Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Perfectly Okay to Be Imperfect

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to the new documentary-style series This Is Life with Lisa Ling on CNN. I've always liked Lisa Ling, ever since I saw her on Channel One (my junior high and high schools' morning news program) with Anderson Cooper—I've always liked him too! Side note: I love seeing how Anderson and Lisa have progressed so far in their news careers. They are excellent at what they do. Plus, it's fun to say, "I knew them when!" (Although, I have nothing to do with either of them!)

All of the episodes I've watched have been very interesting, but episode 2, Unholy Addiction, had me spellbound. Here is CNN's YouTube introduction of it:
"Utah, home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has the lowest rates of tobacco use and alcohol-related deaths in the nation. Yet, every year more people in Utah are dying from prescription drug overdoses than are dying in car accidents. In this episode, Lisa travels to Salt Lake City to discover how the hard hit LDS Church is battling an epidemic that is wreaking havoc on its faithful followers."


I found it fascinating yet sad to see active and inactive members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints baring their souls on CNN about how hard it's been for them to deal with their prescription drug addictions.

Disclaimer: I've never been addicted to anything in my life, unless you count my husband, Greg! Ha ha. But in all seriousness, I think the worst nearly-addictions I've experienced are a love of chocolate and socializing. FYI, they don't need to happen together, but it's always fun if they do! ;) As you can clearly see, I'm not an expert when it comes to addictions. Even when I had an eating disorder as a teenager (you can read about it in my post Love Every Breath), I was not truly an addict. It was just something I was trying to become good at. When I did become "good" at it (which was a very bad thing), I had a seizure that thankfully shook me to my core, and I chose to totally change my way of life. Thus, all I can offer are my thoughts on this subject. I mean no harm in writing this post! That said, let's move on...

As I listened to the four people Lisa interviewed, I kept seeing/hearing recurring themes. Here are their points of view about prescription drug abuse. I've enlarged their points that were similar.

Kathy (I'm unsure how she spells her name.):
"There are things we're taught in the Mormon church that we're not to do... There are some ideals that we strive for... There's that pressure to be perfect and since we don't drink [alcohol, or caffeinated beverages or, use tobacco], there's always the pills—which aren't really talked about." 
"...I know a lot of people are like me, they want to keep it [prescription drug abuse] secret. There's this pressure to be perfect.
"They [the drugs] make you feel like everything's okay and you can manage everything, which leads to feeling like they're necessary to get through your daily life." 
"...I was worried about the shame of it [of hiding her addiction], and having this weakness. It's not so much the Church putting it [the pressure to be perfect] on people, but it's people getting that idea that there's a certain standard that they've gotta live up to. You know, heaven forbid if there's a problem in your life. You're not gonna talk about it."
Shannon, who is Kathy's daughter:
"I felt worthless. I didn't fit the box of being like this housewife. Everybody else in church gets married and has five kids by the time they're 30. Yeah, they're not telling you to do that, but how do you feel when you go to church and you're the only one that doesn't."
Sarah, who is Shannon's friend (By the way, I spelled her name Sarah because her parents were both religious, and I'm assuming they took it from the Holy Bible. I could be totally wrong on the spelling.):
"She [Sarah's mom] just doesn't relate to me at all. We don't relate with each other.
"...Honestly? I think they're depressed, or they're hiding some type of issue in their life. You know? They just don't want to be judged by their church."
Ryan:
"People are worried about what the neighbors think. The LDS Church lives by a higher set of standards. And if they're living their life in a way that's wrong, then, yeah, they're gonna do everything they can do to hide it."
Even Lisa Ling fell into the same "trap" when she said,
"The LDS 12-Step Meeting was really emotional. Everyone in that room shared such painful and candid details about their addiction. Not just with each other, but for the world to see. I couldn't have done it."
I know everyone sees and takes things differently, but what I took away from this documentary is that many people struggle mightily with being judged as less-than, imperfect, weak, or different. They want to connect with others, but are afraid of not fitting-in, or not measuring up to someone else's standards. Furthermore, it seems that some people will do whatever they deem necessary to hide their flaws—even if it endangers their health and well-being. For some, their pain is too much—too real—to deal with. Unfortunately, they believe the only relief available to them comes through prescription drugs.

