Addiction and You (or Me)

Most of my readers probably do not think of me as one who would struggle with addiction, partly because I have maintained a reputation for integrity in the gospel and my life in general.  However, if any of you have struggled with addiction or currently are struggling, you know that addiction frequently requires the addict to live a double life.  In the past, I have lived with addiction while attempting to maintain the "ideal image" for someone in their late teens to their early twenties.  I would like to think I lived most of the commandments back then, however, that would not be an honest statement.  My obedience, due to the Spirit leaving me most of the time, decreased and pretty much everything in my life suffered as a result.  Sometimes, we do not realize how much we depend on the Lord until He withdraws His strength due to our sinfulness and refusal to repent.  After practically drowning in a tidal wave of sin (some of which I would rather not write about, because it is done now), I realized that rebellion against God does not equal happiness.  Imagine that.  Alma taught the same principle hundreds of years ago, and I never fully realized how true his statement "wickedness never was happiness" really was until I laid hold on the full blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  But some invaluable things I did learn about addiction were these:

1.  Once you are addicted, you cannot "just stop" by willpower or any other means that people often tout.  The very definition of addiction states that one has gradually lost their freedom to choose by giving into incorrect, morally deficient choices.  Christ is the ONLY way out, because as He once said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

2.  Addiction includes two core elements:  the physical and the spiritual.  In any type of addiction, the behavior(s) one acts out on create neural pathways in the brain that connect to the pleasure centers in the brain.  Sexual addictions, in particular, have often been compared by leading professionals to severe drug addictions.  Therefore, the one coping with addiction must learn how to break biochemical chains of addiction as well as spiritual chains.  The spiritual chains are broken by working with priesthood leadership, attending a gospel-based addiction recovery program, and establishing healthy habits that deepen one's relationship with God.

3.  When assisting a person with an addiction, do not criticize, blame, find fault, judge, or otherwise bring down the individual through thought, emotion, words, or actions.  Such negativity will worsen the problem.  Instead, a spirit of charity will love the person back into the kingdom of God when they are ready and on the Lord's timetable.  Also, emphasize in equal balance both the physical and spiritual elements of addiction.  People oftentimes do not realize that you have to treat the full disease, both of body and of spirit.  Be a healer in both areas, as much as lies within your power without controlling or "fixing" the individual.  Love is not "knowing what is best", thinking you are right and they are wrong, etc.  Love is accepting them as a child of God and accentuating their potential by believing in a bright future for them, and rejoicing in current progress and righteousness.

4.  If you are the individual desiring to overcome addiction, utilize every resource at your fingertips and make sure you have a network of loving, supportive people around you who are unafraid to tell you how it is in regards to your overall progress.  They can provide accountability and shed light on potential resolutions in a gentle but firm way.  Stay close to your Father in Heaven and your Savior, because they love you always, even if it feels like sometimes they are distant or whatnot.  They know you individually and so personally you can hardly comprehend it (or myself, for that matter).  If you are not already in it, use the Church's 12-step addiction recovery program.  If that does not resound with you well at first, try the Sons of Helaman program out in Farmington, Utah.  It is for men and women from adolescent to senior ages, and they have options of in-group, texting (which provides anonymity), and email support.  I personally overcame two very difficult addictions through this program, one of which I struggled with for about 10 years.

In any case, all of us live with various thorns in the flesh because of the Fall.  But overcoming sin is part of the Plan, and such sin can turn from sin into strength.  What used to be your captivity (or a loved one's) can transform into a spiritual asset that will empower them to free others, so that they can soar into the starlit sky and into the arms of a loving God, bringing those people with them.  That is the beauty of our Savior's Atonement...it works in even the most desperate of situations, healing our relationship with Him, others, and within ourselves.  I love the Lord for bringing me to higher ground, and for teaching me to trust in and rely on  Him.  Without Jesus Christ, I would be lost.  But now that I have Him with me, I know with all my heart that I can find peace, healing, and comfort in His loving arms.  You, my friend, can as well.  Believe Christ and believe in Him when you hear of His mighty power to heal and cleanse.  He can, "for with God, nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).  

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