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Sali

Advice on Addiction Recovery Calling

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Ok.  My husband and I have been called to be the Addiction Recovery Specialists in our Stake, which means we get to run the program and teach it.  Even though I am a Counselor, I feel so overwhelmed with this calling and am already having nightmares about it.  Has anyone ever been through this program in the Church?   What did you find helpful or unhelpful?  Did you find a lesson helped or more of an open forum with instruction and containment?  Any information would be helpful from anybody.  Thanks in advance :).

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Guest LiterateParakeet

Well since you said "any information would be helpful from anybody"...I'll share my two cents.

 

I don't have an addiction problem, but I went to one of these meetings once.  A family member who goes to the meetings regularly suggested that I go because he thought the 12 Step program would help me.  I was desperately searching for something to help with the pain (recovering memories of severe childhood sexual abuse).  

 

So I went to the meeting, and an older couple was leading it.  They seemed like (forgive me for this) Peter Perfect and Molly Mormon and I wondered how they could possibly empathize with people dealing with addiction.  I don't know what the answer to that is--I'm sure they didn't volunteer for the position just as you didn't.  But I guess what I think they needed was a great deal more authenticity and compassion than I felt from them.  Just something to keep in mind about the way you may or may not be perceived.  I don't think people care as much whether you have been where they are as they care about whether you will truly understand and not judge them.  If you can reassure them that you really care, and are trying to understand, that will go a long way.

 

For me the meeting was a complete disaster.  The biggest issue I was dealing with at the time was shame.  It was smothering me.  I knew logically that my childhood abuse could not have been my fault, but emotionally I still blamed myself--and because of that going to the temple brought me searing emotional pain rather than peace.  

 

I can't remember the step that they discussed that night, but whatever it was it increased my shame.  It was horrible.  I just sat there with tears running down my face fighting the urge to bolt from the meeting.  Looking back, I should have left but I didn't want to make a scene.

 

So lesson number two--don't assume that this program is right for everyone.  I love the 12 Steps for people with addictions.  I would never suggest them for survivors of abuse.

 

That's my two cents: be authentic and genuinely loving, and remember who your audience really is, don't try to cast the net too wide.

 

My other thought....as a counselor I'm sure you know this....but don't many addictions start because people are trying to numb some kind of pain?  The reason I mention this is simply that I think if I came to you for help with an addiction and you let me know that you understood that I was numbing some pain (whether or not I had recognized that in myself) that would help me feel more like you understood and cared.

 

My final thought....validation is so important.  I have found in my own experience that when my feelings are validated I become much more open to receiving advice or even criticism. And when my feelings are not validated, I'm unlikely to hear anything you say.

 

Good luck you can do this!  The Lord will help you. 

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Thank you so much LP for your insight and thoughts.  I am so sorry that you had that experience, it definitely was not a safe place for you to go with the pain and the shame you were already feeling.  That must have been so hard, especially if it just reinforced those things for which you were trying to find healing for.

 

I understand everything you are saying and have taken note.  We so especially do not want to come across as Peter Priesthood and Molly Mormon and that is why we will be dressed in blue jeans and sneakers to fit in with everybody, so it's not a 'us' and 'them' type situation but of course keeping the necessary boundaries.  I want it to be such a safe place for everybody to share what they feel they want to.  I totally agree with the validation as well.  People will only share in a place that they feel safe enough to do so, so that's very important.  I just look in the manual at all the quotes and stuff and it scares me, as I so don't want to teach as I would a lesson, but teach in a way that's very experiential and interactive.  Therefore, I am going to have to find a way to use the material but not in a teachy way if that makes sense. :)  Thanks once again for sharing. :) *Hugs*

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Hi Sali,

 

My two cents hinge on a question.  Do you have any personal experience with addictions?  If so, my advice is to share your experience with people attending the program.  No matter what the addiction or how embarrassing it might be.  If not, then let these people teach you, and be open.  Either way, love them as much as you possibly can.

