Friday, September 21, 2012

Testimonials of First Meetings

I think for each of us we all experience some level of fear in regards to attending our first meeting for the first time.  To help dispel that fear and to give each person a sense of what to expect I've asked some sisters to share their experience of their first LDS Addiction Recovery Meeting.  You will find some common threads as you read each sister's story.  Hope, the feeling of not being alone. the Spirit and the sweet rewards they have received for not giving up.  I invite you, if you have attended a meeting, to also submit your story of your first meeting.

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I first came to meetings because I was getting married. I had struggled for a few years before my mission, and thought that going on a mission would cure me. It didn't, so I knew that as wonderful as getting married would be, it would not fix me. Somewhere, deep down I knew that it could never be fixed without the wonderful program the Lord has set up through His leaders.

My first meeting was extremely uncomfortable. Everyone was talking about hope and recovery and all I could think was, "Yeah, right." The expressions of love from everyone afterward was even more painful, mostly because I didn't understand it and didn't feel like I deserved it. But I had committed to myself and to God that I would do this, so I kept coming. And now I'm the one talking about hope and recovery, and offering hugs to newcomers. Miracles happen!


- Aubri

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I had no clue there were groups for women like me, let alone an LDS group. I just have heard that there were groups for men, but never did I think there was something for me and that it would be beneficial.  So the first time I went to group, I was cheered on by my therapist at the time as well as my husband. I felt I needed something else to help me get through this struggle so I was excited to go to this ARP meeting. I made a decision to myself before I went to the meeting that I was going to be open minded to this whole thing and if I felt any sort of Spirit there I would know it was the right place to be. Once I got there I quickly sat down and really didn’t say a word to anyone, I just observed how these ladies interacted. They all seemed so happy. How could this be?

Well as the meeting began the missionary said they were going to go around the room and READ the steps aloud. Right then and there my heart dropped!  I have always struggled with talking and reading in front of people so I started to freak out! I remember I was thinking, “I was going to be that person who always passes on their turn!” As we went around the room and as it was getting closer and closer to me my heart was pounding out if my chest! Then I said it “pass.” In probably the quietest voice possible. And then I hid my face with the ball cap I was wearing.  My face I'm sure was as red as a lobster with just saying that one little word. Then the sharing part came. I was not about to tell everyone why I was there and my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings!  Everyone seemed to know exactly what they wanted to say. Everyone was so happy and bearing there testimonies and the Spirit became so strong in that room. I was in tears; tears of hope. I had never felt hope for my addiction, and I had been blessed with it that day.  Then my nerves came back because it was all of a sudden my turn to share: 
“Hi, I’m Carlyn...”
“Hi Carlyn” (group unison)
“...and I’m gonna pass.” 
“Love you Carlyn... thanks for coming”
My face felt completely hot and red and I did my best to keep it covered by my hat. After a while my nerves simmered down and I was able to listen to the sisters again and just like that the Spirit came to me again. And let me tell you I haven’t felt the Spirit like that in I have no idea how many years, probably never.  That commitment that I made to myself at the beginning that if I felt the Spirit I would know it was the right thing, well I’m sure you know it was! And I have never regretted it.  

- Carlyn

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My first meeting was intimidating to say the least. As a survivor of multiple types of abuse and a difficult home life, I did not trust people at all. Here I was in a meeting with a bunch of other women I didn’t know, who didn’t know me, and I was afraid of being judged, or worse, rejected. The only reason I didn’t cry the entire time out of fear was because I learned not to show weakness. So instead I listened and kept my mouth shut, trying to stay angry and shut off so the tears would not start flowing, because I knew I would not be able to stop them once they started. It wasn’t that hard, abuse had gotten me addicted, now here I was fighting beliefs and actions I didn’t understand. Anger was easy. No way was I going to tell them what I did. I felt completely alone and like no one could ever understand what I did and why. To make it worse, everyone kept expressing “love you’s” and “Glad you’re here’s.” How on earth a bunch of strangers could love each other let alone me was a little hard to digest. I vowed they would never know what my sins were. They would definitly think I was a freak and this, my last chance before I gave up for good and walked away from everyone and everything, would end in rejection and failure, too. So I kept fighting back the tears, passing when it was my turn except to say I didn’t know who I was or if I would even belong here, “But that’s OK, I’m used to it.” I kept myself very closed for about another month before the spirit finally helped me relax, but it took until very recently to believe I was in a safe and loving place.

