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August 24, 2015

Making Phone Calls and Staying Sober

If you’ve attended even a few 12-step meetings, you’ve undoubtedly heard people talk about the value of making phone calls to other addicts outside of the meetings. This is a practice that is far more emphasized in community-based groups than in PASG or ARP, but it’s been one of the most effective tools I’ve found to stay sober. I know many other recovering addicts who also stress the importance of making calls.

Why Phone Calls Are Important

Meetings are great. I love hearing other people share their experience, strength and hope. I need the meetings to help break isolation and to connect with those who need my service. However, I need much more than a few hours of this kind of spiritual strengthening in order to stay sober. I have a seven day week full of temptations, stresses and demands that can easily distract me from my priority of recovery and connection with God. Phone calls act as “mini-meetings” where I can share and listen to others share. I can express what I’m doing right and what I’m struggling with. I can be accountable. I can be honest. I can demonstrate my faith and willingness by reaching out to others. If I truly believe that God works through ordinary people to do His work and bless our lives, then why wouldn’t I try to connect myself with more of His children throughout the week, especially people who are working toward a common, challenging goal? Also, at meetings we aren’t allowed to cross talk - which we define as interrupting or commenting directly about another participant’s remarks. This is a necessary rule in large meetings for various reasons, but one of those reasons is not because cross talk or dialogue isn’t extremely beneficial to one’s recovery. Discussing ideas and principles of recovery back and forth and asking for advice is what the program is all about. That’s what sponsorship is all about. It’s how we learn what to do. It helps us feel like we’re not alone and not the only person who struggles with our problems. We get a glimpse of that at the meetings, but it will become most clear by talking with another addict one-on-one, exchanging stories and then realizing that we are more alike than we are different and that there is a common solution we can both rely on.

Why We Don’t Make Calls

As was mentioned above, phone calls, getting together with other addicts outside of official meetings, or “fellowhshipping” as it’s commonly referred to in community programs, is much less prevalent in LDS meetings. I have a few thoughts about why this is. First, as Latter-day Saints we view sex addiction as very shameful. Many of us have never told anyone about our problem except maybe a bishop or close family member. Maybe we’re only in recovery because we got caught by a spouse or parent. We then get referred to the meetings and feel like it’s embarrassing and painful. We don’t want to go, we really hope we don’t see anyone we know there, and we definitely don’t want to socialize with all these other addicts outside of the one-hour meeting. We want to compartmentalize our recovery just like we compartmentalized our addiction. We want to maintain a clean, balanced, high-functioning image on the surface and we view getting caught in addiction or getting caught at a 12-step meeting as almost equally mortifying. This may be the general thought process of many people attending meetings who rush into the meeting just before it starts or even a few minutes late and then split the scene as soon as we say amen to the closing prayer. That’s not recovery. That’s meeting attendance, which is a good first step but far from reaping the full benefits of this program.

Similarly, I often hear members share in meetings about how much they enjoy coming to this “class” and how it’s helped them. It may just be benign word choice, but I find that often the people who call the meeting a class in turn treat it more like a simple hour-long Sunday school class. We all know how most people approach Sunday school. We do little or no preparation. We show up. We may hear a few good insights that make us feel good. Then we leave and very little about our lives is changed. We get what we put into a class. Calling it a class also makes us feel like it’s just a matter of learning a few lessons, completing the 12-step/week course and eventually graduating the program. If I view the program as nothing more than a temporary “night class” that I can accomplish by merely showing up, signing the attendance roll and going back to the rest of my old life as usual, then I clearly don’t understand the program and would benefit from some conversations with those who have been in recovery longer than I have and have what I want, which is lasting sobriety and solid recovery.

Elements of Effective Phone Calls

Phone calls need not be long. They can simply be a “check-in,” which addresses my current emotional, physical and spiritual state, what step I’m working on, and my length of sobriety. Regular check-ins with the same individual on a regular (ideally daily) basis can take only several minutes, but add a significant layer of accountability and transparency. If I know I will be checking in daily with someone about whether or not I sought out pornography or have been acting on my lust, then I will be a little more thoughtful about my behavior. Remember that shares at meetings are limited to only a few minutes and those can be powerful experiences for both the sharer and listener.

Sometimes just the act of dialing the number can bring relief and strength. Many times I find that no one answers my calls after 3-4 attempts. Sometimes I’ll leave a message or follow-up with text messages. Even if I don’t actually connect with another live human being, I am strengthened by taking the action of recovery. I find that if I want to feel sober, then I should “act sober” or “do sober things.” As I take righteous actions, the righteous desires seem to always follow.

Don’t just call for yourself. Call to be of service. When I first began making calls, I would call my sponsor to give me advice and keep me sober. I would also call people in the fellowship who had more sobriety and wisdom than me because I wanted them to lift me up when I was feeling weak. These are certainly good reasons to call. But just like the program is really a program of service and giving back to those who struggle and are new to recovery, so phone calls should also be made to those who can benefit from a recovery call. Some of the most beneficial calls I’ve ever made have come when I reached out to a newcomer who I approached after a meeting, introduced myself and said, “Hey, I’m like you and just trying to stay sober from this powerful addiction one day at a time. Do you mind if I call you this week to check in and we can help each other stay sober this week?” That’s the truth. We’re all in this battle together and we need each other. So many people come to these meetings completely overwhelmed and have no idea how the program and meetings work. If the only recovery interaction we have is the one-hour meeting we go to, then we may have a hard time staying sober from an addiction that surrounds us and is deeply engrained in our minds and hearts. God gave us this program to connect us with one another so that we don’t have to live in shame and isolation anymore. Let’s make calls and help lift each other up. Who’s with me?


