Hi, I’m Nannette and today I’d like to share a thought about why those of us who have lived in addiction have not only harmed ourselves but those around us. This is not a cheery subject, but I think it’s an important thing to understand. Becoming aware of and doing what we can to take care of the harm we have done to others is a critical aspect of recovery.
“I’m only hurting myself. If you’re bothered by my behavior you should get a life because this is my problem.” This is a very common attitude of those who struggle with additions. My friend told me that when she went to rehab they told her that every addict affects at least thirty people. I think that’s a small number, because I’ve been to family reunions and there are often more than thirty people there. We affect a lot of people. Sometimes family members of those struggling with addiction wonder why in the world they’re affected, “After all, this is my spouse’s (or child’s) problem!” The reality is that we love each other. We genuinely care. We belong to a Church that speaks of eternal families. Of course we affect each other.
Two of the most challenging steps of recovery are Step 8, “Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them” and Step 9 “Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.” When I first read the steps I hoped I could skip these two steps altogether and recover just fine, but I couldn’t. In A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing it says in the chapter dedicated to Step 8, “Before our recovery, our addictive lifestyles were like a tornado full of destructive energy that cut through our relationships, leaving much wreckage behind.” Why is that? Why so much damage?
Recently I discovered a verse in the Book of Mormon that got me wondering what it is about addiction that takes such a heavy toll on anyone standing in its wake. At first glance you may not think this verse has anything to do with addiction, but bear with me:
“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up” (2 Nephi 28:12-13).
The world of addiction, though not a conventional church, certainly is a place of worship for many. One of the definitions of worship is extravagant devotion and excessive attachment (see Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus). This does indeed describe the relationship of addicts to drugs, alcohol, food, money, possessions, pornography, TV, computer games – the list goes on and on. Addiction is the kind of church described above, built on pride, by false teachers, on false hopes and it is full of corruption. In order to support this extravagant devotion or worship, the addicted must steal. This verse describes the truth that there is no mercy. Rich and poor alike are affected. In the last two years my children’s old car that sits in front of our house has been robbed three times, but the kind of theft that takes place in addiction is not limited to money or material possessions pawned to get money for drugs. As addicts we rob those around us of their time, their relationships with others, their trust, their energy, their health, their feelings of worth, their hopes and their dreams.
The thought that came to me as I read this verse is that those of us who have worshiped at the church of addiction have had to steal from others, causing great harm, in order to support ourselves and the substances and behaviors that have become for us a kind of idol. Why? When we follow and worship the Lord Jesus Christ He supports us, He empowers us, He loves us. When we follow and worship the addictive things of this world we are not supported by the Lord. We are all on our own, but the things we worship require support – $$$$, time, energy – things we do not have of ourselves, so we have to steal form others to maintain our god, with a small “g.”
It doesn’t seem to matter what we worship instead of God. Any addiction places us in spiritual bankruptcy, and that empty account has to be filled some way. All of us who have struggled with addiction are guilty of robbery.
I’ve never paid too much attention to the words of the second verse of the song, “I am A Child of God,” but the other day they struck me with great force—“I am a child of God and so my needs are great.” We are not low maintenance. As children of God we stand in great need, and we cannot meet those needs by ourselves. A vital part of recovery is to do the best we can to make amends for or return what we have taken from others in our misguided need to support ourselves and our addictions. In recovery we move from spiritual poverty and a life of “crime” against ourselves and others to a life supported by the only One who can truly meet our great needs.
By Nannette W. Posted Thursday, November 11, 2011
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