Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dear 'Addi', I fear my friends will desert me when I need them most.


Dear Addi,
Recently, one of my best friends inadvertently found out that I take prescription meds for depression, anxiety, and OCD. We've been friends for seven years and she's the only friend from high school I still talk to. Initially, I wasn't too worried. She grabbed my phone when I wasn't looking and saw I had looked up side effects of the drug online. She read the whole article, then handed the phone back to me without a word. In the past few weeks she hasn't spoken to me. If she can't handle knowing this much, just the tip of the iceberg, then how am I going to trust her knowing about my addiction? I feel left out and very hurt. And confused! I'm the same person she's always known. What can I do?


Addi's Thoughts:

Well….. Ouch… right? I  mean ouch. It feels like a bit of a betrayal when a close friend casts a quick judgment and then ignores you.  What I want to say is, “well, if she doesn't love you for who you are then who needs her?” But the reality is… you need her. Friends are hard to come by in the self imposed world of isolation that accompanies addiction.

I sometimes feel that the church as a whole does not know how or what to do with certain addictions. Please don't misunderstand.They do everything they know how to do. They have created support groups. They have provided us with loving priesthood leaders. They truly want us to heal through the atonement of Christ and through self mastery. All of these things are amazing and helpful in recovery.

Our Bishops and local leaders are wonderful and loving men who want to serve God and help us, but they are only human men. They do their best to teach the way the Savior would. They pray for us and listen to the spirit to guide us, but they are still just volunteers. I believe they are inspired and directed by the spirit but they have not been trained in or experienced the ways that addiction affects the addict and those closest to them.

The one thing they do know for certain is addiction, of any kind, is VERY BAD. It’s bad for our spirit, bad for our choices, bad for our self esteem, bad for our self worth, bad for our relationships, and bad for our health. That is a lot of things that are bad. The best thing to do would be to never ever fall into addiction in the first place. So,  what do they do? They spend much of their time teaching the evils and repercussions of addiction.. essentially demonizing it and making sure we know that it is ‘Bad, Bad, Bad”. I don't fault this tactic. I dont want my children falling into the same vices that have controlled me for years.

Society too has trained us to see alcoholism, drug abuse, anorexia and other addictions as destructive things that weaker people fall into. Those who are strong can and will avoid those nasty unhealthy practices. Only someone who is weak or broken in some way would give into such awful things.

Sadly, there is a side effect to this.  It’s that we automatically associate anyone who has fallen into those habits as ‘Bad, Bad, Bad’.  So, is it any wonder that when a friend, who has never had to face the struggle of addiction personally, discovers that you or I have been fighting an addiction for much of our lives that they suddenly see us as damaged or broken?

“You take prescription drugs? No! You really shouldn't do that. You should stop!” Or, “You look at porn? That is disgusting.  Can't you just stop? Just don’t do it.”

The awful truth and difficulty for you and I is that no… I can't just stop.  It’s not that easy.  We want to.. with all of our hearts we want to…. but it is so difficult and most un addicted people can't grasp or understand that.

The disservice that is done is that we may end up up spending more time teaching the “don'ts” and less time sharing the ways the Atonement heals and repairs and makes us whole again.  I should clarify, most Bishops do teach the Atonement. It is their calling and assignment to teach of the Savior and His mission to save us all.   But, it often does not become the main focus until after the sin has been confessed.

Again, I am not faulting our leaders. They only have so many tools available at their disposal and it is far better to teach people to stay away from addiction than to have to help them repent later on. But, when one who has conquered this can testify of the healing power of redemption through the atonement, there is a much more focused direction given to the rescue effort.

I have discovered that full disclosure to those closest to me has become my greatest tool for recovery.  It is hard to imagine sharing your darkest secrets with someone who looks at you a certain way… and knowing they are going to look at you differently after.  If she is truly a trusted friend.. one who you can cling to and cry with.. then maybe you should tell her everything and explain that you really want her to know because you love her and would like here to be a support to you through recovery. Let her know that you need her to check on you, to ask you how you're doing, to be a strength in weak moments and to cry with when the pressure and weight is too heavy to carry alone.

I firmly believe our friends are not accidental. They come into our lives to either lift us or to be lifted by us. We share hard times and hold to each other. We share joys and celebrate together. We struggle and they learn. We hurt and they serve. It is a symbiotic relationship requiring us both to be participants in order for us to grow. It may just be that she too struggles with something. You're opening up to her about you might be the exact catalyst she needs to share her own struggles.

What I know is that my friends have not run from me in my confession but instead rallied around me. I am grateful for those who know my weakness. They are my closest friends. I have shared with them my darkest pains and they, now with privileged information, go out of their way to defend and protect me. I could not be more grateful that I have chosen a small group of people to be included in my battle with the adversary.

Satan of course will continue his advance. He has amassed an army of faithful soldiers, whose only mission is to continually break you down. All he wants is to force you into submission, to be unable to handle the pressure and give in. His war continues 24/7, 365 days a year. And who do you have to go against him?

At times it may feel like it is just you.

If those are the odds, then you are doomed to fail. You have to fortify your forces. You of course need the Bishop and other Priesthood leaders. You also need loving and understanding family members. They are the second line of defense. And I know you are also surrounded with the forces of Heaven, including the Savior Himself. When you plead for their assistance, I promise you they are right next to you in the trenches.

As I said at the very beginning of this post, this addiction can be very isolating. So, if you feel  you need them, I suggest you bring on yet another brigade for help...your friends. Include those you trust in the fight. With them you can strategize. With them you can confide. In them you will find strength to fight back. In so doing you will discover that you don't have to carry this heavy burden alone.

I pray you will find success and the support you need in your friends. May the Lord Bless you in your battle as well.