“Introduction,” Healing through the Savior: The Addiction Recovery Program 12-Step Recovery Guide (2023)

“Introduction,” The Addiction Recovery Program 12-Step Recovery Guide

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First and foremost, we want you to know that there is hope for recovery from addiction. (“We” are men and women who have suffered the devastating effects of various addictions and have experienced long-term recovery.) We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the Savior’s power turn our most devastating defeats into glorious victories. We once lived with daily depression, anxiety, fear, and debilitating anger but now experience joy and peace. We have seen miracles in our own lives and in the lives of others who were ensnared in addiction.

We have paid an awful price in pain and suffering because of our addictions. But God has blessed us as we have taken each step to recovery. We have come to see ourselves as beloved children of God. Having had a spiritual awakening, we strive every day to improve our relationship with Heavenly Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; ourselves; and others. In short, the Savior has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Some people consider addictions to be bad habits that we can conquer by willpower alone, but we became so dependent on a behavior or a substance that we could no longer see how to abstain from it. We lost perspective and a sense of other priorities in our lives. Nothing mattered more than satisfying our desperate need. When we tried to abstain, we experienced powerful physical, psychological, and emotional cravings. As we succumbed to our cravings and addictions, our ability to use our agency was diminished or restricted. President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency” (“Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 14).

We began the process of recovery by being humble and honest, by calling upon God and others for help, and by taking the actions outlined in this guide. The 12 steps of recovery taught us how to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our lives. President Jeffrey R. Holland said: “Are you battling a demon of addiction—tobacco or drugs or gambling, or … pornography? … Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 70).

Steps 1–3 teach us how to exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Steps 4–9 take us through a process of thorough repentance. Steps 10–12 encourage us to be accountable, to seek divine direction and power to stay on the covenant path, to share with others the miracle that has come into our lives, and to endure to the end.

Many of us who are living in recovery still participate in the Addiction Recovery Program. We find great support in our desire to maintain our freedom from addiction. And we are blessed as we seek to help others who are in bondage to addiction. We firmly believe that we have been transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 24:17–19), we have experienced healing and a change in our very nature through Jesus Christ’s grace and power. We don’t want to lose that gift, so every day we choose to remember our total reliance on Him. As we continue to participate in the Addiction Recovery Program, we are reminded that addiction is powerful and that we may end up returning to it rather than to God if we lose sight of these truths. Our desire is to maintain what God has so graciously given us.

If you feel you have an addiction and have even the smallest desire to break free and are willing to “experiment upon” the word of God (Alma 32:27), we invite you to join us in studying and applying the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in this guide. Our experience has shown that if you follow this path with a sincere heart, you will find the power you need to recover from addiction. This power is called grace. “The grace of God helps us every day. It strengthens us to do good works we could not do on our own” (Topics and Questions, “Grace,” Gospel Library). As you apply each of these 12 steps faithfully, the Savior will strengthen you and you will come to “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

We know by our own experience that you can break free from the chains of addiction. No matter how lost and hopeless you may feel, you are the child of a loving Heavenly Father. If you have been blind to this truth, the principles explained in this guide will help you rediscover it and establish it deep in your heart. These principles can help you come unto Christ and allow Him to change you. As you apply the steps, you will draw on the power of the Savior and He will free you from bondage.

Those of us in recovery invite you with all our empathy and love to join us in a glorious life of hope, freedom, and joy, encircled in the arms of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Just as we have recovered, you can also recover and enjoy all the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Action Steps

This is a program of action. Our progress depends on consistently applying the steps in our daily lives. This is known as “working the steps.” The following actions help us come unto Christ and receive the direction and power necessary to continue in our recovery. Please remember to work with your sponsor.

Focus on our eternal identity

When President Russell M. Nelson was asked how to help those who suffer with addiction, he replied, “Teach them their identity and their purpose” (in Tad R. Callister, “Our Identity and Our Destiny” [Brigham Young University devotional, Aug. 14, 2012], Each of us is a child of a loving God. We know that He loves us and is actively caring for us.

