“God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face.”Elder Jeffery R. Holland (October 2008 General Conference)
Until I started writing here at Change of Heart, I never really gave blogs a second thought. If you had asked me, I couldn’t have defined exactly what a blog was. My basic concept of what a blog is went something like this:
“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want— Sebastyne Young
to hear, to questions they didn’t ask.”
Much to my surprise, the act of sorting out my thoughts, writing them down, and sharing them with the world has been very enlightening. A quote from one of my favorite books summarizes what I’ve discovered:
“We teach best what we most need to learn.”— Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Learning is eternal.
It seems, as I discussed in “Empty Houses, Pt. 3 (Filling the Empty House)“, that the process may never end…Kyle still needs to learn more about Kyle, and will always have more to learn, at least in this life.
A new insight…
Nearly all of my previous posts here have basically been open letters to specific personal acquaintances who, like me, are dealing with their own addiction issues. Only in the last post (“Broken Hearts and Broken Horses“) was my theme a little more specific to those whose calling in life is not to deal with addiction, but to deal with the addicted.
As I pondered this week’s post, I realized something that people around me have accused me of for most of my life…many have told me outright that I’m essay about family french rain by hone tuwhare essay buying generic viagra source sample rubrics for research papers https://www.aestheticscienceinstitute.edu/medical/cialis-sold-over-counter/100/ follow site cialis causa dor nas pernas nexium 22.3mg go here thesis revenue model scrivener templates thesis essayer verbe conjugu grade 9 english homework help an example on writing essay cleocin class of antibiotics sildenafil alfabeta body paper paragraph research writing cialis and lasik enter site enter site click persuasive essay voting https://www.myrml.org/outreach/thesis-research-and-design/42/ college essay online help source url https://www.mitforumcambridge.org/multiple/letter-format-application/2/ https://westsidechristianfellowship.org/format/georgetown-thesis-library/36/ describe your hypothetical thesis project boston university mba application essays thesis in electrical engineering pdf viagra affiliate program selfish and ungrateful.
To be honest, this realization is not totally new ground for me. I’ve always struggled with the concept of gratitude. I have always had a hard time giving a sincere “thank you” when it is so well deserved.
Here is my major revelation:
By it’s very nature, addiction is an extremely selfish thing.
OK, I know…this IS a pretty obvious statement. But sometimes I’m not great at recognizing the obvious (as my wife Julie will readily attest). As we’ll discuss in a minute, my brain functions differently than yours.
See if this makes sense to you… I think it’s very profound:
“It is true that addiction is a form of selfishness. Addiction does not do any good in the world. It has one purpose, and one purpose alone: to gratify its perpetrator. It does not enrich the person’s life, help them grow as a person, nourish them on any level or contribute anything else positive.
“In fact, rather than do any good, addiction deteriorates a person’s life out from under them. It destroys their character, damages their relationships, hurts their reputation, makes them unavailable to their commitments and obligations and hurts their physical health. Addiction is a totally self serving endeavor.”— agapeheadquarters.net
It’s true! To an addict, it is all about “Me, me, me, me, and (don’t forget…) ME!” That’s what addiction is!
It might sound a little self-serving if I defend addicts and tell you that it’s not all their fault… but read on, and then you can decide for yourself.
So, what makes addicts so selfish?
Allow me to revisit what we learned in the earlier post “The Landscape of the Mind“.
Brain Physiology 101: There’s a physical area of the brain that controls our survival instincts. It tells us to run when there’s danger and to eat when we’re hungry. Although we can pause after the fact and logically choose our response after the instinctive impulse, we can not stop the initial physiological response.
Let’s say a friend hides in your closet, then when you open the door, he jumps out, grabs you, and yells “boo!”
After a couple of seconds, you can choose to swear at him, punch him, or laugh along with him and give him a hug, but you can’t control the fact that your pulse and blood pressure skyrocketed and that you instinctively jumped half way across the room when it first happened.
These are natural impulses meant to keep you safe in the event that you are attacked by a predator. When a survival instinct is triggered, the body responds unconsciously to the stimulus, over-riding any logical thought.
Another portion of the brain deals with pleasure. When we experience something physically and/or emotionally pleasurable, the brain causes a physiological response that makes us feel good.
Fundamental changes to the survial instinct
In the addict, the brain is cross-wired so that pleasurable experiences trigger the survival instinct. While triggered, the body will totally ignore other signals. Short and simple, the result is that the addict can not respond to normal life in ways that others would consider normal or logical.
To the subconscious mind, the pleasurable sensation becomes what is needed for survival. Nothing else matters…the trigger sensation is the only thing it can think about or react to. It becomes more important than acting in a socially-acceptable manner; more important than eating, drinking, or running away from danger.
For me, this meant that SURVIVAL = ALCOHOL, and no amount of preaching or logic could change my cravings. It meant that knowing where my next drink was coming from was more important than my wife, my kids, my religion, my job, and it was certainly more important than being socially correct. Alcohol became more important than food, and if finances were tight, I would skip meals to make sure I could afford my next trip to the liquor store.
