What a journey this has been...
I guess it all started when I was born into the church. My whole life was the church, I loved it with all my heart. I was president of the deacons and teachers quorum, and first assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum. I got my Eagle Scout at 15. My bishop once told me that I was a spiritual giant. Being part of such a small ward in the middle of California required such faith.
And then there was my dark side.
I remember spending many nights in the bathroom dragging a razor blade across my arm. During the warmer months I would switch to my legs. The depression would hit out of no where, thoughts spiraling down into a void where happiness didn't exist, and never had. The cutting would bring me out of it, endorphins being released from the sudden shock of a blade sliding into my skin would give me a rush like nothing else. After a good night of slicing away, the happiness I felt would shoot me sky high.
Pretty soon my parents caught on, and took me to get some medication and counseling. It seemed good at first, but then the numbness set in, the feeling of indifference at...everything. No more hopeless thoughts racing through my head. No more happy thoughts racing through my head. The meds certainly kept me from cutting, but they kept me from enjoying life as well.
And then I discovered marijuana.
Pretty much all of my friends starting smoking pot, and being the only mormon amongst my friends started to be less and less exciting. After listening to my friend describe the effects of pot, my curiosity finally became too much. The first time I got high was on the last day of school my junior year of high school.
I was immensely interested in how my thought process would change while high, it was like I could see things from a new perspective. It also took care of my depression, and I stopped taking my meds. I was finally happy again. At this point I was still attending church, still first assistant to the bishop, and still a believer. I was just bored with it all, and pot was so new and exciting for me.
One night, after sneaking outside my window for a toke, I wondered what it would be like to read the book of mormon while high. I began in first Nephi, Chapter 1, and...
Shock. In my altered state of mind, my "mormon filter" was off. It wasn't that I could see the Book of Mormon as being false, but the possibility of it being false had finally entered my mind. Normally I would dispel any thoughts that went against the "only true church," but it felt like my mind was torn open, and a whole new range of possibilities began to pour in, leaving me with one horrifying question: What if the church wasn't true?
It occurred to me that if it wasn't true, then other people must know about it. I typed in "recovery from mormonism" on google, and was shocked at what I was finding: whole stories of people who left the church, and evidence proving the church wasn't true. It felt like I was betrayed. Lied to. How could something that I loved so much be false??? Never before in my life did I feel so distraught, something I believed was true even at the unconscious level was ripped away, a complete lie...
The next day at school I shared my discovery with my friends. Being high school boys, they couldn't take me seriously or really understand how I was feeling. The next few weeks were pretty rough, going to church with my now open eyes was difficult, as I became aware of how totally deceived everyone was. Luckily I had my friend Nick, he was active but not fully dedicated to the church. I showed him the evidence and a few stories, he seemed concerned but I could tell he didn't believe it. A few days later he called me, his mind had finally put the pieces together. I was so relieved that I didn't have to go down this road alone.
One night my parents called me into their room to have a talk, nothing serious, just a catch up. I was incredibly nervous, and told myself I couldn't say anything. But as we got talking, they could tell something was wrong, and told me that I could tell them anything. So I told them everything. They didn't take it well. They told me how disappointed they were in me, and asked how I could bless the sacrament and live with myself.
The next day my dad called the bishop and told him I needed to be released as first assistant. That sunday, the bishop didn't even talk to me about it, they just released me. After church the bishop called me into his office to see what was going on. I told him what I told my parents, and asked him about some of the evidence against the church. I was incredibly dissatisfied with his answer, he directed the conversation around the solid points and focused on the weaker, more debatable ones. It was at this point that I felt like I had come to terms: The church really wasn't true.
The rest of my senior year was pretty bad. I was bashing heads with my parents constantly. I was a firm believer that marijuana was medicine, and figured anything that kept the suicidal thoughts away and made me happy was worth it. Not surprisingly, my parents disagreed. After I turned 18 I figured I had enough, and left.
I moved in with a friend I had recently met, and one night we made pot brownies. In the morning his younger sister ate one, and we went to school. During 5th period, I got called into the office. I knew something was wrong. I was asked to go into a room, and sitting at the table was a cop. He started asking me questions, like when was the last time I got high. I asked what was going on. He said my friends younger sister was in the hospital because she was acting lethargic. He asked me what other drugs were in the brownies, I told him they were just pot brownies. He read me my rights and cuffed me.
In the end, I was only charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and assigned 15 days in a work program and 126 hours of community service. I moved back home and started to get along with my parents, who were very understanding and supportive. After graduation, my older sister said I could move in with her and her husband out in Utah, as long as I stayed sober. I figured it would make my parents really happy if I did, and agreed.
The first few months were good, I got a job at a sandwich shop and was steadily working away my community service. I really looked up to my sister and brother in law, they just seemed so responsible and happy. They invited me to read scriptures with them and I would. Pretty soon my brother in law got a job offer out in Kansas, and said he could get me a job as well. The only problem was they had to leave right away, and I would have to stay with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for two weeks before heading out to join them. They are VERY into the church. But it would only be two weeks, right?
I quit at the shop, they went to Kansas, and two weeks later, I got a phone call. No job for me in Kansas. I would have to stay with my relatives for a few more months until they moved back. I was pretty upset, but what could I do?
Eventually my uncle got me a new job working at the college cafeteria. Being a college, it wasn't long before I got a hookup for pot, and not much longer before me and that hookup became friends. He let me know early on that we was into other drugs. I told him I didn't want anything to do with anything but pot. And then curiosity set in.
