Monday, November 7, 2011

"I Know That Man Is Nothing"

“It came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:10).
How did Moses describe himself as compared to God?

Moses had just seen all of God's creations, and his recognition of the nothingness of man has, I think, so much to do with the 'nothingness' of human cares and concerns.  We see now darkly, as through a glass, preoccupied by the natural man and his "needs" but if we could, as Moses did, see the whole of God's creations, then we would realize that mortality is just a small blip on the long timeline of eternity, and that the things we are concerned with here are completely meaningless.  

So what does this have to do with being honest with myself about a pornography addiction? Well, if I am honest with myself then my addiction is largely about two things. 1) My desire to control something in my life, particularly my desire to control my physical needs.  Its the same reason I don't like someone to tell me what to eat (is it?). And 2) my desire to avoid pain ( or stress or disappointment).


And if I am honest with myself, these are concerns of the natural man, the natural man that Moses has said is "nothing."  So when I am preoccupied by the concerns of the natural man, I am preoccupied with a lie from Satan (Why do we capitalize his name?) that natural man's desires are the most important thing in the world.

So, if I can be humble enough to acknowledge that the natural man tendencies that I am susceptible to are not as important as Satan would have me think, then this is a first step in learning to control my own body.

...Control...


Interesting that in seeking something to control in my life I have instead largely lost control of a portion of myself.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Putting Trust in the Lord

When Nephi felt overwhelmed, in whom did he place his trust? What can you do to place more trust in the Lord?

Nephi put his trust in the Lord, always.  But what does that mean to trust the lord?  It means I believe him when he tells me something, that I accept his promises and act accordingly.


So what are the Lord's promises that I can trust in?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I trust God completely when it comes to tithing. When we pay our tithing the Lord provides for us. I have tested that promise over and over again and I believe it--no, scratch that--I know the Law of tithing is a true law and I know that the promises associated with the law of tithing always play out. I know this.  Its not a matter of faith anymore. I've seen it over and over and over again. I know it as clearly as I know the sun will rise in the morning.

Alright, that may be an overstatement.  I don't go to bed in the morning feeling hopeful, yet a little nervous about the prospect of the sun rising, but I do feel hopeful and a little nervous when I write a tithing check.    But i have seen it over and over again--the windows of heaven opening up and receiving so many blessings that we cannot receive them.

So if God's promises are true with tithing, then they will be true with all his commandments.

Then what are the commandments associated with pornography addiction?

From True to the Faith
Chastity is sexual purity, a condition that is “pleasing unto God” ( Jacob 2:7). To be chaste, you must be morally clean in your thoughts, words, and actions. You must not have any sexual relations before you are legally married. When you are married, you must be completely faithful to your husband or wife. 

From Matthew
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28)
Fom the Doctrine and Covenants
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42:22–23)
From 1 Corinthians
"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"(1 Corinthians 6:18-19)
From Genesis

 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

 From Jacob

"For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts."

So these are the commandments that make up the Law of Chastity. "No sexual relations except between husband and wife legally and lawfully wedded - be morally clean in thought, word, and action.

And the associated promises?

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Promised Blessings:
  • Confidence in your standing with God
  • Receive blessings of doctrines of the priethood (priesthood power, fatherhood)
  • Companionship of Holy Ghost
  • Righteous Judgment
  • eternal increase (everlasting dominions)
So have come to keep the law of tithing because I have tested it and over and over again, the Lord has fulfilled his  promises. How can I transfer that faith to the law of Chastity? These promises are amazing.

Do I trust the Lord enough to live up to them?

How do I trust the Lord? By not putting my own rationalization or curiosity over his commandments.  By believing him when he warns me and when he promises me.

His Promises are true. I know it.  I should act like it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving in to addiction

What situations or feelings weakened you so you gave in to your addiction?

Situations
Well this is easy, right now I am at work and the regular sensation is--"Here I sit facing something uncomfortable and challenging, but it would be so easy to click away to something stimulating, something that would let me escape."

When I am alone on a business trip.  The very fact of being in a hotel room is a trigger.  I think I am afraid of being alone, of feeling alone.  Which is ironic because I often stay up late so that I can have some alone time (ironically not typically a time of temptation for me), but when I am alone I don't like the feeling of being alone.  I think part of the reason that being on a business trip or being home alone for long periods of time becomes a trigger is because there is less a concern about getting caught.

And, of course, that is a fact that bugs me to no end, that causes a lot of shame.  If virtue is a measure of our behavior when no one else is looking, then how virtuous am i if the first thing I think about when I'm alone for any stretch is going to look up some pornography? Hmm...

Feelings
I think the feelings that most commonly cause me to fall into temptations are feelings of loneliness and lack of control. Initially it was curiosity.  As a teenager I was fascinated by sex and sexuality and the idea of it all, but that curiosity led me to seek out pornography as a way to feel in control of something.

Sex, is after all, about control.  The best sex is the sex that allows you to completely give up control of yourself and expose yourself emotionally and physically to another person without fear or shame. And if you believe, as I do, that masturbation is a sin, and that having sex with someone who is not into it, or who is simply doing it for you, is worse than not having sex at all, then when it comes down to it, your sex life (my sex life) is entirely in my wife's control.

