This year I would have had 10 years of continuous sobriety. But I don’t.
I shared once at a meeting that I had this list of the most horrible things in life that if they would happen to me, I would possibly give myself a free pass to drink, like the death of a loved one or losing a limb or something. Then my mom passed away and I remind sober because I knew, that even though I had this list, it was really a list of events during which I needed to stay extra vigilant to stay sober.
Divorce was not on that list. I was not ready for it or for the pain that I was about to experience. Divorce meant the end of my “forever after,” the splitting of my family, and coming to terms with the end of what I thought was going to be my life. I also had no clue how difficult the actual divorce process would be, and that my ex was going to fight me on everything and repeatedly take me to court.
I am, however, very proud that I am back, again, and that I continue to fight this mind-boggling disease. I know many of us do not make it back, and that frightens me!
Yet, at the same time, I feel lots of shame and guilt – I do. I can’t help it! I feel like a failure. I feel like I let many people down. I feel like I let myself down too! And no matter how often I remind myself that I am not a failure, I continue to feel it, deep down to the core – it continues to hurt. Relapse has such connotations of failure, I read often about how some say its not part of recovery, you don’t have to relapse, you have to work harder and so on and on. But really, this is one of the instances when until you have gone through a relapse you have no clue what it feels like – and it doesn’t feel good at all.
That is also the reason that I have not written about it, but I think it really is time to do so especially since I wish that people were more supportive to ones who relapsed, instead of being judgmental and offer tons of advice. Welcoming the person back and showing them love and care is way more important because trust me, it is very hard to come back.
I had no intentions to drink, I was not focused on it especially since I was used to being sober and accepted it as a way of life. But the downward spiral happened very fast. There was lots going on with the freshly started divorce process, and many things that had to be done right away – splitting accounts, packing belongings, adjusting to a new schedule, becoming a single mom, and a newly empty bed to sleep in.
I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t really eating either. I often would have stomach ache caused by stress. My mind was constantly occupied with what-ifs and I couldn’t focus on anything. I was trying to stay connected but it was hard to keep talking about things over and over and rehashing the pain. Then I started isolating and pretty much fell off the recovery grid.
Eventually, I just broke. I was in so much pain that I just could not deal with it anymore and I could not see any options.
I have gone through many difficult times in my sobriety. I always made it through with lots of recovery support, many meetings and the fellowship, and professional therapy when needed. This time though, I carried the shame of a failed marriage and even though I had people around me, I was not telling anyone what was going on in my marriage, and that I have filed for a divorce. It was a huge burden to carry and ultimately my secret lead me to a drink.
Addiction recovery is a long process filled with both victories and setbacks. Kat McGowan clarifies that, when it comes to addiction recovery, “relapsing is the rule, not the exception.” She goes on to explain that, instead of looking at relapse as a sign that the recovery process has failed and that the person should give up all hope of maintaining sobriety, she should instead look at the experience as a learning opportunity.
So if I can offer any advice whatsoever, I would say: grow a huge support network in recovery, stay diligent with your sobriety every day, and get professional help when needed.
Most importantly, find a group of people who you can connect with and let them know how you are feeling and what you are struggling with, especially in those super hard, unexpected times! It’s what I rely on now – a simple text or call to someone that I keep in the forefront of my life, has made a huge impact on my recovery because after all, we need each other! We cannot do this by ourselves, trust me, I’ve tried.
To be continued…
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).