A Warrior’s Mother by Karen Broadhead
“They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” -Alma 56:47
I’ll never forget the day my son came home from attending his second week in a pornography addiction recovery group. He yelled, “Mom!” from our back entry. As he was not known to do that sort of thing, I worried something had gone wrong at the recovery group. When I came upon him he was bent over, visibly shaking with emotion - trying to compose himself enough to communicate something to me. I stood there waiting and wondering, not knowing whether to be worried or hopeful. Finally, he gave up and with more ferocity and emotion than I had ever seen, he put his hands on my shoulders and said; “Mom, I am not the enemy. I have an enemy and he’s afraid of me. He knows I’m awesome. He’s trying to take me out so I can’t become the man I’m supposed to be. I’m not a pathetic loser! I’m not my enemy…he is! He’s going down!!”
My son was learning to stand.
He was 16 at the time. We discovered his addiction to pornography and masturbation at the age of 13 and were devastated to realize it had been going on for two years. We were afraid when we realized how far things had escalated and were shocked that our noble, good son was in the bonds of addiction. The shame I felt as a mother was overwhelming. I was tormented with thoughts of blaming myself for his addiction. I had so much to learn about my son, myself and especially the power of Jesus Christ.
I was beyond grateful to have found a program that would train my son to “win his battles” and eventually, win the war. I thought my role was to jump in with more intensity than ever and do all “I” could do for him, help him fight by getting completely involved and watching his every move. I can remember asking myself, “What can I do to make sure he doesn’t ever do this again?” I worked really hard to insert my love, my discipline, my encouragement, my new boundaries for him, and my determination that “NO MATTER WHAT, I WILL SAVE THIS BOY!”
We were at war and I was going to make sure he won. I watched, prayed, bossed him around, checked on him all the time, made charts, developed rewards and consequences. Every time my son fell down in battle, I would beg him to stand back up and keep fighting. In my mind I had to hoist my son’s bruised body on my shoulders and swing his sword (the one I had just sharpened) at every temptation in order to ensure his victory.
I was the mother of a warrior, who was fighting valiantly for his life but because of my lack of knowledge and my great fear of failure, I found it impossible to trust his efforts. It had been devastating to find out my son was in the bonds of addiction; it was debilitating to finally realize that I was powerless to heal him no matter how much I tried. I wondered where God was and why he wasn’t helping us. My belief in the power of the Savior to heal was affected.
I started writing letters to God, one of the techniques my son had learned in the Sons of Helaman program. I wrote down my concerns, fears, and questions about how to help my son, and when an idea would fill me with peace, I wrote the answer God was whispering. In doing so I remembered something in the spirit: my son already had a Savior, and it wasn’t me. It is God’s job, His work and glory to save, not mine.
I was making it difficult for God to do His work with my son. I was losing hope and confidence in myself AND my son. I began to realize as a "mother who knows," I too had an enemy who was trying to take me out and decrease my confidence. I needed the Savior to save my son and I needed Him to save me from my false thinking and broken heart. I realized I had to get out of the way and start asking how I could help support God in His work with my son.
I approached Maurice Harker, the director of the Sons of Helaman program, in tears that were evidence of my overwhelmed heavy heart. I asked him if I could do anything to help because my “mother energy” was on overdrive and I needed to do something. He put me straight to work on quality control issues in the office but I was terrified to talk to other mothers who had a son in the program. When I did, I found that they were either in such a place of shame and pain that they didn’t know how to talk about their son’s addiction OR they were so happy to have someone to talk to they would go to town and spill it all. The isolation we were all feeling was feeding our shame and pain. I was not the only one who was exhausted...everyone was going through the same thing and life looked sad and scary at their house too. There were other mothers who knew exactly what I was going through! I again approached Maurice and asked to create a support group for mothers/parents, and Mothers Who Know* was born.
Being supportive of my warrior looked a lot different than I had thought; it started with my own healing…not with healing my son. It became clear that the best way to support my son was to let him see that his mother did not doubt God’s power to deliver him. To truly be magnified as a mother, I needed to be filled with God’s love and partake of the grace he freely offered. To me, this meant “staying by the tree” of life at all times, where God’s love could change me.
No matter how long it took my son to make it to the tree, I had to stay put and beckon from where I was. I cheered, testified of the Lord's power, and when my son was in battle, pointed him to his Captain and Champion, Jesus Christ. I prayed, I believed. I handed him water bottles, helped him shine up his armor, made sure he was wearing his helmet and then sent him into battle with his God. I praised him for protecting me, manning up and fighting for himself, for me, and for his future wife and family.
I was on the front lines of faith in my son’s battle reminding him that I could do some things for him but ultimately, God could do all things for him. “Go find God, you can trust Him, He will teach you how to fight, He will teach you how to win, He will change your desires, He will help you carry your burden.”
I feel so privileged to be his mother and to have gone on this journey with him. After years of struggle and fully armed with the tools he acquired in the Sons of Helaman program and a testimony of His Savior, he went on to serve an honorable LDS mission in Peru. He married a wonderful woman whose testimony of the Atonement has been such a gift to our family. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple and have two beautiful children. My son is respectful and protective of his wife and they have open check-ins for her peace of mind. He feels extremely blessed to have been trained with tools to overcome this addiction and even more grateful to have a personal testimony of where healing comes from and how that happened for him.
If you have a son or daughter struggling with addiction or other challenging issues, please know there is always hope. Align yourself with the Savior and focus on fighting your own battles. You will become a stronger, more confident, peaceful warrior mother even as your child heads out to war. In the end, because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, both you and your child will win.
A Mothers Who Know original painting by Judy Cooley. To order, contact email@example.com.