Sponsorship, the Ways I Tried to Stop – and FAILED, and a Need for Understanding

What is a “sponsor?” What do I look for in a sponsor? Where do I find a sponsor? When I say sponsor, I am talking about someone in recovery who has what I want. They have experience in recovery that is palpable, not faked, and they choose to share their experience through 12th step work in the form of sponsorship.  I want them to be ahead of me in the program. I want them to be accessible. It’s preferable if they live nearby, but this isn’t always an option, so I am willing to conduct the relationship through phone calls, texts, emails, and perhaps the occasional face to face meeting. I do not expect them to be Mormon, but I do expect that they have a close relationship and belief in a Higher Power that inspires me.

Sponsors provide this service because they believe their own recovery depends on it. It is a joy for them.

I’m grateful to the sponsors I have had. I have seen the hand of God guiding me multiple times while searching for a sponsor. 7 years after my first introduction to 12 step recovery, I finally decided I should try it out. I don’t recommend taking as long as I did.

Each time I have picked up a new sponsor, I was certain he would be my sponsor forever, but for different reasons that hasn’t been my experience. I have had several sponsors, each blessing my life in different ways, and I am blessed now to have a sponsor who I love and trust. I have found sponsors in different places. Local SA meetings, regional SA meetings, national SA meetings, SA speaker meetings. Ha, apparently my idea of the ideal sponsorship relationship is also shaped within the context of the SA twelve step program.

One of these sponsors, while taking me through the steps, suggested that I work step 1 (powerlessness and unmanageability) by making a list of all the ways I tried to stop acting out and failed. I thought it might be useful to me, and possibly others, to go through the exercise again, so here is my list. Note: the point of this exercise is not that these actions have no value, but that I AM POWERLESS OVER LUST. The attempts I make to stop acting out my addiction, if not accompanied by a healthy belief in God and surrender to his will, are just my attempts to go it alone, and decades of experience prove to me that I can not beat lust on my own.

The Ways I tried to stop – and FAILED:

  • Installing internet filters
  • Throwing magazines in the trash
  • Putting computers in public places
  • Hitting myself
  • Swearing at myself
  • Praying
  • Reading the scriptures
  • Going to church
  • Going on a mission
  • Confessing to bishops, many many bishops
  • Attending SA meetings
  • Counseling
  • Group counseling sessions at BYU
  • Stopping as a Christmas gift to Jesus or my wife
  • Going to bed before my wife
  • Smashing my iPod with a hammer
  • Getting married
  • Confessing to my wife
  • Singing a hymn
  • Running and exercise
  • Moving
  • Starting a new job
  • Telling friends and family about my addiction
  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Getting rid of cable
  • Getting rid of my phone
  • Putting filters on my phone
  • Deleting apps off my phone
  • Going to the temple
  • Making promises to myself and others
  • Putting up pictures of my family in hotel rooms
  • Putting inspirational messages in conspicuous places
  • Hiding the remote in hotel rooms
  • Increasing my service and church activity

There were many wonderful benefits from some of these activities, but never the freedom from lust that I desired. I think powerlessness is a really really difficult concept for members of the LDS church to grasp (Although it is peppered throughout the scriptures; see 2 Nephi 4:34, John 15:1-5, Heleman 5:9, Jacob 2:15, Alma 26:12, Mosiah 9:18, Jacob 2:21). I think they view it as an absolution of responsibility. As if the admission of powerlessness is a rejection of agency. This is not the case. The admission of powerlessness is the proper use of will power, the proper use of agency. It’s an admission of what my responsibilities are in the crucial God relationship that provides the grace required to overcome an addiction to lust, and to accomplish the purposes of my creation. Love Brad Wilcox’s talk, His Grace is Sufficient for this point. (Note: Brad’s talk is a good read, but even better to listen to b/c of his great delivery)

In my relatively short time in real recovery, I have witnessed enough of confusion from fellow church members to know that very basic recovery principles are widely misunderstood. It is a struggle to understand why the “you could stop if you really wanted to” approach to dealing with pornography and lust addiction is a dead end approach; to understand that most addicts truly aren’t bad people, they are just sick people; and to understand that there is no easy fix to a lust addiction, nor is there any shame in not having found recovery through sincere and routine church activity. Routine church activity wouldn’t fix diabetes either. And while addiction and diabetes both most certainly can be fought by going to church and becoming a good person, they also require specialized care. Nobody would expect to get better from diabetes without seeing a doctor, and it should be no different with addiction.

Image credit: http://cliffviewpilot.com/ridgewood-police-charge-driver-in-crash-with-blowing-stop-sign/ (STORY / PHOTOS: Boyd A. Loving)


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