Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.
Many of us began our addictions out of curiosity. Some of us became involved because of a justifiable need for a prescription drug or as an act of deliberate rebellion. Many began this path when barely older than children. Whatever our motive for starting and our circumstances, we soon discovered that the addiction relieved more than just physical pain. It provided stimulation or numbed painful feelings or moods. It helped us avoid the problems we faced—or so we thought. For a while, we felt free of fear, worry, loneliness, discouragement, regret, or boredom. But because life is full of the conditions that prompt these kinds of feelings, we resorted to our addictions more and more often. Still, most of us failed to recognize or admit that we had lost the ability to resist and abstain on our own. As Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve observed: “Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7).
Rarely do people caught in addictive behaviors admit to being addicted. To deny the seriousness of our condition and to avoid detection and the consequences of our choices, we tried to minimize or hide our behaviors. We did not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, we slipped deeper into our addictions. As our powerlessness over addiction increased, many of us found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and even God. We plunged into greater and greater isolation, separating ourselves from others, especially from God.
When we, as addicts, resorted to lies and secrecy, hoping to excuse ourselves or blame others, we weakened spiritually. With each act of dishonesty, we bound ourselves with “flaxen cords” that soon became as strong as chains (see 2 Nephi 26:22). Then a time came when we were brought face to face with reality. We could no longer hide our addictions by telling one more lie or by saying, “It’s not that bad!”
A loved one, a doctor, a judge, or an ecclesiastical leader told us the truth we could no longer deny—the addiction was destroying our lives. When we honestly looked at the past, we admitted that nothing we had tried on our own had worked. We acknowledged that the addiction had only gotten worse. We realized how much our addictions had damaged relationships and robbed us of any sense of worth. At this point, we took the first step toward freedom and recovery by finding courage to admit that we were not just dealing with a problem or a bad habit. We finally admitted the truth that our lives had become unmanageable and that we needed help to overcome our addictions. The amazing thing about this honest realization of defeat was that recovery finally began.
The Book of Mormon prophet Ammon plainly stated the truth we discovered when we were finally honest with ourselves:
“I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.”
“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:11–12).
Become willing to abstain
Even though people’s addictions are different, some truths, like this one, never vary—nothing begins without an individual’s will to make it begin. Freedom from addiction and cleanliness begin with a tiny flicker of will. People say individuals finally become willing to abstain when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution. Have you come to that point? If you have not and you continue in your addiction, you surely will reach that point because addiction is a progressive problem. Like a degenerative disease, it eats at your ability to function normally.
The only requirement to begin recovery is the desire to stop participating in the addiction. If your desire is small and inconsistent today, don’t worry. It will grow!
Some people recognize the need to be free from addiction but are not yet willing to begin. If you are in that situation, perhaps you can begin by acknowledging your unwillingness and considering the costs of your addiction. You can list what is important to you. Look at your family and social relationships, your relationship to God, your spiritual strength, your ability to help and bless others, your health. Then look for contradictions between what you believe in and hope for and your behavior. Consider how your actions undermine what you value. You can pray that the Lord will help you see yourself and your life as He sees it— with all your divine potential—and what you risk by continuing in your addiction.
A recognition of what you lose by indulging in your addiction can help you find the desire to stop. If you can find even the smallest desire, you will have room to begin step 1. And as you progress through the steps of this program and see the changes that come into your life, your desire will grow.
Let go of pride and seek humility
Pride and honesty cannot coexist. Pride is an illusion and is an essential element of all addiction. Pride distorts the truth about things as they are, as they have been, and as they will be. It is a major obstacle to your recovery. President Ezra Taft Benson defined pride:
“Pride is a very misunderstood sin. . . .
“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ . . .
“Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled (see Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:30).
“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (see Helaman 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3–4; or Ensign, May 1989, 4).
As you become willing to abstain and admit the problems you face, your pride will gradually be replaced with humility.
Admit the problem; seek help; attend meetings
When we indulged our addictions, we lied to ourselves and others. But we could not really fool ourselves. We pretended we were fine, full of bravado and excuses, but somewhere deep inside we knew. The Light of Christ continued to remind us. We knew we were sliding down a slippery slope toward greater and greater sorrow. Denying this truth was such hard work that it was a big relief finally to admit that we had a problem. Suddenly, we allowed a tiny opening for hope to slip in. When we chose to admit to ourselves that we had a problem and we became willing to seek support and help, we gave that hope a place to grow. We were then ready to take the next step of attending a recovery meeting.
Participation in a support group or a recovery meeting may not be feasible for everyone. If you cannot attend a recovery meeting, you can still follow each of the steps, with minor modifications, as you work with your bishop or a carefully chosen professional counselor.
When attendance at a recovery meeting is possible, you will find it helpful for at least two reasons. First, at these meetings you will study specific gospel principles that, when applied, will help you change your behavior. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17). Second, these meetings are a place to gather with others seeking recovery and with those who have already taken this path and are living proof of its effectiveness. In recovery meetings you will find understanding, hope, and support.