Monday, September 9, 2013

What I've learned

Okie dokie y'all, this is it.
I've closed my email and this is my last post before I sign out. Here are a few things I've learned:

I'm not alone.

I've received many emails from people I now consider friends, supporting and strengthening me. I've been shocked at just how not alone I am in dealing with this issue of SGA in my life. Thanks for your support and kindness you've all shown me.

The Atonement still applies to me.

Even though I've messed up, the Atonement applies to me- and you! I've been addicted to pornography for 15 years now, since I was 14. I've been masturbating most of that time too. (I did take a few breaks from those two addictions though). I have felt alone, lost, and like the biggest heathen on the planet because of my attractions and actions. But, Christ's Atonement applies to me. He died on the cross so that I can live again. And be forgiven. And His Grace fills in all the gaps so that I can be made clean, and changes me.

I'm not a freak case.

My experience is not completely unique. Apparently it's common to fool around with friends and cousins at a young age and be introduced that way. It's common to be introduced to pornography during adolescence. It's common to hide my feelings and fears. And apparently it's not uncommon to still get married while feeling this way.

I have underlying needs that need to be met.

I have been subconsciously using pornography, masturbation and even my SSA to meet subconscious needs. I don't have time to write much about this right now, but I am working on identifying those needs for myself so I can find a healthier alternative.

I don't have to live my life consumed by pornography.

I am confident that by incorporating two things in my life I can overcome that addiction for good and nail the coffin shut. First, through preparing myself every day with the Gospel of Christ. Studying scriptures, meaningful prayers, temple attendance, and attending my church meetings are just a few ways there. Second, I can identify my triggers and develop my plan for overcoming them when the temptations for pornography start coming.

I can still live the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to His standards.

I hold a current temple recommend, and I am completely worthy of it. I have been free of addiction and bad habits for 8 months now, and that number is growing all the time. While I may have inappropriate thoughts at times, I still can overcome them and replace them with clean thoughts. I am in control of my actions, and I have decided to follow Christ's plan. I know that it will bring me happiness.

I don't need to be with another guy to be happy.

Satan paints that pretty picture in my mind sometimes- me being all happy and "true to myself" with another guy. That thought, however, is becoming more and more revolting. I am happy with my wife. I am happy with my children. I am happy living the Gospel of Christ.

My SGA does not define me.

What does define me? Being a Son of God. A father. A husband. But not my SGA. That's temporary. That's going to go away. But these other things? Those ones last.

I close with Ephesians 6:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Development of Same-Sex Attraction: Two Patterns

From Jeff Robinson, Part 2


Why do some men find themselves sexually attracted to other men?  How does it get started? While no two men have exactly the same experience, there are some fairly common patterns. I want to describe two of them.

First Pattern

The first pattern I will describe is somewhat less common.  It fits for only
about half of the clients I talk to.  But when it does fit, it is very important to understand. It
begins when a boy is very young, in pre-adolescence or early adolescence. This young man, who is
unusually emotionally sensitive, self analytical, and perfectionistic, begins to hear about 
chastity, sexual  morality, purity, and moral cleanliness.  He makes up his mind, at a very deep
level, that he is not going to think sexual thought about girls. He sees them as too pure, too
sacred to think about in that way. It is likely  however, that he has heard little if any
discussion about not thinking sexual thoughts about other boys. He may also assume that since he is
allowed to see other boys in locker rooms or other situations and that he himself is a boy and can
look at himself in the mirror, that seeing or thinking about other boys must not be that bad.  As a
result, when this young man hits puberty and begins to have the experience of strong sexual
arousal, he is actually less resistive, feels less guilt, in thinking sexually about other boys
than he would thinking about girls.

I commonly asked clients which they would feel most guilty about: having an explicit sexual fantasy
about a women or having a similarly  explicit sexual fantasy about a man. About half of them tell
me that they would feel more guilt fantasizing about a woman. The majority of those who feel that
way say that they would feel two or three times more guilty fantasizing about a woman. So when this
pattern fits, it has a very strong effect.
GMM: Okay, this is right on. As he was describing the first pattern, I just kept thinking yes, this is me! It was pounded into me when growing up that I shouldn't have any sexual thoughts about girls. It was deeply engrained into me. But I was never taught to not look at boys. So, in my weirdly twisted brain, it was much less wrong to look at boys than girls. I didn't really resist it much.

Second Pattern

The second pattern I would like to describe in the development of same -sex attraction is more common than the first one. It fits for a significant majority of men. It is a little bit more complex, and it sometimes goes hand in hand with the first pattern.