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Hi Neuro,

 

Actually, no I don't.  This is one area where I feel a little out of my depth.  Most of my clients I can generally think, 'been there, got the tshirt' but this particular issue I don't.  I guess here is where I will have to fall back on my skills big time.  I am open to being taught by them.  It's actually quite humbling to go in there knowing that they know more than I do about this.  Once I get in the thick of things I'm sure I will feel more comfortable. :) 

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Remember that you and your husband have been called by God and set apart to help people who are trapped in one of Satan's many snares.  Satan is not going to be happy about this and is going to work hard to make you feel inadequate, confused, and discouraged.  Put him in his place!

 

 You have been promised, and are entitled to, inspiration to help these people.  If possible,

take a trip to the temple specifically seeking the Lord's promised help and guidance.  If you ask, you shall receive.  You will also be greatly blessed as you work to magnify your calling.  Helping people recover from addiction is a great form of charity.

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In every ARP session I've been to, the missionary running the session doesn't have a lesson prepared.  Rather, we read through a principle from the 12-step manual (switching participants with each paragraph), then have open sharing time.  The missionary then extemporizes a brief response--perhaps an additional insight on the step under discussion, or adding on something that someone else said--and closes the meeting.

 

As the missionary--even the coordinator, really--you aren't running the meeting; you're facilitating it.  IMHO, the best work you can do is behind-the-scenes:  you need to identify at least two or three who have struggled with addiction, have been reasonably successful with it, and have positive experiences/attitude to share; and you need to get them coming to your meetings regularly.  Be sure the bishops in your stake know that you're there, challenge each of them to attend a meeting, and ask them to be aggressive about referring people to your program.

 

If your program is going to deal with pornography addiction, He Restoreth My Soul by Donald Hilton is going to come up a lot.  Get a copy, and read it.  I don't know where you're located, and I don't want to be one of those "Utah Mormons" who insists that the Church everywhere runs the exact same way that it does here--but the group I go has sessions specifically for porn addicts, other sessions for their wives, and still other sessions for alcohol/substance addicts.  You might think about breaking things out similarly, if you have enough numbers to warrant it.

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I don't think I'm really qualified enough to give advice yet until I've completely mastered my own porn addiction.

 

Having said that though, I do know that if you pray to the Lord for help and have faith that he will guide you, it will be just fine. A lot of people think that certain callings, when they first get them, just aren't suitable for them. But when they put their trust in the Lord to see them through it, they excel every time.

 

Remember, as long as you have the Lord on your side, you've got it made. That's all you need.

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I've never been to one of these meetings but I suggest making very sure there's a strict privacy/no gossiping rule in place that everyone knows about so they're more likely to come/stay.  Also, during Conference Sister Reeves mentioned phone-in meetings.  I'd make sure everyone knew about those because I'm sure there are people who need support but would never go to a meeting because of privacy concerns, not knowing what to expect, too far to drive, need to be home with the kids, etc.  I'd also try to offer *all* the tools possible so people feel more empowered to tackle things from all angles.

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One thing you may consider doing is going to some open AA NA CA meetings, as well as some open al-anon, nar-anon, etc. meetings.

If you get a schedule (online or elsewhere), there are codes which show which meetings are open to the public, and which meetings are addicts only / closed to the public. Most meetings are open.

Q

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The best thing you can do for these people is to have them work the Steps. Since you're not in recovery or an addict it will be difficult to for them to relate to you. Addicts and Normies (normal people don't think the same). And addictions are centered in the mind not the drug of choice. They will not get sober going to church and being the best Mormon they can be. IT JUST DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY. They need work the Steps. And yes visiting several open AA, NA, SA, OA meetings will be crucial in you relating to the people in the rooms. I'd also suggest picking up the AA Big book and SA white book and read them cover to cover. Just do a good search for those two books and you will find a place to purchase them. You'll see that the LDS recovery manual is based off of the AA big book and other AA material. I'm serious. Do yourselves a favor and pick up these books and promote them within the meetings. The LDS manual is in my opinion pretty weak and could draw up resentments that the people in the meetings have about the The Church. There is a fine line in where the church can help and where The Steps will help. This is a Spiritual Disease. We have lost the ability to connect with God and therefore look for God in other things like sex, drugs, eating, and alcohol. 

