Finding The Silver Lining Of Relapse

I Promise It's Working, Even If It Doesn't Look Like It

I would like to preface this post with the following: I am in no way promoting or advising relapse as a recovery technique. I am in no way giving you permission to relapse, or co-signing your relapse. Please, um, just know that before reading this. I only mean to broaden the conversation on the reality and probability of relapse within recovery.

Relapse is one of my favorite topics, which isn't all that surprising, since it was one of my favorite activities for many, many years. And I don't feel we really give it the proper respect or attention. It's like we gloss over it, hoping to skip that process of recovery. We give each other warnings regarding relapse, and talk about it as though it were the plague. "Stay away from so-and-so, they've relapsed!" I found very few conversations surrounding relapse as a legitimate struggle. I was often referred to as a "chronic relapser" without any regard to what that entailed, or really meant.

Why is this?

Because, for the vast majority of those recovering from substances, relapse will be a huge part of their journey. It was strange to me, after attending so many rehabs, that so much time is spent on RPP's (relapse prevention plans), with very little time spent on harm reduction (minimizing the effects/severity of a relapse). Lemme break a few things down for you, and you'll begin to understand my conundrum.

In my experience, across six rehabs and forty-eight visits to detoxes and psychiatric wards, I came across those who achieved sobriety on their first go-round, three times. I remember the number, and each individual, as every experience is seared into my memory. You see, it's as if I'm speaking with an alien when someone tells me they were able to cease their substance on the first try. Like, the Gods blessed you hella well, you better be burning some incense. Or something!

Before I get anyone in a tizzy, let me also say this: achieving sobriety the first time is always the goal. It does happen. There are a plethora of testaments and stories. It is not impossible. It's also all we talk about or strive for, and that can be very daunting, damaging, and discouraging for those of us who continually "fail." Because that's what it is, isn't it? A failure. "Here are the tools, here are the meetings, don't slip. Whatever you do, don't slip. Call someone. Distract yourself. Just don't slip."

Yes, do all of those things. Try not to slip. Be weary. But let's add a bit more to the dialogue, maybe? Don't get me wrong, these talks are super helpful, but we. Have. These. Conversations. All. The. Time. What I don't hear said enough is, "At least they keep trying." Or, "There's gotta be something there--they just keep getting back up!" Perhaps, "They'll get it one day. Sure, they fall, but watch how they continue to rise."

I am an example of it working, even when it looks like it's not. I thought hope was lost. I accepted I was a hopeless case, that I would die an alcoholic. Or so I thought. For somewhere deeper within me, my will to live constantly raged back, fighting and clawing for not only my survival, but the capability to thrive, as well.

I wasn't meant to die an alcoholic. I was meant to fall on my face sixteen thousand times, so that one day, when I stood up, I'd stay standing. I'd start healing. And I'd spread my message: that if you're flailing all over the place, drunk, faded, sloppy AF, you know, a real shit show: there is hope, my friend. You will make it. You are worth it. You're not wrong. You're not doing "this sober thing" wrong. You're perfect, and rocky though your journey may be, it is your journey. And it's going just the way it's supposed to.

Sure, it's easy to for me to sit here and say this, typing away at my laptop in my comfortable apartment. But it wasn't always so. I was a busted, drunk gay boy hustling on the streets for drugs not that long ago, y'all. And I would have laughed in my face, had I told myself this then.

Why?

Because we're not openly embracing the reality of relapse. There, I said it. It's a tough sentence. It'll probably anger more than will understand, but it's the truth. And until we can also embrace the truth, I fear we will continue to fall backward. So keep your chin up. I know when you fall, it's easy to believe everything is lost, that there's no point. But, come on, you know in your heart there is a point. It's you. Quit being so angry at yourself for relapsing. Trust me, it'll be okay. If you're trying, truly and honestly trying, it will be okay. This I know for sure.

Now, enough of my seriousness. I hope you're all enjoying the fall, and have fun!

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