Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Than Just Preaching Against Addictions: Inspiring Success from the LDS Addiction Recovery Program

Every now and then the Church comes out with something that is just really cool. That's how I felt with the announcement of the Perpetual Education Fund and the 1978 revelation on the Priesthood, for example. More recently, something that I find cool, inspiring, and successful is the LDS Addiction Recovery Program, which is quietly bringing real hope and change to people who were once trapped with addictions. I've been learning about this program from some people who are involved in various aspects of it, and I'm deeply impressed. There is a need for more people to get involved in order to help themselves or others in our lives. There is a need for more bishops and branch presidents to be aware of this program and send more members there to gain help and to offer support.

The LDS Addiction Recovery Program is a great example of the Church drawing upon inspiration given to people outside our ranks. This remarkable 12-step program is taken from Alcoholics Anonymous with steps very close to the original 12 steps of AA. It's sort of like "open innovation" applied to religion, and I'm all for it.

The outstanding manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery, is available in many languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Ukranian. (If your language isn't listed, maybe it's because your culture doesn't have much of an addiction problem, eh? Congratulations, Hindi speakers!)

The meetings are intended to preserve confidentiality of the participants. In my stake, they are scheduled one evening a week and other organizations are asked to stay out of the church buildings if possible on that night or at least stay away from the area where the meetings are being held to help reduce the risk of embarrassment for meeting participants. But there's no reason to feel embarrassed about attending. We all have our problems, and even for the more perfected among us, we probably all have people in our lives who are struggling with addictions, or perhaps we've overcome addictions and have something to share to help others. There is strength in numbers and higher attendance can really enhance the meetings.

One of the group leaders I spoke to was just ecstatic about the power of the program. By helping people to turn to the Savior for strength and by creating support for one another in the groups that meet, great progress can be achieved.

The Church is devoting a lot of resources to making this program be available to bless the lives of its members. Preaching against the vices of addiction has its value, but adding this dimension is a welcome addition in a world where addictions are increasingly harming lives and damaging families.

By the way, guess what one of the most common addictions is that afflicts participants? This is according to a program leader in Madison, Wisconsin. I was surprised when he told me that video game addictions are the leading problem that brings people in for help. That's not to say that it's the most common or most serious addiction by any means, but it could the one where affected LDS people are most motivated and willing to come forward for help, at least in Madison. Interesting. The 12-step program could help - but there's quicker one-step fix: replace video games with blogging. Blogging, of course, isn't an addiction--it's a noble pursuit that takes almost as much time and can be just as impressive to your significant other, all without ever running the risk of completing the game and finally being done. See, wasn't that easy? Take up blogging instead, people! And you can do it even on a lame machine--for free!

Hey, check out the Addiction Recovery Program and ask your bishop or branch president for more information on how you can help and participate, either for your benefit or so you can help others. It's something we all need to take seriously.

Update, July 4, 2010: There are some reports arguing that the empirical success rate for the AA 12-step program is not impressive. I'm still digging into the details and will report more later. Will the Church's version do better than AA? I hope so. Perhaps a major part of the value will come before people ever step foot in the sessions, when LDS leaders help people with addictions admit they have a problem and resolve to change. The 12-step program may then be a trigger to help them decide to change. I certainly need to learn more.

27 comments:

Richard Hunter said...

Thanks for this post. I agree, this program is excellent.
Richard Hunter,
New Zealand.

Bookslinger said...

I went to a local one to help with internet addiction, but I gave up on it. I think the local group was having some growing pains and the facilitators were still learning what to do.

Another problem I had with it, was that it was held at a local chapel when other things were going on, so it wasn't really confidential, when half the ward saw who was going to the addiction recovery program meeting. They put up signs "This way to ARP ---->"

The other thing is that they combined people with different addictions into one big group.

Some of the less embarrassing things like Internet or video game addiction or overeating might be okay to have at the chapel. But the more embarrassing things that require confidentiality should be somewhere else. So the people involved in church activities that evening don't go "Oh, look who's got a prono problem!"

And even if the one at the chapel is the one for the less-embarrassing matters, people who see you go to the room labled "ARP", are likely to assume the worst about you anyway.

Onhech said...

Having just returned from A mission to Las Vegas, and having served in the slums I have seen this program help so many people.

Also Jeff I think you have a typo in your title "Agaiinst".

rameumptom said...

I've helped on occasion as a back up facilitator, and I love the program. In our area the three stakes have an ARP meeting for sexual addictions in a private location at the Family Services building when no one else is around.

