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By: Vannessa Gunnell, Moroni Channel
Provo Utah, USA
When the church released their 12 Steps to Change video series, I immediately found myself putting on my headphones and watching each video. They brought me to tears. Not just because of the stories shared, but because they reminded me so much of myself. They reminded me of the experiences I had before I discovered the church; how just weeks before I reached out to the missionaries I'd almost lost my life from my habits.
By opening up and sharing some personal experiences, I am hoping to spread the message that the gospel can heal all afflictions if you let the gospel work in your life. In order for the gospel to work in your life, you have to be willing to let it change you if necessary. You don't need to be perfect, you just need to be willing.
Life was a fight from the moment I came into this world. I was born almost four months early at one pound eight ounces. My parents were constantly sharing stories of their miracle baby, though I didn't feel like a miracle. I felt like a burden, and I didn't know why. Somewhere between the tiaras and dolls, these feelings triggered a major depression at a young age. Because of my mental health I was hospitalized and in residential treatment center all before the age of thirteen.
During residential treatment I learned coping skills, the importance of asserting your needs, and a bit more about Vannessa. It was helpful for awhile, but I had another problem that I wasn't aware of at the time.
"So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend" - Jeffrey R. Holland
It started out with skipping meals. I remember stepping on the scale and seeing the number had decreased, and I felt overwhelmed with happiness. I was proud of myself; I was finally doing something "right." I started living for numbers. I wanted to weigh X pounds by eating X amount of calories, exercising X amount of time at the gym and purging X amount of times throughout the day. I would wake up early to go run, and exercise in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Eventually I started using laxatives, diuretics, and diet pills. I would drink nothing but coffee and diet coke. I was masking the pain of past abuse by abusing myself. I guess you could say I was hiding behind my addictions. After struggling for longer than I'll admit, I finally sought help for my problems through a treatment center for eating disorders when I was eighteen. Little did a know that the next two years of treatment would be the longest, most life changing years of my life.
Before I called the missionaries, I remember sitting in the hospital shaking and crying, physically aching to do eating disorder behaviors. I wanted to be numb. I didn't want to keep going. Like they said in the 12 Steps to Change videos, it took hitting rock bottom for me to realize what I was doing. After two years of being in and out of treatment, I unknowingly hit the first of the twelve steps to change: honesty. The doctor had told me that I had maybe a week of living with my habits of eating little, getting rid of food, and over exercising before I wouldn't wake up again. I knew that I wouldn't make it far without doing myself a favor - which was discovering that my life has meaning.
Discovering the gospel helped me realize what it meant to be whole and complete. I remember telling myself "You were born at one pound eight ounces. People say you were a miracle baby. Why do you keep treating your life like it has no value?" I finally realized that my life was a gift. It's about time that I treated it like one.
Recovery isn't easy. I didn't just wake up one morning, read the Book of Mormon and become magically healed. Addiction, like Satan, can be tricky. I have to make a choice every day, every meal. And if I ever make the wrong choice, I fight with every ounce of my being to try again tomorrow.
So what do I do when living in recovery gets hard?
When the adversary causes feelings of inadequacy, I remember that Jesus has felt every emotion that I have or ever will feel. When I feel hopeless or stressed, I remember that Jesus has felt that. If I feel anxious and overwhelmed, I remember that Jesus has felt that way too. Jesus was perfect; He didn't have to suffer, He chose to suffer both physically and emotionally because He loves us. He loves us more than we will ever be able to grasp. He suffered for us because He wanted to be able to honestly say, "Yes, my child, I have been there too. I know that this trial is hard. Keep me and my Father close. We will help you through this difficult time."
When Satan tells me that I should use eating disorder behaviors, I cling to the Word of Wisdom like a child holds on to a teddy bear. I remind myself of the temple and how I want to be worthy to attend. I tell myself that the gospel is like oxygen, I won't live without it. I can't survive without spiritual or nutritional nourishment. So I try my best to improve in the gospel instead of decreasing the number on a scale.
God is my Shepherd, and I am His sheep; I know He will not let me go astray without leading me back to Him.
God has a plan for my life that is greater than I could ever imagine for myself. His timing always has and always will be better than my own.
If you are struggling with addiction, I encourage you to hold on. Keep fighting and keep moving. The road to recovery may seem foggy at times, but it's not impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. Your Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ, will be there for you every step of the way. The atonement is there for each and every one of us. Choose to embrace it!
No matter what we go through in this mortal life, we do not have to be strong all of the time. It is not bad to acknowledge our weaknesses. "I give unto men weakness that they may be humble" (Ether 12:27). I am not perfect. I screw up. I make mistakes. I get down on myself for things that I shouldn't. But I know that I'm blessed with a merciful God who gives us tomorrow's so we can try again. I am not perfect, but I am a child of God, and that is more than enough.
What will you do today in order to show God that you love Him, by loving yourself?
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