Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hitting rock-bottom...literally

I was finished up with with work on a project and decided to return to the office and take a less used back road rather than the better maintained main road. As I approached a large ravine I could see that the dirt road was mostly washed out and impassable at the bottom. Realizing I needed to turn around and take the main road after all, I identified a spot ahead of me where I would have enough space to maneuver and reverse course.  Directly in front of me was (what looked to me) a small washout which my company truck could easily cross.  I began to move the vehicle forward when the front passenger wheel dropped sharply and I ceased to move forward. The "small" washout was larger and deeper than I had anticipated and four wheel drive could not move me forward or backward. I was stuck.
I said a quick prayer asking Heavenly Father to help me ge out and the first thought which came to my mind was to walk the two or three miles back to the project location where others were still working and ask for help. I dismissed this and decided I didn't have to bother anyone and could probably get myself out. I got my shovel and began trying to dig the truck out. After considerable effort, I realized that the front skid plate was hung up on a hidden rock. The thought occurred to me that I had literally hit rock bottom. The way the vehicle was balanced gave me absolutely no meaningful traction and each attempt to move the car resulted in me literally spinning my wheels. 
I remembered E. Bednar's talk about an increased load giving traction so I tried to place as many large rocks in the back of the truck to bring the spinning wheels back into contact with the ground. But I couldn't find enough rocks to make a meaningful difference. I then figured I could use the jack to lift the lowest part of the vehicle and lower the free spinning wheels, but when I opened the compartment that should hold the jack and tools, it was empty.
After two hours of digging and moving rocks in the hot summer sun, I was exhausted and out of options. So I said another prayer asking for help. In the exact way as before, the prompting came to me that I should walk back and ask for help. Humbled and realizing that I should have just done that in the first place, I packed some water in my backpack and started hiking. 
The walk gave me time to ponder my situation. I didn't follow the initial prompting because of my pride. I didn't want to show others my inadequacies or foolishness at getting stuck. I didn't want to feel embarrassed that I didn't try any of the several other options I had to get myself out. I didn't want others to think I was giving up, or unprepared, or incompetent. It was fear and pride which kept me from following a spiritual prompting.
Then my thoughts turned to another time I had hit "rock bottom". Though now in recovery, my addiction to pornography brought me to a similar point spiritually. For years, nothing I tried on my own could give me much sobriety. Simply praying and suffering by myself was as effective as fruitlessly digging and spinning my wheels. All the promptings I received as answers to those prayers were essentially the same: confess and ask for help. But my fear and pride got in the way then too. I was afraid of what people would think, what they would say. I was afraid of losing my wife and children. I was afraid of what it would take and how hard it would be to confess and repent. But I reached a point where I knew I had no other options. A point where the pain of the addiction was more than the pain of the healing. That's when I confessed to my wife and my bishop and began attending 12 Step Addiction Recovery meetings sponsored by LDS Family Services.
Through the Addiction Recovery Program, I learned how to truly repent and access the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I finally found the relief and healing I needed by looking outside of myself, letting go of my pride and asking for help.  
Now in strong recovery, I still study and apply the principles of the 12 Steps to my daily life. I enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost and a life of greater peace and happiness than ever before. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I feel greater love for my Savior, others, and myself. 
Before long, I arrived back at the work site and was able to find someone with a tow chain and truck who could pull my vehicle out of the ditch. Within 15 minutes I was on the road again moving toward my physical destination and rejoicing in the spiritual lessons this experience taught me.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Desert Experience