 

Good luck and ask if you have questions. 

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Hi "In Recovery" -

 

I think the Church's manual openly states that it is drawing off of the AA program.  That said--I think the manual does a pretty good job of showing how the twelve-step program and the repentance/healing process as traditionally taught by the LDS Church are pretty much one and the same--or at most, different sides of the same coin.  Understanding the ARP's AA roots is likely helpful for an ARP administrator; but drawing contrasts between "the Church versus the Steps", or implying that the ARP is best used as a gateway into straight-up AA doesn't strike me as particularly helpful--at least not when you're dealing with addicts who are (or want to be) practicing Mormons.

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Thank you Just A Guy for your brilliant advice.  I will definitely follow that through.  You used the word I was looking for, 'facilitate'.  That is what I was trying to say when I said that I didn't want to teach the lesson.  I like the idea of inviting someone who has made a recovery also.  I have someone perfect in mind for that. :) I will be sure to get that book also.

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I'm trying to reply to everyone, but for some reason my quote button isn't working. :/ 

 

notquiteperfect, I will be setting up what we call a 'contract' in counseling for everyone to agree to the privacy/confidential issue.  That needs to be there so people will feel safe and able to share without having to worry about what they are bringing being talked about all over.

 

Awakened, you have already helped me so much just by sharing your experience, so thank you :)

 

Quin, good idea!  :)

 

in recovery, I'm sure that they will not relate to me as I am not an addict, but I hope that I can use some of my skills to provide a place for them, so that they will know that I am listening to them and not judging them.  That's all I can offer, and I hope it's enough.  I have also planned to talk to a few addicts that I know, to gain some insight from them. 

 

Str8 Shooter, thanks for your words.  They are very strengthening to me. :)

 

Although, I personally do not have any experience with it, my adopted son was born addicted to drugs as his birth mother was an addict.  I am related to her, and have opportunities to listen to her and to hear what it was like for her.  I know it's not the same, but all I can do is bring what I can and hope that is enough along with other's help and Heavenly Father's help. :)

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The best thing you can do for these people is to have them work the Steps. Since you're not in recovery or an addict it will be difficult to for them to relate to you. Addicts and Normies (normal people don't think the same). And addictions are centered in the mind not the drug of choice. They will not get sober going to church and being the best Mormon they can be. IT JUST DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY. They need work the Steps. And yes visiting several open AA, NA, SA, OA meetings will be crucial in you relating to the people in the rooms. I'd also suggest picking up the AA Big book and SA white book and read them cover to cover. Just do a good search for those two books and you will find a place to purchase them. You'll see that the LDS recovery manual is based off of the AA big book and other AA material. I'm serious. Do yourselves a favor and pick up these books and promote them within the meetings. The LDS manual is in my opinion pretty weak and could draw up resentments that the people in the meetings have about the The Church. There is a fine line in where the church can help and where The Steps will help. This is a Spiritual Disease. We have lost the ability to connect with God and therefore look for God in other things like sex, drugs, eating, and alcohol. 

 

Good luck and ask if you have questions.

Just to know... While AA et al are the most famous, as well as extremely successful, and I am in NO way putting them down whatsoever... They're also not the only game in town. There are 2 main branches in addiction med (disease model, and disease model + learned behavior). 12-step programs actually address both theories... Which is part of what makes them so successful, but there are other programs which do so as well. And are as effective if not more effective for many people. ESPECIALLY for

- addictions & addictive behavior which CANNOT be abstained from, or which require moderation in order to live normal / healthy lives to their best potential. (Think food, sex, shopping, etc.)...

- Dual-diagnosis (addiction + other neurological disorder, ESP those which require meds & med management), and

- Situational related heavy use, abuse &/or addiction (ESPx2 when it's an addiction, but the person themselves is not an addict.

