I am an addict and I feel damaged. My actions have caused my wife and family to feel damaged. I often feel like the devastation in the wake of my sins are too much for me or anyone else to overcome. The gospel teaches that we can heal from sin. How? When? Am I and those affected by my sins too damaged to be repaired?
Damaged and in Despair.
I think one of the most difficult parts of recovery from any addiction is to finally look at ourselves with honest eyes and admit that yes...we are broken.
Nobody wants to be looked at by others and be seen as broken, flawed, or messed up. That’s why we work so hard to put on the perfect face and to wear a mask of flawlessness. When hard times come, we will often push the hurt, pain, or guilt down deep in order to cover it from the judging eyes of those around us.
But there will come a point in each of our lives when the truth bubbles to the surface and starts to seep out. We may slip up in the use of words, forget to cover our tracks in some way, or maybe we simply crack and melt down in public. It will happen. There is just no way to keep lying, cheating, hurting, hating, concealing, and covering up forever.
At some point we break. Its in the meltdown, discovery, release, and confession that we are finally willing to admit that yes, I am broken. And you know what? Being broken is really not all that bad. In fact, some would say it is a requirement.
In my case, I had spent years in cover up mode. My day was fairly routine and even my sins became routine. If and when I chose to view pornography, I had a protocol in place. I would delete cookies, delete history, manufacture stories for why I was leaving later than expected, and lie lie lie, if questioned too deeply.
When my addiction escalated, my cover stories and lies went deeper and deeper. I found myself not only lying to my wife about how I was spending my time, but I was also lying to friends, leaders, and even myself. Somehow, in all the madness of addiction, I still saw myself as “in tact”. I was whole in my mind. Sure, I had some flaws but I could get over those on my own.. eventually… and until then… I could keep up the act. Couldn't I?
Finally, I had to admit that I was not the person that I wanted others to see me as. I had to take a good long look at myself and realize that, I was broken. At first, this realization was very humbling because If I wasn't the person I had pretended to be….. then who was I? I came to think of myself as a blob of Darkness, spending my time and energy in filth and deceit. I did not believe that there was anything left to me that was redeemable.
You're going to have to forgive me now for my Lord of the Rings references but there are so many things in that story that just fit so well. Do you remember the scene where Sam was mistreating Gollum and Frodo says, ”Why do you do that? Why do Call him names and run him down?” Sam responds, “Because... because that's what he is, Mr. Frodo. There's naught left in him but lies and deceit.” That is almost exactly how I felt about myself. I had fed myself such a constant diet of filth and garbage and lies… that I hated myself. I felt that I was worthless and unredeemable and like Gollum, who had carried the darkness and evil contained in the Ring for so many years, hiding it in a cave away from the eyes of the world….
I too had been in hiding. I too had carried the weight of hate and filth and sin and had hidden it away from the eyes of the world. Once it became exposed, I just knew that everyone could see me for the awful creature that I was. Unrepairable… filthy… broken.
And what about those closest to me? They too have become hurt and damaged from my choices. When a pipe bomb goes off, it explodes, sending pieces of metal and shrapnel in every direction. My wife has been standing so close to me for so long, that she received the full force of the blast. And in the aftermath she was not just left broken, but almost completely destroyed.
The repercussions of my choices have left her feeling unable to trust, even making her question our entire life together, She was unable to look at me without imagining x rated scenes playing out in her mind. Her testimony has been shaken and crippled. Her self worth and personal value have been decimated. Some days getting up to face the day can still be too much. It will be years before she will feel comfortable with me taking a personal phone call, reading the news on my phone, or going unattended to a meeting. All of these things come from my actions. My breaking became her breaking. My sweet angel of a wife who did nothing to bring this weight down upon her head, now struggles to pick up the broken pieces of her once perceived perfect life and she too, because of my actions, was left broken.
We all are. We’re not all broken in the same way though. There are struggles with drugs,
lust, abuse, hate, hurt, selfishness, deceit, manipulations.. and on and on. There is no end to how you and I and our fellow men have all been broken throughout this earthly experience.
But If you and I are broken, what's left for us to do except pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together?
If only it were that simple.
When serving as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I would teach others about the restoration of the gospel. My approach was to treat the gospel as if it were a perfect mirror. There was one nail in the top (representing the Savior) and 12 Nails in the bottom (representing the apostles). When the Savior was crucified, we lost the top nail and as the apostles were slain over the next several years, we lost the remainder of the nails. Without anything to hold up our perfect mirror, it fell and shattered into pieces. It was no longer perfect. So the Lord called a prophet to restore the mirror to perfection, not just put it back together.
I used to think that, like the gospel of Jesus Christ, Our Heavenly Father wanted us to be restored to perfection. I thought that somehow, through repentance, we would no longer be broken but instead, be perfectly restored by the process.
But I know now that my thinking was wrong. I will never ever be restored to a perfect flawless sinless person, at least not in this life. In fact, I'm not sure I would want to be. You see, I can never completely forget my sins. Though my Savior can cleanse me of them and they can be wiped from the book of life, I still have them as my experience and my history. They will always be there and the ramification of my sins will always be there as well. They can't just be deleted. They happened… and they are a part of me.
So unlike my analogy of the restoration of the gospel the best I can hope to do with my broken self in this life is try to put the pieces back together. Cracked, rough edges, glued together.
And that's actually ok.
There is a type of pottery that is known as Kintsugi. Its is process by which broken pots are mended with resin mixed with gold. It started When a Chinese leader, was having some of his favorite broken pots repaired. When they were returned to him, he felt that , though they were now usable, they had lost their beauty. He contracted with a couple of craftsmen to find a better way to mend the pots and still find Beauty in them. The men discovered that if they mixed gold dust into the resin, that not only did the pots become useful again, but the mended seams glistened and became a thing of beauty to look at.
The Chinese leader was thrilled with the new discovery. Since then it has become tradition to mend broken pots with gold resin. No one would think to actually use them though… for in the mending of the pots, the items became far more valuable and precious. The beauty came in the mending.
I love this process. That is what the Savior does with us. He does not seek to remake us without cracks… but instead, looks at our cracks and fills them with gold. In so doing, He not only draws attention to the fact that that weak spot is now stronger than ever before but also making it more valuable and desirable and precious.
There is a line from a song sung by Lindsey Hahn Called ‘Broken’ that comes to mind...
“No matter how much your heart is aching
There is beauty in the breaking”
The broken parts of our lives need not be things we hide. Once they have under gone the repair process, they can become our strengths.
After all, the Lord Never said he required instant perfection from us. No, on the contrary! What He asks of us is “A broken heart…” He knows that unless we bring it to him broken, He will never have the chance to repair it.
In Alma 34 Amulek reminds us that All mankind would perish due to our lost and fallen state. ALL of us are broken. there is no repair without the savior.
“...all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.” (Alma 34:9)
The Lord is merciful to all who come to him. For those of us who are damaged by our own sins and those who have been damaged by the sins of others, the process of giving Him our broken pieces for repair is the same. It requires the healing balm of the Savior, the great Physician.
While writing this I discovered a song By Kenneth Cope. It says in song what I wish I knew how to say in words. I have posted the link below.
I pray for your success in healing. I pray that you will allow the Lord to piece you back together so that you too can find strength in the mending.