A woman once told me that in the 12-step group she helps with, a 63-year-old participant told her he had been sober for 8 months.
We should celebrate victories like this. But we should also be vigilant that such victories not be reversed. We have all experienced the sting of sin and the joy of repentance. I bear witness that when we repent, we are forgiven. However, should we slip and repeat our sin, Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 warns us: “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.”
I believe this verse is telling us if we have repented and been forgiven of a sin, and then repeat the sin, it is as if we had not previously repented. Matthew 12:43-45 makes that point forcefully. Once we have been healed by Christ’s atonement, we don’t want to slip back and wound ourselves again.
No matter what our addiction or weakness, we are never far from it. If our addiction was to alcohol or overeating or compulsive shopping, every time we drive we will pass potential pit stops on the way to sin. If our addiction was to pornography or online gambling, we are never more than a few clicks away from sin and addiction and bondage. Given that we don’t want to backslide, we need to be ever vigilant of those small decisions that bring us closer to temptation to slip.
Once we have become sober, steps 10, 11, and 12, the maintenance steps in 12-step programs, help us stay clear of temptation. These become the most important steps to us to keep our hard-won freedom from bondage. Not surprisingly, these steps are similar to the standard answers to many questions asked in church meetings. Step 10 is to recognize the wrongs we have done, ask forgiveness of those whom we have wronged, and humbly participate in the Sacrament ordinance weekly to cleanse us of our sins.
Step 11 is meaningful prayer, meditation and scripture reading. Step 12 is loving service to our fellow man, including sharing the gospel. Who knew that attending Church could be such an integral part of working our recovery program?