Let me relate an experience with a drug enforcement officer that illustrates how justification can distort our honest view of ourselves. For if we bend, the light we reflect bends.
As newlyweds living in Logan, Utah, we were invited to hear an officer speak about drugs at a relief society activity. The officer began discussing problems youth were facing and an emerging gang influence, but the relief society president stopped him and asked him to talk about prescription drug abuse instead. He quickly said, “Oh, we have a real problem with that.” He told of standing on a doorstep with an older woman, trying to explain that her copying of a prescription that she drove around to fill at multiple pharmacies was not normal behavior. It was actually prescription fraud and a sign of addiction. He continued that this was not an isolated incident. It was a troubling part of his job to convince people there was a problem. As he talked, heads started to sag around the room, as the expected comfortable focus on ‘struggling youth’ turned to an introspective question, ‘Master, is it I?’
The natural result of sin in any degree is that we see things through the distorting lens of justification. Straight lines can appear curved and vice versa. The question of “How can I be completely clean?” is replace by false statements like “It isn’t that bad” or “This doesn’t really affect me.” Sins of omission often are couched in, “I’m too tired” or “They don’t really need my help”. Addiction starts in a cloud of denial which is why things typically get really bad before one seeks help.
Step 1 in addiction recovery is honesty, but it is also the first step for anyone to turn their life to our Savior. Honest self-assessment is critical to our growth. President Uchtdorf properly identifies its importance in two wonderful talks “Lord Is It I?” and “On Being Genuine”.
President Uchtdorf stated, “… none of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.”
I am blessed to work with men who have finally become honest enough to admit their problem and reach out for help. They often have broken hearts that are ready to be healed and filled. I promise you that if you reach out, there is a hand that will receive you and never let go, as long as you keep reaching. The atonement can reclaim us from any addiction but it starts here, with honesty.