadness went to frustration as to why you weren’t getting help and stopping this behavior. You knew that it was wrong and yet you still continued to hide it. (sorry) I think it was great that you were able to serve a worthy mission! …and then your back at it. I hate the sin but not the sinner. You sounded so sincere when you were speaking of your ex-wife. I thought that was really neat. I guess, I expected you to be resentful that she didn’t stick by your side and help you through this mess that you had gotten yourself into. I appreciate your comments about how your stake president was a great help to your wife and that often times we focus on the sinner and forget about the ones affected.

 I go to the church 12-step program with my husband but haven’t found much help. I feel that there should be a different manual written for the people that have been affected by the addict. I wish my Bishop would call me in and check on me. I haven’t told anyone of my husbands or sons problem and I feel alone in trying to deal with this.

 Back to you… Every time you mentioned that you would slip up, I wanted to shake you (sorry). Why does it have to take so long to overcome? Was your fight not strong enough or is it that hard to overcome? I think your journey back to the church is very respectable. Despite your life being a complete mess you still found hope and faith that through the Atonement, you could be healed. Awesome, I admire your faith and trust (can I borrow some). Then, overtime you get a stake calling. Wow, he must be a pretty amazing guy that you were entrusted with this calling and over technology of all things. When you said it was a calling over technology my first reaction was, are they crazy? Keep him away from technology. Obviously, those men were inspired to call you and you have done a great job. I might not sure if I should have laughed but I did when you were being speaking about being re baptized and you had a slip up. That the stake president wanted to be done with you and preform a baptism for the dead for you.

 After much hard work on your part, you made it. You were found worthy to be re baptized. Thank you for your testimony, it really touched me that we can all be healed. Congratulations!! So, it is possible. Do I have a better understanding? NO, but maybe I never will and just need to accept what has happened. I wish I could ask some personal questions about how you feel about lust and porn today but I don’t want to be disrespectful (I’m sure you are thinking that I have already been, sorry) I am grateful that I can across your story and that you have been willing to share it. Thank you and great job!!

Disclaimer: Sorry for any typos, I don’t have time to proofread before I post this


This poster really speaks for the experience the spouses and parents go through when they have to see and deal with a loved one who has turned to pornography.  Because I really appreciated and respected this poster for telling us this, I wanted to give a thoughtful response.  Thus, it took a while to really think about how I would reply and this is what I posted in responce:


…, sorry I’ve taken so long to respond to your post but I wanted to really think about my response to it. So hang on, this is going to be a long answer:

There was no disrespect in your post at all. It’s how you feel and there’s no judgment on my part, especially being the one who is the victim. Two things before I answer your post:

1) The church’s Addiction Recovery Program is coming out with a manual like Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing manual for the support group. It’s been in the works for a while now and the last update we got from the person in charge is that the previous manual was checked over by a General Authority and it was found lacking. So they’re going through it and re-working it. Stay tuned, it will be out. In the mean time, check out the church’s ARP website.

2) If you want a good understanding about this addiction, I suggest you purchase He Restoreth my Soul by Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD. It’s the best book that explains pornography and sex addiction with an eye on the gospel (yes, the author is LDS).

That being said…

The interview only showed a glimmer of what my life had been like and all the reasons why I have a sexual addiction. But you, in a way, ask a very simple question with a very complex answer; “You knew it was wrong, why didn’t you just stop?” In the interview, I gave the answer that I didn’t have anything else to substitute for it. I didn’t have the skills to deal with life and I didn’t have the necessary boundaries appropriately set. So when the stress of life, work, church, etc hit me, the only way I knew how to relax was to turn to sex and porn. I was trying to control my out-of-control mind. To further expand on that, I’ll add that It wasn’t until I learned three things that I was able to begin to set appropriate boundaries and find other ways to control my inner turmoil. These were:

1) Sex is optional. It’s counter-intuitive for an addict, it’s the same as telling a person to stop breathing. Believe it or not, it was a shock to learn that one.

2) Sex is only for two things 1- Procreation, 2- the bonding of a man and woman within the bound of marriage. Nothing else. This concept is what helped me reset my boundaries with pornography and how I viewed other women around me. No longer were they objects to be used but daughters of God that I had no right-at-all to abuse mentally. They were now out-of-bounds.

3) The Serenity Prayer: I only have control over two things 1 – how proactive I am, 2 – how reactive I am. Proactive which prayer and meditating, reading scriptures and good books, listening to good music, education and giving service. Reactive which is when I do get an urge to act out, where am I going to direct my energy? These led me to be able to let things go. It takes a whole lot more to offend me now than it did before because I now know that what other people do is beyond my control. Only how I react to it.

