Monday, July 4

Addiction, Abuse, Depression... and Hope

I have a family member who has always seemed like he was okay from the outside... but who also seems to carry some type of hidden weight that I can't understand. We aren't close enough that he would ever tell me his struggles, even though I wish I could be there for him... and often all I can do is watch and wonder what to do.

Today I learned that he had made a decision that put him in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church and everything I knew he had learned in his family - on principles that I thought I could take for granted in his life. When I found out I just sat and cried.

I cried because I was confused... because I have no idea why he made the choice he did. I cried because I was frustrated that I couldn't understand. I cried because I didn't know what to say, or even if I should bring it up, or how I should breach the topic. And I cried because, in watching him, it brought back memories of all the other people I've loved who have made similar decisions... decisions that maybe won't deny them their salvation today, but that, too often, influence the choices they make tomorrow and the next day... and before they know it, they've chosen to leave the Church - not from one big thing, but a thousand little ones, mixed with a lack of reading the scriptures, personal prayer, and developing a relationship with God.

And then, as I was crying, I realized that I was also crying because I could see myself in him... and my mind flooded with memories of my own choices - times when I was in huge amounts of pain and chose to act against what I knew was right.

At 16 years old, I was sexually abused. I had already spent years fighting the pull of pornography and finally felt like I was winning when it happened... and the experience was enough to rip my world apart. That day, I believed that it was my fault - that if I had been a better kid, more righteous, more faithful, then the abuse wouldn't have happened. The thoughts that ran through my head were powerful. God protects the righteous, but He didn't protect me... which means that I was a sinner, and not worthy of His love. I envisioned a shield of power that surrounded those with faith... and a field of deviance surrounding those like me. I believed that somehow my past decisions must have come out in subconscious invitations to a sexual predator. I thought it was retribution from God, or a penalty I had to pay, or proof that I hadn't really conquered my devils - because I must have done something to invite the abuse. Either way, I was less than worthless, evil, cast off, and doomed to damnation. It seemed like there was no light or hope in my life. And it didn't seem like anyone cared or understood... because I felt so guilty about everything involved that I could never bring myself to tell what I saw as the true story.

I was at home one night that week, struggling with the massive pull of pornography, and a new deep and confusing desire to die, and I finally found myself kneeling at my bedside in tears. I hadn't felt worthy to pray, to read my scriptures, to do anything that would bring me to the presence of God... but somewhere, deep inside, I knew that only He could really help me fix the problem I had created and find peace, even if I had lost my chance at salvation. The tears of pain and frustration and remorse and guilt and fear wracked my body as I sobbed an shared my pain, and told everything that I had wanted and hoped for and how it had shattered in a moment. I prayed for something, anything to help me fix my life, overcome my temptations, and become clean again. I didn't know if anything would happen. The pain was still there, the temptation was still there, the guilt was still there... but I kept praying... because I wanted to believe. 

I didn't get an answer of peace or comfort right away. Instead, I began to remember all the times the Lord had given me strength - the opportunities I had to share the gospel, the people who looked up to me when I didn't even know. I remembered the love I had as a home teacher, and the love I had for the scriptures, and the countless times that He had already answered my prayers and given me hope and helped me in little ways, even as I struggled with sin. 

As I prayed that night, crying by my bedside, I felt stronger, and for a moment, I believed that, with God, I could do anything. Conquer any trial, best any temptation, be the change I wanted to see in humanity and the world. I believed that because He told me it was true - that, if I would simply turn to Him, there was no hole too deep, no tunnel too dark, no sin too great to keep His grace and love and help from me. He would always be there, no matter what, as my Father, my God, my Savior, my Friend. And then I felt peace - peace and the assurance that the abuse I had experienced wasn't my fault... that I hadn't destroyed my life beyond hope... that I could come back to Him someday.

I went to sleep that night peacefully for the first time that I could remember. It wasn't the last time that I pled for hope, though - while the experience gave me hope, it wasn't enough to change me or to help me rise completely from my addictions. But I knew that He was still there for me... even the hundredth time that I fell and believed that I had forsaken my birthright. He would always be there... and eventually we would win the war... if I would just keep holding on, whether each battle was won or lost.

I look back at my family member who is struggling with making choices... who is on the edge of choosing to serve God or the desires of the world. And, as confused as he may be, I know what I can do for him. Love him, support him in the good he does, find ways to help him know that God cares and is involved in his life, help him grow in faith... and never give up or give in. No matter what demons we face, God is always the answer. No matter how many times we have fallen, or how we have strayed, He is here with us... and no matter what happens, He will always be here at our sides.


  1. Thank you for being you and sharing your experiences. It amazes me how you truly never know what is going on in someone's life and how most people hide themselves from the world.

    It takes courage to open yourself up and I hope you remember that the experiences you share are helping another and showing someone that it is possible to overcome life's trials even if you have to take it a day a time to survive.

  2. Wow. Thank you so much. I'm struggling with an addiction to pornography right now and I feel like it was a miracle that I thought to check your blog. I've known many of the feelings you describe, even the hope. Your words have given me a boost and inspired me to focus more on my relationship with God. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your feelings. I really get a feel of what you're going through when I read this post.

  4. Another wonderful post. Thank you.

  5. As always, your incredible testimony has illuminated all the dark of my day. Thank you very much for having the courage and making the time to share.

  6. Thank you, Brother, for once again giving me the push I needed. You'll never know the influence you have.

  7. I wish I had been able to read this years ago. Thanks for writing it now. Unfortunately I'm with a lot of people who also think/thought that other people's bad choices are our fault.

    It's not our fault.
    We didn't encourage them.
    It doesn't make us unworthy.

    Losing the ability to trust other people makes it much harder to trust God, but that is the one imperative thing that lets you put everything else behind you.

  8. Have followed your blog for a while. Now I find myself in the situation of having to fight a battle for my own children against their abuser. Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there. It has helped me to be able to fight harder for what is right, no matter how many people hear my story and judge me.
    I hope and pray you are always comforted with the knowledge that you have obtained through your trials.


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