It’s funny how your whole life you can look around at other people and notice their struggles with addiction so easily. One family member struggled with drugs. Another alcohol. Some friends struggled with pornography and others were addicted to video games. I would watch them, and worry for them. Yet the whole time I failed to realize my own addiction. It wasn’t until I was recovering that it all clicked in my head.
Looking back it seems so very obvious, but the addiction became so intertwined in my everyday life that it consumed me fully. I was addicted to food. Every choice I made fed the addiction. In a real sense food become my go to for a bad day, a good day, an in between day. I used it to try to cover my emotions. When I was stressed I would eat. When I was celebrating I would justify something bigger, or sweeter, or more. When I was sad I would mask the pain with macaroni. I was on the see food diet it. I saw food, and I ate it. Sometimes I would be embarrassed at how much I was eating and would hide in my bedroom as to feel less judged. Once I opened the bag of potato chips or chocolate it was like I had to finish what I started. It drove me to a place that I don’t really understand.
Unadulterated loathing seems the best way to describe how I began to feel about myself. I would look in the mirror and shutter at the thought. Having others look at me made me want to cringe. Compliments however sincere were impossible to accept because I knew the truth- I was simply an ugly and horrible person. Satan was teaching me to become defined by my addition. It was how I saw myself, and yet when others commented on my size or my habits I would call them judgemental and rude. “They don’t even know me” I thought. In reality my addiction prevented me from truly knowing myself.
Thankfully I learned a long time ago who I really was, and the divinity within me was ever seeking light, hope, and recovery. The credit goes to incredible parents, leaders and friends who helped me develop other habits that were wholesome and good. I never stopped reading scriptures, praying, and trying to live the gospel. In the end, this desire to share the power of the atonement with others is what led me to find it more fully for myself.
People often ask me the secret to my success in my health and fitness journey. The answer is simple. My secret is the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is the source of my true strength. During the recovery process I am learning what I feel are helpful steps to conquering addictions. I thought it might be useful to another person who might be struggling too.
First- I had to admit that I had a problem.
I had to truly humble myself and become vulnerable in my communication with God. I had to tell him how embarrassed I was and how hard it was for me to avoid the temptation. I had to explain in detail how much I wanted to change and how lost I felt in starting the journey. I had to admit my imperfections to my Savior. (Not that he didn’t already know them. It was probably more for me) As I took this step man
y tears were shed, but the incredible part was the amount of hope and peace I began to feel.
Second- I had to get help.
The thing about addiction is that no amount of grit and willpower are enough to conquer it. I needed help. Help from heaven, but also help on earth. It’s funny, I think the help had always been there I had just been too blind to see it. Thankfully the Lord placed missionaries, roommates, friends, and family members in my path to help me take the steps I needed. A great amount of credit goes to Micah Gogan, my personal trainer, for his continued patience as he helped me take steps into an unknown world of diet and exercise. It took a professional to push me farther along in my goal than I could go on my own.
Third- I had to learn I wasn’t in the battle alone.
Even though I had help in front of me, there were times that I felt very alone in my desires to change. It seemed like no one really understood. This was particularly true in social situations where food had always been a determining factor. I learned that I as I told even just one or two people what I was doing, that suddenly I had a support system. Honestly though, while earthly angels have helped me along the way it was my deepening relationship with Christ that encouraged me most. In those moments when no one could understand I would turn to prayer and scriptures to give me the additional strength to push through. The strength came. Perfectly placed circumstances came in my way making each step possible. I have come to know from very personal and poignant moments the enabling love and support of Jesus Christ. It is hard to describe in words, but I have felt Him with me. I have come once again to learn that I am never alone in my daily battles.
Fourth- be patient with your progress.
Overcoming addiction doesn’t happen all at once. It is a painstaking process of time and effort. In order to maintain a steady course I find it helpful to celebrate the small victories. Every time I do something how I should, I celebrate. I ate the right portion of that meal. I drank 25 ounces of water this morning. Those types of small victories. They help me stay motivated and positive. They inspire me to continue to choose wisely. They help me see joy in the journey rather than the results.
Admittedly, choosing a new rewards system was difficult. Where once food (the very source of my addiction) had been my reward I chose something new. I tried a variety of things. Immediate rewards are simple such as taking a break from chores or to do lists to listen to a song, or uplifting message (typically a Mormon message or a hymn- that leads my thoughts back to the love of the Savior). Extra free time or me time if you will reading a good book, or watching a movie I love. One added bonus is that my wardrobe is in constant flux, so at milestones along the way I would reward myself with a new skirt, or dress or an accessory. (You can find deals and don’t have to develop a shopping addiction in the process)
Fifth- repenting feels good.
The choice to repent often brings feelings of dread or fear to the hearts of people. During this process though, I have learned that it feels really good to repent. I have learned that the invitation to turn closer to God is actually a call from a loving Father who simply wants to draw us back into His arms! Each choice to change bringing us one step closer to that love.
Neil L. Anderson said it well,
“It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.”
As I have practiced living the word of wisdom better I can honestly say I have felt as Alma the younger from the Book of Mormon. “ there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” Joy is really the only emotion that describes how it truly feels to allow the atonement to work in your life. It brings a peace of mind. It brings hope and light to your life. Most of all, it brings you back to the arms of your loving Savior. For every branch of intertwined addiction in my life I now feel a new branch of intertwined joy.
I now see others who struggle with addiction in a totally new light. I see them as people who are fighting the hardest battle of their lives. I no longer define them by what is hard, but I have new eyes to see them for who they are striving to become. It has proven to me that as we draw closer to, and more dependant on the Savior we feel His love more. As we feel that love more deeply, it is easier to share it more completely.
Perhaps you, or someone you know is struggling. There is hope and there is help. There are counselors, personal trainers, ecclesiastical leaders, doctors, and countless friends and family members available to help you. Most significantly of all, the Savior is ready with open arms to pull you back to Him. The following website will give you access to people you can meet with confidentially in person or over the phone. https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/home?lang=eng
Ashley Dewey is extremely talented at being single. Hobbies include awkward conversations with members of the opposite sex, repelling third dates, talking to boys about their girl problems and to girls about their boy problems. In her spare time she also has a very fulfilling school life, work life, and social life. Besides being a professional single, Ashley is also a BYU graduate with a degree in linguistics (Aka word nerd). She enjoys studying other languages, particularly American Sign Language, and finds most all of them fascinating. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Ashley works most of the time and has often been accused of being a workaholic. Currently she works full time as a merchandiser and supervisor in a retail store, and part time doing social media work. On her day off she works (really it doesn't feel like work) in the Provo LDS temple. The only kind of work she finds difficulty focusing on is house work. Her favorite activities in her free time are reading, writing, creating social experiments, and spending time with great friends and family. Specific activities with those family and friends include: going to concerts, plays, dance recitals, BYU basketball and football games, and watching sports on television.