“IT’S SUMMER?!?!? WHAT? WHO? WHERE? WHEN?!?”
So it hit me the other day that summer is here. Oh, don’t misunderstand…I know that it is summer! We have been looking forward to the days when there’s no school and there are more hours to play. (Although, with our recent relocation, we’ve really been acting like it’s summer since Christmas.) So it wasn’t really the fact that summer has arrived that caught me off guard. What was profoundly shocking about my realization was that our year of “Family Rehab” is over. When we started this crazy adventure, we committed to taking one school year at home to rehabilitate our family and our hearts. Wow. The school year is over. Those 9 months went by incredibly fast. This surprising conclusion has raised many questions concerning Family Rehab:
“Was it worth it?”
“Did we succeed and change?”
“Did we learn anything?”
“Are we better for it, or worse?”
“If we’ve learned anything during this year, how do we keep from reverting to old habits and behaviors?”
When a person enters a formal drug treatment program, they don’t stay there forever. They go through months of overpowering therapy and work, learning how to live in a world that entices them back to their addictions. It’s an intense time created with the purpose of preparing the person to one day leave the facility in better physical, mental, and emotional health. When a person is leaving a treatment facility for drug or alcohol abuse, there can be a lot of similar questions to my Family Rehab questions:
“Was is worth it?”
“Did I succeed and change?”
“Did I learn anything?”
“Am I better for it, or worse?”
“How am I going to survive out there?”
“How can I keep from falling off the wagon?”
I did a little research and found 7 helpful steps from a rehab website (http://www.michaelshouse.com) for those re-entering life after rehab. I think these steps are helpful for our family also as we consider life after Family Rehab. In the posts to come, I will cover these steps and how they relate to all of us in our every day walk.
First of all, it’s wise to note that going to rehab of any kind, whether for substance abuse or for Family Rehab, doesn’t fix a person and take away their struggles. Rehab is designed to concentrate on the tools needed to face the struggle head-on and to lead a life of sobriety. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our struggles with sin, with parenting, with relationships, and with coping in this world rely soley on the saving grace of Jesus. Our hope lies in Him–not in improving our performance or trying harder. So these helpful tips for diving back into the real world after a season of intentional learning and healing are not the saving secret codes to life. They are merely help in maintaining that sober-mindedness. They are merely a way to keep the mind prepared for the action that life throws our way. These 7 steps I will share over the next week can help make the transition from a slower pace of intentional living back into regular life a little less stressful.
Step 1: Find Sober Friends
“Addictions often form through the influence of other people. Studies on teens, such one published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, clearly demonstrate that peer pressure is a powerful motivator for drug use, as those teens who spend time with pro-drug friends are more likely to use when compared to teens who spend time with sober friends. The same could be said for adults. Those who have friendships built on drugs may find it hard to go to parties, share meals, or otherwise interact and stay sober, as the temptation to use might grow and spread. Sober friends can be vital, as they may be willing to engage in fun activities that don’t involve substance abuse. Temptation levels might fade when people are surrounded by others who are sober” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).
Using this logic from a drug rehabilitation program as a guide, step 1 for Family Rehab is also to find sober friends–that is, sober-minded friends. 1Timothy 3 speaks directly to sober-minded influences or leaders and overseers in the church:
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:2-7).
It doesn’t take much thought to see the wisdom in seeking out sober-minded friends. When surrounded by people who demonstrate the qualities listed above, peer pressure alone makes us better people. But, in the book of Titus, Paul explains the the relationship with sober-minded people is not just one that consists of merely being surrounded my these people. They have been called to be teachers and we are to allow ourselves to be taught by them. He writes to these teachers:
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:1-10).
Wow…I want to be around someone who has been charged with all that and is willing to take on the challenge. I want to learn from them, study them, and become like them.
In the next phase of our “sobriety”, I think it is important that each member of our family find sober-minded friends. Not just friends, but mentors–people from whom we can learn. For Paul and I we have various mentors already in place for different areas of life. But I think we need to look forward with the goal of really seeking mentorship in the area of parenting specifically. There are couples God has placed in our lives whose families we admire. Their children are respectful and follow Jesus with a passion. Their marriage seems strong and steady. They speak of their spouses with the upmost grace and care, never slandering or damaging them. They deal with stressful situations with calm and peaceful ease demonstrating a firm belief and trust in the Lord’s plan. I want to encourage my children to seek out mentors in older children as well. (Of course, we have to approve their choice.) But we want them to start now looking to older and more seasoned believers for guidance and wisdom. We are naive if we think our children will come to us for advice on all areas of life. We are also naive if we think we can go through life as parents without mentors. I want us all to learn how to recognize and make relationships with sober-minded friends. (Us ladies, find ladies. The guys, find guys.) This, however, doesn’t mean that we circle the wagons and cut-off relationships with those who are outside our circles of faith or condone the particular sins others struggle with. It does mean that those relationship look a little different. If a women is struggling to respect her husband and is filled with frustration, she probably shouldn’t go vent to her girlfriend who is constantly husband bashing. That won’t bear any good fruit or set her up to battle her temptation to sin. Likewise, the man who is struggling with lust probably would not do well to go hang out with a group of guys from work whose relationship is built around frequenting the local strip club. It also will not bear good fruit, nor set him on a path away from temptation.
Who we spend time with, learn from, and let influence our decisions is important. In our American culture we tend to think our opinions and convictions are invincible. But in reality we are so easily impacted by popular trendy beliefs, voices of “intellect” and status, and by merely unconsciously observing the lives of others. Just like the addict, spending the weekend with a best friend doesn’t seem like a potentially dangerous plan in which safety has to be questioned–and maybe it’s not. But the purpose of rehab is to train ourselves to at least be willing to ask questions about the people we let speak into our lives…whether the person is as close a relative or spouse, or as distant as Oprah.
Not only do we need to ask questions about current relationships, but we need to seek out sober-minded friends and mentors. This is a hard process…especially when in a new area like our family currently is. But, the hard and awkward work of getting to know people and learning about them is all worth the effort if the result is having relationships with people who are courageously marking a path of sobriety before you, and setting up boundaries in relationships that might discourage positive headway on the journey.
My prayer is that God leads us to these good relationships and gives all of us, but especially our children, the discernment and wisdom to identify sober-mindedness and the courage to engage and learn from those who possess it. I also pray that we cling to those relationships that are already established and have been proven to bear good fruit. Through all of our life after rehab I pray that we don’t forget our most valuable lesson from the past year—that our greatest friend and influence is Jesus. His faithfulness is unmatched. His sobriety amidst trial and temptation is above that of anyone else. His relationship—a priceless treasure. His forgiveness—unending. His love—relentless.
Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” He makes known to us His faithfulness to His great promises. Whatever “Life After Rehab” will look like, we can trust that in His friendship He will let us know the “what, who, where, and when” of each moment. He has promised to love us, to never forsake us, and to guide us. And we can trust that He will open our eyes to see the fulfilling of those promises.
Keep an eye out for Step 2 of Life After Rehab…