I suffered relapses several years ago, but the residual feelings I experienced remain and tell me to “keep coming back.”
A relapse gives us a sense of failure, of letting people—and myself—down. It seems like a loss of confidence in one’s ability to deal with a terrible disease when we knew the awfulness of addiction’s end-game. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, the brutal impact on one’s psyche. Helplessness. I really meant it when I swore off the bottle. Was I simply so weak I couldn’t carry out an earnestly-made promise to loved ones—and myself? We fell into a grand funk. Unconscionably, we may have nursed along this terrible negativity. We were on the border of deciding our lives weren’t worth it. We may have fallen into the depths of “Poor me. You’d drink, too, if you had my problems. I’ll just give in to demon rum, the hell with it!”
BUT WAIT! That’s only the negativity of a relapse. There is a positive side. I went back into the Program with an increased understanding of addiction’s traits of cunning and power. I saw it for what it was. At least I awoke and saw I couldn’t lick this disease by myself. I needed help, a refuge, a safe zone of protective custody, and I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’d had enough! As much as I was in the clutches of my drug of choice, I needed to get into the clutches of the Program in order to find Life.
Many of us no matter how smart, no matter how fortunate and blessed our lives have been, are slow learners. I think that when we speak negatively about a relapse, we are saying that I simply haven’t had enough of my drug. I want more of that “good old feeling.” When I sedate myself, I have no problems. Seemingly, it’s a happy time, care-free, problems solved—at least for a while.
Sadly, these negativity feelings miss an important message of the Program. The Program provides a twofold gift: first, how do we stop drinking? What can we do if we feel a slip coming on? What do I do with all my drinking buddies? How will I get through the family picnics and holiday reunions? That’s the stuff of the benefits of those early days in the Program.
But, the Program carries a second and equally important piece: How do I live through life’s bumps and problems, disappointments, physical issues—all that stuff that is still out there—without my alcohol crutch? We were seduced by our drug to believe we could escape the pain and suffering--the normal bumps of life—but if we were to admit it, those difficulties were still there when we woke up. Only they were made worse by our shame of running to the bottle for relief.
That’s why working the Program is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week proposition. We learn by looking at what others have done in similar life experiences. The harms of divorce, imprisonment, loss of jobs, disappointments—all that stuff we ran away from when we drank until we blacked-out. The Program’s constant reminders—this learning process gives us the ammunition we need.
Why is that? Nothing baffling about this. It’s that old ego, the feelings of me, I’m first, I am all-powerful, I can do it, don’t need you. To maintain sobriety beyond “white-knuckle” sobriety, we need to let go and let God. Sobriety is dependent on our spiritual base. We have to get rid of the feeling of the primacy of our ego, of our selves. After all, we tried everything to manage our addiction and it failed in all respects.
To be continued...