The men I counsel who experienced same-sex attraction often say something like “from an early age I have always felt different from or rejected by other men or boys.” For some men, this has to do
with their relationship with their father; they felt distant from their father or felt that their father didn't approve of them. Some did not like their father, and did not want to be like him. But for many other men, same-sex attraction does not seem to have much to do with their father at all. Some people believe this problem is always about the father, but many men I have counseled say they had good, often very good, relationships with their fathers.

Instead, for many individuals I counsel with, feeling different or rejected had to do with peers or
sometimes siblings. Some men were made fun of or teased. They may have been called “gay” or “fag” or other kinds of names when they were growing up. Some were left out of activities ; some simply did not like traditional activities like sports or cars or other kinds of things that boys are
supposed to like. Some were more drawn to artistic endeavors, and many have been more expressive
and more verbal. They may have excelled in art, music, drama or other less stereotypically male
GMM: Check, check, check. I had a decent enough relationship with my dad, but I've always struggled with relationships with other guys. The irony there is any of my friends would peg me as an extrovert.. Anyway, I never really fit in. Sports? No thanks. My act of rebellion in my family was keeping out of sports. And by the time I was starting to be interested in sports, everyone else was pretty good already, so I was too far behind. I did end up in choir and loved it. And I was constantly called gay, which I hated. I don't think people really thought I was, but 4-6 grades were pretty rough that way.

So from a very young age, they felt different or rejected by other males. Because of this, they
began to focus on other boys or men very intensely, almost obsessively. That intense focus most
often took one or more of three different forms:

First, they may have focused on other boys with envy and comparisons to themselves: “Why can't I be like other guys? I am so different! Why can't I have that guy's good looks, that guy's muscles,
that guy's body, that guy's sexual development, that guy's popularity?”
GMM: You mean not everyone does that? Totally describes me here.
Second, they may have focused on other boys through their desire to belong. They saw other boys in
groups of friends and buddies laughing, talking, and roughhousing, and they wanted to belong, to be
included, to fit in. They wanted to be liked and cared about.

Third, they may have focused on other boys with fascination and curiosity. They found them
intriguing. They may have been intrigued by their masculinity or by their sexual development. They
may have been intrigued by them aesthetically—they simply found them to be beautiful. So in one or
more of these three different ways—and often in all three—they became very focused on other men.
GMM: I had actually told my wife about this before. I was so concerned during puberty about if I was developing right, if I was right and normal. I became fixated on it.
Next came puberty, I'm sorry for being a little bit explicit here, but this is an explicit topic
and to really understand what happens in the lives of these young men, we need to be specific.
Young adolescent boys are very easily sexually aroused. Usually by the age of 12 they are becoming 
aroused many times each day. They may become aroused by any change in their physical environment, by any significant shift in their emotions, or for no reason at all. They may think, "I'm hot, I get aroused; I'm cold, I get aroused; my pants are too tight, I get aroused; my pants are too
loose, I  get aroused; I need to use the bathroom, I get aroused; the car ride is bumpy, I get
aroused." Or maybe they think "I'm nervous, I get aroused; I'm excited, I get aroused; I'm relaxed, I get aroused; I'm happy, I get aroused." Or for no reason at all they just get aroused multiple times during the day. I had one sixteen year old client say to me once "I'm doing much better at not having sexual fantasies, so I just have the normal arousal, about every forty-five minutes."

At this stage in their life, this arousal is what I would call “un- differentiated.” It is not
connected to any particular gender or even to other people in general. They simply get aroused a
lot. The majority boys at this stage of life are almost bored with other boys : “I've been playing
football with these guys; we've been hanging out together; there's nothing new, exciting or
intriguing there. But those girls over there, they're shaped differently, they talk differently,
and most importantly, my culture sends me all kinds of messages about sexuality, romance,
girlfriends, marriage and sex”—and so this arousal which is frequent and strong, but which up to
this point has been undifferentiated, soon begins to focus on girls.

Most boys become sexually attracted to girls for the same reason they speak English: it's what
their culture trains them to do.  As in language acquisition, a growing child eventually acquires
the ability to speak, or, in the case of sexuality, to get aroused, but the specific ways in which
these general abilities will eventually be expressed is most strongly influenced by their cultural

So what happens in the life of young men who begins to struggle with same-sex attraction? What
happens differently for them? Well, for a significant minority of boys their focus at this stage
isn't on girls; instead, their focus is still on other boys because of envy, wanting to belong,
fascination, and curiosity. It is the other boys they want to be like. It is the other boys they
want to be close to and accepted by. It is the other boys they are fascinated by and have strong
emotional reactions to. So eventually it is the other boys they begin to be aroused by.

