Help for Life Challenges

5 truths about repentance I relied on to overcome addiction—that I want everyone to know

Ashly and Jesse Stone with their two children
Ashly and Jesse Stone with their two children
Photograph courtesy of Ashly Stone

Editor’s note: The Easter season brings many joys, including the opportunity to reflect on the gift of repentance offered by the Savior. Latter-day Saint Ashly Stone shares what the gift of repentance means to her.

I spent my teenage years drinking, using drugs, and partying despite growing up in a home where I was taught the gospel. By the age of 18, I was a full-blown heroin addict, in and out of jail and rehab.

I remember feeling like I was in chains to my addiction. Despite having a desire to live a normal, healthy life, I was in bondage.

After living in a drug house for over a year, I finally was faced with these options: get sober, die, or spend the rest of my life in jail or rehab. I decided to give rehab another shot.

I called my dad, desperate for help. He always took my calls and expressed his faith in me, but he would not enable my addiction. He was committed to helping me find healing. In a beautiful example of Christlike love, he put his entire life on hold to drive from St. George, Utah, to Phoenix, Arizona, and pick me up from that drug house.

My dad spent days calling every Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in the Western United States, looking for an open woman’s bed. Finally, he found one in Fresno, California.

Ashly Stone and her father
Ashly Stone and her father
Photograph courtesy of Ashly Stone

As we sat in a Waffle House parking lot on the Arizona-California border, my dad asked me, “If I take you to The Salvation Army, are you going to stay and do the program, or are you going to run away?”

I felt the drug withdrawals starting to set in, with my heart racing and my skin crawling, yet I was too tired to keep running from everything. I put my seatbelt on and said, “I’m ready. Let’s go, Dad.”

I spent 10 days in a cold turkey detox and then went to The Salvation Army. Upon admittance, I was taken to the preacher’s office and told to pick a Bible to study while I was there. I gazed at the shelf with over 100 Bibles on it and chose the pink one—because, you know, it was pink.

When the preacher handed me the book, I was surprised to find a Book of Mormon bookmark tucked inside.

I could not believe what I was seeing, as I was the only person in the program with any background in the Church. This Bible had been donated to The Salvation Army and just so happened to end up in my hands at the exact time I needed hope.

In that moment, I knew that God was aware of me. He had plans for my life, and it was no coincidence that I ended up with that bookmark in the pink Bible.

The Power to Change

Six months later, I graduated from The Salvation Army program. Although I still couldn’t picture myself committing to a life of sobriety, I still felt like there was something missing, and I had previously used drugs and alcohol to fill that void.

I decided that I was going to try an experiment: I was going to see whether doing every single thing the Church asked me to do would make me feel happier. If not, I would go back to my old ways.

Taking on a new lifestyle was no easy task, especially considering I’d spent many years depending on cigarettes and alcohol when I was sober. It had become part of my everyday routine.

Yet I was committed. I made an appointment with my bishop and started working through the repentance process. I set a goal to get my limited-use temple recommend.

I remember asking my bishop, “How can I possibly be forgiven for all of the bad things that I’ve done when I’ve done so many bad things? I can’t even remember them all to tell you everything!”

But I found that repentance was more about who I was becoming than about who I was in the past.

I started chewing Nicorette gum and giving up coffee. And then I gave up the Nicorette gum. I couldn’t believe I was able to quit smoking and drinking coffee! But I was starting to understand the Savior’s Atonement better. He gives us the power to do things that we otherwise feel powerless to do.

I went to church regularly, not because people expected me to, not because it was what I “should” do. I went to church because I was meeting God there. I was experimenting to see if the Savior’s Atonement and messages were really for me.

And guess what? He showed up. He met me there, and my heart was softened.

Finding Relief in Repentance

True change is possible through Jesus Christ, and because of Him, repentance doesn’t have to feel heavy. Here are five truths I learned from my experience:

1. The Savior’s Atonement is enabling. Meaning that what seems to be impossible right now, like giving up smoking, coffee, or drinking, is actually something that can be overcome with the Savior’s help.

Focus on the positive goals, like reading scriptures, meeting with your bishop, and obtaining a temple recommend. You will be amazed at the things that are damaging to your life that you are able to let go of and at the rapid pace in which you can do so.

▶ You may also like: Can I change immediately? What the scriptures say vs. what Satan wants you to believe

2. Focus on who you want to become more than how you are going to be forgiven for your past. You can become a new person through the Savior’s Atonement, the person that you always dreamed of being.

I believe that I had many failed attempts at change because I was so focused on the problem. How could I ever stop using drugs? How could I ever stop drinking? When I shifted my focus to what I knew I could do—read my scriptures, repent, and go to church—everything else followed.

3. You are not what you’ve done. If Heavenly Father can forgive you, you need to forgive yourself, too. People make mistakes, and God can work all things for the good of those who love Him.

4. Read the Book of Mormon every day. It will give you power to overcome the seemingly impossible. President Russell M. Nelson has taught:

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.”

5. Repentance is a gift. Not a punishment. The healing that happens when you invite the Spirit back into your life, and the joy that is possible is more precious than anything this world has to offer.

Now, 11 years after starting the repentance process, I have a husband to whom I have been sealed in the temple. We have two amazing kids, with one on the way.

I also host a podcast sharing stories of others who have come back to the Church. Why do I do this? Because I feel it is my duty.

With so many people declaring that they are leaving the Church on social media, I am declaring why I came back. Because it changed my life. And it changed the lives of so many others.

President Howard W. Hunter said: “Those of us who have partaken of the Atonement are under obligation to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior.”

And it is an honor for me to do just that.

▶You may also like: How a Book of Mormon bookmark in a pink Bible in a rehab facility reminded one woman of God’s love

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