Affirmative Actions
12/30/2011 10:59:18 AM
I am not talking about a policy favoring victims of historical discrimination. I am talking about our actions -- they can be negative, positive, or zero. Our actions and choices every day can pull us away from God or move us closer to God or do neither.

A lot of times, I think of recovery as sobriety only -- "the absence of negative actions." This, I think, is a mistake. It causes us to focus on only one aspect of recovery and only one plan of attacking our vice. We hack at the leaves of evil without striking at the root.

If we think this way, then when we take personal inventory about our progress, we tend to focus only on our negative actions -- when was the last time I acted out? how often do I act out? how bad was it?

Often, the answers to those questions might be so discouraging that it perpetuates the cycle because the feeling of hopelessness leads to more self-medication. And at a CERTAIN point in addiction, we might not even have much of a practical choice about limiting our bad behaviors.

Personal inventory should focus less on the negative and more on the positive, the affirmative steps that we take to try and build our relationship with God -- When was the last time I read scriptures? How often do I read them? How mentally engaged am I when I read them?

If we focused on improving the answers to THESE questions, I wonder if the answers to the other questions would eventually improve by themselves.

What if the bishop never asked about the negative behaviors -- what if he only said "I know what you struggle with. I want to help you feel the spirit, which will eventually heal you. Every week, I want you to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down when I see you. The thumbs up means you read your scriptures and prayed every day. The thumbs down means you missed a day. I am not interested in a "negative actions" report; I want an "affirmative actions" report. If you have a thumbs down, we can talk. The focus of our chat will be on your efforts to keep the spirit in your life."

Even better, what if we said that to ourselves?

On a previous post, I made an analogy to Rocky -- about how he was a hero not because he won, but because he kept getting up. He went the distance. Here's another boxing analogy. We are like fighters and our Bishops and other supporters are like our trainers. A good trainer might spend a little time telling us what he sees about our fight from the corner -- "he's killin' ya with that combo -- keep your left up," etc. But really, most of the job of a trainer is to get us in shape in the gym. That's why they are called trainers, not critics. The job of a TRAINER is not just to say "how many times did you get hit? Try to get hit less. Getting hit is making you lose." We need trainers who can get us in spiritual shape so that when we get knocked down, we have the stamina and the will to stand back up and put our hands back up.


Easiness of The Way; aka the "I've heard it before sermon."    
"I like it.

I have managed to read scriptures and pray every day (except a very small few) since the year before my mission, some 14 years ago. I have always believed that these basic "affirmative actions" are the MINIMUM required to be "holding to the rod." And since the rod leads to the tree, holding it every day as we move down the path of life will eventually bring us to the tree, Guaranteed! I firmly believe in the power of the spirit to work through those small, simple actions of our faith to change and sanctify us over time, because of the atonement. I also believe that "skipping" those activities for a day or a week sets us back more than a day or week of bingeing on our favorite drug. In the misty darkness of the world, it is possible to "wander in forbidden paths" and become "lost" VERY quickly when we let go of the rod. Once lost, we run the very real risk of never finding the rod again.

After 20+ years of fighting my addiction, I am in a very good place right now--far from perfect, but clean for a long, long time, and I believe 14 years of basic affirmative actions has a LOT to do with it. However, the Spirit has also led me in recent years to try additional affirmative actions, like listening to good music, visiting the Temple more, etc. Perhaps my personal progress would have taken even longer without these other affirmative steps.

Finally, I think it's important to point out that 14 years of consistant affirmative actions is a LONG time. Most of us would prefer to see final results after just one month of consistency. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. There are definitely some good things that come from one month of holding to the rod, but to taste the real fruit takes a lifetime of consistent efforts. If I had given up 13, 10, or 5 years ago, because the progress was too slow, I would not be where I am today. And if I cease my affirmative actions today, I, too, will lose my way. I still have a long, long way to go.

I love your suggestion to focus more on the affirmative actions and less on the negative. Don't worry so much about mess ups--we're addicts, they're going to happen. But remember it may take decades of consistently seeking God's help before we can see that he has changed our hearts and desires and made weak things become strong.

Don't give up because it's taking too long. Keep getting back up and putting God first. Think of how long it took God to lead his people to the promised land and work miracles in their lives. He WILL save you and work miracles in your life, too, through small and simple affirmative actions showing a lifetime of faith. Take it one day at a time."
posted at 12:11:37 on December 30, 2011 by beclean
Recovery isnt about sobriety. Its about living    
"Some of the best advice Ive heard in an SAA meeting. If our goal is sobriety, what a boring dreadful life. Sobriety is just a tool to help us learn to truely enjoy life. We arent sent to Earth to be sad. We are hear to learn to be happy -- whatever our circumstances and trials are. "
posted at 09:04:07 on January 1, 2012 by Hurtallover
"BECLEAN: Thanks for your comments. Your progress is truly inspiring. And I totally agree that this really is an "easiness of the way" aspect of this problem. One of the big reasons I skip the dailies is thinking that they aren't really connected to the battle -- they are just a check box or something. Your "testimony" of 14 years of affirmative actions getting you to where you are is comforting and inspiring.

