Let's Stop Kidding Ourselves

The Alcoholic

What would you think if you heard an alcoholic make the following statements?
  • I used to get drunk by drinking vodka, but it’s not so bad now because I’m only getting drunk on beer.
      
  • I think I’m doing much better.  It used to take me days to get over a hangover and I felt so guilty.  But now I can get over a hangover quickly and not feel so bad.
After reading the above statements, what are your thoughts? 

Might some of your thoughts contain the following ideas?

An alcoholic is really addicted to alcohol in all its forms.  It doesn’t matter whether he drinks hard liquor or just beer or wine.  It’s all alcohol -- and a drunk is still a drunk.  One kind of drunk is not better than another.  His goal should be complete abstinence from all alcohol and never getting drunk again!

Shifting Gears

Now let’s shift gears to some statements I've actually heard from those of us who suffer from our own particular addiction.
  • I used to relapse by viewing pornography, but it’s not so bad now because I’m only relapsing by masturbating and not viewing.  
  • I think I’m doing much better.  It used to take me days to get over a relapse and I felt so guilty.  But now I can get over a relapse much quicker and not feel so much shame.

If we are tempted to use the above logic, are we being honest with ourselves?  

In reality, our addiction is not just to pornography.  Our addiction is really to lust, and the chemicals lust produces in our brain.

It doesn’t matter whether we view pornography, or masturbate, or participate in other sexual activities outside of marriage, the result in our brain is the same.  And a relapse is a relapse is a relapse, no matter the cause.  One relapse is not better than another.

Our Goal

Our goal should be complete sobriety and complete recovery, not just making relapses less painful or substituting masturbation for viewing – it’s all the same. 

Remember: Our ultimate goal is to overcome this addiction completely and never relapse again. 

And if that really is our goal, then sometime has to be the last time!  

So why not decide -- right now -- to make the last time you relapsed, really the last time?




What About Fred?

I want to tell you about Fred.  Fred realized some time ago that he really was addicted to lust, which included viewing pornography and masturbation.  Once he realized that it really was an addiction, he started coming to ARP meetings.

At the meetings he discovered what we all have experienced – he found he was no longer alone.  He found brotherhood, support, understanding, and love.  

He immediately recognized that, as it states in Step 1, that he really was powerless to overcome this addiction by himself.  If he wanted to overcome it he needed support – from God, from his Bishop, and from his new friends in ARP.  So he depended on all of them.

He started going through the steps and his life was getting better.  Along the way he met Sally, a wonderful young woman.  

They started dating and eventually he confided in her that he had an addiction, but that he was attending ARP meeting and working the steps.  She accepted what he told her and said that she would support him in his recovery.

Once he started seriously dating Sally, he decided to make it his goal to be worthy to be married in the temple.  

Their relationship progressed and Fred noticed that the temptations and triggers seemed to become less and less – perhaps he really was recovering – at least that’s what he thought.

During this same period of time, a person Fred respected explained a theory that made sense to Fred.  

This person explained that lust, including viewing pornography and masturbation were on the opposite end of a path that leads to marital intimacy.  

And the closer one got to marital intimacy the farther that person would be from their desire for lust.  See the diagram below.



The above diagram and the theory are totally wrong, but Fred didn’t know that at the time.

As time passed, Fred and Sally became closer and the temptations became less.
  
Finally Fred proposed and Sally accepted, and they made arrangements for be married in the temple.  

Fred’s bishop was very happy with the progress Fred had made in recovery and gave him a recommend for marriage without any reservations.
 
A different perspective

Let me deviate from this story for a moment to give you another perspective.  

Another player in this story is Satan.  He has his own plan for Fred and Sally.  

He wants to destroy both of them and their future family.  

So as Fred stared seriously dating Sally, Satan decided to reduce the triggers and temptations that Fred was dealing with, to give Fred a false sense of accomplishment.  

Satan wanted Fred to become complacent in his recovery and feel like he had things totally under control.  

