I struggled with self-forgiveness for a long time. I found I had to learn to trust that God would see to it that I would become stronger and stronger as I simply did my part in following a program of recovery. That in the meantime, God did love me and that I was acceptable to Him in spite of my imperfections….imperfections that He was working on in His time and way. You may find, like me, that when you are doing well, evil is present with you, telling you you are not doing it good enough or that you are lacking. This is a voice to surrender – not believe! Can’t you imagine the devil – seeing you do well and resenting it. Wanting to tell you you are screwing it up…trying to keep you “in your place.” Listen to that still small voice telling you you are good, your efforts are noticed, you are a beloved son – and you don’t have to live beneath your privilege as His own Son anymore!
Recovery results in our becoming more flexible and accurate in our thinking – to see and react more effectively and accurately to our emotional and relational environment. Its physical analogy is like having light on so we can see the opticals and vehicles along our path. This is a result of walking more and more closely with God. As one example, I have found a softening in my sense of being separate from others.
In speaking with many young or immature religious Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Muslims, the religiously atheistic, strict political conservatives or liberals, or the rich or poor who identify with their class (etc), I find a common emotion… a sense of not only trusting their in-group, which is fine – but also an elitist sense that they are somehow fundamentally different and separate in their humanity from the non-believing.
For me as a Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), this elitist tendency found various justifications just as I am sure it does with others who identify strongly with an ideology. In my recovery I found this tendency toward separateness and elitism softening without my having to abandon the strengths of my beliefs in the least…
This common emotion among us (with an immaturely developed or understood ideology) makes others less than human, alien. I have come to not like this feeling. I have discovered in recovery that it has roots in obsessiveness and personal narcissism rather than in God or in my beliefs. I would rather like to see myself as relatable and in relationship with others – all of whom are on a continuum of progress or regress in all the various issues that I myself am or could be.
The very obsessive/elitism vs. relatable/connection continuum I speak of here is one of these many issues by which I can connect with others – having compassion, identity, or admiration for them in regard to their place, as I might see it, on this continuum. To see that we are all tied together as literal spiritual brothers and sisters struggling with various shades of the same issues. That maybe I can get help from you or you from me on this or other issues.
Do I get frustrated at the judgmental?
I myself can be judgmental.
Do I get resentful of the undisciplined and selfish?
I myself can be undisciplined and selfish.
When I see that whenever I am disturbed, it is a reflection of something in me…I can surrender the things more easily within me that I do and think – and stay in peace. This comes from working the steps which improves our conscious contact with God – making all this wonderful new life possible.
You may have heard that as we recover we feel better. We feel resentment better, we feel anxiety better, we feel depression better….. This is because we are not medicating our emotions and now get to learn to master reality with our Higher Power’s help. In the meantime, depression and anxiety are bodily/chemical events – NOT something that has accurate information about who we are – other than to remind us to seek God. I find Evil tries to play on the body’s chemical habits and events to tempt us to feel bad about past (depression) or worried about our future (anxiety). If messages you receive aren’t from the Spirit of your Higher Power (that you are learning to recognize by praying to Him) they don’t need to be trusted. It doesn’t help anything to see yourself as less than you hoped for at this point, or to worry what your girlfriend might be thinking, for example.
Keep up the good work, be sober TODAY.
Practicing mindfulness is helpful to recovery. Step 4 and 5 are what REALY helped me to learn mindfulness. Specifically, as I turned my mind in a calm way to my character weaknesses, systematically inventorying them, and then confessed them to another human being – it was as though I was stepping outside my sins and weaknesses and observing them as something I DO – not something I AM. So as result of these steps 4 and 5, I have become more aware when my weaknesses come to knock on my door. With this awareness, I can slow my reaction down sufficiently to turn to God and allow His Spirit to fill me instead. This is a mindfulness process – of nonjudgmental observation and compassion for self and others and staying in God’s peace….My peace and sense of self and connection to God can then be like a chessboard – Consistent and unchanging….and emotions and events are simply moving pieces on the chessboard that I am patient with….I am not unduly influenced by the pieces, however full of sound and fury they may strut and fret their little parts.
One thing I want to emphasize, because it is not easy, but it makes a big difference and is sometimes critical; use your telephone to call guys who are also in the program. Addicts typically hate to make calls. It is one of those things that those who are recovering do that those who are not recovering neglect. Lust builds up and by surrendering it to another human being as well as to God, it neutralizes its effects…calls are huge with this as well as teaching us a thousand things about connection that is valuable practice.
Would you commit to making at least three phone calls per week to a recovering man, and to continue to text as well, in order to surrender temptation and make connections?
