Addiction is a family disease—the effects of one person active in an addiction will be felt by all who are close to him or her. Family and friends of addicts can feel emotions of hurt, betrayal and loss. They may be overcome by feelings of anger, fear and sorrow. They may ask themselves why this is happening to them or what have I done wrong? They may feel responsible for not helping in the right way or protecting or nurturing family members well enough. They may be trying to keep up appearances that all is well when it is not. They also might feel like they are in a situation that they don’t know how to escape.
Feelings of fear, guilt or shame may dominate their thoughts and affect their relationships with others and with God.
Trust in their addicted love one may be shattered and some even feel that God has failed them by allowing this pain and suffering to come into their lives.
If any of you are like me and have been in this cycle, then you know that where anger and fear exist, there is no peace and faith: one’s emotional and spiritual health are affected. My greatest crises of faith have been a result of my reactions to my loved ones’ addictions.
Even though the snare of addiction is vicious and the consequences of addictive behaviors are destructive -- even disastrous -- to both the addict and his /her loved ones, there is a way to heal and find peace.
Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Our Savior promised that as we surrender to Him the burdens we carry that we can receive his promise, “…my peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be trouble neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Healing and lasting peace can come by letting the Savior step in. Using the power of the Atonement to heal the wounds gives us strength and guidance to carry on.
Elder Ballard counsels:
If anyone who is addicted has a desire to overcome, then there is a way to spiritual freedom—a way to escape from bondage—a way that is proven. It begins with prayer—sincere, fervent, and constant communication with … our Heavenly Father. It is the same principle in breaking a bad habit or repenting from sin of any kind…fervent prayer is key to gaining the spiritual strength to find peace. Heavenly Father loves all of His children, so thank Him and express sincere faith in Him. Ask Him for the strength to overcome the addiction [or destructive emotions and thoughts] you are experiencing. Set aside all pride and turn your life and your heart to Him. Ask to be filled with the power of Christ’s pure love. You may have to do this many times, but I testify to you that your body, mind, and spirit can be transformed, cleansed, and made whole, and you will be freed.A way to follow Elder Ballard’s counsel is through the Addiction Recovery Program.
The Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) is specifically designed by the Church to help those suffering from addiction heal by applying the Atonement through a 12-step program, but makes clear that family members can also benefit from participation. The Family Support Group (FSG, a program similar to AlAnon; FSG is still in the pilot phase and has only limited availability) offers that same help for family members. The first “12 step programs” were developed in the 1930s by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. This inspired program has helped countless individuals find and maintain sobriety and peace in their lives over the years because it is based on the principles of faith, hope, repentance and forgiveness that, when exercised, can allow the Atonement to heal all wounds and change hearts.
The church has based its Addiction Recovery Program and Family Support Group on these 12 steps but has also included teachings from Latter-day Prophets and LDS scriptures in its readings. The program is intensely spiritual and confidential. Anyone can attend these meetings. For more information about these meetings you can ask any member of your Relief Society presidency or your bishop, and there is a geographical listing of meetings online through lds.org.
For any of you who may be suffering any of the effects of addiction your life or the life of someone close to you please know that you are not alone. The Lord loves you and all those around you; He will help you as you come to Him and release you from the bondage you feel. I know because He has been with me as I have walked this path.