AA/NA/et al are amaaaaaaazing for a very select group of people, but they also completely miss a wide swath of people who are struggling with addictions & need help just as badly.

The LDS church based recovery programs are designed to help address that shortfall (as are many many other secular & religious organizations & agencies), in addition to people who are able to be completely served by standard 12-step programs.

Q

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Just A Guy

 

In my opinion my statements were helpful. I've been to both kinds of meetings and have found the most help outside of ARP meetings. The ARP and AA meetings are drastically different. The ARP meetings do not promote sponsorship, true surrender, and simply reading from the AA approved literature. The Church is on the right track in looking for solutions to these horrific problems, but in some ways it is failing it's members. The meetings are not run how the founders of AA ran them. And again it doesn't promote sponsorship, surrender, and working the steps. At least the ones that I've been too. I've been to several in AZ, and now UT. It is a watered down version of a AA meeting and members are not getting the help that they need.

 

Sponsorship is a huge part of recovery. You choose a sponsor that has worked the steps all the way through as is willing to take you through them. The steps should not be worked by yourself. Do you know why? Because YOU got yourself into the addiction in the first place. You cannot trust in the arm of flesh when it comes to addiction. You will fail yourself every time. You won't get recovery just by going to church and being a good boy or girl. You have to work the Steps. That means you come to the realization that you are powerless of your drug and your life has become unmanageable. A sponsor will help you and teach you how to surrender your lust, resentments, dishonesty, selfishness and all other deception.  

 

And if the ARP manual is based on the AA book (I was aware of that) my thought was "why not go straight to the source"? AA and others are open to any religion. 

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Just to know... While AA et al are the most famous, as well as extremely successful, and I am in NO way putting them down whatsoever... They're also not the only game in town. There are 2 main branches in addiction med (disease model, and disease model + learned behavior). 12-step programs actually address both theories... Which is part of what makes them so successful, but there are other programs which do so as well. And are as effective if not more effective for many people. ESPECIALLY for

- addictions & addictive behavior which CANNOT be abstained from, or which require moderation in order to live normal / healthy lives to their best potential. (Think food, sex, shopping, etc.)...

- Dual-diagnosis (addiction + other neurological disorder, ESP those which require meds & med management), and

- Situational related heavy use, abuse &/or addiction (ESPx2 when it's an addiction, but the person themselves is not an addict.

AA/NA/et al are amaaaaaaazing for a very select group of people, but they also completely miss a wide swath of people who are struggling with addictions & need help just as badly.

The LDS church based recovery programs are designed to help address that shortfall (as are many many other secular & religious organizations & agencies), in addition to people who are able to be completely served by standard 12-step programs.

Q

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "AA/NA/et al are amaaaaaaazing for a very select group of people, but they also completely miss a wide swath of people who are struggling with addictions & need help just as badly." One thing you should know is that those programs are based on attraction not by promotion. You'll never see those meetings advertising addiction recovery. Until you're willing to go to any length you won't find the doors of AA et al.....

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Just A Guy

 

In my opinion my statements were helpful. I've been to both kinds of meetings and have found the most help outside of ARP meetings. The ARP and AA meetings are drastically different. The ARP meetings do not promote sponsorship, true surrender, and simply reading from the AA approved literature. The Church is on the right track in looking for solutions to these horrific problems, but in some ways it is failing it's members. The meetings are not run how the founders of AA ran them. And again it doesn't promote sponsorship, surrender, and working the steps. At least the ones that I've been too.

 

Perhaps the ARP is run differently from place to place.  From my experience, it boggles my mind that anyone could suggest that the ARP does not promote sponsorship, true surrender, or working the 12 steps.  They are, all of them, the core of the program.

 

 

And if the ARP manual is based on the AA book (I was aware of that) my thought was "why not go straight to the source"? AA and others are open to any religion.

 

With all due respect to AA--"the source" is Christ Jesus, and Him crucified.  AA appeals to spirituality and a higher power generally; but in attempting to broaden its appeal across the religious spectrum it omits a key feature of healing--explicit discussion of the Atonement, and its absolute centrality within the twelve steps.

