“Bear All These Things with Patience,” Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery (2014).
“Bear All These Things with Patience,” Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery.
Elder David A. Bednar taught that spiritual change “does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience” (“Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 21). Similarly, all change takes energy and sustained effort. Our loved ones must go through a process of emotional, spiritual, and physical change, and this process requires time and patience.
Preach My Gospel (2004) teaches this about the recovery process:
“Repentance may involve an emotional and physical process. People must stop ongoing, ingrained ways of inappropriate acting. Undesirable actions must be replaced with healthy and appropriate behaviors.
“Thus, both repentance and recovery may take time. Sometimes [people], even with the best of intentions, give in to temptation as they progress toward greater self-discipline. …
“Through baptism and confirmation people receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will strengthen their ability to overcome these challenges. But baptism and confirmation may not fully do away with the emotional and physical urges that go along with these behaviors. Even though a person may have some initial success, further emotional healing may be necessary to completely repent and recover” (187–88).
How can these truths about repentance and recovery influence your efforts to support your loved one’s recovery?
Relapse occurs when a person slides back into bad choices after partial recovery. Relapse is very common and may range from a single incident to a complete return to former patterns. Because relapse is so common, some may rationalize that it is part of recovery as long as they are doing their best. However, it is important to remember that relapse is not part of the recovery process. We should be careful not to condone our loved ones’ excuses or justifications for their poor choices. Chronic relapse indicates that our loved ones have not yet fully recovered. It may mean that loved ones need to make greater efforts and receive more intensive treatment. We may need to set additional boundaries or limits with them. If our loved ones try to minimize the seriousness of a relapse, our clear and honest perspective can help them see that they are deceiving themselves and need additional help.
When our loved ones relapse, we may experience hopelessness, doubt, low self-worth, and anger. These feelings may be intense and at times overwhelming. Even if this issue is an old one to us, the pain can still be fresh and intense. And sometimes, if our loved ones relapse after a significant amount of time in recovery, the hopelessness and pain can become even more pronounced. Part of our healing is to learn how to deal with and overcome the painful feelings that arise because of our loved ones’ poor choices. We can use the healthy coping skills we have learned and boundaries we have set so far in our journey and build on that foundation. We can also reach out to those who love us and are supporting us. We can surrender our hearts and rely on the Lord to take our burdens from us and provide us with His peace. Our loved ones’ relapses need not cause us to despair, because of our relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ.
It is important to respond appropriately to our loved ones’ relapses, not only to help us heal but also to help them in their recovery. Enabling or ignoring their behavior may perpetuate their behavior and increase our suffering. They need to understand that we love them but that we cannot condone continued poor choices and their rationalizing their decisions. We can lovingly and honestly respond to their relapse and rationalizations to help them understand how their actions affect us and themselves. We can support others with “love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41) while also clearly communicating our feelings of disapproval of their behavior “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love” (D&C 121:43).
How has God helped you to cope with your loved one’s relapses?
How can you respond to relapse appropriately?
While some try to justify their relapses, others become overly discouraged and give up if they relapse, mistakenly believing that they have destroyed all of their progress toward recovery. But relapsing doesn’t negate all their efforts toward recovery. Progress may still be happening in other ways, such as their honesty about their challenges or the frequency or intensity of their relapses. They need to learn from their mistakes, correct them, and press forward. Our encouragement and support are vital in this process. Our loved ones need us to acknowledge the progress they are making and to help them continue toward recovery. While we cannot discern if they have fully repented or not, we can testify that the Lord wants to forgive them and that there is still hope, and we can encourage them to work with their ecclesiastical leaders, support people, and others who can best assist them. Successful recovery is possible for those who are humble and exercise faith in Jesus Christ as they continue to work through their challenges and make lasting changes in their lives.
How can you support your loved one during a relapse?