Pages

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Recovering from Recovery: How I Move Past My Slip-ups

Having slip ups are the worst. And don't I know it. Addiction recovery is hard, especially when you constantly demand perfection of yourself but you keep failing because you are not perfect - no one is. It becomes so discouraging for both the person addicted and his or her loved ones. I've had so many people reach out through this blog and tell me, "I was clean for so long and I just threw it all away because of the slip-up I had the other day" or "I thought I was past the addiction, but it always comes back in the end."

I'd like to remind anyone reading this blog that I do not claim to be a professional. I speak purely from experience and from what I've learned from other people's experiences whether told at conferences, group meetings or through email. That being said, here's small insight into what a slip up is like for me and many that I've spoken with:

You experience an exciting high when you're acting out (aka viewing pornography) and then soon afterwards you feel this crushing weight of shame drop on you. Many people experience depression after acting out, which can also be a trigger to act out again, and it seems like a never ending cycle of shame. It's the worst feeling, whether you're in recovery and you experience a slip-up over a long period of time or if you're thick in the addiction and experience it daily.
After experiencing her own slip-up, a friend asked, "How do you handle it? What do you do?"
At the time, I didn't really have a solid answer, but recently I discovered one for myself:
Move forward.
What I've experienced, and what I've seen others experience after a slip-up, is negative self-talk. Imagine someone holding a grudge against your best friend. Maybe your friend did something to deserve it. But even after your friend apologized and feels bad about it, imagine that person calling them names and saying things like, "You're so stupid and weak, you're never going to change" or "You don't deserve to be happy or feel the spirit because you're a bad person." 
We would never let someone talk like that to someone we love. So, why do we think it's OK to talk like that about ourselves?
Here's what I've learned during the last few months of recovery: Heavenly Father loves me far more than I love myself. I can't even fathom His love for me or you. With this love, He often forgives us long before we've forgiven ourselves, which is what makes slip-ups so hard. We often spend so much time dwelling in loneliness, darkness and self-loathing, that we can't hear the Lord calling and inviting us to rise up and stand with Him in the light and warmth of His love.
Jeffrey R. Holland said, " . . . the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength." (Full talk)
Just like we are commanded to forgive, we must not deny ourselves forgiveness. After a slip-up, repent quickly and use it as an opportunity to grow. Every time I've had a slip up, it's eventually brought me closer to full recovery. It's like rock climbing. Sometimes you fall a little, and by doing so, you find a firmer foothold. 
Whether you've been clean for a few hours or a few months or years, and you've had a slip up, just remember: Christ atoned for that. The Atonement doesn't work like a limited pass punch card. If at one time you felt redeemed from your addiction, and you've fallen back into it, Christ can redeem you again. He can lift you out of the thickness of addiction and He can carry you through recovery. Of course, we are imperfect, so that means our recovery will be imperfect, but the greatest thing we can remember is that Christ is always with us through it, even through our slip-ups.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Made Strong Through My Weakness

When we're in the thick of an addiction, it's not uncommon to make unrealistic expectations for ourselves. When I was in the thick of my addiction, I would say, "That was the last time I'll ever look at porn." I would make it a few days or maybe a couple weeks, and then I'd be over powered and I'd fall. After each fall I would think, "How could I be so stupid? Why am I so weak?" Anger and grief would consume me in this endless cycle of short-term success that led to extreme disappointment and failure. I would often wonder why God wouldn't just take away my addiction, especially if I was doing things I knew I was supposed to be doing, like praying and reading my scriptures regularly.

In the Book of Mormon, there's a story of 2,000 young men who fought to protect their families against a vicious army. In Alma 58:10, it says, "Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies."

Despite suffering great injuries, the young warriors were victorious in their battle. Not a single one of them died.

Notice in the scripture the first thing that they prayed for is strength. They didn't ask God to smite all of their enemies. They didn't ask God to just take care of everything so they could sit back and be safe. They asked God to strengthen them, so that they would be able to fight and be victorious.

If you're going through pornography addiction or any other trial, don't worry, I hear you thinking, "I DO pray for strength! I pray to withstand temptation! And. It's. Not. Working. Nothing has changed!"

I know. I've been there. I totally understand.

Later in Alma, it says ". . . the Lord has supported them, yea, and kept them from falling by the sword, insomuch that even one soul has not been slain. But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free." (Alma 58:39-40).

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our weaknesses, challenges, battles - that we forget why we have them.

