Addiction has touched my life in more ways than one, and I can attest it is an experience that is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. It is no secret my father was an addict for most of my life, and I am proud to report that recently h he has been able to commit to sobriety through a similar program. Nevertheless, the videos produced by the church to accompany their twelve step program were nothing short of overwhelming. They reminded me of a time where my bones felt hollow, my chest felt crushed, and my muscles felt strained. The portrayal of the family members and their strained silence and stillness also triggered a flood of memories, followed by an *ahem* strong emotional response. These incredibly honest videos, however, also reminded me that through the process of forgiveness, I never have to feel that way ever again.
The path to addiction recovery and the path to forgiveness are almost one in the same. It is a difficult process, marred with trials and demands of self evaluation. The payoff, however, is a life full of joy, happiness, and love unlike anything else previously experienced.
Step 1: HONESTY
Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life have become unmanageable
Just as there are many stages of forgiveness and addiction recovery, there are many stages of grief-- the first being denial. For years I denied the fact my father had a problem and that problem had a very profound effect on my life. Scratch that-- I recognized he had a problem, but I used the media to normalize his behavior. Plenty of dads on TV do just what he does, so it must be normal. I have nothing to complain about. I have nothing to admit to. Denying the problem for so long, though, helped it grow into an insatiable monster. By the time I came to terms with the present conditions, I did not have the tools or the skills to combat it, and I felt very, very small. Admitting it was there and facing it, though, was the first step in defeating the beast.
Step 2: HOPE
Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
After recognizing the problem, I would often comfort myself by reminding myself that one day, I could move across the country to go to school and never had to deal with my dad ever again. Resolving my problems did not seem like a possibly for a long time, so running seemed like the only option. Then, one day, I was at my brother's basketball game with my dad. I had had to drive because my mom had to work unexpectedly and my father was not fit to operate a cell phone, let alone a car, or to be left home alone. As we were leaving, we watched as he dragged his feet across the gym floor and prepared to explain to anyone that he was just sick again. As I was looking around to see if anyone was staring, I noticed my brother's expression. My father's state had very obviously affected my then-very-young brother and he was struggling with a mix of emotions-- anger, humiliation, and fear to name a few. That is when it hit me that no matter how far away I moved, my other family members would still be struggling and I would still be very much involved. Suddenly, my gateway out slammed right in my face and I felt completely hopeless.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is focussed on a lot of things. Faith, love, and family being among the top contenders, but above all else, the scriptures are a testimony of hope. After studying the scriptures, I came to have a better understanding of the deep correlation between faith and hope. If people like Nephi, Esther, Alma, and Hannah could all have hope in the face of condemnation, persecution, and death, I could have hope in my own life-- even on a basketball court.
Step 3: TRUST IN GOD
Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
There is some trend taking tumblr all every other site right now about being your own person and being completely independent as an individual. Although I totally support appreciating yourself as an individual, this notion that you can get through this existence without anyone else is a complete and utter lie. My favorite hymn of all time includes the verse "no longer as strangers on earth need we roam." This existence can seem really lonely sometimes, and it is easy to fall back on the idea that you can take care of yourself.
I fell into this trap myself. I thought I could handle all my problems myself and did not need anyone to help, and it caused my heart not only to harden, but to rot from the inside out. I would not let God into my life to heal me for a long time, but he did send me friends and family members who cared about me more than I cared about myself. Through them, I was able to turn unto Christ and have Him hold my hand as I faced my trials.
Step 4: TRUTH
Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.
In the face of adversity, it is very tempting to assume all of your shortcomings are a direct result of someone else. In fact, if there is any upside to leading a tragically troubled life, it is that your sense of accountability goes right out the window. If you lead a charmed life and you're a jerk, then you're just a jerk-- if you're a jerk, but if you lead a difficult life, then you're just damaged and it is somehow excusable. Choice and accountability, with the power of agency, however, are divine gifts given to each and every child of God, regardless of the trials and blessings in their respective lives. Although this perspective may seem a little bleak, even unfair, in the face of forgiving someone else, being honest with your own self inventory is crucial to fighting your own demons before facing the beast that is addiction recovery.