We didn’t always think this way though. Some of us were convinced He wasn’t there. Some of us didn’t care either way. Some of us believed He was there but that He was too angry or disappointed in us to help. For almost all of us, misunderstanding our relationship to God led to a barrier that kept us from turning to Him for help. Instead, we turned to addictive substances or behaviors to help us cope with life’s challenges. We often entered negative cycles. We acted out, which led to feelings of guilt and shame, and this led to more acting out to cover the pain of these emotions. Understanding our identity and purpose as God’s children has empowered us to break these cycles.

We also learned the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is feeling bad about something we’ve done, and shame is feeling bad about who we are. Elder David A. Bednar explained guilt’s value this way: “Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body—a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage” (“We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 44). Before recovery, many of us instead felt shame, concluding that we were forever broken and unworthy of love from God or anyone.

However, once we came to see our divine nature and admitted our need for heaven’s help to recover from addiction, we began to see ourselves as Jesus Christ sees us: spiritually sick men and women trying to heal through His grace rather than bad men and women trying to become good enough to earn His love.

We invite you to practice believing that you are God’s child and that He loves you no matter what you have done. While it is true that harmful choices limit our opportunities, our worth to God can never change. He loves us because we are His children, not because of our choices: “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 22).

Become willing to abstain

We were finally willing to abstain when the pain of the problem became worse than the pain of the solution. Have you come to that point yet? If you have not and you continue in your addiction, you will surely reach that point because addiction is a progressive problem. It is a degenerative disease that takes away our ability to function normally.

At first, staying completely sober seemed very daunting for us. But as we continued to hear from others who found the serenity and the sobriety we were looking for, we began to believe that we too could recover.

Before we could begin the recovery process, we first needed the desire to recover (see Alma 32:27). Freedom from addiction starts with a tiny flicker of willingness. If your desire is small and inconsistent today, don’t worry. As you take action, it will grow! We learned that one of the most powerful actions we can take is to pray and ask God to increase our desire to abstain.

If you do not yet have the desire to begin recovery, you can acknowledge your unwillingness and consider the costs of your addiction. List what is important to you. Consider your relationships with family and friends, your relationship to God, your spiritual strength, your ability to help and bless others, and 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. Pray for God to 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.

Recognizing 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. And as you progress through the steps of this program and see the changes that come into your life, your desire will grow.

Note: Depending on the nature of your addiction, you may need to seek medical attention before you start your recovery. Please consult a medical professional.

Get support

The journey toward recovery and healing is long and hard, but we don’t have to do it alone. Living in recovery requires absolute honesty. Denial, self-deception, and isolation make it difficult to achieve lasting and stable progress in recovery. It is important for us to enlist the support of others as soon as possible. Many people are willing to walk with us and help us. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2011], 82).

Seeking help from God and others will not only provide the encouragement we need to continue the journey but will also help us remember that we are worthy of help. When you ask for help, you may be surprised at the amount of love and acceptance you find. The more you connect with others, the more opportunities you will have to receive love and support in discovering true healing and recovery.

Consider the different sources of support available to you and how you can reach out for help. We recommend finding and working with a sponsor who has successfully applied the 12 steps. A sponsor is never assigned. We encourage you to prayerfully consider who you might ask to be your sponsor as soon as possible. A great place to find a sponsor is in a recovery meeting. Recovery meetings are a safe place for us to share and learn about recovery.

Other important sources of support include family members, friends, Church leaders, and therapists. The ultimate source of support is Heavenly Father. Deciding who we ask and when we ask for support is a personal decision. In some cases, it may not be safe or helpful for us to confide in or ask for help from certain family members or friends. However, it is important that we get as much support from as many sources as possible. For more information, please review the “Support in Recovery” section found in the appendix of this guide.

We may be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for support from others. We may not want anyone else to know about our problems or faults. We may not want to be a burden or may not feel like we are worthy of help. But we have found that people are blessed when we ask for their help. The 12th step is about service and helping others. When those in recovery serve others, they are strengthened in their own recovery.

