Saturday, December 04, 2004

Kill me now, Lord

Today has been wonderful. I attended my niece’s baptism earlier today, and just about an hour ago I received cookies from a girl I love to death. I also just finished reading the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of addictions: “Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior” by Martha Nibley Beck and John C. Beck. It was WONDERFUL! It has inspired so much hope in me! I just want to die now because it has been a week since I last caved to my natural desires, and I don’t have any desires to look at porn, be with a man, or do anything bad. I just want to be good. Kill me, Lord, while I am still moving up the path of righteousness. You see, one of my biggest fears is dying while I am going down the path of wickedness. For example, had I died two weeks ago, I would have been devastated because I was doing so many terrible things; i.e., looking at pornography and masturbating.

Though I don’t really want to die, I do want to die a clean – or, at least, a relatively clean – person. My fear is that I will never overcome my problems with homosexuality, problems which I so badly want to overcome. I fear the future. Yes, right now I am strong. Right now I know that I will not do anything bad because my homosexual desires have dissipated from within me. How that happens, I’m not exactly sure (I have an idea or theory, but I’ll share that another time). All I know is right now, in this moment, I am in control. But, what happens tomorrow, next week, in a month, one year from now, a decade from now – I don’t know! For nearly the past decade, I have gone through this cycle of feeling strong for a week, several weeks, or even months, but then something inside of me snaps, and I cave to my temptations. I find myself looking at homosexual pornography, masturbating, and just feeling plain awful about life and my struggles.

In the book I just finished reading, one of the men in the book struggled with homosexuality. His experience has many similarities to my own. He feared the same things. Because of his fears, he didn’t want to enter into a relationship with a woman; he didn’t want to hurt her sometime down the road. In all likelihood, I will probably relapse at some point in the future. That’s the truth and it terrifies me. The book points out that most people struggling with addictive behaviors do relapse several times during their recovery. The authors said they know of no addicts who overcame their problems over night. It was a process for them. It took most of them years to completely eradicate their addictive behaviors. On top of that, the book said once an addict, always an addict, just like Alcoholics Anonymous professes. I know that I am a homosexual, and I know that I will very likely have homosexual desires on and off for the rest of my life. My goal is to minimize the effects of it, to bring it under control, and to work my way back to my Father in Heaven. I know that forever more I will have to watch myself. I will have to be careful about the places I go and the people I see because I will always be vulnerable to the addiction.

Though I have been on a roller coaster ride for the past decade, I’ve always believed – and still do believe – that I will be able to rein in my natural man (if you’re not Mormon, I’m referring to my natural carnal desires that are not in harmony with God’s principles of joy). I suppose the only thing I have to fear is fear itself. My father instilled that fear inside of me after I returned from my mission nearly 20 months ago. I’ll explain how he did so in a minute. First, let me explain how I came to tell my father about my sexuality.

About six months before going home from my mission, I was watching a general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Holland was speaking, I believe. He was talking about raising the bar for missionaries, and in his talk he told both the youth and parents that fathers need to be more involved in their children’s struggles. I had a strong impression at the time that I needed to tell my father about my struggles. In fact, I had the impression that if I did not talk to him, I would certainly follow the path to eternal destruction. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s true. I knew that if I didn’t ask for help and tell people about my problem, I was not going to be able to overcome it.

Within days of returning home from my mission, I relapsed. I found myself looking at male pornography on the Internet. Immediately, I fell into depression. After all, I had just gone nearly two and a half years without pornography. I had been a servant of our Lord, Jesus Christ. How could I have returned so quickly to my carnal instincts! I felt empty, hopeless, and doomed – feelings which prompted me to continue in my sins. To those around me, I played my depression off as being the “transition” period after a mission. After only a week or two of meddling in sin, I remembered my impression from six months earlier and decided to obey it.

