Support in Recovery
Sources of Support for Participants and Family Members
Receiving love and support from others is essential in helping you overcome destructive habits. Connecting with others not only provides the nurturing you need but also helps you remember that you are worthy of love as a child of God. As you reach out for support to your spiritual brothers and sisters, you allow them to practice Christlike attributes in their interactions with you. As they do this, they follow the admonition of the Savior to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). As you use the 12 steps of recovery and seek out support from others, you will benefit from the following sources of support:
1. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are your greatest sources of support. Recovery and healing are made possible through Jesus Christ and His Atonement. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma shares that Christ will “take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). You will feel succored and nurtured when you humbly go to your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is important not to overlook the help of the Savior. He has taught us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The Holy Ghost can give us comfort, peace, and spiritual strength to keep moving forward.
2. Family members.
Family members can be a source of support by offering love and acceptance and by applying the same 12 steps and the principles of the gospel to their own lives. Everyone can benefit by learning and applying the gospel principles taught in Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing and Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery. (Note: Participants may decide not to share their personal inventories with immediate family members or people who might be hurt by hearing those inventories. Though not all family members will be in an emotional position to provide comfort, those who can will be blessed as they do so.)
Friends can provide love and support when you talk with them about your struggles, whether or not you confide in them about your problems. Their courage can help you know when you need to change and can move you forward in your recovery. When they care enough to support you in your struggles, it can remind you of your worth and value.
4. Ecclesiastical leaders.
Ecclesiastical leaders can provide essential support in the recovery process. Never forget or underestimate the power of priesthood leadership. “While only the Lord can forgive sins, these priesthood leaders [bishops and branch, stake, and mission presidents] play a critical role in the process of repentance” and healing (see True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 134). But stake or ward priesthood leaders are not your only support; a dedicated quorum leader, Relief Society leader, or home or visiting teacher can also guide and nurture you. President Joseph F. Smith said, “I don’t know of any duty that is more sacred, or more necessary, if it is carried out as it should be, than the duties of the teachers who visit the homes of the people, who pray with them, who admonish them to virtue and honor, to unity, to love, and to faith in and fidelity to the cause of Zion” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1915, 140). Elder L. Tom Perry also taught, “The home teacher is the first line of defense to watch over and strengthen [the family] unit” (“Home Teaching—a Sacred Calling,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 70).
5. Recovery meetings.
Recovery meetings provide support in a group setting. Participants include LDS Family Services missionaries or volunteers, facilitators experienced in recovery, and other individuals who are practicing recovery principles. In these meetings, participants hear others describe how they apply recovery principles and practices. Sharing personal recovery experiences can help you work toward recovery and have hope that recovery is possible.
6. Professional counselors.
Counselors are often sources of insight and perspective for those dealing with self-destructive choices. When seeking professional help, Church members should choose someone who is supportive of gospel principles.
7. Support people.
Support people are those who can walk with you as you strive to find peace. Particularly, a support person who is experienced in 12-step recovery can be helpful because he or she has overcome denial and other challenges. Because of that experience, the support person can usually recognize the dishonesty that traps those with compulsive behaviors and understand the other difficulties they face. Support people help those in recovery put their “lives into perspective and avoid exaggerating or minimizing [their] accountability” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 29). When the support person is someone who has worked to overcome a compulsive behavior, both the giver and receiver of support are blessed by making progress in their own recovery. Giving and receiving support is one of the benefits of participating in the addiction recovery program and can help prevent relapses.
The Importance of Support People
Support in recovery from compulsive behaviors is vital, and having a support person you can lean on can be an essential part of receiving that support. President Gordon B. Hinckley often emphasized the value of having someone to turn to in any situation in life. He counseled members to have “a friend in the Church to whom you can constantly turn, who will walk beside you, who will answer your questions, who will understand your problems” (“A Perfect Brightness of Hope: To New Members of the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2006, 4). People recovering from compulsive behaviors particularly need that kind of friend. In addition, President Hinckley also counseled: “I want to say to you, look for your friends among members of the Church. Band together and strengthen one another. And when the time of temptation comes you will have someone to lean on to bless you and give you strength when you need it. That is what this Church is for—so that we can help one another in our times of weakness to stand on our feet tall and straight and true and good” (address given at the regional conference for Eugene, Oregon, Sept. 15, 1996; in “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, July 1997, 73). President Thomas S. Monson similarly taught: “We can strengthen one another; we have the capacity to notice the unnoticed. When we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that know and feel, we can reach out and rescue those for whom we have responsibility” (“The Call to Serve,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 47).
Living in recovery requires absolute honesty. Denial and isolation are hallmarks of bad choices. These behaviors are easy to fall into without the support and perspective of others, and they make it difficult to achieve lasting and stable progress in recovery. It is important to enlist the help of appropriate and effective supporters as soon as possible. “By being humble and honest and calling upon God and others for help, you can overcome your weaknesses [with the help of the Savior]” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, vi).
