Monthly Archives: March 2014

Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 1

Staying Abstinent by Using the Tools of the ProgramWhen I am stressed, I have a tendency to engage in behaviors that will relieve my stress. Duh! I wrote recently about how turning to those behaviors instead of the Lord can be like putting other gods before Him. So what can I do to help relieve my stress while staying abstinent from my addiction? What does it look like to turn to the Lord instead of those other “gods?” I have a number of tools that I have learned about from various 12-Step fellowships over the years, and some that I have found on my own. I am planning to write individual posts on some of the tools, but here is a partial list of the ones I have found most useful. My next post will have the second half of the list.

Prayer and Meditation

The first and most obvious tool is prayer and meditation.  If my boss is chewing me out or someone is being rude to me I can, in that moment, say a little prayer in my heart and ask the Lord to take away my anger or frustration and tell me how to proceed.  I can ask Him to help me see the other person through His eyes.  If someone in my family has pushed me to the breaking point and I know that I am about to do or say something that I will regret, I can go to my room, get on my knees and ask the Lord to take my burden, strengthen me to be able to bear it, or give me guidance. Sometimes when I do this, I tell Him that I am going to remain there, on my knees, until the feeling, craving, etc. is lifted. It is scary to put my faith on the line like that, but the Lord has always come through for me, although on occasion my knees start to hurt while I am waiting.


Going to a 12-Step meeting is an awesome way to remove myself from temptation and recharge my spiritual batteries. In meetings I can sometimes hear the Lord’s guidance to me through the voice of another person when my own spiritual ears are too clogged with the wax of hopelessness or pride to be able to receive personal revelation. I can serve others by what I say, or just by giving someone a hug or a smile. I can receive the same kind of service myself. I always feel closer to the Lord when I go to a meeting. If there is no meeting available, I can go to the ARP website and listen to a podcast of a meeting.


Attending a meeting is one form of service. I won’t even attempt to list all the other opportunities to serve, but here are some ideas.  Reach out to someone who might need it, donate time, do family history work, do temple work, take a new mom’s toddler to the park for an hour, mow someone’s lawn. Any kind of service that is given in Christ-like love can get me outside of myself and my own problems and bring me blessings and a new attitude. But I need to be careful that there are no strings attached to my service; that I am not shaming, throwing guilt, trying to control someone, or attempting to take someone’s agency as I serve.


Sponsoring someone, or being a support person to someone within the ARP program, is an awesome form of service.  As I sponsor I find myself prompted to say things which are just as important for me to be reminded of as they are for my sponsee to hear.  A sponsor is a guide; someone who can hold up a mirror so that another person can see themselves and their behavior more honestly and can learn how the Steps can help them find serenity and recovery.

Telephone Calls

Sometimes, when I am tempted to use my drug of choice and I cannot seem to find the strength to just turn away, I will make a phone call to someone and tell myself that I won’t act out until after I get off the phone.  Most of the time I call someone else who is working the steps and by the time we are done talking, I don’t feel the craving any more.  If I still have it, I can make another phone call, or try one of the other tools. Sometimes staying abstinent has to be done one hour or even one minute at a time.

To Be Continued

In the next post I will share more of my favorite tools for staying abstinent and close to the Lord instead of giving in to my addiction for comfort when I am stressed.

Have you tried any of these tools? Please feel free to share your positive experiences for other readers. I hope you will find some more ideas in this post, or the next one, that will help you stay abstinent.

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Prayer, Meditation and PonderingStaying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 2Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 3Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 4


Can God Understand My Powerlessness?

Picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking.In the Church we are taught that in some unfathomable way in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus somehow experienced and took upon Him every sin, transgression, challenge, feeling, and experience that has ever been or will ever be experienced by any child of God.  Every feeling? What about powerlessness? How could the Lord Omnipotent possibly fully experience powerlessness?  It seems like a contradiction in terms, a paradox.

I was reminded of one of my first profound experiences with powerlessness.  One of my children was refusing to get out of bed and go to school.  There really wasn’t anything she cared enough about for me to be able to use it as an enticement, or even as a threat.  As I stood looking down at her lying in her bed, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness.  How had it come to this?  She was my child.  I was her mother.  Yet there was nothing I could do to “make” her behave the way I wanted her to.  It occurred to me that once children grow too large to physically carry, we really don’t have much control over them at all unless we resort to threats of physical violence or emotional abuse, neither of which was an acceptable option to me.

