Monday, September 24, 2012

Being Free from Addiction

As I am approaching my 45th Birthday....I can't help but think back over my life...and all those experiences that have had long lasting affects upon me.  A few stand out.

One in particular comes to mind...with a lesson attached to it.

When I was nine years old, we lived in Bemidji, Minnesota.

If you are unfamiliar with where this is...this is in northern Minnesota . COLD country!  The Land of 10,000 Lakes, 10,000 mosquitoes and the best childhood you could ask for.

 We had a Paul Bunyan Amusement Park in our hometown...everyday!  We were a short distance from Lake Itasca State Park, the place where the Mississippi River begins.

Our lives revolved around the lakes that literally dot  that area.  In each town you will find many lakes, some right in your back-yard. We floated down canals, fished, swam in the lakes, skied, ice-skated, and ice-fished.

It was mandatory for every child to take swimming lessons.  I had  swimming lessons all year long. In the summer we were taught in the lakes, and in the winter as part of our PE coarse we were taught in pool which was a part of our Jr. High. When we weren't in swimming lessons we were just in the water.  I didn't dance, play soccer, or play any sport whatsoever. We swam, and swam, and swam. We didn't have time for all the other extra-curricular activities. We were having too much fun just swimming and being in the water.

When I was nine years old I did something really dumb.  I know, hard to believe.

It was in the late fall, and my younger brother and I were checking to see if the lake behind our house was frozen enough to walk on.  We did this by just looking, but also by walking a certain distance to see how far we could go. 

We were in full Minnesota gear, which was a necessity due to to the cold Minnesota weather.  The average Minnesota day can be 30 below.  Minnesota gear was a full snowmobile suit and boots designed for the temperatures. I remember them being warm, but clunky and heavy.

 As we were walking near the shore of the lake, a neighbor came out, and noticed our precarious activity. He specifically warned us to not walk on the lake because it wasn't frozen yet. {note to nine year old self:  great advice!  Wished I would have listened.} 

You know how WISE  a nine year old can be. They aren't always known for having the best ideas or using the best judgement. They are also beginning to think they know what they are doing and can take or leave certain advice. That would be me that day.

We left the view of the neighbor and walked closer to our home. Being the oldest, I walked out on  the ice the furthest, precariously stepping and getting lucky. 

My luck suddenly wore out. You know where this story is leading... I fell  through the 'not frozen yet lake', into the icy waters.

There was the initial shock of cold icy waters consuming me.

The waters were only chest high, but an overwhelming heighth for a frozen nine year old who is just learning to swim. 

Could I reach the ground?  I remember the tippy-toes of my boots barely being able to touch the bottom of the lake. I was far enough away that that wasn't a leverage I could count on.

So I grasped, splashed, and thrashed for a good amount of time trying to save myself. This was highly unsuccessful.  Each time I tried to get up on the ice around me, it was just break making the area I was in bigger and bigger.

The water seemed very deep and completely overwhelmed me.. The Minnesota gear I was wearing was completely saturated, very heavy, and difficult to move in. My boots were like a dead weight on each foot, pulling me down further and further.

I could see my brother on the shore, and longed to be where he was, safe and sound on solid ground.  Because of the precariousness of the icy lake, he couldn't get close enough to help me.  I can still see him standing on the shore screaming my name.

I honestly don't know how long I was in the water.  It probably wasn't as long as I remember it being. I do remember this: the last thought I had while I was stuck in my predicament- "well, I guess this is how I am going to die"  Very dramatic, but nonetheless, my last thought.

Then, suddenly out of no where, I  miraculously pulled  myself up onto the frozen ice around me.  How I did that, I dont' know. But it was very timely and I was so grateful. 

Why do I tell you this story? What is this all about?

This story has many lessons and has been an experience I have learned countless principles from. Mainly about the Atonement, and how the Savior saves.

Today, this leads me to think about addictions and how consuming and overwhelming they can be to those who struggle to free themselves.  We all know someone or of someone 'stuck' in an addiction. 

It doesn't have to be pornography, although that is destroying a lot of families right now. It could be perscription drugs, food, games, TV, computer time, sugar, or what ever has taken over your ability to stop the behavior and choose for yourself.

There is a feeling of hopelessness, of despair, of I cannot get out, of giving up. 

If you'll allow me to be symbolic for a moment:  in my nine year old story, I  got myself into a terrible situation through my own foolishness.  I got there on my own doing, but now I was stuck somewhere I didn't want to be. And I could not get out by myself.

Try as I might, I could not save myself.  The circumstances were too much. The water was too icy,  my Minnesota gear-too heavy, and I was too inexperienced to know what to do.

Like in an addiction, our options become very narrow, and actually narrow down to only one source: The Savior.

In my situation that is who ultimately saved me, and continues to save me time and time again.

Through the  Atonement of Jesus Christ  we can be freed from the addictions we find ourselves in.

If you are in an addiction, turn to the Lord.  Call upon His name, who is mighty to save. And have patience as this is a long process.

I am not an expert in this area, and don't have the answers except to turn to the Lord...He Will Save You.

As we walked back home, frozen, and me wet, we sang the song from the Alka-seltzer commercial of that day: "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz"  We tried to tell our mother of the experience we just had...but how do you describe to your mother an experience so frightening, you came desparetly close to not coming home at all.

After taking off my wet gear, I climbed into  bed with a warm electric blanket covering me. Nothing has ever felt so good.   Like the sweet feelings and power of the Atonement that covers each one of us,  that day, I was delivered and saved.

Other posts I have written on the Atonement:

The Atonement is Like a Blanket
In the Strength of the Lord