What Keeps People in Recovery?

As I have mentioned in an earlier article, I am firmly convinced that we must help people in residential programs to be come integrated into two vital communities -- the Church and the recovery community. There is life after the residential recovery pro­gram and if we don't spend enough time and energy preparing our clients for it, we have done them a great injustice.people-friends.jpg

If we are truly successful, the program graduate leaves the mission as a newly so­ber, struggling baby Christian. We must be sure that this new be­liever knows where to find help when he/she experiences struggles, even 2, 5, 10 years and more in the future, no matter where they live.

A. Building Healthy Relationships Outside of the Program -- There is a lot going on at rescue missions in the areas of life skills, employment, literacy and education, etc. But, an often-neglected aspect of preparation for life after the program is helping our residents to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Get­ting involved with the wrong people is a major contributor to re­lapse. Inadequate relationship skills are a tremendous source of stress for newly recovering people with they try to live with others. The truth is, most addicts come from dysfunctional fami­lies. They already struggle with codependency long before their first use of drugs or alcohol. Getting high. for many, provides a temporary release from their lack of self-confidence and toxic shame issues that handicap them in their relationships with others. Guess what? Just because they stop using alcohol and drugs, all of this doesn't automatically go away. Sobriety gives them a chance to finally begin to work on these issues. If they don't, their chances of success are greatly diminished.

B. Role of the Church -- The Church certainly offers a lot to recovering people by pro­viding both spiritual and social support. SRI Gallup's 1992 survey of recovery from homelessness concluded that spirituality (a growing relationship with Christ) was the number one factor that con­tributed to the success of those they studied. They noted, "This spirituality seems to not only strengthen a person individually, it also seems to be the basis for commonality in building relationships with other people." So, we must be intentional about connecting mission program participants to a solid, healthy relationship with the Body of Christ, which is often one of the most difficult challenges we face in mission programs.

The solution lies in identifying those fellowships in our com­munity that are most "recovery friendly" and to cultivate relationships with them. This could involve personal visits with their leaders, luncheon meetings and tours at the mission, and training programs specifically geared toward helping both pastors and lay people to understand and support our people as they become in­volved in their congregations.

C. Getting Connected with Other Christians in Recovery - There is still another extremely valuable resource out there that has yet to be fully understood and utilized -- the Christian who is himself in recovery! There is a wonderful phenomenon afoot that has been loosely called the "Christian Recovery Movement". It has been manifested by literally thousands of support groups springing up in churches around the globe where Christ is the "Higher Power." These groups are to be found in practically any major city of North America, and in some overseas -- Overcomers Outreach, Alcoholics for Christ, Alcoholics Victorious, etc. There are no better people to serve as a "bridge" between the mission and the Church than believers who are themselves over­coming addiction. They can relate in a very special way to the struggles of mission clients, because they've been through many of them.

We must find these people by visiting support groups our­selves, contacting large churches in our cities to see if they have such programs, and in some cases sponsoring such groups our­selves. Like churches, support groups vary significantly, one from an­other. So, I encourage program personnel to never send people to groups we have not personally visited. And, it's impor­tant to meet with the leaders of these groups to get to know them personally and help them to become familiar with the mission and its recovery program.

From RESCUE Magazine, journal of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missisons

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Copyright by Michael Liimatta. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Liimatta is the past President of Christians in Recovery® 
and currently serves on its Advisory Counsel. He has been 
involved in Alcoholics Victorious for over 20 years.He is a 
Social Entrepreneur, Consultant to Nonprofit Organizations 
with OneAccord, Chief Academic Officer at City Vision College 
and has been involved with drug and alcohol counseling and recovery 
education for 30 years. Visit his web site