The other, more general, meetings are held in a back area of a chapel when few others are present.

Paul said...

ARP is a great program, and the Church has been wise to implement it. The twelve steps are a clear path to applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ in one's life.

Part of the attraction of the program is the involvement wherever possible of others who have successfully used the 12 steps in recovery.

BTW, video games may be the top draw in Madsion, but not everywhere.

jackg said...

Jeff,

I'm glad to see the Church is adopting this program. I have used the 12-step program when working with those who struggle with addictions, and it is in alignment with biblical teaching and the biblical perspective regarding our fallen condition as human beings. I pray that the LDS Church will be successful in helping her members be freed from the bondage of addiction and the consequences that exact such a devastating price.

Peace...

Anonymous said...

What about being addicted to religion? Can anone go for 2 weeks without having to have their religion fix? One week without it?

Just wondering.

Bookslinger said...

Anon: I'm addicted to religion. I can't go 24 hours without reading the scriptures. Or else I start to jonesing. Right now I'm in the Old Testament. With the year 1/2 over, I'm just a little over 1/2 through the OT, right on schedule. I have a reading schedule I'm trying to stick to. So in addition to addicted, I think I'm obsessive-compulsive and anal-retentive too.

And I can't seem to go 12 hours without praying. In fact, I sometimes feel a compulsion to pray silently in my mind throughout the day.

You know what they say about LSD and LDS? Too much of either one, and you see God.

Ram: I'm glad to hear of the progress in refining the local groups.

Anonymous said...

I normally wouldn't respond as an anon but due to the nature of most responses out of fear of being judged or called a troll because I disagree I will this time.

I understand why most people will have a positive view of this program and will laud it as an amazing thing.

The problem is that it is neither, it is a drain on church resources and just as the regular 12 steps has proven ineffective at keeping people off an addiction.

There are four statistics that are important to understand before lauding a program such as this; 1. What percentage of the people who try to quit something cold turkey succeed. 2. What percentage of people mandated into such a program succeed. (note I do not believe the Church allows people who have been mandated by a court to do so which is fine as your about to find out why). 3.What percentage of people who choose to go into such a program succeed. 4. Last but not least how many people who go specifically to the Churches version of these programs succeed.

With one exception there is no difference of the numbers all of them are and have remained steady since the first 12 step AA's inception and that only 3%. the exception being mandated attendance which comes to about 1%.

This is why the church is only still experimenting with these programs is because they aren't having the success hoped for in the end these programs are ineffective the majority of the time.

The other problem is the times that they are effective have the people who succeeded either lauding the program, or talking about how it didn't help at all. The latter stating that in the end they just had to make the decision themselves.

All in all this will always be the case. We have learned through the scriptures that the only way to repent is to have that mighty change of heart. So far all efforts to help produce that with an addiction program or any sort of program have failed in doing so.

These programs I believe have good intentions but I also believe they are a waste of church resources both monetarily and in manpower and labor too.

If one of these programs helped you then I'm glad for you but you are in a minority and we need to find something that works with the majority.

I hope i haven't offended anyone, this was not my intent. The numbers are very hard to find as groups like AA who do get federal funding aren't so willing to put them out.

My source was an episode of Penn and Teller **. And their sources for the episode, were the official numbers themselves.

I also personally know four people who have been in and out of these programs by choice and one who just quit his addiction.
The only one who has been successful is the one who just quit(note he tried attending the churches programs but found they had nothing to offer him).

Two have been steadily going to the church version of the programs to no avail. Both continually relapse into their old ways despite it all (they still praise it as you do Jeff and talk about how much it helps though as a close personal friend observing I can say unequivocally that it has done nothing to help them repent of their problem).

The last one was originally court mandated but now is in and out of the programs constantly. he is not a member of the church so joins the classic 12 steps and has never gone more than 6 months without relapse, he also goes on about how well the 12 steps work.

So please forgive me my skepticism in general as my experience has been and continues to be that only those who do not know on a deeply personal level those going through these programs have a positive feeling towards them(the programs).

I have personally seen one friend receive a false sense of achievement from these and to take his subsequent fall less seriously because " hey everyone falls off the wagon once." The problem of course being that him and most others have fallen off a few hundred times.

Paul said...

Anon,

There are so many problems with your comment, where to begin?

First, AA does not receive federal funding.

Second, what is the 3% statistic to mean? That 3% of participants never relapse? That only 3% return from relapse?

Third, what resources does the church expend on the program, and how are they different from other pastoral programs? Participants, including group leaders, are volunteers, many of whom also hold other callings; they generally participate because they would be participating in a continuing 12 step program anyway.