August 9, 2015

Why is it Important to Attend 12 Step Meetings?

Why is it important to attend a regular 12 step meeting? This question seems to pop up sooner or later to the recovering addict who is attending meetings. At some point, other personal interests or family interests seem to become more important than the meeting. The recovering individual may rationalize skipping a single meeting, and then after missing a few more meetings it becomes very easy to stop going all together. If the recovering addict is staying "abstinent" even without meetings, it is easy to wonder why he or she should return.

There are many reasons why I regularly attend 12 step meetings, I would like to share a few:


June 21, 2015

Letting Go of the Things I Cannot Change: Identify, Accept, & Surrender

It is easy to get worked up about feelings and temptations. In the early days of my recovery, I often found myself focusing on how I felt, and often, that would lead me back to relapse. I would obsess over trying to find out why I felt a certain way, or why I was tempted by a certain something. Over the years of sobriety, which I found through the 12 Steps, I have come to find more peace through a new design for living. I no longer obsess over my feelings, and I have found relief from the compulsion to act on temptations.

Feelings come and go, and temptations come and go; that is a fact of life! For the most part, I have little control over the feelings I feel, or the temptations that come my way. In the Serenity Prayer, it talks about "accepting the things I cannot change". Can I change my feelings on demand? Not really. Can I change my temptations on demand? No. Instead, what I can do is the following:


Forsake Me Not

My fascination with, and then addiction to pornography began when I was a young boy. It has been a mire, from which I was unable to remove myself until a few years ago, when I finally confessed to my wife and we worked together to rid ourselves of this ‘cancer’. Thankfully, over the past ten years I have subdued the desire, even though there have been times of setback and struggle. Years ago, when we began our recovery process we opted not to pursue the Addiction Recovery Program offered by the LDS Church. However, friends, who recently were going through the same trying ordeal, approached us and together we decided to work through the program.


March 29, 2015

Let Go Without Reservation

I have been part of the program for about 4 years, and have sponsored about a dozen guys. About 1/3 of the guys that I have sponsored have taken the steps and kept with them, and stayed with continued sobriety and recovery.

A recurring theme I have seen in the less successful is something I just re-read in the Big Book: "If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol."


I Stopped Running

I can finally identify the root of my addiction, and how it got started. It seems crystal clear to me now. I doubt I would be able to understand as much as I do without the Savior and a good number of people pointing me in the right direction (or dragging me kicking and screaming in the right direction a few times). It also doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of sobriety, but as it turns out, I came to the realization less than a day after acting out yet again. It came during one of the most incredible, painful, joyous, strange, confusing, and wonderful moment of my life. But first, an explanation.


February 7, 2015

Asking Him to do What I Cannot

I recently realized that although I have been abstinent for almost two years I was still practicing my addiction in my mind. After a confusing relapse I wondering how did that happen I now realize that I was being lustful in my mind. I was not acting out but it was still in my mind Then when life got a little dicey I relapsed. I was devastated. Since then I have learned that it is really lust I am addicted to. So now when thoughts come from daily triggers that are all around I ask heavenly Father to take these away from me and to deliver me from it. I then move forward the best I can to turn my attention else where and soon the feelings pass as I am focused on something else. Now I know that recovery happens at the mental front not the physical one.


Having Hope, Come What May

I am ever grateful for the life we are given to enjoy here on the earth. With all that this life has to offer, either by way of happiness and joy or by the suffering and tribulations that we encounter. All are for our good and learning to become as our Father in Heaven. A while back I started a blog called “Come What May and Love It” the title borrowed from a talk given by Joseph B. Wirthlin. I loved the talk and his wonderful spirit as he introduced me to a concept that I needed in my life. I had to that point in my life been dealing with pornography addiction for over twenty years and until that day I had a pretty bad outlook on my life and future. The mist of darkness was thick around me and I was feeling deep despair until he shared this truth in a story about his daughter.


The Story of Moses and it’s correlation to we addicts

The Story of Moses and it’s correlation to we addicts

As we read Moses chapter 1in the Pearl of Great Price there are several subtle and not so subtle things we learn about ourselves.
1. First we learn 2 aspects of who GOD is
a. I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless


August 4, 2014

The Parallel of a New Convert and a Recovering Addict

I teach a local community college, and because my class is nearly 12 credits (normal classes are 3 credits) I have a nearly 3 times the contact with my students as regular instructors. This allows us to get to know each other well and it often comes out in discussion that I am LDS. 

One day after class, a young man approached me and asked if we could talk. He was a new convert (less than 3 months) and was struggling to stay connected to his old friends. This was important to him because his family had not supported him in his decision to be baptized.



June 5, 2014

Screwtape Letter About Lust

Disclaimer: I based this letter I wrote off of C.S. Lewis’s novel The Screwtape Letters. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it is a series of letters from a devil to his nephew about tempting humans to do wrong. I do not own the copyright nor am I making money off of this letter.

My Dear Wormwood,

I was delighted to hear that your patient has developed an addiction to lust; this is a monumental step downward in bringing him to Our Father Below. There are many ways in which you may now play with your patient in order to keep him in this addiction; I will go over these presently for your instruction. Nevertheless, there is always an opportunity for the Enemy to inspire repentance in his miserable little soul so be on your guard.


May 9, 2014

Lust Based Decisions and Resentment Based Decisions

These are two important concepts to remember in addiction recovery:
  • Lust is Satan's imitation of love
  • Resentment is the opposite of love
These two things can cause a world of hurt for addicts if they are not kept in check