Fast forward a couple of years and I am thankful I stayed. It has not been easy, and I still don’t trust anyone, in any setting, but I am learning to not see everyone as a threat. I have friends in recovery and friends out of recovery. My family is still in tact and better than ever. The spirit of healing and the Lord’s love for me and these, my sweet sisters, carries me from Wednesday to Wednesday. I did not realize it until over a year into sobriety, but I felt the hand of the Lord guide me every step of the way. He sat with me in my first meeting and has been there every single moment since. In fact, now I see how he has always been there. Thankfully, now I can feel him. Especially at “my meeting.”

- Lacy

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The first recovery meeting I ever attended was easily one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. It almost didn't happen. I remember walking through the building looking for the right room and feeling my heart pounding. I wanted to run. The last thing in the world I wanted was to walk into a room full of people who would know why I was there and know the secret I had kept hidden for so many years.

After finding the room however, I was warmly welcomed by a kind sister missionary who guided me to a seat. As kind as she was the fear was still intense. I recall shriveling into my seat looking around at everyone and feeling so certain that they were judging me for being there. As the meeting began something incredible began to happen. I started to realize that the people there were not so different from myself and that we were all there for the same reason. They knew why I was there but I felt nothing other than acceptance and love from each of them. I was still afraid but I was starting to understand that I wasn't alone anymore.

I listened to the sharing that was given by some of the women who had been in the program for a while. They were full of hope and faith. So many of them spoke about how they had felt wondrous changes in their lives and that they were now filled with gratitude for the program and for God and Christ who had brought about the changes in their lives.  Deep inside me something clicked and I realized that I wanted what they had found more than I had ever wanted something before. I started to cry. I had the overwhelming feeling that I had been guided to the group and to the program because My Father in Heaven wanted me to recover.

When I left the meeting that night the tears didn't stop. I had not cried with such emotion in over ten years.  I cried for hours, but they were tears of hope. Every bit of me wanted to feel what I had begun to feel that night in the recovery meeting. That desire inside me has kept me going and I have also seen many changes starting in my life. The fear that had been so paralyzing and nearly kept me from that first meeting has been replaced by the acceptance and love that I feel in group and the hope for recovery that I had not felt before that first meeting.

- Lisa

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When I had even first heard about the PASGs group from my Bishop it had been fall of 2011 and I just put it off like, "I don't have a problem. I don't need that..." Then towards the end of January 2012 I had been relapsing and realized that my life had become unmanageable on my own. I knew I had to do something to get my life finally on track because I'm a mother to a young boy and I need to be the best version of myself that I can be so he grows up stronger than me.

So the Wednesday night of my first meeting, I drove to the meeting place for group and I have to be honest, I was so scared of being judged or outed that I was fully prepared to use one of my aliases if and when they asked for my name.  However, when the time came for me to introduce myself, I forgot that and had just said my real name instead. LOL. (You can tell I do not work for the CIA because I'm horrible at the littlest thing like that.) So that happened and then I really felt accepted by the ladies there at group. I remember choosing to pass my sharing time though and later wished I hadn't. That was my time, my safe place to say what it was I was feeling...I should've just grabbed the bull by the horns and shared. It would've started my healing and recovery process off so much quicker had I opened myself up that much sooner.

I have been going since January now and I love group. I really do. I can't stand having to miss group because I notice that I'm not as strengthened during the weeks when I have to miss.  Group has changed my life and I'm thankful I went that first time.  I'm in such a better place now in recovery than I was without it.  Yes, it was scary to go at first, but just realizing that I wasn't alone or awful for my addictions made me feel so much better.

