Well, we have finally made it to step 7 of our seven-step Life After Rehab series. Thanks for stickin’ through it. 🙂
Step 7: Stay Alert for Signs of Relapse.
“According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic illness, and as a result, 40 to 60 percent of people who have an addiction relapse at least once. This doesn’t mean that addiction treatment isn’t effective, but it does mean that people with addictions will need to amend their lives and be on alert if they’d like to keep the problem from coming back full force. For starters, they might need to know where a relapse, for them, begins. For some, it’s a feeling of sadness or loss. For others, it’s a sensation of happiness or invincibility. These thoughts swirl and swirl, growing stronger and stronger, until a relapse takes place. Capturing and identifying the thought is the key to stopping the relapse. When those thoughts are in place, the person can go back to therapy, visit a sober friend, catch a meeting, or otherwise deal with the issue and stop the cycle. Friends and family members might also be helpful here, as they might also know what a relapse looks like and how it typically starts. They can’t be expected to step in and stop a relapse from taking place, but they can speak up and speak out when they sense trouble, and this might be the prompt that pushes the person to find more intensive treatment” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).
Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of our sin. Our chronic condition has been completely healed on the cross. We have that freedom at our fingertips but we so often, like the addict, don’t amend our lives to the entirety of His teachings and His grace, nor faithfully remain on alert for attacks on our freedom. The enemy wants us to think we are still enslaved to sin–that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t enough or didn’t take. We, like the addict, often don’t catch the little things that lead us to a relapse of the flesh–those things that lead us to strap ourselves back to the chains of bondage.
Feelings of sadness, loss, and invincibility can lead even the most “put-together” Christians down a path of destruction. “Capturing and identifying” as mentioned above for the addict are also key to resisting sin and it’s hold on us. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul instructs fellow believers in Jesus that the battle we fight is not of the flesh but of a divine nature. He tells us to “hold captive every thought.” This means that with every feeling and thought we have, we need to take hold of it, identify it, and then use Christ’s standards to evaluate it. Without this process, our emotions and thoughts can become a swirling river of untamed beliefs and assumptions that guide our behavior and decisions in a destructive way. It’s Satan’s last ditch effort to pull us away from the freedom we have in Christ. Again, this is where a community of Christ-followers and sober-minded friends and mentors is key to survival. There will be times when we are so far gone down the river of frustration, guilt, fear, self-righteousness, doubt, and selfishness that we need others to recognize and identify for us what’s going on. We will need others to pull us out, dry us off, and call us out on our erroneous thinking or behaving. We will need others to speak gentle truths to us in love, reminding us of our freedom and security in Christ.
When we started this “Family Rehab” journey last year, we committed to a year of homeschool in an effort to slow our pace of living down and to reestablish our home during that time. While during the past year we have seen remarkable change in our relationships with our children and have seen them blossom in certain areas, it has not gone as expected. With our relocation, we lost at least half the school year to the mayhem of boxes and house projects. However, we have seen during a less than perfect attempt at homeschooling, positive and fruitful growth in our family, which only shows God’s faithfulness and mercy.
I have wrestled with what lies ahead for us and school. I see the great benefits of homeschool and being with my kids every moment of the day, learning with them along the way. The flexibility of setting our own schedule has been a healing balm for our souls and our home life. There are many reasons to do homeschool again next year. However, I realize that most Americans feel that they cannot afford homeschool or that it isn’t a realistic option for them. So because the majority of the culture around me is facing the realties of parenting in the midst of our crazy fast-paced American goal-setting and success-getting culture, I find myself searching for the answers to some questions:
With the early hours, the days apart from each other, the homework, our own job-stress and expectations, and the bulging schedule, how do we still remain intentionally engaged with the hearts of our children and each other?
How do we live in our American culture, yet not submit to it–without completely pulling out of its systems?
How do we resist finding our value and worth in our success and performance when the culture around us measures us (and everything else–even our churches) by those same weighted standards?
How do we gospel-thrive in a gospel-deficiant culture?
I feel that our year of rehab helped us to rest and hit the reset button. While nowhere near completion, I believe that I have grown in my trust of Jesus and am merely starting to learn what it means to unabashedly move to the gentle whispers of His Spirit, even if He leads me to do something a little bit crazy. I hope that my family is also learning this kind of discernment. I think our freshly rested souls and our post-rehab perspectives encourage us to engage in these kinds of cultural questions. Because of this, (along with some other reasons I can discuss later), we are looking at putting the kids in school next year. Having said that, we are waiting for clear direction from the Lord as to where and if this is truly what is best for our family in this season. There might be a chance that God says we are not ready and need another year of rehab. We might see that we need to “go back to therapy” because we are closer to relapse than we realize. There is a chance that we enter the school system only to pull out again in a year or two. As counter-culture and as counter-Angie as it is, I am trying not to set a 5-year plan and outline the future. We have seen God work in ways that go beyond our plans and, in fact, frustrate our plans. So, we are intentionally not setting any or forming strong biases in the area of education. So many benefits lie in all forms of education, and I believe those differing benefits can be taken advantage of for different seasons.
No matter where our children’s education takes place, this next year will look different. Instead of focusing on a year of rehabilitation, we will focus on applying the things we have learned to our new and crazy fast-paced life. I am sure we will struggle to stay grounded and will have to resist getting swept up in the things of this world. But we will use these helpful steps and trust in Jesus to be sovereign and carry us through. We will rely on those sober-minded friends and family members to pull us from paths or cycles leading to relapse.
We will continue to share our story with you (see blog posts on steps 5 and 6) as we enter Life After Rehab. I invite you to share your stories with me. My prayer is that we will remind each other over the next year that we have all been rehabilitated, restored, renewed and revived in Jesus. His work is complete in us. Let us hold fast to His word and cling to His promises–who He is and who we are in Him. When things start to look more like the world and less like Jesus, let’s hold each other up to the truths found in His deep relentless love. Our performance doesn’t change the work He did on the cross. Our falling off the wagon doesn’t change or take away His victory over sin and eternal death. We get to continue in the joy and freedom found in what He has rehabilitated–what He has restored. We all have new health and life in Him. We all are in life after rehab…let’s support one another and live it together.
We are working on a better format for the sharing of your stories. In the meantime, please share in the comment section. We’d love to be encouraged by what God is doing in your life and support you where you are struggling to see His presence.