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August 4, 2014

The Parallel of a New Convert and a Recovering Addict

I teach a local community college, and because my class is nearly 12 credits (normal classes are 3 credits) I have a nearly 3 times the contact with my students as regular instructors. This allows us to get to know each other well and it often comes out in discussion that I am LDS. 

One day after class, a young man approached me and asked if we could talk. He was a new convert (less than 3 months) and was struggling to stay connected to his old friends. This was important to him because his family had not supported him in his decision to be baptized. 

Before he became a member he would go to the bar and drink with his friends and carry on in other like behaviors. After his baptism he found that many of his friends seemed to become distant. In an effort to keep the friendships, he would go to the bar with them but drink water or juice. When I asked him what he was trying to accomplish by doing this, he said “I want to show them I am the same guy as before he was baptized”. 

I then asked him a few questions

Q – Do you feel the same as you did before you were baptized?
A – No, I feel better; I feel that I have a purpose.

Q – Do you now think the same as you did before?
A – No, I am more focused on family and being productive.

Q – Do you enjoy yourself when you are with your friends?
A – Yes, but not as much as before

Q – Do you enjoy yourself when you participate in those old activities?
A – No, I feel like I wasted my whole day, I feel empty.

Q – Who are you trying to convince you are the same old guy, YOU or Your Friends?
A – I guess me.

I then told him “The more you try to convince them and yourself that you are the same old guy, in time you will become that same old guy”.

He looked at me with concern on his face, in that moment he knew that he did NOT want to become that lost and purposeless being again, and he also knew that if he wanted to maintain the change being he was blessed to become and continue to gain the light and knowledge he had been given, that he had to choose to leave that life behind and to become sure footed in his faith and discipleship. 

I told him that, if those friends were true friends, they would be there, no matter how he changed. But if they were not friends and just people that he hung out with at the bar, they would fade, AND he would feel lighter and freer because of it. 

I reminded him that all worthwhile endeavors require sacrifice, but in the rear view mirror of life, we see those things that we sacrificed for what they really were; anchors. Anchors that were holding us back from out true potential and divinity. 

He began to tear up and said that he had known this, but needed to hear it. He was scared and worried, about embarking on this journey alone. He was worried that his family would eventually distance themselves from him as he continued to change and was not sure how to make new friends. 

I reminded him that family was ordained of God and that if his family would not support his journey that God would provide a family for him. I then told him that after speaking with him, I did not think his family would abandon him. I told him “you do not seem to have been raised by people who did not love you, I think they will support you in your decision, they just need time and to see your commitment. And going to bars is not the way to show them your commitment.”

The conversation ended and we went our separate ways till next class. 
He came to me a few weeks later and said that he really appreciated our discussion. He had stopped hanging out at the bar with his friends and all but 2 of his friends had stopped communicating with him. But he was feeling much better and fulfilled. He had also began spending more time at his parent’s home, where his mother would often discuss what he was learning and what he was feeling. She told him that she was proud of him for making these changes and if it was because of the church then she would support him. 

Is this not exactly like our recovery from addiction? 
Do we not try to hold onto what is familiar and fear the future? 
Do we not try to convince ourselves that we can change and still hold onto old habits and character defects? 

For those of us with some distance in our rear view mirror, we CAN ten you that those things are Anchors that were holding us back from out true potential and divinity and we are HAPPY to be free of them.

This road is not easy, but it is worth it.