When it comes to sexual addiction, there is generally a common path to acting out.
I’ve learned about the ABC’s of addiction – the Debilitating Negative Emotions (A), which leads to Lust (B), which leads to Sexually Acting Out (C).
I’ve also learned about boundaries and lines of demarcation that I can’t touch if I want to remain sober and in recovery. I think being sober and in recovery are different things: a person can be “white-knuckle sober” and still be acting out in his mind and heart, practicing addictive behaviors, resenting, comparing, and so on, but may have not acted out by looking at porn, masturbating, or having inappropriate relationships. This, to me, is NOT what true recovery looks like.
When I first revealed my big mistakes to my wife and when things were at the rock bottom, there was a talk shared with me at an LDS Recovery meeting that really hit home. It was the talk by Elder Scott called “Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
The overall topic of the talk was about burying weapons of war that lead one to act out in their addiction. Although I don’t know if addiction was ever mentioned in the talk, to me, that’s what it was all about.
The Lamanites who were converted to the truth knew that they couldn’t fight anymore – that blood and carnage and anger and hate were addictions for them that they could never go back to. So, they literally buried their weapons of war in the ground and covenanted to never use them again – that they would rather die than to dig up their weapons and commit those grave mistakes again.
As I read this talk, I feel the same exact way – I’d rather die than to unbury weapons of war that will lead me down the path of addiction and acting out again.
These are some of the weapons of war I listed in March of 2014:
- Critical thoughts about Becky
- Thoughts about what’s in it for me or when am I going to get what’s due to me
- Talking about Becky’s tone
- Telling Becky she always thinks she’s right
- Staying up late
- Looking at my phone when we go to bed
How am I doing with these today?
I feel Facebook has remained buried since I started true recovery.
Youtube has been unburied. I need to reconsider this weapon and asked myself truly if I’m playing with fire here. I don’t want to ever browse Youtube and see things I shouldn’t see or that suggest topics that aren’t going to lift me up spiritually. I don’t feel I’ve crossed a line here, but I need to be aware.
Instagram has remained buried.
Critical thoughts about Becky have remained buried.
Thoughts about what’s in it for me and when am I going to get what’s due to me have remained buried.
Talking about Becky’s tone has remained buried.
Telling Becky she always thinks she’s right has remained buried.
Staying up late, especially alone, has remained buried.
Looking at my phone when we go to bed is another I need to seriously re-evaluate. I like reading the sports news at night, but I’ve found that, at times, there are articles at the end of each article that can show suggestive pictures. I’ve done well to not look at them and move past them, but, to me, this is a weapon of war that’s not worth dabbling with at all.
In October of 2014, as part of a therapy session, I wrote a letter to the addict. In this letter, I listed out my weapons of war again with a bit more detail:
- I’ve blocked the following sites and only use them on rare occasions with permission from my Spiritual Nate and Becky:
- Instagram (never)
- I’ve installed Covenant Eyes willingly and like the protection it gives me and the trust it helps build with Becky
- I’ve eliminated critical thinking about Becky completely – I’m just happy that she’s still with me and has given me one last chance after all the HELL I’ve put her through
- I flee from thoughts about what’s in it for me or when am I going to get what’s due to me: these are selfish thoughts and do me no good – EVER
- I’m committed to not staying up late; instead, Becky and I have a good routine where we read together, talk about the AEIOUY’s and connect emotionally
- Cell phone usage: I’ve eliminated all games on my phone and am working hard to limit my phone usage, especially at night.
As I look back over the talk from Elder Scott, I want to highlight a few things that stick out to me this time.
The talk starts with a question to Elder Scott:
What is the most important thing [we] should be doing in [our] lives right now?
Elder Scott’s reply:
I suggested they learn to recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives.
Recognizing the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. What does that mean? How do I do that?
To me, today, recognizing the power of the Atonement has everything to do with surrendering my will to God and asking for His help one moment at a time.
