I want to share with you how I started my recovery. How I was able to jump from the realm of active addiction and being bound by seemingly insurmountable levels of fear and shame to finding the courage to reach out to my Bishop. This is a line that for a very long time I worked to avoid. Looking back - the events that led up to me finally finding the courage to visit with my Bishop was nothing short of a miracle. This courage did not come from within me - it was instilled in me.
It was the spring of 2009. I was active in my addiction and even though I had previously sought out help to get better I had since given up hope of ever recovering. I wasn't currently looking for help and I had no intention or desire to stop acting out.
But then one day early in April something happened. I came home from one of my softball games to find my Bishop fixing my neighbors car in our shared driveway. I was instantly nervous. I would avoid the Bishop at pretty much all costs and here I was put in this predicament where I would have to say hi to him, probably have to shake his hand, or worse, actually make eye contact with him. Of course, all of the above happened. I rushed the entire exchange and then entered my house with a sigh of relief and promptly forgot the encounter.
The following Sunday the Bishop spoke to the ward members from the pulpit. I felt like he was speaking directly to me as he told us how much he loved us and that we were welcome over at his house anytime. But the most important thing he said that day was that he wanted to hear from us. He wanted to hear how we were doing; good or bad. He wanted to know us. It was at that moment that a seed of desire started to burn within me; desire to share with him and to give him my pain. But I was terrified. I kept having these thoughts pop up that I was dirty and would be judged; that I was the only one with this problem and my Bishop would scoff at me. These thoughts quickly squelched the ember of desire that had begun to burn.
Another week went by and I found myself at church again. I was so torn up inside though. Because of the desire to reach out for help that had sprouted in my heart seven days prior, I had spent that whole week bouncing back and forth between courage and fear. My awareness of all the ugly things I was doing was at it's peak and I felt so awful that I didn't even feel worthy to step foot inside the church building. I couldn't handle the idea of going to Sunday School so I ditched and went and sat in on Primary. I was sitting enjoying the children singing when I sensed the door open to my left and in came my Bishop. I immediately felt embarrassed that I wasn't in class and felt like a student who got caught ditching. He did see me but didn't say anything. He quickly finished whatever he came to do and then left the room.
Feeling like I'd dodged a bullet I left primary and went and stood outside the Sunday School room. As I was standing there my Bishop opened the door and stepped out; face to face with me. He didn't let me get away this time. He immediately offered his hand to shake (which I took), held on to it, leaned in close and with his piercing blue eyes (that I swear were X-ray vision to my soul eyes) said something that was a total blur and I can't remember. I just remember fumbling over my words and thinking "he knows!" I felt so rude being so awkward but I still couldn't muster the courage to make eye contact. Finally he simply let go of my hand and walked off.
That encounter shook me. At that moment I felt so impressed that I was to go in and see him. I knew that it was no accident that my Bishop kept popping up all over the place. The signs were so obvious that I finally decided to contact him. That Tuesday I sent him a facebook message and apologized for being awkward in the hall and expressed that I was struggling with depression. He responded that very day and asked me if I needed to visit or if I needed a blessing. I responded with the following:
I don't know about the blessing, that may be a good idea. I do need to visit but I dunno when. I have to muster up the courage for that. I have things to say but they are hard to say. Ahh the chains of fear... fear of disappointment, that's what I fear.
He responded with the following (that I still quote to this day):
My door is always open. I would love to chat. You have nothing to fear but fear itself. We can take baby steps if we need to. Anyone can eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Those tender words of encouragement were exactly what I needed to hear. I burst into tears when I read them and my fear melted enough for me to finally make an appointment to see him.
That first meeting with my Bishop was a pivotal moment in my recovery. I felt no judgement or accusation there. My Bishop did not reprimand me or tell me I was a bad person. He did not act uncomfortable or shy away from me. He was loving and kind. He encouraged me and reminded me that I was a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and still within the Savior's grasp. I left his office feeling like a shiny new penny.
Later down the road I was shopping for a greeting card for someone and I ran across one that really summed up the turning point in which I decided to see my Bishop. I took a picture of it and keep it with me at all times.
There is also a song that I want to share with you. This song gives me a lot of strength when I am scared to reach out...
I want to bear testimony to those of you who may be struggling right now who have not found the courage to speak with a loved one, a friend or your Bishop. The Savior is mindful of you, He loves you and He wants to rescue you. Look for tender mercies and clues that may be placed in your path to help guide you and offer you courage. And when the time comes - as scary as it may be - reach back. It's worth it.