For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bad logic, indeed!

So I went home this past weekend. It was a great visit, my nephew is leaving on a mission. Spending time with family was good for me. I felt present with them, I felt a sense of connection to my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews and my parents. I was certainly renewed and refreshed.

However, on the journey back to Seattle my addictive mind started working its magic - stressing to me that if I get sober I will never have a relationship, ever. So logic goes like this:

Premise 1: Active sober gay Mormon sex addicts cannot have a committed relationship and remain in good standing in the church.

(Certainly there are variations on this particular premise...but this is the rational in my head.)

Premise 2: Going in-active or not maintaining sobriety maintains distance from the Church.

Conclusion: Therefore, sabotaging sobriety enables the gay Mormon sex addict the possibility of a committed relationship.

While this logic is not tight, has numerous holes and jumps, it is nonetheless the prevailing logic in my mind. It is the argument that I can't seem to see beyond. I equate sobriety with activity in the Church, and activity in the Church is therefore equated with a lonely, single life. Nuts! Crazy! I know.

So I not struggle to see a different logic, yet I'm not finding it. I met with my therapist yesterday and am slowly trying to work on re-defining a new logic that will guide my actions. I sure hope it works.

Seeing my nephew getting ready for his mission (he's in the MTC now) brought a host of emotions and thoughts that I am barely coming to process now. The logic that has determined the course of my addiction and my struggle with the church has been highlighted and needs intense scrutiny. Somehow, the mission-ready kid brought that all to the foreground of my thinking. I thank him!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Aversion to hugs and Dating God

Last night I met up with a friend, a gay atheist. I'm not really sure why I find more comfort in spending time with atheists than I do with members of the church. As I approached the restaurant, I could see him from the window, it was good to see him. As I approached him, being the nerd I am, carrying books and notebooks and papers and trying to keep them from falling to the ground by tucking them under my arms, he came forward and embraced me, books and all. This is not an unusual greeting between him and me. But the hugs in the past have been almost an empty gesture - I can tolerate those. However, this time was different, he pulled me in and wrapped his arms around me, I felt the full embrace, and almost dropped my books and other sundry items.

As I reflected on that experience, I realized that healthy intimacy frightens me. His hug was an intimate moment, conveying his love for me as a friend. My immediate reaction was to pull back, but I simply surrendered to it. Fear of healthy intimacy. Wow! I'm not entirely certain as to why that is the case. But as we talked over dinner, his insights in to my life have been remarkable, powerful, and encouraging. While he is an atheist, he respects me enough to know that my belief in God is central to how I see myself and others. As I shared with him how I've been sober for almost ten days, but had some slips cruising ads on Craigslist, and by fantasizing about the silly pictures on Grindr, I came to my willingness to surrender to God.

Perhaps somewhat emboldened by this new found intimacy, I simply declared that I'm willing to trust God and willing to let go of controlling the outcome and my need to understand the implications of what the trust might mean. I told him there is some fear and anxiety about not feeling resistant to God anymore, I told him , I felt naked without this resistant element that has been with me for so long - I felt a little lost. He simple said, think about your relationship with God as if you were dating Him. I was taken aback, he said, the first date you get to know a little bit, but you have some trust He won't hurt you, but you're guarded. My friend continued, "in the relationship you continue to learn more about Him and your trust in Him increases and you're ability to surrender increases."

I sat back to allow that insight to settle in on me. I trust God and that trust will progressively strengthen the more I interact with God, the more conversations I have with Him, the more I do as He asks. I'm slowly trying to let go of my need to see with some measure of clarity the implications and outcomes of my surrender to Him. But I'm willing. And so to use my friends analogy, I will start to date God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Being a spectaular Failure

I hope to fail with glory. I was inspired to do so by a line from the hymn, God Speed the right:

"If we fail/ we fail with glory..."

As a person of color, I am not blind to the blatant and many subtle forms of structural oppression. Nor am I ignorant to the fact, as a result of being forced to live in the margins, that I no longer see failure to live up to the standards of the logic of a capitalist society, and failure to live up to the logic of the heternormative order of the church as inherently bad things. Rather, I think I might revel in failure, if that failure means I get to continue making mischief in the margins, continue to fight for the underdog, continue to resist being institutionalized into capitalism, into a white heteronormative order (often undergirding the interpretation of how the gospel ought to be lived).

I think I can be a spectacular failure. I am certainly no stranger to it; I've failed in living up to the standards of the church, I've failed in being a capitalist success, I've failed in inspiring my colleagues and peers by simply using standard frames of reference to articulate knowledge. I've further failed in applying scriptures and gospel standards in ways that often comport with the culture of the church. If failure means to continue stirring up alternate ways of seeing, alternate ways of knowing, alternate ways of approaching God, I think I'd like to be glorious failure.

Friday, January 6, 2012

One day at a time...

Since I last "acted out" the play about my need for healthy intimacy through anonymous encounters with men, I've been sober. It has been nearly a week. While I'm chary about whether this change is lasting, I'm hopeful that it can be sustained at least until the end of today.

Last night, one guy I know wanted to come over and stay the night and cuddle. While it was very tempting and something I desired, to feel the warmth of his touch, his head on my chest, his arms around me - it is and has been unhealthy each time I have met this guy. The relationship is merely physical - his needs of healthy intimacy and mine are never met in this charade we put on, this play we act out, as if what we are doing is healthy and meets our deepest emotional and spiritual needs. When he leaves I feel incomplete; I'm sure he feels the same way. As I contemplated what his presence would do, I simply ignored his text messages and his phone call. I went to bed and woke up sexually sober.

