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How Can You Help a Friend Who Relapses?

January 6, 2010

Guest blogger Tom Daniels and his wife Linda work regularly with couples and individuals struggling with sexual addiction in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.  Tom has over a decade of experience leading groups and working with guys in crisis.  He is a personal mentor to me.

Tom answers three key questions about relapse:

MondayWhat does relapse look like?
TuesdayWhat should you do after a relapse?
WednesdayHow can you help a friend who relapses?

One of the worst things, but also the most common, is to berate the addict for lying to them or not being open with them. The last thing the addict needs is to have even more guilt and shame flung on him. He has enough of his own already and if he is married he will likely be hit with more than he can handle. Restoration is the job of the group/accountability partners. Getting him  back on track in recovery and helping him get rid of the things he has built up to facilitate acting out is essential. Grace and compassion are needed regardless of how hurt we may feel as accountability partners. We have been wounded by the addict but we MUST put our own hurts aside and show them the love and mercy that in Christ, God has shown us.

Once we have helped the addict get back into recovery we have to work on getting him out of the addictive lifestyle that he has rebuilt. This is a difficult stage as the addict has very strong emotional ties to these things and may be angry at any attempt to disrupt his carefully planned rituals but it MUST happen for him to be free. A greater level of accountability is necessary after a relapse. The addict should be willing to meet with someone (AP, group, counselor) at least 3 times a week but 4-5 is even better. Getting them into a lifestyle of accountability will help them get out of the addictive lifestyle.

As an AP you should be aware that just because an addict has come forward and been open with his acting out/relapse it does not mean that he is free from it. He has spent a lot of time building up his addictive life and is very protective of it. Wisdom and insight are required as well as a firm, loving hand. Don’t be fooled and don’t be harsh. Also, don’t let your own feelings get in the way.
Discouragement and a sense of failure are huge for someone who has been in recovery for a long time and then slips. Having been in this very situation in my own recovery more than once I can say that the most effective thing someone did for me was encourage me. Addicts already feel inadequate and rejection only helps feed the addiction. Acceptance and encouragement make a world of difference.

Spending time with him afterwards and talking about what setup the slip and what triggers were present will help him be aware of them next time he is tempted.

Be available for the addict to contact you when he is feeling tempted. Let him know that he can call or e-mail you whenever he feels weak. Pray for him regularly and encourage him.

  1. JeffTN62 permalink
    January 9, 2010 4:03 pm

    Great stuff… I know for me the shame of being found out, magnified everything- negative thoughts, how could I get out of this situation that I had known for years – that is key: most of us have had some form of lust or sex addiction for years in our life for me from the time I was 12- fantasy was my escapism, it progressed over the years till I was out of control – phone sex, IM, Chat rooms, personals posts… I would have periods of sobriety in the form of repressing rather than being honest to admit I was powerless over my addiction and find help. Repressing does not last- triggers will bring it back, stress, low self esteem, validation, hurt, pain, temptation…

    I was so out of control that I still thought it was just who I was-that if my Wife would have just not been snooping on my PC or why can’t she just let me have my secret!!!! I thought I could have managed it really who was I hurting? I work, I provide, I remembered special events, I even go to Church- what WRONG demonic thinking I had. But with God’s help I finally realized the hurt I had caused and that I was out of control. Expect that it will take 4-6 months for any real change to take hold and that there will be ups and downs, good days and bad days- be patient if your husband is working a plan, going to counseling, 12 step, etc. first 3 months I didn’t think I would make it.

    God in his grace had me find a Counselor -Michael Courtney who had been a Pastor and had been caught in sex addiction- out of that pain and addiction and recovery, He started Branches Recovery Center in Murfreesboro, TN a oasis for those that have sex addictions.

    Let me say that just going to a counselor might not help as some are not equipped to understand these issue- because most don’t feel we are addicts. I went to other counselors to appease my wife- and no one ever challenged me on my denial or the simple fact that there was no way I could stop this drug of choice porn and related sins- maybe I was just a good manipulator, liar, compartmentalizer? possibly.. and an addict is someone else not me!

    It’s amazing that when your serious about recovery from your addiction how God will meet you- find time for God and He will find time for you…. not long after starting counseling, I called on a client that was a divine appointment who told me about this group in his church that helped him with his drug and alochol addiction called Celebrate Recovery-(CR) he had no clue what I was dealing with and was SO glad I met him, it was scary to go out in public and admit your an addict but realized that you have to not allow any isolation or lies continue to get healing.

    With God’s Grace and 9 months later I have been porn free and help lead in areas with our CR group. Our marriage is 110% better-( per my Wife in every way)! Men don’t buy the lie of Satan that God can’t give you the sex and intimacy that blows away anything the porn world or lust can offer you.

    • January 9, 2010 10:39 pm

      Thanks Jeff for continuing to share your stuff and work with the men around you. You know as I do, there are thousands of other men that have stories like yours and don’t know their true condition.

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