ARP and Me

[ 5 ] Comments

by Paul

ARPHi, my name is Paul and I’m a recovering co-dependent and an ARP meeting leader.

Nick’s post opened the window to the discussion of addiction recovery, and I want to add to it.

The church has for many years been supportive of recovery for those who struggle with addictions of all kinds – alcohol, drugs, food, sex, pornography.  I remember sitting in a bishopric training meeting two-and-a-half decades ago when our stake president indicated that 12-step meetings were available in a nearby stake center for those who needed them.

At the time I took little notice, except to wonder who would need such help.  Certainly not me!

¡Rayos!

I’ve been involved with the 12 steps for over five years, first in a program outside ARP, and I’ve been leading LDS Addiction Recovery Meetings for about four years.  I came to the 12 steps like almost everyone, because my life was out of control.

In my case, it was the drug addiction of a loved one that brought me to the steps.  But it was my own co-dependence that keeps me coming back.  That is, I’m not there for my loved one.  I’m there for me.  I’m working on my own recovery.

The first 12 step meeting I ever attended was an open AA meeting.  I had shared phone messages prior to the meeting with a woman who was trying to establish an English AlAnon meeting in that foreign capital city.  I met her at the meeting and mentioned that I wanted to attend AlAnon to support my loved one in recovery.  The woman looked at me for a moment, nodded slowly and said, “Yes, AlAnon might help your loved one.  But it will help you more.”

It took me some time to figure out what she meant.  About the same time I began working with an online group from Families Anonymous where I found a very supportive environment for my recovery.  I worked the steps, and slowly (very slowly sometimes), sanity came back to my life.

Often in 12 step programs, we talk about living in recovery.  That’s different from being recovered.  Although most of the people in my meetings hold out hope that recovery could be a state of being (and I am confident that such an end is possible through the atonement), for most of us it is a process (and I am also confident that the Lord intends it that way).  People who are not working the steps may struggle with the difference between the two.

In the gospel, we talk about eternal covenants and life-long commitments.  We teach our children to make choices today so they won’t have to revisit them later.  For those who struggle with true addictions, the only way to keep a life-long commitment is one day at a time, sometimes one hour or one minute at a time.  We all hope for a day when sin becomes abhorrent to us, and when our addictions no longer have a draw.  But we live in mortal bodies that suffer from the disease of addiction which is more easily managed than cured.  And we manage it every day, just the way a diabetes patient manages his disease.  Every day we seek to submit ourselves to God’s will.  Every day we do a personal inventory to evaluate our progress.  Every day we make amends when we need to.  Every day we decide (again) to abstain from our addictions and to do positive things instead.

Although the Addiction Recovery Program focuses on twelve weeks of readings, each week about one of the twelve steps of recovery, no one expects to “finish” the course of recovery in three months.  Some steps might be worked quickly, and others may take weeks or months to complete.  And even having “completed” the steps, we still come back and serve others who may be at a different spot on their path of recovery.

GethSome of the most spiritual meetings I have ever attended in the church are ARP meetings, meetings filled with addicts and alcoholics who are doing the best they can to invite the influence of the Savior into their lives.  At the end of each meeting, the meeting leader thanks those who attend by saying, “Your being here demonstrates your humility and faith, and inspires hope in others who attend.”

Indeed they do.

Photos: lds.org; José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez via Compfight

About Paul

Paul was a convert to the church with his parents and siblings when he was a child, and therefore has the great blessing of having some of his formative years in the church while still remembering his family’s conversion experience. He is the father of seven and husband to his lovely wife. He served an LDS mission in Germany and has lived in Latin America and twice in Asia for his employer; now he lives with his lovely wife and youngest two children in the Midwestern US. Prior to earning his MBA, Paul also earned degrees in English and Theatre History. He also blogs at A Latter-day Voice (see the link below -- in "Our Authors Elsewhere" section at the bottom of the page) where he writes, as he does here, of his own experience as a Latter-day Saint. He does not speak for the church but will speak in favor of it.

5 Responses to ARP and Me

  1. Julia says:

    Paul, I’m curious what differences and similarities you see from your time in AA and AlAnon, and ARP. First a little about my background, and why I hope to get a more experienced viewpoint.

    I have been involved with IA (Incest Anonymous) groups in a variety of capacities, and a large percentage of IA members are also involved with AA, NA or AlAnon. I have attended a number of AA meetings with friends, IA members I mentor (sponsors and mentors can be interchangeable or function very differently depending on where in the country/world you are, but generally mentors do have a legal responsibility to report imminent danger, and the person being mentored understands that potential break to confidentiality, in conversations had outside a meeting) as a sociology student, and with my ex-husband.