In my experience, these are the two most common ways that a young man begins to experience sexual attraction to other young men: anxiety or guilt about having sexual feelings towards girls; and
intense focus on other boys at the onset of puberty. It is not uncommon for significant numbers of
adolescent boys to experience some sexual arousal towards other boys.  But for most boys this
experience of same-sex arousal has little lasting significance. They may notice it, but they
quickly shrugged it off as unimportant, not worth worrying about.

We are concerned, about are the boys who get stuck there; the ones for whom this experience of
same-sex arousal becomes increasingly frequent and intense during their adolescent years. To
understand why this happens for some young men, it is important to remember that we are talking
about those who have three characteristics in common: they are unusually emotionally sensitive, they are extraordinarily introspective or self analytical and they care intensely about doing things right. When these young men notice that they are beginning to be sexually aroused by other men, five things happen. For some these things happen very quickly; for others they may occur slowly over a period of years.

GMM: Oops, I got stuck. :)

Common Traits Among Men Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction

I was recently given an article by Jeff Robinson that was pretty incredible. He's a counselor out of Utah and has done some pretty amazing work. You should check it out. Really. It's changed my perspective on a lot of things, and is really spot on. For me anyway.

I'm going to be signing out of the blogging world before much longer. My wife is concerned that me spending so much time thinking about this is making things worse because I'm focusing on it. So, I'll be signing out. Considering my recent drama when I signed out not long ago, this probably doesn't come as a surprise. I'm not keen on the contention in our marriage.

But before we do that, I want to share a few things. So I'm writing them all up tonight and scheduling them to post over the next few days.

Important for me has been understanding why I'm feeling this way. So, I'm going to shamelessly copy and paste some things from his awesome document. Please read it. Seriously.

From Jeff Robinson:

It has been my experience that men who struggle with feelings of same sex attraction consistently
share three significant personality traits. These traits are almost universal among these men; in
fact, when one of these traits is not present, there has generally been some sort of strong
introductory experience, such as sexual abuse, that may have contributed to their feelings of
same-sex attraction.

The first characteristic shared by men who struggle with same-sex attraction is that they tend to be unusually emotionally sensitive. They say things like, “I have always been more tenderhearted
than other people ,” “I have always felt things more deeply than other people,” “I have trouble
controlling my emotions,” “I get my feelings hurt easily," or “I cry more easily than other
GMM: Yeah, this fits. I always cried at church meetings. After all, isn't that what we're taught to do?

The second personality trait shared by these men is that they are unusually introspective.  They
are often very intelligent, they do a lot of thinking, and much of their thinking is self analytical. They often make statements such as, “People tell me I think too much,”  “I analyze things to death,” “I think myself into circles,” “I think myself into knots,” or “I'm always trying to understand myself.”
GMM: I didn't think this applied to me so much at first, but my wife agreed with it immediately. Then that night, when I spent 10 minutes deciding just which shirt to wear, I realized that yeah, I probably was analyzing too much.

The third and perhaps the most ironic trait that these men have in common is that they have an
unusually strong sense of right and wrong, coupled with an unusually strong desire to be right
. I use the term “right” very broadly: to be right, to be worthy, to be righteous, to be normal, to be
popular, to be liked, to be attractive, to be okay, to be helpful, to be talented, to be good
looking. They just want to get things right—to be good. When parents find out they have a son
dealing with this issue, they will sometimes say, “This was my best child. He was the most devout,
the most obedient, the most helpful, and the most tenderhearted.” It is not unusual for these men
to have had outstanding histories of activity in the Church and to have held positions of
responsibility and leadership in their Aaronic Priesthood quorums, in their seminary classes or on
their missions.
GMM: This fits too. I never was in the popular groups, but I wanted it so badly. I wanted to be righteous- perfectly so. After all, the scriptures say we should be, right?

These three characteristics—emotional sensitivity, introspection, and the desire to be right are
each good attributes. The world needs more men who are sensitive, thoughtful, and who want to do
good. Yet I believe that these three characteristics are the single most significant reason why
these men “get stuck” in same-sex attraction. It is a great irony that these three positive
characteristics play a prominent role in such an agonizing difficulty. It is as though Satan says,
"Here is a group of men who could do great good in this world. What can I do to stop them?"

Hitting a wrong note

I was listening to Brad Wilcox's talk, His Grace is Sufficient. I love it. You should read it. Again.

He said,
There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent.
They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again,” and then they do it.  
The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit.  
These young men don’t understand grace.
I can say I have been there. I've messed up, and said that I won't ever do that again. And then I do. So I say I'm never doing that again. And I do. The pattern he talked about is exactly right- I try, try again, each time saying I'm never going to do it again. But I do. And I'm hard on myself. I'm frustrated, upset, and not exactly pleasant to be around during those times.

