Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Until After the Trial

Opinions. Addiction. Intervention. Agency. Atonement.

One of the things I have had to struggle with throughout my life is my own opinion. I have a hard time believing my own opinion over the opinions of others. To use a superficial example, I might make a comment about how beautiful the blue sky is. Someone else might argue that the sky isn't blue, it's turquoise. Though in the moment, I might maintain that the sky is blue, after the discussion, my mind is full of doubts. Even if many others call the sky blue, even if the person who believes it is turquoise calls other things of the same hue blue, even if I'm in possession of a spectroanalysis that indicates there are no greenish tints in the sky, I still worry whether or not I am wrong, and have been wrong my whole life.

This is not a good quality in a disciple of Christ, from what I can see. And I don't know what to do about it.

I've been watching a show called Intervention by A&E which is, by no coincidence, about addictions and intervention. As I watch, I begin to draw parallels between the those who are addicted and myself. I wonder if my perpetual negative thoughts about myself (as I worry about whether or not I am wrong, begin to beat up on myself, and fill my own head with failure) parallel addictive behavior, avoiding pain by causing it myself. Though I have been taught the strength not to mask my feelings behind some other outlet, which is some comfort.

The outpouring of love by those around the addicted people is amazing to watch, but I can't help but wonder why it had to get that bad before someone would intervene. Why does a person need to face the destruction of their life before anyone takes such a strong stand against it? Of course, most of us don't want to control those in our lives until things get really bad. We don't want to take a stand because we're afraid of alienating the loved one or of trying to deny them their agency. To tie back to a previous post, we are afraid of our own potential to abuse.

So often, I feel alone though I know I have friends and family who are there for me. I can't ask for the type of support I sometimes feel I need. It would not be fair to those with lives of their own. And I begin to wonder why I even think I need their support. I believe in the Atonement, do I not? I believe that Christ can do what He says He will do, right? So why can't I feel it? He is the one who should be filling that void.

Why does it feel like I'm the only person on the battlefield, fighting imaginary enemies, while the real battle occurs two counties away?

Why does my heart still doubt what my head knows?

When will the things I've dedicated my life to become real for me?

When is a trial of faith done?


  1. Wow, SR, you're asking a lot of questions. I can only respond to one for now: "I can't help but wonder why it had to get that bad before someone would intervene."

    Because in the case of addiction, it wouldn't do any good to intervene sooner. No matter how much those on the outside want to help, there is no help until the addicted one wants it, and he doesn't want it until the pain of recovery is LESS than the pain of addiction. And recovery is painful.

    Many well-meaning people try to help addicts early on and only end up enabling their addictions. And that enabling is not a manifestation of our love. It is destructive and dangerous.

    I suspect the same is true in many areas of our lives, too. Repentant sinners don't start repenting until the pain of repentance is less than the pain of sin. (And some never learn.)

    As for your bigger question, of why we feel we're alone in this world, I don't have an easy answer, except that the older I get, the more I realize that your feeling is more common than uncommon. Sadly, in our lonliness we are not alone.

  2. "Why does my heart still doubt what my head knows?" This is psychological desistance and it is resolved by comparing and contrasting each to the other while being at observation with yourself.

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

  3. I think I could have written this three years ago... I used to pray that God would make me strong, so I wouldn't need other people.

    God sends answers to prayers in the form of other people. I couldn't have gone through my own recovery (eating disorder and healing from past abuse) without some serious help from people.

    I can't answer your question of why you feel alone, but I can tell you why I felt alone. I felt alone, because I wasn't being honest about who I was, what I believed, my own opinions, or anything really... And somewhere deep down, I always knew that if anyone knew how bad I was, they wouldn't love me.

    I'm different now. I'm much more... ME! When people tell me they love me and they'll be there for me, I can believe them. No secrets to hide behind.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your blog. I look forward to reading more.

  4. "So often, I feel alone though I know I have friends and family who are there for me. I can't ask for the type of support I sometimes feel I need. It would not be fair to those with lives of their own."

    As a person with a "life of my own" and as your friend, I want to...hit you upside the head! (figuratively, of course) Seriously? It has NEVER been an imposition to get your calls. It has NEVER been a difficulty to aid you. And I have NEVER loved you less because you happened to call at dinnertime.