And so it is with Jesus.  He stands at the door and knocks.  He whispers to me through the still small voice.  He longs to bestow upon me every blessing I could possibly want.  Yet He cannot make me open the door.  He cannot make me open my ears or recognize His voice.  He cannot make me open my spiritual eyes and recognize Him at my side.  He cannot force me to receive the blessings He is holding out to me.  He cannot do any of those things without compromising my agency, which would defeat the whole purpose of His mission.  Is this not powerlessness?

He needs me to be His hands, feet and voice in the lives of others.  How does He feel when I am too busy, or afraid? What about Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother?  How do They feel when They watch us stumble and fall?  Do Their hearts cry out to be able to pick us up and comfort us?  What if we don’t recognize Their hands in our lives, and refuse to be comforted?  Do They weep for our sorrows and pain?  Do They long to be able to just hold us?  Rock us?  Tell us it will be alright?

Yes, God knows what it feels like to be powerless.  And as we learn to accept our powerlessness, along with all the feelings associated with it, we grow to become more like Them. Are you ready to give up the illusion of control and confess your powerlessness? It is the first step to freedom.

  • What are you reluctant to let go of – to admit that you are powerless over?
  • Write about how you have tried to control this matter and what the results have been.
  • Are you satisfied with the results?
  • Are you willing to let go and trust the Lord in this matter?
  • What footwork do you need to do in order to let it go?


Trust: Do Not Put Other Gods Before Him

Deuteronomy 5:7, “Thou shalt have none other gods before me.”

When is my addiction like another god which I am putting before the Lord? When I turn to my addiction for comfort at times of stress instead of turning to Him.

When I am stressed, what happens in my brain goes something like this:

  • I feel uncomfortable/stressed/anxious, etc.
  • I don’t like feeling this way.  I just want the feeling to stop!
  • What will make me feel better?  I know!
  • My old friend #$%&# (in my case, food, but you can substitute any behavior or substance).

At this point in the process, I begin to obsess about how to use my addiction to make myself feel better. Unless I do something to break the pattern, I will probably act out, sooner or later.

The Lord tells us not to put any other gods before him, and what will happen if we do (2 Chronicles 7:19-22). We will lose the blessings and privileges he has given us. I will lose the progress and recovery that I have gained if I turn to my addiction instead of the Lord.

So what can I do to break the pattern?  How can I turn to the Lord when I am stressed or anxious or experiencing any other feeling I don’t want to feel?

I stop what I am doing, take a deep breath and literally turn to my right (Isaiah 41:10,13), where I imagine that the Lord is standing by my side. I ask Him to take this from me; to help me to bear this burden by giving me the strength I need to get through this situation without giving in to my addiction. I remember that he has promised that he will give me the power to do all things which are expedient unto Him (Moroni 7:33), and I make a decision to trust Him and let His power flow into me. I may have to do it more than once until the feeling subsides completely, but eventually, it will be gone and I will be grateful that I chose abstinence instead of letting my addiction win.

  • What do you turn to for comfort when you are stressed?
  • Are you “putting other gods before Him?”
  • What could you do differently that would help you more than what you do now?


Growth: Making Better Choices

This poem by Portia Nelson has been helpful to me in understanding the process of change and growth, and giving me a visual image of learning to make better choices.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
from  There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery
by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Love: The Power of the Universe

From My JournalI love you so much. If you could feel the smallest part of my love you would be filled with unspeakable joy.  Let yourself feel it, my dear one.  Let yourself bask in the warmth and feel the cool breeze of my love for you.  Let yourself know, in your heart and deep in your bowels, how much you are loved.  My love is the power of the Universe – indeed all universes which have been or will be created.  It surrounds you like fluid surrounds an infant in the womb.  It nurtures you.  You breathe it in and out.  You are cushioned by it; protected by it; you hear the sound of it in your ears.  It helps you maintain the body temperature you need to survive and thrive.  Let yourself feel it.  Release your disappointments into my love like a drop of food coloring into the ocean.  I will absorb it and all you will feel is my love.  All will be well.  Go in peace.  Amen.

Tools: Quality Prayer

Tools of the ProgramThere was a time in my life when I found it very difficult to connect with God through prayer.  I studied my scriptures every day, and walked in faith to the best of my ability, but when I knelt in prayer, it felt like my prayers were bouncing around inside the room. My thoughts went around in circles and I often found myself indulging in “vain repetition.”  Answers? No real connection there either.  I saw that God answered my prayers sometimes, by the actions or words of others, but I longed for a direct connection.  I desperately wanted to feel like I could hear the Lord answer my prayers personally. Not knowing what else to do, I just kept praying.

