Mama, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore and daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor. To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before. I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymoreSober – Demi Lovato
Relapse. It’s such a heavy weighted word. For some, relapse is the scary monster under the bed and for others it provides motivation to stay sober. Some people never experience relapse, some continuously struggle, and another’s are one and done. It’s something that I’ve gone through and something that now, will only exist in my memory.
I know if I start drinking again, there will be no more attempts at sobriety. It just won’t happen. Because each and every time I’ve started drinking again in the past, it is more exhausting, stressful, frustrating, and physically/mentally/emotionally taxing than the time before. However, it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of the relapse fantasies my mind still creates.
Some of my fantasies are just general and vague thoughts about drinking again. But some fantasies provide me with a very sensory experience – I think about a specific event that has gives me a “reason” to drink, then as if I am suddenly in a dream, I know the exact drink I order first. I can smell, taste, and feel the experience of that first drink, and the ones that come after. I can see, hear, and feel the contexts of my surroundings, and I experience the subsequent emotions that occur during and after drinking as if I am currently in that state. These fantasies are vivid, detailed, and dangerous. They are a warning sign that I need to actively focus more on my sobriety and recovery.
When a relapse is in motion, the realization that it is and will occur can be as overt as a flasher exposing himself to women in the park or they can be as sneaky as skilled pickpocket. Either way, relapses brutalally steal the freedom sobriety so lovingly provides.
Screw this. So what if I drank. I was just having a good time. I know I went a little overboard but I won’t do that again. I made it 4 months without alcohol. If I could do that then I obviously don’t have a problem. Those were my thoughts the day after I broke my sobriety streak of 4 months and 4 days.
Denial, frustration and guilt are easy to deal with. I just drank them away. But commitment, vulnerability, honesty, and self-awareness? Those are some of the scariest emotions to feel. It takes courage and will power. It takes energy and effort. It’s not easy. There is no just sit back and relax.
While it would have been nice to avoid relapse in the first place, I did learn a tremendous amount about myself and my drinking. I learned that I wasn’t just using my trauma and the feelings resulting from that trauma as justification to drink. I drank in excess for any reason – happy, sad, angry, frustrated, stressed, bored, in celebration, and just because. Regardless of the emotion behind it, I always drank in excess and I didn’t want anything to get in my way.
In the end, when and if relapses occur, the main thing to focus is on why it happened, what I will change going forward, how will I recognize the pre-relapse mindset, and how to prevent it from happening again including getting support. Beating myself up only prolonged the amount of time it took for me to get back on track. I had to go through several more awful situations, all while hating myself, before I stopped again. That’s the beautiful part though- I stopped and I will never go backwards ever again. No matter what. I will fight endlessly until I allow anything, even alcohol, to take away the life I am creating for myself. That ship has sailed.