Avoiding Temptation vs Resisting Temptation

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 slim to none.

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 others waiting in line 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 altogether?

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 altogether.

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 great.

"Avoiding" temptation is more effective than "resisting" temptation!

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 back 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 yourself 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 where you're going to end up.

Becoming My Own Parent *

I have a daughter whom I love fiercely. She's just a toddler, but she is one of the most fun people I've ever met. We love to sing together and we love to have dance parties.  

Watching her grow from day to day is one of my greatest blessings. 

A while ago, I was given an insight into my own life thanks to the relationship I have with my daughter. 

I learned that I need to be my own parent!

Throughout the course of my addiction, I would say that I have been more of my own high school buddy than being my own parent. 

I would say things to myself like, 

     "Oh man, we'd get in so much trouble if we got caught!" Or

     "Homework (or my responsibilities) are lame!   Let's ditch!" 

It sounds silly, I know. 

When I was my own teenaged friend, I found the guardrails in my life to be obstructing and restricting.

The most valuable thing about being my own parent is that I love myself fiercely! 

And it's because I love myself the way a parent would love their child that I've decided to give myself house rules to follow. 

I've given myself a routine daily schedule that has activities important to my spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health.

I study the scriptures daily and choose the study topic for the day. 

I keep filters and other barriers (for which only a trusted individual knows the passwords) on my electronic devices. 

I've heard it said that children don't need their parent to be a friend near as much as they need their parent to be a parent. 

As I've tried to love myself the way I would love my daughter (and the way God loves his children) It's made all the difference in my life.

* This post was written by my good friend, Doug.  I appreciate his insights!!!

My Most Important Recovery Decision


There was one decision I made some time ago that has helped me the most in my recovery.

And that decision was to get up a half hour earlier each day and do my dailies first thing!

And when I say “my dailies” I include a minimum of three things:     
  • First. read from the Book of Mormon 
  • Second, do some kind of “Step Work” from the Addiction Recovery Program
  • Third, say a kneeling verbal prayer including actual names of family and friends
Of course, I can include other items in my dailies, but this is the basic list I shoot for each day.

And if I haven’t done those three things, I don’t feel like I have a good start to the day.

I realize that others do their dailies at different times.

But for me, if I try to do my dailies at a different time, something always gets in the way.  

There are very few interruptions at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning.

And in retrospect, this one decision has helped my recovery more than anything else.

He Is Building A Palace *

The Psalmist wrote: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”   (Psalm 127:1)

C.S. Lewis made an insightful comment on building houses:

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Unless we are willing to let go and allow the Lord to build our lives, we will labor in vain to build our own. The vanity and unbelief of clinging to our own will denies us the privilege of experiencing Christ. There is no other way.

*The above was sent to me by my good friend, Steven.  It applies well to both Steps 3 and 6.

Girlfriends and Recovery


In the five years I’ve been attending 12 Step Meetings, I’ve observed a pattern:

  1. Single guy struggles with recovery and sobriety
  2. Guy starts dating
  3. Sobriety becomes easier
  4. Guy feels good about his recovery 
  5. Girl breaks up
  6. Guy crashes and burns and goes back to Step 1

So what is really happening?  

What’s important to recognize is that the guy has not been taking the 12 Steps seriously and is not that far into recovery. He has not yet given his life over to the Savior.

So when the girl enters his life, Satan lightens up and allows the guy to feel like he is in control of his life. The need to depend on the Savior becomes less and the guy starts to depend on his girlfriend instead. So when they break up. He is suddenly without any support and he falls back to where he was before.

So what is the solution?  

It would be great for guys to recognize that they need to recover “for themselves” not for another person. And they should be confident that they are farther along in recovery before they start serious dating.  

Ideally, the single guy should have a sponsor, work on recovery every day, go through all 12 Steps, do the action steps, answer all the questions, and learn to depend on the Savior before getting a girlfriend.

