Addicted? You Still Belong in the Gospel
October 2020

Digital Only: Young Adults

Addicted? You Still Belong in the Gospel

I still belonged—even when struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs.

man sitting on a fence

An addiction to prescription drugs almost killed me.

And it’s not what you might think—it wasn’t an overdose. For me, it was the withdrawal symptoms that threw me into a deep depression and caused me to consider suicide as my only option.

The night I tried to leave my house alone and never return was a night when my withdrawals became so painful that I no longer wanted to live. But my mom followed me out to my car and asked if she could ride with me. It was nearly 1:00 a.m., and I was angry that she wouldn’t just leave me alone. Later, she told me she was prompted to follow me, not knowing where I was going or what my intentions were. But her promptings saved my life.

The next day, I was admitted to a hospital. The medical staff helped me withstand the withdrawals, and I promised I would never take that medication again. But that was easier said than done.

Years of Struggle

This addiction didn’t start so dramatically. Many things led to it. One was the intense shame I felt from returning home from my mission early due to a pornography problem. I felt like I didn’t belong in the Church anymore, so I stopped worshipping and started drinking.

Then, one day at a friend’s house, two of my friends were acting secretive. When I asked them what they were doing, they pulled out some pills and told me they were getting an “extra buzz.” Since everyone else was taking them, I decided to try them too.

I struggled with an addiction to those pills for the next five years. The first time I ran out of them, I experienced withdrawals that included sweating, nausea, and severe depression. My whole body ached, and I couldn’t sleep. I thought I was going to die. I had never experienced something so terrible. As soon as more pills were available, I started taking them again to stop withdrawal symptoms. And the cycle started.

The only people who knew what I was going through were the friends who were also hooked on these pills. Other than that, I lived two lives. Most of the time I acted normal. But when I would give in to my cravings again, I would isolate myself from friends out of shame.

Finding Freedom

I was also in another cycle at this time, with the Church. When I would try to stop taking the medication, I would start going to church and talk to my bishop. Each time I messed up, though, I no longer felt like I was worthy to attend and would sink further into my addiction.

But I never stopped believing in the truth.

I had gained a testimony of the gospel when I was young, and I never questioned what I knew and felt. That was one reason my relationship with the Church was complicated—I knew what was right and wrong. And because of my addiction, I felt like I was letting God down, my bishop down, and myself down. And these feelings often threw me into a pit of depression and deep self-loathing.

But one Sunday marked the beginning of a change. My bishop scheduled an interview with me. I hadn’t gone to church that day because I had messed up, and I felt so hopeless that I decided I would never go back. But I liked this bishop and decided I would go to one last interview just out of respect for him.

I told him how I felt and that I wouldn’t be coming back to church. But he wouldn’t let me give up. He told me I didn’t have to be perfect—that Heavenly Father didn’t loathe me but rather loved me just like He always has. My bishop helped me realize that I still belonged in the Church of Jesus Christ, even with my weaknesses. He helped me see that the gospel could help me overcome my struggles.

And he said he wanted to see me sitting in the pews every Sunday, even if I had a hangover while I was there.

So I kept trying. Though I was depressed, I was able to feel the Spirit for a few hours every Sunday. As I worked to invite the Spirit into my life, the sweetness of the gospel began to return. I started reading my scriptures, participating in Sunday School, and praying whenever I had moments of weakness. I felt more peace than I had in years.

With time and patience (see Mosiah 24:15), lasting strength eventually came as I learned about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I had been taught my whole life about the Savior’s suffering, but now the doctrine felt personal. Christ had suffered for my sins. I finally realized I could be forgiven of my sins because of His sacrifice (see Mosiah 26:29). The Atonement never felt real to me until I humbled myself and reached out for the Savior’s help. Knowing He had done this for me gave me hope. And eventually joy.

You Are Never Too Far Gone

No matter what your struggles or weaknesses may be, there is a place for you in the gospel. Satan wants you to believe that you’re too far gone or that you’re too terrible a person for the Savior to reach you. But that’s all a lie! If you can release the shame, find humility, and realize your divine worth, you will open yourself up to the healing and refining power of Jesus Christ. I have felt and been changed by that power.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Always remember, with the Savior’s help, you can break free from addiction. It may be a long, difficult path, but the Lord will not give up on you. He loves you. Jesus Christ suffered the Atonement to help you change, to free you from the captivity of sin.

“The most important thing is to keep trying—sometimes it takes several attempts before people find success. So don’t give up. Don’t lose faith. Keep your heart close to the Lord, and He will give you the power of deliverance. He will make you free.”1

While I wish I could say that my addiction to prescription drugs is completely over, it’s not. The temptation is something I will have to face throughout my life. I made a decision based on peer pressure and now will have to face the consequences. But I know that even on bad days, I don’t have to turn to medication to cope. I can hold on to the protection that comes from reading scriptures, going to church, attending the temple, being honest, connecting with loved ones, and staying close to the Savior (see Doctrine and Covenants 31:11–13).

Keep Holding On to Hope

For a while, I used to think that I had fallen behind schedule in my eternal progression because of the mistakes I made and that there was no way I could ever catch up. But now I realize that God has His own path for me, and I’m right where I need to be. It’s never too late to get back on His path.

Instead of focusing on the negatives of this struggle, I try to focus on how it has transformed me for the better. I now have a greater sense of acceptance and empathy for other people who struggle with addiction. I have a better understanding of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I know without a doubt that, regardless of what we struggle with, God has a plan for us. He will heal us, and He will never turn His back on us. Keep holding on to hope.