It has been just over a year since I sat before the stake high council and became an excommunicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I will forever be grateful for that day. That day marked the beginning of what I can only describe as a miraculous year. In fact, it was one of the greatest years of my life. You may ask, “How could a year marred with the loss of so many things be seen as miraculous?” While it was not a year filled with seeing angels, walking on water, or turning water to wine, it was indeed a year of miracles for me and my family.
I am always cautious when talking about my success in too much detail as I never want anyone to see me as prideful or wanting praise. But since I am not trying to seek praise with this post, nor do I even know who any of the readers of this blog are, I think it is safe for me to share a few of the successes of the year.
- The first has to be the way my family has grown closer together. My wife has been the most amazing cheerleader a man could ask for. We are not free of the pain and memory of the past. On the contrary, it is a daily struggle for us. But somehow, my wonderful wife has been able to envision a future, our future, free from all of the pain. With that vision and focus, she cheers me on through difficult days and heavy moments. Furthermore, she is willing to listen to me spill the painful details and secrets of my past. She continues to be there to listen as I struggled daily with temptation and urges. I will forever be in debt to her for the miracle she has been this year.
- My sobriety. The Addiction recovery program is an inspired program that forces us to focus specifically on both both pain and healing. Sobriety has been a challenge this year. I will openly admit that there were many, many days when I felt that the urges and aches were too strong for me to handle on my own. But, with my new found relationship with both my wife and my Savior, I realized that I could actually speak about the hunger and ache. In sharing my struggle with another, it lightened my load and eased the burden. The Program also helped me focus on what it really means to turn my burdens over to my Father in Heaven and embrace the gift of the Atonement. This program can change the lives of those who do all they can to live it completely. Thanks to my wife, the program, and my Savior, as of tomorrow I will have completed 13 months of sobriety. Through this program I have also gained a great friendship with several men whom I call or connect with daily, both to encourage them, and to seek strength. We are men of one mind, working towards the same goal: that of a life free of addiction.
- Clarity of mind. With some distance between myself and from acting out in my addiction, I am able to see the repercussions of my choices with a hindsight that’s clear. Simply put, the fog of addiction skews judgment and impairs vision. I am so grateful that I can see the horrible choices I was making for what they were. Somehow in the middle of it, I thought my decisions made sense. I felt that I had no other options than the ones placed before my eyes. How blind we become when we can't see past the fantasy distracting us from the goal.
- A Clean Conscience. I am not sure I can remember a day, let alone a year, that went by without lying about something. Usually my lies were to cover up my habit. But I recall lying about things for no reason at all. I lied about things that made no difference. But when lying becomes part of your habit, it just seeps into everything. I recall my wife asking me if I had eaten lunch one day and I lied and said no… when in fact I had grabbed a burger an hour before dinner. Perhaps I was ashamed that fast food was my lunch or that I spoiled my appetite for her home cooked meal, but why did I lie about that? It was silly really…but I did. This past year has been a guilt free year in so many ways, but the lack of deceit has been the most freeing part of this recovery. Oh how I hated the lies. I am so grateful they are not a part of my life any more.
These are just a few of the miraculous changes I have experienced this year. There is one more of course and it is the most important one of all.
5. Freedom from bondage. This one may go without needing to be said but I really feel the need to express just what a difference it is. Those chains of addiction…. they are so heavy. The amount of weight that an addict chooses to carry is unimaginable. I remember a discovery channel documentary I watched one time about ants. There was a tiny little sugar ant… and he found a large chunk of an Oreo cookie. The cookie piece was at least 10 times larger than the ant. But he still clamped on with his pincers, and tried to drag that enormous crumb. He was able to pull it a little distance but it was huge and awkward and clearly more than he could handle. He couldn't see that though so he just kept trying to carry it, making no distance at all until he realized that it was just too much for him to carry and he gave up. I have felt exactly like that ant. I tried to carry that invisible weight for far too long. I dragged that corpse of sin and addiction through every phase of my life, thinking I could carry it alone and that no one would notice. But it is so heavy. Guess what though? That ant came back a few minutes later and with him were 4 other ants. Together they all lifted and drug that cookie. The weight was dispersed and the help he needed came to the rescue. He shifted the weight. And so did I… Finally. When shared, the weight of sin is so much lighter. Through the help of my Bishop, Stake President, my wife, my friends, and of course my Savior, the chains and weight of my bondage fell away. That, in and of itself has been the most freeing and refreshing experience of all. Now I know once and for all that the chains of hell no longer have claim on me.
So with this year complete, and my leaders satisfied that I had done my part to prove myself worthy, I was able to have my disciplinary Council reconvened one week ago today. After speaking with the High Council for about an hours time, I was blessed to have my excommunication come to an end. Then, yesterday just after 2:30 in the afternoon, I, with a small group of close friends in attendance, was baptized for the 2nd time in my life.
I can not express how grateful I am for this process. I can not begin to put into words the feeling of freedom that comes with knowing that my sins are no more. In the eyes of the Lord, my past has been erased.
I used to think that 2nd chances at eternity did not exist. But that is just another foolish lie of the adversary. In truth,The Lord grants us 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th chances. Our opportunities to change, heal, and mend are free. If only I had opened my eyes to that reality instead of being paralyzed by pride and fear. So many years were wasted…. but I digress… I have nothing but gratitude today because I know of the reality of my Savior and what He can do for me.
Today, my first Sunday in full fellowship, just happened to be our ward conference. One of the counselors stood and, after reading off their names one by one, allowed us the opportunity to sustain the prophet and apostles. This is something I lost with my membership. I had not realized until then, just how important that tiny privilege was to me. It was a tremendous pleasure to sustain the man I know to be the prophet of God.
Not many minutes later, the sacrament was passed down my row and again, for the first time in a year, I was able to eat and drink the emblems that represent that sacrifice made for me. It was a powerful experience, filled with new meaning for me.
It may be weeks before I receive a calling, and at least one more year before I am able to have my priesthood blessings restored. But today, for me, it was an enormous victory in my personal battle against the adversary.
I am not foolish enough to think that all is done. I know that this is the beginning. My wife and I will continue to fight the battle daily. I know that even though my sins are erased from the book of life, that they are still very present in my wife's mind. I know that trust will continue to take time. I expect this next year to be filled with traps and pitfalls and temptations as well. I am just grateful that I get to navigate them with the full and complete presence of the Holy Ghost.
It’s been a hard year. But also, as I said, one of the best years of my life. I have been reclaimed… I have been snatched… I have been saved.