Finally, the church's program (unlike AA's) is full of scripture study, full of doing just what you suggest, namely helping someone to find a change of heart through gospel study.

My own experience is that the 12 steps are a path to applying the atonement in our lives. Of course no one can force another to do that; one does it by his own choices, just as one enters recovery only by his own choices. No "program" will work unless the individual to be helped chooses to be helped.

Anthony said...

I've not been so favorably impressed with this program either. In our stake, people started labeling every human weakness an "addiction" which degrades the meaning of the word. Similar to Bookslinger's observation, too many different non addiction problems were being lumped with real addictions. The word "addiction" carries certain implications not normally implied by less compulsive bad habits.

Furthermore, as Anon points out, there's a lack of good evidence describing the long term efficacy of 12 step programs. I've had several relatives go through 12 step programs, and they swear by them, but in the case of one of them, the local AA group has blossomed into a mind control cult. This doesn't always happen, of course, but it has happened in other instances as well. Good intentions are worth bupkis. Show us the results. Has anybody been to an AA meeting? A lot of smoking going on. Kick one addiction, keep another.

Paul said...

The purpose of an AA meeting is to work on the addiction to alcohol, nothing else. It is not a case of trading one addiction for another.

The church's 12 step program is different of course because invited are any who would like to attend, and therefore it does dilute the experience compared with AA or NA, which have specific addictions that they deal with.

As for Bookslinger's comment about advertising the meeting in the way it was done, clearly that's outside the guidelines. Meeting times are not to be posted or publicly announced. That said, not everyone is perfect at this (or anything else) yet.

I think long term veterans of 12-step programs who support recovery through them would argue that they are the evidence of long term success. But any recovery program is one day at a time, so success is only for today, not forever.

Anthony said...

"The purpose of an AA meeting is to work on the addiction to alcohol, nothing else."

Is that so? Have you read the 12 steps recently?

"I think long term veterans of 12-step programs who support recovery through them would argue that they are the evidence of long term success."

Yes, but for an adequate evaluation, we need to move beyond anecdotal evidence. A lot of individuals swear by homeopathy, too.

Paul said...

Anthony,

As a matter of fact, I have. The AA program was designed and continues to be for the recovery of alcoholics. Some groups allow other addicts to participate, and other programs adapt the AA 12 steps to their purposes (as the LDS ARP does). My point was that the point of AA is not to help it members to stop smoking.

Anthony said...

True, but the twelve steps aren't limited to alcohol addiction as written (even when applied to alcoholics). They address all moral and character shortcomings. My point was that however much AA strives to eliminate alcohol addiction, it doesn't do much for the underlying addictive predilections. It's empirically true that many participants substitute one addiction for another whether or not that is their stated goal.

Paul said...

Still haven't seen your empirical evidence.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony said...

"Coffee and Cigarette Consumption and Perceived Effects in Recovering Alcoholics Participating in Alcoholics Anonymous in Nashville, TN"

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2008 Oct;32(10):1799-806. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

jackg said...

As with most programs, there will be those for and against it, but it doesn't devalue the program. We are humans and will have our preferences. There are strong arguments for both sides. What we need to do is allow the participants to choose AA if they so desire. I think the LDS Church promoting AA is commendable, and shows that the leaders understand the need for intervention. The only comment that really bothered me was from anon. He stated: "it is a drain on church resources and just as the regular 12 steps has proven ineffective at keeping people off an addiction." When I read this comment I couldn't help but think that if God used this rationale Jesus Christ wouldn't have come into the world to die for us and save us from our sins. Sometimes, we don't do things because a high percentage of people are helped through a process, but we do them even if only one was helped. Now, granted, there is a lot to be said about the truth that most people with alcohol problems don't overcome "addiction" per se, as they are only victorious over a specific addiction and will continue to display addictive thinking and behaviors in other areas of their lives. But, I don't think this warrants shutting down what the LDS Church is trying to do. What's needed are facilitators who can help those in the program understand that addiction is deeply rooted in the soul, and that specific addictions are merely manifestations of the inner issue. But, hey, if the program helps just one family that has been plagued by the consequences of alcoholism, then I would say that it was worth it. Naturally, there will be more than one family blessed by this program.

Blessings...

Paul said...

Thanks, jackg; you've said it better than I could.

jackg said...

Glad I could help, Paul.

Peace...

Anonymous said...

