Moving out of rehab and back into daily life can be an intensely difficult thing. While you’ve likely worked on building the skills to navigate and thrive in daily life, actually doing so is a big step. It’s also one that many people fail. As a Christian, you have access to support networks in your Church and your Community. You know that God is there for you and He will be there for you even when and if you fall. While that offers little help in navigating the physical challenges of avoiding relapse, it will offer a wealth of resources as you broaden your emotional and spiritual horizons, let God further into your life, and grow in your recovery.
Whether you’re just out of rehab, haven’t been to rehab yet, or are well along your journey of recovery, these 9 tips for avoiding relapse as a Christian will help.
Knowledge is one of the most powerful weapons God has given us against the world, against evil and against ourselves. Understanding how you work, how your body works, and what causes relapse will empower you to be able to avoid it. For example, the three most common triggers causing relapse are stress, re-exposure, and environment. You might have completely different triggers. Understanding what makes you want to drink or use empowers to you think about how to avoid those things, how to resist those cravings, and how to react when you encounter those cravings.
As addicts we are told by society to feel guilt, shame, and abhorrence about our addictions. We’re often taught that addiction is a personal failure. At the same time, everything we know about people and addiction says that it’s not. As a Christian, you know that as long as you pick yourself up and keep trying, as long as you work towards making things right with God, you are every bit as worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven as someone who has never sinned.
Accept your past mistakes, let guilt and shame go, and move on. While this may, and likely should, involve making amends with your friends and family, it should be a process that is part of your recovery. If you’re going to 12-Step, this is likely already a part of your plan.
Everyone with a history of addiction has a history of past bad decisions, bad habits, and bad behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy is about recognizing, reframing, and replacing some of those habits. You can continue to do so at home by working to improve your life and the people in it. That normally means:
Essentially, you need to shift at least some of your time towards actively investing in physical, mental, and spiritual health. While the exact applications of that will depend on you, your environment, and your family, doing so will help you to stay in recovery and enjoy life.
God has created us to be social, caring, kind, and ultimately completely interdependent on each other. In each other, we find fulfilment, joy, and satisfaction. Asking for help is as key to your recovery as is eventually giving back. For most of us, asking for help starts with attending rehab. It should also include attending AA or other 12-step meetings to ensure that you’re investing in staying clean and sober for the long-term. AA offers social accountability, actively asks you to invest in spirituality, and allows you to meet with and invest in your peers.
Of course, you can and should invest in your neighborhood and your church at the same time. The people in your life including family, friends, and neighbors can be as much of a support network as your AA group.
Actively investing in learning coping mechanisms can help you to deal with cravings and triggers when they do occur. This is important for the long-term, simply because you can’t avoid them forever.
For example, in the case of the three most common relapse triggers, you might:
Stress – Invest in stress management and set aside time every day to relax. This might mean setting aside time to journal, pray, and connect with God. It might also mean taking courses for stress management, like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or similar. By learning how to cope with stress, you reduce its’ impact on your recovery.
Re-exposure – Re-exposure is about a two-part factor of being around drugs or alcohol and taking them again. What does this mean? The number one factor in relapse is that every single person who relapses takes the substance again. Re-exposure can be avoided by avoiding the substance at all costs (this is not effective permanently), and by learning to cope with being around substances by going to exposure therapy, by learning coping mechanisms, and sometimes, by failing and getting back up again.
Environment – If your environment causes a relapse, it’s likely your friends, family, or simply being in surroundings that remind you of your old habits. Changing your associations, moving to better company, or creating a new start for yourself are some good ways to cope with this, but normally you’ll also need therapy to help you move past some of those triggers because avoidance isn’t always an option.
Essentially, recovery is about recognizing what might push you into relapse and working to build coping mechanisms and strategies for when that occurs in your life.
None of us is perfect, that’s okay. There is no version of you that is perfect and no version of you that ever will be. We all make mistakes. Some of us make bigger ones than others. Understanding and accepting that imperfection and that it doesn’t matter is key to forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to simply commit to growing and moving on. The Bible has over 200 verses about imperfection, you can accept that and use it to grow.
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” – Revelation 3:2
Talking to others, especially about things you don’t know if they understand, can be difficult. This is especially true if you’re a man and you’ve been brought up to be strong. But, God doesn’t ask us to be manly, he asks us to be open, honest, loving, and compassionate. That means talking to your loved ones, to your preacher, to your congregation, to your 12-step group, and to the people who ask you for help.
Sharing allows you to find an outlet, to find peace, and to connect with others on a deeper level. Forming real friendships and bonds means sharing your real life and emotions. Doing so will help you to feel better, it will give you the grounding to stay clean and sober, and it will help you stay in recovery. The people who stay in recovery the longest are open to sharing their thoughts, feelings, fears, to talking about cravings, to talking about happy moments and newfound joy, to discussing God, and to otherwise sharing their lives.
No one leaves rehab and is immediately healed, with no further work needed. Addiction is a disease and you need to work to overcome it. Forming a plan will help. That should involve a strategy for your daily life. You need to know how to balance work, family, and community obligations. You have to invest in your health and nutrition. You also have to find time to relax, destress, and enjoy life. Build a plan for yourself that allows you to move slowly towards a life that you love – without putting undue stress on yourself now.
God will always be there for you. As you work towards building a life for yourself, making time and space for God should become more and more important. God offers the spiritual light at the end of the tunnel, the hope that you need to make it through, and a resource you can always turn to. He is the rock that can form the pillar of your life in recovery. Make sure you make him a priority in your recovery.
Recovery is not easy. It’s also not something that will ever truly end. One day you might look up and realize you’re just enjoying life, without thinking about cravings but you will always have to stay on your guard, to keep your goals and your new life in mind, and to remember what you’re fighting for. Good luck with your recovery.