Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 3

Shaun Lotter

Part 3  The Confusion of Relapse:

Sobriety & Lapses

Among the most compelling questions for people struggling with addiction and those who love them is the phenomenon diagramed above.  In short, the variations in the amount of time between addictive acting-out lead to a sort of false security.  Let’s examine this more closely.

In the diagram above, there is a line representing time, progressing forward predictably.  Circles, showing the addiction cycle (explained in the two previous pages) are superimposed on the timeline.  The circles remain the same, except for one characteristic, size.  Some of the cycles are larger, allowing more time between lapses, and some are smaller, with very limited time between acting-out.  However, the end result is always the same, destructive behavior.

Now comes the confusion.  People mistake sobriety with recovery.

Sobriety is ongoing time spent refraining from the destructive, addictive behavior.  Periods of sobriety can vary, from very short, hours or days, to very long, months or years. 

Recovery is the active, ongoing change of the individual’s way of living.  It involves the alteration of the person’s very foundation, making them incapable of producing the fruit of destruction any longer.  In recovery, a person lives for what they are now free to do.

In simple sobriety, life is about a list of “don’ts.”   Recovery does not happen without staying active in treatment!  For the addict, this means accepting that you cannot do this on your own and need help.  For those who love them, you must no longer enable the addict by accepting their excuses about lapses being isolated incidents which will not be repeated.  Life would be easier if this were true, but it is only a seductive fantasy.  This easier life does not exist, it is a manifestation of avoidance, an essential component of an addictive system.

How do you recognize if a person is truly in recovery, or simply remaining sober?  It’s a prudent question, asked by the people who have been hurt.  There simply is no completely safe way to love.  However, in true repentance, certain evidence should be present.  Specifically, if the individual has truly surrendered to Christ, they have become a new creation, or a new “tree.”  As such, we examine the fruit they are now producing:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. -Galatians 5:22-25

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help. At THE RELATIONSHIP CENTER, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help. Contact us today!

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