" . . . I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; 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." (Ether 12:27)

For so many years, I was angry that God wouldn't take away my addiction.  I knew He had the power to do it, but He wouldn't, and for this reason many bitter tears were angrily shed because I blamed God for my plight.

But now I know why He didn't take it away, and I'm so grateful for it.

We need weaknesses so that we can learn to rely on Christ.

Even though we may suffer great battle wounds, we are being strengthened and supported in this battle we face. Christ really can change our weaknesses into strengths, no matter what they are. There was a time I hated myself for being weak and I hated my weakness (Let's be real, I still hate my weakness). But I know that they are a part of our mortal experience. They serve a purpose, and if we follow what the scripture says in Ether, then we will become champions over our weakness and we will become grateful that it brought us closer to God.

I never thought I'd be grateful for my addiction, but these past few months, since publishing my blog, I have truly seen my weakness slowly turn into a strength - and I mean slowly. I'm not here to put on a show, so I'll be real - I'm not totally over my addiction. I'm in a phase called "recovery." Recovery means that sometimes I have occasional slip ups. But now the difference is that those slip-ups don't cause me to doubt my own self-worth or the Savior's love for me. I'm a witness that change happens, and it only happens through reliance on Christ.

If you have slip-ups, don't despair. It's part of the growing pains. Keep pushing ahead and soon you'll look up and find yourself much further down the road to recovery than you ever thought possible.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Childhood: Where Dreams Are Created and So Are Addictions

I was 11 years old. School had just let out, and I took a pit stop walking home to enjoy the warm, sunny day. I sat on a swing in the park and out of nowhere, there was a man standing by me. He lit a cigarette and shoved it in my mouth. I coughed a little, but soon I got the hang of it, and I held it in my mouth myself. I wanted more, and lucky for me he had a free never-ending supply.

This story might seem a little far-fetched, but replace cigarette with pornography and it's exactly what happened to me and what's happening to children everywhere. With today's technology and easy access, it's not a question of if your child will see pornography — It's a question of when.

Here's the real version of my story: I was sitting in the comfort and protection of my home. I was on the computer doing my homework. A porn add popped up, and shoved its way into my vision and long-term memory without me ever consenting to see it. I clicked out of it, shocked. But it was enough to hook me. Out of curiosity and then compulsion, I went back and found more and was instantly connected to a free never-ending supply of pornography.

Any consenting adult has the right to view whatever they want, which is why we could never actually ban pornography. Senator Todd Weiler recently spoke at Provo City's Anti-Pornography Seminar and explained his efforts to educate adults and protect children, rather than to simply ban pornography, which many see as unconstitutional. Senator Weiler is responsible for helping Utah to become the first state to declare Pornography as a public health crisis, which does not ban pornography, but is an effort to help people become aware of the dangers of it. "Before you pick up a cigarette today, you know that you may be acquiring an addiction," he said. "I would like people to know that with porn before they approach it" (Full article).

Once upon a time, children could easily buy their own cigarettes right out of a vending machine. To people of my generation, that seems insanely absurd. Someday, I hope my children will hear my story and be astonished that a child could unwillingly be exposed to something that would alter the course of his or her life forever. 

If you see nothing wrong with pornography and you are a consenting adult, that is your choice and your life, just like no one can stop you from smoking a cigarette, as damaging as it is to your health. But we protect our children from alcohol, tobacco, harmful drugs, gambling, and strip clubs. Why wouldn't we protect them from sexually violent and sexually explicit images/content that alter the chemicals in your brain and have adverse affects on your mental, emotional, and sexual health? (get the facts here).

I have seen life-long dreams forsaken, families torn apart, and loved ones' mental health and self-worth shattered because of a pornography addiction that started during their childhood. Pornography touches the lives of every single person on this earth. There is no one who is immune to its effects. If you haven't personally dealt with it, then either your partner, sibling, or best friend has, and it's very likely that it all started during their precious few years of childhood and adolescence. 

The more we talk about pornography, the less power it will have over those we love. Be an advocate for good. Be a protector. Be the change that this world needs. Your voice counts and you can do more good than you know, and it starts with talking about it. If no one cares and no one is willing to talk, then nothing will change and children all over the world will keep getting hooked on pornography at younger and younger ages (not even mentioning the thousands of children  and teens trapped in human trafficking). Frequently talk to your children and to those around you. You can change the world one conversation at a time. 

