While working at Hope Place, a women’s recovery program, I had the chance to see God do amazing and wonderful works in people. I also saw the very vulnerable place of weakness that some of these women found themselves in after a relapse in their recovery process, and these were some thoughts that came out of those experiences.
I remember the first time I saw someone whom I had served relapse. I was seventeen and volunteering at a local crisis pregnancy center.She was a beautiful mother whom I had invested in, and seen so many others invest in, but she caught us off guard when she entered a season of moral weakness. Through a series of heartbreaking events in her life, it seemed like all of our hard work and tender love was to no avail. Why would she make the choices she did? Why does every wrong decision seem to lead to a downward spiral of unfortunate events?
You’ve seen it happen, you’ve experienced the sinking feeling when someone you’ve hoped and dreamed for has disappointed you in some way. Parents of children who have made significant moral indiscretions feel this in probably the deepest way, and doesn’t it hurt? When you watch their dreams fade away and know that they have disappointed themselves and those who care about them.
In spite of “success stories” and marked improvement, every guest we serve is still human with weaknesses and temptations that threaten to derail them at every turn. Many times they are victims, but also many times they do this to themselves by the choices they make, and doesn’t it take the wind right out of our sails when we see someone choose their own destruction? It’s not about pointing fingers or placing blame, that’s not my goal, but these are the realities of some of the situations I’ve seen.
When working in leading people to recovery, relapse is something that will always be a part of it. As frustrating as it is and as much as we hope and pray against it, it is a reality we see most every day. This is not a guide for how to prevent relapse, or even how to cope with it, because I am not a professional and these are just thoughts from my own experience.
Personally though, I’ve stopped counting the relapses. I don’t really care how many times someone makes a mistake, because each person’s story is different and I truly believe that some day they will realize the hope and life that lies on the other side of their addiction. This is not to minimize the pain of relapse, or to diminish the significance of it, but rather to acknowledge that this happens, and then offer a way of seeing the hope that lies ahead.
Think about the stories you’ve heard and the people you know who have been through recovery, and they will most likely tell you that they were shown the right way time and time again, but it took several times for it to sink in. They had grasped for it but lost sight of it and gone back to their previous life, and then found hope again and then lost it again, and so forth. Each time, a seed was planted and their heart was a little more prepared for the day when they would pursue recovery. Each time they learned something new of grace, and learned what it was to be loved and cared for. After a lifetime of living in hurt, pain, fear and emptiness it takes a while to trust what is good and commit yourself to it.
Our job is to provide a safe place for them to choose restoration, and it is a choice. They must want it for themselves, and want it deeply, because the road of recovery is much too difficult for someone who doesn’t have their own desire for healing to motivate them on the way. We’ll be here for them when they are ready, and we’ll still be here when they’ve come and relapsed and then come back again. We’re here because Jesus was, time and time again, giving us grace upon grace upon grace. People need each other, and recovery is not a solitary road.
This rhythm of love and grace can be heartbreaking, but I have seen people blossom under the Lord’s love.
Are you struggling to love someone who seems to have blown it and thrown away their chance? Keep loving them. Give them another chance, and another. Choose to give your love even if you can’t forsee it being returned. After all, isn’t that what Christ has done for us?
I agree with what Martin Luther said:
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
To me this means that even if I knew that tomorrow someone I love would make a mistake that would derail them, I would still choose to love them! In fact, I would love them even more earnestly, more deeply, more urgently. A mistake is not the end of the road, a mistake is a bump in the road. Perhaps it is major, heart wrenching, and nearly fatal mistake, but it is NOT THE END.
Remember this truth:
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. ” Phillipians 1:6
He is faithful.
Note: I try my best to acknowledge the real pain while at the same time offering hope. I am still learning, and these are just the workings out of my thoughts. If you have any thoughts, push back, or disagreements I am absolutely open to discussion!