Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happiness Amidst the "Pain"

     Something I've been thinking about recently is all the happiness and blessings I have in my life currently. I've been blessed monumentally by everything that is going on in my life right now. My wonderful friends, my family, my job, my pets, God, the LDS church, the list goes on and on. Now I can't credit it all to SSA, I mean I didn't go into my job interview and say "hey, I have SSA, did I get the job?", but what I can say is for me, my SSA, addictions, and other trials and things I deal with have helped me grow so much. What was once something I considered a curse, a hindrance, even a factor that would eventually damn me is now something I view with humble understanding and lots of thanks to God.
     Through my feelings of SSA I have come to realize what it means to truly love someone for who they are, not what they are. Because feelings of attraction come with feelings of sexual desire, I have had to learn to bridle my lusts because I wish to live a life pleasing to my Heavenly Father. Through this practice of bridling passions and learning self-control, I have learned to change the way I view someone I am attracted to from an object for my own selfish desires to another human being, a Child of God who I can then learn to love and care for without selfish desires finding their way into my mind.
     Getting to know the person on a deep and emotional level has been a huge factor to me. Once I get to know someone, I learn to mourn with them, I learn our similarities and differences, I learn what makes them unique, what they like, who they are, etc. And once I reach this point, I begin to love them. I begin to care for them to the point where I would not be able to live with myself if I were to use them for fulfillment of lustful desires.
     I've had people tell me before that these feelings are something I need to work through, that eventually I need to get rid of. I've had people ask me if I could choose to not have feelings of SSA whether or not I would choose to get rid of those feelings or keep them. Many times I was unable to answer because I truly did not know much about it, but with the point I am at in life and the understanding I have gained through what I have gone through, I have decided with wholeheartedness that I would not trade my experiences or feelings for anything. Why? because they have brought me so much personal and spiritual growth. It has brought me friendships and relationships I never dreamed possible, and it has taught me to love everyone and to have and show empathy and understanding.
1 Peter 1:7; "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"(emphasis added)
 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 9 "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."(emphasis added)
     Now I understand and believe that Christ has the power to remove my SSA and addictions, this is something I know is possible, but at the same time, I would be completely content to live out the rest of my life continuing to grow and learn from dealing with these "trials". And if Christ sees it fit to eventually remove them from me, whether in this life or the next, then I will trust in his judgment and be thankful for all I have learned through the blessing of having them.
     Know that I love you all, and that I know that any trial in our life, if we let it, can help us grow closer to God and grow personally in our testimony and personal and spiritual strength. May we all strive to see life through a different pair of eyes and find the Happiness Amidst the "Pain".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Physical Touch

     This Sunday while I was sitting in church, I had the feeling like I needed to write some stuff down, so I pulled out my iPod and wrote some stuff in my notes. 3 weeks ago, I joined an LDS based support group, called North Star, for people who deal with same-sex attraction and want to live by the standards of Christ's church and gospel. 
     Once I joined I got such a warm, welcoming, and loving response from so many members on North Star. For most of my life, I really thought I was the only one who was LDS who dealt with SSA. I felt distant, alone, and shameful. Once I joined North Star, my perspective and understanding widened so much. Since joining I've had so many people reach out to me with love and compassion. I've been given the opportunity to meet some of my brothers who understand me, love me, and care about me.
     I realize I'm taking a bit to get to the point of this post, but there's still one other thing I want to talk about, because it has strengthened my testimony so much these past 3 weeks.
     For much of my life I've struggled with making and keeping friendships with males. It's something I wanted and needed, but also hated and feared. I prayed so many times for help, guidance, for a friend I clicked with, but for years I saw no answer to my prayers. When I got my patriarchal blessing, it promised me I'd be blessed with normal relationships in my life, and yet I didn't see that promise fulfilled in my life to that point.
     I began to question why, I thought perhaps God was upset with me, and had therefore withheld that promise. Perhaps my patriarch was mistaken, maybe I was expecting too much of God, maybe this... maybe that... I became angry at God. I didn't understand why my prayers hadn't been answered the way I expected they would, and I didn't understand what my patriarchal blessing's promise meant or why it hadn't been fulfilled.
     It wasn't until about 3 weeks ago when I received my answer. Through divine intervention, I began talking to another guy who had SSA and who I had seen on a Voice(s) of Hope video. It was him who introduced me to North Star, and he was the first answer to my prayers. Since my joining of North Star, I have met and contacted quite a few other young men who share my struggles and beliefs and who I have become very close friends with. I feel comfortable to talk to them about anything, and that has been a huge help to me to have that support.
     God answered my prayers beyond what I even imagined possible. God has given me the blessing of people who love me and care for me and who I can relate to, and for that I will be forever grateful.
     Anyway, now I will get to the subject of this post. Physical touch.
     Now, as mentioned above, I wrote some stuff in my iPod Sunday, and I feel like what I wrote explains what I'm trying to explain better than I could explain it right now, and so I will just copy down what I wrote:

