A plague is covering the land and affecting families, relationships and church membership. Similar to leprosy, there is an associated "shame" that goes along with it. Those who have been stricken with the "new plague" feel forced to withdraw from society and rot in self imposed isolation. Nobody wants to talk about this plague, nobody wants to acknowledge that it is spreading and threatening the foundation of our way of life. But, just as lepers were healed by the powerful hand of Jesus Christ, He still provides the only way to escape.
In the last days "men's hearts will fail them". A "failing heart" is only one aspect of this malady, but in its acknowledgement lies the cure. There is hope! Before continuing this discussion, it is important to emphatically state that THERE IS HOPE!
We have all heard about the dangers of pornography and its addictive nature. Many of us have worn tired of hearing about pornography from the pulpit, this is because it pricks the hearts of those who take the truth to be hard, and it pierces the hearts of the women and children with deep wounds to lose the confidence in their fathers. If it were not a rampant problem, it would not be discussed as often. The discussion usually is based on the importance of avoiding this pitfall, but what do we do about those who have already been affected, and are already in the clutches of addictive cycles and isolation. How are they to find the way back to spiritual wellness, how are they able to find their way back to a useful place in their families? Can they make it back on their own? no. Should we leave them as casualties along the pathway? no! How can we identify addiction and where can we turn for help to this very specific problem?
Addiction is a condition in which a person compulsively participates in destructive behavior in a selfish attempt to escape reality and control emotions. Addiction has two necessary elements: isolation and secrecy. To those who have never experienced addiction, this may seem very strange. Why would someone participate in destructive behavior? Why do they feel isolated?
There are certain substances that can completely distract an individual from the present. All of these addictive behaviors and substances cause chemicals to be introduced into the brain that have a powerful, entrained effect on the participant. Some chemicals are introduced externally from drugs and alcohol, but the most powerful stimulant chemicals of all are kept within our bodies. When a person uses pornography, they take control over the system that releases these chemicals into the brain. Abuse of this function leads to the condition of "heart failure" that was discussed previously. After time and purposeful abuse, the stimuli must be greater and greater in order for the individual to experience the rush of chemicals that they experienced at the beginning. The effect of these feelings is so strong in some people, that regular daily activities no longer hold any life or meaning when compared to the memory that they are now compulsively chasing in order to feel that way again. The obsession sets in, and the hook is set. The person soon feels that they are lost and hopeless. Even if they want to quit, they find they cannot.
From A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing: "Some people consider addictions to be simply bad habits that can be conquered by willpower alone, but many people become so dependent on a behavior or a substance that they no longer see how to abstain from it. They lose perspective and a sense of other priorities in their lives. Nothing matters more than satisfying their desperate need. When they try to abstain, they experience powerful physical, psychological, and emotional cravings. As they habitually make wrong choices, they find their ability to choose the right diminished or restricted. As President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human
will and nullify moral agency. It can rob one of the power to decide.” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1989, 16; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 14)."
There is a way to find freedom from addiction and peace once again. God knows of the plague that is sweeping the land. He has an army of help and support waiting for the struggling individual. If the self imposed isolation can be overcome, then help is very close. In fact, The LDS Family Services currently holds addiction recovery group meetings all over the place. These are meetings specifically designed for the alleviation of secrecy and isolation. In these meetings, the real problem can be addressed without the fear and the stereotypes that exist in our culture. A feeling of hope and mutual camaraderie exists, and healing can finally begin. Still, many church members don't know about the help that exists for struggling individuals and their families. Recovery meetings are not the only answer to the addiction problem, but they are often the first place where real hope is finally felt. Together with the support of bishops and family members, struggling individuals can find the miraculous courage to seek for help. We are encouraged to "admit the problem; seek help; [and] attend meetings". Family members can also find the support that they need. There are recovery meetings specifically for spouses and family members who need support and healing. It is foolishness to think that we can continue to try and fix the problem all by ourselves, in the confines of secrecy. If we take the ingredients of secrecy and isolation out of the mix, then addiction can finally be addressed for what it is... a condition that can be relieved through the specific direction of God.
Our heavenly father is the "master heart surgeon". He made each of us, and he can heal each of us. Going back to the analogy of heart failure, a patient must admit the problem, seek help, and place himself in the hospital where he can be operated on and receive a new heart. When a person is diagnosed with heart failure, the family is quick to rally around their loved one and do everything they can to help him find the specific, guided treatment that he needs to recover. They realize that if he is left alone, he will die. People with significant health problems are never criticized or blamed for their condition.
"Once a heart transplant patient, always a heart transplant patient." If the ailing patient is lucky enough to receive a transplant, then their life will be forever changed. While he has been given the opportunity for a new chance at life, he must never forget about his new heart. Transplant patients regularly get check ups from the doctor, and they must never forget to take their anti-rejection medication. Usually there is a daily regimen prescribed to the patient in order for the heart to stay healthy and avoid rejection.
By the same token, a person who was once caught in the soul destroying cycle of compulsive destructive behavior can be saved and healed. If he admits the problem, seeks help, and places himself in the care of the Master Surgeon and the prescribed program, he will receive a new heart and find a second chance at life. However, there are certain conditions that make it impossible for the person to continue living in the same way that he did before the problem was removed. There is a daily regimen of treatment and a new way of living that must ensue in order for the "new heart" to stay healthy and not be rejected.
Do not try to reinvent the wheel! The Lord has authorized a specific program for treatment of addiction, and families and individuals should not try to make up their own recovery program. Don't forego the available authorized tools for recovery, thinking that you know of an easier shortcut. The Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing states: "Rarely do people caught in addictive behaviors admit to
being addicted. To deny the seriousness of our condition and to avoid detection
and the consequences of our choices, we tried to minimize or hide our
behaviors. We did not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, we
slipped deeper into our addictions. As our powerlessness over addiction
increased, many of us found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and
even God. We plunged into greater and greater isolation, separating ourselves
from others, especially from God."
Many participants in the Addiction Recovery Program choose to call themselves "Addicts". The title of Addict must never be forced upon someone. Many participants in the ARP program find long term sobriety from addiction, yet they still refer to themselves as an Addict. A participant in the program said, "while I still consider myself to be an addict, I am happy to say that I am no longer addicted." He understands that he must still attend meetings and live the 12 Step program as a way of life, or he will fall back into relapse and his new heart would be rejected. The wounds of addiction can be healed, but the scars still remain to remind us that we can no longer live like everyone else. An addict knows his boundaries and chooses to remain safely within the healing reach of the Savior. He knows that he is quick to forget the pain of the past. The continued attendance at recovery meetings and the daily regimen of spiritual upkeep will continue to remind the healed Addict of his constant reliance on the Savior. In order for the daily miracle of recovery to continue, it is necessary to live differently than before. The title of Addict becomes a shield for the individual, and will not be used as a justification for bad behavior. We are all children of God first and foremost, and He will provide the specific direction that we need to return to his presence.
If you suspect that you may be addicted, then seek for the help that is available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Recognize your inability to heal yourself, and come forth out of isolation! If you know someone who may be affected by addiction, do not give up on them. Do your best to love and support them. The 12 Steps provide a specific method to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ, this program is the authorized addiction recovery program available through LDS Family Services. It works! People are finding hope and healing every day by admitting the problem, seeking for help, and attending recovery meetings. We can no longer go on pretending that this problem does not exist among us. Wounds can heal when they are taken care of properly. There is hope! There is healing! May we find it now.