Chad Nickle has been married to his beautiful wife Barbara for 23 years (on Pi Day, March 14). They have seven children and three grandchildren. He currently works in the insurance industry and is just receiving his Global Risk Management Designation. Chad has served in the elders quorum presidency three times, Young Men presidency four times, as a Ward Temple and Family History consultant, and was the Sunday School president when the Church brought in the Come, Follow Me program for the youth. He served his mission in the Chile Santiago South Mission where he first learned the importance of meeting people where they are, both figuratively and literally. (Heavenly Father can be very creative.) Chad and his family currently reside in Raymond, Alberta, Canada.

Enter Chad…

I held my shaking thumb over the connect button on my phone. “Am I really going to do this?” I ask myself. The words ‘Do you want to feel my love all the time?” was still repeating itself in my head. I knew I did. The feelings of hope were far beyond anything that I had felt in my life.

I hit the green button.

Hello? Bishop, I need to see you…

So ended the shame filled secret that I held onto for 23 years. In its place was heartache, nail grinding learning experiences and heaven-sent miracles.

The Great Challenge

As a young man I fell into a trap that I didn’t know existed and it was called pornography. I enjoyed the feelings that I felt but I also felt shame and alone. After two months of cleanliness, I was able to go on a mission.

I came home off my mission and the pornography was there with open arms.

I thought it was simply a temptation that I couldn’t resist. Addiction was for “those” people.

As I reflect over my life since I was a young man, I have come to recognize how my beliefs were formed, how shame became my teacher and how I thought I was a lost and forgotten son of God.

Finding Hope

Like Alma the younger, I can feel the hope that comes through the redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and I want others who feel alone and full of shame to have hope.

The question that comes to my mind almost every day is this:

“As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, what would I do differently that would help those who are silently struggling with pornography?”

What could I do that would help build a culture that helps others overcome shame to be able to feel the love of their Savior?

It Needs to Start with Me

Who am I really? What does it mean to be me? Does this make me excited? Do I see Heavenly Father as a distant Father who I try to impress everyday so He will love me or do I see Him as an involved Father? Do the words I use reflect this sentiment?

When I hear the word repentance, what do I feel? Do I feel uncomfortable, do I avoid the word, or do I feel love? Do I see it as paying penance or do I see it as being spiritually healed from getting spiritually injured? Do the words and phrases that I use reflect sentiments of hope or of penal duty?

What are my thoughts around the law of chastity and being modest? More directly, if someone was to use the word sex in class when discussing the law of chastity, would I get uncomfortable? How do I teach the law of chastity? Is it all about the don’t do’s or is it about what we are allowed to do and the joys of marital relationships? Do I believe that as a Child of God, sex is good and it along with all the desires was part of Gods creative designs, so that we might have joy within the marital covenant?

Am I vulnerable at church? Do I share my emotional and spiritual struggles, my doubts? Am I sharing my low points and how I got out of them? Or do I share how much I know and how good I am, so others think I am a good upstanding member.

Or do I sit back and zone out because I am getting nothing out of church? Am I being vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable so we all can be edified?

Does Church Help Me Focus on Christ

Do I see the church as a place I attend every Sunday to check off a list? Do I see the church as a gathering place for my fellow members and I who regularly attend each Sunday or do I see the church as a social vehicle that is helping to restore the house of Israel, made available for everyone in my community? Is church my focus or is it helping me focus on Christ?

As I grew through this process, I have begun to recognize that shame is Satan’s greatest tool. Through shame he tries to disconnect me from my true identity. It is because of shame; I hold back from communicating lovingly with my spouse and my children. He uses shame by saying that I am not perfect so I must act like I am and, thus, disconnecting me from members of my ward or from my priesthood leaders. It is through shame he plants seeds of doubt causing me to believe that God wants justice for my mistakes. God is loving but to those people, not me, God must be appeased, I am not simply good enough because I can’t do everything that is required of me by “The Church”

Learning Invites Progress

My hope is to share with you that I have learned about various points of the Gospel, how we can sometimes misinterpret these points and how we can share them in a way that strengthens our connecting relationships, or better yet, our covenantal relationships.

Heavenly Father has an interesting way to bring someone around when needs be. While working my recovery from addiction to pornography, I realized and accepted that I am also a food addict. I have been humbled and have since recognized how patient my wife has been. I have since learned that though she is hurting in ways that I can never imagine, she still loves me and still sees the real me. She still wants our marriage to work. We are still seeing our marriage counselor. She is working on her recovery with betrayal trauma, and I am working on my recovery with pornography and food addiction. We are learning to help each other in our efforts. We are far from perfect, and we have a long way to go.