He wanted Fred to lesson his need for support from friends in ARP, from his Bishop, and from the Lord.  He wanted Fred to decide that he was “no longer powerless” – that he was back in control without outside help. 

Satan wanted Fred and Sally to believe, as they got married that Fred no longer had a “problem.”
 
Now back to the story

Fred and Sally had a beautiful temple wedding and honeymoon.  Everything seemed to be going well and the theory explained by the diagram above seemed to be working. 

At the time of their marriage, because he was now comfortable in his recovery, he felt as if he had “graduated” from the 12 Step Program.  

So he stopped attending meetings – stopped doing his dailies – and stopped reaching out to his ARP friends.  That was no longer necessary – or so he thought.
 
Reality hits

But at some point in the coming weeks and months, Fred noticed a change.  Those triggers and temptations, that he thought he had left behind, started to come back.  

In fact he realized that, with marriage, there were even new stresses and problems.  And with each new stress or trigger he was tempted to run back to his old addiction.

But that shouldn’t be happening.  What about marital intimacy replacing the desire to act out??? 
Well what Fred didn’t recognize was that that theory was totally wrong.  Marital intimacy does not cure addiction.  

For some reason Fred never put two and two together.  If marital intimacy was the solution, then why were there so many married guys attending ARP meetings????

Below is a better diagram of the reality of the situation.  Marital Intimacy and Addiction are TWO SEPARATE paths.  They are not really related.  

The only thing they have in common is sometimes we use the word “sex” to describe each of them.  
Both of the paths below can and do exist at the same time.  But they do not overlap.

Now back to Fred

Finally Fred relapses, perhaps not just once but several times.  What is he to do?  How can he tell Sally?  

They both were convinced that Fred had recovered – that he no longer had to worry or deal with addiction.  

If he does tell Sally, what will she think?  Might she come to the conclusion that “she is not enough” -- that it is somehow her fault?   

Fred knows that’s not true, but can he risk talking to her about it?  Will she even understand?
Should he speak to his bishop?  Will the bishop even understand?  The bishop was so proud of him for overcoming his addiction. 

What about contacting his former friends in ARP?  Will they consider him a failure?  Can he take the risk?

All these questions are running through Fred's head.  His initial solution is to isolate himself, and pretend that everything is going well – just like he used to do prior to admitting he had an addiction in the first place.

Where is Satan in all of this?  As you might imagine, he is as happy as he can be.  He has Fred and Sally exactly where he wants them.  

Satan purposely reduced Fred’s temptations prior to his marriage to give Fred a false sense of security in his recovery.  

Then soon after Fred’s marriage Satan came back with a vengeance, causing Fred to relapse and go back into isolation and secrecy.  

Satan is wanting to destroy Fred’s future and the future of his family.  And he’s doing a pretty good job of it at the moment.
  
Advice for Fred

So do you have any advice for Fred????  Do you think he should continue on not talking to anyone about his addiction or his relapses and just keep it to himself?   Can he recover on his own?

If Fred were to ask me – and he hasn’t, I would suggest the following:
  • Tell Sally what is going on – but assure her that she is not the problem
  • Talk to your bishop and have him give you a blessing
  • Reach out to former friends in ARP.  They will understand and they will not judge you!
  • Start doing your dailies again – including personal prayer.  Couples prayer does not take the place of personal prayer.
  • Consider returning to ARP meetings – it doesn’t have to be the same meeting – pick one that you are comfortable with.  Here is a link to the current meetings in Utah County:  bit.ly/arp-meetings  The moment you show up, you will feel the same spirit that you felt before.
  • Start reviewing and working the 12 steps.
  • Invite your wife to attend the Spouse and Family Support group.  They have 12 separate topics to help wives.  They are also based on the Atonement Jesus Christ.
  • Consider attending a “couples group” with your wife.  There are two couples groups that meet weekly in Utah County – one on Friday and one on Saturday – they are very helpful!
  • Do not feel that you are starting over – you are not!  You are just picking up from where you left off.  You are not a failure – you are a hero for recognizing your need for the Savior and you desire to protect your family!
                                                                                
Conclusion

I have no idea if any of this story was helpful for you.  But there are Freds and Sallys out there.  

