For nearly twenty years, I have worked as a professional counselor. I have spent most of my career working with behavioral addiction recovery, severely abused trauma survivors, and disorganized and chaotic families. For the past three years, I have been blessed to act as a facilitator in LDS Family Services’ Addiction Recovery Program. Prior to that, I attended group meetings as an addict myself. This book is a result of my own thoughts and experiences from working in and studying that program.
A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing is the manual for the LDS Addiction Recovery Program. As is stated on the cover of that manual, it was “written with support from Church leaders and counseling professionals and by those who have suffered from addiction.” Overcoming Addiction: A Twelve-Step Companion Guide is designed to complement the Church’s inspired manual, not to replace it.
Overcoming Addiction was written for those who struggle to understand their addiction, believing they are beyond the blessings of the Atonement, and who question how they can ever come back to full fellowship with the Saints and once again feel Heavenly Father’s loving embrace.
Addiction does not discriminate. It attacks men and women, rich and poor, members and nonmembers of the Church. A common error is to try to attach a specific addiction to a gender or to a certain class of people. The inspiration of the LDS Church’s addiction recovery manual is that it is not gender specific. It is not race or ethnic focused. A woman can be a sex addict, just as a man can have an eating disorder. A young man from Brazil can have a gambling problem, and an elderly woman in Japan can struggle with alcoholism. The manual will work for everyone in every place. How? Because it contains the “Good News”—that the atonement of Jesus Christ can heal us of our addictions. And that message is for all of God’s children.
The goal of this companion guide is to follow that example. Even though I have written this book and used some of my own experiences as examples, it is not written specifically for men or only for those who have struggled with the same addiction as I have. This book can be used by anyone who has an addiction or a compulsive behavior, or who desires to overcome any other problem.
In LDS recovery meetings, we talk about the need to “work the steps.” It sounds good, and members of the group want to follow that admonition. Yet when the meeting is done and the recovering addict goes home, he or she may wonder, “How do I work the twelve steps? Do I simply read and answer the questions at the end of each chapter in the Church’s manual? Is that all there is to it?”
How do you “work the steps”? This book will offer you insight and direction to help you do just that, and to receive the promised blessings from our Father in Heaven.
Remember that each step is its own little journey where you will experience greater awareness and discover a deeper connection with your Father in Heaven. Each step will offer stretching moments. Positive feelings will return, and your heart will begin to soften. Your very nature will be changed by the power of the Atonement.
No more half-measured attempts. No more shortcuts! Some people in recovery pick and choose the steps they want to do. This is folly. The Lord’s Church, through inspiration, created the Addiction Recovery Program, and therefore each step is essential in gaining the promised blessings of recovery.
President James E. Faust stated, “Said the Savior, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ A testimony of . . . prayer comes through humble and sincere prayer. A testimony of tithing comes by paying tithing. Jump in with both feet” (James E. Faust, “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 19).
The exercises and questions in this guide will help you more completely experience the power and promises of the twelve steps. Working each step will give you a testimony of the power and necessity of that step. Gaining a testimony that the Church’s twelve-step program works can only come by working it.
Be willing to go to any length to find the peace the Savior is anxiously waiting to bless you with. Remember, the message of the twelve-step program is that God is a God of miracles. He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Through Him, we can find recovery, repentance, and healing.
HOW RECOVERY WORKS
What are the basic building blocks of recovery? How does it actually work? The most fundamental principles of any kind of change are desire, hope, faith, and grace. The following discussion will help you understand the process of recovery from a spiritual point of view (see Alma 32).
Desire—Opens Us Up to Experience Hope
“I’d like to be free of this addiction, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen.”
“Do you think it’s really true? Could I really be healed?”
“I hear other people in the group talk about their changes and their sobriety. I’d sure like to have those kinds of experiences.”
Desire is wishing for, wanting, and dreaming of something better. Desire is an elementary building block of change. But even with desire present, there can still be pride, doubt, fear, and relapses. For desire to produce the beginnings of change, we must possess humility. Being humble causes us to take tiny steps forward, helping us to act on our desire. Every tiny step we take, acting on wanting a different life, wanting to be free of the addiction, our desire grows. Our desire can grow bigger than our pride. It can grow bigger than our fear. It can grow bigger than our doubt. Going to recovery meetings, even though you are still struggling—that’s acting on your desire. Going to church even though you can’t take the sacrament—that’s acting on your desire. Going to see the bishop even though you have nothing but bad news after another rough week of acting out—that’s acting on your desire.
Hope—Leads to Faith
“The Holy Ghost has told me that I can recover.”
“I can feel God’s love for me. Maybe I’m not garbage after all.”