Start by sharing this article! Spread the conversation! If you have any questions or would like to share your own story, email me at battletogether16@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fighting Addiction: How to Step Up Your Game

Saturday I got to attend the Utah Coalition Against Pornography in Salt Lake City. It was basically this giant convention where we had break-out sessions with different speakers and professionals in the world of addiction recovery and the dangers of pornography. Before the conference, I thought that I understood my addiction. I thought that I knew how it worked, the triggers, and what I had to do to keep from falling. It's vital to know and recognize those things, but long story short, I learned that there is so much more to an addiction than just being addicted, and I had been missing some vital tools and information. 

1. "The only way I got out of my addiction was being open about it." I heard this from many speakers. This means confiding in people you trust. When you hide your addiction or even if you're in recovery and you have a slip-up and you don't tell anyone, that gives power to the addiction. If you're willing to be open about it and honest with those around you, you create a safety net, and you take power away from the addiction and give it back to yourself. Dr. Kevin Skinner, a renowned therapist who spoke at the Coalition, said it best, "Nothing makes us so lonely as do our secrets." If you haven't confided in anyone, don't wait any longer to do so. Your success to overcome it depends on this.

2. "Going 5 years clean is a good sign that you have permanently overcome the addiction." That's a long time. When I heard that, that's when I realized that I am only in recovery, and that I have a long ways to go. I'm not over my addiction like I thought I was. Like many people have experienced, if you're trying to quit your addiction with sheer will power, and nothing else, you'll most likely fail. The word "Overcome" is a verb. You must act in order to overcome your addiction. What does that look like? Read on.

3. Get the right help. Addiction is often like an iceberg. We see the addiction on top, but really, there's something much bigger going on underneath. Common issues could be depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, and so much more!. In turn, it can then cause a number of other issues like emotional detachment, fear of relationships, misconceptions about sex/relationships and, for men, erectile dysfunction.  Success rarely ever comes from sheer will power. It must be coupled with other things. You have to build your safety net, as mentioned, that includes telling people about it. That might also include joining a recovery group and seeing a therapist or counselor who can work with you one on one and help you understand the iceberg underneath your addiction.

So, what did I do as soon as I got home from the conference? I found an addiction recovery group (a women only group!), and later that week, I went to my first meeting. It was eye-opening and I felt very vulnerable, but it was amazing to listen to these women and hear their triumphs and struggles. Addiction doesn't care about gender, race, religion, social class - any of that. No one is immune to pornography addiction. The one thing I've found that has brought me so much freedom from this addiction after speaking out about it, is that I found that I wasn't alone. That's been the greatest game-changer for me. In addiction recovery groups, you're with people who are fighting the same battle as you are. There is no shame in this, only love and support.

If you're going through an addiction, you're probably either frustrated that you keep "falling" or you haven't viewed in a few months and you're on cloud nine thinking that you'll never go back to it again . . . just like what happened the last time, and the time before that. Chances are, you're in recovery, you're not over your addiction and it's time to get help. 

I, like many people, never imagined that I would need that sort of help (my bishops included. Not a single person had ever suggested that I get professional help, and it's probably because most people don't know that they can or should). I'm sure I could get through life just fine by doing nothing, but I don't want to be "just fine." I want to be in the best mental health I can be in, and I realized that I can't do it alone. No one can. Listen carefully to addiction recovery success stories, and the one thing you will never hear is "I did it by myself."

Repentance goes right along with Recovery. You need both to be whole. Repentance without recovery can put you in a vicious cycle of slip-ups, shame then repentance. Use the resources around you. You don't have to be caught in the cycle.

Want to join the battle? Share this post, you never know who needs it. If you would like to share your story or you have questions or need help, please email me at battletogether16@gmail.com. 

Side Notes:

If your spouse is going through an addiction, there is help for you as well. Betrayal Trauma is real and there's help for it.

Find a 12-stepts recovery group!  Click here for the "Addiction Recovery Meeting Locator." I put in my info, and just like that, I found a women's only group that focuses specifically on pornography addiction. 12-step groups are all over the country and they're free. It was adopted by the LDS church from Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a great resource and it's not being used nearly as much as it should be. It depends on where you live as to what will be available to you, but whatever is available, take advantage of it.

