|Relapse and Aftercare||| Print ||
A person who is recovering from a life-controlling problem should always be aware of the possibility of relapse into former ways. The writer of Proverbs says, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (26:11). This is particularly true of those who are prone to extreme emotional highs and lows in their walk with God. Some may be overconfident in their recovery process to the point of not guarding against relapse. Crisis situations may trigger a person into relapse. Hidden fear or repressed anger may also lead to relapse.
Goals of Aftercare
Sobriety and sober thinking certainly must occur; however, this alone is not enough. Without an ongoing relationship with God, a person is likely to switch addictions. For example, Sam has been abstinent from alcohol for six months. However, his introduction to a higher power was void of a personal walk with Christ. Although he was abstaining from alcohol, he switched his dependency to ungodly sexual behaviors. Jesus deals with the principle of an unoccupied spiritual house in Matthew 12:43-45.
When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, "I will return to the house I left." When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.
In addition to an active relationship with God, there must be continued abstinence or freedom from the life-controlling problem. A person who continues to drink alcohol, use drugs, or view R- and X-rated movies (or whatever the dependency is) cannot expect to remain in recovery. Fellowship with God will become strained as delusion once again dominates thinking. Self-esteem is directly related to the person's relationship with God and personal abstinence or freedom from the problem that has mastered his/her life. Since God is perfect, He is the only one who can communicate personal significance to the person in recovery. Helpers should emphasize the self-worth that comes from being in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:3-14; Philippians 1:6, 4:13; Colossians 3:3). Paul writes: "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11).
A feeling of being no good or of having no competence can be a difficult burden for a person struggling on the road to recovery. The helper can encourage the discouraged by helping the person understand that competence comes from a greater power. Paul writes: "Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God" (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). A person's self-worth will suffer if he or she relapses into a former lifestyle. Since former values will be in conflict with new goals and lifestyle, feelings of failure and difficulty forgiving self will soon surface.
Ways to Attain Goals
Being aware of the various triggering devices that lead to relapse can be helpful to the person in recovery. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: "I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." The helper should encourage the person to take a personal inventory of past experiences that enabled the use of a substance or practice to become a mastering behavior. For example, some people are tempted to relapse at times of celebration while others are more likely to fall during times of depression or stress. It is possible that the presence (or absence) of certain people, odors, music, or visual stimulation may contribute to a setback. A person should be aware of these devices and prayerfully take precautions against those things that may trigger a relapse.
Socializing with the former crowd is another strong sign of relapse. An individual cannot stay straight and continue to hang out with former friends who project a negative influence. Being influenced by negative peer pressure will cause a gradual withdrawal from church and support group friends although some persons will continue to talk the talk but not walk the walk.
Ways to Deal with Relapse
A person who has relapsed should be encouraged to share feelings about the urge to use a substance or practice a mastering behavior. Encourage the person to continue work on recovery in a local church small group that can offer support and accountability. The helper should set goals of recovery and establish responsibility for meeting them.
Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do