Last night, I tried to share with my sponsee about the red flag of making long lists of all the things I feel I can do to overcome my addiction and beat it for good. The truth is, I can’t overcome this or beat it, ever. It’s much bigger than I am.
But, through submission and surrender, I can call upon the powers of heaven and be meek and humble and acknowledge that I am nothing, as to my own strength I am weak.
As I call upon God and ask for His help, I can then listen and obey. I can “recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ” through asking for Christ’s help moment to moment, day to day. The Atonement is not just for repenting; it’s for getting help in all things, including help keeping my weapons buried deep in the ground.
Elder Scott says it clearly:
Today I expound on one aspect of that power, which is the personal strength we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (bold added for emphasis)
The people of Ammon were a “wild and hardened and ferocious people.” When they were converted, they chose to leave behind their “natural man” ways to look to God for strength.
This statement sticks out to me:
The now-faithful people chose to succumb to the sword rather than risk their spiritual lives by taking up arms.
How does this apply to addiction recovery? What could “succumb to the sword” mean for me today?
Succumb to the sword, for me, could mean that I never justify why I need to be on social media. It could mean completely eliminating the Twitter emails I get. It could mean only going to Youtube when I have permission from Becky. It could mean getting an alarm clock instead of “justifying” that I need my phone as an alarm by my bed. Although these choices aren’t going to cost me my physical life like succumbing to the sword cost some of the Ammonite people their lives, they are a manifestation that I’m willing to do whatever God wants me to do in order to “stop and stay stopped” one day at a time.
I like this statement from the talk too and feel this is Step 12 in action:
Their righteous example helped even more people to be converted and to lay down their weapons of rebellion.3
Although I take no credit for the success of sponsees, my goal is to share my experiences with them so they can see that recovery really is possible, even for the vilest of sinner such as me.
I feel like this really resonates in regard to my addiction and where I hope my son is now:
[Ammon] reminded them that their sons had never been guilty of the same sins and therefore had not needed to make the same covenant.8 Though the sons were very young, they were physically strong and, more important, they were virtuous and pure. The sons were fortified by the faith of their mothers.9 Under the direction of their prophet-leader, these young men took their fathers’ place in defense of their families and homes.10
This is so true as well:
It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit.
The sins and mistakes I’ve committed carry with them long-term consequences. In order to stay clean and pure, I can never go back to where I’ve been. I have to make daily and even moment-to-moment sacrifices, I have to be aware of where I am today, in order to maintain recovery and forgiveness and to have any chance to gain back the trust I’ve lost.
My past choices have exposed me to my carnal appetites that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan will attempt to exploit.
Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence. We must be ever vigilant to avoid his enticements…Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins.
Are there things I’m doing today that are “attracting the memory of past sins?”
I feel, today, that the only thing that comes to mind is Youtube. I don’t want to go there without Becky’s permission, ever. Although I haven’t made any mistakes nor do I feel I’m hiding anything, I just feel that it’s not worth it at all to feed that ferocious beast.
I love what it says here about creating boundaries, lines of demarcation, as a way to continue to protect:
Captain Moroni directed fortification of the weakest cities. “He caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers … until they had encircled the city … with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.”14 Captain Moroni understood the importance of fortifying the weak areas to create strength.15
These Ammonite fathers were much the same. They needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past. Their sons, who were blessed with righteous traditions, were not as vulnerable to the same temptations. They were able to defend their families faithfully without compromising their spiritual well-being.
The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion.
There’s so much to this talk that I could quote a large portion of it.
But, what I want to focus on most today, is that I must fortify, I must keep my weapons of war buried, and I must cross myself in all things to make sure I’m facing in the right direction today.
As the scripture in Alma 5 states:
I’m grateful for this study today.
I’m grateful for recovery.
I’m grateful for submission to God.
I’m grateful to feel His love for me today as I try to write and reflect and feel.
Here’s to a day in recovery.