Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deliverence from Bondage

"They were in captivity, and again the Lord di deliver them out of Bondage by the power of his word" - Alma 5:5

Some things I am willing to do today to receive His Word

I open the scripture sporadically at best. Weeks go by in which you might say, I've nailed down the scripture habit, and then something disrupts the schedule and I don't crack the book on my own for weeks at a time.  Not that I don't think about it.  but there is always, it seems, something else in the way.

The irony of all this is that pornography comes so easily.  Or it would.  It's a daily fight to resist the temptation to view pornography.  Can you imagine that kind of compulsion to read the scriptures?

I've thought about this a lot.  Pornography and other serious addictions aside, why is it so easy to keep turning the pages of a good novel or turn on one more episode of that show on Netflix, and yet its so difficult to spend even ten minutes a day in the Word? 




Yeah, I think it has something to do with all of these things.  I enjoy being in another world, focused on someone else' successes and failures so I don't have to worry about my own. TV is fun, entertaining, and distracting. It is easier than facing the work I have to do, the problems that need solving, the character flaws that need addressing.

Scriptures, though, they are instruments of change. They are spiritual weight machines.  A visit to the doctor, the counselor, the financial planner. When I read the scriptures, it forces me to consider my spiritual health, to consider the state of my spiritual bank account.

Just the other day I was planning an FHE lesson on honesty, and found myself feeling like a hypocrite.  Studying the words of prophets and the scriptural stories that underscore the importance of honesty, I could see places in my life where I could be more honest. Where I could face the truth with more integrity.  And that is painful.  Its much easier to turn on the television.


So, the Word...what am I willing to do to receive His word in my heart?  For starters, I'm willing to face the reality of my life as I read the scriptures. I am willing to act on the promptings of the Holy Ghost as they come to me. I am willing to take advantage of the resourcess out there.

I am willing to listen to a conference talk on my way home from work.
I am willing to read the Ensign magazine each month.
I am willing to pray over my studies, and ask for help and guidance and strength.
I am willing  to listen to promptings and act on them.

I am willing.

Really, that's all I've got, my will.   And this is perhaps why it is so hard.  My addiction has sapped some of my will.  and I am fighting to get it back (and also FRIGHTENED to get it back. When I acknowledge that my decisions come down to an exercise of my will (even in the face of addiction) then I must take responsibility for my actions.

In general conference this past weekend, Russell M. Nelson spoke on Self Mastery.

A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery—the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations. 

 Self-mastery is a "pivotal spiritual attribute," meaning that other spiritual attributes and abilities turn on our relative self-mastery.  This is really a profound statement.  Our ability to live and work and serve in the Kingdom (in our homes, in our callings, in our communities) is directly related to our own level of self-mastery.  God really does want our wills, and nothing else.

Elder Nelson goes on to say:
Why the need for self-mastery? God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.
Self-mastery and human appetite are intrinsically linked--whether that be appetites for food, sex, wealth, praise, or whatever, and those appetites are an essential part of our growth as human beings (and I'd say, based on D&C 93:33-34 that learning to master these appetites is an essential part of our eternal progression as well).

So I might measure my own progression by measuring my own self-mastery...

...and I might measure my own self-mastery by looking critically at my willingness to turn my WILL over to God...

....and my willingness to turn my WILL over to God is directly related to my willingness to TRUST the Savior and follow his example, relying on his atonement to overcome my weaknesses...

and I gain trust, respect, and faith in the Savior by reading his Word and applying it in my life.

If this is true, then receiving His WORD is really the first step in the long process of self-mastery.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I just  found the chart below online the other day and I thought I would share it. 

But first, a note about me and my addiction:

 I got my first "hit" of pornography when I was just a 5 years old, and no one told me, heck, I don't think anyone outside the psychiatric community knew that it could be addictive.  As a teenager, I had bishops tell me that I just needed to be stronger, and that I wasn't serious about repentance.  

I remember being at a fireside on BYU campus and the speaker was talking about eating disorders and pornography addiction. We were in a large auditorium that seats about 700.  The speaker had 1/3 of us  stand up. She said, "You who are standing up, you represent the 1/3 of BYUsudents who suffer from an eating disorder or pornography addiction."  

At the time I was fairly under control --not acting out or actively seeking pornography--but I remember thinking then, "Wow, I have a real problem," because I think I'd always known, or at least a part of me had always known, that I was addicted.  I knew what compulsive behavior was and I knew my desires to seek out pornography were not "normal," that the "need" was much different than my need for food or sleep.

But I didn't know how it worked on a chemical level.  

And now I do.  And it has helped.  I am sober and have been for a while, but every few months I go through a mini version of the acting out cycle wherein I begin to seek out pseudo pornographic images on the web--celebrity photos, swim suit models, etc.... and then I turn off the computer and walk away.  

This always brings out two emotions.  First, a sense of failure that I even went looking, and second, a sense of relief that I was able to pull back from the edge before I'd indulged in anything "really bad."  

Of course, both these emotions are false.  On the first count, I have an addiction, so feeling temptation will always be a part of my life.  To feel like a failure because I felt tempted isn't very helpful. And on the second count,  to feel a sense of relief because I "pulled back," is to fool myself into thinking that for someone with an addiction,  the line between pornography and not-pornography is blurry, when in reality, if I want to be healed, the line must be black and white.  