Study and Understanding

The following scriptures and statements from Church leaders will help you begin your recovery. Use them for meditation, study, and journaling. Remember to be honest and specific in your writing.

My divine identity

“Look backward, remembering that you proved your worthiness in your premortal state. You are a valiant child of God, and with His help, you can triumph in the battles of this fallen world. You have done it before, and you can do it again.

“Look forward. Your troubles and sorrows are very real, but they will not last forever” (Neil L. Andersen, “Wounded,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 85; emphasis added).

  • Looking backward, what battles have I already fought and won?

  • When have I received help from the Lord in my life?

“Around the Church I hear many who struggle with this issue: ‘I am just not good enough.’ ‘I fall so far short.’ ‘I will never measure up.’ …

“… As children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No!” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 40).

  • How can I learn from my mistakes while still remembering my worth as a child of God?

  • What are my thoughts about President Holland’s use of the word eventually in the title of his talk?

My relationship with Jesus Christ

“And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2).

The process of recovery happens when we focus on the solution rather than the problem. When we strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ, He will give us the power and peace we need to live in recovery.

  • What is my relationship with Jesus Christ? Do I trust Him to help me?

  • When I recognize my own weaknesses, do I have the courage to turn to my Savior for His redeeming power? Why or why not? If not, how will I begin?

“The scriptures define the doctrine of Christ as exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end [see 2 Nephi 31].

“The Atonement of Christ creates the conditions upon which we may rely upon ‘the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah’ [2 Nephi 2:8], ‘be perfected in [Christ]’ [Moroni 10:32], obtain every good thing, and gain eternal life.

“The doctrine of Christ on the other hand is the means—the only means—by which we can obtain all of the blessings made available to us through Jesus’s Atonement” (Brian K. Ashton, “The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 106).

  • The 12 steps of recovery are sometimes referred to as “baby steps” because they are incremental steps in the process of applying the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the problem of addiction. How can taking these “baby steps” help me to receive the blessings of Jesus Christ’s Atonement?

My desire to abstain from addiction

“As you shift your focus away from worldly distractions, some things that seem important to you now will recede in priority. You will need to say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless. As you embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating your life to the Lord, the changes in your perspective, feelings, and spiritual strength will amaze you!” (Russell M. Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019, 77)

This promise, made by a prophet of God, outlines the amazing changes possible when we shift our focus to the Lord.

  • What daily actions will I take to focus on Jesus Christ?

  • What worldly distractions will I say no to, trusting that they will “recede in priority”?

“And the Lord said unto [Alma]: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 27:25).

  • My willingness to change is key to being redeemed from my “fallen state.” Do I have the desire to abstain from my addiction? Do I feel unwilling? If so, why?

  • Willingness comes when I consider what my addictions are costing me and others. What are the costs of my addiction?

  • What is the cost to my health?

  • What is the cost to my family? my relationships? my ability to help others?

  • How does my addiction affect my relationship with God?

Find help

“As followers of Christ, we are not spared challenges and trials in our lives. We are often required to do difficult things that, if attempted alone, would be overwhelming and maybe impossible. As we accept the Savior’s invitation to ‘come unto me’ [Matthew 11:28], He will provide the support, comfort, and peace that are necessary” (John A. McCune, “Come unto Christ—Living as Latter-day Saints,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2020, 36).

  • The Savior provides the necessary support, comfort, and peace to do overwhelming or impossible things. How can I find the support and comfort He has promised?

  • Does recovery seem overwhelming or maybe impossible if I attempt it alone?

  • How does knowing that no one is spared from trials in their lives and that we all need support help me let go of my reluctance to reach out to others for help?

  • Have I prayed about who to ask to be my sponsor? Did any names come to my mind?

“It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (Bible Dictionary, “Grace”).

  • There have been times when I have been able to give up my addiction for a while. How can I consistently remain free from addiction, even when I am stressed or discouraged?