Cancer! Accident! Layoff!
These are words which strike fear into our hearts. Neither the strongest of character nor the most faithful believer is immune to the sudden dread that follows the utterance of those terms. These situations hit us like a punch in the stomach, and they leave a sickening, heavy weight in our gut that can bring us to our knees.
For millions of us, there is another of those fearful words: RELAPSE!
This “STEPS Journey” blog does not normally focus on addiction issues. Yes, the STEPS are based on recovery concepts, but the material is designed to help anyone learn how those principles can help them in their normal, everyday life. This article will be different.
Could there be someone in your life for whom alcoholism, and therefore relapse, is an issue? If you are like most of us, the answer is, “Yes, there is someone.” I know a number such “someones.”
If anyone you know is struggling with addiction (to alcohol or anything else), there are some things you should know about relapse:
It’s serious – For an alcoholic, a relapse can be life-threatening. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that kills people, and relapse means the disease is no longer in remission.
“Sometimes relapse doesn’t seem like that much of a threat. But nobody is guaranteed to live through the next one.” (Josie Tuttle)
It’s predictable – Many relapses follow a recognizable progression:
1. Stress: We overreact to circumstances, becoming overwhelmed.
2. Self-pity: Giving in to hopelessness, we focus on how badly we feel.
3. Denial: We make excuses, telling lies to ourselves and to others.
4. Isolation: We avoid reaching out for help due to feelings of shame.
5. Relapse: We give in to cravings to escape our pain “just this once.”
“We are either working on recovery or we are working on a relapse.”
It’s preventable – Relapse does not have to happen, if we stay actively engaged in recovery with a solid support system and people who will hold us accountable.
“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” (C. S. Lewis)
It’s treatable – Alcoholism is a “thinking sickness.” We can think our way into it, and we can work our way out of it. Although alcoholism may not be curable, we can achieve remission. The disease can be controlled, one day at a time, and we can rise above it.
“What defines us is how well we rise after falling.”
As with most trials, it can turn out to be a blessing – If we forgive ourselves and move on in a healthy manner, a relapse can teach us a great deal. Even better, if we choose to share our experiences, we can even become an example of grace and recovery for others.
“A relapse is a learning opportunity, not a failure.”
There is nothing we will ever face that God cannot help us get through, including relapse, if we will turn to him. Sometimes, the good news about a punch in the stomach is that it brings us to our knees, and that is often the very best place we can be.
Who is the person closest to you who has an issue with alcohol?
Action: If you know anyone who struggles with alcoholism, encourage them to stay actively engaged in recovery and remain connected to others.