Jackg

The difference would be God has inexhaustible resources, my church does not. The funding going into these programs could go into direct aid to other countries or could go into perpetual education fund, which has proven most effective at both educating and finding good jobs for those who normally would not be able to do either. The funding could even be saved for when they do find programs that are effective and then use it to promote and fund them.

The fact is Jesus did agree with me as a direct parallel can be drawn between using this money in a program that does not work in essence burying the talent. Versus using it in ways that it actually expands grows and benefits everyone.

We live in a finite world with finite resources available to those who would use them for good or evil. Its important to use what resources we have for good including funding and even a stamp of approval on the most effective means possible. You can bet that those using them for evil do.

Anonymous said...

Another Anon here - a newbie in fact, my first blog post EVER. Anywhere or about anything. First time I felt like I had something worthwile to contribute. :)

I have been a long time member of the church, and in the last couple of years have had the experience of coming to grips with and trying to break out of my own life long addictions/unhealthy dependencies. The interesting thing is that I have come 180 degrees in my thinking about addictions and what to do about them. Previously, I viewed addictions as a matter of discipline and willpower over an issue of morality. I didn't have much use for what I considered to be wimpy, liberal, psycho-babble. But having seen numerous addictions and unhealthy dependencies within much of my extended family, and my own failure and those of others trying to break out using approaches similar to my old point of view, and finally doing some reading and approaching the issues from a different perspective, my point of view has changed dramatically. And I have achieved a significant degree of success in my own life, using 12 step principles and the beginnings of an understanding of family systems and the psychology behind it. The really interesting thing is that for me, when the approach changed, the difficulty of the problem reduced dramatically.

An extremely helpful source of information and aid to me were books and the point of view promoted by John and Linda Friel. I would encourage anyone (everyone really) interested in understanding and overcoming these types of problems to read "Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families". I have read it 4 or 5 times now. The first was a quick skim, and I left with the conclusion that it was an interesting approach, and maybe it worked for some, but that it wasn't really all that noteworthy. I read it the second time a year or so later, after observing things I remembered from my first read. I was left with the impression that there was more to the approach than I had originally thought, and they had some interesting ideas that would be helpful to me. But again, I had some reservations. I read it a third time a year later, this time with a highlighter and note pad in hand, because I had observed even more and recognized some of what they had talked about. I left with the conclusion that their point of view was extremely accurate and pertinent to my particular personal and extended family situation and experience. I have read it a couple of times since, mostly quick skims, with more focused reads on parts that were pertinent to what I was going through at the time.

I now believe that there is at least one fundamental "core" issue that can manifest itself in many different unhealthy dependencies or addictions. And these can co-exist, change, and even trade places back and forth over time. Of course there are specific consequences and details of each dependency, but all are a result or symptom of at least one central issue. And that is that somewhere in our life, usually when we were young, we experienced something that hurt us emotionally inside, which set in motion some fairly natural responses that if left unaddressed can turn into unhealthy dependencies and eventually addictions. Of course there are variations and details specific to every person and situation. I am not suggesting that there are predetermined outcomes or that individuals have no responsibility for their own behavior. (one of my objections early-on to this type of view point) But I do believe that long term success (entering a state of "recovery") is achieved by understanding this process and how it has played out in an individual's life.

So it is interesting to me to see the church implementing this program. I don't know much about it, but I'm glad to see it, and curious to learn more.

Anonymous said...

Another Anon here - a newbie in fact, my first blog post EVER. Anywhere or about anything. First time I felt like I had something worthwile to contribute. :)

I have been a long time member of the church, and in the last couple of years have had the experience of coming to grips with and trying to break out of my own life long addictions/unhealthy dependencies. The interesting thing is that I have come 180 degrees in my thinking about addictions and what to do about them. Previously, I viewed addictions as a matter of discipline and willpower over an issue of morality. I didn't have much use for what I considered to be wimpy, liberal, psycho-babble. But having seen numerous addictions and unhealthy dependencies within much of my extended family, and my own failure and those of others trying to break out using approaches similar to my old point of view, and finally doing some reading and approaching the issues from a different perspective, my point of view has changed dramatically. And I have achieved a significant degree of success in my own life, using 12 step principles and the beginnings of an understanding of family systems and the psychology behind it. The really interesting thing is that for me, when the approach changed, the difficulty of the problem reduced dramatically.

