10. Dealing With Relapse

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This is a critical time in any ministry. We wish it never happened but it happens frequently. We ought to get better at handling it due to our depth of experience. "Relapse" can mean any form of re-offending (stealing, stabbing, fraud) but usually it has over or under tones of substance abuse. In fact, "under the influence" we may steal, stab or commit fraud!

In the worse case scenario we discover a person has relapsed upon seeing or hearing from them from the other side of the bars. In the better scene, the person confesses to us soon after relapsing. We must seize the moment! The individual has elected to be honest with us in the hope that we can help sort through the mess, gain wisdom, and not fall into the same ditch again. We will fall again but hopefully, not in the same ditch!

As discouraged as we are upon learning of one's relapse, quickly adjust your headset so as to help move in a positive direction. Don't be a Lone Ranger or Superman/Superwoman - thinking you can single-handedly save the day. Listen. Pray. Study Bible examples, principles and teachings. Wisely lead and guide. But, ultimately, like God with His two children in the Garden - we must allow each one to make his or her own choice.

With addicts it is helpful to have a medically supervised detox period. County hospitals do this at minimal cost. The body is then free of intoxicants but the mind is still sick. Immediately afterward is when Christian fellowship and teaching is essential in this day-by-day mind renewal process (II Corinthians 4:16). The big question is not what WE want but what the relapsed person desires. The person knows exactly where to go and what to do if a clean and sober life is desired (and where to go for the alternative as well).

Beware lest we seek to force folks into our pre-set mold. Most relapsed people will "play along" for awhile (after all, you are paying or the ride). If you name the program, make the application, pay the fee, and hold their hand . . . you will end up being the one to blame when it fails! Develop the skill of burden sharing and not burden-stealing. Paul describes it well in Galatians 6:2 ("bear one another's burdens") and concludes then with verse 5 - "For each one shall bear his own load." Sometimes, I can help you carry your groceries and mine to the car but when we get to the car - what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours (just as they were at the checkout, Romans 14:12)!

 

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