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Relapse Prevention

The abuse of alcohol and drugs is a worldwide pandemic of enormous proportions. Individuals and families are adversely impacted all over the world.

I have seen first hand the results of this abuse. And how ineffective secular approaches are to this problem. When I worked at one social service agency, one mother after another lost her kids because she was unable to stay away from alcohol or drugs. Men don't do any better.

I used to work at a Christian drug and alcohol rehab. We also had relapses. However, there were also many success stories. And this is true even though almost all of the residents were just out of prison and court-ordered to be at the facility.

Although I have no significant personal history of drug or alcohol abuse, working with these residents and others has given me a clear sense of direction in terms of what is necessary to stay clean and sober. Here are my recommendations.

First, get saved. You will need God's help on a daily basis to remain clean and sober. Exceptions do exist but they are relatively rare. It benefits the Devil for some non-Christians to remain clean and sober—so others will be deceived and defeated.

Second, address mental health issues. Poor mental health is a common relapse trigger. Make full use of the articles published on this site.

Third, take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB)." Addicts don't just relapse out of the blue. They first entertain thoughts of using. Often, just the thought of using gives them a high. To avoid relapsing, you must develop and maintain a mindset to the effect that you will not dwell on seductive thoughts of using. Here's how you do it.

The Scripture says: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7 KJV)." Success requires submitting to God and resisting the devil. You will not be successful unless you do both of these things.

You must submit yourself to God. To submit to God means 'to render obedience' to Him. This means that you are making a good faith effort to obey Scripture in all areas of your life. Unless you do this, you will not have the foundation necessary to effectively resist the Devil.

One common relapse scenario is Christian men thinking they can remain clean and sober and still have illicit sex outside of marriage. The sex usually leads to drugs. All sin tends to go together.

You must also resist the Devil. To resist means 'to take a stand against.' Resisting the Devil includes doing whatever is necessary to keep your thinking under control. You must avoid entertaining pleasurable fantasies about using. And you must also avoid deceptive thoughts as to why this time using really is OK.

Resisting the Devil should start by immediately bringing thoughts about using to God in prayer. Other steps will also be necessary: You can recite Scripture {e.g. "It is written: 'do not be drunk with wine' (Ephesians 5:18 NKJV)"}. You can "play the tape through": "If I get another dirty test, I will lose my children." You can call your sponsor. Whatever it takes. As long as you keep your thinking under control, you're unlikely to relapse..

Fourth, stay in fellowship—don't isolate (Hebrews 10:25). To remain clean and sober, Christians need to counsel one another, encourage one another and pray for one another.

Fifth, recovery meetings. I questioned several pastors on the issue as to whether or not Christians in recovery need to attend meetings for the rest of their lives. One said that there is no "hard and fast rule" for everyone, though staying in fellowship is essential.

My take on the issue: Continuing to attend recovery meetings is helpful for most people. I think Christian meetings are superior to secular meetings. I recommend The Most Excellent Way.

Sixth, consider getting an accountability partner or sponsor. If you are able, also be an accountability partner to someone else. Both of these steps will contribute toward your continuing sobriety

Seventh, set realistic goals for your life. And not just remaining clean and sober. Accomplishments will improve your perspective on life. And help you to remain clean and sober.

Eighth, know your triggers and avoid them. Stay away from others who are using, from bars etc. If you are going somewhere where drugs are present, take someone with you who can help you avoid relapsing.

Ninth, don't tolerate self-pity or a negative attitude. These will increase your chances of relapsing.

Tenth, beware of self-deception: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)." Everyone is vulnerable to self-deception. But those with substance abuse issues seem to have an incredible talent in this area. I even had one tell me that he once reasoned that if he did relapse and got caught, then this would be a wonderful learning opportunity since he'd then have a lot of time to read books in prison!

Eleventh, remember that there is no "cure" in the sense that you will someday be able to drink or use in moderation. Stay away from all alcoholic beverages. And all mood-altering drugs not prescribed by a doctor. If your doctor does recommend that you take a mood-altering drug, be cautious. Many prescription drugs are just as addictive as street drugs. They can also lead to relapse.

Twelfth, if you're struggling with cravings, pray every day for God to remove your cravings to use. Maintaining your sobriety will become much easier once you no longer have to struggle with the cravings. I should note that sometimes God removes cravings to use immediately once you become saved.

Thirteenth, remember that the Bible does promise that there is a way for you to maintain your sobriety over the long term. The Bible states: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)."

Finally, if you do relapse, don't give up. Just get back to working on your sobriety as soon as you can. Success does not mean never falling down. But it does require that you get up after every fall.

Note: I also recommend that you read this article: Relapse Prevention: A Success Story.

 

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Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
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Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.