An extremely helpful source of information and aid to me were books and the point of view promoted by John and Linda Friel. I would encourage anyone (everyone really) interested in understanding and overcoming these types of problems to read "Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families". I have read it 4 or 5 times now. The first was a quick skim, and I left with the conclusion that it was an interesting approach, and maybe it worked for some, but that it wasn't really all that noteworthy. I read it the second time a year or so later, after observing things I remembered from my first read. I was left with the impression that there was more to the approach than I had originally thought, and they had some interesting ideas that would be helpful to me. But again, I had some reservations. I read it a third time a year later, this time with a highlighter and note pad in hand, because I had observed even more and recognized some of what they had talked about. I left with the conclusion that their point of view was extremely accurate and pertinent to my particular personal and extended family situation and experience. I have read it a couple of times since, mostly quick skims, with more focused reads on parts that were pertinent to what I was going through at the time.

I now believe that there is at least one fundamental "core" issue that can manifest itself in many different unhealthy dependencies or addictions. And these can co-exist, change, and even trade places back and forth over time. Of course there are specific consequences and details of each dependency, but all are a result or symptom of at least one central issue. And that is that somewhere in our life, usually when we were young, we experienced something that hurt us emotionally inside, which set in motion some fairly natural responses that if left unaddressed can turn into unhealthy dependencies and eventually addictions. Of course there are variations and details specific to every person and situation. I am not suggesting that there are predetermined outcomes or that individuals have no responsibility for their own behavior. (one of my objections early-on to this type of view point) But I do believe that long term success (entering a state of "recovery") is achieved by understanding this process and how it has played out in an individual's life.

So it is interesting to me to see the church implementing this program. I don't know much about it, but I'm glad to see it, and curious to learn more.

Anonymous said...

Another Anon here - a newbie in fact, my first blog post EVER. Anywhere or about anything. First time I felt like I had something worthwile to contribute. :)

I have been a long time member of the church, and in the last couple of years have had the experience of coming to grips with and trying to break out of my own life long addictions/unhealthy dependencies. The interesting thing is that I have come 180 degrees in my thinking about addictions and what to do about them. Previously, I viewed addictions as a matter of discipline and willpower over an issue of morality. I didn't have much use for what I considered to be wimpy, liberal, psycho-babble. But having seen numerous addictions and unhealthy dependencies within much of my extended family, and my own failure and those of others trying to break out using approaches similar to my old point of view, and finally doing some reading and approaching the issues from a different perspective, my point of view has changed dramatically. And I have achieved a significant degree of success in my own life, using 12 step principles and the beginnings of an understanding of family systems and the psychology behind it. The really interesting thing is that for me, when the approach changed, the difficulty of the problem reduced dramatically.

An extremely helpful source of information and aid to me were books and the point of view promoted by John and Linda Friel. I would encourage anyone (everyone really) interested in understanding and overcoming these types of problems to read "Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families". I have read it 4 or 5 times now. The first was a quick skim, and I left with the conclusion that it was an interesting approach, and maybe it worked for some, but that it wasn't really all that noteworthy. I read it the second time a year or so later, after observing things I remembered from my first read. I was left with the impression that there was more to the approach than I had originally thought, and they had some interesting ideas that would be helpful to me. But again, I had some reservations. I read it a third time a year later, this time with a highlighter and note pad in hand, because I had observed even more and recognized some of what they had talked about. I left with the conclusion that their point of view was extremely accurate and pertinent to my particular personal and extended family situation and experience. I have read it a couple of times since, mostly quick skims, with more focused reads on parts that were pertinent to what I was going through at the time.

I now believe that there is at least one fundamental "core" issue that can manifest itself in many different unhealthy dependencies or addictions. And these can co-exist, change, and even trade places back and forth over time. Of course there are specific consequences and details of each dependency, but all are a result or symptom of at least one central issue. And that is that somewhere in our life, usually when we were young, we experienced something that hurt us emotionally inside, which set in motion some fairly natural responses that if left unaddressed can turn into unhealthy dependencies and eventually addictions. Of course there are variations and details specific to every person and situation. I am not suggesting that there are predetermined outcomes or that individuals have no responsibility for their own behavior. (one of my objections early-on to this type of view point) But I do believe that long term success (entering a state of "recovery") is achieved by understanding this process and how it has played out in an individual's life.

So it is interesting to me to see the church implementing this program. I don't know much about it, but I'm glad to see it, and curious to learn more.

Anonymous said...

The quality of these programs depends a lot on the people who are at these programs. One I attended in a previous location was excellent. There was a spirit of hope and love that came from the facilitator and the other members. It was easy to continue attending, and it truly helped me feel closer to Christ and his healing power. After moving, I started attending one in my new location. However, there was no feeling of hope, and everyone arrived and left feeling depressed. I only went a couple of times before deciding it wasn't helping.