Church's 12-step recovery program offers help and hope

This article is a companion to yesterday's article on pornography. You can click here to read it.

Overcoming addiction, whether it be to pornography, gambling, or something else, can be heartbreaking and challenging for both the addict and his or her loved ones. Many people don’t know where to turn for help or where to begin their recovery, which may cause them to give up and continue down a slippery path.

This is where LDS Family Services comes in. With the help of the organization's Addiction Recovery program, those suffering from the effects of addiction can find help and hope. 

In almost every area of the world, the LDS Church has Addiction Recovery programs. At the program’s foundation are 12 steps to recovery that each addict must complete, based on the steps that the Alcoholics Anonymous program uses but rewritten so that each one leads back to the Atonement of Christ.

Elder and Sister McCrary, Church Service missionaries and the coordinators for the Weber County Addiction Recovery Services in Utah, firmly believe that everyone can recover. Said Elder McCrary, “If people work with the steps and are willing to trust the Savior enough to turn their addiction over to him, that’s when the healing happens.”

So what makes this recovery program different from others? “The gospel is essential in this program. The spirit is in every meeting, and it is what does all the heavy lifting.” Elder McCrary, who has directed quite a few meetings as a coordinator, said that “there is a spirit in those meetings that you cannot express in words. The Lord cares about his sheep who are struggling.”

A challenge that many addicts face is that of fear of their secret getting out. The meetings, however, are a safe place because of the strict sense of confidentiality. Every attendee understands that for that hour or so, they are “invisible” in the sense that no one outside of the group knows he or she is there. Elder McCrary said that “confidentiality and anonymity make it the perfect place for people to share and receive help.”

These classes are a great place to start for recovering addicts because they provide a support system. Each session is directed by Church service missionaries, and each recovering addict discusses challenges and successes. The practice of the addiction is not talked about, but the recovery process is. Elder McCrary said that “the worst thing about being an addict is the isolation. You feel like you are completely alone . . . That’s what is marvelous about the meetings. No one ever gets looked down on or judged. We are there to help.”

The addict does need to be aware, though, that simply attending the meetings will not automatically make the addiction disappear. Overcoming it requires a great amount of effort and faith, as well as an adherence to the 12 steps. “Like any class you have ever attended, you are going to get out of it what you put into it. For those who are willing to follow the steps, the program will give them success,” Elder McCrary said.

For those who are involved in helping a recovering addict, Elder McCrary recommended offering support by attending meetings with the addict. In fact, attending the meetings may even help those who aren’t actually dealing with the addiction, as addictions can cause damage not only to the life of the addict but to loved ones as well. These meetings provide help and comfort as those involved work to overcome the addiction. “Family and friends are completely welcome to attend with the addict. Sometimes they too need healing and recovery.” In fact, Elder and Sister McCrary have even seen the program save marriages and other relationships as people get involved.

Everyone struggling with any kind of addiction, from substance abuse to pornography, is welcome to attend the addiction recovery meetings, whether they are members of the Church or not. Elder McCrary says they must simply adhere to a few rules, such as the strict confidentiality agreement. If you would like to attend a meeting, your bishop is a wonderful resource who can provide information about meetings in your area, or you can visit the Provident Living website for more information.

To find out more about the 12 steps and how to overcome an addiction, LDS Family Services has a helpful handbook, “A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing,” available at Deseret Book Distribution centers or online at providentliving.org.

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