Is Relapse a Part of Recovery?

RecoveryRelapseJourneyHappy Destiny

Becky Grant on July 15, 2019 at 7:59 AM

Here at Live Rite, we have everything a person needs to avoid relapse. We have housing, employment resources, job training, community service, legal assistance, access to food and clothing, support groups and 12 step program meetings, recovery coaches, and so much more! If someone wants to stay clean and sober, they only need to walk in the door and we'll guide them on their journey!

Unfortunately, not everyone who walks through these doors chooses to take advantage of the resources and allow their lives to be transformed. Maybe it's because they never planned to avoid alcohol and/or drugs permanently. They may have just wanted a temporary solution to get out of a sticky situation. Maybe they were initially committed but thought they had gotten enough help and could do it on their own. Far too often I've seen people quit before the miracle happens, not fill up their spiritual toolkit enough to deal with some sort of personal disaster, and pick up a drink or drug because they never built a firm enough foundation to prevent themselves from doing so.

Sadly, a lot of the people I've formed bonds with while on my recovery journey are no longer walking the same path I am. Some of them have disclosed the reasons why they no longer choose to stay sober, and others left without a word and I may never know why. While it's gotten easier over the past 2 years, it still hurts, especially when it's someone I've grown especially close to.

I've heard, "I needed that relapse" far too many times. People talk about a relapse like it was a turning point in their recovery. They think it helped them get back on the track they strayed from. They think it helped them look at what went wrong so they could avoid doing it again. While there are the rare cases where a person relapsed and then stayed sober for many years or even permanently, this is the exception rather than the rule. Most people I've known who said that ended up going back out again and again after that "learning experience."

I've learned (or maybe had it drilled into my head by my sponsor and other respected members of the program) that I can't take it personally. All I can do it keep doing the next right thing, keep my side of the street clean, work my steps, stay connected to my higher power and others in recovery, and make myself available to help others as much as possible. I cannot keep another person sober, I can't work their program for them, and as much as I want to, I can't save everyone.

Another thing I can't do is judge other people. I've never walked in their shoes, so I can't say anything about how they react to their situations. I can only speak based on my own personal experiences and observations. Do I know that a person who relapses isn't going to make it and maintain their sobriety after? No, of course I don't. Can I conclusively say that relapse isn't a part of recovery? No, because I've seen those rare cases in which a person's relapse WAS a part of their recovery.

What I can say is that relapse isn't a part of my own personal recovery. Before I found my recovery program, I quit drinking many times. I felt like I wasn't an alcoholic if I could put it down temporarily. Sometimes it was for a few days just to prove that I could do it. Once it was for a week or so because there was a medication I needed to take that I couldn't drink alcohol with. The last time it was for about 4 months, because I was trying to prove something to someone else who had a "real" problem.

After every time I quit drinking, I started up again, and each time it was worse than it was before. For me, the reason why I never quit for good all the other times was because I never made the decision to quit for good until then. I had to hit my own personal rock bottom to come to the realization that I couldn't keep living my life the same way. I knew I had to quit drinking that day, and I knew it had to be for good this time.

Since I knew what my goal was, I knew that I would do anything to achieve it from the moment I started my internet search for meetings. I jumped right in and started working on my program right away, turning my will and my life over to the care of my higher power, going to as many meetings as I could get to, getting a sponsor right away, reaching out and connecting with the strong women I met, getting honest and clearing away the wreckage of my past, and doing everything that people who were successfully staying sober told me to do.

Slowly but surely things started to change. Today I am not the same person I was when I walked through the doors of my first meeting. I never imagined I could become this person and that my life would be so amazing and filled with miracles. I can't go back to the life I used to live, because I know how amazing it is living this life. I am living proof that recovery is possible, that "it works if you work it." I know what I have had to do to stay sober up until this point. I know that I have to continue to do those things and more if I want to continue to "trudge the road of happy destiny."

In conclusion, as my dear friend and fellow Recovery Care Technician Lee put it, "Relapse is not an INEVITABLE part of recovery." This means that while relapse might be a part of your story, it doesn't have to be a part of everyone's story. Our situations and experiences are unique to us, and our recovery journeys are our own to walk.


Lee Gothro

Such a well-written and thoughtful treatment of this subject!

1606 days ago