And these Freds feel trapped.  And these Sallys don't understand what happened to them. 

Both are wondering if there is any hope for their future.

The answer is a resounding "YES!"  There is hope in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and in the Church's Addiction Recovery Program.  

If we diligently follow the steps, attend meetings, pray with real intent, do our dailies, and reach out to Heavenly Father and our friends, we will succeed.

We should never give up on ourselves or on anyone else.

I have a testimony of that!!!!

Let's Give Ourselves Credit



I learned this from a friend.  

When you overcome a temptation, 

either call or text a friend and say:

 “I was tempted to ______ and instead
   
 I did this ______."  
   
or 
   
"I was tempted to _______ and instead 

I'm going to do this _______."  


 Let’s give ourselves credit for choosing the right!!!  

_________________   __________________

The following are real text messages:

  • I recently saw a name of an actress on facebook and was tempted to look up her name on google but have resisted, and I’m going to go eat some more food now and listen to a conference talk.
  • A few minutes ago I was watching a Youtube video. As I was scrolling through the comments as the video was playing, I noticed that someone pointed out an inappropriate part later on in the video. I was tempted to skip to that part in the video out of curiosity, but resisted. I closed out of the video, listened to a conference talk, and did laundry.
  • Yesterday, I was tempted to lust at someone.  Instead I prayed for them and their family as I passed by.  I also kept my eyes in a good place.
  • This morning I was tempted to go on Hulu TV and see what shows they had on, and not appropriate ones either, but I prayed and stayed in my bed and I have felt much better.

I am soooooo proud of these guys!!!!




My Addiction and the Water Slide

I’d like to compare my addiction to a water slide. The water slide is the addiction and my natural man is anxious to experience the thrill of the slide.

However, my spirit wants something better. My spirit knows that the thrill of the slide is only temporary and artificial and will not satisfy my  desire for true long-lasting joy.

With that in mind let's imagine a young man sitting at the top of the slide. The water is already rushing past him and he is grasping tightly the sides of the slide -- he is just waiting for the signal to go.

So at this point, what are the chances of him resisting the temptation to start down the slide?  And once he starts down the slide, what are the chances of him stopping?  His chances of resisting at this point are very slim.

The same is true of us and our addiction.  Once we get to a certain point, the chance of us backing away or stopping is almost impossible.  Let's admit it -- we have all been there!

Even if the young man at the top of a slide changes his mind, he still has to push his way past all the other waiting people and walk down all those stairs to get to safety.  That’s not very likely, especially if his natural man still wants to experience the thrill of the slide.

So one solution, rather than “resist temptation, is to “avoid temptation.”

Getting back to the water slide analogy: wouldn’t it be much easier to make a decision, at the foot of the water slide, to not climb all those stairs, and thus avoid the temptation all together?

In fact if you knew that water slides were bad, perhaps when you saw a water slide 100 yards away, you could decide to go off in another direction and avoid the slide all together.

If we have a temptation right in front of us, close enough that we can reach out and touch it, our chance of resisting it is very small.  However, if the temptation is far off, and we choose to avoid it, our chance of success is very great.

It is much easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.

Along this same line of thinking, it's my understanding that we all have our own rituals when we start getting close to temptation – we follow the same paths over and over again.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can identify early on when we are starting down that path and avoid going any further. We have been down that path before and we already know where it leads.

Think of the last time you acted out or relapsed.  What led up to your acting out? Like the stairs up to the water slide, what path did you take? 

I challenge you to mentally walk backwards down that path, down the stairs of the water slide, to it’s beginning.  Now, in your mind, pinpoint the start of that path!!!  At that point what could you have done to avoid going any further?