After I tried cocaine it was easy to rationalize ecstasy. After ecstasy it was meth. And then heroin. Pretty soon I was spending all my money on drugs. Everything I had of value went to pawn shops so I could stay afloat. Finally it got to the point where my "friend" screwed me over a large sum of money. At that point I was miserable. Hopeless. No more money, no more drugs, just a lot of pain.
I got into addiction recovery. I started going back to church. I figured that I had to be wrong because I screwed up so bad. But then there was the doubt. And then obsessive thoughts, is it true or isn't it?? Am I going to be living a lie, or am I going to be limiting myself in the next life???
It wasn't until I got back online and re-read the stories and looked at the evidence again that I snapped out of it. I'm sad to say that I didn't get out of all this unscathed. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe the emotional trauma of leaving the church, but something is wrong with me. When I get stressed out, anxious, or in social situations I detach. Life becomes more like a movie. I either get entirely emotionally numb, or have extreme levels of anxiety.
They call this depersonalization disorder. I know that this is real life, but it feels more like a dream at times. Exercise helps. I've started taking meds again, and haven't used street drugs for about two months now. I can only hope that this passes. Maybe it's about learning to let go, I've wanted to church to be true so bad, and maybe having that torn away has hurt me in ways I don't understand.
I'm moving back to California next month, I hope getting away from this continuous mormon influence helps. It's bad out here in Utah, it really is.
If any of you can relate to my situation or have some advice based on what you've read, please help me out, I need all the support I can get right now.
It's a very painful story Ben, and unfortunately one that is played out again and again. You're not alone. Drugs and alcohol are just some of the mechanisms we use to cope with the pain. I think exercise is a good and healthy way to regain control of your body and mind. You are right about letting go, but it takes time to get the church out of your mind and allow yourself to be happy being who you are. You CAN do this Ben! We all can relate to the struggle you're experiencing. Each of us to one degree or another has travelled that path and can empathize with your pain. It gets better. Thanks for coming to Life After Mormonism and sharing your journey.
Hang in there Ben. Set some goals and work to accomplish them. Set smaller goals that lead to your bigger goals. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with others. I'd recommend eliminating drugs altogether and seeking out a psychologist that can help with the depression. I know it is hard when you are young and trying to find your way in the world. We've all been through it. You can do it!
Hi Ben It is good that you are off drugs and I hope you can remain so. Psychological disorders are curable. I prefer starting with psychologists over psychiatrists as the former does not prescribe drugs and if they are needed he can refer you to a psychiatrist, at least that is the way it works in Canada. Do not use a church psychologist as there is the danger they may try to use the gospel as part of the cure. You need someone that is caring, non judgmental and inspires you. You need to understand that there are those that need the comfort the hope of an afterlife brings so they defend their beliefs and try to save others with them. That alone can increase anxiety if you dwell upon their beliefs and question yourself. Keep in contact with Life after Mormonism and add your comments . It is good to talk and write about your feelings. Good luck in your move and keep moving forward.
I am so sorry you have been through so much pain. One day you will look back on this and see how God has used your pain to help so many people. When we were Mormons over 9 years ago my daughter, 15 at the time was cutting. I was very Mormon. She was afraid to tell me that she didn't believe the church was true. Thankfully when she told me I embraced her and told her we would figure it out, that I loved her more than church. After falling on my knees and praying to God about what to do, I felt peaceful and comforted by Him, our family made the decision to go to the community Christian Church. Our whole family has been so completely restored and whole. We are finally at peace and enjoying life. Getting away from the Mormon environment will be very helpful to you! One of the things I find incredibly sad is that a lot of former Mormons feel like since the Mormon Church was not true then God must not exist. It is my belief that nothing could be farther from the truth. The support offered in the body of Christ has been amazing. Christ came to set the captives free, not place them in bondage. The rules and rituals of the Mormon Church are very much bondage. Rules and oppression cause the mind to go in unhealthy directions.
Where in CA are you moving to? I will be praying for you. Feel free to send me an email.
Dear Ben, I can relate to much of your story as my teenage years were full of drugs and alcohol. About the ONLY therapy that has worked for me over the years is EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique. It is a simple process that erases the electrical/emotional charges that we carry around as 'baggage'. All the best to you, Strawman
Check out this video
There is a lot of pain from Mormonism
Thank you for sharing your story Ben. This really hit me with the torment and confusion of what you were raised to believe in and the moments of clarity that you need to look further into the situation for your own person truth. Drugs were never a part of my life but I fully get the affects of depression. Mine too started as a high schooler and something I still struggle through today. I admire your determination for truth. Take it one day at a time.
You are not alone. I also turned to drugs and alcohol to help me deal with the pain of loosing the church and my family as a support system. You are strong. Look at all you have been through to this point. We don't need a church that can't support us in our time of need. We are here for you though. Take it one day at a time, and yes I think moving away from Utah will help. I live in the middle of a 98% Mormon community, so I sympathize with feeling alone and surrounded by ignorance.
It sounds like you are lucky to be alive. I feel very fortunate to have never been caught up in the drug world because I'm sure I wouldn't have been strong enough to ever leave that kind of addiction. I'm sure there are many here who can help, as for me just know you have support.
It sounds like you've had quite a ride! The best advice I could offer you is:
Question EVERYTHING? Truth can take all the questioning you throw at it without even flinching. On the other hand, error cannot.
Listen to--and trust--your deepest intuition. It will never lead you astray from the path your soul wants to travel in this life.
Finally, have the courage to be you--your best self. This is where you will find true happiness. Actually, this is the only way to find happiness. Too many of us spend time trying to be someone else, instead of finding out how awesome we, ourselves, really are. That voyage of discovery is life's greatest! I'm certain you have come into this world with wondrous gifts and talents to bless both your life and those of your fellow beings.
I wish you much success on your journey!