Jeffery R. Holland spoke at the Coalition and I have to share his advice:

If thing I could say, it would be to hold fast.  FAST.
Flee - put distance between you and the problem.
Ask - turn to someone for help. Don't let pride get in the way. I would ask abs ask until my throat was sore. I'd knock and knock until my knuckles were bloody.
Strive - persistent effort
Triumph - we have to believe. Have faith. Surely there has never been a battle won where the victor had not expected or hoped to win.
You can read his full address here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Falling After Your Mission

I had zero problems with pornography while I was on my mission. I had totally repented and was serving with a clean conscious for the full 18 months. My time in the mission and even the months leading up to my mission were full of scripture studying and proselyting. I was focused and there was nothing that was going to distract me, including pornography.

But then it was time to go home. 

I was really good for the first few months. I went to bed and got up at a decent hour, I read my scriptures every day, I said my prayers . . . but it wasn't the same as on my mission, as I'm sure most RM's can attest to. 

All of a sudden I could sleep and wake up when I wanted, I could watch TV, I could get on the computer. The possibilities of how I spent my time were endless....

And then it happened . . . I slipped up.

I thought, "How could I let myself do this, especially after the covenants I've made?"

I felt that familiar ache in my chest that feels like someone taking a sledgehammer to my heart.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that was the first and last time I messed up after my mission.

As missionaries, we taught the Plan of Salvation every day. We taught our investigators that their sins could be forgiven, that their weaknesses could become strengths, that they could repent and be clean through Jesus Christ and obtain the Celestial Kingdom.

But sometimes, as returned missionaries, when we mess up we think that that doesn't apply to us.

Well it does.

Slipping after your mission might seem like the end of the world, but as someone who's been there, I'm here to tell you that you are not the only one and things can get better. It's hard work, as I'm sure you're aware, but it's more possible than you know. Remember the covenants you have made and then remember He who made it possible for your to make those covenants.

The greatest asset I've found to overcoming my addiction has been returning to missionary life as much as possible. I'm not perfect at it, but if only listening to church hymns for a week helps you get on track, do it. Get a break from Netflix for a while. Whatever it may be, do what is necessary for you to greater magnify the covenants you've made and strengthen your relationship with Christ. Ask the Lord for specific daily acts that you can add to your routine. He knows you better than you know you. He knows what you need to change to keep up the battle and He's eager to help.

How can you help RMs who might be struggling? Share this post! You never know who will need this.
Email me with questions or comments at battletogether16@gmail.com

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Girls Fight it Too

There were so many moments in my life where I felt like I was getting shamed into a corner to hide further and further away from anyone finding out about my addiction. Being addicted to pornography is already taboo, but when you're a girl, it's a whole new level of taboo.

I can't count how many times I sat at an LDS youth fireside or General Conference and heard this phrase: "Now, speaking to the young men, I caution you to stay away from pornography." These leaders who meant so well had no idea the immense confusion and self-loathing that repeatedly bulldozed me into the ground with this simple comment.

Not only was I sinning, but apparently I was sinning in a way that only boys were supposed to sin.
I felt like there was something wrong with me, but I had no idea who to turn to for answers. Even years after, as an adult, I finally told my bishop about my addiction, I still wondered if I was the only girl who struggled with this.

In recent years there has been some effort to acknowledge women who are struggling with pornography. The Mormon Channel released a great video that has helped many women know that they are not alone. (You can watch it here.) But we still have so far to go. If we're going to have success in this, we need to change some rhetoric . . .

 "Now even girls are struggling with it."

News flash, men: we've always struggled with it. Erotica is just as dangerous as pornography and women have been divulging in it for decades. It might be like eating the leaves off of a tree instead of the fruit, but either way, it grows on the same tree and it's just as addictive and dangerous. 

Fight the New Drug gives a great resource to current statistics on pornography viewed by women. Their article said, “As countless girls across the world already know, society’s stereotype is all wrong when it comes to the perception of porn being only a 'guy issue.' A recent German sex study showed that as many as 17% of women consider themselves addicted to porn, and that half of the women surveyed watched porn. Another study found that about half of young adult women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable and 1/3 of young women reported viewing porn.” You can read the full article here.

If you need help really understanding these statistics, let me break it down for you: (Speaking to the women) If you do not regularly view pornography, then either your sister or your best friend does or has in the past.

That is the cold, hard truth. And if we keep putting women on this pedestal of purity and virtue, unwisely assuming that they're somehow immune to the lure of pornography or sexual transgression, then they will continue to hide in the darkness, not knowing how to confront or overcome this obstacle that they're apparently not supposed to have. 

We need to remove the taboo of pornography. Creating discussion is the only way to change that. 

