Archives for category: Overcoming the Natural Self

“Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.”

Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7.

I admit I have often wondered why the Addiction Recovery Program I attend claims to be of worth to family and friends of those who suffer from addiction, not just the addicts themselves. So much of the material is directed toward those with addictions. Recently, I’ve realized that it is helpful to truly understand what is going on in the lives of our loved ones.

For example, this quote which is found in Step 1 of the manual, has brought be great comfort. Often times, I find myself thinking, “If this person really loved me or cared about me at all, he or she would stop the behaviors that causes me so much pain.” After re-reading this statement, I realized that it’s not about the strength of their love for me. The addicts I care about literally can’t control that aspect of their lives. In fact, depending on the strength of their addiction, some addicts can’t control any part of their lives. This quote has helped me not take their destructive behavior personally, and that has helped ease some of the pain.

two-thousand-stripling-warriors-39660-tablet

The story of the 2000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon has been my favorite since I read it as a teenager. The story is about a group of young men who chose to go to war to protect their families. Their fathers had made a covenant with God not to take up arms again after their conversion to Christianity. The young men went to war so that their fathers would not have to break their covenant.

I’ll admit I have often wondered why it was so important for these men to keep their promise. Surely, the Lord would have understood that circumstances had changed. In fact, in other places in the scriptures, God commands fathers to protect their wives and children.

Recently, one of our Twelve Apostles, Richard G. Scott, explained why it was so important for these men to not go to war. He said, “It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit. . . [The Ammonite fathers] needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past.”

When I read his comments, I thought about some of the people I had met through the Addiction Recovery Program meetings I attended. I have seen a number of people relapse into their addictions because they refused to give up their associations with people who practiced their addiction. These people failed to build fortifications between their new lives and the behaviors of the past. They wanted to be strong enough not to drink or smoke even though they are around people who were drinking and smoking. They became discouraged when they failed to live up to their expectations, and eventually some of them gave up entirely.

I thought about how his advice related to my own addictions. In the past I had felt a little guilty about my tendency to end relationships if I started to recognize symptoms of codependency. Now, I see that I was building “wider fortifications.” I’m just not strong enough to be friends with someone who is also codependent without relapsing into unhealthy behavior. I have also felt bad about my inability to resist sugar when it is readily available in my house. I thought it was unfair to ask my family to do without because of my addiction. After reading Elder Scott’s talk, I am reconsidering the items I have in my home.

Box

I recently introduced a friend to my Addiction Recovery Program meeting, a twelve step program that is offered through my church. After attending a meeting and looking through the manual, she gave me some wonderful feedback that I would like to share:

Thank you so much for the idea and the motivation and support to start addiction recovery program. There are very powerful messages. It also gives me an idea of where to start to get into my mind and soul and start cleaning things out. Have you ever had to clean out a garage and just didn’t know where to start? It seems so over whelming, so you close the garage door and lock it up and find an excuse to do it later. Then you finally get the courage to do it and you open up the first box and find things you forgot about. Some good. Some bad. Some indifferent. Some things so specific you pull it out and hold it and go back to that exact memory.

I like how she compared the program to cleaning because that’s really what the program can do. Help you clean out whatever you don’t want in your life any more, including painful memories. The Program doesn’t cause you to forget these painful memories, but it heals you for the memories no longer hurt.

NVCChristus_Detail

I found this quote in a talk that addresses the negative consequences of abuse, but in my opinion, this information is useful for everyone, even if you’ve never been the victim of abuse. I find that it is very helpful for me to identify the source of distorted thoughts. I can dismiss these disturbing thoughts easier when I know they are not true or correct. This quote helped me identify the negative source of a number of ideas that have crossed my mind at various times in my life.

“To find relief from the consequences of abuse, it is helpful to understand their source. Satan is the author of all of the destructive outcomes of abuse. He has extraordinary capacity to lead an individual into blind alleys where the solution to extremely challenging problems cannot be found. His strategy is to separate the suffering soul from the healing attainable from a compassionate Heavenly Father and a loving Redeemer.

If you have been abused, Satan will strive to convince you that there is no solution. Yet he knows perfectly well that there is. Satan recognizes that healing comes through the unwavering love of Heavenly Father for each of His children. He also understands that the power of healing is inherent in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, his strategy is to do all possible to separate you from your Father and His Son. Do not let Satan convince you that you are beyond help.

Satan uses your abuse to undermine your self-confidence, destroy trust in authority, create fear, and generate feelings of despair. Abuse can damage your ability to form healthy human relationships. You must have faith that all of these negative consequences can be resolved; otherwise they will keep you from full recovery. While these outcomes have powerful influence in your life, they do not define the real you.

Satan will strive to alienate you from your Father in Heaven with the thought that if He loved you He would have prevented the tragedy. Do not be kept from the very source of true healing by the craftiness of the prince of evil and his wicked lies. Recognize that if you have feelings that you are not loved by your Father in Heaven, you are being manipulated by Satan.”

Richard G. Scott, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/to-heal-the-shattering-consequences-of-abuse?lang=eng

MomProgram

Today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death. I thought this would be a good time to discuss some of the thoughts I had toward her and my life in general.

