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The evil tree pictured on this post was not evident to me for many long years, although it was still growing since the beginning, when I started to use pornography and masturbation to manipulate my emotions and escape from reality. The seed of addiction was planted in the fertile soil of my pride, and rapidly my "addiction tree" began to put forth fruit. The fruits of my addiction were the first signs that I noticed, although I did not understand where they were coming from.
The Fruit: (surface symptoms: depression, loneliness, anxiety, laziness, anger, etc.) A few years before I hit "rock bottom", I started to see professional counselors about my depression and anxiety problems. I felt stress and frustration and all sorts of bad feelings, and I wanted to get rid of them so that I could move on with my life and "control and enjoy" the addiction that I didn't want to realize existed yet. I was essentially trying to pluck off the fruit of my addiction and destroy it before anyone else found out. I was attempting to treat the symptoms. Little did I know that they would always grow back, season after season, no matter how often I harvested them. The fruit of my addiction were many, some of them were: depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, stress, laziness, lack of ambition etc. The more I plucked the fruit, the more they seemed to multiply. My depression and anxiety and other fruit grew worse, and no amount of counseling seemed to get rid of the fruit for good. I needed another answer.
The Branches: (Pornography, Masturbation, etc.) As I have come to realize, fruit always come from branches. This realization began only after I had reached that rock bottom point. One day I found myself in a position that was so blatantly bad, the only reasonable answer was to admit that I was addicted... so I did. I went to see the bishop and told him about how I couldn't stop masturbating or looking at pornography. No matter how hard I tried, I could not! "Please help me" I exclaimed through tears and sobs, "I can't go on like this" I told him. My amazing bishop who had never been addicted to anything in his life, except maybe to the gospel, told me about some things he had learned in some recent training. He told me about "triggers", and how to avoid them. He also told me to read my scriptures and say my prayers more earnestly and to keep trying. All of this was sound advice, but the truth of the matters is that I simply didn't have enough tools yet, (or willingness). I started to understand that the fruit of my addiction came from the branches of Pornography and Masturbation. I began to think that pornography and masturbation were the main problems in my life and if only I could get rid of them, then I would be happy!... Then I would have the perfect life!... Then I could go on doing what I want to do, and find much success! I tried to hack at the branches of pornography and masturbation for months. Each day I would mark off another day on my calendar that I went without participating in my addiction. But, for some reason, it only would last a few weeks, at the most, and I repeatedly found myself in the bishops office starting all over again.
The Trunk: (Lust) I probably shouldn't introduce the trunk in my narrative yet, because It was not for another year that I discovered it. I still did not have the sufficient humility necessary to acknowledge LUST as a problem. I couldn't make the obvious connection that my pornography and masturbation "problems" sprung forth from lust. Lust is one of those words that is not very well understood... What is lust?... How can lust cause me to act out in pornography or masturbation? These were questions I was unwilling to answer at the time because I was still caught under the illusion that I enjoyed lust. All during those times when I was trying to abstain with my bishops help, I was still "lustfully looking" at girls around campus and at certain images that the world would not label as "pornography". While I was lustfully looking at these seemingly "non-pornographic" things, I felt that I could still somehow tell myself that I wasn't looking at pornography. I wasn't ready to give that up, I didn't even think of giving that up... in fact, I didn't even know that it was possible to give that up! This unwillingness kept the branches from going away, no matter how many times I hacked away at them, the trunk of lust would shoot forth new saplings. It even took me longer to understand that Lust is not just a way to act out, it is a way of life.
The Roots: (Character Weaknesses: Resentment, Fear, Dishonesty, and Selfishness, etc.) I actually discovered the roots of my addiction before I found out about the trunk! When I started attending PASG meetings I started to feel hope that some day I would live sober and abstinent, and that I would be able to be spiritually whole again. After a little while in the program I found a Sponsor. He helped me begin my journey on the 12 Steps. The 12 Steps finally began for me when I formally acknowledged that my addiction was destroying me and that my life had become unmanageable. After accepting that no human power could save me and that only God could and would as I decided to seek Him, I was introduced to the 4th Step. In Step 4, I finally began to learn about the roots of my addiction. Reading the AA Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) I found out that there were 4 main roots to my addiction: Resentment, Fear, Dishonesty, and Selfishness. This realization was profound. As I began to catalog all of my "CHARACTER WEAKNESSES" I felt a new wave of hope come in that I had finally discovered the answer to my addiction. After confessing these character weaknesses in Step 5, I learned a way to give them up to God in Step 6 and 7. My sponsor taught me that only God could take these roots away from me, only He had the power sufficient to kill the roots one day at a time as I asked Him to. It works!.. it really does! The 12 Steps gave me the tools to find real and lasting sobriety. With my sponsor, group meetings, the 12 steps, God, and my support group (Which included the Bishop) I was finally armed with the correct weapons to call for help when temptation reared its ugly head and let God come in and fight the dragon for me.
So why is there a fifth root and a third branch in my diagram? It appears to me that the sickness of LUST pervades the whole vile thing. For me, Lust is a character weakness. I think that it is also the main "taproot" of my addiction and that my other character weaknesses feed it. It then becomes the trunk from which the other twin branches spring. But the trunk continues on as a branch, for now I see clearly that acting out in "lustful looking" is just as damaging to my spiritual health as Pornography and Masturbation. Fruit spring forth from this branch just as they do the other branches. LUST addiction is the elephant in the room, the driving force behind my tree of addition. May I always stay vigilant of this deadly strain.
This idea of the "addiction tree" has helped me understand how the different elements of my addiction are interconnected. Looking back at the years that I have been in the PASG program I can honestly say that I am thankful for reaching rock bottom when I did. Addiction is a progressive illness, untreated it only gets worse, never better. I'm thankful for the miracle that helped me see that the pain of the solution was less than the pain of my problems. But, I must never forget that the solution does involve pain. Work is never easy, and recovery takes work every single day. Nothing worth while in life is easy or painless. The Lord has caused a miracle to take place in my life, and I must continue to show my gratitude for His gift. He has given me a new heart, and just like with any organ transplant, anti-rejection medication must be taken daily. The Lord has prescribed that I continue to attend PASG meetings and work the steps for the rest of my life. I intend to stay sober one day at a time as He makes it possible.