The Stages of Recovery: From Anger at God to Accepting Responsibility for Recovery
As addicts enter recovery, each will travel an individual path in reestablishing a relationship with God. For some, it will be rocky in places, others will feel God’s sustaining grace at every turn, and some will realize the faith they thought they had before is nothing compared to the genuine love and trust in God they now experience. While each person comes to faith or returns to faith in a unique way, there are some similar steps in the progression. If faith feels lacking, don’t despair. Reconciliation and relationship with God is a journey, not a destination. Keep walking forward, one step at a time.
On the road from addiction to recovery, addicts progress through the following general stages:
Desire For Autonomy. Addiction mimics the first sin by Adam and Eve—a desire to be independent of God, to snatch our pleasures for ourselves rather than receive them from his own hand. This may be in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or any other idol we rely on in the place of God. This is full-blown addiction; there is little desire or motivation to do otherwise.
Desire To Be Free Of Addiction. But despite the desire to be master of our own universe, many of us could not deny the destruction that our addiction was causing in our own lives and in the lives of others. When we are honest, we admit that things cannot go on this way. At the same time, however, we are not sure we are willing to do the hard work of trying to change.
Prayer For Deliverance. At this point many Christians will pray that God will deliver them from their sin and addiction. These prayers may even be very sincere. Yet it seems they are going unheard and unanswered. Periods of improvement and control may come, but they are usually brief. The addiction worsens and the future seems ever bleaker.
Hitting Bottom. The ‘bottom’ will look different for everyone, but the underlying characteristic of ‘bottom’ is the understanding that things have gotten utterly out of control and there is no way you can fix them, even if you employed your best efforts. It may take many years for an addict to hit bottom. Jail, detox, or rehab may be the end result.
Realization Of Powerlessness. Though hitting bottom can be tragic, the darkest moment may actually be the realization that you cannot control your addiction or your life. Personal pride is destroyed. But there is also a refreshing sense of authenticity. No more lies. You are beginning to accept the problem and admit there is nothing you can do about it. At this point the addict may willingly seek outside help.
Anger At Not Being Normal. This phase can enter and reenter at any point in your journey. We see friends and family enjoying the substances and activities that took us to such destruction. Resentment is common. We must give up comparing ourselves to others and recognize our own unique struggle. God has a unique plan and purpose for you, but it may not include a consumption of your addictive substance. For most addicts, abstinence/sobriety is the only solution.
Believing God Can Help You…And That He Will. Many Christians know that God has the power to save and transform them, but they doubt that he will. Remember that God loves you. You are His child and He desires a life of abundance for you. Believe not only that He has the power to heal, but that He genuinely wants to restore YOU.
Reaching Out To God. This can be a simple prayer that Jesus would come into your heart and lead you out of addiction by the power of his Spirit. No special words or eloquent prayers are required—just your authentic need.
Feeling God Reach Back. Many Christians will begin to sense, and will continue to sense, that God is near to them. He is helping, comforting, and guarding from temptation. Look for evidences of God’s presence and you will find them.
Confession And Repentance, Acceptance Of Responsibility. Though God loves you intensely, your sin separates you from him. To restore fellowship with God, there is a need for confession and repentance—a desire to turn from your old ways. This is not about making yourself perfect before God. It is about being honest about who you are and who you desire to be in Him. This stage will continually repeat throughout the Christian life.
Reconciliation With God. You believe, by faith, that Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient for the forgiveness of your sins in the past and that it is sufficient to give you power over temptation in the future. This faith is all that is required to be truly reconciled to God. It is a gift of grace. All that is required is your belief. It really is that simple.
Willingness To Live In God’s Will And By His Direction. You are feeling a desire to have God in control of your life. Hitting bottom has humbled you and shown you your own inability to live sanely. You know that God’s will and purposes are good and you desire to live by them, even if it means changing your ways.
Healing And Restoration. You are adapting to a life without addictive substances and behaviors. Cravings still come, your character still needs a lot of work, but you feel hopeful—maybe for the first time. Your body, mind, and spirit are healing and strengthening.
Reconciliation With Others, Righting Of Past Wrongs. Though you have reconciled with God, there are many other people you have hurt. It is time to go to them for forgiveness. This is a hard blow to our egos, but we believe that God is guiding us and that he desires us to restore our relationships with others. Some may not be ready to forgive, but we bravely make our best efforts.
Establishment Of New Normal In Recovery. The addict is growing accustomed to living in recovery. Daily life without substance is starting to feel normal. New patterns are being established. We are making strides in character development. Many are finding great joy in studying God’s Word, taking part in Bible studies, and becoming an active member at church.
A Desire To Help Others. Gratitude for what God has done inspires a desire to serve others. Our service is not to gain God’s grace or favor. We already have that in Jesus Christ. But because we have been so blessed by restoration, we look for ways to pay it forward. Though we may yet be weak and feel like we have little to give, God will use our most humble efforts for his glory. The best is yet to come.