What saddened me the most about this episode is seeing the pain in the interviewees eyes. Even though many of them were sober and healing, I could still see their pain. So here's what I wish I could say to everyone—not just Church members:
  • It's okay to feel any and every feeling we have. We need to allow ourselves the time to feel our feelings and come to terms with them. No one can tell us how long we should feel—or not feel—a certain way. It's up to us, we get to be in charge of our feelings!
  • Masking, numbing, or ignoring our feelings with any vice (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, technology—anything) that we might be tempted to use, is simply destructive to our souls. We should avoid those vices at all costs!
  • We must allow ourselves to feel discomfort in our lives. The beauty of feeling discomfort is that it motivates us to want to change for the better!
  • We can make mistakes and still have immense value. We can learn from our mistakes and become better people.
  • We strengthen ourselves and others when we open our souls and share our weaknesses and fears.
  • There's nothing wrong with crying! In fact, I think our sinuses need a good cry every now and then to help prevent sinus infections. Seriously! I could be totally wrong, but it sounds good, right?! ;)
Speaking of crying, Moses 7:28-29 tells us (emphasis added),
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? (To find out the answer, read the rest of Moses 7!)
Also, in John 11:35 we are told,
35 Jesus wept.
See?! Crying isn't a bad thing! Now, back to my list. :)
  • We must be honest with ourselves and others, for if we are not honest, we are living an incongruent life. I can't think of anything more torturous than forcing my soul to live incongruently!
  • While none of us wants to be judged by others, the truth is, judging happens. We can either acknowledge that fact and learn how to deal with it while choosing to live our lives well, or we'll continue to have issues with others when they dislike or disapprove of our choices.
  • I cannot stress enough that it's perfectly okay to be imperfect!
*All of that said, do we give up trying to become better people? No, it most certainly does not! I never want anyone to stop improving themselves. There is great joy to be found in our journeys of personal discovery and self improvement. Why wouldn't we want to do our very best every single day of our lives here on earth? Everyone gets discouraged, and we all regularly experience disappointment, but I think those feelings are necessary for our souls to become stronger.

Truth? We can be happy! Everyday, we make our choices. Unless we have a severe emotional/mental component that needs professional medical help, we can feel all of our feelings, and then choose to be happy! :)

And the next day, if we feel sad, that's okay. We might feel sad for several days, and that's okay too! Because when we deal with our emotions and allow them to properly run their course, we make room for the happy feelings to fill our lives again!

But back to prescription or over-the-counter drugs: I won't take them unless they're absolutely necessary because I hate not feeling like myself.
  • I hated taking Benadryl (the one time I took one pill because I thought it would help my cold) because it completely sped up my body to the point that I couldn't sleep and was pacing my house! I've read the possible side effects and know that my reaction was not normal. I'll never take any form of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) unless the doctor forces me to!
  • I definitely didn't like taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen after my first child was born (for episiotomy stitches) because it took away my pain to the point that I totally overdid my first day home from the hospital. I felt completely exhausted the next day, and my stitches hurt even worse than the day before. I decided right then and there that I would never take extra-strength pain pills again unless there was a significant problem that made me incapable of functioning without them.
  • Similarly, I had nitrous oxide once at the dentist and felt so loopy and out of control that I vowed to never use it ever again.
However, I received epidurals when I gave birth to my three children. I'm very grateful for that medical benefit, for it helped me enjoy the birthing process and not be incapacitated by contractions—my contractions were so intense with my first son that the nurses gave me a synthetic morphine to tide me over until the anesthesiologist was available. I guess I just have a super effective uterus. ;)

Obviously, none of us can live completely pain free and it's unrealistic to think we can. I view pain as our partner: it's a way for us to really listen to our bodies and make changes in our lives for the better!