    I know that your point is that sometimes it can be extremely difficult to reach out to others. And I can understand that. However, please realize that those who truely love you would rarely say that their own life is more pressing than their friend in need, no matter what that need may be.

  5. One of the reasons I love 2 Nephi 4 so much is that it shows a prophet who also is a real person struggling to live up to what he knows and has experienced. I also think there is a very good chance that Nephi either was prone to depression or even possibly bi-polar.

    Generally speaking, the Atonement in and of itself doesn't "cure" most of these effects of the fall (or Adam's transgression). It makes up for their effects in our lives and can "heal" us in a very real way even as it often doesn't "cure" our malady. It gives us perspective to accept our weakness and move forward in our effort to endure to the end - and actually grow through and as a result of the enduring.

    That's small comfort to those who struggle with things like depression and bi-polar disorder and perfectionism and self-doubt "in the moment", but it can provide wonderful hope "outside the moment".

    Finally, my wife keeps a blessing list she writes each weekend. It started out as a stress relief three years ago, but it has helped her recognize gradually those blessings as they happen - and it has begun to change her in a real way. If you are interested, her blog is:


  6. I think I know what you are saying. If there are people willing to come to your aid in a big, horrible emergency....why do you feel like you can't reach out for help when it is a minor thing? You don't want to be too needy, but you don't want to end up rock bottom before people rally around to help (like the intervention).
    I totally get it. Keep trying to reach out. Yes, rely on the Lord. Yes, rely on yourself. And yes, rely on your friends, both old friends and new friends. You need all of those support systems. Just because you have one doesn't mean you don't need to work on any of the others.

  7. Thank you for your comments, Jen, Paul and Howard. I think you pegged what I was feeling exactly, Anonymous, and I didn't even realize it. Where is the balance between being too needy and being too independent?

    Thanks, Robin. One of the reasons I love you so much is I can always depend on you for a good head-whack when I need it. And you know I mean that completely seriously!

    And it's funny you should mention Nephi, Ray. That's the second time I've been directed to that exact verse in less than 24 hours. It has helped me relax a lot about all of this, because in so many ways, Nephi is expressing exactly how I'm feeling. I'm impatient with my own progress, expecting myself to be better than I am, and wondering what is wrong with me that I can't be more recovered, given what I know to be true and what I've experienced in the past.

  8. SilverRain,

    If I understand what you are saying, I think you are right- some addictions, such as drugs, are more physical, outward, and obvious, while "negative thoughts," our way of thinking and perceiving, etc., although more inward and less obvious are nonetheless very habitual and addiction-like.

    I sometimes worry about the Church's emphasis on being self-reliant. While I understand the need to be prepared for the future and to be able to take care of our own needs as much as possible, I wonder if this can get carried too far to the point that we are too hesitant to ask for help (or to reach out to offer help). In general, I believe most of us quietly try to deal with things ourselves, which is good to an extent, but I think we may too often fail to recognize and benefit from the amount of support that is all around us because we are either afraid or don't know how to tap into it....

  9. And, I believe you are familiar with this quote (since I think you are the own that referenced this talk by Elder Hafen in a previous post on your blog); I think it is very applicable to this topic and hopefully gives some comfort:

    "Another affirmative endowment of grace is the gift of hope, which blesses us with the state of mind necessary to deal with the gap between where we are and where we seek to be. As the remission of our sins makes us lowly of heart and meek enough to receive the Holy Ghost, the Comforter fills us with “hope.” (See Moro. 8:25–26.) The gift of hope offers peace and perspective, like the encouragement we feel when a close friend gives us insight about a difficult problem and we sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Such hope can be literally life-sustaining when given us by the Savior, for the light at the end of life’s darkest tunnels is the Light and the Life of the world." -Elder Bruce Hafen, Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Ensign, April 1990, p. 7

  10. SilverRain,
    Maybe you should go on that TV show, it seems like you’re addicted to getting validation.

  11. Anonymous—You're right, I do need a lot of validation right now. That is part of what this post is about, if you read it; wanting validation, but feeling dependent for it.

    From what I understand, that's part of the recovery process for anyone who has been emotionally abused.

  12. Wow. Don't think I've ever posted but I read your blog often, and wow... I cannot believe the similarities. My husband and I have been watching Celebrity Rehab, which I thought I'd hate because I'm not into pop culture (I have to look up the guests on the internet because I've never heard of them, lol), but just like you, I am astounded at the similarities between addicts and myself, even though I've never tended toward addiction.

