Thursday, March 17, 2011

FHE Lesson on Overcoming Addiction? Really?

This week’s LDS Living Family Home Evening suggestion was on overcoming addiction. You can read more here.

I’ve been trying to figure out in what context that FHE lesson could possibly make sense. I suppose that FHE lessons by nature tend to be general and require refinement for application in any given family. And the 12-step slogan, “Take what you want and leave the rest” applies, as well.

If the lesson helps families to be aware of the church’s Addiction Recovery Program, then great. Elder Ballard’s talk on addiction, referenced in the material, is also great in its own right. But packaged as a Family Night lesson? I’m still trying to make sense of that.

You see, I have addicted loved ones. I’ve been involved in a 12-step program for several years and my wife and I now serve in our stake’s application of the Addiction Recovery Program and the church’s pilot of the Family Support Group (for families of addicted persons).

The lesson presented in the link introduces the ARP guidebook, tells a story of someone who is coping with his addiction while attending 12-step meetings and then has a family activity of an obstacle course. I can’t imagine that a family with young enough children to use the obstacle course (which does provide an elegant lesson by itself) would also use the story of Jeff, a lifelong member who overcame his issues with tobacco and alcohol on his own, but needs 12-step help with his pornography addiction.

I can’t see parents teaching this lesson in FHE in the hopes that a child might therefore agree to enter treatment. (That said, if I squint really hard I can imagine using something like this lesson to explain why a family member is in treatment, though the confidentiality of recovery and the need to allow each person to tell his own story would still require significant modification in the lesson.) My experience is that addicts don’t seek recovery until the pain of recovery is less than the pain of their addiction. And I’m all in favor of the church’s Addiction Recovery Program. I’ve watched it change lives in the 18 months I’ve been participating in it. And family members of addicted persons need their own recovery as much as the addicted persons do; the 12 steps have blessed my life in incredible ways. And any member could benefit from working the steps of recovery.

But the FHE lesson as outlined just doesn’t seem to be the way to get there for me. Far better in my view is to teach the pure doctrine of the Plan of Salvation, to teach repentance and atonement, to teach submitting to the will of our Father in Heaven. That is what one learns working the steps. Indeed, one could teach a series of lessons based on the steps themselves.

UPDATE: This post seems to draw some traffic from Google searches. I wanted to link to another helpful post on the blog.


  1. In fairness, I should point out that the lesson does include a recipe for a chocolate almond pie that looks spectacular... ;-)

  2. Hmm. Yeah. I see your point. Any family whose children are small enough to wiggle through a couch cushion tunnel aren't going to be able to grasp the idea of addiction at all. Jeff's story is useless in a context where the word pornography would have to be explained, amidst a lot of giggling, no doubt: "He likes to look at pictures of naked ladies? Yuck! That's gross!!"

    If your kids were a little older than that, I could see some smart aleck demanding a 12-step program whenever you tried to break him of the habit of chewing with his mouth open, or teasing his little sister.

    Can't imagine a family setting where this lesson could be at all useful.

  3. The good news is that the ARP materials referenced in the lesson are WAY better than the lesson itself. The ARP program and it's "companion" the Family Suppport Group are outstanding. One should not dismiss them because this suggested lesson misses the mark.

  4. I think the suggested FHE lesson had good intentions but turned out more like a man giving away Bermuda shorts in Northern Alaska; a nice gesture but far from practical. It would be much better to, as you mentioned, teach pure doctrine.