Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
095: James Ott Speaks About Addiction, Word of Wisdom, Recovery, and Spirituality

095: James Ott Speaks About Addiction, Word of Wisdom, Recovery, and Spirituality

jamesottDo you or does someone you love struggle with addiction? Despite our LDS doctrines and practices many Mormons struggle with the issue of addiction.

In Part one of this interview James Ott explores addiction in the LDS community. This topic is often ignored but James suggests the urgent importance of this discussion. He addresses the history of the Word of Wisdom in Mormonism and how it has impacted LDS culture. He defines addiction and talks about how we can establish healthy boundaries with the addicts in our lives.

In Part two of this interview James Ott talks about different types of addiction within the context of Mormonism. He discusses the biology of addiction and the different issues that loved ones and addicts face together.  He talks about healthy approaches to addiction and also the spiritual aspects of recovery. In this episode he also addresses the role the church plays in the addict’s life and makes suggestions for improvements.

James is the founder, director, and a therapist at Red Willow Counseling & Recovery, an outpatient psychotherapy practice helping individuals and families with mental health and addiction issues.  He spent 10 years working in a psychiatric hospital with both mentally ill and substance abusing patients. He has worked as a clinical director for a start-up residential treatment center, and he works with other treatment centers in preparing them for Joint Commission accreditation.

James works with families impacted by addiction as a Certified ARISE Interventionist and is a member of the core ARISE intervention team.  He is also an ARISE Intervention Trainer and Supervisor. James is the board chair for a private non-profit that provides treatment scholarships for people with addiction, and is also the clinical director of the JMCR, an outpatient treatment center.  James received his Master of Social Work degree from New Mexico State University in 1997, and has been working as an Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Utah since 2000.

For more information and resources visit:

Also, check out the link below for the Beehive Spirits episode on KUER


  1. Mike

    Interesting podcast. In my experience, addiction needs to be understood better within the LDS community. In a recent podcast on Mormon Stories about a meetup in NYC one of the women who participated said that her little brother was told by their bishop that he was addicted to porn because he confessed to looking at pictures online. When I was young, the first time I ever drank alcohol when out with friends (I do not drink as an adult), I felt SOOO guilty because I was raised within the church. I confessed and was told that I had an addiction. I think that being told as a youth that you are addicted to something can be very damaging if the other person doesn’t understand what addiction is. The all or nothing mindset within the church is potentially damaging. I don’t really know what else to say about that but it is like any wrong doing is SO bad that it makes it more difficult to deal with and not less difficult within the church.

  2. Michele

    Thank you so much for sharing this podcast. I gleaned valuable insight. My personal journey has led me away from being a faithful LDS member of 38 years. My husband served as a Bishop for 5 years and will be the first to tell you he had no experience or training to help members with addiction. A few years After being released as Bishop, he himself began abusing substances. This painful addiction has led our family on a journey the last 4 years-a journey of heartache and joy! A journey that has led us to be more authentic and to be spiritual beings not religious beings! Thanks again for sharing your insights!

  3. Lamke

    Thank you so much for this wonderful podcast! It was such an interesting discussion about the history around the Wow and different aspects of addiction that haven’t occurred to me. I also really appreciate the discussion about spirituality and spiritual awakening. I look at my faith crisis less as a dark and dangerous trial, but as more as something very hard that will lead me to a better spiritual place. But sometimes I need support keeping this perspective, that it is a spiritual awakening, because at times it can be excruciatingly difficult and lonely.

  4. maddy

    Great podcast.
    On a minor point:
    In relation to the history of the WoW and the history of alcoholic beverages in our country–I’ve often wondered what impact (unforeseen) the WoW might have in different cultures–particularly in underdeveloped parts of the world. For example, what happens in areas where safe drinking water is very limited-and fermented/distilled drinks constitute part of the way people maintain hydration and we start imposing the WoW on the native population? Or, perhaps the primary way a native person obtains a key nutrient (which is otherwise lacking in the environment) is through a hot–coffee or tea type of beverage? I wonder if this has ever been a problem or if church leadership is aware this could be a possible issue?

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