Recently, I have had friends make comments that really make my day. Usually, they have to do with the progress, now a bit noticeable, that I have made in my health and fitness. My son has hugged me and said, “Wow! You’re really getting skinny.” A friend went on (for a slightly embarrassingly long time) about how I look different, I’m more outgoing, and I even carry myself different. She attributed it to working out, others have attributed it to my new-found marital bliss.
I would be insane to not recognize that my commitment to working out makes a huge difference. I will probably put roughly 1,000 running miles in this year, and countless hours lifting weights. Within reason, I have changed my eating habits to focus on fueling my body and my life. I am happily married, and my husband has become more of strength in my life then he ever was able to be while we were dating. Absolutely, these parts of my life make a difference in who I am.
The problem is that people are very quick to confuse the outward process with the spiritual processes that motivated the changes.
I am an introvert by nature, and recharge my batteries with the things I do when I am alone. I prefer small groups and time to think and prepare my responses. However, for most of my life, I used the label introvert to hide painful shyness and a deep sense of worthlessness and not measuring up. As life unraveled and I divorced, things got worse. From childhood, I had learned to turn to food for comfort. Once I was in the singles’ scene for a second time, I used my weight as a weapon to push people away, because I had learned that being lonely hurt less than trying to deal with the people I was encountering in my life.
It wasn’t until two or three years ago that I realized I was under the influence of a psychological addiction called codependency. Sadly, it’s pretty common in modern American society. I was craving self-defeating and even destructive patterns in relationships to continue patterns that I had learned in childhood. I was horrified as I faced the truth about myself, but believed I was powerless to do anything but hang on as a step-child in the kingdom of God and hope that maybe things would turn out decent for me in the eternities. I cringed, knowing that I would probably continue hurting people by dragging them into the insanity for the rest of my life. That was the worst part.
This whole story, though, becomes a testimony that God never leaves us without hope, and He’s bigger than any mess we can get ourselves into.
I had heard about the LDS Addiction Recovery Program before, and had even tried to read through the study guide. I didn’t get very far, because I wasn’t addicted to drugs, alcohol, or pornography and couldn’t see how it applied to me. This time, I was reading through the introduction and saw the word “codependency” leap out at me as one of the conditions that this program could assist with. I decided to dig in and complete the program no matter what.
It’s not an easy program. Based on scriptures and latter-day revelation, the program outlines the process of repentance in minute detail. Humility — accepting that I was totally out of control with my life and needed God to step in and rescue me — was hard. Codependency had taught me that not only was I responsible for myself, I was responsible for everyone around me. From there, I had to become willing to do whatever it would take to change, I had to go back and do my best to make amends to anyone that I had wronged, and to accept the power of the Atonement to fix what I had messed up but couldn’t clean up — again, totally foreign to a codependent paradigm, because I was supposed to clean up every mess I ever encountered. I had to commit to a lifestyle of seeking to learn more of the gospel and then to apply it in my life to serve God more fully.
It’s been hard to accept that repenting and changing doesn’t automatically make everything “better” the way I want it. I’ve lost friends that I will never recover. Change is never easy, no matter how much you want it.
Fortunately, the manual also touches on prayer and fasting, and I was drawn to do an independent study of my own. What I learned is powerful, and it is what has changed my life. Through prayer and fasting I have discovered
- God will give me strength to do what He asks of me.
- What it really feels like to be impressed to do something by the Holy Spirit.
- Personalized changes and steps I’ve needed to take to become who I was sent here to be.
- I can ask for anything that I think will help me become a better person or be of more use to the people around me.
- Through the power of the Holy Spirit, divine instruction can come in many forms.
- Tests, trials, and challenges really are blessings that build inward strength and character.
- We can ask to know the purpose of things we are experiencing, and we will get answers if knowing is in our best interest.
- God is good, and so is His Son, Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Mark, the disciples had tried to heal a child possessed by an evil spirit. They couldn’t do it, and the child was brought to the Savior and was healed. Through this experience, the Savior taught his disciples that tough problems require prayer and fasting.
I not only testify that this is true, but that God is real and prayer and fasting work.