We hope they don’t but, they sometimes do. I don’t want to say they are a necessary part of recovery, but for me my relapse taught me so much about my addiction that its hard to envision myself having stayed sober for so long without having had to endure it.
The reasons for relapse are many. One reason many can relate to is the feeling of being “cured” after a period of sobriety. This was the main contributing factor to my last relapse.
The period of sobriety before my last relapse was equally fueled by an underlying sense of denial and an attempt to prove to myself that I wasn’t really an addict. I had admitted to others that I had a drinking problem, but my admission to this was hesitant at best.
Deep down, I thought I was being a bit dramatic. Sure, I drank to much, too often and I was feeling negative effects from drinking, but didn’t everyone else?
When I decided to try and stop drinking, I presented it to others as a “reset.” I did this mostly because I was sure I would fail- in fact- I expected it and I didn’t want to feel the harsh admonishment of failure from others.
I knew quitting for 30 days would be hard. In fact, I wasn’t completely alcohol free for those 30 days. After about 10 days, I sat down one night, with one beer, and I drank it. I stopped at one. This seemed like a gigantic victory for me. When I made it 30 days (with no other alcohol- aside from that one beer) I felt completely emboldened by my success. I was convinced my “reset” had cured me.
I now realize, this was just the beginning of an monumental backslide that took my drinking to new and dangerous levels. I was sober for only a short time, I hadn’t fully realized the depth of my addiction or the seriousness of it. For me, as bad as it was, my relapse helped clarify that my addiction is real and that the only way out was complete abstinence from alcohol.
The longer I have been sober, the easier it is to feel “cured.” I don’t feel sick, I don’t feel like an addict. The days of desperately wanting to get out of the cycle of drink to blackout, hangover, wake up, tell myself I will never drink again, and drinking til blackout seem so far away. Sometimes, its hard to remember how bad it was and why I can’t drink.
Thankfully, I’ve been sober now for almost 400 days. My last relapse happened in July of 2016 and lasted for nearly 15 months before I got sober in October of 2017. After I got sober, I finally reached out again to my sober mentor (after not talking for well over a year) and the first thing he said to me was “I’m sorry you had to add that chapter to your story.”
This has stayed with me and will for a long time, and its something that I tell others who share that they have recently relapsed. This statement showed me that my relapse was not the end of my story (thankfully!) and that I did not have to be defined by it, it was simply just another part of my story.