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How to prevent relapse. Part 1

First, let me say that our sobriety is not your responsibility. We make our own choices. It is NOT your job to keep us sober. Do not even try to bear that burden because it is too much for you to bear alone. However, you can help make sure we make good choices.

We have to die (to ourselves)

‘Til death do us part. This one statement is very powerful. Whether it is powerful good or bad depends on the point of view you have while making this pledge. Is your point of view that you care so deeply for a person or thing that nothing will reduce your effort or commitment except death itself? Or can this statement be threatening like, “I know what I have to do to separate myself from you.” I’m here to tell you that we as addicts (with the help of those who love us) need to have murder on the brain. We have to seek to kill (figuratively) that part of ourselves that continues to choose using.

Addiction has been trying to kill us for years

The enemy has spent years trying to kill us and everything we love. The only way to win this war is to kill the enemy that plagues us. If it truly is “til death do us part,” then let the dying begin. Let’s kill the enemy, and his schemes in our lives, so that we might walk the path of sobriety uninhibited.

  • We have to be willing not to kill every part of ourselves and our relationships that drag us towards relapse.
  • We have to ask God to show us areas that might cause us to fall and to give us the strength to kill those things.
  • We also need friends, family members, and others that care about us, to stand watch with us, so that they might be able to sound an alarm if they see us heading for danger, whether it is intentional or not.

We have to embark on a new journey; a new path

The journey of recovery, for the addict, and loved ones alike, is a lifelong journey. We don’t reach recovery, as walking through a gate, and just live in the land of sobriety with no cares or concerns. Recovery is more akin to walking on a log that traverses a muddy pit. As long as we’re careful and pay attention to what we’re doing, we will continue to stay on the log and out of the pit. But if we take our eyes off the log or close them altogether; if we get careless and goof around, not treating the possibility of falling into the pit below as a real possibility, then our chances of falling back into the pit we’ve been rescued from increase dramatically. Oh, did I mention there is an unseen enemy that likes to throw things at us trying to cause us to lose our balance? He also likes to put obstacles on the log we have to try and navigate without falling. Walking this log is serious business.

Anybody’s journey can abruptly change with one poor decision

A friend of mine had 20 years of sobriety and lost it with one choice. I don’t know all the specifics of his story. But I do know he had to work the process all over again starting at zero because of one decision. I don’t care how strong the addict feels right now. I don’t care how long the addict has felt strong. I don’t care how long the addict has gone without using or desiring to use. I don’t care how confident the addict is of his ability to handle temptation when it arises. I don’t care how many consecutive battles the addict has been victorious in. The addict is ALWAYS one choice, one moment, one split second away from full-blown relapse. If the addict wants to remain clean, he must always be on guard. If those that love the addict want them to remain clean, they must be vigilant, never falling into complacency or comfort. 1 Corinthians 10:12 tells us:

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.”

Never let down your guard. Fight the urge to grow complacent. Continue to do the things that keep you sober and never stop. Or you give the enemy a window of opportunity.

Here are some very important things to do to remain sober:

  • Communicate: What you feel and what you think, especially if it is something that is pushing you towards relapse
  • Community: We need people around us that love us, know addiction, and are attentive enough to keep an eye on us. We also need people who want to invest in us and our sobriety
  • Tough love: We need people that will tell us no. We need people that aren’t going to give us anything we ask for
  • We need Jesus: We’ve proven we can’t d it on our own. We need the Living God dwelling in our hearts to strengthen us
  • We need encouragement: We need people who will notice and compliment the effort we make, and the progress we’ve made.

Our priorities have to be correct to help prevent relapse

If our walk is not of paramount importance to us, above ALL things, except our relationship with God (for if our relationship with God is the most important thing in our lives then the walk of sobriety should fall into place automatically) then we are not taking our walk of recovery as seriously as we should. If we value spouses, children, families, jobs, friends, money or anything else more highly than our walk, we run the risk of losing all of those things when we fall. We take our eyes off the log we’re walking, and we give the enemy an opportunity to trip us. Then we end up back in the pit!

Yes it can be a long tiring walk for you, but it’s worth it

I understand that for those that love us it is a difficult thing to try and be vigilant, always watching the addict to make sure they are safe. I know you didn’t ask for this. I know you feel unequipped. I know you oftentimes feel inadequate. I even know that you sometimes have some resentment that your lives have also been affected to the deepest levels because of the addict’s issue. We as addicts can never understand how you feel. We will never fully understand the difficulty of the path you walk that shadows ours. We will never know from moment to moment the difficulty of the path you walk BECAUSE of the path we walk. How could we know these things? We’ve never walked your path. We’ve only walked ours.

So please let me take an opportunity to speak for all addicts in recovery.

  • We ARE sorry for the things we’ve done. We ARE sorry for the path you now walk because of the path we walk. “If we could go back,” is not a path we can go down because it binds us in shame and regret and leads to relapse.
  • We are doing everything we can to stay on the path of recovery; we are fighting for our lives.
  • We’re doing the best we can with the tools we have.
  • We appreciate everything you do to help keep us sober, even if we don’t fully recognize everything you do.


Please know this: you are our safety net. You are our fail-safe. We depend on you to help us walk this path. We know it is a hard thing to ask (it is also a little unfair), but we need you to be our last line of defense.

When you have concerns or see things that give you pause, please speak up. Please don’t stay silent. If we are taking our eyes off the path, do not hesitate to bring it to our attention. And if we don’t listen then come back with 2 or 3 witnesses. If we still don’t listen, then do not hesitate to break the relationship with us. Whatever it takes. It would be far better to temporarily strain our relationship to shock us back into right thinking, then to stand by quietly and watch us walk back down the dark path of addiction. You are our last line of defense.

My friend that I mentioned earlier that relapsed after 20 years of sobriety is now four years sober after his relapse. And that was because the people that loved him stepped in and fought the enemy for him when he had fallen in battle. They helped identify the things in his life that needed to die. They pointed out the relationships and priorities that needed to be handed over to Christ to be crucified on the cross so that he might live. He’s crucifying that old addict brain of his every day.

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent write up full of wisdom.

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