Many parents who find out a child is struggling with addiction feel like they should have noticed earlier. Or perhaps they are surprised that such a thing would happen in their family; however, addiction is not limited to any age, gender, social standing, or activity level in the Church.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks reminded church members, “Jesus healed many from physical diseases, but He did not withhold healing from those who sought to be ‘made whole’ from other ailments. Matthew writes that He healed every sickness and every disease among the people (see Matthew 4:23; 9:35). Great multitudes followed Him, and He ‘healed them all’ (Matthew 12:15). Surely these healings included those whose sicknesses were emotional, mental, or spiritual. He healed them all” (8).
One of the keys to dealing with addiction is to seek help, even though you may be worried about the reputation of your son or daughter and the social repercussions that may follow.
The first principle in the LDS Family Services guide on recovering from addiction says, “Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable” (1).
This is true for family members and loved ones as well: You will need, and you deserve, all the trustworthy help and support you can gather. Counseling with trusted loved ones and leaders can be the first step to recovery.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its own modified 12-step program for helping members deal with addiction.
In many places the Church runs 12-step support meetings, usually conducted by volunteers or missionaries. These meetings are important in helping addicts conquer their addictions.
There are other effective programs that are not Church sponsored but are also helpful.
Bishops are trained in how to help members successfully overcome addiction in their lives, and are aware of community programs and resources.
Make Home Applications
Navigating the realities of addiction on the home front can be difficult. Dr. Glen Latham, author of a successful book on coping with children’s problems, suggests allowing siblings to understand the struggle a brother or sister is having with addiction. Give enough information that siblings are not left guessing and a relatively low curiosity level can be maintained.
Family members are often encouraged to work through the 12-step program and attend family support meetings where available. Working the 12 steps will help you better understand your role and responsibility and help you remain calm and centered during particularly difficult times
Many parents take on so much responsibility that challenges become overwhelming. Control your urge to control and allow yourself to support.
Remember that the Savior has the power to heal all things, and He will do so as we put forth our best efforts, which include participating in treatment programs. Ask your bishop for addiction treatment resources in your area.
In his book, Dr. Latham quotes a statement from a Harvard newsletter that in addition to professional treatment “hope is restored by an emphasis on spiritual renewal and moral regeneration; where there is relief from loneliness, and where self-esteem is enhanced by giving the abuser an opportunity to help others” (336). It would be wise to look for ways in which your addicted son or daughter could offer service.
Initially you will likely feel overwhelmed and not sure where to begin or what to do. Professionals have knowledge and experience in these areas; they can save you and your child a lot of time and struggle. See your bishop for a referral, or ask others you trust.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a manual for its Addiction Recovery Program, offering spiritually based guidance in dealing with addiction. It can be found at www.providentliving.org Click on “Social and Emotional Strength” and then “Recovery Program.”
You will likely encounter conflicting ideas and advice as you face addiction within your family. Addiction is a heavy burden--not only for the addict, but for anyone trying to help her. It is important that parents find the support they need. Try reaching out to loved ones you know you can trust, who will lift and encourage you. Remember that the Savior is always the best source of compassion, encouragement, and love.
As you study and learn more about addiction, you will learn about your role in working with the addict. We are not powerless, but neither are we capable of fixing someone else’s addiction. Sometimes our good intentions become enabling behavior—as we attempt to comfort, we actually help the addict avoid facing and dealing with the consequences of his or her actions. Learn more about your role by attending 12-step family support groups, which the Church sponsors in some areas.(Contact your Bishop for more information). Reading the manual for the Addiction Recovery Program, published by LDS Family Services, can also help.
The manual for the Addiction Recovery Program states:
"We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the power of the Savior turn our most devastating defeats into glorious spiritual victories. We who once lived with daily depression, anxiety, fear, and debilitating anger now experience joy and peace." (v).
Take comfort also in Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ reminder to us that “He ‘healed them all’ (Matthew 12:15). Surely these healings included those whose sicknesses were emotional, mental, or spiritual. He healed them all” (8).
Healing from addiction is up to the addict. But healing is possible.
“Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing.” Prepared by LDS Family Services: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Oaks, Dallin H. “He Heals the Heavy Laden,” Ensign. Nov. (2006): 6–9