2. Shake Off the Chains with Which Ye Are Bound

“Awake . . . put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:23).

Realizing We Are Not to Blame for Our Loved Ones' Addictions

It is common as we try to make sense of our difficult situation to wonder why our loved ones started down the wrong path. We may feel we are somehow responsible. As parents, we may worry about what we could have done differently. As spouses, we may wonder if we failed to meet the needs of our husband or wife and ask ourselves such questions as “Am I not good enough?” and “What more could I have done?” When things do not turn out well, we are tempted to blame ourselves. This type of thinking may lead us to improperly feel responsible for other people’s choices, resulting in undeserved guilt and despair. 

A vital element in Heavenly Father’s plan is the principle of agency—the ability and privilege to make our own choices. As we study and understand this principle, the Spirit will testify to us that we are not the cause of our loved ones’ poor choices. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “If you are free of serious sin yourself, don’t suffer needlessly the consequences of another’s sins. As a wife, husband, parent, or loved one, you can feel compassion for one who is in the gall of bitterness from sin. Yet you should not take upon yourself a feeling of responsibility for those acts” (“To Be Free of Heavy Burdens,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 88). Our loved ones are responsible for the choices they make. While the exact reason for their choices may be complex, we are not responsible for their choices. A good reminder is, “Whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free” (Helaman 14:30; italics added). Our loved ones are likely to make bad choices. Part of the process of recovery and healing for them is to make mistakes but to take full responsibility for their decisions. Our success and happiness in life should not be measured by how other people choose to exercise their agency. We are responsible only for our own choices and actions.

  • Have you felt responsible in some way for your loved one’s poor choices? If so, how has this affected you?

  • What has helped you to recognize that you are not responsible for your loved one’s choices?

Understanding We Are Children of God

Our loved ones' choices may impact how we see ourselves and how we see life. We may begin to define ourselves by our experience with our loved ones' choices, as they can sometimes seem all encompassing. It is important that we remember who we are and why we are here on earth. God is not only our Ruler and Creator, but He is also our Heavenly Father. All men and women are literally the sons and daughters of God. We can rely on the simple truth that He is our Father and we are His children. Understanding this relationship brings peace and confidence to move forward—not because of our own abilities but because of His goodness and matchless power and that of His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what is happening in our lives, we can focus on the eternal stability of His love for us. This is where our process of healing begins. In the midst of our trials, as we turn our hearts to our Father in Heaven, His love and the healing power of His Son, through the Atonement, can help us gain courage and hope.

  • In what way does the knowledge that you are a child of God help you?

  • How will you strengthen your relationship with God through such things as prayer, scripture study, pondering, fasting, and obedience to His commandments?

​Recognizing We Are Free to Act for Ourselves

We may feel powerless because we have little control over what our loved ones choose to do or the consequences of those choices. But the gospel teaches us that we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27). We can use our agency to better our situation and make righteous choices regardless of our circumstances. Elder David A. Bednar counseled, “As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14)” (“The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 44). 

  • How will you use your agency to act and to improve your situation?

  • How does the second article of faith apply to your situation?

Gospel Study

As you study the resources listed below, prayerfully consider how you can apply the principles they teach. 

Psalms 82:6 (We are gods, children of the Most High.)

Acts 17:29 (We are the offspring of God.)

2 Nephi 2:14–16 (We are given the ability to choose.)

Moroni 7:15–16 (We can judge between good and evil through the Light of Christ.)

Doctrine and Covenants 101:78 (We are accountable for our own actions.)

Moses 7:32 (God gave us agency.)

Articles of Faith 1:2 (We are accountable for our own lives and not anyone else’s.)

The Family: A Proclamation to the World"

David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2012, 40–47

D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 105–8

Robert D. Hales, “Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 24–27 

Video: “The Freedom To . . .”

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.

  • Watch the video “The Freedom To . . . ,” and write in your journal what you learned. What are people free to do? What are they not free to do? How can applying the principle of agency empower you to find peace and help from the Savior?

  • Study and ponder the scriptures mentioned in the lesson outline. Write in your journal what they teach about agency. Which scriptures are most meaningful to you? Why? How can what you learned help you?

  • Ponder the following quote by Elder Robert D. Hales: “In these latter days, as in the times of old, we must avoid being acted upon by acting for ourselves to avoid evil” (“To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 6–7). (See 2 Nephi 2:14.)

  • How do you feel about being an agent who acts rather than an object that is acted upon? Write how you can apply Elder Hales’s counsel to act for yourself and to find greater peace and healing. 

  • Study and ponder Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk “Moral Discipline,” and look for principles of agency that could apply in your life. What insights would you share with a friend in a situation similar to your own? Write your thoughts in your journal.

  • Consider the principles found in these hymns: “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free“ (Hymns, no. 240); “Teach Me to Walk in the Light“ (Hymns, no. 304).


Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery

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