For most of my life, I didn’t agree with my mother’s choices. In fact, some of her choices had a pretty negative effect on how I felt, the things I did, and to some extent the person I became. For a long time, I had hard feelings toward her because of this. These negative feelings poisoned almost every facet of my life.

As a young adult, I learned that Jesus Christ and what He did for us–the Atonement–could rid my life of this poison. I knew this. I prayed for this. Yet for some reason, for years, even decades, I still did not find peace. I continued to hope for healing, but I eventually put my pain on a shelf and almost forgot about it. As long as I could distract myself with other things, I didn’t need to deal with it. I still struggled with depression and negativity, but I attributed these emotions to other things.

However when I became a parent myself, I realized the poison was still there. I recognized the necessity of dealing with it because it was affecting my ability to be a good parent. A loving Father in Heaven directed me to my church’s Addiction Recovery Program. Through “working” the twelve steps in this program, I found the healing that I so desperately needed. Just months before her death, I finally was able to forgive my mother. I am still working on riding myself of the bad habits the poison caused me to form, but my life is much more peaceful. I can honestly say I have compassion for my mother.

The last couple of weeks I have wondered why I was able to find healing two years ago when I had yearned for it for years. I tried just as hard to live a good life back then as I do now. Why could I not tap into Christ’s power when I first learned of its ability to heal? I’ve spent some time studying the healing power of the Atonement. I’m still not completely sure why I did not find complete relief back then, but I have some ideas.

One of the first things I’ve realized through my study is that I didn’t ask for help. One of the articles I read by Richard G. Scott, one of our Twelve Apostles, said, “If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t decide to fix it yourself. Serious abuse can also benefit from professional help”(http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/to-heal-the-shattering-consequences-of-abuse?lang=eng). He recommended that we meet with our ecclesiastical leader and possibly other mental health professionals. Even though I heard similar counsel when I was in college, I did not talk with my bishop. At various times in my I did try and meet with a counselor but as soon as I recognized incompetence, I quit going. Perhaps I should have tried harder to find a good professional.

I think the biggest mistake I made is that I did not acknowledge and repent of my own wrong doing. Working the 12 steps in the ARP program, especially Step 4: Truth (http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/bc/content/arp/content/manuals/ARPGuide_English_36764.pdf?lang=eng), helped me recognize this. The human response to my situation was, “Your mother was not treating you correctly; you were not obligated to be kind to her.” However, Christ sees things differently. I came to recognize that if I truly wanted to tap into the full power of the Atonement, I had to be one with Christ. I had to act like He would in every situation. Anytime I failed to do this, I needed to repent (Obviously, I repent a lot). When I repented of the instances where I did not act or think like the Savior would have in my relationship with my mother, that’s when the miracles started to take place.

I also have realized that I could not have recognized my mom’s humanity–a vital step in the forgiveness process–until I was a parent myself. Being a parent is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I really hated some of the things my mom used to do, and yet I find myself doing similar things. Breaking the cycle of dysfunctionality is also very difficult. My mother’s parents also made some bad choices and I know that these choices negatively impacted my mother. Mom was human, and she made a lot of mistakes, but I think she did the best job she could.

Lastly, I have started to wonder if the ability to forgive, like charity, is a benevolent gift from God. I have heard a number of people say, “I was just able to forgive them at this point in my life. I don’t know why.” Many of the articles that I read from our church leaders that talked about the ability of the Atonement to heal us, repeat over and over that the healing process takes time. Perhaps, all those years ago, it just wasn’t my time.

I am so grateful for the power of the Atonement and the healing it has brought to me. I’m grateful that I can honestly say my past does not define me. I am not controlled any more by the negative choices of others. I’m grateful that I can look forward to having a normal mother-daughter relationship with my mother in the next life. I’m grateful that the poison of my own negativity is no longer affecting my ability to raise my family.

I have noticed that a lot of people in my life, including myself, have recently been hurt or offended by something someone said. This seems to be a common trial. I had already decided to write a post on this topic when I heard Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy.” This talk perfectly explains what I needed to say. I recommend reading the whole talk. I will just quote parts of it.

When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment. . . . when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.

These comments help remind me that I don’t have all the information and that my judgment is often not reliable. I don’t know what is in someone else’s heart. When I remind myself of this, when I remind myself of other’s humanity, it is easier for me to forgive them for their hurtful comments or swallow my pride.

Elder Uchtdorf gives wonderful advice for how we can increase our ability to forgive.

We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. . . . The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.

I admit that I am not always capable of loving my neighbor and forgiving easily. But I am good at loving God and when I think about making an effort to increase my love for Him, I can easily say, “I can do that.” So if increasing my love for God will help me love my neighbor more, then maybe I can do that to.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng

“It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourselves by your sins instead of your divine potential. . . Don’t listen to him. We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents. Now . . . compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time. I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so he could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged–never to give up or flee our allotted field of service–but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying.”

I continue to make mistakes. Sometimes, I get really frustrated at my lack of progress. This quote brought me great comfort and helped me see God as the loving Father that he is.

http://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/05/four-titles?lang=eng&query=Uchtdorf,+Four+Titles,+Ensign,+2013,+58