"...Physical touch was, for me, a huge taboo for a long while of my life.
It was something I feared and hated, and yet something I needed and craved.
For a long time, I believed the only way to get physical touch was to break my morals and boundaries, and go down a path I did not want to walk.
I only began to realize 3 weeks ago that physical touch and true emotional relationships between members of the same-sex do not require the lowering of ones standards.
I have received so much healing and support through physical touch and my wonderful new friends who understand its importance while also staying within moral boundaries set for us by the Lord.
Physical touch has benefitted me beyond what I considered possible, and has helped me feel the Savior's love for me in ways I never thought possible."
"To have someone's arms around you, and for them to tell you they love you, is a feeling which is so hard to explain.
To feel absolutely loved, completely safe, and to feel the Saviors love through a brother in spirit.
I cannot explain in words the importance of physical touch, quality time, and true emotional love shared between two individuals in a non-romantic, safe, and nonsexual way."
      Now I understand physical touch isn't for everyone. Yes, it can be triggering or dangerous, but then again, so can almost anything, that's why it is important to communicate your needs. My point is to explain something that has helped me personally.
     When I'm holding someone, I feel trusted, I feel a sense of importance, and I feel love and care towards the other person. I want happiness and success for them. That's what physical touch is for me, an expression of love and care. The same applies for when someone is holding me, in that case I feel trusting, I feel important, I feel loved and cared for.

     Physical touch and emotional closeness has been monumentally therapeutic and healing for me. This past few weeks have been some of the best in my life because I have come to truly accept myself as well as learned to love others in ways I never dreamed possible. I truly feel like I've grown so much and I feel so blessed.
     I'll include some scriptures too, because that seems to always help out right?
     John 13:23-25; "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?"
     Genesis 45:14-15; "And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him"
     Even if healthy physical touch is not an option for you at this current time, or if physical touch is too dangerous or not good for you, know that there are ways to express and receive true and healthy love from others. I know God loves everyone, every single human being on this earth regardless of race, sex, choices, etc. Thank you for all the support and love you've all shown me.
      One other thing I'd like to add. I've learned that it can be very important to read more than just one opinion on a subject, and therefore I'll provide a link to another bloggers post on the same topic, just with a little different approach. The post is A Nice Thing about Guys with SSA by (Gay) Mormon Guy. His post is part of what inspired me to write mine, as well as all the blessings that have been given to me recently. One other link I'll include is a more standard look at the concept of male friendships and is not LDS based or even same-sex attraction based, and yet has a great point and some great info. It's The History and Nature of Man Friendships,. I love you all! Best of luck and God be with you all!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Love of All

