The LDS Church has a program that is kept kind of quiet. There are weekly meetings, but they’re not announced over the pulpit in sacrament meeting. There’s a manual, but it isn’t handed out at the beginning of the year like the priesthood and Relief Society manuals. Missionaries are called to lead the class, but they don’t prepare a lesson. A friend of mine calls it the Atonement Class. Most people are scared off by the name though, because they think it doesn’t apply to them, so they miss the 2nd best meeting in the church. (Second only to sacrament meeting, the most sacred meeting.)
I’m talking about the LDS Church’s Addiction Recovery Program (ARP). You might imagine a dank dark smoke-filled basement with a black eyed drug addict struggling to stand and say, “Hi my name is Ron, and I’m a…”
These meetings take place in our church buildings so there’s no smoking. Swearing is strongly discouraged. I’ve never been aware of someone attending a meeting while high or drunk, but I suppose it’s possible. There are basic ground rules, one of the most important is complete anonymity. What is said in the ARP meeting stays in the ARP meeting. You don’t have to say what your addiction is, in fact you’re discouraged from going into detail about the habits of your addiction.
This is a meeting every person in the church should attend. Because we are all either addicted (and in denial) or love someone who is addicted. This is the ARP manual’s definition of addiction: “Addictions can include the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and drugs (both prescription and illegal), and behaviors such as gambling, codependency, viewing pornography, inappropriate sexual behavior, and disorders associated with eating. These substances and behaviors diminish a person’s ability to feel the Spirit.”
Often, people in deep emotional pain find themselves caught up in addictions as a way to cope with an unbearable situation. Many survivors of abuse find themselves in this kind of a situation, in an effort to get through each day with the stress and fear that comes from living with an unpredictable person. Most often the women who have endured abusive relationships at the very least find that they are codependent; which is an unhealthy way of relating to others which becomes so habitual it is seen as a kind of behavioral addiction. Let me clarify- codependency is unhealthy in the context of normal human relationships, but if you are in an abnormal relationship (with an abuser or addict) codependency could be the way you have managed to stay something close to sane.
If you still feel that this is not the place for you, maybe the Friends and Family program for ARP would be more helpful to you. It is a program that has been in the works for quite some time. In the beginning it was taught from the Healing Through Christ manual (Which I have found extremely helpful). Now the LDS Church has simplified the format, so it is more accessible to the general church membership.
This program has been so helpful for me in healing from the effects of abuse. Many call the Addiction Recovery Program manual the how-to book for the atonement. So often in church we are encouraged to turn to the Savior, to ask forgiveness for our sins and healing for our wounds. But what does it mean to use the atonement? How, exactly, do you use something that isn’t tangible? These are the questions that were answered for me in ARP.
The manuals are wonderful, but they alone are not the program. To receive the full blessings of the program you must attend the weekly meetings. The support they provide cannot be found anywhere else. The first and second meetings you attend might feel awkward, but then you will catch on, and begin to feel healing and support as the nerves and fear dissipate.
From the ARP manual:
We invite you with all our empathy and love to join us in a glorious life of freedom and safety, encircled in the arms of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. We know by our own experience that you can break free from the chains of addiction. No matter how lost and hopeless you may feel, you are the child of a loving Heavenly Father. If you have been blind to this truth, the principles explained in this guide will help you rediscover it and establish it deep in your heart. These principles can help you come unto Christ and allow Him to change you. As you apply the principles, you will draw on the power of the Atonement and the Lord will free you from bondage.
Because so many abuse survivors have found healing in the ARP program, LDS Abuse Survivor Support will have a series of posts on this topic, one on each of the 12 steps of recovery.
RECOVERY is a beautiful word.