So many with more than two months of recovery begin to feel slightly complacent – like they perhaps have “got it now.” Yet it is amazing how cunning baffling and powerful lust is at getting into the little access holes we can leave for it if we are not careful watchful and prayerful.
It wasn’t simply working the program itself that had an effect on healing and real connection for me – but largely it was in the act of demonstrating a willingness to submit consistently to a program – any decent program of recovery. This was a huge relief to me when it suddenly broke into my awareness! In other words I gave up my will to God in the only way I could comprehend at the time – go to my weekly meetings, do my daily reading and writing, pray, and surrender lust to recovering friends. Now I could rest assured and confident and simply watch the miracles.
That is it – God does the rest. The surgeon cuts, God heals. We water and nourish the plant, God sees that it grows. The program may shift from time to time as we, in consultation, see a need, or we move to another phase, but now that is the program we work … and we should be careful and prayerful to never make our program to easy or too oppressive – but to mostly just follow counsel of others before us.
Too easy, but we look beyond the mark…we sometimes resist simply looking and living. The recovering man consistently does what the man not recovering is not willing to do – the program.
“Street lust” means being particularly aware of attractive women (substitute men if that that is your sexual template) – driving, walking, in the grocery store, etc…..and taking a real good look. This is a tough habit for most – and often the last to go. I want to share what has worked for me.
Whenever I would happen across a woman that was particularly attractive, I tried to say a quick prayer for her and see if that allowed the moment to pass. However, if I noticed that I had a shift in feeling that lingered for more than a minute or two, I would call a recovering friend to make a surrender. At first I was calling a lot!!! I am not one who is typically excited about making calls frankly, even though I am always glad when I do. Eventually, It wasn’t worth taking the look in the first place in order to avoid making so many calls.
Now, as my peripheral vision sees a potentially triggering woman, rather than go through the little ritual of checking to confirm or disconfirm my suspicion, I will instead look elsewhere and experience that momentary off-balance feeling of wondering what I am missing. It further helps cement the deal by my orienting my body in a different direction altogether. If I happen to directly (vs peripherally) see a woman who is triggering, I allow my eyes to “bounce off” her. In denying myself in this way, my brain started to believe thatI had all I needed with God; that He would take care of all my needs. I felt more and more like I was walking with Him in my everyday life and public experience. Now, if needed at all, it is easy to glance farther away or let my eyes “bounce off” from potentially triggering women and simply feel peace.
At present this kind of consciousness in having a need to look away rarely happens at all and only in particularly triggering situations. Instead I find myself looking back on interactions and realizing I am experiencing old bald dudes and pretty young women in largely the same way…people with varying emotions and experiences and personalities that I interact with. For the single person, this is particularly useful, because you can better discern what it is you really want in a partner apart from a baseline attraction. The single guy sometimes decides themselves into not surrendering a tendency to scan the streets etc because they are single and looking. That is not true. They are better off slowing down or stopping the street lust so they can find balance and peace with God.
A significant portion of this change occurred by my practicing another level of surrender I would like to write about later after this has been practiced for a while.
Dear Recovering Man,
Is there are a part of you that believes that just the right attractive woman or man will simply and amazingly take care of everything you ever yearned for – motivating all that is good within you? Two things in this world are deceptive in this way: Riches and Beauty. They are God substitutes.
As you continue to consistently surrender lust, the new kind of capacity and love you have started to experience will grow in you. Then you will be ready to express your sexuality in marriage with a beautiful woman of your choice – because then you will know how to love! You will have God and so not be dependent on either your woman or your fantasy of romance. You will be a provider to her of good things – and she will love you back….it is a divine triangle.
First, your foundation…keep surrendering the deception of lust…by growing stronger and stronger in your higher power and firmer and firmer in reality.
So good that you are finding sobriety – which for me has always associated with clearer thinking, less obsessiveness, and more flexibility around everyday things not even associated with the addiction.….which makes it worth it all by itself. For me there is no doubt that keeping connections maintain this freedom. Connection with God and others. I need this everyday or I am vulnerable to all kinds of old stuff, so it is first priority regardless of anything else. Please call or text recovery friends, sponsor, or other accountability folks at the first sign of lust…This neutralizes its effects so it suddenly isn’t pouring over the dam and you wonder how you got to where you are.
As time passed in my sobriety, many other emotions presented themselves that I had to surrender -resentments, boredom, and fears for example. Over time, by not resorting to my “drug” to medicate these emotions – but turning to God, I found a great calm come over my mind that I had not experienced before. I also felt more interested and satisfied by everyday small things – I felt connected to God. This freedom and this connection was the greatest medication I could hope for – but with no regrets, no coming back-to-reality, no self-destruction. Only peace.