Relapses happen. The old life sometimes exerts a seemingly irresistible force on people rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness and prison.
I remembering feeling great discouragement when I first faced that reality at Bud's Warehouse. An individual who had come back from heroin addiction, who was thriving in our program and ready to graduate to a job in the community, suddenly disappeared back into the world of drug abuse.
Perhaps, I unrealistically hoped that once people experienced new life and the satisfaction of supporting themselves in a job, they would never be tempted to make their former mistakes. It seems so naive to write that down today almost 13 years later. But the unsatisfying truth is that sometimes people never relapse but often they do...and that is all part of God's plan of redeeming lives where brokenness is the only path to life.
I remember my surprise when our former employee returned from his relapse into heroin wanting to share his new story of life. Yes, he had made a mistake. Yes, he needed to be let go because of his bad choice to use. But a few months later, he realized that if Bud's Warehouse, the best place he had ever worked, the one place willing to give him a second and a third chance, a place of grace trying to mirror Jesus' forgiveness and offer of life, if that place had to let him go, maybe he had a real problem. And he needed to get serious about whole-heartedly pursuing his recovery.
The reality is that we will always have some that relapse. And we all are guilty of relapses one way or another when we revert to our old way of life that focus on the self whether it shows up in addiction, pride, greed, or anger among many others. But we know that future mistakes have less power because of the prior experience of God's grace.
We need to pray for people rebuilding lives that these relapses don't last long because the power of the new life outweighs the strength of the old.
And we celebrate together when we learn that one former program participant may be returning with a new outlook on life and the strength born of brokenness to make it.