We have dealt a bit with relapses, in many ways not a pleasant subject. From the prospective of the addict, a relapse represents failure yet again. Strange, because sometimes the effort to work the Program seemed destined to success—Big Book, Sponsor, Steps 4 and 5, even a bit of service work like chairing a meeting, and so forth. I brought it up at a discussion meeting the other day and everyone had something to say—some concentrating on “the why” it happened, others on “what to do” about a relapse. A couple talked about the “cunning, powerful, baffling “aspects of our disease. A few spoke to our usual question: “How does one deal with life’s bumps and grinds without alcohol as a crutch?”
I think all of us have experienced to some degree a relapse or a complete discouragement with the Program or a feeling of uselessness – a lapse about our ability to deal with the disease.
The answer is clear to most—keep working the Program. There is no holiday from our disease. Go to meetings, read the Big Book, do some service work and so forth. This litany of “working the Program” has been shown by most of us as an effective way to prevent a relapse and, for that matter, what to do when working his or her way out of the feelings of their relapse.
Those generalizations work for life’s normal bumps and grinds. But what about catastrophic occurrences—your spouse develops Stage 4 breast cancer, a child is in a coma following a bicycle accident, your spouse asks for a divorce. The worst kind of problem you encounter may be one that has an extended life with an unknown path of resolution and fearful possible outcomes, a problem impacting the entire family – a genuine life-altering matter.
A feeling of “entitlement” may raise its ugly head: “By God, I have 3 months to live and screw AA!” or “I’m going out with a bang” or “No one is going to prevent me from tying one on.” or, “They’d do it, if they were in my shoes.” “Besides, after all this time, I know enough about the Program so that I can come back if I need to.”
The thought that made the most sense to me was, ”There isn’t a situation extant that can’t be made worse by continuing or resuming our active alcoholism.” Solutions we come up with while intoxicated make no sense, assuming we can remember the ideas or read our handwriting. We have layered over the problems with our addictions, masked so we didn’t have to meet their challenge.
Sometimes in some cases like a divorce or long-term medical issues, we face a likewise long-term remediation outlook, issues associated with medical problems, divorce and the confrontation of new marriages and new families and limited accessibility to your kids. It can be just like a scab. We mentally pick at the scab until its gone and we conclude we have no options.
But, cheer up. Going to meetings, working the Steps, a gratitude list once in a while—it’s all there for you to utilize in the real long term of life’s encountered roadblocks. But never, ever, give up!
Jim A., Covington, Kentucky