Alcohol was also far more important than recognizing that somebody did something nice for me, so at best, saying “thank you” was a distant after-thought (as in “Maybe I should have said thank you…YESTERDAY!”).
By the grace of God…
The term “the grace of God” means different things to different people. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi was visited by an angel who showed him a vision of the birth and ministry of Christ. The angel asked Nephi:
“…Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I [Nephi] said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”1 Nephi 11:16-17 (The Book of Mormon)
Then after seeing and understanding how much God loved each of us, Nephi concluded that the grace of God is:
“…the love of God which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things”.1 Nephi 11:22 (The Book of Mormon)
Throughout his book “The Continuous Atonement”, Brad Wilcox affirms and reaffirms that grace is not just the power by which “…we are saved after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) but that we are saved by grace “in spite of all that we do”.
To me, the term “Grace of God” refers to the gifts that He gives us when we don’t deserve them. And even more, it is the protection and guidance that we receive from him even without realizing their source. The grace of God has been a powerful influence in my life; I received love and protection from an unseen force even while I was in the depths of my addictive behaviors and when I had no interest in asking for His help.
I testify that I have seen the grace of God in my life, from beings both seen and unseen who have helped and protected me. I hope that you will realize what I know: You and your addicted loved one(s) are entitled to the ministering of angels!
How ’bout those angels?!
Years ago, there was a TV show (and before that…a radio show) called “Kids say the Darndest Things”.
Here’s what the kids had to say about angels (posted by Preaching.com)
- I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold. (Gregory, 5)
- When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there’s a tornado. (Reagan, 10)
- Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it. (Olive, 9)
- It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, then there’s still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes. (Matthew, 9)
- My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science. (Henry, 8)
- Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you go dead. (Daniel, 9)
- Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who’s a very good carpenter. (Jared , 8)
- All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it. (Antonio, 9)
All very cute, but I have saved the best for last:
- Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. (Mitchell, 7)
- Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they can’t make the animals better, they help the child get over it. (Vicki, 8)
- My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. (Katelynn, 9)
Think about it…
Mitchell, Vicki and Katelynn showed wisdom way beyond their years. They just taught us that:
- Angels act on behalf of God.
- Angels watch over kids (of ALL ages!) whenever God has to “go do something else”. 🙂
- Some angels assist in the healing of the sick and afflicted
- They also comfort the loved ones of the sick and afflicted, especially when the sick and afflicted are “not getting better”
- And finally, in many cases they are our loved ones…both those from this world and from beyond the veil
Sent from the presence of God…
Elder Jeffery R. Holland, who I quoted at the top of this post said this about the ministry of angels:
From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children.
Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.–Jeffery R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels”, October 2008 General Conference Report
Speaking of these ministering angels, President Joseph F. Smith said:
“…our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and [being] worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.”Joseph F. Smith, “Gospel Doctrine”, 5th ed. (1939) p. 436
I can testify that I have personally experienced the ministration of departed loved ones during the deepest and darkest times of my life. I will share some of these stories in future posts, but for now, suffice to say that a loved one (in my case, my wife Julie) can pray in faith and request the ministering of angels resulting in a life-changing heavenly intervention.
They walk among us
We’ve all heard the stories. And perhaps, we’ve even experienced it for ourselves. For whatever reason, a friend, associate or total stranger shows up out of the blue at the right time, says the right thing or performs a random act of kindness, and then continues with their lives, sometimes aware, though more often, completely oblivious of the extent of the impact they’ve just had on a us.
Often these experiences are chalked up to coincidence or a simple fluke but as I reflect more deeply, I’m convinced that a loving Heavenly Father guides the steps of those around us in addition to allowing our deceased loved ones to provide guidance and comfort to us. Quoting Elder Holland again:
“…when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil.–Jeffery R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels”, October 2008 General Conference Report
Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day.
Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods.
Some of them gave birth to us,
and in my case, one of them consented to marry me.”
My First Meeting with an Angel…
Indeed, my most influential ministering angel is the one that consented to marry me. Julie has stuck by me through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. Honestly, I have no idea why. We’ve known each other for almost 40 years, and are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary later this month. She’s certainly seen me at my worst much more than at my best. I love her dearly and will for the rest of time and for all eternity.
Early in my freshman year at Weber State College (now Weber State University) I noticed the most gorgeous creature I’d ever seen…a cute little blonde piccolo player who was in Symphonic band. To me, she was HEAVENLY, and she would immediately become my soul mate, my most important ministering angel , and eventually, my eternal companion. However, she was NOT the first angel I met…my first angel’s name was Lawrence.
Kind of an odd kid, Lawrence was also in Symphonic band. I had dated his sister a couple of times, so Lawrence and I had been acquainted for a while. He and Julie sat close to each other in band, so they knew each other. Julie and I were already quite smitten with each other, but we were each too shy to make “first contact”.
Introduced to an angel…by another one
One day, as I was leaving the band room after rehearsal, I saw Lawrence talking to Julie. Lawrence waved me over, motioned to Julie, and asked: “Have you two met?” We both shyly shook our heads to indicate “no”.
