Relapse as Part of Recovery

Posted by Union Gospel Mission Oct 29, 2014 9:31:00 AM

Falling Down and Getting Back Up

By Darlene Willis, recovery resident at the UGM Center for Women & Children

“Life is not about how many times you fall down. It's about how many times you get back up.” - Jaime Escalante


Worthless. Disappointing. Repugnant. Unwanted. Ultimately a failure. These thoughts and feelings assailed me as I sat alone in my motel room directly across the street from the place I had called home for the past year, the UGM Center for Women and Children in Coeur d'Alene. My belongings were thrown together in a large black garbage bag. I had chosen to leave UGM and this is where I found myself.

The day started out badly. Residents and staff from the Center were camping at Union Gospel Mission Camp near Ford, Washington. I was late getting up, missed breakfast and community meeting, and cost my cabin a lead in the week's pirate contest. After disappointing my cabin mates, I tried to redeem myself in the “Treasure Hiking” activity but couldn't locate a single hidden rock.


Still, I participated in the games and gave it my all. Tennis (3 hours’ worth) with a resident rounded out my afternoon. (I was thrilled to survive without the need for medical attention.) Dinner was served and my fellow residents and I provided the entertainment by showing our team spirit through songs. So how did I end up at the motel?

Listening to My Demons

I placed myself above the rules. I made the decision to smoke a cigarette outside on the deck of our cabin. A clear violation. I knew the rule: No smoking outside of the designated area. And yet I justifed breaking it with the excuse, Everyone else has done it. Plus, what are they going to do to me? I did not consider the magnitude of the potential fire danger and all the people I put in jeopardy. I did not care about anything but my immediate want. Thus, by selfishly allowing the demon of entitlement to re-enter my life and replace God, I made the decision to leave the community.

All the months I had dedicated to my sobriety and redeeming my character were gone with that cigarette. I had forgotten who had made the path clear for me to join the program at the Center and whose strength was holding me together daily. I had stopped thanking God for the good in my life and had begun dwelling on the negative.

My focus had been turning to what I did not have and who was no longer part of my life. Every time I was confronted with a disappointment, I relinquished a part of my soul to the enemy. Punctuating every adverse situation with the thought, “I am getting what I deserve,” or “God doesn't really care about me,” I was setting myself up for relapse.

My Own Personal Rock Bottom

And so, I ended up back where I had lived prior to being accepted into the Center's program - a lonely motel, my own personal rock bottom. It was late at night, and I was terrified. I fell into old patterns of thinking and convinced myself that God was telling me to give up the fight. I looked at my box of diabetic medication, just filled the previous day, and thought, It’s another sign. I went across the street, and along with legal pads and pens, I purchased a box of wine. In the quiet of my room, I began yelling at God, “Why did you allow me to live when all I can do is fail? I was so close when I tried to take my life last time….What purpose can I possibly serve? My family and friends will be better off if I am dead. No more worry. No more disappointments.”

I began to write out my thoughts and feelings, systematically drinking and shoving in my medication with every swallow. I took a full month’s supply. Combined with the wine, I figured my body did not have a chance. The note I wrote was a confession - a confession of my weakness. I wrote that I did not see God or hear him in my life. I could feel nothing but loneliness and desperation. I wanted to escape the never-ending depression of my life.

The next morning I awoke and was violently ill. I don’t remember how I got downstairs, but I remember sitting outside and falling over into the parking lot. A woman asked me if I was okay. Somehow I made it back to my room and fell back asleep. My dreams were dark, with me always fighting to fix something or save someone. I woke again exhausted and more alone than I ever felt.

Humiliation and Despair

I had made a mountain out of a molehill. All I had to do was wait until the group returned and face my punishment. I just had to be alone for two days and keep myself from relapsing, but I listened to the enemy and turned this setback into the ultimate humiliation: I had failed, nobody really cared about me. They had been looking for a reason to get rid of me. I used this as an excuse to go back to my old behavior. Nothing mattered anymore, especially me. I had lost the battle.

My phone rang. It was a staff member from the Center. My accountability meeting - required for re-entry into the program - was to be in 2 days. She assumed I was well and had not relapsed. I told her the truth. I told her I drank and took most of my medication. I told her I had not called my probation officer to relay that I was temporarily out of the program. Her disappointment was obvious - even over the phone. I was in real trouble, and I worried about the impact of my actions on my future. I was facing jail time.

Earlier, when I had given my life to God, I thought that I was done. Nothing more was required of me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had to repent. I had to acknowledge that I was not in control. Yes, I have freedom, but I needed to use that freedom to behave in a manner that glorified God.

Looking Up

From that low point, I thought and prayed, imploring God to show me that I mattered and had a purpose. 

I thought about how Christ died on the cross for my sins. I realized that my significance is not based on what I have done or not done, but on what he has done. < Tweet this.


I turned my thoughts toward my accomplishments at UGM. I thought about my daughters and the way they have been reintroduced into my life. I began to realize that since I had entered the Center, I had made a difference. I had encouraged others to succeed through my writing and in class discussions. I had friends who loved me and felt I was part of their family. I felt my resolve coming back, and I made a commitment to God that I would be his warrior. I renounced Satan in that moment and felt the darkness leave the room.

God is Stronger

The days that followed, two weeks to be exact, were challenging. My friends brought me my Bible, and I began reading Psalms and Proverbs throughout the day. A relative of a staff member at UGM was at the same motel, and he prayed and talked me thru my tumultuous days. I never drank again after that night. The leftover wine I gave to the front office at the motel and told them I was an alcoholic and that I could not have it. I told my family that I had relapsed. They responded with disappointment, but still believed in me and gave me yet another chance.

Darlene being affirmed by her counselor


I am now back in the program at the Center. I was required to have an accountability meeting with staff and residents to determine if this program was the right choice for my life. Happily, I have come back stronger and more determined than ever. I am proud that I believe in God and the Trinity. I am constantly aware that Satan still attempts to influence me, but I know that God is stronger, thus I am no longer a victim. I am not sure of what plan God has for me, but I know that when the time is right, He will show me. It’s because of God that I am here. Through his grace, I am forgiven, and I do matter.

Darlene smiling


If you're interested in walking alongside women like Darlene, click on the link below to learn more about addiction, relapse and recovery.

screenshot of John Dunne with white board graphics









Topics: homeless women and children, relapse


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