Monthly Archives: October 2012

What Does Recovery Look like?


When I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and walked into my first 12 step meeting, I was under the impression that 12 weeks later I was going to leave the program cured of my addiction.  Somehow they were going to say a few magic words and I was going to be fixed.  My decades of addiction were going to be undone.

That was several years ago and I am still going to meetings.  Now, I serve as Support Group Leader over several Stakes (a group of LDS congregations) and I’ve never been told any magic words or found a wand to wave around to fix addiction.  It’s a lifelong process, and there are a few things I have to keep in mind.

First, being in recovery doesn’t mean you will never have cravings.  Second, recovery doesn’t mean you have moved beyond being tempted.  Third, it also doesn’t mean depriving yourself of what you really want.

The truth is I might have cravings for my addictions for the rest of my life.  I realize that now.  As a child, I never learned good ways to cope with the emotional needs that we all have.  Instead, I learned how to bury those feelings, mask them, escape from them.  I wired my brain toward addiction each time I indulged in unhealthy behavior that brought me pleasure, or relief, or distraction from whatever was causing me distress.   By the time I was an adolescent, the hooks of addiction were firmly set, and I hadn’t learned any other coping skills to deal with the everyday stresses of life.   It took many years for my addictions to form.  It was silly to think I could get rid of them in a few short weeks.


It took me a long time to forgive myself for feeling tempted.  I finally realize there is no reason to feel guilty for being tempted.  Jesus Christ was perfect and sinless, and he was tempted.  There is no sin in temptation, only in sin itself.   Living in recovery is not about being free from temptation.

And recovery isn’t about denying yourself of what you are craving.  It is about discovering what you are REALLY craving.  All addicts began using as a way to deal with life or escape.  One thing that almost all addicts share is a disconnect from their emotions.  An addict will say “I feel like a drink” or “I am still hungry” or “I want to look at porn” or “I really need a pill”.  In the same situation, a healthy person might say, “I am angry” or “I need to talk to someone” or “I need to take a walk and clear my head” or “I need to go let off some steam”.

Addicts are usually perceived as very selfish people.  But in reality addicts usually never give their body or mind what it is really needing.  Instead, they just mask those feelings with unhealthy substitutes and the real needs continue to build.  Addicts are in a constant state of neglecting their emotional and physical needs.

Being in recovery is a process of discovering what your cravings are telling you.  Try to find out what the real need is, and then look for a healthy way to satisfy it.  Eventually, your goal becomes to learn how to read your own signals and to take care of yourself physically and emotionally BEFORE you feel cravings.

But I will probably always have cravings during times of Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness, or Stress (H.A.L.T.S).   Those are the hardest times for addicts.

Wow, this post has been really disjointed and rambling.  Sorry about that.  I just really wanted to dispel a few myths about what it is like to be a recovering addict.  I’ve seen too many addicts going along fine in their recovery and then get down on themselves when they get tempted, or use, and they start to wonder if there is any hope for them.  

I told my Bishop a couple of weeks ago that I struggle every single day.  But I’m going to keep fighting.

One day at a time, right?






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Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon

Baby Steps

Hi.  My name is ________ and I’m an addict….

In recovery meetings around the world, held in churches, basements, offices, or parks, this is how people begin spilling their guts about what really goes on inside their heads.

There are reasons why those those meetings are anonymous.  Chief among those reasons is that most addicts share a fear that if anyone really knew them, really knew how they thought, what they did, how they felt, no one would accept them, let alone love them.  This fear consumes them and drives them into a life of secrecy and seclusion.

And addiction thrives in secrecy and seclusion.

For many people, recovery meetings are their first timid attempts to reach out and connect honestly with another person.  The anonymity and confidentiality provide a safety net for their fears of rejection and loneliness.

A blog is the last thing an addict would want to write.  Fiction? Sure.  Poetry? Maybe.  But a blog? An online public journal with my picture out there for the world to see? Oh, hell no!

So why would I, a long-time 12-stepper and recovering addict, choose to start this blog?  That’s a good question.  Let me think about that a moment…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t care as much about what people think about me?  Nope, that’s not it.  I still have a big problem being a people-pleaser.

Maybe I have finally overcome my fears?  Nope.  I’m terrified.  And I’m still not sure if I’m actually going to push that ominous button at the bottom of this page that will publish this.

Okay, here is my official answer:  I’m doing this because I know what hopelessness feels like.  I’m doing this because I know how it feels to have my god-given agency taken away by addiction.  I’m doing this because I know there are countless people who think they are beyond help.  And I’m doing this to illustrate what recovery looks like, because most people have a false picture of what their life will be like without their addiction.

I’m also doing this because it is important to my own recovery and healing.  In fact, it’s right there in the program.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do. (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, LDS Family Services)

“Those of us who have partaken of the Atonement are under obligation to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior.”(President Howard W. Hunter, “The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, June 21, 1994, 2).

Honestly, this isn’t something I really want to do.  But I have a strong feeling that this is something my Heavenly Father wants me to do.  And I want to trust him.  I want to believe that He has something in store for me that I can’t even comprehend at this point.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 4).

So here I am, ready to click this little button and see what happens.  And I begin this blog in the same way I have been sharing about myself in weekly meetings for several years:

Hi.  My name is Wes, and I’m a recovering addict.


Filed under addiction, LDS, Mormon, Uncategorized, Writing