 

I'm certainly not saying we should take the ARP in its current incarnation and be satisfied--if I remember correctly, Slamjet (another participant here) has hinted that the Church's ARP is due for a re-working and a new manual sometime in the near future.  But nor should we be seeking to merely clone AA.  The Lord has something higher in mind for us.

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I'm not sure what you mean by "AA/NA/et al are amaaaaaaazing for a very select group of people, but they also completely miss a wide swath of people who are struggling with addictions & need help just as badly." One thing you should know is that those programs are based on attraction not by promotion. You'll never see those meetings advertising addiction recovery. Until you're willing to go to any length you won't find the doors of AA et al.....

It has nothing to do with advertising.

It has to do with the populations that AA/NA is unable to serve well or at all.

Its an incredible program for those who meet certain criteria, but not for those that don't.

Meaning it's not one size fits all.

For some, their best option is elsewhere.

For others their best option is a combination of AA/NA & elsewhere.

Q

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Sali - Just to clarify - I know you asked about the actual meetings but I see this calling beyond just that.  My earlier post was referring to reaching out to all the youth and adults in the stake (not just those that come to the meetings) and communicating to them about the privacy, phone-in number, etc.  Anyway, I'm sure you'll do a great job.  All the best!

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As a facilitator in the ARP program, let me give you a few suggestions:

1) Read the introduction of the ARP manual.

2) In group meetings, leave a little bit of yourself behind.

3) Know that this will be a calling that you will never want to leave (at least every group leader we had has said that)

4) Don't be afraid to ask questions and give answers.  Don't come at them as a superior but sideways.

5) You're not going to know everything but someone in the group will.  Have a discussion but keep it on the level.  Don't let anyone run amok.

 

Can't really think of anything else right now, but it's been a long day.  BTW, feel free to read my blog to see how the ARP program has affected me.  It changes lives.

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Thank you, Slamjet.  You have given some great advice.  I will definitely read your blog.  I want to hear about people's experiences who have been through the program.  What helped and what didn't.  I am so looking forward to learning from people in the group.  I really want to understand what it is like for them.  I am going to gain a whole new perspective and I am really excited. :)

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One thing I like to pass on... That I entirely forgot earlier... Is understanding cravings if you've never had them:

Hold your breath.

Truly.

As deep a breath as you can.

Slowly... You'll start feeling the urge to breathe. Don't.

Keep holding it.

It will start getting painful, don't release, yet.

Your body will start shaking.

Small twitches at first, shaking a foot, the "potty" dance, bobbing your upper body.

Keep holding.

You're probably clenching every muscle you have, now, and feeling shivers in your nervous system, actually needing to pee, to love, to do anything.

DONT breathe, yet.

Don't breathe.

Don't breathe.

Don't breathe.

If you hold out for absolutely as long as you can... Your body probably spasmed hugely, back arched, every nerve on fire, your voice creaming in your head.

THATS a craving.

The exact same urges, pains, etc. that your body feels when it needs oxygen and is screaming for air....

Is what it does when it's screaming for ________.

Because addiction is your brain thinkin that _________ substance is AS NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL as air.

Now... Imagine, if you could just hold your breath LONG enough... That you wouldn't need to breathe, ever again.

That's what we're telling addicts.

That, instead of 2-3 minutes of writhing and shaking pain... If they can put up with 3 days of it, then only a few hours a day of it for 2 years or so... That they'll never need to breathe again. Granted they'll still have the occasional craving... For life.

It is a HUGE leap of faith.

And an agonizing process.

Whenever you find yourself needing to empathize, and struggling... Hold your breath. :D

Technically you can do it with ANY "need" (food, water, shelter).

Your body & mind will go through the same paroxysms.

But holdin your breath is safe / no risk of starvation & dehydration illness or death by exposure.

And it's fast.

In less than 5 minutes, you too, can flop around like a fish on the floor with your fingernails cutting into your palms, and your own voice screaming in your head.

Fun stuff!

Q

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