- Penny

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I remember the first time my bishop gave me a large sheet of paper that had all the meetings on it. I took the paper, but told him he was crazy. At first I felt like he was crazy, even delusional, that I would go sit with a bunch of people and tell them my problems. Yet in the back of my mind I felt hope. I really felt like there would be someone out there that really, truly would know what it’s like, and who knew where I come from. I hoped that for once in my entire life I would not be completely alone. It sparked so much hope. I got online and I came across a lot of groups. I got so excited! I was ecstatic, really I was. Full of hope. I went to what was to be meeting within a few weeks...However, when I arrived I just in sat in the parking lot and watched men and women go into the building. And I admit, I judged them. I thought no way would that girl have a problem, she is gorgeous! She probably is just going to another church meeting. As I sat there judging every single person going in I started looking over the paper my bishop had given me. I saw that it was a men’s AND women's group. COMBINED!! Panic filled my entire body. My mind was racing. All I could hear was my heartbeat. I drove my car out of the parking lot, and fast, before anyone could see me. I remember thinking how stupid of an idea it was to go.

Within a few weeks I was back online, looking over lists of other groups available, only to end up sitting in the parking lot time after time. I begged and pleaded with the Lord to give me something, anything, just one person that knew what I was going through. That’s was all that I asked, and I knew He could do it. One day, while searching online, I came across a women’s group. I was ecstatic, but tried to stay calm. I was so nervous, but I knew the Lord would answer my prayer...at least I had hoped. I went to the group on a Saturday morning and entered the room, very hesitantly.  It was small room and there were only 2 other girls in there. I was still so excited. Little by little more and more filled the room. I couldn’t believe it. My heart was pounding and I was pleading with the lord and thanking him at the same time. As the first girl began talking she started crying, pouring out her heart about how hard it was for her. How hard it was for her to watch her husband slip again and again. How she didn’t understand such a “terrible addiction.” I was overwhelmed with guilt. I wanted to scream and tell her that I didn’t pick this addiction, that it was terrible for me, and that it is terrible for her husband too. How rude could she be I thought. Woman after woman spoke about the same thing. I knew I was in the wrong place....but I was frozen. Guilt, shame and anger were weighing me down and I felt glued to my seat. When the meeting ended I ran out, got in my car, and sped away. Bawling, barely breathing, crying, and begging the Lord to help me. I didn’t want this addiction. I didn’t want this to be part of my life. After getting angry at the Lord and relapsing yet again I decided to look for another group. I am not sure why I did, I just needed something, anything. I had hit rock bottom, and I was screaming for help. I wanted to really change.


I kept going to women’s groups that I had found online, and yet again they were women that were there to support there husbands. I would quietly get up and leave, feel hopeless and try again. I couldn’t keep living like this. I hated the life I lived, but “loved” it to much to give it up. I felt trapped, I craved it. I couldn’t stop lying, manipulating and justifying everything. However, I didn’t want to let anyone else down. I didn’t want to pretend anymore.

I’m not sure why but I decided to try to go to one last meeting. It was a group that I had found while looking online. All the website said was “Women’s Addiction Group”. I was so excited. I knew that it had to be different. It was a Wednesday night. I went in to a room full of women. At first I was nervous, but then ecstatic. At first I thought, “Oh, they are all here for eating disorders.” I was nervous and knew I wouldn’t fit in, but hey, improvement I thought. At least there are this many girls that have issues that want to change. That brings hope right. I remember growing more and more anxious as more women came in. I didn’t want to say my name, I did not want them to know the real reason I was here. My mouth was dry. I was re-thinking everything.