“When I go to the Church’s recovery meetings, I feel lighter, I feel better, I feel stronger.”
As Sister Gunn, a group missionary in the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program, stated, “Hope is not an intellectual experience. It is a spiritual experience. You don’t think it—you feel it. Open yourself up to it.”
Hope is a spiritual gift that comes from acting on our desire to change. Hope energizes us. It burns away darkness and despair. Hope fills us up, offering us the promise that things will get better. With hope, we feel more confident, more alive, and above all, more loved. There is nothing that infuses a soul with hope more than Father in Heaven touching the wounded heart and encompassing His son or daughter with His love. Hope is a motivator. Hope is the fuel of recovery. It is no mistake that hope is often one of the first feelings members experience as they come to recovery meetings. Hope eventually anchors the soul (see Ether 12:4), allowing the recovering son or daughter of God to feel more stable, more grounded, more solid. On this spiritual and emotional ground, a firm foundation of faith can be built.
“I will work the twelve steps because I believe they are inspired of God.”
“I will go to recovery meetings because the bishop said I should.”
“The group missionaries said I should share during group, so I will.”
Faith is trusting in God. Faith is believing what He says and then acting accordingly. Faith is not seeing the end of the journey, but taking that first step anyway. Faith is letting down our defenses so the Savior can heal us. Faith is trusting God will make all things right, that He can and will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Faith is believing God when He tells us He loves us. Faith is remaining abstinent even through the agony of withdrawals because Heavenly Father said He’d be there to help us through the pain. Faith is not knowing for sure if step 2 or 4 or 9 is necessary, but working through it anyway because the Lord asks us to.
One brother, who had struggled with compulsive overeating for nearly twenty years, came to an addiction recovery meeting. He attended every week for several months. Nothing changed much during that time. However, he desired to be different, and he acted on that desire by reading and coming to group. Eventually, as the brother became more humble, the Spirit testified to him that he could be healed of his overeating and lose weight.
Filled with hope, this brother started doing more than just showing up for the meetings. He enlisted the help of his doctor and a nutritionist. He started keeping a food journal. He started working the steps, including the Lord in his daily struggle with food. This brother was acting on his faith—his belief that Heavenly Father had spoken to him and that he could and would be free of this problem if he did what God told him to do.
Faith is acting on our trust in God. Every act of faith unlocks a portion of the gift of grace. With time, we can receive a fullness of grace, being endowed with Christ’s power to change.
Grace—Gives Us Power
On page 9 of the LDS addiction recovery manual, we read:
In the Bible Dictionary, grace is defined as “divine means of help or strength” given through the “bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” (“Grace,” 697). This gift of divine strength enables you to do more than you would be able to do if left on your own. The Savior will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. His grace is the means by which you can repent and be changed.
If hope is the fuel of recovery, then grace is the vehicle of change. Without grace, there could be no recovery. Without grace, there could be no repentance, no change of heart, no rebirth. Grace permeates every aspect of our lives, from obedience to continued strength for a single mother or father, to understanding complex math equations. The atonement of Jesus Christ offers all the sons and daughters of God access to the heavenly power of grace. It is one of the most precious gifts we receive as we come unto Christ.
After experiencing unimaginable pain and suffering for acts He would never commit, the Savior turns around and offers His spiritual brothers and sisters a portion of His power. Such love. Such mercy. And as we receive such a wondrous gift, how can we not fall to our knees in worship and proclaim our allegiance and obedience to our Savior Jesus Christ?
Heavenly Father understood that we would find ourselves in countless situations on earth where we would become powerless over a situation or a given behavior. Through the atonement of His Only Begotten Son, Father in Heaven offers us a portion of His power so we can overcome and be victorious in this otherwise fruitless and unwinnable struggle. Through Christ, we move from being powerless and imprisoned to being powerful and free. Recovery rests squarely on the miracles offered us—hope, faith, and grace—by the Savior Jesus Christ.
A twelve-step guide to healing from addiction
Overcoming Addiction is an essential tool for anyone struggling with addiction, as well as for family members of addicts and for professional counselors and addiction-recovery group leaders.
Don t leave home without it. . . . Where the LDS Addiction Recovery Manual is akin to a GPS,Overcoming Addiction is a guidebook. Use this guidebook and you will more deeply understand the steps of recovery along the way. Questions will be answered and fears assuaged. This journey of recovery is to recover your spiritual and physical life. Shouldn t you have all the information pertaining to the trip? Shouldn t you have, at your fingertips, the spiritual insight and understanding that make each step mean so much more? This workbook will do that for you. It did for me. --Rod G.