When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with movement in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?
 There should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). 
So I'm continuing on in His grace. I'm doing better than I have in a long time, and I'm excited for the future. It's not easy- last week had some miserable moments as I was fighting my dragons- but I look every day to that change that comes in me through Christ.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Been Cheating on my Wife

My wife and I sat down recently and had a pretty heavy conversation. In that talk, she told me something that hit pretty hard: when I looked at pornography, she felt like I had cheated on her.


I thought about it a lot, and I think she's right- but it makes me sick to look at it that way.
Christ taught that "Whosoever looketh on a woman (man) to lust after her (him) hath committed adultery in his heart." (Matt 5:28). I think we can take that wording and apply it for when we're checking out other guys. There's a line between checking out the scene, and lusting. And unfortunately I've crossed that line too many times.

So this is what's been on my mind this week when I've been tempted. And do I really want to go there? No. All my life I've been taught about the law of Chastity. It was hammered into us in Young Men's. In a weird way, my mind for many years applied it outwardly to my relationships with women. Yeah, I'd feel guilty for checking out guys, but much less guilty than checking out girls. I know, you're thinking- wow, this guy has issues. Yes, yes I do. But that's how my mind worked for quite awhile and I'm still working on overcoming it. I was too scared to think of girls that way- with little or no discussion on sexual thoughts about guys.

But now I've come to realize that venturing off on my own sexual adventures like that aren't what God wants for me. He meant for it to be something for me and my wife, not just me and my hands.

I'd pretty much look at myself as a monster for doing this to my wife, but I believe too much in the Atonement for that. I desperately cling to it. Yeah, I've messed up. A lot. But you know what? The Atonement still covers me, and my wife still loves me. That's the great part, and I'm grateful for the chance to change.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Crying out for help

You know, sometimes I get discouraged when the temptations start coming. I guess it makes sense that they do- we know where discouragement comes from, and it's the same source as temptations.. Anyway, it's just discouraging when you're overwhelmed by the temptation and desire for pornography; it's like jeez, I have a whole life of this pleasant stuff ahead of me? No thanks. But, I'm not planning on an early exit from this life, so there's not much to do sometimes but endure. But then, at other times, I feel carried and lifted through my trials, and it makes all the difference. So much difference, in fact, that I haven't had a major problem with run-on sentences for a whole week. But seriously, sometimes it's just overwhelming. I can't- don't- want to do this anymore. I want to give in, but I don't want to either. And so I sit and watch stupid youtube videos or surf facebook. lol. And sometimes, when it's too overwhelming to deal with, I seem to cry out to Father in Heaven- I can't do this! I need help! And before I know it, I'm in a better place. I know He's there.

I had an experience on my mission that had incredible impact on me. One night on a dark road, I had the most terrifying experience of my life (even more so than  the gunfire exchange I got caught in a year later). And during that experience, I came to know how real Satan is. And it terrified me enough that to this day I can not sleep in pitch black. The power of the devil is real.
And so the next night, finally home safe and in bed, we turned off the lights to sleep. Immediately I was terrified, so much so that I couldn't even scream out. All I could do was say a prayer to my Father in Heaven, pleading, begging, in just a few words but with the energy of my entire soul for help and comfort. Immediately I felt it in the most incredible way. The night before, I felt Satan's reality and darkness in all its glory. But that night, I  felt God's love and light in all His glory. I felt as though His arms were wrapped around me, and it filled my soul with peace.
I don't share that experience very often- in fact I don't know that I've even shared it with my mom. It's sacred and important to me, and I know that God loves me. He loves us all. He is watching over us, as a very kind and loving Father. Not just some all-powerful being, but my Father! And that's the kind of thing that gives screw-ups like me hope.
I know God lives. I know He loves each of us and is aware of us. And I know we can go on following His commandments- with the hope of eternal life with Him.
Wow, testimony meeting for sure today.
I'm recommitting myself to be perfectly obedient when it comes to pornography and everything. I'm going to be loyal to my wife, my covenants, and my Father in Heaven. And I'm excited for the path we find ourselves on as we over come these struggles.

The boy is mine

Oh my, that was awkward.

I was tired. Didn't want to do anything. So, I opened up iTunes and randomly clicked on 90s music and turned the volume all the way up. Before I knew it, "The Boy is Mine" was blasting from my computer. My wife walked in with a concerned look on her face- this song isn't so innocent when playing on my computer. I laughed it off and hit next- and Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life" came on.

I think iTunes knows I'm gay and is sending me subliminal messages.