I appreciate all the comments I have received in response to one of the earlier posts I wrote on this topic. I’d like to add a few more comments of my own.
While I have not personally experienced an addiction, I think you should know that I am a descendant of a long line of addicts. I know of four alcoholics on my paternal side, the Irish/Scot side. I knew three of them personally. Watching their behavior, hearing them talk, and seeing their lives end early, has been a great lesson to me—and a deterrent, too.
Even if I were not a Latter-day Saint, I doubt I would drink alcohol because of what I saw as a child and teenager. It was awful. Those of you who have grown up in this environment know what I am talking about. Consequently, alcohol does not present a temptation to me. It is revolting to me. I abhor it.
But I have to ask myself a question: If I chose to drink alcohol, even a small amount, what would be the effect on me? Given my ancestry, wouldn’t you say I have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism? I think I stand a pretty good chance of acquiring an addiction, if I allowed myself to drink.
I was introduced to alcohol in my own home by my own father at a young age, before I was a Latter-day Saint. Fortunately, it never held an interest for me. I did not like it, even though it was a big part of my family culture and condoned by my parents.
Since those early teen years, I have made a personal commitment to never drink alcohol. I have made a covenant with God and myself to never do it. Under no circumstances. Therefore, I never worry about it becoming a problem in my life. It is not a temptation that I struggle with because I have completely shut it out of my life. With God’s help, I know I can keep that commitment. In this there is safety and peace.
In spite of my determination, though, I don’t rely on myself alone to keep my commitment. I must rely on a power much greater than my own to guide and protect me.
I know of only one way you can avoid or overcome a serious addiction with tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or pornography: You have to completely and absolutely shut it out of your life. Every day, every thought, every word, and every action must present a barrier against it.
This may seem very difficult, but I know you can do it. How do I know?
If you are deep in an addiction right now, you may be saying to yourself, “I can’t do that. That’s impossible. You just don’t understand.”
That’s what Satan wants you to think, but not the Savior. For example, Jesus once said:
If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23.)
Likewise, the apostle Paul said:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13.)
If these scriptures are true, and I have a testimony that they are, then I must believe that with God nothing is impossible and that I can do all things through faith and reliance on Christ. This means that with God’s help, you can overcome all temptations. This means that through Christ, you can overcome any addiction.
If in this life † we [only] have hope in Christ [and not faith], we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19.)
It all starts and ends with faith in Christ, and this requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and a total offering of mind, body and spirit. This is what really works. This is what brings hope. This is the way to access the power we need to overcome the world and everything in it that could harm us.
But to access that power, we can’t secretly delight in and pursue the pleasures of this world. You can’t be double-minded; you can’t do wrong and feel right.
Another thing you can’t do is save yourself. I’ve seen people try to save themselves or even atone for themselves. It doesn’t work. We can develop faith in a higher power than ourselves, on a wisdom greater than we possess, to find our way out of the captivity that binds us. Those who accept this gift in time go free, while those who don’t will struggle and struggle. It is a complete surrender, a complete offering, that makes all the difference. When we hold something back, consciously or unconsciously, we fail to progress.
Sometimes we hold back without knowing what it is that we hold back. That’s the thing I think that trips us up the most. The thing we most often hold back is our attachment to the pleasure our addiction brings, the pleasure that soothes our disappointments, fears, guilt, anxiety and other unresolved emotions. But when we try to salve our wounds in this way, we only deepen them. And the cycle continues.
One other thing that I have seen that holds addicts back from progressing is self-sabotage. It is a subtle thing, a disjoint between the conscious and the subconscious that leads to violent disharmony with oneself.
We must take complete responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. We can’t blame others for the problems those thoughts, words and actions cause. Satan cannot tempt and seduce you without your consent, and Christ cannot lift and save you without your permission, your willingness to accept Him. You hold the key, for yourself and yourself alone, to unlock the gate to heaven or hell. Christ will always beckon, while Satan taunts, but you have to turn the key in the lock yourself.
No one else can do it.
When you realize this, and stop laying your problems at the feet of your mother, your wife, your children, your boss, your dog, crazy Aunt Lily, your home teacher or your bishop, that is when you can start to break the fetters that seem to hold you back.
This is when you will start to gain the power you seek to move forward with your life.
Our Heavenly Father doesn’t love anyone more than He loves you. He wants you to overcome all your troubles, including your addictions. His plan allows you to fail.
Never give up! Keep trying. I know it can be so discouraging, but remember that you stop progressing, not when you fail, but you when fail to try and keep trying.
Your efforts will be worth it. It is all worth it. You are worth it. God bless you.