    One thing I told my husband while watching was, "I feel more 'at home' with a group of addicts than at church, or with our friends." Even though all are very nice, caring people. We dissected that awhile, and the best explanation I had was that we are surrounded by "normal" people, who have never experienced this kind of trauma, and they live in a kind of "innocence" that makes it difficult for them to fully understand survivors. Their definition of "sad" is not the same as ours, because they've never had the emotion of deep despair that we are referring to when we say "sad," and so forth.

    They also don't carry the trauma with them every day; they don't have to consciously work at least a little every day to rise above the scars. So they may wonder why we appear a little down today, when in reality we've had to do some pretty significant work and are pretty proud of being this up today.

    Once we've lost that "innocence," we can't get it back. So it makes it difficult for us to relate to people who live with an inner confidence that the world is a happy, helpful place, and they can accomplish anything they want to, because they are in control. Survivors know we are NOT in control of anything outside of our inner selves; calamity strikes, disaster happens at any moment no matter how responsible and righteous we've been.

    Of course, that control over our inner selves is key... we CAN change how we think, how we react, what we strive for... there is always hope for a better life and a better future. I don't want it to sound like we are a bunch of frowny losers who've been unlucky in life and are here to whine about it!

    And I don't like the term "innocence," because it can sound like I'm casting those who haven't been through trauma as shallow, superficial cheerleaders who don't understand real life. I'm not... in fact my husband, the most empathetic person on the planet, who understands me perfectly, whom I respect more than anyone, is not a "survivor," and still "innocent," according to my definitions. I just haven't been able to come up with a better word yet.

    Anyway -- sorry for the long post -- just wanted you to know you're not alone, and yes, I think there should be a group for pre-addicts, or I-am-not-genetically-predisposed-to-addiction-but-I-have-the-same-pain groups. At least give me the three weeks in the spa to "recover," lol!

    ; )

  13. liketheduggars,
    WOW! Thank you for your comment. There was so much there that I really identified with. Probably the biggest and most important for me today was,

    "They also don't carry the trauma with them every day; they don't have to consciously work at least a little every day to rise above the scars. So they may wonder why we appear a little down today, when in reality we've had to do some pretty significant work and are pretty proud of being this up today."

    I really needed the reminder of how HARD I work to overcome those scars. I am VERY proud of who I am, but when I hear other people talk about their "trials" I get confused.

    "Their definition of "sad" is not the same as ours, because they've never had the emotion of deep despair that we are referring to when we say "sad," and so forth."

    I SO needed this. THANK YOU!

  14. Thank you, liketheduggars! I think some people might read this and think that "survivors" (regardless of what they have survived) think they're better than those who have not. But it's not like that, at least not for me. Part of me wishes I hadn't "gone through the looking glass" so to speak, but I did.

    And it amazes me how much compassion it has given me for people in any type of survivor situation. There is a common bond, a connection.

  15. Jen -- glad it helped. ; ) That's the same reaction I had watching Celebrity Rehab.

    SilverRain -- Re: survivors think they are better than those who have not... NO. I agree. I don't think we're better, or even "deeper"... not in a good way, at least. That's why I said my word choice wasn't the greatest. Still trying to figure out an accurate way to describe it.

  16. SilverRain and Iliketheduggars - I've been thinking about this all day... As a "survivor" I definitely don't think I am better than anyone else... Being a survivor DID force me to face pain and face myself and THAT has made me a more compassionate, empathetic person. (Notice I still didn't say better.)

    I was FORCED by my circumstances. I have seen people CHOOSE to face themselves in the same way, and become compassionate empathetic individuals.

    Not every "survivor" is strong, compassionate, helpful... The prisons are full of people who have been hurt and deal with that pain by hurting others.

    Those are my thoughts... disconnected and disjointed. I hope they make sense to someone. :)

  17. SilverRain,
    I enjoyed reading your post. Probably because I could relate to it. I'm married to an addict and he had to hit bottom before he would admit he needed help.
    Your last question,"When is a trial of faith done?"
    I wish I knew. But I'm not thinking it is in this life. I'm finding it is the only way I can develop some Christlike characteristic.
    Blogging helps me sort my thoughts.
    myrefinersfire.blogspot.com my thoughts.


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