Shortly after getting out of prison he learned about the LDS Addiction Recovery Program and began to attend Wednesday evening meetings in the Bear River High LDS Seminary building.
It was the medicine his soul needed.
There are close to 1,300 LDS Addiction Recovery Support Groups held in Mormon meetinghouses, prisons and jails around the world, according to the LDS Family Services website. The majority are located in the United States and Canada, but there are also programs in Australia, Norway, Finland, England, Korea and Mexico, to name a few.
The most common meeting is for general addictions, including alcohol, drugs, gambling and eating disorders. The second most common meeting is for pornography addiction. The least common gathering is a family support meeting, which focuses on helping the addict's family members.
The program is based on the gospel of Jesus Christ and its purpose is to help people overcome their addictive behaviors. Anyone is invited and meetings are free. Only first names are used, interrupting others is not allowed and everything is confidential.
The meetings are officiated by part-time LDS Church service missionaries, typically older couples. Another key person at the meeting is the facilitator, a person who has overcome addiction through the 12 steps. Having dealt with similar problems, the facilitator offers experience, insight and understanding to recovering addicts.
According to Erwin, if someone is struggling with addiction and they go talk to someone who doesn't understand what they are going through, they might be told, "Well you can go get clean" or "Why don't you stop that?" However, when the addict hears another addict — someone who knows what they are going through — say, "You can overcome this," it can be very empowering, Erwin said.
With permission from Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., LDS Family Services put the original 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous into a framework of the doctrines, principles and beliefs of the LDS Church.
ARP meetings open with a prayer and announcements, one of which reminds participants that everything is confidential. The meeting usually lasts more than an hour. Participants review the LDS 12 steps, share their stories and testimonies of the gospel, and offer each other support.
Many attend the first time feeling shame or unworthiness. To figure out whether or not these meetings will help, Erwin encourages them to attend at least two meetings.
"The environment at these meetings is unlike anywhere else," Erwin said. "Almost every time someone has gone to a meeting, they continue with the program because it's nothing like they thought. It's almost as if the Savior himself opens up his arms and gives them a big hug. They feel welcome and safe there."
Gardner says the program works because it requires honesty and effort.
"Some come and expect a miracle, but you have to keep coming back," he said. "You have to be in a place to allow the miracle to happen. Miracles don't happen sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself or running around town chasing your drug dealer.
"It works if you work it. The meetings have become my temple away from the temple."
In addition to the meetings, LDS Family Services has published a workbook, translated into 23 different languages, for people who don't currently have meetings in their area. An individual can go through the program with his or her bishop. For program contact information, the workbook or to find out where meetings are being held, visit www.providentliving.org
The voice of experience
Rod Hunt has served as an LDS service missionary and facilitator for 11 years. He has been clean and sober for 12.
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