Step 5: CONFESSION
Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.
In Step 1 I talked about getting through the denial of the issue to myself. And that was a big accomplishment! Ten points for Sarah! Confessing that to everyone else, though, was a little more difficult. As I have mentioned before, I kept my father's plague a secret for a really, really long time. I would just tell people he was sick and everyone believed me. I thought dealing with him in private was the way to go, but I really was not taking care of myself. It wasn't until shortly after I started taking the lessons from the sister missionaries that I even told my friends what had been going on all along. And that was hard, because soon enough it spread through the school and suddenly I was catching a little groups of sophomores looking up my dad's mug shot online. Priceless.
Although this step was a little rocky, it really helped me connect with people in ways I had never experienced before. First, my relationships with friends grew so much deeper and being able to unpack all my feelings, no matter how long it took, was an unbelievably freeing experience. Second, and probably my favorite, it granted the opportunity for people to share their own experiences with me. Suddenly I had friends and strangers alike approaching me and telling me about their own struggles with addiction and with abuse and offering help in any way possible. These people came from all walks of life and that community outreach-- especially from people I did not even know-- was a powerful experience to say the least.
Step 6: CHANGE OF HEART
Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.
Probably one of my greatest talents in high school was pointing out all of my dad's faults. And throughout my freshman year of college even, I could bring up offenses from as far back as kindergarten about how rotten my dad was. My father was the first one to start trying to rebuild out relationship, and it was a total train wreck. Every Sunday he would call and we would spend the next hour yelling at each other, how we had ruined each other's lives, ya ya ya. But it was really good practice for recalling how he had screwed me up, so it was weirdly enjoyable. Anyway, it was not until after I had gotten baptized that I realized what a waste of time those conversations were. Not because I did not want to talk to my dad, but because I was not giving him a chance ever to truly be listened to. All of a sudden that really hit me-- throughout my entire life I had never actually listened to him.
For the next several weeks, I tried not to yell or to be snappy, but just to listen to him rant (and in my defense, he is reallygood at ranting). It was hard, but eventually I started to see beyond the pettiness of the conversation and I started to see a man who truly felt abandoned, betrayed, and deeply hurt. This humanized my dad-- he was no longer that terrible beast that ruined my life, but a fellow son of God who not only need help, but needed my help. And I saw another calling God was extending to me.
Step 7: HUMILITY
Humbly ask Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings.
I do no think I will ever forget the first time I sat in the waiting room of one of my therapists. This therapist, who specialized in the treatment of children with addicted parents, had been appointed by the court to make sure I had not snapped yet. I was sitting in my chair, studying for an upcoming AP Exam, when it occurred to me to look up at the other people in the room. There were three other kids-- one was your typical high school stoner, another was a midget with several tattoos that smelled like something illegal, and the last was a girl who was showing way too much skin for a cold December afternoon. As I looked at my surroundings, I suddenly became overwhelmingly furious. Here I was, wasting three precious hours of valuable time, waiting to talk about problems I did not even have! Unlike these losers, I obviouslyhad not let my father's actions destroy my life, therefore I was better and did not need any help.
It was not until much later I realized how embarrassingly wrong I had been. Yes, I had not let my father's addiction affect me on the outside, but I had let it affect me in a much deeper way-- it had affected my countenance. I had let my experience turn me into someone was easily angered, who judged others unjustly, and who allowed herself to become a victim. I had not let myself feel properly and as a result, I was festering inside. It was not until I saw how this was poisoning my life that I was able to recognize that although I was not the problem, I played a significant role inexacerbating the problem. At that point, I was finally prompted to do some serious prayer and soul searching to heal myown soul.