There is another version of this pattern:

  1. Single guy struggles with recovery and sobriety
  2. Guy starts dating
  3. Sobriety becomes easier
  4. Guy feels good about his recovery 
  5. Guy and girl get engaged
  6. They get married
  7. Weeks or months after marriage the guy relapses

This is the same scenario as the first, but in this scenario, Satan lightens up until after the marriage. In the meantime, the guy has stopped attending 12 Step meetings and feels he is now in control. And then Satan comes back with a vengeance.  

The guy is not prepared. He mistakenly thought that he had conquered his addiction.  And now Satan and the addiction is impacting two lives, not just one.

The solution:

The solution for this scenario is the same as the first. Don’t get serious with a young woman till you are sure you are recovering for yourself and you have a good relationship with the Savior.

The solution for the second scenario, once they are married, is more complicated. The guy and his wife need to come back to the 12 Step meetings –- the husband needs to seriously do the 12 Steps and the wife should be involved in the Spouse and Family Support program to help her understand what she can and cannot do to help her husband and herself.
                                           

Will It Please Satan?

The Situation
Sometimes, when making a decision, we have two or more alternatives to choose from.  And our human mind is capable of justifying some or all of those alternative choices.  And perhaps they all might appear good or at least acceptable.
So how should we decide?  Well, it dawned on me that there is one question we can ask ourselves in making a choice.  And that question is:  “Will this choice please Satan?”  If the answer is “YES,” we can eliminate that particular choice.
Case In Point
Friday night I set my alarm to wake up early to attend the temple and put names on the Prayer Roll.  And at that time I fully intended to get up, do my dailies, and go to the temple.
However, when the alarm went off Saturday morning, I didn’t feel like getting up.  And here is what went through my mind.

  • I am really tired!  Probably because I didn’t sleep well the night before.
  • Therefore, I would be justified in either turning off the alarm or resetting it to a later time.
  • After all, I really need my sleep to stay healthy!
  • And it’s not a requirement to go to the temple every Saturday 

But then I asked myself the question: “Would it please Satan if I didn’t get up right now.” 
And the answer was “Yes, It would please Satan!!!"
And here are the reasons:

  • I would have made a commitment to myself the night before and then broken that commitment first thing the next morning.  That would please Satan.
  • If I didn’t get up right then, I might not make it to the temple at all. That would really please Satan!
  • And if I don’t make it to the temple I won’t feel the spirit or put those names on the Prayer Roll.  That would be a real winner with Satan!! 

The Decision
So I knew what I needed to do.  I got up, did my dailies, said my prayers, took my shower and went to the temple.  And I’m so glad I did!!!
But if I hadn’t asked myself that question, I could have easily justified just staying in bed.
I have decided that I need to ask myself that question more often:   
"Will this decision please Satan???"

