Questions Related to Residential Recovery Programs

What are some special counseling concerns for women in family shelters?

What steps must be taken to comply with federal and state laws regarding the payment of the minimum wage when participants do work in a recovery program?

How do we properly cope with the emotional distress that some staff members experience when called upon to dismiss residents for violating program rules?

What are some strategies for preventing relapse?

(This section is from a seminar given at the 1996 AGRM Annual Convention)

In addition to introducing men and women to Christ, helping addicts to maintain sobriety is a primary responsibility of the rescue mission residential program. Learning to read, completing high school, and gaining other life skills are important. But, if residents cannot remain sober, we have only succeeded in creating smarter Biblically literate drunks. The act of using drugs or alcohol is an end result of a process that began long before. Addicts relapse when it is more painful to stay sober than it is to get “high.” The immediate benefits of ceasing drug and alcohol use include: improved health, better sleep, return of appetite, and clearer thinking. However, all addicts eventually face a challenge even more difficult than stopping drinking or using drugs — coping with life without them! Doing so involves a whole lot more than just “putting the cork in the bottle.” They must learn a completely new way of life. We often refer to this process as “recovery” — the Bible calls it “sanctification” — a definite ongoing program of personal growth.

Major Causes of Relapse

Some Relapse Prevention Strategies

  1. Scriptural Priority – Worship, prayer, Bible Study, and Scripture memory all equip the person new to sobriety to overcome temptation and live a life that is pleasing to God.
  2. Take Relapse Seriously – It must be clearly understood that use of alcohol or drugs results in immediate dismissal from the program. This could mean simply being asked to leave the facility, demotion to “transient” status or referral to another program. After thirty days, the client can be reassessed for reentry to the program. The worst possible situation is to give residents the impression that everyone has at least one drunk “in the bank.” We can be assured that they will use it!
  3. Addiction Education – Gaining more knowledge about addiction serves two very important functions. It helps the addict in denial accept his condition. And, this knowledge can be a tremendous source of comfort and reassurance for those struggling with post acute withdrawal symptoms and the emotional difficulties that come with early recovery. Newly sober addicts need to understand that they are suffering from a malady that is shared by others. Education also gives hope that change is possible. Many resources are available: lending libraries, literature, videos, and local professionals who can speak at the mission. Contact AGRM’s Education Office for information on educational resources for use in a mission setting.
  4. One-on-One Counseling – Every participant in a long-term program needs at least one hour a week with a staff member who understands addiction to help them through the struggles of early recovery. Relapse is a process — no one is working a solid program of recovery one day and drunk the next. Therefore, one very important goal of these sessions is to help them to recognize their relapse patterns and learn to interrupt them before the process leads to actual use.
  5. Support Groups – Good support groups provide recovering addicts with with a safe, non- judgmental setting to share their struggles, thoughts, and feelings without fear of rejection. Hearing the stories of others with similar difficulties and how they overcame them provides valuable encouragement for them to go on in a life of sobriety. Because addiction wreaks havoc upon an individual’s relationships with others, support groups are also a great place to begin the difficult and painful process of re-connecting with other people.
  6. Relationships – One especially important area where those in recovery need special help is in learning how to form healthy relationship and avoid destructive ones. Unhealthy relationships, especially of the romantic sort, are one of the biggest causes of relapse. Teaching about godly relationships, even in the sexual area, helps them to avoid getting caught up with people that are not good for them. New relationships with the opposite sex should be put off for the first year of sobriety.

What is the proper use of drug and alcohol testing in a residential recovery program?

Most of the above material was adapted from A Guide to Effective Rescue Mission Recovery Programs by Michael Liimatta

© Copyright 1993, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. All rights reserved.

While developed originally for use in inner city rescue missions, this is a comprehensive resource for developing successful residential programs for drug addicts and alcoholics in any setting. It includes several hand-outs for staff in-service training, model program policies & procedures, and many useful forms.