Hi, my name is Dan and I'm a recovering addict to pornography.  President Ezra Taft Benson once said: "The Lord works from the inside out.  The world works from the outside in.  The world would take people out of the slums.  Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums.  The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who then change their environment.  The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature..."  The first time I heard that, I thought it was one of the most amazing things ever.  It was so cool, so profound, so true.  Each time thereafter, my interest in it decreased by degrees, until it became just another inspirational quote without real personal meaning or application.  That is, until recently.
A little while back I was walking in the desert with a rock hammer in my hand.  You see, I'm a paleontologist and I was at work.  I was walking down a dry wash looking at either side to see if there were any fossils weathering out when I spied something shiny ahead of me.  I approached it and saw it was an upside down CD or DVD.  I flipped it over with my rock hammer and saw that it was a pornographic DVD.  My instinctual reaction came in the form of the rock hammer crashing down, obliterating it.  I was in shock.  The desert is usually a place safe from temptation for me.  My hands were shaking and I stood a little in wonder that my very first reaction without even thinking about it was to destroy the DVD.  I then said a prayer of thanks that I am at a point in my recovery where there was no internal struggle before I did the right thing in that situation.  I also asked again for continued help and strength against temptation. 
The next time I read President Benson's words, it dawned on me that the Lord is changing me from the inside out.  The world is still the same place.  There is still evil and temptation all around and there is very little I can do to change that, but Christ is changing me.  He is changing my nature. 
If you desire to change and come closer to Jesus Christ, you too are being changed by Him from the inside out.  No matter where you are on your path of recovery, whether you have 10 minutes or 10 years of sobriety, Christ is working to change your nature. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

One Day at a Time

Hi.  My name is Dan.  And I’m a recovering addict to pornography.

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted a link on facebook to a new song by Joe Walsh.  There was a free download so I snagged it thinking I’d enjoy some new stuff from a classic rocker.  (Sorry, the freeness has expired, but you can listen to/watch the video here).  It took me a few weeks to get around to actually listening to it, but it came up on a playlist while I was driving to work.  As I paid attention to the words, it suddenly dawned on me that it was a song about addiction recovery.  The message was so powerful that I began to cry.  I didn’t realize it, but I had stumbled upon an addicts hymn.  Here are the lyrics:

Well you know,
I was always the first to arrive at the party,
And the last to leave the scene of the crime
Well it started with a couple of beers,
And it went I don’t know how many years,
Like a runaway train headed toward the end of the line.

Well I finally got around to admit that I might have a problem.
But I thought it was just too damn big of a mountain to climb.
Well I got down on my knees and said 'Hey!'
'I just can’t go on livin' this way!'

Guess I have to learn to live my life one day at a time.
Oh yeah! One day at a time! (x4)

Well I finally got around to admit that I was the problem.
When I used to put the blame on everybody's shoulders but mine.
All the friends I used to run with are gone,
Lord, I hadn't planned on livin' this long.

But I finally learned to live my life one day at a time!

It was something I was too blind to see,
I got help from something greater than me.
And today I've learned to live my life one day at a time!

This song resonated with me and my addiction.  The refrain “One day at a time.” is an often repeated mantra in addiction recovery and it’s true.  I can’t think about maintaining my recovery for years at a time.  I get overwhelmed and discouraged because I know I can’t do it myself.  But I can handle thinking about maintaining my recovery today.  I don’t worry about recovery tomorrow.  That’s tomorrow’s problem.  I only care about recovery today because today is the day I’m living in.  I can receive that gift from the Lord today and I can to my part today.  In 3 Nephi 13:34, the Lord said it this way: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.”  Thank you Joe Walsh for doing your Step 12.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting to Know Myself

Hi.  My name is Dan and I'm a recovering addict to pornography.  Step four was really hard for me.  I knew I had to do it and I knew that it was vital to my recovery.  I didn't want to slip-up or relapse.  I wanted full recovery, so I took counsel from the ARP manual and prayed for comfort, courage, and guidance.  I couldn't write it all in one go, so I worked on it a little every day along with my scripture study.  Before beginning, I would pray asking for the comfort, courage, and guidance I needed to be able to work on it.  And when I was done for the day, I would pray again expressing thanks for the help I'd received.  I found that many things needing to be inventoried would come to my mind, so in the back of the notebook I was using, I would write short prompts which I could refer to later.  It took me several months to finish. 

