Beyond Sobriety: A Look at the Critical Goals of Recovery


Anyone entering or having a loved one enter a recovery program has one goal in mind: get and stay sober. However, most don’t understand that sobriety in and of itself is not enough. People can get sober, but not necessarily set free. The removal of the substance isn’t the removal of the contributing factors, the problems in that person’s life that may have led to their use or abuse. In fact, quite often addiction is used as an unhealthy form of coping, thus the situations that caused the person to “check out” in the first place must be addressed.  We’ve broken down the five areas we feel are most vital to a long-term, successful recovery program.

Five Critical Goals for Long-term Recovery

1. Gaining a personal relationship with Jesus and learning how to be connected to the Holy Spirit is most important ingredient.  Jesus is a person, not merely a principle. Meeting Him isn’t done though religious technique, shaming, cohesion, control or guilt. Sadly, we live in a culture that has framed Christianity as intolerant and out of touch. Many times, people have had negative experiences in the church and thus have labeled God as mean, hard, demanding and unloving. Some people won’t enter into a Christian program because they are assuming they will find out how “bad” they are, and get a bunch of lists of what they “should do.” That’s a lie! The goal of a healthy Christian program is to introduce the character of God and begin to establish an atmosphere to dialogue with Him in the heart. The Bible is used to establish truth, and to display the radical promises it contains. The Bible isn’t a letter of judgement, but a redemptive story of love and grace.

People in recovery must learn to see themselves as precious sons and daughters of a God who loves them deeply and has plans and purposes for their lives.  Rarely do people decline the invitation God gives to enter into this type of relationship.  They decline because they have the wrong idea of who He is. Simply put, they don’t know Him. Imagine if you were hearing rumors about someone’s character, and had drawn up a horrible idea of who they were, only to discover that the information you had been given was wrong.  That same person someone tried to frame as “bad”, in fact was a carrier of love and generosity; kindness and compassion. Perhaps that’s why God despises slander so much – it defames character wrongfully. And could anyone know that any better than Jesus? He was accused as being demonic, a drunkard and a fraud. Many people have a very toxic idea of Him because they have been fed lies. Simply put, they have false information about His character and nature! Recovery that aims at the heart gives the opportunity to let God reveal Himself on the basis of who He is really is. This is where change truly begins. From there,  a person is able to view Him and self accurately: as objects of His love and affection. This one truth can single-handedly change the course of a person’s life forever.

2. Understand that God seeks to change the heart, not modify behaviors.  Behaviors have a root and a drive. They are the result of the choices a person makes, and those choices are attached to deeper things. By not focusing on behaviors alone (while holding people accountable to certain standards), we can learn the “why” of the heart. Asking  a person to confront the deeper situations, experiences and injuries of the heart is to gain insight, to reject lies and to let Jesus touch the places that have led a person to “check out” through unhealthy coping. Addicts will continue to struggle with character defects, and if behavioral perfection is the goal, they will not succeed. Perfection is never God’s goal – He is looking for the belief or the mindset that opposes the truth of who He is. He is teaching us to come as we are and openly confess our sin and brokenness before Him so that we can be set free.   Forgiveness is the beginning of all freedom. Learning to forgive others and let God forgive us is where change begins. But sometimes that requires a deeper surgical work of the Holy Spirit. Not all areas of the heart automatically reveal themselves – there can be hidden places where secrets, injuries, resentment and other hazardous human conditions hide. Loving confrontational processes through the tools of recovery allow people to assess, view, comprehend and apply spiritual remedy to the places of hurt, sin and damage.

3. The tool of grace need to be attained as the cure. The dreaded term “cure” makes many in recovery cringe. They will remind us that addiction is a brain disease and can never end. True. It does cause brain defects and an addict should never consume drugs or alcohol again. Some need additional help through diet and a doctor, as to not negate physical problems. But overall, there is a cure. Yes, there is. It’s the same cure that was bought on the cross. When the words “it is finished” were uttered by Jesus, it referred to completion and the all-sufficiency of His grace. But that doesn’t mean the term “cure” magically allows an addict to drink again. Substance will need to be released, permanently. Rather, the cure comes when the bondage of sin, the torment of temptation, the chronic sense of unworthiness, the lack of purpose, the relationship injuries are replaced with this one truth – Jesus is enough. When grace, the very nature of Jesus Christ, is acquired, each stumble can drive a person back into the arms of Jesus rather than in the deceitful hands of the false comforter. A person who walks by grace fully understands the inability to do anything or to move even an inch through self effort. They live, breath and move as a result of connection to Him. Should they stumble or fall at any point, grace is able to pick them up and say “let’s keep going…don’t give up!” That is the heart of God. If people can learn to engage with the language of grace, they will forever be driven to Jesus – and that is by far the best relapse prevention and recovery plan a person can find.

4. Relationship skills and interests must be addressed. A person can’t get sober and maintain toxic relationships that created the atmosphere for drug use. Lines will need to be drawn. Some people will need to be released altogether. Others, such as parents and spouses, perhaps can’t be released, but new skills must be attained. We focus on relationship issues in our program, knowing they drive almost 100% of the addiction issues that led up to using drugs or alcohol in the first place. Learning new relationship skills, identifying potential relationship triggers and seeking God’s heart in walking in relationship as He intended is vital for true sobriety to occur. We recently surveyed all our alumni that had come through program since 2005. Of relapses that were reported, every person that responded indicated that it occurred due to a relationship trigger. That’s enormous! Therefore, sitting around in a class all day and talking about the drug use won’t resolve those issues. A person who wants to be free from substance must also be willing to learn and walk in new relationship styles.

5. Family support and education must be present. Yes, the addict has a problem, there is no question. But the family has been impacted and affected – big time. In our own experience at New Life, we found that families had a resistance to the family education processes. After enduring the pain caused by the addict, getting lectured on “their part” hardly seemed justifiable, and was in fact, insulting in some cases. Obviously, that was far from our intention. But we listened and moved from a workshop setting into an individual process. Instead of mere education, we began letting families share with us what has occurred from their point of view. We began to affirm their injuries and let them know that they need support during this critical transition. But at the same time, we began to introduce solution – to expose unhealthy dynamics and to give them the tools to plan, set boundaries and make good choices.  Instead of being mere victims, they began to discover how they could be empowered. They also learn to understand the addict’s needs as well as their own. The result? A complete and total shift in the relationship between the addict and family member; and a far more stable transition back home.  This caused us to scream the message as loud as we can that including family members in a loving and empathetic way isn’t just wise, it’s vital. Thankfully, there are tools for families to overcome the pain of addiction. Education has a place. Families have a choice in that educational process. But it is our desire to offer the gift of empathy to both sides. It takes time, but when everyone is involved, reconciliation and new beginning is attainable. Watch this short video on the power of empathy. 

If you are faced with treatment needs, remember these five factors. If you have a family in recovery, embrace this as a divine season of change and the potential for something new. If you are feeling defeated by someone’s ongoing relapse, equip yourself, but don’t give up! Education will empower you and recovery will offer you the much-needed support you deserve!  Learn what you can do and where to draw by reading our resource Christian Families in Recovery. Click here to learn more or order a copy today. (Family members in our program receive a free copy!)

Want to learn more? We’d be happy to chat! Call us at 866.543.3361


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