After delivering my third child, my doctor prescribed me Vicodin (an effective but addictive pain killer) to help ease the typical aches and pains associated with childbirth. The first three nights home I was in significant pain. The Vicodin prescription was helpful in alleviating pain, but I also noticed that it had the wonderful side effect of calming my nerves, making me feel all warm inside, and it helped me fall asleep easily. I needed sleep, and I was thankful to have medication nearby to ease the pain.
On the third night home from the hospital I woke up again, still in pain — but not as bad as the previous nights. What I really wanted was to sleep because my baby had already nursed and was sleeping soundly in a bassinet next to me. I decided to take a shower to calm my mind, but for some reason all I could think about was how my prescription for Vicoden would help me fall asleep. “I need sleep.” I reasoned in my mind. “Surely it wouldn’t be too bad to use a medication prescribed by my doctor to help me get some much needed rest.”
At that moment, an impression entered my mind. It came in the form of a warning. “Brenda, taking a medication for other than its prescribed use is a violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom [the Mormon health code] and could lead to an addiction.” I got out of the shower and decided to take ibuprofen for my pain instead of the Vicodin. I noticed that I did not receive the same warm feeling and nerve-calming effect from the ibuprofen that I did from Vicodin, but the ibuprofen relieved my pain enough to rest.
The next time I have a baby or any type of injury I will know to ask the doctors not to prescribe me Vicodin. I know now that I am susceptible to the drug’s addictive qualities.
Sometimes when I tell people this story, they see it as a sign of weakness that I was even tempted. I see it as a temptation overcome with the help of the Holy Ghost’s promptings. This experience helped me see how easily one could develop an addiction.
Do you or someone you know struggle with addictions? The Church has an Addiction Recovery Program that can help.
My friends, Carol and Brent N., are service missionaries who were called as Group Leaders in the Addiction Recovery Program in my area.
I asked Carol several questions so that I could learn more about the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program and how it relates to the 12-step programs I’ve heard about in the past (such as Alcoholics Anonymous). I supplied them questions via email that they were kind enough to answer.
1. What is your official title or Calling?
My husband and I have been asked to serve as service missionaries. We are Missionary Group Leaders for the Addiction Recovery Program in our area.
2. What is your definition of an addictive behavior?
My definition of an addiction would be any compulsive behavior that robs a person of control over his or her productive thought or ability to engage in the normal activities of life, could be considered an addiction. It is more than a bad habit. Some examples may be: excessive eating, gambling, video games, alcohol and drugs or pornography. Of course there are many others that exist, as well.
3. What is a typical meeting like?
Every meeting will open with a prayer and a reminder of the mission statement of the program which states in part, “We are a group of brothers and sisters who share our experiences, faith, and hope as we study and apply the principles of the gospel as they correlate with the 12 steps of recovery.” Then we read all 12 steps aloud. Each week, we focus on a different step. The material in the guidebook for that step is then read aloud. These readings set the foundation for the introduction of Sharing Time. Another group leader, a facilitator, conducts this portion of the meeting. A facilitator is someone who typically has successfully worked in the 12 Steps and overcome an addiction of their own. The facilitator will express his or her own feelings and experiences about working on the particular Step being discussed. Then each group member is given the opportunity to express their own feelings, while following specific guidelines, “Please focus your sharing on the solution rather than the problem. Refrain from mentioning graphic details about the practice of your addiction. Then each group member is given guidelines such as to avoid interrupting or commenting directly about another participant’s remarks. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to pass if you prefer to listen only.” The missionary group leaders will conclude the meeting with a brief thought and a closing prayer will be offered.
4. How do you assure confidentiality for those who choose to attend the meetings?
Confidentiality and anonymity foster honesty and make our group meeting a safe place to share. Therefore, all in attendance commit to the following, “whom you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.” In keeping with this principle of anonymity, participants are invited to introduce themselves by their first names only.
5. In what ways has the Gospel of Jesus Christ been integrated into the 12 Step Program offered in the Addiction Recovery Program instituted by our church?
The traditional Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program has a wonderful reputation. With the permission of AA International, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has integrated the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with that program. We draw upon the knowledge we have from the scriptures, both ancient and modern, that teach us of the love Heavenly Father has for all his children. So great is His love, he sent the Savior to atone for sin and error. We can daily draw upon the power of that atonement to overcome addictions and find hope for healing. The recovery program’s 12 steps teach us exactly how to do that. Often guilt and shame and a feeling of isolation accompany addictions. At group meetings, everyone finds acceptance and support.
6. Is the Addiction Recovery Program only for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints? How can people find a program in their area?
Church sponsored recovery group meetings are open to church members as well as to our friends of other faiths. Group participants can also be those who are affected by another’s addiction. Participants under the age of 18 are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. There are several resources for information about local meetings in your area. Members can check their local programs in the announcements sections, the bulletin boards, or speak with their Bishop. Anyone can access meeting times and places for their local area or download the entire guidebook.
7. Have you witnessed people making lasting changes in their lives through this program?
It is a wonderful thing to see the changes that can occur through “working” the Steps. This is not a theoretical program. It is very much a program of action. The fruits of those actions is a change of heart, not a superficial or temporary course correction. I have seen this result firsthand. I have seen someone who many would have written off as beyond saving, not only overcome their addiction but now live in joy and happiness, partaking of all the blessings our Father in Heaven can bestow in this life, and serving as a role model for others caught in, what they may see as a hopeless way of life. I have the privilege weekly to meet with the most humble of people and realize that is how change can occur. There is hope and healing through the Addiction Recovery Program.
To read more about overcoming addiction, or about dealing with the addiction of a loved one, see the following links:
[Added on August 12:] Here is a post that provides information about many different pornography addiction recovery resources.
Personal essays written by people affected by addictions (their own or those of people they love): Addiction, from Anonymous (discussion regarding online gaming addictions and other similar challenges); Purging Addiction (personal experience from a woman who overcame an eating disorder); LDS Addiction Recovery Program (personal experience overcoming addiction)
[Added on August 12]: Combating Pornography
From Addiction to Conversion (third story down on the page)
Lesson from a Milk Jug (story of a woman married to a man with a pornography/sex addiction and how she found strength from the Lord)