Addiction Recovery Program - A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing
Step 6: Change of Heart
KEY PRINCIPLE: Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.
After the rigorous emotional and spiritual cleansing of steps 4 and 5, most of us were amazed at the transformation in ourselves. We prayed more intently, pondered the scriptures more regularly, and kept a journal more consistently. We prepared to make and keep sacred covenants by attending sacrament meeting.
As we took step 5, many of us met with our bishops and sought help in repentance. Most of us found our addictions tempted us less intensely and less often. Some of us were already free from our addictions. With such mighty changes in our behavior and our lives, some of us wondered why we needed more steps.
As time passed, though, we noticed that abstinence seemed to make our character weaknesses more visible, especially to ourselves. We tried to control our negative thoughts and feelings, but they continued to reappear, haunting us and threatening our new lives of abstinence and Church activity. Those who understood the spiritual implications of recovery urged us to recognize that while all the outward changes in our lives were wonderful, the Lord wanted to bless us even more. Our friends helped us see that if we wanted not only to avoid our addictions but actually lose the desire to return to them, we had to experience a change of heart. This change of heart or desire is the purpose of step 6.
“How?” you may cry. “How can I even begin to accomplish such a change?” Don’t be discouraged by these feelings. Step 6, like the steps before it, may feel like an overwhelming challenge. As painful as it may be, you may have to admit, as we did, that recognizing and confessing your character weaknesses in steps 4 and 5 did not necessarily mean you were ready to give them up. You may realize that you still cling to old ways of reacting to and coping with stresses in life—maybe even more so now that you have let go of your addictions.
Probably the most humbling thing to acknowledge is that you still harbor a prideful desire to change without the help of God. Step 6 means surrendering to God all remnants of pride and self-will. Like steps 1 and 2, step 6 requires you to humble yourself and admit your need for the redeeming and transforming power of Christ. After all, His atoning sacrifice has enabled you to accomplish each step to this point. Step 6 is no exception.
As you come unto Jesus Christ, seeking help with this step, you will not be disappointed. If you trust Him and have patience with the process, you will see your pride gradually replaced by humility. He will wait patiently for you to weary of your own unaided effort to change, and as soon as you turn to Him you will witness once again His love and power in your behalf. Your resistance to letting go of old patterns of behavior will be replaced by an open mind as the Spirit gently suggests a better way of living. Your fear of change will diminish as you realize the Lord understands the pain and hard work it requires.
As the process of coming unto Christ takes hold in your heart, you will find the false beliefs that fueled negative thoughts and feelings gradually replaced by truth. You will grow in strength as you continue to study the word of God and ponder its personal application. Through the testimonies of others, the Lord will help you learn the truth that you are not beyond His power to heal. The desire to blame others for the condition of your character or to rationalize your way out of a change of heart will be replaced by the desire to be accountable to Him and submissive to His will. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord declared, “A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
The Lord wants to bless you with a change of disposition that will unite you with Him in mind and heart, just as He is united with the Father. He wants to give you rest from your isolation from God the Father, the isolation that caused the fears which contributed to your addiction. He wants to make the Atonement effective in your life, here and now.
As you yield to the promptings of the Spirit and look to the Savior for salvation, not only from addiction but from character weaknesses, you can be assured that a new disposition or character will grow out of your willing heart. A growing desire to be sanctified by God will make you ready for a change in your very nature. One of the best descriptions of this process can be found in these words of President Ezra Taft Benson:
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. . . .
“May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5–6; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6–7).
Be willing to allow the Savior to convert your heart; participate in the fellowship of Christ by attending Sunday School and Relief Society or priesthood meeting
When we were baptized, few of us understood the lifelong process of true conversion. However, President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency explained it plainly:
“In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments” (in Conference Report, Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 8).
As you experience the miracle of ongoing recovery— first from destructive addictive behaviors and then from character weaknesses—you will experience true conversion. You will begin to awaken, to come to yourself just as the prodigal son came to himself (see Luke 15:17). You will begin to realize that to return to Heavenly Father’s kingdom, you must not only awake but arise and allow Jesus Christ to be your Redeemer.