The "I Have to" Syndrome *

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” For years I have been fascinated with entrepreneurs and inventions. Many entrepreneurs don’t think the way most people do. They think of improvements and ways to change processes or products to facilitate increased efficiency, cost savings, or ease of use. I find this fascinating because when I see a new invention, I think: “that’s genius! Why didn’t I think of that? It was right there, under my nose, all along.” I have always gotten stuck in the rut of “this is how it has always been done and there is no other way to do it.” Over the past few years, going to Italy as a missionary and to China for a business trip, I recognize that people accomplish the same goals through entirely different means, and it works out for them! In some cases, others even find better ways to do things that I thought could not be improved. It can be so easy to get stuck in this rut of thinking, especially as an addict. Behavioral processes and patterns become so consistent and common that they can literally become hardwired into the makeup of one’s brain. One thing that has helped me to break the cycle of addiction is to think “outside the box.” An example of this “outside the box” thinking was a lightbulb moment my freshman year of college. I went to the bishop to confess acting out, just like I had done with every other bishop before. He asked what happened. I told him that I was feeling really triggered, I had to take a shower, and I acted out while taking a shower. He stopped me and said: “you don’t have to take a shower.” I was really confused. I responded: “I don’t have to take a shower? Yes I do! Showers are important. I need to be clean.” He took a different angle. “Would it be the end of the world if you didn’t shower?” “Well, no.” I responded. “Are you going to go to Hell if you don’t take a shower?” “Uhhh….I don’t think so?” I replied. This news that I didn’t have to shower had me practically rethinking everything I thought to be true. That was such a lightbulb moment for me. I DON’T HAVE TO SHOWER!! What a mind-blowing idea. As I have reflected on this fact over the years, I have seen how I facilitate and justify my acting out in addiction by telling myself “but I have to do this….” I have seen this pattern over and over. It goes something like this: “I’m feeling so tempted right now. Taking a shower is probably not a good idea. But I HAVE to. I’ll probably smell if I don’t.” Or “I’m feeling really tempted right now and getting on the internet is probably not the smartest idea…but I HAVE to get my homework done tonight by midnight or else it will be late.” The truth is, we don’t HAVE to do anything. By buying into the idea that we HAVE to do something, is buying into Satan’s lie that he tried to deceive us with since the beginning of time. Satan’s plan that opposed the Plan of Salvation was probably called “The You Have to Plan.” You will be forced to be perfect so that everyone can return and live with God. Well. That plan wasn’t chosen because making people “HAVE” to do something gives our agency over to Satan and turns us into “objects” to be acted upon and not “agents” to act for ourselves (2 Nephi 2:26). Sound familiar? Ever been in a place where you felt like you “HAVE” to do something like homework that kept you up late or research online that always ended up in relapse? Telling ourselves that we “HAVE” to go into an environment that is threatening our sobriety not only sedates our conscience (or lulls us into carnal security) and provides an abundance of excuses for after we relapse, but it also hands the reins of agency over to Satan. As we all know, “the devil cheateth [our] souls and leadeth [us] away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21). Getting stuck in the trap of “I HAVE TO” is dangerous because “If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you always got.” Let’s resolve today to be a bit more like our entrepreneur friends and think outside the I-HAVE-to-do-it-this-way box. The reason this is such a powerful paradigm shift is because thinking outside the box is effectively taking the reins back from Satan and using our powerful gift of agency to choose an alternate ending to the oh so common “slippery slope” of relapse.
* This post was written by my good friend Tyler, who inspires me every day with his wisdom.

Which one of these is true for you?

Regarding Temptation:

Which one of these is true for you?
  1. I’m not tempted at all.
  2. When I’m tempted, I white-knuckle it. **
  3. When I'm tempted, I start to white-knuckle it and then I do PMS.
  4. When I'm tempted, I do PMS as soon as I recognize what’s happening.
  5. When I'm tempted, I give in immediately. **
      ** How is that working out for you??



----------------------------------------------------------

What is PMS?
  • P=Prayer  (First pray, and in many cases, the temptation will go away.)
  • M=Move  (Physically move away from the temptation. Go outdoors, or for a walk, or a drive.)
  • S=Support  (Reach Out and call or text a friend who understands and who will pray for you.)


Are We Modern-day Zoramites?

Let's read a little from Alma chapter 31 as Alma talks about the Zoramites:

They did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship.

Now the place was called by them Rameumptom.

For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.

Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.

Now in 1 Nephi chapter 19 Nephi states: 

"I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning."  

And he suggests that we do that for ourselves.

So what if we take the account of the Zoramites, and modernize the wording slightly.  

How might it read?


Those with an addiction did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the 12 Step Meeting.

Now the place was called by them the place of the 12 Step Meeting. 

For behold, every man did share a similar share about how he really wanted to recover and how he intended to follow the steps of recovery.

Now, after the men had all offered up their shares after this manner, they returned to their homes, never opening their ARP Guide nor doing any step work until they had assembled themselves together again the next week, to offer up their shares in a similar manner.

Are any of us guilty of this?

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!!!!