There is Hope

Norma's Story

hands holding an Ensign magazine and an ARP manual

I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. My addiction to drugs began as a result of a horrific accident. My husband, daughter, and I were hit head-on by a drunk driver and I received life-threatening injuries. My neck, hip, pelvis, and all the bones in my face were broken. I was paralyzed from the neck down for two years and my road to recovery was long and hard.

I received many blessings during this time, and I would have never survived without my faith. I have always had a deep love for the Lord and His Church. However, I also had a hard time living the gospel, especially the Word of Wisdom. I would attend church and instantly become overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I felt I didn’t deserve to even share the air with the other saints. How could they possibly love someone who smokes, drinks, and takes drugs? I believed in the Lord, but didn’t believe He could really love or save me.

My life progressively got worse. I divorced my husband, left my home, and moved away. I found a doctor who prescribed me all the pills I told him I needed. This ended when he did a drug test on me and found some substances in my system he did not prescribe. He dismissed me as a patient and I began breaking the law to obtain my drugs. Eventually I was arrested for drug trafficking and sentenced to five years in prison. I cannot even begin to describe the guilt and shame I felt. I had let everyone down—my family, myself, and everyone who loved me. I was sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

While I was incarcerated, a family who had always shown their love for me sent me a subscription to the Ensign. I had been convinced that I was the only Mormon who had fallen so far away from the truth. I thought I was so alone, until one day I saw an article in the Ensign that featured the Addiction Recovery Program. I was amazed. Could it really be true, that I was not alone? I was already working a substance abuse program in prison, but I knew I needed some spiritual help. I wrote to LDS Family Services and they sent me a copy of the program guide, along with a complete set of scriptures. For the first time in three years, I had the companion of the scriptures to guide and comfort me.

I went to work in search of my healing. When I got to the 5th step, it said I would need a bishop or someone with proper priesthood authority to help me. I wrote to one of the wards in the city where I was incarcerated. I addressed my letter to “Bishop.” I had no idea who he was, but I told him who I was and that I needed a representative from the Church. My miracle began. Within a few days a bishop was there, completing the necessary paperwork to visit me. While he waited to be approved, he sent me the most heartfelt letter I had ever received. He assured me that I was not alone and that the Lord loved me very much. He also told me I was not the first Mormon to fall victim to drug addictions.

We met a week later and he continued to visit me every Sunday. I felt so privileged, knowing that Sundays are busy days for bishops, yet he would take this time just for me. The other women were amazed. They asked how I was able to receive such a blessing. I told them it was because I am a member of the Church and I asked for help. The bishop told me that I set a good example for these women, and that I had no idea the missionary work I was doing in that place.

Following the completion of the 5th step, my bishop told me that on judgment day when I am sitting across from the Lord, all those sins I was about to ask forgiveness for would be stricken from the pages of my book. My response was, “Really, Bishop? He’d do that for me?” He looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me, “Norma, the Lord loves you and he has forgiven you.” I knew it was true. I was truly forgiven.

I know today that the Lord loves me so much. My incarceration was a gift from him; he had to save me from myself. I have been out of prison for two years and I still work hard in the program. Today, I feel comfort when I walk into church. I do belong there, as a child of God, and I always will be. Soon I will have reached six years of being clean. I have a wonderful relationship with my family, my church, and my Lord. This program will work if you work it. Get a program guide, pray, and get to work. There is hope.