So next time you find youself starting down that path, or up those stairs, stop yourself and avoid going any further -- you already know where it leads!!!


P.S. I chose a water slide for my analogy because it really is a "slippery slope".  And once you start down that path, you know were you are going to end up.

Emotional Sunglasses *

   
I’ve been thinking a lot about a question my wife recently asked me. She asked why I don’t show a lot of emotions and why I masked my emotions from her. While thinking about that question, I realized that I don’t show a lot of emotions because I don’t feel a lot of emotions. My emotions are very steady, not a lot of up or down. The question is why don’t I feel emotions as strongly as others.
Then it occurred to me, my addiction is like wearing emotional sunglasses all the time for many years. Sunglasses dim visible light while the lust addiction dims emotions and feelings. I wear sunglasses to prevent discomfort from intense sunlight. I’ve similarly used lust to prevent discomfort from intense emotions. When wearing sunglasses, the difference between black and white is reduced and it is harder to tell the difference between light and darkness. Everything is just darker. My eyes are much more comfortable and I’ve gotten used to wearing them. I also feel very cool, especially when wearing them at night.
Light-adapting Glasses
When I was in 5th grade in 1980, my mom was concerned about how I squinted all the time when I was outside. Our eye doctor ordered special prescription glasses that automatically tinted when the light was bright. The light adapting film also turned clear when I was inside and the light was not as intense. All of my friends were amazed as we went outside for recess and my glasses automatically went dark. It was amazing and fantastic.
I felt very cool but unfortunately, the turtle shelled frames didn’t automatically convert into a sporty looking frame so I was just a nerd with dark glasses. Luckily, I didn’t know that in a couple years that I would up the nerd factor considerably. When my orthodontist put braces on my teeth, he said they would be much quicker if they included head gear and neck gear. I definitely didn’t look or feel like a character out of Top Gun in Ray Bans walking the halls of junior high wearing all of this corrective gear. 
The glasses stopped my squinting problem outside. But, when I went back inside on bright days, they caused a big problem for a few minutes. Outside, they darkened almost instantly. Inside, it took a few minutes for the dark tint to fade. During those few minutes after I entered the school building, I would fumble around blindly, tripping over thresholds and bumping into people. I wasn’t able to read my textbooks. I would take off my glasses but my world was blurry.  

Sunglasses at Night
In the 80’s there was a popular song about wearing sunglasses at night that started a mini fashion trend. At night activity like school dances and Friday night football games, high school guys would wear their sunglasses and jeans jackets with their collars up and I was one of them. 
Wearing sunglasses at night is dangerous. Signs are difficult to read, it is very hard see what is happening around you. I was much more likely to stumble when walking up the bleacher steps or lose track of where my friends went because I just couldn’t see in the dark. Wearing emotional sunglasses similarly makes other people’s emotions almost invisible.  
Sobriety: Remove the Dark Film
Sobriety is like peeling the dark film off the front of the glasses. The world looks different but it is also more uncomfortable. After years of relying on the darkness to make my world comfortable, it is like stepping out of a movie theater on a bright, sunny afternoon, it is almost unbearable. I want to squint, cover my eyes or even shut them very hard because the intensity of the light is disorienting and even blinding. I want the world to go back to the way I’m used to seeing it. I want to make my glasses turn dark again.
In the AA big book, there is a passage about alcoholics who don’t want to quit altogether but they want to learn to drink alcohol responsibly. It is referenced as “drinking like a gentleman.” This is the desire to keep hold of the addiction, but simply learn to control. It is the desire to control it responsibly. It is similar to the desire I have to use the emotional sunglasses to automatically tint and dim the effects of emotion when I am placed in situations where the emotions from others are intense. 
I am learning that the longer I keep the emotional sunglasses off, the more I am able to see around me. I’m able to better deal with the uncomfortable emotions in healthy ways. I can’t quite tell if my emotional range is changing, or if my wife is seeing a difference but I’m not stumbling as often.