Towards the middle of the meeting a gal introduced herself and said that she felt like she should tell her whole story. This beautiful lady told of her struggle with masturbation as a young girl. Her struggle with pornography, but most importantly her journey back to the Savior. I was bawling. I don’t remember half of what she said. But I knew that the Lord had brought me to that one girl. The one girl who knew, really knew, what I was going through. She had been there, yet now she was so happy. She was glowing. She wasn’t pretending. I wish I could express the beautiful feeling I had. I actually felt the Spirit. I literally felt angels in that room. It had been such a long time since I had felt that good. Girl after girl spoke of their relapses, of their struggles, of their joys, their days of sobriety. I was overwhelmed with this new world, this new hope. And for the first time I realized how beautiful the steps were. But more importantly that I was not alone. That all along it was just Satan making me feel like I was the only girl like this; that I was unworthy and hopeless. What a beautiful feeling to realize that that was a lie. I have been attending this same group for about 8 months now. I have still had my ups and downs, but now I have found a family in group that supports me in my journey toward Christ. A family who really truly gets me, uplifts me, and bring me to Christ. And Christ brings me peace, true peace.

I am so truly blessed to be surrounded by so many beautiful ladies. I am so thankful for their support, their love and their example. I am a new me.


- Rachel

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I feel like my experience is not the norm and that is probably a good thing.  The first time going to group was a terrifying experience and I feel like I faced it so that others can have hope and joy and peace when they enter the doors of group.  That being said, here is how I found group and my first time going.

I had already told my bishop about my struggles with pornography, masturbation, and inappropriate relationships with men when the thought of going to a group first entered my mind.  The idea came from meeting a woman on a website who went to a group that was not designed for women in sexual addiction but instead for the spouses and loved ones of addicts.   At this time in my life, I had been told I had an addiction and was still coming to terms with that idea but I knew that I was absolutely miserable and needed some sort of help.  When I talked with this woman, she still went to this group despite feeling like an outsider.  I remember thinking, “If she can go, I’m sure I can try going at least once or twice.”

I searched online for a few days and came across the church’s website on the different group locations and I found one that said something about a women’s pornography group.  A day or so later, I got up the guts to call the number listed.  It was LDS Family Services and, after probing with questions about where to direct me, they gave me the number to the missionary in charge of pornography groups in my area.  I couldn’t work up the courage to call the missionary so I gave it to my bishop and asked him to call and told him to ask if there was a group just for women with addictions.  A week later, he gave me the location and time of the group and reassured me that it was indeed for women with my same struggles.  I was so happy and scared at the same time.

It was probably a couple weeks later when I finally drove to the building that would house my meeting.  I parked outside; petrified to go inside, desperately texting a friend telling her I didn’t want to go.  She just kept telling me that it wouldn’t be that bad and I needed to just do it.  Finally I walked inside.  I was met by a sister missionary who asked me if I needed help finding a place.  Embarrassed, I told her the exact meeting I was looking for and she said, “OH!!  I’m looking for that same one!  Let’s find it together!”  She proceeded to lead me into a room where there was one other sister missionary, a few empty chairs set up and a mentally challenged woman sitting across from the missionary.  We both sat down and my heart sunk.  I thought, “If the only people who have my addictions are mentally handicapped, I must be a freak!”

The meeting begun and I don’t remember much about it.  Mostly just talking and listening.  I do however remember my feelings when the meeting finished.  I felt hope that I hadn’t felt in years.  I felt some small sense of happiness that I hadn’t felt in years.  I felt a desire to return the next week and I did.  I returned week after week.  Sometimes the mentally challenged girl was there, sometimes she wasn’t.  Sometimes it was just me and one sister missionary but I kept going.  I felt like I had nothing left to lose and this at least helped me feel a little better after.  It was like that for about three to four months and slowly, ever so slowly, one by one, the group grew and as the group grew, hope grew as well until it became what it is today.

I am so grateful that I went and didn’t stop going.  My life has been forever changed for the better and I am a much happier, more peaceful, and loving person because of what I learned in that room.  My spirit was definitely pushed to keep going when there was no mental reason to keep going and it saved my life.  I am forever grateful to the persons put in my path to help me get there and I am especially grateful for my Heavenly Father for guiding me and my Savior for making me clean and pure.