Last week, I watched a fabulous CES DevotionalWe are the Architects of Our Own Happiness, given by Bishop Gérald Caussé. He shares so many wonderful thoughts, I highly recommend watching all of his talk! Begin at 12:12:



If you don't want to watch all of it, here are some of his wise words:
"My dear brothers and sisters, my message for you today is that there is a different path than ones of fear and doubt, or self-indulgence—a path that brings peace, confidence and serenity in life. You can't control all of the circumstances of your life. Things both good and challenging will happen to you, that you never expected. However, I declare that you have control of you own happiness. You are the architects of it!" 
"Though your happiness is not really the result of the circumstances of your life, it is much more the result of your special vision and the principles upon which you base your life. These principles will bring you happiness regardless of the unexpected challenges and surprises you will inevitably face during your journey here on Earth."
Brilliant, right?! :) Also, I just had to create a typographic design of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's famous words:



Again, we must do our best to improve ourselves, but simultaneously love and accept who we are! We must not beat ourselves up for our faults, but acknowledge them and find ways to become better. And we must not forget that we will deeply regret if we allow anyone or anything to sway us in our efforts. We must truly love ourselves and remain strong in our endeavors to live our lives positively! :)

I believe we can all learn from what Sarah said at the end of Unholy Addiction.
"I want to stop [using prescription drugs] more than you even know. I've been in and out of jail. I've lost everything. I wish I had my parents. I wish I had my daughter.
"...And sometimes, I just want to scream out like 'I want my mom!' You know? I'm 26 years old, and I just want a hug from my mom. How hard is that?" 
"I am sorry, Mom and Dad, that you have to see me like this, but I think this is a good thing, I guess. I don't know why I want you guys to see how I live, but, I do..."
We can clearly see from her experiences that healthy communication with our loved ones is vital! We must not allow painful issues to get in the way of our special family relationships, for some might run the risk of finding dangerous alternatives to cover that pain. No matter how badly some words might hurt to speak or write, it's worth being brave and expressing them!

And we must never forget how important unconditional love is. Obviously, I don't understand what Sarah's family has gone through with her, and from what I understand of addicts, they can be dangerous to others. Thus, we must protect ourselves and keep our families safe while attempting to give our unconditional love. It's a tricky balancing act, for sure. But I believe with dedicated determination, anything is possible!

In the end, we must never forget that we are beloved children of our Heavenly Father (God). We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves us enough that He gave His perfect life for every single one of our imperfect souls! Again, we see that it's perfectly okay to be imperfect! If our Savior was willing to die for us—as imperfect as we arewe must see, understand, and fully internalize our tremendous value and worth. If we allow it, that loving knowledge can propel us through every trial!

*I must add, however, that just because our Heavenly Father and Savior perfectly love us, that doesn't excuse us from repenting. Repentance is a very important part of our lives that everyone should partake of daily. I don't want to put us on a guilt trip because I know everyone is very good at going on those trips unaccompanied and unfunded by anyone else (ha ha), but I do want us to remember that Jesus Christ died for us. Because of His sacrifice, He gave us the ability to repent and return home to our Heavenly Father. We must not take His sacred gift for granted. We must accept His precious Atonement and repent daily, for that is how we show our love for Him.

Finally, when we experience heartbreaking feelings, we can and must(!) go to our Heavenly Father in prayer for "...the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all [our] faces..." – Isaiah 25:8It's true! :)

2 comments:

  1. I am so grateful for your post. The Lisa Ling program took me to another place. That, combined with your insightful comments, made this so very worth the time it took to read it. I especially liked your comment about pain being our companion. I love you so much.

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  2. Thank you, Shari, for your sweet comment! I appreciate you so much! :)

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