* This post is from a blog written by a good friend:   https://sagritblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/emotional-sunglasses/

Marriage Cures Addiction -- NOT !

This post is addressed to two groups of guys:

  1. Those who are married
  2. Those who are not married

That should cover most of you..... :-)

Some believe that marriage cures addiction to "Lust" (Pornography, masturbation, and other sexual issues).

Please discard that thought immediately -- it's NOT true!

If you don't believe me look around the room in most ARP or other 12 step meetings. Almost half the guys in the room are married. If marriage cured this addiction, they wouldn't be there!!!!

However, what you do learn by seeing these guys in the room is that they are being honest about their addiction! They are not hiding it or isolating themselves!  They are actually working the steps. And I applaud them for that!!

It takes courage and humility to admit you struggle with an addiction, especially if you are married. And and these married guys have both courage and humility.

A Dilemma for Married Guys

However, there is a possible dilemma for married guys attending ARP meetings. Here is the dilemma.

If I'm married and I go to an ARP meeting then I'm possibly admitting to my wife and others that I still have a problem!

However, if I stop attending meetings then those around me will not know if I have a problem and they may think I have actually recovered and now have control of my life.

So as a result, many married guys stop coming to meetings and pretend they no longer have a problem. They feel this will somehow make their life easier.

And then there are those who hoped that marriage would cure their addiction, so when they got married, even though they had told their fiancee about their addiction, once they got married they stopped coming.

For most recently married husbands that became a problem, because they discovered that marriage didn't eliminate their addiction.

A Question for Some of You

So for those who have stopped coming to meetings, let me ask some questions that only you can answer.

In your case has the addiction really gone away?  In other words, do you no longer have temptations or triggers? And you never have the desire to act out?

If that's true, then congratulations. I am really happy for you!!!

But is it possible that you are back to hiding it just like before? But now you are hiding it from your wife and from those who could support you.

Or is it possible that your wife knows and she is the only one who knows?  So now you are both hiding it from those who could help you.

Are you once again isolating yourself and trying to overcome it all by yourself?

Does this sound familiar?

Only you can answer these questions!

Keep in mind, if it never worked before and it won't work now.

A Solution

Here is a possible solution for this dilemma. For those who are married and have stopped coming, first decide to start coming again. But this time you are coming, not for yourself, but to be a support for others--to set an example that recovery works.

We all know married guys who are there for that exact reason. There is no stigma attached to them. They really do set a positive example for the rest of us. They are like missionaries--without the name badges.

So for any who have stopped coming or are considering stopping--please start again or continue coming. The meetings themselves, the spirit found there, and the relationships of others in the group, will continue to bless your life. And you can, in turn, bless their lives. Remember, when you reach out you bless TWO lives!

If anyone were to ask you why you attend, the honest answer should be: "To help support others who are struggling. I want them to receive the same blessings I have received!"  That is the honest truth!!!

What About Your Wife?

You wife can take the exact same approach. She should attend the "Spouse and Family Support Meetings" to be a support for other wives. That is the exact approach my wife takes. But at the same time it greatly blesses her life. If you want further proof of that, listen to talk given by a wife who attends the wive's support group. Click here to listen

What about those of you who are still single?

At some point you are going to fall in love and want to get married. Then you will need to ask yourself the question, "What about ARP then?" I hope your answer will be, I should continue to attend (hopefully with my wife) to help those who are struggling. That way you will continue to bless your own life along with countless others.

So when you get engaged, tell your fiancee that you plan to continue attending ARP because you are needed--to provide support and set an example. It has nothing to do with whether your wife is "enough!"

I hope these thoughts have been helpful. I really care about each of you--both those who are married and those who are single.

No matter what -- PLEASE KEEP COMING -- We all need each other!


When The Men Stopped Shaving *

A Russian commander said in a report after pulling out of Chechnya that he can trace their loss back to one starting place. It was when he noticed that the men stopped shaving. Just one break in discipline was the start of everything going downhill and they eventually lost the war despite having way more men, air support, and power.