As you yield your heart to God and grow stronger in humility, your resolve not to repeat past behaviors will become firmer and firmer. Delivered from the bondage of the past, you will feel more and more comfortable among brothers and sisters in the Church. You will find yourself desiring to return and be gathered as a child of God and numbered in full fellowship among the sheep of His fold (see 1 Nephi 22:24–26; Mosiah 27:25–26; Mosiah 29:20; Helaman 3:35).
Be willing to be changed so imperfections may be removed through the power of God
Whether your addiction has been to alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, self-destructive eating patterns, compulsive spending, or another behavior or substance that represents your need to run and hide from stress or challenges in your life, you can come to realize that it all began in your mind and heart. Healing also begins in your mind and heart. As you become willing to be changed by coming unto Jesus Christ, you will learn of His power to heal.
By taking step 6, you increase your commitment to abstain from past addictions through a deepening relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ, and with the Father, who sent Him. You decide to become sober minded like the young prophet Mormon (see Mormon 1:15). You continue to accept that God must truly become everything to you in order to save you from weaknesses of thought, word, and action.
Study and Understanding
The following scriptures and statements from Church leaders may help you in taking step 6. Use these scriptures and questions for meditation, study, and writing.
Giving away all your sins
“The king said . . . what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy. . . . I will give up all that I possess . . . that I may receive this great joy. . . .The king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
“O God . . . I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:15, 17–18).
Reread Alma 22:15, 17–18 carefully. What obstacles— including attitudes and feelings—keep you from giving away “all [your] sins” and more fully receiving the Spirit of the Lord?
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Being mortal and imperfect, we are all subject to many weaknesses. In this verse, the Lord explains His purpose in allowing us to experience mortality and to encounter such weaknesses—to help us be humble. Notice, though, that we choose to humble ourselves. How is becoming ready in step 6 part of humbling yourself?
List some of your character weaknesses, and next to them list the strengths they may become as you come unto Christ.
Participating in the fellowship of the Church
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19).
As you take upon yourself the name of Christ and are strengthened by His Spirit, you begin to identify yourself with the Saints—brothers and sisters who have been baptized and entered into His family on earth (see Mosiah 5:7). As you have come to know your fellow Saints better, how have you become more willing to participate more fully in the fellowship of priesthood, Relief Society, and Sunday School?
“The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love” (Mosiah 3:19).
Many of us become Saints in name only at baptism and spend the rest of our lives struggling to “put off the natural man” and develop the characteristics listed in this verse. How has this struggle prepared you to accept that only through the Atonement of Christ—by becoming one with Jesus Christ and with the Father—can you experience redemption?
Coming unto Christ
“No matter what the source of difficulty and no matter how you begin to obtain relief—through a qualified professional therapist, doctor, priesthood leader, friend, concerned parent, or loved one—no matter how you begin, those solutions will never provide a complete answer. The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 9; or Ensign, May 1994, 9).
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that no amount of support or fellowship—even in recovery groups or congregations of the Church—will bring you salvation. Other people may support and bless you in your journey, but eventually you must come unto Christ Himself. Write about how your journey of recovery began.
Who was instrumental in helping you get on the path to repentance and recovery? How has their example pointed you toward the Savior?
What have you learned about the Savior that has helped or influenced your desire or ability to change your behavior?
Patience with the process
“Ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
“Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, . . .
“And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost” (D&C 50:40–42).
Sometimes we become impatient or discouraged that recovery is an ongoing process. These verses show the Savior’s and our Heavenly Father’s patience with us as “little children.” Apply these verses to yourself by writing them out addressed to you personally.
How can the promises in this scripture strengthen you when you get discouraged?
Help from the Lord
“My beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:19–20).
Ponder and write about how the Lord helps you along the strait and narrow path. How does your growing love for God and for others bring you out of addiction, help you continue in abstinence, and restore you to a hope of eternal life?