5. Take Heed unto Thyself
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Accepting That We Cannot Control Our Loved Ones or Heal Their Addiction
Our loved ones ensnared in addiction often make poor choices and may suffer significant consequences. It is hard to watch this happen and to feel helpless to prevent it. We might believe that things won’t get better unless we step in and fix it. We may try to persuade, reason, bargain, punish, manipulate, or shame our loved one into recovery. These attempts may seem effective for a time, but in the end they are not enough. We learn from experience that trying to exercise control only creates a climate of tension, fear, and resentment. Elder Richard G. Scott counseled, “Do not attempt to override agency. The Lord himself would not do that. Forced obedience yields no blessings” (“To Help a Loved One in Need,” Ensign, May 1988, 60).
It is natural for us to want our loved ones to experience the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and we strive to help them in any way we can. However, it is important to understand that we cannot save them. If we try to save them from the consequences of their poor choices, we are wrongfully attempting to usurp the role of our Savior and Redeemer. Some of our efforts and intentions in their behalf may actually postpone their turning to the Savior. For the Lord to heal them, they need to exercise faith and be obedient to His commandments. We cannot do that for them. The Savior asks, “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13). All people must choose for themselves to come unto the Savior. In the case of a person struggling with an addiction, he or she is the only one who can choose to do what is necessary to find recovery.
How can we prevent a desire to support a loved one from turning into an attempt to override agency?
Focusing on Our Own Healing
A primary motivation in seeking help may be to better understand how to help our loved ones. We may believe or expect that our loved ones’ recovery will lead to our own healing. We come to a vital turning point as we realize that we need to focus instead on our own healing. This does not mean that we stop supporting our loved ones or desiring their recovery. Rather, we realize that our own peace and healing is our first priority. Our loved ones’ addictions need not interfere with our coming to the Savior. The Lord invites us to come unto Him regardless of our circumstances: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
How will you focus on your own peace and healing?
Taking Care of Ourselves
One important aspect of our healing is to take time to find balance and to take care of ourselves. If we are not careful, we can allow our loved ones’ addiction and related issues to consume us or cause us to neglect our own well-being. The Lord asks us to be “temperate in all things” (Alma 7:23) and to not “run faster than [we have] strength” (Mosiah 4:27). It is important to make sure that our own needs are met. This will allow us to better support our loved ones and others around us. Sister Neill F. Marriot taught: “We build the kingdom when we nurture others. However, the first child of God we must build up in the restored gospel is ourselves” (“What Shall We Do?” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 10).
What specific actions will you take to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
How can caring for yourself better enable you to help your loved one?
Learning about addiction can help us better understand our loved ones’ behaviors. The Lord has counseled, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). There is much good information available about addiction and recovery as well as what we can do to help ourselves and our loved ones. One way to find answers is to listen to others’ experiences, which can help us feel validated and not so alone. There are also many gospel-related resources that can be helpful, including scriptures, words of the prophets and other Church leaders, the addiction recovery program materials (arp.lds.org), the Overcoming Pornography website (overcomingpornography.org), articles on LDS.org, BYU Campus Education Week lectures, and many other materials. Knowing what to expect in a situation involving addiction can empower us to better help ourselves and our loved ones.
How has seeking a better understanding of addiction helped you?
As you study the resources listed below, prayerfully consider how you can apply the principles they teach.
Jeremiah 17:14 (The Lord will heal us)
Mosiah 4:27 (All things should be done in wisdom and in order)
3 Nephi 9:13 (The Savior will heal us if we come unto Him)
Doctrine and Covenants 88:119 (Establish a house of order)
M. Russell Ballard, “Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” Ensign, May 1987, 13–16
Donald L. Hallstrom, “Seeking a Balanced Life,” Ensign, Aug. 2003, 52–57
“Priorities and Balance,” Eternal Marriage Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 276–82
Personal Learning and Application
The following activities are to enhance your learning and application of these principles. Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, insights, and plans to implement what you learn. As the needs and circumstances in your life change, repeating these activities will provide you with new insights.
Study and ponder Elder M. Russell Ballard’s talk “Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance“ and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom’s talk “Seeking a Balanced Life.” What did you learn? What areas of your life do you feel are in balance or out of balance? How do you prioritize your own healing?
Consider all of the physical, mental, and emotional energy you have spent on your loved one’s addiction. Read and ponder Mosiah 4:27. Do you feel like you are doing “all things . . . in wisdom and order” in relation to your loved one and his or her addiction? Consider a plan of action to ensure that you maintain balance in your life.
Study and ponder the chapter titled “Priorities and Balance“ from the Eternal Marriage Student Manual. What do you learn about balance and priorities? Why is it important to seek your own healing? What has prevented you or is preventing you from coming to the Savior to be healed?