It's a slippery slope in our lives. It starts with just not reading the scriptures one day and then a week later we relapse and we wonder, why? Well our discipline went down a week ago, and without noticing, we stopped doing our dailies and other things.

So how do we fix it? There are so many things we are supposed to be doing that we aren't. We can't change everything at once. We have to work our way through them slowly.

Col. David Hackworth** was a colonel during the Vietnam war. He was given command of a unit in complete disarray. They had no discipline at all, and this was getting men killed. He knew that not everything could change at once, it would be impossible. So he choose five small regulations for his unit to work on everyday. They eventually became the best unit in Vietnam.

We can get overwhelmed by all the things we are doing wrong. So take it slow and eventually we will get there. Jason texted me this this week: "To Him our direction is ever more important than our speed."



* This post was written by Spencer, a good friend in the ARP program.

** His combat successes included wiping out 2,500 North Vietnamese soldiers while his troops suffered just 25 casualties. -NY Times

Just Keeping Busy Is Not The Solution

"The way to avoid relapse, 
        is to just keep busy."

I've heard myself and others say that too many times. But "just keeping busy" should not be our goal. It's not the solution.  Sure it's difficult to relapse when you don't have any free time. But it's not changing us -- it's not changing our heart -- it's not bringing us closer to the Savior. It's just a short-term stopgap -- and not a very good one at that.

Of course many of the things we do to "keep busy" are great and wonderful, like:
  • Studying the scriptures
  • Reading or Listening to Conference Talks
  • Doing Step Work
  • Praying
  • Doing our Church Callings
  • Giving Service
Yes, those are all great activities.  But what is our reason for doing them.  Is it just to keep us busy so we won't have time to fall back into our addiction?  Is that the reason???

I'm sorry to say that for many of us that is exactly our motivation.  If we fill our lives with good things then we won't have time for bad things.

Are we doing the right things for not the best reasons?

Now I'm not saying that we should stop doing any of these good things. But perhaps we should adjust our motivation for doing them. It's been suggested that our motivation for doing those things should be to bring us closer to Christ. And then Christ can help us change our heart so we don't desire our addictions.

I know our Church leaders and the General Authorities are very busy.  But I doubt their motivation for being busy is just to keep them from doing bad things and thinking bad thoughts. I have to believe that they do what they do because of a love of Christ and a love of their fellow men. And we should try to do the same.

Let me quote from a text, on this same subject, sent to me by a good friend, James:

Good - doing dailies, step work and service out of fear of relapse because I am backing away from my addictions and bad behaviors.

Better - doing dailies, step work and service out of a desire to change who I am because I no longer wish to be who I was, but want to be someone new and different.

Best - doing dailies, step work and service out of a passion to draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, because I want to live with them again and become what they would have me be.

Some Additional Thoughts

"Just keeping busy" may help keep me sober in the short term, but, remember, sobriety is not my ultimate goal. Recovery is my goal and sobriety is just a starting point on the road to that goal.

The 12 Steps are not designed to just help us become sober. The Addiction Recovery Guide suggests that many of us can become sober by Step 5.  It says: "As we took step 5 ... Some of us were already free from our addictions." Thus, the remaining steps (6 through 12) are designed to get us to recovery.

So let's get rid of our "keeping busy" mentality and really work on recovery, by drawing closer to Jesus Christ and allowing Him to bless us with His atonement.


This Is My Work....



A friend of mine sent me this photo.  He enjoys studying the scriptures outdoors, in nature.

This photo is worth more than a thousand words!

It speaks volumes about my friend!


I added the caption at the bottom of the photo.




"Kill Something!" "Eat It!"

Our Reptilian Brain

In our fat heads we have what some call a reptilian brain.  It doesn't think.  It doesn't know right from wrong.  It just reacts to stimulus.