He gestured toward Julie as he looked at me and said “This is Julie. You can tell because she has a ‘J’ on her face”. And he turned to Julie, extended his index finger, and drew an imaginary “J”, starting on her forehead and drawing the line down the center of her face and around her jaw.
Then he gestured to me and said to Julie: “This is Kyle. You can tell because he has a “K” on his face”, as he drew the imaginary “K” on my face. With that, he excused himself, leaving the two of us standing there.
Since I’d already seen her (quite a few times), I’m not sure I could call it love at first sight, but it was most assuredly love at first introduction…I was totally smitten (and, as I found out later, so was she)! Incidentally, years later we ran into Lawrence and thanked him for introducing us and drawing the letters on our faces…he said he did not recall that whole exchange.
Simply a coincidence?
It would be easy to just call this encounter a coincidence, but remember…with the Lord, there are NO coincidences!
It’s likely Julie and I would have eventually made introductions. But in retrospect, I was well on my way to some serious issues with alcohol, tobacco, and possibly even immorality. My most important angel’s first assignment was to clean me up, send me on a mission and marry me in the temple.
Lawrence’s timing was perfect: As I think back, I was already plotting how to step up my illicit behavior. A delay of even a few days at that stage in my life might have made the difference between success and failure in my relationship with Julie. Talk about the grace of God…I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t deserve it, and at the time I had no idea that He was intervening. And yet, an unwitting angel did something on impulse that changed the course of my life.
I testify that the Lord knows each of us intimately and arranges through whatever means necessary to set us on the path to eternal success.
If you love an addict you should…um….???
Hint: “Run away screaming” is definitely not the correct answer! Here are some suggestions:
Lesson 1–Pray for Angels
The prophet Mormon testified:
“It is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it because of unbelief”–Moroni 7:37 (The Book of Mormon)
In the near future I’ll definitely share the story about Julie praying for angels to minister to me. I would never have broken the cycle of addiction without my many ministering angels. As I’ve said previously, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO ASK GOD FOR HELP… JUST DO IT! I know without a doubt you will be blessed.
Lesson 2–Never Give Up
A former client and friend who has been active in the addiction recovery field for a couple of decades now recently shared this thought with me:
I actually cried the first time I read the last line. For nearly 30 years, very few people knew about my alcoholism, and nobody knew of the depth of my addiction issues. As far as I was concerned, I was truly alone.
Julie was the only person who actually knew the seriousness of what was going on, and honestly, I wasn’t being completely forthcoming with her, and it was worse than even she knew. I feared the openness required to tell her EVERYTHING. I was afraid it would push her away and end our relationship.
The worst thing about addiction is that you are so self-absorbed that even with a loving companion you feel SO ALONE. So, caregivers, don’t judge, don’t try to fix. Love us and walk beside us so that we know we are not alone. Loving an addict is one of the most thankless jobs you’ll ever do, but the rewards are powerful. Never quit… Never surrender!
Lesson 3–Cherish the Journey
Yes, this sounds like an odd request. But it is crucial.
For the past 25 years (with a few brief exceptions), I can honestly say that Julie and I were frequently NOT having fun. Don’t get me wrong…in spite of our challenges, we still had lots in common and knew we loved each other deeply. I think I’m safe in assuring you that moments of joy along this journey are fleeting and far between. But with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that Julie and I now have strength of spirit, a level of faith, and a deep interpersonal connection that we could not have found in any other way! God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. If you are caring for an addict, you might not feel like it, but trust me: YOU are one of God’s strongest soldiers!
Q: And what are the keys to this journey?
A: Lead, Guide, and Walk Beside
Years ago, there was a popular book titled “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“. In my case as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my book would be titled “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in PRIMARY“. For those who don’t know, Primary is a junior Sunday School for children from toddler to age 11.
One of the most touching experiences of my entire life, and the ONLY real source of spiritual strength during my darkest period of addiction came when I was called to be the music leader for primary. Every Sunday morning (often with a hint of liquor still on my breath from Saturday night) I would sit on the floor in a circle with a group of beautiful little angels, aged 18 months to 3-years old, and we would sing this:
Even when the Light of Christ was nearly gone from my life, it was impossible to hear these pure little spirits sing these words without feeling God’s love for them and, by extension, for me. Without this weekly boost, I’m sure I would have fallen away from the church and been lost forever.
In closing today, let me quote a few more words of my favorite primary song:
I am a child of God
And so my needs are great.
Help me to understand his word
Before it grows too late.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.
Whether your station in life is to deal with addiction, OR to deal with the addicted, my sincere sympathies and prayers are with you.
I know that I am a Child of God. More importantly, I know that YOU are a child of God too.
And as another line in the song says: “…Rich blessings are in store if I but learn to do his will…”.
God’s grace is with you. Accept it, embrace it, and thank Him for it.
Pray for strength. Exercise faith. Ask God to send angels. HE WILL!
He did it for me and he will do it for you.
If you do nothing else today, please take a minute to watch the video below. I promise you will feel (as I do) the warmth and light of God’s spirit within the words and melody of “I am a Child of God”.
As always, I’m inspired by the stories of your journey. Comment below or send me a private message at Kyle@ChangeOfHeart.LIFE.