A recent CNN special explored the presence of addiction in the Mormon Church. It asked the question whether the Mormon religion is partly responsible for the growing drug concerns that are increasing throughout the state. Apparently, the state of Utah has the most prescription drug overdose deaths in the country.
However, it should be noted right away that the special ended with the assessment that the religion is not responsible for the growing drug concern. Despite this, it does bring up a general question about the current absence of sober living for many Americans and whether addiction is at all related to the rules and limitations that religion can sometimes place upon people.
Of course, everyone responds to rules and limitations differently. Some might find it very supportive. Knowing what’s wrong and what’s right, which is what religion often provides, can be the secure foundation upon which many people can rest. It gives them direction and even a sense of protection. In fact, this sort of support in one’s life might even be the sober help they need, preventing any kind of drinking and drugging before it begins.
However, for others, rules and limitations can be stifling and, as a result, they may break away from the religion, or if they can’t do that, they may rebel perhaps with drugs. Yet, who’s to say that this is the case in Utah?
Yet, sometimes, rules and regulations are a foundation upon which perfectionism can grow. If someone feels as though they are not living up to those rules, self-doubt might kick in, or perhaps trigger a wound that’s already there. Some people, for example, might feel anxious about needing to meet religious expectations. Those in this situation can easily become perfectionists with a tendency to be anxious about their choices and behavior, always wondering – “Is this good enough?” And not being able to manage anxiety can be a reason to turn to drugs.
Interestingly, if that person eventually developed an addiction, he or she may encounter, after seeking sober help, the saying in the sober living community: “Progress, not perfection.”
Experts and authors of recovery-related books agree that it’s easy for individuals in recovery to allow that painful feeling of self-doubt to sink in. The feeling of “not doing is right” makes many recovering addicts feel guilty and keeps them lost in an internal struggle. There’s a belief that comes with self-doubt, which is somehow being internally flawed, or somehow lacking something essential, which only continues to contribute to the feeling of self doubt and even self hate.
Prior to finding sober help, that painful feeling of self-doubt and self-loathing is another reason that prompts drinking and drug use. In fact, perfection is a personality trait of many addicts. Thus, the popular saying in sober living communities that perfection is not the goal of sober living, progress is. It’s as though self-doubt sneaks in and seems to create a lens through which to look at recovery. There’s a lingering feeling for many recovering addicts thatthey’re not following the steps of sober living appropriately, that they’re not doing it right somehow.
Although it’s hard to tell whether the culture of the Mormon religion is contributing to the drug abuse happening in Utah, the feeling of needing to be perfect is true for many recovering addicts. When a person finally seeks sober help, they might ask themselves the following questions so that they don’t get caught up in the need to be perfect:
- What am I getting out of my recovery process?
- Am I getting what I need in order to stay sober?
- Where are my tendencies of perfectionism getting in the way of sobriety?
- Am I moving in a direction that is life affirming, healthy, and sustainable?
- Will this process of recovery work for me throughout the length of time it takes to acquire a sober life?
- Is this process cultivating a love for myself and for others?
Those feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing can be the largest obstacles to sobriety and to feeling an overall joy in life. Yet, they don’t have to get in the way of sober living through the need to be perfect. Progress towards sobriety and happiness is the easier road to take.
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