I prayed for an opportunity to talk to my father alone, when my mother was not around. I absolutely did not want her to know about my homosexuality. She is too fragile. I love her to death and I don’t want to see her hurt. I knew my father could handle it and would handle it well. He’s a very understanding person and truly wants to help his children any way he can. Within a day or so, the opportunity presented itself. I don’t remember the time of day or preparations I made before speaking to him. My memory of the experience begins with me walking into the dining room where my father was reading something (perhaps it was morning time because he usually reads in the morning). I was very nervous. I can remember dreading having to tell him. I began with small talk. After a few minutes, I told my dad I wanted to talk about something. I began by telling him about my dreams and future goals. He was impressed. After all, I have wonderful goals and dreams. Then I broke it to him. I told him only one thing stood between me and my goals: homosexuality. I told him I struggle with homosexuality and that I’ve struggled with it for the past 8 years or so. I also told him that I’ve struggled with porn in the past. (I purposely said “in the past” because I didn’t want him to know about my recent return to pornography.)

My father reacted exactly as I thought he would. He was very understanding and showed great concern and love. He then told me a horrifying story; one I will never forget for the rest of my life. His intention was to illustrate the negative effects of pornography on men; however, I took it as foreshadowing for my own life.

His story goes as follows:

While serving as bishop in his ward in Salt Lake City, my father met with a member who was struggling with pornography addiction (female porn, of course). He began working with the man to help him overcome the addiction. He worked him for a period of years, and though the addict would show signs of progression for a period of period of time – weeks or months – he always “returned to his vomit.” I don’t know what possessed my father to tell me this story after I had just barely confessed my pornography viewing habits.

As a result, I reacted with dismay, asking my father why he would tell me such an awful story. Was he alluding to my situation? Was he saying I, too, was doomed to a life of pornography addiction? He said, “But you haven’t had a problem with it for years?” I told him that just that week I had been into it. My father was surprised. He was horrified. He felt bad for having told me the story but immediately counseled me to get out of the addiction as quick as possible (as if I didn’t have that desire already). To this day, I still think of that man from Salt Lake, struggling with his porn addiction for the past 30 years. How awful! I pray that man found help and inner strength. I pray that he overcame it – more for my sake than for his.

Though my father is understanding and loving, he has no concept of how addictions work or how to help an addict. For several months after our conversation, I would talk to my father about my problems, but eventually I made it clear that I didn’t like talking to him about it. I always came away from our conversations feeling worse than before. It wasn’t entirely his fault. A lot of it was my fault. I have always hated receiving advice from my father. I’m prideful, I know. I guess I just want him to listen to me and love me despite my problems – not give me advice.

In all fairness, I know my father loves me unconditionally. I just never feel it when we talk about my problems. Does that make sense? He has always wanted to help me. He simply doesn’t know how to approach my problems. His instinct is to tell me that my addictions are sinful and that I need to quit them. He tells me that I just need to have more faith and believe that I can overcome my problems. He tells me everything I already know but can’t seem to do. Telling me how to do overcome my problems just isn’t helpful for some reason. I know, it sounds ridiculous. In any case, it has been at least 8 months, probably longer, since we last discussed my struggles. I now want to give him the book I just read. I think it could help him help me. At some point, I know I am going to have to confront him on the awful story he shared with me. I need closure and reassurance that the story does not apply to me.

I told my father about myself back in April 2003. Now it’s December 2004 – nearly 20 months later. I have gone through the same cycle the man in the story went through. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve gone weeks, even months, without viewing porn or masturbating, but then I always seem to return to my vomit. That’s why I fear for the future. That’s why after only a week of resisting temptation I want to die. I just don’t know how long this good period will last. I want it to last forever, but I’ve always wanted that. I just want to know that I can overcome this problem. I wouldn’t mind relapsing in the future if I was sure it was all part of the recovery process. “Two steps forward, one step back” is okay for a while, as long as I’m progressing, and as long as it becomes “Three steps forward, one step back” and eventually “20 steps forward, no steps back.”


Blogger m said...

fyi, the two authors of the book you mentioned (beck) are now divorced and both out of the closet.

8:55 PM  

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