Step 6 Change of Heart
What is this step about in my life? Not too long ago, I was feeling disconnected, annoyed, resentful, and angry toward my wife and with my life situation, stressed by too many things to do including her expectations. I was also experiencing disturbing thoughts and feeling stronger temptations than usual. It was likely no coincidence that my wife was planning to attend the temple to seal her parents together, and to be sealed to them. I prayed earnestly to ask the Lord to help remove these disturbing thoughts and be spiritually reborn. I felt better, and we had a good visit to the temple. I still had to open up and communicate with my wife to resolve other issues, an ongoing process.
A few years ago an amazing TED talk showed that the opposite of addiction is connection. Step 6 says our isolation from God caused the fears which contributed to our addictions. The Lord wants to bless us with a change of disposition that will unite us with Him in mind and heart.
Why do we feel isolated from God? Sin does that. The more we sin, the more we want to run and hide and cover it up. That creates the isolation and fear that drive addictions. The antidote is godly sorrow which leads to humility and repentance. As we share our positive feelings with others and serve them, our sense of connectedness and community grows. These build our spiritual and emotional reserves and protect us from the shame, isolation and fear that foster addiction.
The effects of isolation are often underestimated, I believe. When Jesus suffered through the atonement, a significant part of His emotional pain came from being abandoned by His apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane and being cut off from the Spirit (see Arthur Bassett, July 1975 Ensign).
When we sin, part of our anguish comes from being cut off from the Spirit (D&C 19:20). In a recent book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, author Sebastian Junger suggests that the military’s epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where 50% of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans apply for permanent PTSD disability even though only 10% of them saw combat, is related to isolation. Soldiers go from a world in which they’re united, interconnected and indispensable to one in which they’re isolated, without purpose, and expected to take sides in a bitterly-divided society. Talmage suggests in Jesus the Christ that Satan tempted Jesus in the Garden. Perhaps Lucifer’s approach to the Savior was “Why would you suffer for these people when they don’t care for or appreciate you or each other?” Similar thoughts underlie addiction. It is obvious how someone who was abused would feel isolated and seek shelter in an addiction.
I believe step 6 is not a one-time event, but rather a continuing process of coming back to Christ after growing complacent or unfeeling or on spiritual cruise control. This is how we feel connected to God again, and also to our family and our fellow man. It is effective addiction anti-venom. It is not coincidental that the central elements of God’s plan of happiness are the family and the Church, both of which are agents of connection. Even our work can foster meaningful connections. Good recovery meetings build bonds and connect us.