I was asked to give a talk in my parents' ward as a part of the Addiction Recovery Program volunteers. The lds church as a whole is trying to spread the word about the ARP and I was more than happy to participate. I was a facilitator for the 12 step meetings before having my son, and I will one day return to volunteering. It is something I feel passionate about. The following is a condensed version of the talk I gave. Hope you enjoy it!
"There is no cookie cutter addict. Most of them are people you know, who look like you and me. "Normal" people who may even act "normal". It is not exclusive to non-religious persons. Within our LDS community, there are addicts that live in silence and fear, who rarely seek help because of this stigma of shame surrounding addiction. I want you all to look at me and each other, and realize something....we all have temptations. And, quite frankly, we are all going to have an addiction of some sort. The degree of severity ranges, some examples including dishonesty, anger, pride, food, shopping, gambling, social media, gaming, drugs and alcohol, or pornography. No one is exempt from Satan's temptations. Denial and codependency are also big problems within the realm of addiction. We should feel comfortable knowing we are not alone in our struggles instead of shame. "Unto man I give weaknesses." God gave us our talents, but he also gave us our weaknesses which means He trusted us with them. He provided the tools necessary to overcome them. Remember, the atonement of Jesus Christ is the number one tool.
The first image of me is during a time when I was married to my first husband. I comically call him Husband 1.0. I Met him when I was 17 and we were married at 19 in the temple. I knew going into the marriage that he had struggled with an addiction to pornography on and off since he was 12 years old, and that his family had a history of addiction. But we loved each other and I thought I could carry those burdens. That's what marriage is, right? Bearing one another's burdens, long suffering, enduring to the end? Well, during the course of our short marriage I experienced a rapid deterioration of my husband's spirit and his addiction exploded. His addiction to pornography expounded until he was living and breathing the artificial, manipulated, lifestyle Satan has created to destroy the sanctity of our procreational powers. The havoc than ensued consisted of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Satan had such a firm hold on this man that I felt the presence of the Adversary himself every time my husband walked in the door of our home. I tried everything, from couples therapy, to ARP meetings, I sought help from his family members and friends, and prayed for guidance in the temple. But nothing I did could save the addict in my life. He was not willing to save himself. This man was a product of his environment, the son of a drug addict father and a codependent mother. They both allowed pornography into their home, which their 3 young boys curiously snuck into. Neither parent had strong moral values and thought that their son, knowing his issues, was "just fine". With zero support and hope, my husband's spirit and marital commitments crumbled under Satan's influence. The mental degradation, physical ramifications, and spiritual defamation I experienced in that time tore me down and led me into the next chapter of my life.
Phase two. Really quickly, please understand that I was a good person, temple worthy the majority of the time. If you think bad things don't happen to good people, you are wrong. I am a prime example of that. So, after a lot of prayer, and confirmation from a priesthood blessing saying I should "guard my womb", I walked away from my marriage. This is where Satan attacked my vulnerabilities. During my weakest moments of anguish, he highlighted some of my temptations. Pain had exposed them. One of these was alcohol. I found it to be the only way to numb the pain. Over the next few years, instead of trying to rebuild my self esteem and heal from my wounds, I hid the trauma beneath liquid courage. I am lucky I never reached the point of physical dependency, but I was emotionally addicted. Alcohol was the first thing I turned to after a bout with PTSD, after a bad day, or a stressful day at work. Unfortunately, I did not know how to exercise self control. I did not drink socially, I could not contain it to one or two drinks. I was poisoning myself almost every time, waking up the next morning with foggy, forgotten memories. But to me, it was worth it, because I also forgot in those moments the pain of my past.
Hearing phase one, you might not blame me for this, especially if you can relate. Regardless, there is a bright, conscious awareness in all of us that can see where I went wrong.
Before I started going to the ARP meetings, I unknowingly began taking the steps on my own. I remember one night, after realizing my life was in trouble, I prayed to my Heavenly Father. It was one word. Help. I did not know how to pray and I was embarrassed of my actions. I was still living in an environment of alcohol and drug use. Still, each night, I would pray. My prayers turned into, "help me not WANT to drink." because deep down, I still wanted it. After a while of praying I noticed a change. I started to become ill every time I drank. I'm not talk I By about my usually hangover. I mean, I would try to have one or two drinks and I would become very sick. It was like I was allergic to the alcohol. It made alcohol no longer fun, but more importantly, It made alcohol no longer an outlet of pain for me. I hadn't had the strength on my own, but finally, with the help of the Lord, I was able to cut back until drinking didn't even have the slightest appeal to me. That, my friends, is a miracle.
Finally sober, I entered phase three of my life. At long last, I faced the pain, abuse, and heartache I'd endured. I realized that the more you numb your Pain, the more it hurts when you finally feel it. I went through the 12 steps, and soon became a volunteer facilitator for the ARP program. Through all of this, I learned the true meaning of the atonement and how I would use it in my life. Now, I am happily married, with a beautiful daughter, and as you can see, very pregnant with our second child.
From phase one, I learned that to love an addict is to run out of years. That even when you are doing good and praying, you will face struggles. From phase two, I learned that the media will 100% lie to you about substance abuse. You will destroy your body for a peace of mind you will never find. And your road to sobriety will be long and difficult, hurting many of those around you. From phase three, I am learning about my most divine calling. Motherhood. I've learned that the atonement isn't just about being forgiven from our sins, it is also about having our burdens made light. There is a specific journey ahead of all of us but I testify that God is aware of it. He knows us and He has made a way for us to make it Through, if only we rely on him.
It is a constant effort for me to put my spirituality on the top of my priority list. I know my temptations and pains will come back the instant I lose the spirit in my life. I know that if we put half as much effort into our spiritual success as our mortal success and all things that should come second to our eternal progression, we would be much more virtuous human beings.
I know the ARP program works. I know God loves us and He will deliver us, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."