Part of that sobriety came from a realization that I can be celibate as a gay man, even as a gay Mormon man. A good friend of mine who is not Mormon, but a former Catholic and gay told me how he had come to a point where he was prostituting himself to other men, shooting stuff up his veins, and considering doing meth when he realized his life was out of control. He told me that as he started a process of sexual recovery his life finally came into focus, he began to see with new eyes, he began to have a real relationship with God, but more importantly (for me) he realized he could be celibate as a gay man. He made the choice not because of any normative imperatives, but rather because he realized it was healthy for him to do so. Hearing that gave me some measure of strength.

As I pondered whether or not to "act out" this terrible play with this guy (who I've acted out with numerous times before), I paused and thought about what my friend said. That gave me the strength to ignore the text messages and to not answer his phone calls. I can be celibate for me. I don't have to do this because that is the only option the church has given me, I don't have to be celibate because that is the expectation; I can do it because it is healthy for me.

I wish I had the humility to learn from others. But so often I'll hear from guys younger than me who are at that moment committed to the gospel and full of answers and are in compliant with the law of chastity. I usually don't give them their due, in part because in my twenties, I was the same way. It seems the pattern is that most men are stellar in their "fight" against "acting on" their feelings during their twenties, they devote themselves to the church and appear for all intents and purposes happy. Yet, in their thirties many of them (not all) can't keep up with what they tried in their twenties, the struggle weighs heavier on them and they end up for the first time really exploring and attempting to embrace who they are - as they do so many of them end up leaving the church. In the late thirties and forties, many of them tend to return to the church different people, having a different relationship with God and themselves.

I tend to look for those older than me who have more experience in wrestling with God. I look to my former Catholic friend, he is in forties and see his wisdom. I've yet to find a good solid gay Mormon who has embraced who he is as a gay son of God. Perhaps one day I will. Until then, I will lean on people God puts in my way to learn how to be sober one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Help from The Chemical Brothers

I think I'm addicted to melancholy; it seems that melancholy, at times, can lead to, nay even fuel, creativity, serious reflection, even profound reflexivity. I think I take great pleasure in melancholy: it allows me to focus on the things of my soul, the deep things of my life, to work out the things that weigh heavy on my conscious and on my soul. It allows me to pierce through the lies I tell myself, it allows me to see me.

Yet, there has to be another way to examine my life than to get there through artificial and deadly means, as I have hitherto done. I talked with a friend yesterday about my life and I realized that I'm afraid of moving forward. I'm afraid of progressing because I don't know what that progress will do for me, nor do I know what the outcome will look like.

I labored over this during the winter break and ended up "acting out" with several people. Fear of the unknown catapults me into my addiction; it agitates it. As I tried to face my fear in the eyes and not blink, it was far to heavy for me. I broke down and lost it. I fear what I will become if I unite myself with the church; I fear what I will become if I but simply put more energy into my work; I fear where I will be if I stop resisting God. But I blinked. I gave way to a series of unhealthy encounters that left me exhausted mentally, nearly spiritually extinct, and emotionally spent. Yesterday another friend (at my recovery meeting) explained that we try to "act out" the things we desire most. As I reflected on my encounters recently and from the beginning they were all attempts to establish a connection, an attempt to fill the yearning for completion, an attempt to fill the hole in my soul. I acted out with these men to try to make me whole, to make me feel lovable, to make me feel connected from the world - the irony is that these encounters only disconnected me from more of the things I value and treasure. As a result I feel somewhat lost and confused.

There's a song by the Chemical Brothers that has oddly provided me with some hope, weird, I know:

As I walked along
The supposed golden path
I was confronted
By a mysterious specter
he pointed to the graveyard
over on yonder hill
I paused in cosmic reflection
confused and wondering.
Of how I came to die to die...
Hmmm I was confused
For if I was dead
how and why did I die?
but I composed myself
and decided I should face him
But I stood paralyzed
on the supposed golden path.
and I was confronted
by a powerful demon force
and they said it was the devil
and when he spoke his words flowed like glowing lava
from the mouth of a volcano
and I said help me lord
I found myself in some kind of hell
but I did not believe in a
Heaven and hell world of opposite’s kind of reality
and I gained control of myself
and I decided to press on
and as I walked along the supposed golden path
I was trembling with fear all the lions and wizards yet to come.
I seen in the distance silver mountains rising high and the clouds
and voice from above did whisper some shining answer from the womb.
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
As I walked along
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
As I walked along
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you
Please forgive me I never meant to hurt you

I'm not sure why but the chemical brothers have given me pause to reflect on my lamentable state.

But it's a new year. The missionaries have been coming over and meeting with me again. Their determination in saving my soul is commendable. They came over on Sunday and talked with me at length about striving to have simple faith in God. What surprised me about that interaction was the amount of resistance I had to their message. I arrested that resistance, as much as I could, and chose to simply give way to their message. I wish I could say that was a singular moment that I could look back on that changed my life, but it wasn't. It was forced, it took great effort, it was messy.

Before they left they committed me, after my sheer discomfort at the idea of making any commitment to read scriptures, pray and attend church. I was surprised again at my level of resistance, yet despite everything inside of me not wanting to make a commitment, I did. It's not that I don't read scriptures or prayer, rather the idea was committing to do so with an express purpose of coming to Christ.

My relationship with scriptures has been more like a morning meditation to clear my mind, not with purpose to bring me closer to God. Again, I wish I could report it was an ineffable moment, but it was wasn't: rather it was mundane and again quite messy. They left me with a commitment, really to help me build simple faith in God. Yesterday I talked to my sponsor (a gay atheist) who committed me to pray and to find contentment in my path. He seems to always complement the missionary message - Odd!

I've been sober since Sunday. I'm not sure if that is a blessing of the commitment, which I have honored, or if it's simply a cycle. But my sponsor asked me to look for the miracles, no matter how small or insignificant they may be, and allow that to fuel my trust in the Divine.

And so I try.