     (p.s. This post is not "finished" yet, but since I have been working on it for a while and figured I got it to a good enough point, I published it as-is and I'll work on it more later)
     I recently saw a picture on Facebook of a gun with text that read "I believe in the death penalty to all child molesters" and then asked if you agree or disagree. I read through some of the comments and was amazed at how much anger and hatred was used. I did not notice a single comment about forgiveness. Not a single comment about love. Not one single comment about how those people who have made that decision are still people. Sons and Daughters of God. One comment I read was "Sadly they never stop, there is no other choice." No other choice? So people can't change?
     Many of the comments even urged for a punishment more inhumane and cruel than death itself. I read comments about torture, putting them in prison so bad things will happen to them, even so far as to say castrate them, and some other things I will not disclose due to the sheer darkness of it. I was completely shocked at how hateful, spiteful, and quick to judge so many people are. What gives us the right to pass hate and judgement, even death, so quickly on others?
     I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books and movie series of all time and from one of my favorite fictional characters. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” -Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring -J.R.R. Tolkein.
     Judgement of others has been something I've struggled with in life. I used to judge others so quickly and almost without reason. I remember how dark of a period of my life that was and how much I hurt others and myself. It has truly been something I feel I have improved greatly on. I have learned to love others regardless of their choices, past, or beliefs. Does that mean I always agree with what they do or believe? No. But I do not let it change the way I treat them.
     One thing I truly believe is that anyone can change, though not always on their own. More often than not it requires one to lean on God. The point is, anyone can change. Just because someone has made a poor decision, even a decision which can lead into something as long-lasting as addiction, it does not mean they can't change. Yes, it may be hard. Yes, it may take time and trial and error, but it can be done.
     May we all learn to love everyone the way God would have us love. Remember that everyone is a child of God. God be with you and bless you all! Love and hugs all around!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Awful Beast Named Addiction

     Addiction is one of Satan's greatest tools. So often actions, choices, and substances seem harmless to indulge in just once, or at least that is how Satan wishes us to perceive it. Addiction can begin on the first action, the first choice, the first use.
     Addiction is versatile too. People can become addicted to sex, pornography, drugs, self-harming, masturbation, stealing, adrenaline, swearing, food, the list goes on and on. Addiction is one of the greatest vices used by Satan.
     Addiction overrides the very nature of the brain. What to some may seem unnecessary, foolish, undesirable, even revolting or wrong can become to an addict the very air they breathe. Now that may be a little extreme, but to a degree, it is true. Our brain has natural signals it sends out to the body to keep us alive. The brain lets us know when we need food. The brain alerts us if we need more fluids. The brain controls our survival instincts, and this is what addictions hack. To an addict, porn can become just as important as food. Drugs can be at the same level of necessity as water. Any addiction can override the brains normal functions and send one into a seemingly endless cycle of indulging in the addictive behavior, which, to the now changed brain, seems necessary for survival and well being.
     I have had my fair share of addictions in my life. Porn, masturbation, self-hatred, etc. For so long I felt that my addictions were part of who I was, part of normal life even, and yet still I kept them secret and hidden because of the guilt and shame I felt. At some point in my life, I began hating my addictions. I knew what I was doing was wrong, I wanted to stop, but it seemed no matter what I did I just couldn't stop.
     Over and over I'd stay clean for a while, relying solely on will-power, but over and over I'd fall and relapse. I got so angry with myself each time. Things weren't improving, regardless of how much I wanted to stop indulging. I didn't understand, isn't a desire to stop enough? Is there really any hope for me? Why can't I just stop?
     I didn't even understand at the time that I was an addict. Sure, I had been to counseling, and had learned to refer to my indulgences as an addiction, but I did not understand what addiction was or what it was doing to me. I didn't even consider myself a true addict, and I believed that when I grew up it would stop. Oh, when I get married it'll stop. When I have friends it will stop. I just did not understand.
     It wasn't until I was sent to inpatient treatment, and hit rock-bottom, that my heart was softened, I was humbled, and I was willing to turn to God for help. All my life I believed that I had to do everything thing on my own. I was quite independent and did not in any way want to rely on anyone else to help me. I've since realized that I could not overcome my addictions on my own. I needed to rely on God.
     One thing I've learned in my life that has helped me so much is that no matter what your struggle is, you are not the only one. Even if you cannot find someone in your life who knows what you are going through, God and Christ know. They know all of us perfectly, no matter what we deal with, be it an addiction, physical ailment, sickness, death, whatever it may be.
     I have to credit my recovery and ability to now be triumphing over my addictions to the 12-step program, my family and friends who have loved and supported me, my ward family, and most especially my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and everyone on the other side who has been there to hold me and guide me when I felt lost and alone.
     If you struggle with addiction, or really any negative or destructive behavior, I would encourage you to turn to God, your bishop, supportive family and friends, and any others you feel may help you. I would really recommend becoming familiar with the 12 steps, because they have helped me so much in my life and in recovery, and I've seen them change and save lives.
     May we all continually strive to be better through the power of God and the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Know I love you all, and there will always be a way to overcome any trial(s) in your life. May we turn to God and learn to love as He does.
     You can access and read the LDS 12-step Addiction Recovery Guide by visiting this website:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Keeping Safe

