This is the third post in a series about using the LDS Church’s Addiction Recovery Program to heal from abuse. (I didn’t forget about the series, sorry it’s been a while between steps.)
Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
This step is one that as faithful women we might skip through, thinking we’ve got it down after years of dedication through awful situations. Please slow down and really investigate where your heart is. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your vacillations and doubts. Step 1 is what brought you to a place of change, a place where you were willing to risk it all because you felt like you had nothing left to hold onto anyway. After accepting that is where you are there is an encroaching sense of hopelessness. This step is where that hope is sprouted anew.
To grow you’ve got to shovel some “fertilizer” (AKA manure). Some of this manure is what others have shoveled into your head, their ideas about who God is. Some of it could be your own brand of crud; ideas about God based on the fallacies of men, particularly the behavior of imperfect men we’ve witnessed in our lives. If you haven’t had a good male figure in your life, especially through your abusive marriage, it will be difficult to perceive what a healthy man and priresthood holder looks like, let alone what the characteristics of God truly are.
At some points in my recovery it has been difficult to believe that God is over all. How could so much pain and difficulty be allowed by a God who supposedly loves me? When I came to those painful moments of doubt I thought of the secular version of the 12 Steps. They don’t always reference God, they talk about a higher power. For many people it is difficult to believe in God, but as part of this program it is essential to have a belief and trust in something beyond ourselves. That is where a belief in a higher power becomes the basis of a burgeoning faith in God. If you find your faith faltering look for the little things which show you that there is a higher power at work in the world. For me the sign of his existence that has always been strong is nature. Going for a walk is sometimes enough to remind me of his great love, to regain peace, and to find some shred of trust in his power.
“When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Nephi 1:20).” Elder Bednar, The Tender Mercies of the Lord.
It is often these tender mercies that are my greatest comfort (when I slow down and appreciate them). A kind grocery store clerk who expresses condolences when I mention my divorce. To go for a walk on a warm-ish day in the middle of winter. The peaceful solace of fresh snow when I can’t sleep. The buds of the trees growing and preparing for spring even when snow is on the ground. Hearing my children laugh and play together. These are the moments which remind me of the inherent good in the world, which witness to me that there is a God. He may not intervene in every difficult circumstance or shield us from all evil, but he is the gravity of humanity continually pulling us to good when the path is so narrow and the way rocky and steep.
The essence of this step is to replace trust in ourselves and our abilities with faith in the love and power of Jesus Christ. When we take this step in our minds and hearts, we experience the truth that the foundation of recovery must be spiritual (taken from Step 2 ARP manual). A popular phrase in recovery is, “God provided a savior for them and it isn’t me.” When we look to the heart of our situation we will see that we have put our all into trying to change another person, to try and make the abuse stop. While it is of course a good desire to want the abuse to stop, we are erroneous in thinking that we can change anyone’s behavior but our own.
This thought, of trusting Christ not ourselves, likely brings up fear. It may be a great and overwhelming fear, so great that we feel as if we can’t bear it. “If we are overwhelmed by fearful thoughts, we may try to cover our fear through adopting a pattern of denial” (Healing Through Christ, pg 20).
Denial is a place that every abuse survivor has visited, if not moved in, built a house, and stayed for years like I did. I regret every moment I spent there. The way out was and is to deal with the fears that pushed me there.
“Emotional health may be defined as learning to process our emotions in healthy ways, appropriately communicate our feelings and remain free from despair and hopelessness. Learning to rely on the grace of Christ prevents our negative emotions from dominating and controlling our behaviors in a destructive way.” (HTC, pg 20)
The only way I could do this was with a therapist. These things were so overwhelming and confusing that I needed a sure hand to hold through this darkness and denial. While my recovery group, friends, and books were great aids, a therapist was key. If you decide to choose a therapist please choose one with your faith in mind, seeking someone who will support you through your healing with faith in God, and who has experience helping abuse survivors. God can put people in our path, even paid professionals, who are invaluable in our recovery. Without a doubt my therapist has strengthened my faith in God, not only through her similar faith, but also because the healing she has helped bring to my life is so great that I know God’s hand was in our coming together.
There is much more to this Step, I can’t possibly cover it all here. Hopefully I’ve given you a taste of what this step has done for me so that you can see how it might help you. When I first read this step I couldn’t do more than hope in desperation that it was true. Now I believe it. While I haven’t received a restoration of complete spiritual health, I have received enough that I believe it is possible. It is possible for you too.