Coping with relapse is difficult, but it is part of the addiction cycle that must be addressed. Recently there was an article on thefix.com about a man that came to AA 24 years ago, but was in and out of the rooms for many years then was able to manage sobriety for about 12 years using his experience living on the streets to reach out to others that were in need, but then relapsed again - for 12 more years. When he wrote the article he had 10 days sober and describes honestly and empathetically the struggle for someone who is a chronic relapser.
In the field of addiction intervention I see many people, sometimes I see people more than once, and other times when I go to treatment centers with new clients I see people that are on round three or four of rehabilitation. “Jimmy Long” the pseudonym for the author talks about how important it is to find a power greater than yourself in order to stay sober. In my opinion it doesn’t have to be God, it can be a God of sorts or even just something that you think is more powerful than yourself. The hard part is trusting in something that you cannot see, but for people like Jimmy, he is proof in the pudding that self will cannot keep someone sober. Well, perhaps it can keep someone sober, but not sober and happy. And isn’t that the point anyway.
Everyone is entitled to being happy, for me, I think that sobriety is such a gift that I have been able to help others and have so many of my dreams come true just by staying sober a day at a time. But I also remember daily that I need to be grateful for what I have and not feel like I am better than anyone, hold resentments or pass judgement for I know these are the things that can cause someone to relapse.
Even after losing his job, putting his marriage in jeopardy, having a heart attack and going to the hospital because of an alcohol related injury Jimmy still could not keep himself sober. So if chronic relapse is part of your life, whether it is you or someone you love, be kind to yourself or your loved one and see what you can do to make it better. When someone has relapsed many times they might begin to carry a shame about it with them that becomes a hindrance to them staying sober. Shame is one of the worst triggers/causes for relapse. Remove the judgement and just find out what you can do to help, in some cases help might mean removing yourself completely from their life and not enabling addictive behavior, in other cases it might be an intervention. Each situation is unique and should be treated as such. Chronic relapse is just as big a part of recovery as is 30 years sober.
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.