“Whom do we go to for help?” New Era, Nov. 1973, 36–37
I am a nineteen-year-old girl. When I was fifteen I started taking all sorts of drugs. As soon as I turned eighteen I told myself it was time I gave up all my drugs. So I did! I made up my mind and did it all by myself.
You may be asking, why did I do it all by myself? Why didn’t I get help? Very simple—none of my church friends knew what to do. So I did it on my own. It was hard. I slipped a few times, but I’ve been off drugs for sixteen months now, and I’ll never go back.
Sure, the temptation is always there. It’s a lot easier to pop a pill or shoot up than it is to face your problems day in and day out. A lot deadlier too.
Now I have a reason never to go back. I’ve become friends with a girl who goes to my ward who is on heroin and cocaine. She is ready to give it up, and I am going to help her. She is only fifteen, and she reminds me of myself. I don’t want her to go through the tireless hell I went through.
We talked to our bishop, and he was helpful in telling us to read the scriptures and pray about our problem. But if someone is too afraid to go to the bishop, and their arms and insides are burning up from using the drugs, to whom can they go for help with this problem? They need someone inside the Church to help and direct them onto a path toward the Church, someone who can understand what we who have been on drugs are going through, and someone who will listen. Whom do we go to?
Answer/Victor L. Brown, Jr.
There should never be a member of the Church who cannot receive help if he or she sincerely wants it. There are three main sources of help for us: the Savior, the Church members, and one’s family.
The Savior and his love are as near and as real as we permit. If we are open and humble, his presence and that of the Holy Spirit will carry us through the darkest of hours. At the same time he will respect our free agency and will stay away if we reject him. In our very materialistic world I fear that many of us, even in the Church, do not accept the Savior as a practical source of help. We are far too used to “things” or so-called experts who can solve our problems whether they include a broken television or a broken life.
The Lord’s church is an organized, orderly group of people who, when they follow the Lord’s servants, can bring almost limitless amounts of skill, experience, and love to bear upon a problem. And our family, which includes people beyond our immediate relatives, is also a rich reservoir of help.
In the Social Services Department of the Church, we have long felt that the solution to` drug abuse among our people lies in reaffirmation of gospel truth in the life of the drug user. Final and lasting cure of drug use is rarely, if ever, seen unless the individual changes his behavior quite markedly. The LDS person on drugs may have some very understandable reasons for his behavior, but he has no excuse. In most cases drug abuse is related to loneliness, deep self-doubt, frustration with the more depressing pressures of life, and in some cases, foolish experimentation with so-called friends. Even so, the one specific step into or out of drug usage occurs when a person chooses to take or not to take a drug. This is the high note of this letter because we see someone who took the step out.
Of course, we all need help and need it often. When we are in the depths of sin or have strayed far from the protection of the Lord’s community, we need help more than ever. Every bishop or branch president should be able, through his Welfare Services Committee, to contact someone who can help with a drug problem. The key steps are identifying the extent of use or abuse, the behavior behind the drug involvement, and the most appropriate course of treatment.
Obviously, if a person is addicted, especially to hard drugs like heroin, careful medically supervised detoxification or withdrawal is necessary. At the same time the social and emotional problems leading to drug use must be identified and changes made. To help here the bishop can call upon qualified members of the ward, stake, or region or call in the Church social service worker assigned to his region. All this should be done confidentially through the Welfare Services program that the bishop presides over in the ward. We have seen success in certain parts of the Church with small, priesthood-led groups where drug users work through their problems and at the same time rebuild their relationship with the gospel.
When the medical-physical situation is under control, longer range help can be given by a reliable, mature friend. It would be a challenging and appropriate home teaching assignment for a qualified priesthood brother to be asked to be with and strengthen a brother or sister through the ups and downs of recovery from drug use.
Finally, may I just comment on your bishop’s counsel to read the scriptures and pray. Without doubt, one of the most powerful weapons in the lonely struggle against drugs is a true friend. At the same time there is also power in our spiritual relationship with the truths found in the scriptures. The Savior knows us and he knows our sufferings. His own suffering far exceeded anything we can imagine, and his compassion also exceeds anything we can imagine. When he says something, he speaks the truth.
In this regard, two of his statements are very pertinent here. He said, “And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (D&C 84:43–45.) At another time, in another place, He also said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.)
You have literally escaped from prison and are now free. You would still be a prisoner if you had not begun to live according to the laws taught by the scriptures. The Spirit of the Savior, with truth and light, has also blessed you.
Prayer and study of the scriptures is far more than a mental experience. When done with hope and faith, it becomes an exciting, powerful journey toward dignity, self-confidence, and power over all temptation and weakness.
Now, I have been deeply involved in the drug scene as one who attempts to help. When you say “hell,” you describe it accurately. I realize that it is not enough, usually, just to study and pray. One of the most pressing duties of the Church Social Services Department is to help our bishops, and all members, become sensitive to the needs we all have for help and friendship all the time and special help in special times of need.
The Savior has strongly pointed out the need we all have for the comfort and help only a friend can give. Father Lehi’s words seem to summarize it so well. “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” (2 Ne. 1:15.)