As I was working step four, I felt that I should go back and read my old journals.  One thing I've done well since I was 13 was writing in my journal (almost) daily.  As I'd written in my journals I'd wondered who would ever want to read the boring and embarrassing account of my life.  But I realized that I hadn't written them for anyone else, that I was my own intended audience.  Through my journals I was able to remember things that should have gone in my inventory.  But more than that, through reading my journals I was able to get to know myself and my past, both the bad and the good. 

As I read through my teenage years, my heart reached out to that young man.  I understood the pain and loneliness he was feeling.  I wanted to hug him and tell him that the feelings of worthlessness he was feeling weren't from the Lord.  I wanted to tell him that the things he deeply desired, forgiveness, freedom from addiction, and being able to feel love would come.  As I read about the life of this young man, I began to see him as a beloved son of an Eternal Father.  I shared some of these feelings with Faith and she asked me, "Do you love him?"  I was dumbfounded.  I did love him.  Soon it dawned on me that that young man was me.  For the first time in my life, I really began to believe that I was worth loving and that I loved myself.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared these words in the 2010 April General Conference: "One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, 'I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something.'"  Working on my step 4 inventory and reading my journals was one of the most difficult and painful things I've ever undertaken, but it was infinitely worth it because of the blessings I have received through it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Trick-or-Treating and Turning my Will Over to God

Hi, my name is Dan and I'm a recovering addict to pornography.  A few years ago, we went to the Trunk-or-Treat when our second daughter was about 18 months old.  She loved getting candy and was so excited at the prospect.  The only problem was that she refused to let go of each new piece and wouldn't let us put them in her pumpkin bucket.  She wanted to eat it all right then.  Needless to say, there was way more than she could handle in her little toddler hands and mouth all at once.  The result was a screaming, frustrated child and two exasperated parents. 

I have been just like that screaming toddler.  I want things to work out my way and I want to do things my way and I don't want to listen to what anybody else has to say about it because I'm right.  So there.  But my candy is spilling out all over the place and I can't hold onto it. 

Step 3 is: "Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ."  My will is like the candy.  When I try to make things work out the way I want without considering what God's will is, things go very wrong and I'm miserable.  But when I decide to put my will into the pumpkin bucket the Lord has provided, I find that I'm happier and that life becomes easier for me to handle.  My problems no longer threaten to drown me.  With the Lord's help, I'm able to keep my head above water. 

In the same way that my daughter would have greater access to her candy if she would allow us to place it in the bucket, when I turn my will over to the Lord, I too have greater access to it.  This is because I am not turning my will over to Satan who binds me and limits my ability to choose for myself.  When I turn my will over to the Lord, I have so much more opportunity to use it properly. 

One last thing.  Turning my will over to the Lord isn't a single act.  I only have access to my will right now, not ten days or even ten minutes from now.  I can only turn it over to the Lord in this moment.  Trying to turn it over to Him a year down the road doesn't work.  Contemplating years down the road was too daunting, especially when my recovery was new.  Focusing on right now, taking it one day (or one moment) at a time helps me to not be discouraged.  And it is something that I must continually work on.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Hi.  My name is Dan.  Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the LDS Family Services 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) and the blessings attending meetings and working the 12 Steps have brought into my life.  I've been filled with a very profound sense of gratitude for it.  

I struggled with my addiction to pornography all by myself for so long.  I would always tell myself.  "I can do this.  All I have to do is just stop indulging and I'll be fine.  I don't need to tell anyone.  I don't need any help.  I can do this if I just exercise enough will power."  And though I had weeks, months, and even years of not acting out, it never lasted.  I was never strong enough by myself to quit.  I resigned myself to living that way thinking that "It wasn't that bad", that I could hide it, that it wouldn't hurt anyone else besides me.  But I was oh so very wrong.  Once my eyes were opened to the damage I was causing in my family and the pain I was inflicting on my wife and children, I knew I needed to stop and get help.  So I returned to the 12 Steps.  

Since that time, my life has turned around dramatically.  I no longer tell myself those old lies.  I have hope in eternity and peace today.  But most of all, I am happy.  I am happy despite the trials and challenges life confronts me with each day.  