I also believe you need to understand that the issues of pornography abuse by your husband and son (depending on his age) are not your issues; it is theirs and theirs alone. You cannot get lost in trying to fix them. For my former wife, she had to learn to stop mothering me. It was a difficult lesson, especially when I would come whining for help but she needed to set the boundary where my behavior did not affect her. And with that, I had to learn to take care of the consequences of my behavior on my own. She was, and is still there to lend a shoulder to cry on and vent to. But she gives no advice and no council unless I specifically ask what her opinion is and letting her know that I’m not asking for her to fix it, I just need another mind to help me think through it. These days, she’s ok with giving me advice because I have learned to not lay any blame at her feet if it goes wrong. My choice, my consequences. My ex-wife and I are still good friends and talk all the time.

I should also clarify that she did stick by me. She stayed with me through some very dark times. If it wasn’t for her, I would be dead. But she also had to take care of the children and protect them. Thus, the divorce. But it was as amicable as it could get. We even filled out the paperwork together. No attorneys, no court dates, no fights. It was over and I knew it so I accepted it and it turned out that my lack of fighting for our relationship has, in a way, saved our relationship and my children’s.

Along with my sex and porn addiction, I also am an alcoholic (8-years dry). I learned that to avoid the triggers I need to stay away from it. So I don’t go to bars, I don’t walk down the liquor isles in the market and if I go to company parties, I let others know that I am an alcoholic and how long I’ve been sober so they know not to offer it to me and I have no way of sneaking in a drink. So far, I’ve been very successful because the temptation to drink, while it is still there, is not overwhelming. It’s a fleeting thought.

It’s the same with pornography but the difference is that I can’t avoid it. Just searching for a nice cover to use for my Facebook page turned up some topless women (and that’s with safe search selected). And no, computer filters don’t work because I know how to defeat them. Just as it took decades to discipline myself to not drink, I had to discipline myself to not turn to pornography. The only way I can really describe it is like taking a heavy pain killer; the pain is still there but whoa, it doesn’t register! It’s the same with porn. I’ll have a pornographic image or thought come into my mind and as easy as it slid in, it slides out because I learned to not pay attention to it. It will never go away just as my want for alcohol won’t go away. But I can not pay attention to it when the urge strikes. Its part of the Serenity Prayer; I accept that that part of me will not change but I had to get the courage to change what I could change which is how I reacted to the urges. I learned to react by accepting it’s there and not paying any attention to it. So I don’t stress over it and I let it go away.

But all these are skills that I never had and had to learn. So this is why it took so long and this is why I couldn’t just stop the bad behavior. I was rebellious to begin with so it wasn’t until I got some humility that real changes began to happen.

All this being said, as I mentioned in my interview, there is no way that I, as a mere mortal, could enact these changes on my own. I first had to accept defeat and then I had to accept the help of others and, more importantly, God’s help. This is why when asked what my testimony is, I have to answer that I am a witness to the goodness and grace of God to change people. He changed me and I have witnessed Him change others. I have witnessed Him change addicts and I have witnessed Him change the victims. I have seen with my own eyes and heart the glorious effect of when not only myself, but when others embrace the Grace of God for themselves. It may be simplistic, but that’s the way God has made it for us. It’s simple because we have such a complex task navigating our way through this mortal existence with all the weaknesses we have as humans.

I also had many, many people come into my life who have affected it for good and bad; both teaching me valuable lessons. There are a few who have become the best of friends and have taught and guided me on how to change my thinking, the way I spoke and the way I interact with other people. One person who is my mentor really showed me where the path of goodness is and how to stay on it. I didn’t know where it was or how to find it. He helped me get there and to me, he is the angel God sent to me to get my head screwed on straight. It is not trite of me to say that I would have never made it to rebaptism without him. There were many other new friends and church leaders who really make a big difference. It still boggles my mind how God had placed people in my path to help me, a lowly alcoholic, porn and sex addict. But he deals with me as he deals with all His other children; as an individual.

The Nephites, with all their sins and transgressions, still survived the cataclysm that hit them before the coming of Christ to the new world. And what did Christ ask them (I think He begged them)? “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted that I may heal you?” After all the mess these people made of their lives, Christ still is there, waiting to heal them. It’s the same for us and this is what I am really a witness to: I created a huge earthquake in my life. But I decided to try God out and he healed me and I’ve seen him heal many others.

But for all this to happen, I had to point my nose in God’s direction. I had to get on the path of humility and change. I believe because I wanted this change that He never let me go, even when I started to kick and scream. In my heart, I wanted to change but in my mind, it was too difficult and was many times resistant to His help. But God looks at the heart and he looked at mine.

So now I have a new mantra that I try to live by: “Be still and know that I am God.” Thus far, it’s been difficult to live by those words but I’m getting better at it.


If I were to add one other thought is that I felt that pornography gave me permission to do what I did.  But I’ll post on that at a later date.  For now, I thought I’d share this with you.  Let me know what you think.

Click here for the interview.