Preventing Relapse

In addition to introducing men and women to Christ, helping addicts to maintain sobriety is the primary responsibility of a residential recovery program. Learning to read, completing high school, and gaining other life skills are important. But, if residents cannot remain sober, we have only succeeded in creating smarter Biblically literate drunks. The act of using drugs or alcohol is an end result of a process that began long before. Addicts relapse when it is more painful to stay sober than it is to get “high.”

The immediate benefits of ceasing drug and alcohol use include: improved health, better sleep, return of appetite, and clearer thinking. However, all addicts eventually face a challenge even more difficult than stopping drink­ing or using drugs coping with life without them! Doing so involves a whole lot more than just “put­ting the cork in the bottle.” They must learn a com­pletely new way of life. We often refer to this process as “recovery” — the Bible calls it “sanctifica­tion” a definite ongoing program of personal growth

Major Causes of Relapse

A. Denial – inability to accept that one is indeed addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and that it is a primary cause of life problems.

B. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome – inability tocope with a set of very stressful, physiologically-based symptoms that occur only after use of alcoholand drugs has stopped

C. Emotional Dysfunction – inability to cope with feelings such as grief, depression, stress, fear, etc., without mind altering substances.

D. Relational Dysfunction – inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with others.

E. Temptation – inability to deal with the issue of sin in one’s life.

F. Dishonesty – the inability to maintain a commit­ment to rigorous honesty which is the foundation of a life of recovery.

 

Some Relapse Prevention Strategies

A. Scriptural Priority – Worship, prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory all equip the person new to sobriety to overcome temptation and live a life that is pleasing to God.

B. Take Relapse Seriously – It must be clearly understood that use of alcohol or drugs results in immediate dismissal from the program. This could mean simply being asked to leave the facility, demotion to “transient” status or referral to another pro­gram. After thirty days, the client can be reassessed for re­entry to the program. The worst possible situation is to give the client the impression that everyone has at least one drunk “in the bank.” We can be assured that they will use it!

C. Addiction Education – Gaining more knowledge about ad­diction serves two very important functions. It helps the ad­dict in denial accept his condition. And, this knowledge can be a tremendous source of comfort and reassurance for those struggling with post acute withdrawal symptoms and the emotional difficulties that come with early recovery. Newly sober addicts need to understand that they are suffering from a malady that is shared by others. Education also gives hope that change is possible. Many resources are available: lending libraries, literature, videos, and local professionals who can speak at the mission. Contact IUGM’s Education Office for information on educational resources for use in a mission setting.

D.  One-on-One Counseling – Every participant in a long-term program needs at least one hour a week with a staff member who understands addiction to help them through the struggles of early recovery. Relapse is a process no one is working a solid program of recovery one day and drunk the next. Therefore, one very important goal of these sessions is to help them to recognize their relapse patterns and learn to interrupt them before the process leads to actual use.

E. Support Groups – Good support groups provide recover­ing addicts with a safe, non-judgmental setting to share their struggles, thoughts, and feelings without fear of rejection. Hearing the stories of others with similar difficulties and how they overcame them provides valuable encouragement for them to go on in a life of sobriety. Because addiction wreaks havoc upon an individual’s relationships with oth­ers, support groups are also a great place to begin the diffi­cult and painful process of re-connecting with other people.

F. Relationships – One especially important area where those in recovery need special help is in learn­ing how to form healthy relationship and avoid de­structive ones. Unhealthy relationships, especially of the romantic sort, are one of the biggest causes of re­lapse. Teaching about godly relationships, even in the sexual area, helps them to avoid getting caught up with people that are not good for them. New re­lationships with the opposite sex should be put off for the first year of sobriety.

 

July/August 1996

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