There’s not much separation between my having a drink and my ending up alone in an apartment with a needle in my arm. ~Seth Mnookin

Since the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman many, many people in the addict world have talked to me about this fear: Relapse. Just one more drink, just one more time, a reality that time will never cure you. That there is no cure, that some days are harder than others but every day is a challenge, no matter how long you are in recovery.

A great post by Seth Mnookin on highlights this: Why Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Is So Scary

Although addiction is not explicitly talked about in scripture, something very close is, demons. Often lifted up is the story of Jesus exorcising the demons “Legion” into a swine of pigs and they jump off a cliff. (Mark 5:1-10). I love this story for many reasons, mostly the idea that humans are amazing beings. A man lived with these demons for years, yes tormented, but held himself together enough to stay alive, whereas the herd of pigs on lived with these demons for seconds and the pain was so excruciating they had no choice but to hurl themselves off a cliff.

Addiction is a demon, not the only demon, but a demon nonetheless. And before we get into a “those people” scenario, I would like to emphasize that we are all addicted. Some of us need to be in rehab and recovery programs, and others of us have much more “acceptable” addictions. However, those who are “in recovery” are like the man who had the Legion exorcised. He is in his “right mind” now, but he is forever changed. Jesus goes to leave and the man begs Jesus to allow him to also go. But it is not enough for the exorcism, there is more work to do, a lot more work. “Go back,” Jesus says “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”

Who did what? The Lord. The first step in the 12 step program is to recognize that there is a higher power. In the Christian tradition, Jesus, God, Spirit.   “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, how God has had mercy on you.”

I cannot do this, I cannot exorcise my own demon. I actually cannot save myself. Nor can I save you. For I am not Jesus and only Jesus can do that.

So a few chapters later a father comes begging for his possessed son to be healed. (Mark 9:14-29) The disciples are attempting to do this and fail, than Jesus gets involved…

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

I like to think that I am Jesus, I think I can say the magic words “I command you, go away and never come near me again” once I recognize them and my demons will fly from my body, mind, and soul. But I am not Jesus, I am a disciple of Christ. I can only believe, have faith as the father did, that Jesus can exorcise this demon. And then my work (with the help of God) will begin.

Once we have experienced deep, deep darkness of our demons we are in constant fear that they will return and we will relapse. That we will go back to the bottle, the pills, the smoke, the relationship, you name it we’re in fear of it. But we can only lay our worst fears before our God, every minute of everyday. For many of us the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a trigger for our greatest fears, for others it will be something else.

It is not hopeless, it is terrifying. But remember, there is a God, the way you understand him, her, or them, you cannot heal yourself, save yourself, or cure yourself, you can allow the demon to be exercised and work everyday to fill the hole and emptiness that it occupied with light, with faith, with prayer and action. Darkness, as appealing as it is sometimes, will never overcome the light. Never. Hold close, hold fast, work your program, call your sponsor, talk to your pastor, spouse, friends, cry scream and shout. God will hear our prayers.


2 thoughts on “Relapse

  1. The first step is to admit that we have been defeated. Without defeat, the healing from addiction never sets in. Steps 4-9 are there to help us find that higher power which is the solution to recovery. Steps 1-3 are there to bring us to the point of humility that a higher power is what we need to recover. Defeat is the hardest part. How many people of any sort want to admit defeat? In this society we are bred for winning and hyper-individualized power and dominion over our lives. We are taught that help is for the weak. Exorcism is so freakin’ hard when you’re not even willing to admit you have a demon in the first place.

    • Andrew, exactly, thank you. I guess I was also trying to highlight that not only is exorcism hard, but what comes after it. After the exorcism there is a hole where something once was, and even years later one still tries to deal with it. We (our society or ourselves) like to think that once the exorcism is taken place then the person (or myself) is done, “cured” that is certainly not the case.

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