Relapse Isn’t Mandatory
I recently stumbled across an amazing article on Huffington Post. It was an examination of relapse, recovery, and how normalizing relapse doesn’t benefit anyone – addict or family.
The author, Candace Plattor, is a clinical counselor and an individual in long-term recovery. She’s been sober for over twenty-seven years! That’s pretty impressive! She’s been sober for longer than I’ve been alive! Rock on, Candace!
I found her essay moving because it speaks to something that any woman, or any man for that matter, in recovery can attest to – the prevalence of relapse and the increasingly relaxed attitude surrounding it.
Now don’t get me wrong, relapse happens and we should treat those who slip with love and compassion. Lord knows I’ve relapsed before. If those in recovery hadn’t reached out and offered me a hand back up, I don’t know if I’d be here today.
That being said, I think Candace makes some good points. I think she’s offering a new way of thinking (which is really a throwback to an old way!) about relapse, recovery, and the struggle to stay sober one day at a time.
The Power of Willingness
One of the first points Candace makes, and something I’ve experienced firsthand, is that we need a great deal of willingness to get and stay sober. I can attest this is absolutely true! What’s more, I bet most of you reading can attest to the same thing.
I needed the willingness to check myself into treatment. I needed the willingness to get a sponsor. I needed the willingness to work the twelve-steps honestly and thoroughly. I needed the willingness to face my issues and work on them. I needed the willingness for a million other things as well.
Candace writes, “A huge part of that choice to get help and stay in recovery was that I had to be willing to learn how to face a life that wasn’t very pleasant without the use of mind-altering drugs” (Huffington Post).
That willingness didn’t come easy! It was only when everything else, including drugs and booze, had stopped working that I found it. I know I lacked any level of willingness in some of my halfhearted early attempts at sobriety.
Guess what happened during those attempts? I relapsed. I returned to opiates and alcohol because I wasn’t willing to do the work. I wasn’t willing to face the pain. Were my relapses required, though? Were they necessary parts of my sobriety?
Sobriety Isn’t Easy but It Isn’t Impossible
Another point that Candace touches on is how sobriety can oftentimes be incredibly difficult. Once again, raise your hand if you’ve experienced that yourself. Everyone’s hand is up? That’s what I thought!
While Candace struggles with Crohn’s Disease, I’ve struggled with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. I think any alcoholic, if they take a moment to reflect, can come up with a handful of serious issues they’ve struggled with in sobriety.
Now, oftentimes these struggles can be easy excuses for relapse. They can be an easy way to avoid facing the pain mentioned above. Fortunately, they don’t have to be.
“That was an amazingly difficult time in my life, but the inner strength and self-respect I gained from that experience…have made me the person I am today, a person who’s proud of herself and knows she can handle the tough times. I’m grateful for that, and I’d love it if we could all feel that way about ourselves” (Huffington Post).
I love that! It’s so true that we gain strength, faith, and inner-love from facing and overcoming the challenges of life. It’s sort of like that saying “if you want self-esteem, do esteem-able acts.” If you want inner-strength, flex your God-muscle and face your demons!
Relapse is a Choice
Something I personally tend to forget is the simple fact that, for someone who’s gone through the steps, relapse is a choice. It’s nothing more and nothing less. For someone who’s had the obsession to drug and drink removed, picking up a drug or a drink is a conscious choice.
In her essay, Candace touches on this. She says,
“It’s absolutely up to the addict, whichever way they go in terms of staying abstinent or not — millions of clean and sober addicts show us every day that relapse is NOT a normal, expected part of recovery…” (Huffington Post).
Now, it’s important to remember this isn’t true for women who haven’t had the obsession removed! In early-sobriety, relapse often happens because the mental obsession returns and we have to drink. It’s not a choice, but rather a manifestation of the “strange mental blank spots” the book talks about.
Once we’ve gone through the steps, though, and had a spiritual awakening, relapse becomes 100% a choice. It’s at this point that personal responsibility and culpability enter the picture. It’s at this point that being of service to those who need it becomes of the utmost importance!
What do you think about relapse not being a required part of recovery? Let us know on social media!