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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Alexander

4 Subtle Lies that Lead to Relapse

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

Many people will listen to my testimony about how God saved me from a lifestyle of destruction. It is funny (in a sense) because they will almost always emphasize the part concerning my drug addiction. I make sure to tell them the truth: It was much more than the drugs. It was the entire culture and lifestyle. It was the power, the sex, the friends, the violence, the money — my entire way of life. What is often overlooked when people hear a former drug addict give his/her recovery story is that there is a culture associated with drugs. Yes, the drugs were powerful and held me captive for so many years, but so did unhealthy relationships, the power of money in selling drugs, and the freedom to manipulate people. So ultimately, I didn’t just give up drugs. I forsook my 'ride-or-die' friends who would get high together, smoke together, laugh together, and fight for each other. It was the whole culture I left, not merely the drugs. So when I say that ‘Jesus saved me,’ I do not mean he merely saved me from drugs; he saved me from a whole culture and lifestyle that was being lived against God. He saved me from an entire realm of addictions.


When former addicts are tempted to go back to drugs, it is normally not the lone voice of a drug that tempts them; it is also something accompanying the drug that draws them back in. With this in mind, I want to address four common lies that woo many addicts back into addiction. I'm familiar with these lies, because I too bought into them at one point or another. They are subtle but powerful. If we do not protect our minds and guard our hearts, we are vulnerable to the lies of the lifestyle.


Lie #1: I’ll quit the drugs but keep my friends.

Listen, in my six years of working with drug addicts, I have found this to be a bigger stronghold than drugs. Relationships are powerful. Almost 99% of the time, when a recovering addict says, “I will keep my friends but quit the drugs,” he has already relapsed without even recognizing it. One of the hardest things about leaving the lifestyle of drugs isn’t leaving the drugs, but often times, it's leaving the friends within that lifestyle.


One of the major contributors to sustaining long-term recovery is finding a new community. The old adage, "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future," holds true here. An ex-addict needs a positive, affirming, and loving community of people around him. If we think for a moment that we can share life with friends who are still in active addiction, while trying to remain sober ourselves, we are making provision for an almost certain relapse. This does not mean we can’t reach out to our friends to help them, or say 'hi' to them in passing, but it does mean we cannot hang out (spend intimate, quality time) with them if they are still living the same lifestyle. This may be a tough thing to accept, but when we are saying NO to drugs, we are also saying NO to the people who promote and use those drugs. “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33).


Lie #2: I’ll just stay away from the harder drugs.

There is a reason why marijuana is commonly known as a ‘gateway drug’— because it is! After working with hundreds of addicts, a common story I hear from those who have regrettably relapsed goes something like this: “I thought I could just smoke one joint. Or have a couple beers. I had no intention of using heroin, crack, or meth. But then it started feeling good and I wanted more.…” Staying away from what we would consider to be the ‘harder’ drugs by using ‘softer’ drugs is ideal thinking, but rarely is it possible. Even if this goal was somewhat achievable, we would essentially be trading one addiction for another and would eventually find ourselves back in the cycle of addiction. It may be perceived as a healthier, less life-threatening addiction, but it would still be addiction and dependency (physical, emotional, or psychological) upon a chemical.


I do not care if the chemical is 'legal' or if a person is 'of age' — if someone has a history of chemical abuse, then he has a tendency to take any chemical and abuse it to the max. This is one of the greatest traps of addiction. It is often thought that one beer, or one joint, won’t hurt me. Yes, it will! We must abstain entirely if we desire long-term recovery. Those of you who are currently in recovery, please listen carefully: "Dabbling" should not ever be in your vocabulary. Compromising to do a lesser drug should be no option. Do not believe this lie!


Lie #3: I can do sobriety on my own.

This lie is a prideful one... and perhaps the most dangerous. We are all aware that “pride comes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). I have witnessed this scenario many times: a person leaves rehab, has experienced some success, has made Facebook posts about how awesome things are going, has a healthy diet, and is habitually exercising. Then this person goes back home (or gets an apartment) and says, “I can do this on my own. I don’t need support around me; I got this!” This, again, is already a relapsed mindset. Isolation is a key ingredient in relapse.


Why do you think so many rehab programs insistently emphasize mentor support, group meetings, accountability, and fellowship? Because healthy community works. A safe, healthy, and thriving community keeps a recovering addict on the right track. Doing life with an 'on my own' attitude likely contributes to people trying drugs to begin with. Thus, a critical point of recovery is to not do sobriety alone, but to do it with a team of people that build each other up into the men and women we ought to be. If we wish to achieve a life-long victory over addiction, then we need a community of people around us that loves us enough to hold us accountable. "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12).


Lie #4: I desperately need money. I will not use drugs but will only sell them.

Re-read this lie again and notice the faulty logic behind it all. In order to help yourself or your family out of a financial crisis, you would risk prison? You would actually put your family at risk? You would potentially die? Money problems are never a good reason to go back to selling drugs. When someone is selling drugs, he is almost always using drugs as well; it is rare to find otherwise. The temptation and enticing lie — I could make a couple thousand dollars over a week — neglects the fact that it never works that way. People end up selling more over a longer period of time, then using again, then getting arrested, and then finding themselves right back in the same financial and addiction hole. This temptation is a greedy trap. Your recovery and life are worth more than money. I know it feels good to have power as a drug dealer, but it feels incomparably better to be sober and living a life of purpose. In the long-run, you will be more honored by people in your recovery than as a drug-dealer.


There are tons of resources and people who are willing to help you financially. No, they probably will not hand you a bunch of money, but they will come alongside you and provide what is needed to get you back on your feet. Utilize these resources. Engage your local ministries and organizations. There is so much help available. Learning to work hard and earn money is a process, but it is a healthy one! The power, pride, and greed involved in drugs can be just as strong as the drugs themselves. Money makes people do funny things — senseless or abhorrent things. You are way too precious to be a slave to it.


Know the Lies ... Fight the Good Fight.

Although drugs may be a problem for you, understand that drugs are just a symptom of a deeper issue. It is not merely drugs you are trying to escape — it is an entire realm of addictions, behaviors, and impulses. If you desire to give up drugs, there should be an exhaustive list of other things you are willing to give up as well. Long-term recovery is possible, and many people around the world are living it out. If you desire to remain clean and hopeful, know the lies of the devil. Relapse is usually never obvious, but it happens subtly through an old friend, a seemingly harmless Facebook message, or a good intention. Stay on guard. Be humble. Know the lies that are attempting to reel you back to drugs. They are subtle, they are common, and they lead to destruction.

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