SALT LAKE CITY — The stories are real. The circumstances vary. The pain is the same.
"My dad was in the military and when I was 10 years old he got sent to Vietnam," said Larry, a man featured in "Step 8: Forgiveness — Larry's Story on Drug Addiction Recovery," produced by The Mormon Channel. "While he was away, my mother had a mental breakdown. It was a Friday night. She left to go to work and she didn't come back."
The camera cuts to images of Larry as a boy with his little sister scavenging for food in their trailer house. The images tug at the heartstrings by design. The video is part of the Mormon Channel's new campaign to raise awareness of the LDS Church's Addiction Recovery Program.
"When I was 35 years old, I just had the feeling I'd rather be dead than fat," said Sharon in "Step 3: Trust in God — Sharon's Story on Crystal Meth Addiction Recovery."
The common thread in these stories is addiction. Chasing the drug, masking wounds that run deep.
"Each of the participants really gave their heart and were super vulnerable in sharing their story," said Brian Armstrong, program manager for LDS Family Services.
The videos are raw, gritty and candid. There is no sugar-coating. They deal with drug addiction, eating disorders and pornography. Producers say they hope the honesty will inspire people to change and get families talking.
"I think that the need is pretty big, and it's a conversation that hasn't happened openly," said Heidi Green, content strategist for the Mormon Channel. "It's hard for people to talk about the addiction of a family member or friend. I think these videos are a great way to start that conversation."
Addiction is progressive, experts say. Stepping into the fear is the hardest part.
"One of the participants says in his video, 'I had to be willing to look at the wreckage,' and we have to do that," Armstrong said. "We have to go in and face that shame, and unless we do it, it will just be a quick fix."
I think that the need is pretty big, and it's a conversation that hasn't happened openly. It's hard for people to talk about the addiction of a family member or friend. I think these videos are a great way to start that conversation.
–Heidi Green, content strategist for Mormon Channel
The church uses the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, modified slightly. They offer meetings in 22 countries. The church published the guide in 26 languages.
"I think we're all trying to overcome something and be a little better every day," Green said. "This is just really inspiring to see how people really can change."
The people in the videos took a risk in being so open, producers say, in hopes of helping others.
"These people are in such different places than when they started," Armstrong said. "They're reaching out and they're giving and the more they give, the more they get back. And they're filled, whereas the drugs and the sex and the alcohol was never able to fill them."
At the end of "Step 8," Larry tearfully recounted the day he forgave his father for his abuse. "My heart just opened with love and compassion for him, and forgiveness," he said. "It felt like this poison was draining from my body."
The pain is the same, but by seeking help, the healing begins.
The videos are online now and available at mormonchannel.org/12steps.