By Rose Lockinger
Coming back into recovery after a relapse has got to be one of the most difficult things that a person can experience. Beyond that fact that relapsing is never easy on a person, emotionally and physically, there is also the added difficulty of having to re-experience the Steps, and jump-start your spiritual program, all without the initial excitement that was brought about the first time through. You can try to mitigate relapse with a prevention plan but the thing about recovery is there is no 100% guarantee that you will always stay sober. There are things that you can do on a daily basis to maintain and nourish your sobriety but like life nothing is set in stone.
Time and time again I have heard people who have relapsed and made it back into recovery say, that working through their Steps or finding the willingness to come back was much more difficult the 2nd time around, because they already knew what to expect. That elation that they experienced after their first 5th Step didn’t happen again, or at least didn’t happen to the same degree it did the first time. They didn’t have a great deal of excitement towards attending meetings, in fact they experienced shame and guilt when attending meetings, and they didn’t have the same enthusiasm they once had for building a relationship with God or Higher Power.
While troublesome for the person experiencing these things, they are all to be expected when coming back from a relapse because in a sense recovery is not the new concept it once was, and so the person will not experience it with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.
I personally believe that this notion that recovery will feel the same way before and after a relapse is a reason that many people go in and out for a while after relapsing. They really try their best to make it back, but through a subconscious or even conscious comparison to recovery before the relapse, their newfound sobriety feels ever lacking, causing animosity towards recovery and discontentment in the individual’s life.
So what should you do if you experience this? What is the best way to go about fighting through the guilt, shame, anger, and any other emotion that arises after a relapse? How do you go about getting sober, when the feelings of relief are not the same as they once were? While I do not have all of the answers to these questions, I do have some suggestions that I hope will help you if you are just making your way back into recovery. I hope that you find some comfort in my words and give yourself a break as you give sobriety another try.
Stop Beating Yourself Up
First and foremost stop beating yourself up for relapsing. Understand that there is a difference between taking responsibility for your actions, and berating yourself unnecessarily. It is understandable that you may feel terrible about the fact that you “threw your recovery away” but what you fail to see is that you are an addict or alcoholic and drinking and using drugs is what you are programmed to do. No amount of time in recovery absolves you from that, and so maybe you slipped on your program, or maybe you faced a situation that sent you reaching for the bottle, but that doesn’t mean that you are a failure, a bad person, or unworthy of love and recovery. It just simply means you drank or used again. Nothing more and nothing less. Take stock in what occurred, feel bad for a day or two and then continue on with creating a sober life for yourself.
Don’t Compare Your Experiences in Recovery
If I did not emphasize it enough at the beginning of this writing, then I’ll say it again: your experience in recovery after a relapse is going to be different than the first time you got sober. You may have a better or worse experience through the Steps. You may feel nothing or you may feel everything, but none of that truly matters, the only thing that matters is that you are giving it another shot. Don’t think that you should feel a certain way at certain times, because doing so will defeat the purpose of the Steps, and take you entirely out of being present for your new experience. Learn from past mistakes and be present for new victories.
Go to Meetings
If you were sober for a few years before your relapsed and fell into a comfortable pattern of going to 3 or 4 meetings a week, understand that this will probably not cut it when coming back. Go to a meeting every day, even if you do not want to. Remember back to when you got sober the first time. More than likely, you were attending a meeting every day and if you remember correctly, this was integral in helping you stay accountable and in a sober mind. So go to a meeting every day.
Work the Steps
I have seen some people come back after a relapse and rather drag their feet when it came to the Steps. Most of these people do not make it through the first few months of being sober again, and while I cannot say why exactly, I believe that not starting the work aided in this. They usually say things like “I’m not in any hurry,” or “I really want to know what the Steps mean to me this time” and while these existential statements are not untrue, they may be hiding motives that are even unknown to the person saying them. The thing to remember is that alcoholism and addiction are serious illnesses that skew people’s thinking, so if you find when coming back in that taking your time through the Steps seems like the route to go, probably start working on them immediately.
Above all, remember to take care of yourself. If you were sober for a while before your relapse, you more than likely have built up a nice life for yourself, and if the relapse was short enough you may not have lost everything. Remember that you have to put your recovery first, if you hope to get back to the place of sober-mindedness you once had, so be sure to take care of yourself and your recovery, and try not to be too wrapped up in all of the pressures of daily life. Go to meetings, work the Steps, call your sponsor, and give yourself break. Know that I’ll be praying for you and your continued success and I hope that you make it over these hurdles and back to your sober life.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world.
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