If you want to change things, share this post and join the conversation. Email me at battletogether16@gmail.com to share your story or for any questions or comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Seven Lies from Satan

When you're going through an addiction, you are experiencing some of the lowest points of your life. You experience thoughts that are much more powerful than just your negative thinking. These are straight-up lies that attacked me on a daily basis from the adversary and once I recognized them as lies, they were much easier to conquer. My hope in sharing this is that you can recognize these lies as ones you've probably had before and then be able to stop them in their tracks. If you're not addicted to pornography, this will give you an idea of what might go through someone's head during their addiction.

Disclaimer: These 7 lies and how I combated them are completely based off of my personal experience. You may have experienced different doubts and may have overcome them in a different way, so basically, this is my acknowledgement of the fact that I'm not an expert, so proceed with an open heart and mind.

1. It's not that bad. There are worse things you could be doing.

Justification is a powerful thing. It gets the best of us. This is the thought that leads us back into our addiction more often than anything else probably. It's also always followed by a big spoonful of "What the heck was I thinking" served with a cold glass of shame. (Moroni 7.) Sometimes, it's like something else overcomes you and pretty soon you're talking yourself into doing it and that it's ok to do it. Remember this: If it's good it comes from God. If it's not good, it comes from Satan.
For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; (Moroni 7:16)
2. You are too weak. You'll never overcome it, so you should just give up.

If the first lie doesn't work, you can definitely expect this one to follow. For so many years I thought I would never win this battle. I thought I would be limited my entire life. This is where studying about the Atonement and the enabling power of Grace really helped me to see that I couldn't rely on my own strength. I had to rely on Christ's strength and reach out to those around me for help.
"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." Ether 12:27
3. You are not worthy to pray.

The times you feel most unworthy to pray are the times you need to pray the most! The Lord loves you and wants to hear from you especially in your darkest moments.
"For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray." 2 Nephi 32:8
 4. You are worthless.

I felt totally limited in my addiction. I literally felt like I had no value and that extended to almost every facet of my life: school, family, friends, church. I felt like a cheap knock-off sweater that somehow ended up on the floor at Saks.

I combat this lie with a simple testimony, one that took me a really long time to acquire: You are a beloved son or daughter of God. You lived with Him before this life and He knows you perfectly. He knows your weakness and He knows your battles. He wants you to overcome them and He is patient with you. He isn't looking for perfection from you, He's looking for progression. If you can't find worth in yourself, trust in the worth that God sees in you. He loves you more than you could ever begin to comprehend and He will never give up on you.

5. You are the only one who has this problem. Here's the truth: the statistics are such that if YOU are not addicted to pornography, then either your sibling, child, or best friend IS addicted. Isolation has been a huge key for the adversary. The longer we go without talking about this plague, the stronger the fear and isolation will become. The best way to take the taboo off of Pornography Addiction, is by talking about it and learning to be open about it with those around you.

6. If you tell anyone, they'll always see you differently. People will see you differently, but they will see you with an increase of love and admiration. Being honest and open about things that you struggle with invites your loved ones to know a deeper part of you that was blocked off before. It's funny that we try to hide things like this. Why would we let the adversary there but not those that we love? Your loved ones should have your best interest at heart, and probably want to help you, but just aren't able to help because they don't know that you're facing this silent battle. Let them in. Only good can come from being open and honest. Even if they don't respond the way you expect them to, you can at least take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this battle and that you did your part in being honest.

7. You will never be worthy to serve a mission or to go to the temple. For Latter-day Saints, in order to enter a temple or to serve a mission, you must be following the commandments and be in good standing with God and your fellow men. Viewing pornography can keep you from being able to enter the temple or to serve a mission and Satan is perfectly aware of that. 

When people ask me if I had always planned on serving a mission, I tell them no. I tend to leave out the part where I didn't think I'd ever overcome my  10 year addiction to pornography. I honestly couldn't even imagine the day that I would be clean again. The only thing that kept me going when all else failed was pure and simple hope. The Guide to the Scriptures says that hope is "the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness." Even though I couldn't see those blessings as a part of my near future, at least I could have the hope that one day I would have them.


You have the same potential of obtaining the Celestial Kingdom as anyone else. There is no sin, no pain, no addiction that is too big for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Some days it may seem that you are in a dark place, too dark for any light to find you. Remember that someone much greater than you has been in that same place, and He is with you now, by your side. Look for the lies that the adversary so convincingly tells you, and once you see them for what they truly are, throw them far from your mind and look to a better future.

If you have any comments, questions or would like to share your story with the Battle Together page, please email me at battletogether16@gmail.com.