Because I want to have sex more often than she does, she, by default, controls when we have sex.  She either says yes or no, and that is that.  This puts me in an awkward position because emotionally I connect sex with acceptance, intimacy, and approbation (if she is making love to me, then she approves of me - I'm doing something right. If she is not making love to me, then she disapproves and I must be a failure).  I would like to have sex more often, but I don't want her to do it just to please me - I want her to want me.

Is that co-dependence?  Or is that how its supposed to be? I mean, isn't a man supposed to want to sleep with his wife and vice-versa? And I know that a lot of regular life gets in the way of having the time and emotional space to take an hour to be intimate together, but it seems to me that sex shouldn't be something that one spouse should have to convince the other spouse about.

"Hey, this is really great, you know, trust me, we should try it some time."

Especially when for me, sex is so much about pleasing your partner.  If it were just about orgasm, then it would be a different story, but the mutual act of opening ourselves up to each other is about so much more than that.

So the long and the short is this. I don't feel in control of my own sexual needs.  And pornography is a counterfeit answer to those needs. I don't have to ask anyone. I don't have to wait for someone to be in the mood, or to not be stressed out. I don't have to give back rubs or foot rubs.  I don't have to wonder and worry if she is really enjoying herself or if she's faking. It's counterfeit for sure, but it seems "easier" at the time then engaging in the difficult work of navigating a real intimate relationship.

Of course its not easier, and the more I seek out counterfeit intimacy, the more difficult it is to communicate clearly with my wife about our relationship. That's the definition of a vicious cycle.

I find it terribly embarrassing to feel like I'm in the position of begging for sex.  Even as I write, I can feel rage creeping up inside of me. The idea that women can be so out of touch with what their husbands needs are that a man has to ask over and over again for sex.

Just the phrase "asking for sex" sounds pitiful.

Shouldn't it be something we give willingly, because we love each other?  Shouldn't a husband's sexual needs be as important as anything else in the relationship.

Now, if the husband doesn't know how to meet his wife's sexual needs, that's one thing, but what about husbands who have that figured out (I spend 90% of my time in love-making doing things for her that are designed to help her enjoy herself), and I still feel like I can't ask her for things, can't expect her to do the same for me, like the very act of her being willing to join me in bed should be thanks enough. 

Hence, one big reason for the pornography addiction.

ugh.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Encompassed by temptations

“I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. “And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:18–21).

Do you feel encompassed or trapped? When do you feel this way most often?

Sitting at my computer, trying to get work done, struggling to resist the gnawing compulsion in the back of my mind. That is when I feel most encompassed and trapped.   I discovered a long time ago that I used pornography as a way to avoid pain (or work, or church assignments, or anything else that wasn't "pleasurable"). It was a quick escape, the easy way to forget about the responsibilities I faced.  I have had moments where I've gone to work having made the conscious decision to avoid pornography only to find myself, the moment I sit down at my station, struggling to keep to my conviction. The computer makes it so easy, so anonymous,  so quick.  I am literally encompassed about at work. All I have to do is shut the door to my office and I have access to as much pornography as I want.

It comes in waves though. I can go a week, two weeks, maybe even a few months without feeling much more than an intellectual acknowledgement that an entire world of pornography is just a click away, but then something will happen, some trigger that will remind me of a previous image I'd seen before, or spark some seemingly innocent curiosity, and I will end up spending 10 or 20 minutes looking for ways I can satisfy that curiosity without crossing a line and looking at "actual" pornography.  If I indulge a little, I may spend the entire day back and forth between my work and this "innocent searching."

This is of course, a huge lie, because pornography is pornography regardless of how "serious" it is.  And if I'm looking at it to satisfy some sexual/emotional/chemical need, then the image is pornographic, regardless of the state of undress or the parties present in the image. 

Perhaps this what encompasses me most--this lie that somehow I can live in both worlds successfully, that somehow as long as what I'm viewing is not actually sex, or not actually naked people, that I will be okay.  The ironic thing is that from what I understand of addiction, the dopamine rush and the chemical reaction is charged as much, or more through the anticipation leading up to acting out as the acting out itself, so even if I'm not "going all the way," I'm still maintaining the addiction, feeding it like some virus or infection.  You cannot serve God and mammon for sure, and I cannot kill my addiction if I keep shooting it in the head, but then rushing it to the hospital and hooking up to life support.

It's a little like walking around the liquor store and not buying anything, or on some days, when it gets really bad, its like opening a bottle and taking swig, only to slosh it around my mouth for a moment and spit it out.  Sure, I didn't drink anything, and I may be sober in the strictest sense, but I'm not well.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The dangerous power of a single image

So I'm sitting at work trying to work, and in a moment of weakness I went hunting for some pornography online.  I did this in a typical, shy and round about way, telling myself that I didn't really want to look at pornography, but was just curious about what was out there.  And in that process viewed one image that wasn't even by itself pornographic, but rather suggestive (a video clip, actually, that would have turned pornographic if I hadn't turned it off).  And now I've spent the whole day wrestling with that one image--some animal part of me wanting to seek it out again, the rest of me resisting it, recognizing that following through with the desire would leave me empty, and feeling guilty.

