He came home from what felt like an endless day. Tired and hungry, he searched to fill the hole in his stomach. Worn and weary, he searched to fill the hole in his soul. Alone he sought comfort. As his mind raced, he thought about relief. The realization that determination and grit had gotten him this far brought confidence and much-needed credence. Reestablishing himself in society and his family prompted pride. He felt accomplished and was suddenly feeling stronger. The thought of a celebratory cocktail swirled in his imagination. The memories of good times flooded his focus. He painted a perfect picture of peace poured into a crystal glass. Before he knew it he was moving towards the liquor cabinet, this time would be different; there would be control. He opened, poured, and he drank. With several drinks in him, he headed toward his favorite haunt. He was back. He aspired to a higher high and reacquainted with a friend who delivered his promise. He downs a couple of pills, snorted some powder, and left consciousness behind.
The story above can end in many ways. On the extreme end, vehicular death or overdose could be the conclusion. However, the best-case scenario is that loss is limited to health, finance, and families.
Relapse leaves a trail of destruction, despair, desperation, and in many cases death.
Frustration is found in the fact that it is totally preventable.
“Relapse is part of the recovery story.”
This is a line of shit that has been delivered to the sobriety society for years. Yes, people relapse. But it seems that it is some rite of passage and that backsliding is normal and should be expected. It is typically positioned that it is the result of a negative trigger. It is coddled in recovery rooms, probably resulting in more relapses.
We feel it is as predictable as it is preventable.
Relapse, or further relapses, does not need to be part of our stories.
We have seen many chronic relapsers stop the cycle. We have seen just as many people come through the doors for the first time and remain abstinent from day one. We wish we could provide statistics at this point, but they are unavailable through all our searching. We can convey that we have witnessed relapse-free lifestyles in the circles we are connected to.
“Relapse is not an option.”
Another least favorite sentence of ours is: “I am a relapse king/queen.” Why set ourselves up for failure by defining ourselves as relapseable?
When we understand the relapse process, we know the defense against it.
A relapse is only an option if we allow it to be.
We have learned three phases of a relapse: emotional, mental, and physical.
The emotional phase puts the thought of a drink or drug into our psyche. Often we find ourselves vulnerable when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. It is awareness of this vulnerability and the management of these emotions that spare us from possible danger.
The mental face romanticizes the drink, conjuring up only the pleasant memories of what it did for us while negating the reality of what it did to us. This is where discipline and muscle memory disallow engagement for the prepared.
The physical phase is the last step. Where the drink makes its 25-inch journey from hand to mouth, and if a sip was all we ever took, we wouldn't be writing or reading this blog. But the reality is that the first step always leads us to the last gulp.
Statistics are not available for how many families were destroyed, how many careers were ruined., how many relationships deteriorated, or how many livers were irreversibly damaged.
He came home from what felt like an endless day. Tired and hungry, he searched to fill the hole in his stomach. Worn and weary, he searched to fill the hole in his soul. Alone he sought comfort. As his mind raced, he thought about relief. The realization that determination and grit had gotten him this far brought confidence and much-needed credence. Reestablishing himself in society and his family prompted pride. He felt accomplished and was suddenly feeling stronger. The thought of a celebratory cocktail swirled in his imagination. He “played the tape forward,” remembering the stark consequences that alcohol had caused in his life. He knew he couldn't spend another minute in his mental space, so he grabbed his phone and called a friend in the program. They talked about his struggle, his successes, and the solution that had worked so successfully for them and countless others. He hung up the phone and scheduled time at a local AA meeting. He went and shared his struggles and learned about new defenses.
The story above can end in many ways. On the extreme end, his wife chastises him for shirking his home responsibilities. However, the best-case scenario is that his gain is extended to his health, finance, and family.
It’s hard to relapse when you are active in your recovery.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast titled “#118 Relapse - Serious Shit”…The podcast dropped on 06/28/2023. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.