Addiction Recovery Program Brings Individuals to Christ

Contributed By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events

  • 26 May 2011

“I have found peace and hope in this program and a resolve to overcome my addictions through Christ that I never thought was possible for someone like me.” —Luanne, who is recovering from an addiction to drugs

“A little over three years ago I had reached my ‘bottom.’ I was alone. I was broken. My wife and four kids were leaving me. I thought I’d lost all chance of happiness. I thought I had it figured out—I thought I could live two lives. I thought I could lie my way into heaven. I was heavy into my methamphetamine addiction.”

Three years ago Jared (for privacy, only first names are used in this article) felt like he was too far into his addiction to find a way out. It wasn’t until a close friend sat him down and asked what was wrong that he felt able to confide in another person for the first time.

That decision eventually brought him to the Church’s 12-step addiction recovery program (ARP), sponsored by LDS Family Services.

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than talking about behavior will improve behavior” (“Washed Clean,” Ensign, May 1997, 9).

This promise can become reality in the 12-step program, which helps those with addictions—drug dependency, alcoholism, pornography addiction, eating disorders, codependency, and so forth—apply key gospel principles in their lives. As participants study and exercise honesty, trust in God, humility, and the other principles of the program, they find hope, draw nearer to Christ, and allow His Atonement to have an effect in their lives.

“It was a painful process,” Jared said. But, he added, “these steps have made my relationship with my Heavenly Father more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.”

Jared now acts as a facilitator at his local addiction recovery program meeting. He shares his insights based on his own recovery in the hopes of helping others understand that addictions can be overcome.

Hope and Honesty

Most people who have suffered from addiction will tell you that they are never “cured” or “recovered”—rather they are always recovering. In other words, recovery is a lifelong process.

Karen said when she attended her first ARP meeting five years ago, she “couldn’t admit [she] was an addict” to prescription drugs.

Recovery meetings are held in LDS meetinghouses around the world and in many prisons and jails. Meetings are free, only first names are used, interrupting others is not allowed, and kindness is expected of everyone.


Each 60- to 90-minute meeting includes a group sharing portion where each participant introduces himself or herself—“Hello, my name is Karen, and I’m a recovering drug addict”—and talks for three to five minutes on a particular step, which changes each meeting.

The first step is to “admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, “Honesty,” p. 1).

“There’s no pretenses; there’s no judging,” said Luanne, who is recovering from an addiction to heroin and methamphetamines. “We come together, and we strengthen one another and build relationships in a way that we can’t have in any other setting.”

In such a venue, desperately needed healing can take place as recovering addicts read and ponder the scriptures, pray, study the program manual, Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, and “come to believe that the power of God can restore [them] to complete spiritual health” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, “Hope,” p. 7).

The environment at these meetings is unlike anywhere else, said Dr. Ben Erwin, LDS Family Services counseling program manager for the ARP. Many recovering from addiction feel a sense of shame or worthlessness when they first begin the program, but that soon changes, he said.

“All these poor decisions that they’ve made really compromise their ability to love themselves and believe that anyone else can love them,” Dr. Erwin said. “It’s almost as if the Savior just opens up His arms, and they feel His love and acceptance for them. … They gradually begin to feel and experience that even they are children of God.”

Luanne continues to attend ARP meetings because of the Spirit she feels there. “I have found peace and hope in this program and a resolve to overcome my addictions through Christ that I never thought was possible for someone like me,” she said.

Recovering from Addiction

“The longer that we’re in our addiction … [the more] we feel like the only choice that we have is to use,” Luanne said. “Satan really has a hold on [people with addictions] with lies, and it’s hard to differentiate the lies from the truth when you don’t have the Spirit with you.”

The lie is that those struggling with addiction will never be able to stop.

When Rod was just six years old, he witnessed his father commit suicide. At age 12, he ran from his emotions by turning to drugs and alcohol.

“Fifteen years later I found myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially bankrupt. I’d whittled it down to a duffle bag full of nothing. Most important, I’d lost my sense of who I was. … I didn’t feel any love for myself or anybody else. So I decided that I would change.”

Rod admitted that he was addicted and decided to get help. “That was the greatest moment in my life,” he said of his decision to begin attending ARP meetings.

“Through humbling ourselves before the Lord and turning ourselves to the Lord, we get the opportunity personally to have the Atonement work its miracle in our lives” he said. “Without that help, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Rod is now an ARP meeting facilitator. Facilitators—people who have experienced both addiction and recovery firsthand—help others in the program understand that they are not alone and that they can overcome their addictions.

Those who struggle with addiction aren’t the only ones who can experience a change of heart. As supportive family and friends attend recovery meetings and apply the 12 steps to their own lives, they can discover the Atonement’s power to heal their own feelings of anger, guilt, and grief.

When Lisa discovered her husband was addicted to pornography, she considered driving over a cliff, but turned the car in the other direction and went to see her bishop, who recommended the couple attend the Addiction Recovery Program. As she and her husband, Marty, applied the steps, both of them found healing.

Later, when Lisa began serving as a facilitator helping the spouses of people addicted to pornography, she discovered that she had a food addiction. She continued applying the principles of the program and lost a significant amount of weight.

“There’s a heaviness to their spirits as they walk in that first week,” she said, speaking of those who enter the program. “But it’s wonderful to see [them] start to heal … as they start to recognize that the Atonement is there for them to help in the hurt and the betrayal—to see the light come into their eyes.”

Brad and Gretchen began attending meetings to support their son, who became addicted to prescription painkillers after a shoulder surgery.

“This program is not just for people who have what we would call serious addictions,” Brad said. “We all have hurts; we all have heartaches; we all have habits; we all … need our Savior’s Atonement in our lives to help lift us up.”

Freedom in the Atonement

Brother Erwin defines addiction as “a spiritual state where agency is restricted or lost.” The 12 steps are simply the principles of the gospel applied to addiction—which will help people regain their agency, he explained.

“As folks who struggle with addiction go through this process, in essence they are following the Savior in His path and [experiencing] the power of the Atonement to have a rebirth and a cleansing,” Brother Erwin said.

The greatest miracle is seeing people break out of the bonds of addiction, he said.

“They can choose again,” he said. “To see that miracle of the cleansing and sanctifying power of the Atonement is miraculous.”

Addiction Recovery Program Mission Statement:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addiction recovery meetings assist those who desire to recover from addiction. We also welcome family and friends whose lives may be affected by the addiction of another. We are a group of brothers and sisters who share our experience, faith, and hope as we study and apply the principles of the gospel as they correlate with the 12 steps of recovery. Our meetings provide a safe place for honest sharing because we adhere to the principles of confidentiality and anonymity, and we use appropriate language and behavior to invite the Spirit to be with us. As we practice these 12 steps in our lives, we receive power through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to overcome addiction and receive the full blessings of the gospel. Family and friends who practice these same 12 steps will also find hope and healing for themselves.”