May 10, 2016

A Warrior's Mother

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

Under Attack:
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.

The Fall:
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.

The Stand:
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.

The Victory
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


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this. I was married to an addict for 19 years. I have a fear that one day my children will become addicted also. I am so happy that this resource is available to mothers.

I'm excited to learn more about how to fight this battle from a different angle.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

My son became an atheist.
I was so deeply heartbroken. I am a widow and was devastated to face this without my dear husband. When I fasted and went to the temple, Heavenly Father told me what to do in 2 words........LOVE HIM......... This began a journey of learning what true charity really is and personally tasting of it's powerful sweetness. As I focused on the best in my son and didn't make his choice an issue, Love entwined its self around both of us. As I accepted him right where he was at, greater love came into my entire soul. We are at peace as mother and son. He is still atheist and I'm still active LDS. Yes, I long for the day when Christ will turn my son back to the Truth, but first God had to change me so I wouldn't impair His work for my son.

Maren said...

This is my story exactly. My son has made the same choice and I received the same answer. Thanks for sharing. Nice to know we're not alone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your candor and for courageously sharing your and your son's parallel journey to come unto our Savior. Thank you for your faith and for using your energy to support other mothers. I loved reading about your son and how he experienced such a powerful paradigm shift! The Spirit testifies of the truth in your words! I'm so grateful for you sharing the truth! Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

My son became atheist when he was 17 years old. I too was shocked and devastated. My husband and I didn't know what to do. Many friends were offering advice and suggesting things to do- such as punishments, or giving chores during church if he wasn't going to attend. It didn't feel right in my heart and our relationship was strained. I was sitting in church one Sunday with a prayer in my heart of not knowing what to do. I received the same advice as you- just love him. I immediately went home and talked with him and gave him a hug. That's been four years ago. He's still atheist and I still pray and hope someone or something touches his spirit and he will return to God. I take comfort in my temple covenants and sealing. And I'm very proud to call him my son. ��

Anonymous said...

I to have a son struggling with these same addictions. He has struggled since he was 7 yrs old he is now 15. I to was broken and tried all the things mom's try to help protect him, I even tried forcing him to do what I wanted him to do. It wasn't until 2 years ago when we found a LDS addiction counselor that I realize this was his battle and I couldn't control it nor dictate it. I had to put my armor on and fight along his side and stop going in front of him clearing his way. I to blamed myself but it wasn't until this past summer I realize apart of me hadn't let the control in trying to save him go. I didn't realize this until one day after talking with our bishop I was completely broken. I hurt so bad and I was so angry not only at what was happening to him but to me and many others. I was angry that the Lord would put me/us through this. He is our last child and we are older, and why are we having to deal with this in our middle age years. I was really angry at the advisory. How dare him come back and cause my son to be chained with this debilitating addiction. You see years earlier I dealt with the same issues with my husband. I know I never forgave myself for that nor did I ever seek help to totally forgive or trust. Since my sons addiction I've learned I still hurt and fear from the earlier years and that made it more intense to where I thought I was going to lose my mind. It's been almost a year since Ive realized I can't be my son Savior. I still struggle and so does he and I know I can do better with putting all my armor on everyday instead of only parts of it. It's hard when your down on yourself to have the strength sometimes to be the one who encourages those other family members to continue to say prayer together as well as family night, scripture study and much more. A lot of the time I feel I'm the only one fighting. But the one thing I know at this point is even though I feel I don't have much strength I still have to continue to find ways to have strength and put my armor on. I had to check into this program a couple years ago but the cost of it was way too much for our family struggles financially. So we chose Counceling. I think a mother support group is fantastic and I wished there were more. Thank you for your story it gives me hope.

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