    I also have been to several ARP meetings. My adopted sister is an alcoholic, and while there were some pretty contentious feelings on my part, when my parents chose to adopt her in her mid-twenties, I wanted to be supportive of her sobriety. It was suggested that I attend ARP meetings with her as a family support. I had not shared much of my involvement with IA, at that time, but after reading through the workbook, it seemed like something I could commit to. I went for 6 weeks, and most weeks there were the couple hosting the meeting, and at most 6 group members including me and my sister. As with most AA/NA meetings, there was a lot of variability with who was there, with the steps being the main focus of the meetings.

    It was very difficult for me to get a read on the group, or who was making progress, was that no one talked about specific behaviors, or behavioral gains, which meant that most of what people shared was the changes in their feelings, the progress stories were kept vague on purpose, no one was supposed to disclose their specific addictive behaviors. My understanding was that talking specifics might trigger someone else’s weaknesses. The specifics can be triggering, but isn’t the point to be with others who walk the road to both confirm its hard, and to support you in moving beyond? Certainly in IA, we give people the ability to go to a safe space if they are triggered by someone else’s sharing. There are built in safety mechanisms to help people, in the moment of weakness, to strengthen then right then.

    I’m perfectly willing to admit my bias in this. I confronted my sister about missing medication and alcohol use. The leaders of the group felt that it was important for her to feel safe at the ARP, and since our confrontation, she did not feel that I was supportive, and that the group didn’t feel safe. The leaders wanted her to work out this “slight relapse” without having to be reminded of it, by my presence. I know several other people who have also had experience with non- LDS 12 step-programs who were uncomfortable with what one called, “the honesty gag,” and what another referred to as “pretending that all addictions are equal.”

    What has your experience been, especially as a leader, if you have people with hugely different addictions, levels of recovery? How do the differences in the level of disclosure help or hurt the group? Was I there too short a time to really understand? Is it common to need family members to step away from the group, in the interest of keeping the one who is “in recovery,” comfortable enough to be willing to say?

    Sorry it’s long, but as I have heard of more rape and incest victims being encouraged to go to these groups, and my opinion is sometimes sought in making an initial choice between ARP and IA, I have felt less and less confident in sorting out my singular experience, a few people who have. “Returned and reported,” and not having a good handle of whether the major differences are *bugs* or *features.*

  2. Paul says:

    Julia, those are good questions. I believe that the primary focus of ARP is to lead people to the personal blessings of the atonement. The readings focus on the atonement and the steps are very atonement focused.

    Unlike AA and other “A” programs, ARP is not behavior focused. We do talk about abstaining from the addiction, but you are right: we’re counseled directly NOT to discuss details of addictions. As a result, some people will benefit from both ARP and other “A” meetings.

    “Anon” meetings are a whole different kettle of fish in my own experience. Most people who attend “an0n” meetings (AlAnon, etc) are there to overcome their own co-dependent behaviors, but it may take a long time (and the first three or four steps) to realize they are working on THEMSELVES and not on their addicts. In some areas, the church sponsors Family Support Group meetings in addition to ARP meetings, and those meetings are more like the “Anon” meetings. It’s better, in my view, for “Anon” and “A” meetings to be separate, because my observation is that most “Anons” who attend a “A” meeting will look for ways to “help” the addicts rather than work on himself.

    Just my experience. Your mileage may vary.

  3. templegoer says:

    Hi Paul,I always appreciate your vulnerability. My heart goes out to you.
    If you feel able to, it would help me if you could explain how you find these meetings relevant to your experience as an individual. Maybe that’s a step too far, but as someone without experience of addiction in my life as yet, I’d like to be able to better understand.
    Nothing has helped me understand my Heavenly Father’s experience of being a parent so much as being a parent myself. I love Him better the more I understand Him.

  4. Paul says:

    It’s complicated for me, TG. When I started with Families Anonymous, I came to understand that I had some issues that were harming my family relationships, including how I related to the addict in my life. I came to understand that my responses to change, to uncertainty and to adversity were not helpful to me or others. And the 12 steps provided me a way to identify and work through behaviors that were not helpful.

    Continuing with ARP meetings, I continue to work the steps in my life, and to work the principles of the steps.

    I believe anyone can benefit from working the steps, addict or not, though personally I don’t recommend attending ARP meetings out of curiosity. Family Support Group meetings, where available (Michigan and Utah for now) are better for those who do not have addictions themselves.

  5. templegoer says:

    Useful Paul, thankyou, and of course relevant to my own struggles to contain my feelings in relation to our distressed children.

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