Atonement, Repentence and Addictions

Most of us know the scripture in Matthew 6:24 in which we are told we are not to slave for two masters. I have to always go back to that scripture daily…so I will always remember I was once a slave to two masters.

I am an alcoholic/addict.

As an addict, converting to Mormonism wasn’t easy. At the time, giving up alcohol wasn’t a huge deal. I didn’t believe or even consider I was an alcoholic. I believed this based on how I drank compared to others in my life who suffered from the disease. No, I didn’t drink everyday. I could go months without drinking with ease. Yet, when I finally became honest with myself and looked at the reasons WHY and HOW I drank…I knew I had a problem.

Drinking was my escape. Tequila was my outlet I used to ease my anxiety, cover my insecurities and lose my inhibitions. I’ve always been somewhat of a dork in a socially awkward way. I have a moronic laugh and I’m anything but graceful. That’s how I am sober. Apparently, I thought drinking erased my social quirks. Turns out…they only enhanced them…I just didn’t care.

Alcoholism isn’t a black/white disease. It isn’t the same for everyone. When I accepted I had this disease, I was already a baptized member of the Church. I had some slip ups and it was only after I fell into old habits that I had to come to terms with the truth concerning this illness.

Here’s the thing about addictions of any kind: you can not get help for your addictions until you accept and understand you’re powerless against them. You can not do it on your own.

As a Christian…you have to take it one step further: you must grasp, understand and accept The Atonement.

Atonement of Jesus Christ

As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.

For years…without even realizing it…I was a slave to alcohol and prescription drugs. I thought I was okay because hello…LOOK AT ME. I do not look like a drunk. I’m little. And cute. And I speak with a southern accent.

Alcoholics surely cannot be little, cute and speak with a southern accent. Right?

In His loving and firm way, God showed me I was fooling myself. As a creator of false facades in many areas of my life, I convinced myself and others that I didn’t have a problem with addictions. I had somehow shifted and justified my sins in order to be a slave to the illness.

Why?

Well, because it was fun.

Drinking was fun…in the beginning. That stage of drinking most call ‘tipsy’ is exhilarating. I always wanted to stay in that phase…yet as my tolerance level grew…the shorter the tipsy phase would be. And because I always felt I had something to prove, I’d find myself in these situations in which I tried to out drink everyone. I think my reasoning was because I was little. And cute. And spoke with a southern accent.

The first time I spoke the words: “I am an alcoholic” was one of the worst and best days of my life. I won’t sugar coat it…I felt as if I was a failure. I didn’t want to admit to alcoholism and addiction. It didn’t seem fair I had to say those words and do the steps and go to meetings and then REPENT? I had to repent too? Are you kidding me?

I didn’t want to repent to God. I was really mad at God.

Being angry with God did not align well with repentance. I was angry with God for allowing my life to be so messed up. It didn’t seem fair He created me to have all these things wrong with me.

My anger with God led me toward a season of rebellion. I gave up caring and trying to  live a spiritual life. I felt as if I had given everything I had to be a good Christian woman and I kept failing. So what can a person do but throw their hands in the air and give up? May as well have some fun!

Alma 34:32-34 tells us we shouldn’t procrastinate repentance. We will all have to one day answer for our sins and be held accountable. My having the disease of alcoholism wasn’t the sin…it was my ignoring it and acting with a rebellious heart that was sinful.

The fun of drinking was long gone. I knew that, but I wanted it to be true again. What was fun about it? Who can really say at this point…most of those days are hazy. Drinking can only be fun for so long for an alcoholic. The fun never lasts.

To admit weakness is also not a sin. In the scriptures we can find many righteous and humble men who admit their frailties: Moses, David, Peter, Paul, Alma, Ammon…those are only a handful of examples. When we repent…we acknowledge regret for doing the things that separated us from God. Admitting our sins isn’t weak…it is the buildup of strength in which creates a stronger bond between us and our Heavenly Father.

Accepting The Atonement of Jesus Christ for me was a huge factor in my recovery. Elder Boyd Packer explained it best: “Atonement is really three words: At-one-ment, meaning to set at one, one with God; to reconcile, to conciliate, to expiate.”  The Atonement could cleanse me of sin…but only after the condition of my repentance.

It seemed as if I would never live the life Heavenly Father created me to live. I continued to make the wrong choices, made excuses, and honestly didn’t care…as long as I was having fun! Then one day, life wasn’t fun anymore and the things I was doing in the name of fun had turned ugly. Yet, I couldn’t repent because I felt as if I wasn’t good enough to be a daughter of God.

Then one day I realized I wasn’t that “great” not to be forgiven for my sins. Yeah, I’m little. And cute. And speak with a southern accent…but I’m not that powerful.

Here’s the thing that we all must accept: We will never be so powerful to be to messed up for our Savior to redeem.

Ever.

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