“Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand very temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Alma 37:33).
Many of us tried to get out of our addictions through sheer willpower or through having faith in a friend or therapist. Sooner or later we found that our faith in ourselves or others did not enable us to overcome our addictions fully. Write about your feelings today of being humble and willing to turn to Christ and His gospel above all other sources of help in your recovery efforts.
I have listened to many people share in meetings and one of the things I hear a lot is their "strategies." I worry about this way of thinking. Often they will talk about learning the strategies for avoiding temptation or preventing themselves from succumbing to it. It is spoken like they have a plan, a way to out flank the devil and get themselves beyond this. I can't help but feel they are setting themselves up for failure. They are playing a game that has no hope for victory because they are playing a formidable opponent for the desires of their mind and heart. The field on which they play is thier own thoughts. So if my thoughts are where the issue lie, and I try to defeat my thoughts which are always with me, what are the chances for success? If I try to solve a problem of the mind with the mind, how do I not become frustrated?
It's like playing a chess game where the board has no end. If the board has no end then how do I remove a piece from off of the board? The most I can do it move it as far back as I can. Of course the distance I move it doesn't matter much. Many of the pieces can move right back into play every quickly. This is how the mind works. I can overcome a thought or desire on my own, but since it is in my head it can return and usually does so very quickly. Eventually, this will result in a vulnerability of mine being exploited at the point of my weakest and I will lose. It doesn't matter how good my game is.
So in responding to the question for this journal entry, I ask myself, do I have a strategy? If so what is it?
If I have one, it has two parts. First, recognize this game for what it is. I mean, recognize my feelings and desires for what they are, just feelings and desires. Acknowledge the feelings and that they exist. In doing this, I can see the feelings for what they are and that they are separate from my actions. I am really talking about is just having an awareness of my feelings from a more objective view. In the chess game analogy, what I am suggesting is stop trying to be the pieces and become the board. I have found that by doing this, I don't remove my thoughts, I just remove my obsession with them.
The second part goes to the scripture and the question at the start of this post. I turn the game over to the Lord. It is not mine to fight, or at least not alone. If I continue my analogy, I essentially present the game to the Lord. In other words, I come to him with my desires. I confess my feelings. I simply confess my feelings in prayer on my knees if I can. If not, I can do as so vocally. I have found that by simply acknowledging the desire for what it is and then taking it to the Lord, I find the fulfilling power of the spirit to overcome it. I don't know if this is a strategy or if I am simply following the counsel listed in this scripture.
I try to avoid the temptation as much as I can. I have a duty to minimize my risk. So here, maybe a look into avoidance strategies might help, but even so, I can't imagine any strategy that does not come with daily prayer and scripture study along with reading and answering questions from the ARP manual before your next meeting.
I do work on my emotional behaviors as well. I use much of what is taught by Dr. Glasser in his book "Choice Theory" because I find it aligns very strongly with the teachings of freedom and relationships as I have understood them in the scriptures and by our leaders. So I do use other helps.
However, the core of my strategy, if I have one, is still prayer, scripture study, work the program. If I am devoted to this, I have success. When I forget this or neglect it, I begin to fail. I notice that when I am doing the core, my feelings for my addiction reduce in intensity. When I feel them, I notice it much sooner. I think this is because I am feeling the spirit in me more and the distruption of that spirit is more obvious than if I was not as in tune with the Holy Ghost. If I can intensify my feelings of the spirit, then the temptations have less power over me and I have the ability to give them to the Lord and have the confidence that they will be handled correctly.
Elder Ballard in his October 2010 Conference talk spoke on prayer and addiction:
If anyone who is addicted has a desire to overcome, then there is a way to spiritual freedom—a way to escape from bondage—a way that is proven. It begins with prayer—sincere, fervent, and constant communication with the Creator of our spirits and bodies, our Heavenly Father. It is the same principle in breaking a bad habit or repenting from sin of any kind...Fervent prayer is key to gaining the spiritual strength to find peace and overcome an addictive craving. Heavenly Father loves all of His children, so thank Him and express sincere faith in Him. Ask Him for the strength to overcome the addiction you are experiencing. Set aside all pride and turn your life and your heart to Him. Ask to be filled with the power of Christ’s pure love. You may have to do this many times, but I testify to you that your body, mind, and spirit can be transformed, cleansed, and made whole, and you will be freed. This seems less a strategy and more a following of what the Savior has taught us since the beginning of time.
You can see by his fervent testimony that prayer is critical. He cites scriptures in this talk as well to demonstrate how prayer helps.
Using scriptures was exemplified by the Savior after he fasted for 40 days. Satan appeared to him and made three attempts to tempt him into sin. Much has be spoken about the ways he was tempted during this time. But for me, the greatest lesson isn't the ways we are tempted, it is the way we resist temptation. Three times Satan came to Jesus, each time with different seductions and each time the Savior response began with the same three words, "It is written." I could from here go on forever about the power of what was said. But for now, I will simply say, the savior used no strategy. He simply relied on the words of God and his own witness of them. I think this is a most crucial lesson.
In returning ot the original question. Reliance on the lord is the best strategy, connecting with him through prayer and gospel study is how we gain the power to overcome. I know this is the way. I know this works. I know this is the core of the Addiction Recovery Program. It brings us to repentance. I am most grateful for it.