Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reach some of the exact families I’ve wanted to with my story. More and more I realize that what I do now isn’t far from what I did as a missionary in Mexico.
How many of us grew up here and didn’t want to be like Ammon? (If memory serves me correctly, I had this picture hanging in my room between posters of Bo Jackson and John Stockton.)
Ammon, that arm-chopping stud, taught me about honor, faith, common ground, and adaptability. When King Lamoni asked him if he was the “Great Spirit” Ammon used it as a teaching tool. (He also stepped in and stabbed the king’s father in the arm in perhaps the most metal intervention ever. Conflict resolution… albeit unconventional, but still like a boss. Again, adaptability.)
Alma the Younger taught me about rebellion, ruin, redemption, repentance, potential, and peer-pressure. You see, this prodigal-like Son of Mosiah didn’t become an “enemy” of the church alone— he took others with him. Many of us are like that. We are natural leaders who succumbed to the lazy comfort of perpetual followers.
When Alma the Elder saw his son being carried in by the friends he most-likely didn’t want his boy hanging out with, he rejoiced. His prayers had been answered (even if an angel had to lay the smack-down to teach that brat some humility.)
If your own child struggles with addiction, perhaps you can relate. There’s a moment of relief when you can see he’s alive but not speaking/lying.
Last week I was able to go golfing with my grandpa, after whom I’m named. His age is showing more than ever. Dan Workman (the elder) set the name bar very high.
When I didn’t feel I could live up to MY idea of grandpa’s expectations, I found escape through rebellion. In my mind, the Rod of Iron was more like a tightrope from which to plummet.
I had many cognitive distortions. I did things my own way and I did them all or nothing. Along the way, I blamed the church for making me the way I was.
When that path led me so dark and deep that I was putting a needle in my arm, I just wanted to erase my shame from existence. I wanted an asterisk next to my name. *Dan Workman the Younger (the views expressed do not represent the Workman family as a whole.)
The Sons of Mosiah became a great asset of good. As I said goodbye to my grandpa, I was able to say for the first time in over a decade: “I think I did your name proud.”
And I meant it.
Your child’s choices are not a failure on your part. If you saw them drowning, you wouldn’t argue over the lifeline about who was to blame. You wouldn’t try to guilt or shame them about falling in. You’d just drag your offspring out of the water with every ounce of strength.
Drugs are a poor choice. I know… I did a lot of them. But as I near another milestone of freedom, I think about all the kids I’ve managed to reach with little more than a RedBull and my own needle scars. I think about how good it feels to show them that the lifelines from parents and church leaders are not nooses or restraints. I encourage them to grab hold and cheer them on with one common sentiment:
You’re not a disappointment. You’re not broken. You’re worth it.
I want them to feel the freedom and peace I feel. If their journey leads them back to church, I will applaud them. I’ll tell them to keep their scars and be proud of the survivor and warrior they see in the mirror.
Then I’ll recruit them to do the same, to help others like them, to see the value of their education from the other side, and to reach for the “least of us” before it’s too late.
I’m not an “enemy” of the church. Far from it. If my child was struggling, I’d call me. I’d want someone who had been there to guide them out.
Rebellion was my first addiction and I didn’t know how to “fail” at Mormonism without going out of my way to NOT be Mormon. The Utah influence stayed prevalent, like when Dave Donaldson shook my hand after an Institute class in jail, or the doctor who told me after an intentional overdose “if you don’t believe in God, you should start.” There was even the Bishop who put a hand on my shoulder while I sobbed through my story and said “even Jesus fell three times while carrying the cross.”
Because, like the Sons of Mosiah, those lessons and peer-pressure can go both ways. Those “bad” kids were just one Spiritual Awakening away from being “Bad-A.” (They probably still used some foul language from time to time, especially when it opened otherwise-locked doors.) We have our armies of those “golden” children who never fell away, but we need to teach our “black sheep” that they aren’t that far away from “black ops.”
Like Ammon… but with tattoos.