It's that part of the brain that initiates fight or flight.  We see fire--we run.  We see an enemy--we attack.  If there is no stimulus to wake that part of the brain up, it just sits there dormant.

There is cartoon showing how this reptilian brain works, I'll call it the T-Rex Day Planner.  On it are the entries: "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  --  "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  -- "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"


That part of our brain wakes up whenever we notice a "trigger."   "See something!"  "Act out!"  --  "See something!"  "Act out!"

The see something is the stimulus and the act out is the food it consumes.

And because that part of our brain is so powerful (used for flight or fright), it takes over the rational thinking part of our brain and says, "Shut up!  I'm now in charge!"  So one of our goals should be to keep negative stimulus away from our reptilian brain and keep it asleep as much as possible.

That's why we have boundaries: "I won't take my phone or tablet into the bathroom or bedroom with me."  "I won't listen to that music!"  "I won't go to YouTube!"  or whatever our personal boundaries happen to be. What we are trying to do with our boundaries is eliminate or at least reduce the stimulus that will wake up that reptilian brain.

But there is a catch. That brain may not know right from wrong, but it does have a memory.  And it can wake itself up to eat based on what you have pre-programed it to do.

Here are a couple of examples:

"I need to stay sober so I can go to my sister's wedding"  What that brain hears is, "Go to sleep till the day after his sister's wedding, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober so I can baptize my son."  What that brain hears is,  "Go to sleep till the day after his son's baptism, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober till my wedding date."  You know the answer.  And that list goes on and on.

Another version of that is "I have been sober this time for 12 days, I at least need to make to 13 days next time."  

So what does that brain say to itself?  "I can wait for 13 days, no problem. But then I will eat." "And then next time I'll wait for 14 days.  I like this pattern. I can depend on it."

Does this sound familiar to any of us.  It sure does to me!

Where Does Satan Fit In?

What I've listed above is based on psychology and physiology.  But we also have a spiritual side to our lives.  And that's where Satan comes in.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  

He knew us before we came to this earth and he can remember where we can't.  He knows how our brain works.  

So when we say, "My goal is to stay sober till July 15" Satan will make a note of that.  He may even reduce your temptations leading up to July 15 just to make you become more complacent.  

But he will hit your with a temptation out of left field on July 16 that will wake up your reptilian brain with an unusual hunger for the addiction.  So when we actually set a date that we want to reach, he might help us reach that date knowing full well that he can keep this same cycle going for as long as we allow him to.

Relapse Is Just Part of Recovery -- WRONG!

Sometimes we accept statements that are just not true, like the statement "Relapse is just part of recovery."  That's not true!  Relapse is part of addiction not part of recovery.

Here is what is being given to our wives and girlfriends who attend the the Women's Support Groups. This quote if found in the Spouse and Family Support Guide.
"Because relapse is so common, some may rationalize that it is part of recovery as long as they are doing their best. However, it is important to remember that relapse is part of the addiction process, not the recovery process. We should be careful not to condone our loved ones’ excuses or justifications for their poor choices. . . . If our loved ones try to minimize the seriousness of a relapse, our clear and honest perspective can help them see that they are deceiving themselves and need additional help."

So what should be our reaction to relapse?  And how does relapse relate to full recovery.

Some well-meaning individuals will have you believe that a relapse is inevitable.  I don't believe that.  I believe that it's entirely possible that any one of us could go to the end of his life without another relapse.  Do we really believe in the atonement?  Really?  Then why do we discount that the Savior can keep us from relapsing?

I know of some guys whose current goal is to "minimize the negative feeling of a relapse."  That way they can continue to look forward to future relapses and not feel bad about them.  I don't think that's a worthy goal.  Sure, if I do relapse, I want to get back on my feet as soon as possible and move forward.  But that is not the goal of ARP.  If that is our goal we have our ladder leaning against the wrong wall.



I honestly feel all of us could go the rest of our lives and never act out again. Relapse is not necessary -- only a possibility!

