by Michael Liimatta, AGRM
Director of Education
a seminar given at the 1996 AGRM Annual Convention
introducing them to Christ, helping addicts to maintain sobriety is a
critical job of the rescue mission residential program.
Learning to read, completing high school, and gaining other life
skills are important. But,
if residents cannot remain sober, we might have only succeeded in
creating smarter Biblically literate drunks.
The act of using drugs or alcohol is the just end result of a
process that begins long beforehand.
Addicts relapse when it is more painful to stay sober than it is
to get "high".
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.
Causes of Relapse
Denial - inability to accept that one is indeed addicted
to alcohol and/or drugs and that it is a primary cause of life problems.
Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome- inability to cope with a
set of very stressful, physiologically-based symptoms that occur only
after use of alcohol and drugs has stopped
Emotional Dysfunction - inability to cope with feelings
such as grief, depression, stress, fear, etc., without mind altering
Relational Dysfunction - inability to develop and
maintain healthy relationships with others.
Temptation - inability
to deal with the issue of sin in one's life.
Dishonesty - the inability to maintain a commitment to
rigorous honesty which is the foundation of a life of recovery.
Activities - 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.
One especially important area where they 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.
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 them the impression that everyone has at
least one drunk "in the bank."
We can be assured that they will use it!
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. It 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 AGRM's
Education Office for information on educational resources for use in
a mission setting.
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 interrupt them before
the process leads to actual use.
Groups - Good support groups provide recovering addicts with
find 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 real encouragement 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. (find Christian
support groups in your area)
Liimatta is Director of Education for the
Association of Gospel
This copyrighted series originally
appeared in RESCUE Magazine, published by the Association of Gospel
Rescue Missions, in the October 1997 issue.
Reprinting without permission is prohibited.