Addiction Recovery Program Calls for Stories of Recovery and Healing

  By Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events

  • 8 March 2012

In preparation for a new website that will give people an experience like an Addiction Recovery Program meeting (shown above), those who direct the ARP are seeking personal stories of addiction recovery. 

Article Highlights

  • The Church is seeking personal stories of addiction recovery for a forthcoming Addiction Recovery Program website.
  • Contributors can share their own stories by submitting them to arp@ldschurch.org.
  • Those who are not comfortable sharing their stories on the site are encouraged to find opportunities locally to share their stories of recovery.

“When [people with addiction] go to an environment like the Addiction Recovery Program and meet people with similar challenges, they find support, and the stigma goes away. Lifting that shame is so powerful, so healing—and almost at once they begin to feel the Savior’s love.” — Dr. Ben Erwin, LDS Family Services counseling program manager for the Addiction Recovery Program

In preparation for an Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) website scheduled to debut later this year, the Church is seeking personal stories of addiction recovery.

The website will give people everywhere access to an ARP experience—particularly those whose remote location or busy schedules prevent them from attending ARP meetings. Recovery stories are a crucial element of that experience, said Dr. Ben Erwin, LDS Family Services counseling program manager for the ARP.

The Power of Sharing

“One critical source of help is mutual support, and the Addiction Recovery Program offers that,“ he said. “So many people with an addiction feel like they’re broken or that they’re the only one in the Church with a problem. They go to church and feel like everyone around them seems so perfect while they have this terrible, ugly secret.

“Yet when they go to an environment like the ARP and meet people with similar challenges, they find support, and the stigma goes away. Lifting that shame is so powerful, so healing—and almost at once they begin to feel the Savior’s love. Once that barrier is removed, they feel the Spirit strongly and feel accepted. They feel that they have fellowship and a place in the Church.”

McKay (for privacy reasons, only his first name is used) is among those who have chosen to share their stories of addiction recovery—in his case, recovery from drug addiction—on the new website. He says the principle taught in Mosiah 24:13–14 is the reason he is willing to tell others about his experience:

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (emphasis added).

“That is the real reason I share my story—so that others may know with a surety that the Lord does visit His people in their afflictions,” McKay said. “The Lord performed a miracle in my life. I went from looking at 2 to 30 years in prison to being an endowed Melchizedek priesthood holder.

“I know that what happened to me was because of the Lord, and I also believe that He did what He did in the way that He did it not only so that I could share it, but also so that those I share the story with will have hope for themselves or maybe a loved one that is on the same road that I was on.”

Sharing Your Story

Those creating the website are seeking experiences from people who have dealt with addiction themselves as well as from family and friends who have experienced their own healing as they have worked through the addiction of a loved one. Neither group needs to have participated in the Addiction Recovery Program to share their experience with recovery, Brother Erwin said; those who have found success and healing in other programs or through other means are also encouraged to share their experiences.

Those who decide to share their stories should send an e-mail to arp@ldschurch.org containing the following information, which will be kept confidential:

  • Full name. (Please note that only first names will be used in resulting videos, audio files, and print stories generated from your story; this information is needed just for the purpose of your granting consent for the Church to share your story.)
  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • A photo of yourself. (This is not required but is preferred.)
  • Your affiliation with the Church/membership status.
  • A brief description of your addiction or the addiction of your loved one. (Please be specific about the types of drugs or alcohol you used if your addiction is related to substance, or about the type of behavior, such as in the case of a pornography or gambling addiction.)
  • An indication of your willingness to share your story through video, audio, text, or all of the above.
  • Your story. Include the consequences of your addiction (please do not share excessive or inappropriate detail, but do talk about your dark moments and the effects your addictive behavior had on you and those around you). Please be sure to include the following:
    • Your “Rock Bottom” Moment (A brief description of your life when you were at your lowest point and the circumstances and events you experienced when you knew that you needed help.)
    • Your “Turning Point” (A brief description of your life when you experienced healing through Christ and the circumstances and events you experienced when your hope was restored.)
    • Where You Are Today (A brief description of your life today and the lessons and blessings that you have experienced through forgiveness, repentance, and service.)

Brother Erwin also notes that most people appreciate a story similar to their own, so the website will need a broad sample of stories that show variety in addiction, age, culture, gender, language, location, race, and socioeconomic circumstances. Church representatives will contact those whose story is accepted for further development.

Others Ways to Serve

Brother Erwin suggests that those who are not comfortable sharing their stories of recovery in a public venue like a website might still find other ways to share, such as letting their bishop or branch president know about their story and of their willingness to help mentor anyone in the ward or branch who is currently struggling with addiction.

“What the bishop can then do, with that person’s permission, is let those he’s working with know that there is someone in the ward who can help support them,” Brother Erwin said. “These people can be an incredible resource to someone who is still struggling; in fact, that is probably one of the great untapped resources in the Lord’s storehouse.

“We have this call out for the new site, but the invitation stands for everyone to serve where they are, independent of the website,” he continued. “They can help share the good news of recovery through the Atonement and offer themselves as evidence of it. That alone would do so much good.”

Testifying of the Savior’s Power

Brother Erwin said that while Church members are counseled not to share personal transgressions (those who support or mentor others do not share sensitive details), sharing testimonies of the Savior and of the steps they took to access His power are very appropriate to share.

In fact, he said, such experiences of sharing experiences with others who are seeking healing can be powerful not only for those hearing the experiences but those who are sharing it.

The reason for that, Brother Erwin said, has to do with the admonition to “strengthen thy brethren” following our own conversions (see Luke 22:32), our baptismal covenant to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9), and the Savior’s plea to “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:16, 17).

“The application of these scriptures is that when someone has received the miracle of recovery through the Atonement in their lives, they want to shout from the rooftops about the Savior’s power to heal,” he said. “This process of helping someone else come unto Him to be healed is a sacred privilege and blessing. When you share what you have found, you can’t avoid this kind of experience. It changes you and it blesses you.”