And yet, I find myself distracted, unable to focus at times because of that one image.

Ridiculous.  Not exceptionally new though.  There are images from 25 years ago that are still ablaze in my mind, and if  I entertain them, I can render myself pretty useless pretty quick.

This is what they mean when they say, once an addict, always an addict.

So what is to be done? Well....a few deep breaths.  A thinking through the action as I am doing now, a recognition of the lie behind the emotion (no, my body does not need that image, no that image will NOT fulfill me), a prayer...and distance.

Ultimately the most significant part of getting rid of the distraction (and ulitmately, the addiction) is to give it time. It's like a weed that has taken root. It doesn't require much water to survive, and the only hope of killing it is to starve it to death.  Without a chance to detox, the addiction will flourish like a mold, and I'll be stuck in a cycle of acting out, or almost acting out, of skirting around the edges of genuinely bad behavior.  Stupid, wasteful, and all part of Satan's plan to keep from being who I need to be.

So, you seductive image that I allowed into my mind, I can't do anything to get rid of you, but I can ignore you, starve you, and smother you.

And that is what  I will do.

-AC

Why Attend Meetings

“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior
will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.” --Boyd K. Packer

At meetings, I will study Gospel principles that will help me change my behavior.

At meetings, I will interact with others who have experienced similar struggles with addiction and I will find support, understanding, and most importantly, I will find hope.

So that's the first step. Confess honestly to my self. Study. Commune with others who've suffered.

Interesting.  Recovery and healing requires me first to be honest with myself and then seek out the empathy of others.

Step One: Honesty

“Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires,
appetites, and passions to go unbridled (see Alma 38:12;
3 Nephi 12:30).

A list of what is important to me
  • My relationship with my wife
  • My relationship with my children
  • My success at work
  • My success as disciple of Christ
  • My sucess as a friend to those around me
  • My success as a member of my extended family




What I believe
  • Jesus Christ is our Savior
  • We are all children of God
  • Christ will forgive us of our sins
  • Women deserve my respect, protection, and admiration
  • Sexuality is a private, personal, intimate thing
  • Living Worthy of the Gift of the Holy Ghost is essential to my personal, professional, and spiritual success.


What I Lose by indulging in pornography
  • I lose a sense of intimacy with my wife
  • I lose the peaceful, strengthening, reassuring support of the Holy Ghost
  • I lose my credibility as a father, as a disciple, as a leader.
  • I lose my ability to choose.
  • I lose my ability to focus on work, or on my relationships with my children and my wife.

As I become more willing to abstain and admit the problems I face, my pride will gradually be replaced with humility.

READ THIS First

Hi everyone,

My name is Addiction Conqueror and I am addicted to pornography. I have only admitted that to a few people, and even right now, writing this in a public library, I am a little nervous about the people that might walk by and read this over my shoulder.  I've been addicted to pornography since I was as a child--maybe 5 or 6 years old and for years I had no idea I had a problem.  All growing up I wrote off my behavior as weakness, and I filled my head with lies about my self-worth.

I spoke with church leaders about it, and their common advice was to "stop," or "have better self-control," or to "Get serious" about my behavior.

I spoke with my parents about it, and though they were loving and patient, they had no idea such a thing as pornography addiction even existed. There council was full of advice about respecting women, about the difference between pornography and real intimacy, and the importance of keeping myself clean.

All that advice was sound, and I believed all of it, yet I kept viewing pornography.  This, of course, made me feel awful because I knew what I was doing wrong, but I couldn't stop.

I shook the problem for a few years after graduating from high school and serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but after coming home and getting married, my addiction to pornography showed back up in my life.

It was at this point, when as a newly married man I discovered that I was feeling a regular compulsion view pornography, that I admitted to myself that I had an addiction.

I spoke with my bishop, who suggested I read Spencer W. Kimball's Miracle of Forgiveness.

I signed up for and attended a group therapy session with other men like me who suffered from pornography addiction.

I thought that would be the scariest moment of my life.

Then I decided to tell my wife.

That was the scariest moment of my life.

As a testament to her, she has supported me in my healing, and for that I am grateful.

It has been several years since I attended that group session on pornography addiction. I am healed.

Though not entirely.

I am addicted to pornography.

And I will always be addicted to pornography.

Every day I have to make a conscious choice to avoid pornography.  Most days I am strong. Some days I am weak. Some days I am so angry with myself for my weakness that I shout at myself, I slap myself in the face.  I want to put on a pair of running shoes and run forever.

Part of me wants to blame others for this reality.  But blaming others limits both my own acceptance of my responsibility and my acceptance of my sickness.

Today I read the introduction and first chapter in this book, and I felt prompted to start this blog.

I completely accept, admit, and confess that my addiction is beyond my control.  I cannot conquer it alone, yet I know that through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, I can conqueror any weakness, any fear, any temptation, any sickness, any trial.

And that's a good thing, because I have no greater weakness, no greater fear, no greater temptation, and no greater trial.

In peace,

--AC