- Michelle

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The first time I heard about the addiction recovery program was in 2010 at BYU Women's Conference. I was very interested in the program shared by the missionaries, but I did not go to the meeting because I thought that I was doing well and perhaps free from my sexual addiction for 3 years.  Later on in 2011, my heart was broken because I slipped into my addiction again. I decided to take my steps of repentant more serious by asking for professional help and attending a group at BYU.  My first experience with a group for sexual addiction was very scary because I was the only woman in the group. However, I felt very blessed to be among noble and powerful men who love the Lord very much. As the result, I was more aware of how to cope with my addiction.

And once again, I slipped during my last semester at school.  As I prayed and looked for help from the Lord, I remember the LDS Addiction Recovery Program that I had heard about at the BYU Women's Conference so long ago. I decided that no matter what happened, I would be in the meeting on March 14, 2012. For the first time, I felt like I was at home again. The Spirit of the Lord was very strong.  I felt such a privilege to be there.  At that day, I received the answer from my prayer concerning my slip that it's the will of the Lord to guide me to the 12 step program. Thank you very much Heavenly Father to bless me with the opportunity to attend the meeting. I have learned how to come unto Christ and apply the power of the Atonement daily. Thank you Lord to bless with many wonderful friends whom understand, support and love me very much. A lot of thanks to many volunteers including LDS missionaries and my sponsor. They are truly angels of the Lord.

- June

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My name is Ashley and I am a daughter of God recovering from a sexual addiction. I have been in recovery and sober for 1 year 3 months and 29 days. My first experience at group was actually really nerve racking for me. Let me give you a little background first. I met with my bishop for the first time on Sunday, May 22, 2011, which happens to be my recovery and sobriety date, and the last time I ever viewed. When I met with him, I bawled. I told him that I was addicted to pornography and I could not take it anymore. I could not try by myself to overcome this horrible thing, I was tired of holding it in and trying to seem like the sweet girl that everyone one knew. I was putting on a mask and I felt like no one really knew who I was. I felt like my Father in Heaven did not love me and I most definitely did not feel like I was worthy to even be praying to Him.

My bishop was amazing, caring, comforting, blunt in a nice way, and sat there listening to what I was saying. During our conversation he told me about a 12 step program that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has, and the one that he wanted me to attend was on Wednesday nights at 7:30. The entire 3 ½ days from when he told me and when group actually met, I was so nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time. I did not really know what to expect. I first thought it was going to be a men and woman's group and that we sat around in a circle saying "Hi, my name is so and so and I am an addict..." and just spill all of our feelings out.

When I arrived at 7:30 that Wednesday night, I had my 12-step book in hand, covering it so that no person would "see" it and ask me what it was. I walked into a room full of women and thought it was the room for addicts and sat down. A missionary asked me if I was there for a family member/friend or if I was there for myself. I said for myself and then she then proceeded to tell me that I was in the wrong room due to it being the support room for those supporting loved ones with an addiction. One of the ladies was nice enough to take me down the hallway to the other relief society room.  I walked in to find a group of women sitting in a circle just chatting until it was time to start. One of the ladies asked what my first name was, I told her, and I came to find out that there were actually about 3 or 4 other people there that were also starting for the first time.

Once we got started, one of the sister missionaries quieted everyone down and began to say a few things to welcome everyone and then asked if someone would give the opening prayer. Then we proceeded on to reading the step that we were focusing on that week, which was step 9.  I remember being so nervous and fidgety but was looking all around seeing what everyone looked like. For many of them I thought they were too pretty to be in that room, that there was no way that they could be an addict. Once we started the sharing portion of group, I got even more nervous because I had no idea of what I was going to say. I do not even remember what I said when it was my turn, but I do remember sharing and saying a little about myself. I do remember feeling glad that I was not the only one starting for the first time that night. Afterwards, we all hugged and talked and people were talking to me like I was a friend and they have known me for a long time. They made me feel so included, like I was one of them. I realized after attending for a few short weeks that I AM ONE OF THEM and I love it. I do not have to hide there, I can share my deepest thoughts and secrets there and I know that each one of my girls will love me no matter what and will always be there for. I also know that whatever I say will not leave that room, that is what makes it safe.
               
