I realized recently that I’ve been afraid to let go of my addictions.
For most of my life I’ve depended on them for immediate relief from stress, anger, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fear, and the list goes on. My addictions were reliably consistent—I always felt relief when I acted out. Of course, that relief was fleeting and was always quickly replaced by remorse, self-loathing, and an increase of everything I was trying to avoid in the first place.
I think my addictions are like hot water. Life happens and sometimes it stinks. Sometimes it really hurts. It’s as if the pain of this life makes me feel cold and desperate for warmth. As it turns out, hot water feels pretty darn amazing when I’m cold.
When I take a hot shower on a cold winter morning I like to take my time. It feels great. Why would I ever want to step out of that warm shower?
My addictions have been my hot shower. I’ve become completely dependent on them. I’ve used them—pornography, lust, and sex—in a futile attempt to warm my soul from the cold pains of my life.
Turns out hot water is not a good way to stay warm.
Hot water only warms me so long as I’m immersed or doused in it. The second I step out of my warm shower, the warmth immediately begins to leave my body. In fact, the warmth leaves my body faster than it would have otherwise. It leaves faster because my body is wet.
When my addictions were at their worst, I was desperately trying to stay in my warm shower as constantly as possible. I didn’t know how to deal with life any other way. When I attempted to abstain from my hot shower the cold quickly became unbearable. I thought I needed the hot water and couldn’t survive without it.
Today I know that my God has the power to keep me warm. He has the power to calm my soul and soothe my wounds.
Yes, I could turn to my addictions for a quick hot shower. Such a course of action would be a guaranteed instant fix… except for the part when the hot shower ends and I suddenly find myself bare, exposed, and freezing. When that happens, I’ve historically done one of two things out of desperation: turn on the hot water again, or turn to my God for warmth and healing.
Today I truly stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. He never turns me away from His warmth. He never tells me to go away. He is always there for me when I sincerely seek Him.
Today I am warm and I am learning to depend on my God for warmth, strength, and health. I need Him! I need Him more than I need my addictions. My addictions will never warm me or take care of me the way my God does. My Heavenly Father loves me infinitely and eternally.
Looking back, I do feel regret that I didn’t learn this sooner. But I also feel so grateful that I know it now. I feel so grateful that my Father in Heaven has never and will never give up on me. He’ll never abandon me. I struggle to express what that means to me. It’s changed my life.
I no longer depend on hot showers for warmth. Today I depend on my God, and He always provides. I love Him!
You need to know
how much Heavenly Father knows of your pain
he can care for the child inside you harmed in such a bad way
his Son can bring you to the path of forgiveness of those who did such deeds
the Father and the Son can then walk with you arm and arm down that path
This saying has been on my mind: “…individuals finally become willing to abstain when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution” (LDS Addiction Recovery Manual, p.1, emphasis added).
Why would the solution include pain? I think one reason is so that I can’t return to my sins without recalling how much pain they bring. Maybe it’s similar to why God lets me touch a hot stove and afterward obtain medical care, so that I learn what will wound me and what will heal me. Perhaps cleansing all types of wounds—physical, emotional, or spiritual—involves some measure of pain.
I’m thinking of when I got nasty gravel-covered scrapes on my knees and elbows after falling off my bicycle as a kid. My mom would first clean out the gravel and dirt from the wounds. As if that didn’t hurt enough, she’d then bring out the big guns: hydrogen peroxide. I think many of us can recall what that feels like. My mother usually had to repeatedly assure me that the “bubbly medicine” would be good for me. I’m pretty sure I often protested in fear of the pain that I knew would ensue. Eventually she would convince me to trust her and I’d let her apply the painful solution. She was right; it hurt every time, but the wound always got better.
Has learning to trust God been any different for me? I certainly know the pain of my sins and addictions, but I’m just getting to know the pain of repentance and recovery. I’m slowly getting better, and the pain becomes bearable when I plead for God’s grace to sustain me. Just as Heavenly Father promised, I’m experiencing the healing power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
It seems to me that I have been given a choice in this life: either the never-ending sorrow of my sins and weaknesses, or the temporary pain of repentance and healing. My experience has been that the former brings even more pain, while the latter yields peace of mind and soul.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following:
“Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. …whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.”
I crave peace and forgiveness. Healing hurts right now, but I can feel the Lord restoring health and life to my soul.