Over time, I stumbled upon a novel thought.  For the most part, my prayer life wasn’t so much a conversation with God, as it was a monologue.  I would kneel and pray, following the pattern I had been taught, finish with an “Amen,” get up and go about my business, wondering why I couldn’t hear the Lord’s voice.  Perhaps, after I was done praying, I needed to wait and listen to give the Lord a chance to say something to me – really to give myself a chance to listen quietly and hear what He was saying!  I began to practice this “listening” phase of my prayer and started to recognize thoughts coming into my mind; thoughts that were not my own and sometimes not even related to what I had prayed about!  He was speaking to me! I was finally learning to “hear” the still, small voice.

Then I noticed a very disturbing thing.  By the time several hours had passed, I could remember that the Lord had spoken to me, but I could not remember what He had said! To me that seemed like the height of disrespect!  The great God of the Universe had spoken to ME and I couldn’t remember what He had said! So I started bringing a small notebook and a pen to the side of the couch where I prayed. As soon as I finished praying, I would write down what I heard.

Pretty soon I realized that it might be more useful to me to have His answers recorded if I also recorded the contents of my prayer.  It seemed like the answers I recorded in my little book were out of context.  So I decided to try writing my prayer. I wrote my prayer in one color, put down my pen, picked up His, listened, and recorded what I heard in a different color.

I discovered an amazing thing as I began this practice.  It seems that I use a different part of my brain when I write than when I am thinking or saying my prayer.  As I write my thoughts, they slow down and are not jumbled.  They are more coherent and the act of writing them down helps me to process them in a very helpful and productive way.  No more vain repetitions. No more wondering what I should pray for and about.  My thoughts flow as I pour out my heart to my Heavenly Father on the page.  I have been able to capture great words of comfort and direction in this prayer journal and go back and study it.  When I do not have time to write, it almost feels like I have been cheated.

Elder Richard Scott has spoken on several occasions about the way in which he uses writing to receive personal revelation.  There are links to some of those talks on my resources page.  I have shared this tool of written prayer with many people over the years.  Some people are not ready to invest the time it takes to do it in their relationship with the Lord.  Those who have tried it have found new insights and a new and deeper relationship with God.  Are you ready to invest your time? I could never put a price on the value of the return I have received on this investment.


Growth: Life is Like a Mountain Road

Mountain RoadSome people believe that life is a journey over continually unfamiliar territory.  We start at “point A,” wherever we are now, and are trying to get to “point B” off in the distance somewhere.  Sometimes the road is straight and sometimes it curves.  Sometimes it is hard and at other times easy, but the one constant is that we have never passed this way before, and thus are constantly challenged by things we are unfamiliar with.

I believe that the journey of life is more accurately compared to a road that circles a mountain in an upward spiral, climbing toward the top.  As we follow the road up the mountain, around each bend in the road we find familiar scenery, things we have faced before in some form or other.  It is true that the actual section of the road we are traveling may be unfamiliar, but it is like things we have done before.  We learn from our experience and our mistakes and from our victories and accomplishments.  We learn that we can ford the rivers and traverse the ravines that cross our path.

Each time we come around again to a familiar scene, we find that we have gained perspective; we have moved up the mountain and have a better view than we had the last time we passed this point. Sometimes the trip around has been relatively easy and we may not have gained much elevation over our previous visit. We have experienced some growth. At other times the journey has been a challenge; the road has been steep and there may have been rocks, boulders and potholes scattered along the way.  After such a segment in our journey we often find that our perspective has increased greatly and our understanding as well. We have experienced significant growth.

So long as we continue to climb, we will continue to grow and be rewarded with spectacular views and increased understanding.  However, if we get stuck – if we refuse to continue the journey because it seems too hard – we deprive ourselves of the rewards that await us, both along the way, and when we reach the summit.  The challenge is to remain focused on the summit – the objective of our journey – and also to enjoy the views and accomplishments along the way.

  • What “familiar scenery” do you keep coming to in your life?
  • How have you grown in wisdom or ability between visits?
  • How steep has your road been?
  • Do you regret having chosen an easy path or to have stopped climbing at some point?
  • Are you willing to choose a fork in the road that will help you grow more even if it is a steeper climb? What might that look like?
  • What have been the rewards you have received for continuing the climb and not giving up when it gets hard?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Progress – Climbing through the cloudsPersistence – Doing the FootworkFailure? – Like a Baby Learning to WalkFocus: Riding through the Boulders