Friendship is something we all look for, and one of the most valuable things in this life we are gifted with. We look for companions among our peers to walk through life’s brightest moments and heavy burdens with. In sobriety we are blessed with a new understanding of what friendship means, and we build relationships with others who persist through the same struggles we do and relate to the growing pains we experience. So what do we do when someone we cherish like family falls down? When another miracle of recovery finds themselves on the bad end of a relapse, how do we deal?
Respect the Disease
When looking at the relapse of a friend from an honest perspective, we have to remember what we as addicts and alcoholics are, and more importantly what we do. We drink and we get high. It is no secret that we have to admit our powerlessness in the beginning of our recovery. And to forget that our disease is cunning, baffling and powerful is to forget how precious our sobriety is. We do come to a point where we make choices that will decide the circumstances we face, but we have to respect the disease and remember that we are still alcoholics and addicts, no matter how much time we have between today and our last run.
If a friend relapses, we have to keep our humility. Acting like we are better, smarter, or stronger than a friend who has just picked up a drink or drug is not healthy for anyone. As said before we are not exempt from the power of addiction and alcoholism. To start thinking we have a ‘fix on the game’ is pride and ego taking up too much of our energy. Remind yourself that you can always stumble too, if you don’t keep your program of action and the principles you learn in that process.
I have had many friends relapse in recovery. Some of those closest to me have drank or used again; I even had a sponsor that went on a run. They all say the same thing, it never gets easier out in active addiction. So when a friend relapses, reach out to them in ways that show you are there for them, but that keep your recovery safe. It is always important to protect your sobriety! You should not put yourself in a position you know makes you vulnerable. If you go to visit a friend who has relapsed, take others in recovery with you to ensure you can keep yourself accountable.
But in my opinion to outcast or avoid a friend who has relapsed is NOT practicing my spiritual philosophy. If someone you care about has fallen, you don’t step on their hands when they try and pick themselves up. You do not ridicule the addict or alcoholic who still suffers, you carry the message to them, and if it is a friend it should be done with unconditional love and compassion. You never know if one day you will need them to pick you up off the floor. I know I can trust my inner circle not to turn their back on me, because when I relapsed they accepted me back with love, so I’ll always be there if any of them need a hand.
People can always be affected differently by a friends relapse. Some people will work harder than ever to remain in their solution and grow in emotional sobriety. Others will turn to doubt and morbid reflection. In my experience it serves my recovery best to serve others, so I look to those who may be conflicted, and try to stay connected. A friend may consider going on a run themselves if tempted by another. Be sure to keep an eye out for enabling behavior, or even for a friend who is enlisting others to use. Always be prepared to safe-guard your sobriety and serenity, and do for others what you can, but they must protect themselves at the end of the day. You should do your best to stay connected to your higher power, the God or spiritual experience of your understanding, and rely on that relationship.
Relapse does not have to be part of recovery. Unfortunately it does become part of it for some of us. The most important thing is to remain close to whatever keeps you pressing onward. Your higher power, whatever that is, will be there for you! If you have a friend or loved one that relapses, trust in your higher power and hope they can trust in theirs. Always cherish your friendships and relationships in recovery. Too often people don’t make it back to sobriety, people go back to using drugs and drinking, and die from it. Make all the moments you have with your loved ones and inner circle matter and stand by them when they need you- clean and sober or not. Respect the disease, remain humble, reach out with love and stay connected to your fellowship. We are all accountable to ourselves, this is our life, and we are in this together.
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
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