Choosing a Support Person
In the Church’s program, like other 12-step recovery programs, you are not assigned specific support people. Deciding when and from whom to ask for support is a personal decision. Initially, it may be difficult to reach out to family or friends for help; it may be easier to identify someone in a recovery meeting whom you can lean on for support. Generally, the more people you have as a support, the better recovery will be. Once you identify a potential support person, it can be humbling and scary to ask him or her for help. However, as you do, you may be surprised at the amount of love and acceptance you feel. The more you connect with others, the more opportunities you will have to receive love and understand that you’re worthy of it.
When choosing a support person, Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing cautions, “Do not share . . . sensitive information with individuals you suspect might extend improper guidance, provide misinformation, or have difficulty maintaining confidences. [A support person] must be extremely trustworthy in both word and deed” (30). Some of the most effective support people are those who are fully active in the Church and who have worked through the principles in each of the 12 steps to overcome these behaviors. When seeking support, it is essential to find people who have explored their weaknesses, confessed them, and worked on overcoming them through various resources, especially through the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. These actions demonstrate a personal commitment to stable, long-term recovery: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).
A support person who has overcome his or her own weaknesses can have empathy for the emotional pathway that others are traveling. Moreover, those people who have been through or are finishing the program “have a message of hope for other addicts . . . who are willing to consider a spiritual approach to changing their lives. . . . [They] will share this message best through [their] efforts to serve others” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71). Those who have recovered can recognize the experience of those who are struggling and can act as an example and help participants use the tools of recovery.
You should choose support people of the same gender (if you are not related to them). As you begin recovery, you may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually vulnerable. Be cautious to not develop an inappropriate relationship with a support person.
How to be an Effective Support Person
1. Be an active participant in personal recovery.
Your suggestions as a support person are only as effective as your personal study, understanding, and application of gospel principles. As you strive each day to put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement (see Mosiah 3:19), your example will be powerful to those who turn to you for guidance and strength. The example you show as you seek the Savior and His Atonement can be more important than any counsel you will ever share with program participants.
2. Be humble.
Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing explains, “There is no place . . . for ego or any sense of superiority. . . . Never forget where you have come from and how you [yourself] have been rescued by the grace of God” (72). It also teaches, “As you serve others, you will maintain humility by focusing on the gospel principles and practices you have learned” (71).
3. Respect the agency of others.
As a support person, you should not “give advice or try to fix [others] in any way. Simply inform [others] of the program and the spiritual principles that have blessed your life” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71). By making others aware of helpful principles and practices and then simply allowing them to make their own decisions, you demonstrate respect for their sacred agency.
4. Respect your other personal commitments.
You agreeing to be a support person does not mean others should have unlimited access to your time and resources. You can set an example of the importance of healthy boundaries by honoring your other commitments, including to your family, the Church, professional endeavors, and personal time.
5. Serve selflessly.
Selfless service requires giving without expecting anything in return. You should avoid seeking praise, admiration, loyalty, or other emotional rewards from those you serve. “Be sure to give freely, not expecting a particular result” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71).
6. Be patient.
Each individual’s journey of recovery is unique. The person you are helping may not yet be ready to move forward. He or she may repeat unhealthy behaviors and be slow to adopt the principles and practices of recovery. Remember, “most of us had to ‘hit bottom’ before we were ready to study and apply these principles” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71).
7. Provide gentle yet firm encouragement.
Effective support comes “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42).
8. Place God before yourself.
Constantly remember to rely on God as you offer support, and remind the people you support to do so as well. “When you do something for someone else or share the message of hope and recovery, you must not allow another person to become too dependent on you. Your responsibility is to encourage others who struggle to turn to Heavenly Father and the Savior for guidance and power” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71). Your role is to share your experiences of faith and hope to assist the people who you support through the 12-step process to feel loved and supported by God’s grace.
9. Be prayerful.
Each time you offer support, seek Heavenly Father’s help to know which principles or practices of the 12-step program will be most helpful for the participant’s current needs. “Be prayerful as you consider ways to serve, seeking always to be led by the Holy Ghost. If you are willing, you will find many opportunities to share the spiritual principles you have learned” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71).
10. Testify of truth.
Share how you have felt the gospel help you overcome your weaknesses. “Tell some of your [experiences] to let [others] know that you can relate” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71). You may also bear testimony of the Savior and of His healing power. “The message is that God is a God of miracles, just as He has always been [see Moroni 7:29]. Your life proves that. You are becoming a new person through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. . . . Sharing your testimony of His mercy and His grace is one of the most important services you can offer” (Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, 71).
11. Keep confidences.
You have a responsibility to protect the privacy of others. Anonymity and confidentiality are core principles in the addiction recovery program, and they build trust.