     I was given some advice awhile ago which has slowly proved itself a principle I really need to begin to accept and use if I wish to stay on the right path. The advice was this, that I needed to "watch my relationships (friendships) with guys and really evaluate why I chose to be their friends", because I was making a lot of relationships with guys because I was attracted to them, and while I wasn't consciously doing it, I was making the relationship with them because I wanted to be intimately close with them.
     When I first got this advice, I was pretty upset. I felt like I was being accused and told to restrict my friendships with guys, which (if you've read My Story) was a pretty bad idea, kinda like taking steps backwards instead of forward. I wasn't thinking of what the advice really entailed, rather, I became defensive and stuck in my own stubbornness. It wasn't until later that I actually saw the advice for what it really was.
     One of my friends who I met through work wasn't always the most accepting. He seems to be one of those people who hasn't yet come to understand what it means to love everyone and not judge. Well, I felt like he was becoming one of my really good friends. He was LDS as well, and he had even invited me to his ward once. I had turned to him for advice before, and while it was often passive, and sometimes hurtful, it usually worked and I felt like I could trust him. I ended up making the decision to reveal my attractions to him. I did it very passively and slowly, but eventually I told him.
     He didn't react the way I had hoped, in fact many times he tried to drill into me his belief that I chose my attractions, and in defense I constantly defended myself saying I would never have chosen something that brought me so much pain and isolation. Before coming out to him, he had always treated me pretty kindly and fairly, but after telling him, he shut me out in many ways. He no longer wanted to touch me, no high-fives, handshakes,  friendly hugs, or anything like that, which began in my mind, though unconsciously, to replay all my experiences with 'Chris' and other boys in my early life. He never talked to me the same as he did before I came out to him, and his advice slowly became more uniform and it seemed like he gave it quick and reluctantly to get me off his back.
     I suppose there are a lot of people who would've broken off the friendship by now, but I wasn't willing to let go. To be honest, I was attracted to him. I wanted him to care about me, I wanted him in my life, yet continually he pushed me away. I became angry and hurt, particularly towards God because my friendship wasn't working out. I felt like he was my one guy friend who would actually talk to me, I didn't want to lose him. Though the friendship was becoming emotionally draining and even destructive for me, I wasn't willing to turn away. I kept crawling back, even after I had promised myself I was done with him.
     Slowly I began to realize that what I was fighting for wasn't going to work, no matter how much I tried to make it. I had to come to the hard realization that while I did care for him as a brother, friend, and fellow human being, I wasn't in the friendship for the right reasons. I slowly came to the realization I was taking some things too personally and being obsessive even. I had to take a step back and look at what I was doing to even realize why.
     I am still friends with him, but I give him a lot more space now, and whenever I notice I'm doing something because I'm attracted to him and not because I actually care about his goals, I take a step back and stop myself. Sure, the attraction is still there, but I've been able to control it instead of letting it control me.
     I guess what I am trying to say is I've finally come to understand the advice that I was given. The advice wasn't saying I needed to avoid males, or even that I had to break off friendships. It meant I needed to be realistic. I needed to see things in a way that would better me and those around me. My attractions were controlling me, but now I'm controlling them.
     One other thing I've gotten from that advice as well is that I need to set up strict boundaries with others. Especially other males. There needs to be lines in place that I set for myself to avoid unwanted misery, grief, or pain because I've gotten into a situation or made a decision that hinders me spiritually. My boundaries need to be in place before I ever get into a situation where something could happen.
     I love all of you and I wish you all the best! Good luck and blessings in your journey through life! God be with you all, and may your relationships be safe and fulfilling