Relapse is not a requirement in recovery. Once you separate yourself from your addiction, and start working an active recovery program, you never have to drink or use drugs again. Personally, relapse was part of my story. I spent a few months in treatment, and got involved in active recovery that was the high point of my life in 10 years. Unfortunately I failed to stay active in my recovery, and selfishly decided to do some ‘research’ to make sure I was truly addicted. I now believe I learned a lot from my relapse, and in some ways I might have been blessed with that experience. So if it can help someone else not need to learn the hard way, I’m happy to have the chance to share 7 things I learned by coming back from a relapse.
- It Does Not Get Better Using
When I had put some time together sober to work on myself, I started to think maybe I was better, and that my disease was gone. I could not have been more wrong. It was obvious I changed my behaviors and learned a lot about myself, but self-knowledge is not sufficient. My addiction was in me the whole time, and when I fed it, it got worse right away and my circumstances quickly became more desperate.
- The Love is Still There
When I first returned to recovery, I expected so many people to look down on me. I thought that because they had stayed sober and I did not, they would judge me as weak, incompetent, or dishonest with my intentions to change. This was not the case when I got back. Honestly, most people did not let it affect their opinion of me at all. I was so grateful to come back and see people were just happy I was alive. I really got more love from people in recovery I had known for a few short months than people I had known for years in active addiction.
- The Solution is Still There
In my first months back in a 12 Step Program I began to worry the same things I did to change my life would not work for me again. I had seen and felt such a deep change when I first got sober, and it had stayed with me a long time. So when I came back from a few months of drinking and using I was expecting to get that same feeling right away, and was terrified when it didn’t happen that way. But once I started my 12 Steps, the more I got involved, and the more I appreciated the second chance, the more I felt that change enter my life and the solution was alive for me again.
- Sobriety is to be Protected
When I first got sober, I began to think I deserved it. Like after 10 years of drinking and drug abuse I thought that I could sweep it under the rug with 6 months of sobriety and then do whatever I wanted. My disease came back so quickly and with such force. I knew when I came back to recovery I had to work harder at preserving that peace. It was stupid of me to think I could wrong others, or do anything I wanted after a small period of doing right and still have sobriety. I have to protect my sobriety with my actions and my principles on a regular basis.
- Humility is Powerful
I already said I was too confident in myself and my abstinence before my relapse. I wanted people to know I was sober, and to know I had the answers. I wanted others to think highly of me as a sober man, and to share my opinion on everything. After my relapse, I came back ashamed of that self-seeking. In my experience, humility is essential to recovery. Knowing that I am not special, that the best thing I can do is not be admired or envied, but to help someone else, especially if it means to humble myself and remind myself to be grateful.
- Helps You Revaluate Your Sobriety
I returned to the rooms of recovery with a new sense of direction. Instead of wanting to patch up my life with the few concepts of recovery I liked and a 12 Step Program to make it tolerable, I wanted to refine and re-enforce my entire life-style based on my recovery and spiritual growth. I put more emphasis on parts I felt I underestimated over before, and put focus into setting goals for spiritual growth.
- We Do Recover
In sobriety you will hear it said that this is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. I believe as it was explained to me, and proven to me through my relapse, that our problem is within us and not the substances we abuse. So it makes sense to say that there is no cure, at least for the type of addiction I have. But we do recover from the hopelessness. We do overcome the physical dependency, the mental obsession, and the spiritual suffering. If we commit to our principles and convictions, and if we value sobriety for the gift that it is, then we have the chance to live a life that is so incredibly free. Relapse does exist, but it does not have to for you. We can change our lives, if we work for it. To recover from substance abuse does not require ‘research’, but it does require action.
“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you”
– Aldous Huxley
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