I have learned so much in this time:

  • Knowing the difference between shame and guilt
  • Repentance truly is a process, not an event
  • Forgiveness is also a process, not an event
  • In understanding the Godhead and the love they truly have for each one of us.
  • I have learned about who I truly am
  • How to properly teach the law of chastity (Hint: we can set our youth and children up for success, just by changing how we understand and feel about sex)

Connection Helps us Recover from Addiction

Now that I better understand the lies of shame, I’ve learned the truth and power of connection. There is a very popular quote that says,

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.”

Within the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we learn so much about connection. I have noted below just some of the ways we connect:

  • We learn that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father with divine worth
  • We learn that Jesus Christ atoned for each one of us which is central to the plan of Salvation
  • We teach about eternal families
  • We are huge on family history
  • We are organized into Wards/branches and stakes, and we call them ward families
  • We call each other Brother and Sister
  • Lastly, we know that God makes covenants with us

As I looked up the definition of connection, relationship, and covenant, I looked at the Latin, Greek and Hebrew definitions. Based on these definitions I have discovered what a connecting or covenantal relationship is:

The “Best offerings” of two or more people who are unified in purpose, taking back to each other the best of what they have.”

Scientific evidence strongly suggests that “social connection” is a core psychological need essential to feeling satisfied with your life.

How Connection Can Be Broken

Connection can become severed through some sort of trauma during childhood. This can be parents divorcing, emotional, physical, sexual abuse. Disconnection can also happen when parents have an overly rigid home environment. This can be compounded in a negative way where parents in their efforts teach children correct principles using church guidelines or church leaders counsel as the final say with no discussion.

The opposite can also cause disconnection through an overly relaxed home environment where parents are not present emotionally, spiritually, or physically. However, when it comes to church assignments, these same children may see their father or mother become actively involved in their callings but still not take time for them.

For children this disconnect can cause them to start believing they are broken and unlovable. As they get older these children will either start seeking attention or become withdrawn. This is where you see one of two results; Youth wanting to be the best in everything or trying to be the center of attention because they are trying to prove that they are lovable. On the other end we will see youth who are extremely quiet and strive to be by themselves or they act out and are disruptive because they believe they are not lovable. Either way their need for love or a sense of belonging is still there.

To give an example of this. I grew up in a strict home. My parents, who individually joined the church in their early 20’s tried the best they could with what they knew. I grew up on a remote farm. Dad didn’t share his feelings and worked wherever he could, whenever he could to make ends meet. My mom, a social butterfly, grew up in the city, had culture shock. Her parents were twelve hours away and she had to learn the ways of a farm wife. Funds were scarce and money was carefully watched. Needless to say, we grew up working hard from sunup till sundown. At the time, we didn’t understand why, but we were not allowed to have friends over. After my mom’s passing, I came to learn that my mother was completely alone and stressed out. She grew up in a family where everyone talked. She now had a husband who didn’t know how to communicate verbally or emotionally. Having more children to watch over on a farm where anything could have happened stressed her out.

Making Connections

Psychological research has found that most people need to experience two types of connection in their lives to heighten their overall sense of wellbeing and satisfaction. The first is a deep connection between two people such as a marital or a dating relationship. In our teenage years, this could be with best friends, with someone they are dating or with a parent. This type of relationship requires that both parties feel loved, listened to, and understood. It also means that each individual is able to be entirely present in the moment when spending time with one another.

The second type of connection is a feeling of belonging to a social group. This may be a group of close friends, a tight-knit group of colleagues, or a religious circle. This group should provide support and guidance in a non-judgmental way and contain at least a few people with whom you have a lot in common and feel confident asking for help. These groups tend to share common goals and should feel like you have found “your people”—the people you most identify with outside your immediate family. This kind of connection greatly improves a person’s capacity.

Our Sacred Group

With this better understanding of individual and social group connections, we can more fully lead our friends, family, and associates to connections that will support and lift them through their varied challenges and blessings of life.

Hopefully, as individuals, friends, and family, we can lean into the opportunity to be present with others as we spend time together. Additionally, in the “groups” we may align ourselves with, it’s so important to welcome and love others into these groups. In the end, we are in a sacred group, children of loving heavenly parents, and we need to be vigilant in helping support and strengthen those within that group.

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