HURTALLOVER: Thanks for sharing. It is so helpful to remind myself that the goal is not sobriety for its own sake. Sobriety is a means to the end of happiness.

Thanks for the comments."
posted at 21:42:12 on January 1, 2012 by DH
New Year's Action List    
"I think the porn/mb addict who

* Has confessed his/her problems to the Bishop
* Is completely honest with Priesthood leaders whenever asked about his/her problems
* Is completely honest with his/her spouse immediately after EVERY failure

* Attends a group regularly and is actively working through the 12 steps (including the important final steps)
* Is actively working on whatever else the Bishop has assigned him/her to work on

* Reads scriptures daily
* Prays several times a day
* Attends all his/her church meetings
* Holds or attends family home evening weekly
* Attends the temple as often as possible

Is in a GREAT place, whether his/her last screw up was 10 years ago, last year, last week, or this morning. An addict doing everything listed above is not guaranteed freedom from temptation or sin. They may still fail on occasion, given their past history and the power these drugs have over the body.

However, I believe an addict doing everything listed above is affirmatively doing everything he/she can do. We are saved after all that we can do. Regardless of how many times he/she fails, an addict doing everything above is humbly demonstrating faith, and that will EVENTUALLY lead to weaknesses becoming strengths.

An addict doing everything above should NOT kick him/herself after a failure. He/she should say, "Of course I will fail occasionally, given my past. Failures remind me how much I need the Savior. I can't do this alone. I know I am making progress, and my God will save me in His own time," and then, he/she should continue to do everything on the list.

Notice that the list does not say, "stays clean or sober for 1 week or 1 month or 1 year." That is the Lord's battle and something we may be "powerless to overcome." Our job is to simply turn our lives over to God, and let Him fight the battle.

Through the atonement of Christ, the Holy Ghost will eventually sanctify and purify an addict who does these simple things consistently for years (with, of course, the occasional omission--no one is perfect). That addict will experience a change of heart and will be born again, a new creature in Christ.

But "years" take a long time. Doing anything that long can be difficult. Take it in chunks that are manageable for you. For this new year, commit to doing everything on the list for one year, or just one month, or one week, or even just one day!

What are your thoughts about the list of affirmative actions?"
posted at 20:15:08 on January 2, 2012 by beclean
Great, but Hard    
"That is a tough list. But I guess there is nothing easy about healing from addiction.

I do believe that if someone is focusing on those affirmative actions, they will feel the hope of the atonement. And eventually, they will be delivered from bondage like the children of Israel."
posted at 22:16:08 on January 2, 2012 by DH
"I really like the affirmative action list; broken down like that, it seems a little more doable, yet I know how hard each one of those items can be.

I've been in a bad place for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, I didn't go to a meeting with the Bishop, and I feel really bad about that. I just didn't want to tell him that things have deteriorated. I'm sure he has better things to do than to listen to my crap. I'm also having a hard time going to church; I feel like such a hypocrit. I'm so disgusted with myself. You would think I could do better than this.

Looking at the list, it is no wonder I am feeling and doing as I am. I'm not doing well with any of the things on that list. I guess I need to start all over again."
posted at 00:11:15 on January 3, 2012 by want2change
difficult things become easier    
"The more we do them. But you have to do them once, then twice, etc."
posted at 01:43:05 on January 3, 2012 by beclean
"very amazing post. thanks."
posted at 14:05:59 on January 3, 2012 by BA
"Where do you give your seminars? I'd like to attend one. Or at least are you an ARP missionary?

posted at 14:28:33 on January 3, 2012 by BA

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"Lucifer will do all in his power to keep you captive. You are familiar with his strategy. He whispers: “No one will ever know.” “Just one more time.” “You can’t change; you have tried before and failed.” “It’s too late; you’ve gone too far.” Don’t let him discourage you. When you take the path that climbs, that harder path of the Savior, there are rewards along the way. When you do something right, when you resist temptation, when you meet a goal, you will feel very good about it. It is a very different kind of feeling than you have when you violate commandments—an altogether different feeling. It brings a measure of peace and comfort and provides encouragement to press on. "

— Richard G. Scott

General Conference May 1990