Step 8 and 9: RESTITUTION AND RECONCILIATION and SEEKING FORGIVENESS
Make a written list of all personal you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them AND wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.
To me, these two steps were very closely related, so I have decided to combine the two into one hybrid step. Step 4 calls for an individual to make an honest, fearless self inventory. Steps 8 and 9 are an extension of that. Once you are an addict, it does not matter how long you have been sober-- you will forever be an addict. The same goes for forgiving someone who has hurt you. Although forgiveness is an extremely freeing experience, it also requires attention and constant maintenance. In my own life, I have found it has been really easy to bad mouth my dad, even when its not even necessary. It does not matter how long he has been sober, he is an easy target-- but that is no excuse.
This topic is covered extensively in the scriptures. In Ephesians 4:31-32,Paul writes, "Let all bitterness and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, but put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you." I want to be and I need to be a daughter of God, but I cannot do that without settling all the scores. So this actually meant apologizing to my father for all the horrible things I had said and the nasty way I had treated him. Even though his actions had hugely affected me in a negative way throughout my whole life, that was no excuse for me to abuse my "victim status" to justify my immature way of handling the situation. Although saying sorry to someone who had hurt me was very difficult and at times felt truly wrong, it retrospect it was probably my breakthrough in ultimately forgiving him.
Step 10: DAILY ACCOUNTABILITY
Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.
Forgiveness is a very high maintenance process and it can seem really pointless sometimes. And I mean really pointless. But daily reflection can help eliminate that and help you see just how much progress has been made. This is why I am a HUGE advocate of journaling-- so yes, I am that woman in the ward who harps on it every chance she gets. *fist pump* Seriously though, on days when I start feeling sorry for myself or I am feeling frustrated with the whole situation, I read entries from junior high and high school. This serves two purposes-- first, it helps me see where I started out. It helps me see that in a matter of a few short years, I went from being really confused to just furious all the time to finding the greatest peace known to man. Reading that story-- my story-- makes the fact that no I know how to acknowledge and sort out my emotions a really big accomplishment. Second, one day my descendants will be able to read my story. That certainly sounds very self important, but from the stories of hardship I have heard from my ancestors, I have been able to put my own trials into a much more realistic perspective. If I were able to do the same for my own children and grandchildren and beyond, I would be truly accomplished.
Step 11: PERSONAL REVELATION
Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord's will and to have the power to carry it out.
Probably one of the key lessons I have learned throughout this whole thing is that revelation comes in a lot of different packages. Sometimes it is some revolutionary thought you are sure no one has ever had before and you feel like shouting it from the rooftops And then there are times when it is just a little voice of comfort or remembrance when you are muscling my way through life. Especially with the forgiveness process, personal revelation is key, because that is how you know you are doing it right. That is, first and foremost, how I learned about the true love of God. Even on days when I felt like I had made zero progress, getting down on my knees and feeling Heavenly Father patting me on the back for the solid effort I had made was enough to reduce me to tears. More importantly, though, it also to reminded me of what a capable, formidable human being I was meant to be.
Step 12: SERVICE
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do.
This one I have not quite figured out. For a while, I wanted to establish a center for the children of alcohol and substance abusive parents where they could explore their problems rather than just talk about them. While this is a good idea on paper, I am starting to wonder if that is even a viable solution. While the traditional method did not help me, it has helped a lot of other kids, kids in much more delicate situations than my own. I don't know. Like I have said, though, the forgiveness process is a long one that does not really have a beginning or an end, so I am hanging out here for now. I do know, however, that one day I will have the opportunity to repay God for relieving me of my burdens through the act of service-- what an amazing calling.
So now it is up to you. This world needs a whole lot more forgiving, so who are you going to forgive today? How are you going to use these twelve steps to forgiveness? Or if you are struggling with addiction yourself, how are you going to start healing? Whatever you do-- whether it follows this method or not-- share your story. This life is an experience and everyone's story matters. Who knows who you will help today.