Christians and Addiction – Managing the Temptation to Relapse
I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 All Christians struggle with temptation of one kind or another. But for a Christian with an addiction, the temptation to use again can be especially fierce and difficult to resist. That’s why part of any effective Christian addiction treatment plan must include strategies for managing the temptation to relapse.
If you’ve been through the recovery process, you know that the call of drugs or alcohol can beckon from virtually anywhere. For some in recovery, the temptation is always there; for others, it pops up in very specific situations. No matter how temptation manifests itself, successful Christ-centered recovery hinges on developing ways to stay sober. Following are several helpful guidelines for maintaining your hard-earned sobriety and managing the temptation to use when it rears its ugly head:
Develop a network of supportive Christians in recovery. One of the most powerful tools you have after you’ve completed Christian addiction treatment is to surround yourself with other believers following God’s path to sobriety. Look for a recovery support group that will lift you up within a faithful, loving, and non-judgmental environment. Participating in a group won’t only benefit your rehabilitation; other members will receive support from your strengths and experiences as well.
Fellowship regularly with other Christians. Finding a Christian addiction support group is important, and so is finding a Christ-centered community that nourishes your entire soul. Whether alcohol and drug addiction led you away from church or your path away from it started long before addiction, now is the time to reconnect.
Join a supportive church where you can become an active member. The faith community will guide you into activities that support your healing and recovery from addiction. Whether you take the baby step of attending church this Sunday or decide to commit whole-heartedly by participating on a committee, you’ll likely discover that re-establishing a relationship with a nurturing church is one of the strongest tools for resisting the devil’s urgings.
Relinquish control to God. This is an acknowledgment that you have no control over your addiction, but it’s not an excuse to give in to it. In fact, God expects us to make good decisions regarding our lives, such as living a healthy lifestyle and surrounding yourself with people who support your recovery. Allowing God to be in control means focusing on the fact that your purpose is to know, love, and serve Him. This belief that a greater power is essential to addiction treatment is so important that it’s become the cornerstone of many 12-step recovery programs, regardless of religious affiliation.
Reject hateful inner dialog. Self-condemnation can be your worst enemy in Christian addiction treatment. Some might even call that inner voice the voice of the devil. It’s that constant whisper I’ll never be good enough, or I’m not worthy of a good life, or I’m going to Hell for what I’ve done. Remember that God has already forgiven you, and if He has already done so, how can you deny yourself the same grace?
Earn trust back from those you’ve hurt. Mending relationships is an important step toward reducing the stress that leads to temptation. But when you’ve sinned against a person you love, healing doesn’t happen overnight. Whether the damaged relationship is with a spouse or a good friend, it’s important to start the rebuilding process by asking for forgiveness. Even if they’re not ready to grant it yet, you’ll be letting them know you’re ready to accept responsibility for past behavior. Then act in ways that will help you rebuild trust. Come home when you say you’re coming home; be honest about your feelings; and, be patient with loved ones. Recognize that you may also need professional guidance to repair a relationship. For many recovering Christians, family or marriage therapy becomes an essential part of healing.
Meditate on God’s Word. When the temptation to drink or use starts creeping up on you, stop and meditate on whatever verse inspires you to sobriety. Several powerful passages in Scripture to consider include:
- So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
- But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, "The Lord is great!" Psalm 40:16
- So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Take care of your body. In the depths of addiction, it’s easy to forget that God created our bodies in His own image. Now that you’re in recovery, resist the temptation to give into cravings by taking really good care of your body. Eat a healthy diet, adapt a regular sleep schedule, and exercise regularly. When you’re well rested and eating well, you’ll be better able to manage the stress that can trigger a temptation. Exercise helps you sleep better, give you energy, and helps build self-confidence. It also provides a natural, healthy "high".
Take care of your mind. Stress compels addicts to give into urges; so another way to resist temptation is by finding healthy ways to reduce stress. Write down your feelings in a journal, learn a new skill, or start working on that creative project you’ve been thinking about for years. Whatever you do to relieve stress in a positive way will help you maintain your sobriety.
Christian addiction treatment doesn’t put an end to temptation; the recovery road will still be hard at times. But each day you nourish your mind, body, and soul, you take one step further away from addiction and one step closer to God.