A Loving Father Heard My Cries

Joan's Story

Woman walking

One early morning in January about 13 years ago, I was hurrying into work. One second I was walking and the next I was flat on my back looking up at the still, dark sky, watching the snow fall on my face. No one was around and I lay there for a full minute wondering how I was going to get up since I was lying on a sheet of ice. I prayed and somehow I got up and walked into work. I was hurting but tried to ignore it, telling myself that it was just a fall and wasn’t a big deal.

However, it wasn’t just a fall. The back of my head was throbbing and I was experiencing intense, indescribable pain. After seeing a doctor, I was told I’d sustained a traumatic head injury. I went to several specialists and no one could find out exactly why I was having massive migraines and a burning, ripping, horrific pain down the left side of my face and down the back of my neck. My injury was causing me to go blind and was causing pressure on my brain that led to many problems. Because my pain was so extreme, my doctor prescribed multiple pain medications, and I started taking them.

Fast forward around eight months. I had quickly become addicted to the pain medications. I found many deceitful ways to get all the pain medications I wanted. The horrific journey of my addiction began. I was a drug addict for eight years. I took any and all pills I could get my hands on. I was in misery from the pain, the drugs, and the consequences that came with it all.

Because of my addiction, I lost my friends and my good-paying job. I went through several jobs at a fast pace. I lost my apartment and had to sell everything I owned. I slammed into my rock bottom full force three years after I became addicted—when I lost my son to foster care for two years. Losing my son and hurting my parents were the worst consequences of my drug abuse.

During this time, my parents had taken me into their home and loved me, but they were hurting deeply. In spite of their own pain, they never gave up on me. I know that if it hadn’t been for my dad here on earth and our Heavenly Father, I would not have made it through this journey. At one point, I told my parents that I couldn’t do it any longer because of the misery of the pain of my head injury. My dad gave me a priesthood blessing, and within seconds of the blessing the pain was gone and I had a reprieve from the pain for a few days.

When I hit rock bottom, I felt my life was causing pain and misery to anyone who came across my path. I attempted suicide at work, and it was around that time my turning point began. The process of healing from that point took two years and still continues each day of my life. While my son was in foster care, I was on a phone call with him and he told me what he was going through. Crying, he told me how pointless and empty his life was. He was 13 years old at the time. Thankfully, despite the drugs, which I consider to be thorns in my mind, his broken heart and pain reached through my thorn-infested brain, and I finally heard his cries and knew I needed to change.

During that conversation, I gave him a date of returning home. I asked him to endure one more year. He was living in a different state than I was and didn’t believe I could work it out in a year, and I couldn’t blame him. However, a miracle occurred, and he came home just under a year later. I was still not clean, but I was in recovery and doing better. I was in therapy for my addiction. I was still taking one strictly monitored medication for my injuries, but I was no longer abusing the medication.

I’ve now been clean for 5 years! Since then I have earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I’ve diligently worked to hold down a full-time and a part-time job for the last six years. I’m currently working my dream jobs of being a career counselor and teaching English. I’m an active member of the Church and have been an ordinance worker in two temples.

After doing the LDS Addiction Recovery Program 12-steps myself, I now volunteer as a facilitator for the 12-step program at the Utah State Prison, in addition to other volunteer teaching there. I consider the LDS 12-Step Recovery Program to be part of my personal canon of scripture. When I first began the program, I was like many addicts in being somewhat skeptical of how it could help me. But after going through the program and becoming more teachable, I realized it is an amazing program, and that’s when I started to appreciate it. I review the steps often and when I need the extra strength, I still go to recovery meetings. Recovery is every day.

A lot happened that I can’t share. Some experiences are meaningful only to me, some are sacred, and some things I simply can’t share in mortal words. What I feel moved to share and bear witness of is the mercy of our Father and our Savior. The Atonement is real! It was put in place just for me and just for you. I’m clean. I’m a daughter of God and my Savior knows my name and I am worthy to stand before Them. When I had long, painful nights of real pain, I cried in misery, and I whimpered as I silently prayed that I could be healed. My Father, our Father, heard my cries. He was preparing me. He took my self-inflicted weaknesses and turned them into strengths.