I have kept going back because I have tried so many other things to overcome my addiction that I thought it was worth it to try this option as well. It involved God, and I had not really tried involving God before, at least not seriously. I had prayed that I could stop doing it and not have to tell anyone about this shameful, awful thing that I have done. That did not work, and nor will it ever work for anyone in my opinion. 
               
I would like to bear my testimony that I know God lives and that He loves each and every one of us. He wants us to be successful and to one day live with Him again in Heaven. He cares for us and is reaching out His hand to us, waiting for us to grab it so that He can help pull us up. I know that He listens to our prayers and answers them in His own way and in His own time. We may not like His answer and we may want it sooner than He gives it to us but He does that so we can learn and grow. He does what is right for us because He knows each and every one of us and does not want to give us something that we are not ready for or cannot handle. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

- Ashley

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My first group experience was terrifying.  I had started working the program out of the manual about 3 months prior because I was too scared to attend as meeting.  I was still so bound by shame and fear that I couldn't let anyone in.  It was then that I went to Vegas for a pre-planned trip to meet my friend and just have a girls week.  You can imagine what Vegas did to me who struggles with pornography.  It was horrible.  But as awful as it was, it's exactly what I needed.  I needed to walk into the gaping jaws of hell to realize what I was up against.  It was that trip that solidified in me the knowledge that there was no way I could do this thing called recovery on my own.  I needed help.  I needed a support system... you can read the rest of my first meeting experience by reading My Story but I want to bear my testimony of the power of unity and numbers.  None of us can accomplish life and come out the other end feeling like we did our best without others.  We need eachother.  The sisters I have met in each room I attend are just that - my sisters.  I love them.  They are my family.  Each person that attends group is inducted into this family.  We love each one the same and welcome all who are bound by the shame of sexual addiction.  Please reach.  There are hands waiting to help pull you up.

- Sidreis

8 comments:

  1. My first group was a general ARP one and it was a bit nerve-wracking. But I kept going because it helped. And I had a sponsor who supported me. Group really is a strengthening. You definitely feel it if you miss one. :)

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    1. Yup! I agree. Funny how the adversary can totally lie and say "Oh you don't need group, you'll be fine" etc.... but I definitely feel a big difference if I miss group. It's like missing church haha

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  2. Thanks for this blog! Im a man, but I still get strength from your experience and hope. Im approaching my 1 yr sober mark, this week. I still struggle mightily with all kinds of charachter weakneses, but I have hope. Just curious but how does your spouse deal with your addiction, I would love to see a post about how he copes, and strategies the two of you have for commuinicating and dealing with this struggle?

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I truly believe that we are all in this together - this fight to get home so I welcome you reading my blog and am happy that my experience has helped you in some way. Your question about my husband is an excellent one! I think it's a great blog post in the making - thanks for the idea! I'll work on it - look for it in the near future. Thanks again!

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  3. Thanks for your comment! I truly believe that we are all in this together - this fight to get home so I welcome you reading my blog and am happy that my experience has helped you in some way. Your question about my husband is an excellent one! I think it's a great blog post in the making - thanks for the idea! I'll work on it - look for it in the near future. Thanks again!

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  4. Ok, I just read this. I left that other anonymous post a couple hours ago..well I'm sure you get a lot of anonymous comments.
    . Freakin' terrified.

    Where can I find support group options? I definitely don't want to end up in a class with men. Do you have to attend a meeting through your stake? Have that bishop recommendation? How do I get a manual? Will you email me please? Iamcravingpizza@ gmail :)

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Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"