I imagine its the same as an alcoholic who can't walk past the liquor store or who can't go out to eat at a a bar.  At some point, If I want to be completely healed, I have to be willing to extricate myself from the situation.

Of course, I can't just stop using a computer. But I can keep my office door open.

But I was talking about addiction knowledge and how that has helped. 

This is one way.  When I am tempted to act out, when I venture into the blurry boundary that surrounds obvious pornography, I can feel that chemical high and now I know what it is. When it goes away and I feel empty and I want to replace it with more porn, I know why.  And depending on how far I venture down that path, it can take a day or two or longer for that chemical "need" to wear off.  And I see how this effects the way I view women on the street, the way I interact with my children, the way I treat my wife. 

Knowing I have an addiction has given a face and name to the compulsion and I can longer pretend that its "me," or that its just "who I am," or that I am powerless. Instead I can recognize whats going on and I can focus on clearing my system. 

I can stop blaming my wife for not meeting my "needs" and start repenting for creating artificially inflated "needs" through my pornography addiction.

I can take action to combat the chemical "need" through prayer, through exercise, through breathing exercises, through writing, through service, through talking with a trusted friend.  When I do these things (especially when I'm feeling vulnerable and weak and compulsive), I feel myself becoming stronger, I feel myself gaining more control, and I feel myself healing, or rather, I feel the Lord healing me.  

I think the process of healing from pornography starts with knowing about addiction.  Without that, a person struggling with pornography will think its merely a matter of will power, which is a battle against the self...And pornography addiction isn't about battling the self, its about discovering the self buried beneath the addiction. Every bit of self-discovery, every bit of knowledge that I am a child of God, that I am in control of my future, that I am okay, that I am good, every bit of that is a bit of healing.

And that is a wonderful thing.

I hope that you are healing today in some way.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Write about your need to draw on the redeeming
(liberating, transforming) power of Christ.
... the word "need" is a tough one.  I think I often feel like I don't "need" anyone, or that I shouldn't "need" anyone, but of course this is stupid.

And stupid is not helpful.

But really, I think the heart of this addiction issue is the stubborn inability to acknowledge that I might need something at all.  The addiction is all I "need," or at least that is what I tell myself when I act out, when I rationalize my behavior, when I refuse to do the things I know will help.

But the truth is I do need the Savior. In fact, his healing power is the only way to overcome my addiction.  The power of Christ is liberating.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is aeasy, and my burden is light." Matt 11:30
 The rest the savior is talking about is the rest for our souls.   And it is sin that makes our souls tired.   We labor under its burden and we are heavy laden with guilt, shame, insecurity, doubt, and worry.  The atonement gives us rest from those feelings, repentance frees us from the oppression of sin and invigorates us with the power and sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost. We are literally transformed by the atonement because we become receptacles of light.

So what about learning of the Savior.  he says "take my yoke upon you." This means that we are to convert and live the disciples life.  We covenant to serve and sacrifice and be obedient.  And such obedience qualifies us for the companionship and cleansing influence of the Holy Ghost.

Interesting that he commands us to learn of him, and the reason is that he is meek and lowly of heart.  Meekness and humility--a willingness to sacrifice our own wills--are requisite for conversion and discipleship.

So he is saying that he we should take his yoke upon ourselves and that in order to that succesfully we should learn of him and do likewise.

So learn of the Savior and do his will. This is the Gospel plan for freeing us from sin.

How am I more aware of Jesus Christ and his power in your life than you were in the past?

"If ye will awake and arouse your faculties even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yeah, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a a portion of my words." - Alma 32:27

It's funny how awareness diminishes during stress.

How the world narrows to a dark tunnel when life becomes difficult.  I find that I am least aware, that I become less astonished by the goodness of God as my life gets more difficult. Then, when I'm at the bottom and I've looked down as long as  I can, then I finally look up.  It's as if I've been holding my breath, refusing to take in air, and then finally I give in.  When I am least aware, it is is difficult for me to reach out to God, to recognize the blessings in my life, and to feel gratitude and humility.  And when I am least aware of myself and my situation, and who I  really am in relation to God, then it is easiest to succumb to temptation.

When I am least aware, I am unable to give my children the attention, love, and guidance they need.  When I am most aware, I make time for my children, I patiently guide them, and I parent them with love.

When I am acting out, when I am trolling the internet for illicit images, I am unaware of my surroundings, I am choosing to shut myself off from God, and I become fixated on one thing, and that one thing consumes all my other decisions.

Today I am more aware of Christ's power than I have been because I recognize the good in my life when I am worthy of the Holy Ghost.   That influence and peace comes from the Savior.  I appreciate the promptings of the Holy Ghost when I sit down to my computer. I appreciate that God never leaves me (even if I try to leave him). I appreciate that forgiveness I have felt, the sweet peace of prayer, the kind and patient Bishops who have let me call them or email them when I am feeling weak.  I appreciate my wife and my children for loving me inspire of me. I appreciate the job I have, the blessing of an income, a home, a car, a backyard, a child who crawls up on my lap to hug me just because I'm Dad.

Today I am grateful.