What if your first day at an ARP meeting you found out that over half the group had over 250 days of sobriety.  What might your expectation of yourself then be?  I find this to be an interesting question.

Our Extraordinary Group

I attend an unusually supportive group!  We really do care about each other!  But what should our goal be?

Our goal should be to support each other in obtaining FULL RECOVERY -- without relapse.  Our goal should not be to just minimize the pain of relapse.

Please keep in mind that just staying sober should not be our goal either.  Sobriety is just one step in the recovery process.  If you get the chance check this out: Sobriety is to Recovery as Confession is to Repentance

So let's set our sights higher. Let's make sure our ladder is leaning against the right wall and let's not feed our reptilian brain.

Barriers vs Boundaries

With an addiction, there are things we are trying to avoid.  And for many of those bad things we try to employ either a Barrier or a Boundary.

Let me discuss each of those two approaches.

Barriers


A barrier is like a brick wall. Something keeping you from accessing what’s on the other side.  In our case it might be a filter on our computer, laptop, or smartphone. Do filters work?  Yes and no.  They are not perfect but they are necessary in some situations.  Like on a home computer with children around.  You don’t want them to accidentally run into stuff they shouldn’t be exposed to.

But these filters probably only work with young children, not with tech-savvy teens or adults. The problem with a barrier or filter is that our natural man rebels against barriers. You already know by your own experience that when you have a barrier in your way, at some point, you will test that barrier to see if you can get around it. And invariably you will.

I was attending a non-ARP recovery group a couple of years ago and one guy said. “I put a filter on my PC but the other day it quit working, so I got access to pornography. It was the filter’s fault!

Another guy in that same group said, “My roommate lets me use his laptop.  He knows I have an addiction so he put a filter on it.  But he turns it off when he is using the laptop.  The other day he forgot to turn the filter back on. So I got access and acted out. It was my roommate's fault!

About a year ago, I asked my bishop to lock down my smart phone, so I couldn’t access the internet. We used a locking program and he locked it down using a pattern that he chose.  However, after several weeks, I became “curious.”  So I tried entering a pattern.  The first pattern I entered worked and unlocked my phone.  So in this case, “It was my bishop’s fault!”  ……  NOT!

Do you see a problem and a pattern here?  I do.  Barriers just don’t work all that well. And they remove responsibility from us, to maintain our own sobriety, and put that responsibility on outside forces.

So am I saying let’s open up the floodgates?  No, not at all.  In fact, some barriers are necessary, like removing all internet access from our home or apartment for a period of time.  Please see my post regarding “TheLaw of Moses

Boundaries

Barriers are external walls.  Boundaries, however, are internal decisions or promises we make to ourselves and others.

Here are some examples of possible boundaries:
  • I will not take an internet-enabled device into the bathroom or bedroom
  • I will not use a computer at school if no one else in the room can see my screen
  • I will not go to Seven Peaks
  • I will not watch anything on YouTube without another person watching it with meOr better yet, I will not access YouTube
  • I will not watch television alone
  • I will not have cable TV in my home
  • I will not stay up at night past x:xx.
  • I will not drive down a certain street or go to a particular location
  • I will not use Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook if they have ever been a problem
  • I will not test out someone else’s filter on their device
  • And the list goes on and on……
For some strange reason, these boundaries came easily to my mind….

The advantage of a boundary, is that it's internal, it comes from the heart. It is not imposed by someone else. However, it's only as good as our commitment. 

So for a boundary to really work we need to:
  1. Write it down, so we and others can read it.  
  2. Share it with Heavenly Father.  
  3. Share it with at least one other human being.  And commit that we will confess within 48 hours if we ever break that boundary.
If we don’t do those things, it will only be a “wish” not a real boundary.

I love this quote from Karl G. Maeser, talking about barriers and boundaries:

“Place me behind prison walls [a barrier] - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground.  There is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape.

But stand me on that floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor [a boundary] never to cross it.  Can I get out of that circle?  No. Never. I’d die first.”