One of the greatest realizations I have made about the ARP is that the 12 Steps which it teaches are the Atonement of Jesus Christ for dummies.  I thought I knew what the Atonement was all about.  I mean, I've taught church lessons on it, given talks about it, and even taught it on a nearly daily basis as a missionary.  I thought I'd applied it in my life and that I had it down.  I was so wrong.  My understanding of the Atonement was almost exclusively an academic understanding.  My practical experience with it was very rudimentary.  I really didn't know what it was all about.  

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is all about change.  It is about overcoming the natural man (Mosiah 3:19) and becoming a godly man, a man like Jesus Christ.  I came across a scripture recently which touched me profoundly.  In Ephesians 2:15, Paul says "...for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace".  This describes me.  I felt like I was two men inside one body.  But through the Atonement, I've been able to begin the process of making from two, one new man.  

In Ether 12:27, the Lord says "I give unto men weakness that they may be humble."  In a very strange way which I never thought would be true, I am thankful for my addiction.  If it was not for my addiction, I don't think I ever would have realized the need I have for Jesus Christ and the grace of his Atonement.  My addiction to pornography is the one thing in my life which brought me so low, which humbled me, and made me acknowledge my need to overcome my natural man and turn to Jesus.  Working the 12 Steps of the ARP is the only tool I've ever found which helps me to fully access the Atonement and invite Jesus into my life.

If you are struggling with an addiction to pornography (or any addiction), please try the ARP.  If you have a loved one struggling with any addiction, please try the ARP.  If you sincerely apply the 12 Steps to your life, I know you will see the Lord's hand in it.  I know you will be able to be healed from the hurt and pain you feel.  I know this because I have seen it happen in my life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I am the Once-ler

            Hi, my name is Dan.  I'm in recovery from an addiction to pornography.  When I was a kid, my favorite Dr. Seuss book was The Lorax.  I guess it's still my favorite Dr. Seuss book.  I've always loved the sadness in that one word "unless" and all the unspoken potential for the future.  The emotion at the end of the book is so strong to me.  Obviously, I was really excited when I found out there was going to be a movie version created for the book.  The rest of this post contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, I told you so.  As I said, the book ends with the Truffula Forest in ruins and all the animals have gone away to try to find a new home.  The Once-ler is left alone and the Lorax lifts himself up and away through a hole in the clouds.  Well, the movie is quite different from the book, but the key elements are still there.  But the movie takes the story to the next step.  The Once-ler realized he had done wrong and hurt many in his casual disregard for those around him.  But he couldn't fix the problems he caused in his selfishness and pride by himself.  He was isolated and alone, surrounded by the ruins of his past and there was no way he could ever reverse the effects of his actions.  But he reached outside himself and asked for help.  Only then was he able to change and see his life and the world around him change.  At the very end the boy, Ted, is able to rally support from the town and plant the last Truffula seed despite the intense opposition.  At the very very end, the Once-ler is shown caring for some very small Truffula seedlings and the ravaging effects of pollution are beginning to dissipate.  And then something amazing happens. 

            The Lorax comes back. 

            He comes back to the Once-ler and they hug.  The Lorax forgives the Once-ler for all the destruction and devastation he caused. 

            In many ways, I am like the Once-ler.  My selfish and prideful addictions have caused destruction and devastation all around me.  I was isolated and depressed harrowed up by my sins and all the pain from the ruins of my past.  When I came to myself, I knew there was no way I could fix it alone.  I finally reached outside myself and asked for help.  That help was readily available.  And something amazing happened.  I began to feel the love of my Savior and His forgiveness.  I was able to begin forgiving myself and seeking the forgiveness of others.  Every time I see or even think about the Lorax hugging the Once-ler, I get this overwhelming feeling of love as if I'm the Once-ler and I'm being forgiven for my horrible, terrible sins.  And I usually cry.  The first time, I was seeing the movie in the theater with my family.  I was sitting there bawling as everyone around us left.  What a weirdo, I know.  But I couldn't help myself. 
            The Love of Jesus Christ is so real.  It's so palpable.  And it's so available to all of us.  We just have to reach out for it.