I’ve always wondered what would happen and what I would do if I ever relapsed. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I can now answer that question. When I first went through the 12 steps almost 2 years ago I had such a miraculous spiritual transformation I was convinced I would never struggle again. And then I quickly realized that struggle was part of the human experience but as long as I stayed true to the maintenance steps I would struggle but with the help of God, not fall. I read that half of addicts struggle to gain full sobriety off and on for a number of years before finally finding recovery and staying recovered the rest of their lives. I was so thankful that wasn’t going to be me, or so I thought.
It’s been about 6 weeks since I first started this post. A lot has happened since that time. Some good, some not as good. The best part is that this has definitely been a learning experience.
- Having a relapse is a tough ordeal but it is NOT the end of the world. Only 50% of addicts who have a psychic change through the AA Big Book 12-step program gain sobriety on their first try and never slip again. The other half it takes a few tries before they gain their permanent sobriety. As much as I had hoped I was in the first group it looks like I’m in the second one — and they still are successful and I’m no worse off than they were. It will work out in the long run!
- Hurting your spouse over and over again is a difficult thing to go through for both of us. I love my wife with all of my heart. I wish I did not have this illness. Or, rather, I wish I could stop hurting her because of my illness. It makes her very sad and it makes me sad. But that’s part of our human experience and it’s impossible to avoid all sadness and pain. I hope and pray that she will find the healing and peace that she so deserves!
- I called into one of the teleconference saapp.org calls (saatalk.info specifically the Sunday morning Big Book study and the Saturday morning steps 1-3 foundations meeting) and during fellowship asked what others had done that had relapsed and struggled to get back to sobriety. Overwhelmingly the advice was to choose a new sponsor and re-work the 12 steps. They all indicated there was a good chance that I had some deep rooted resentment or fear standing in the way of me becoming sober again and that the 12 steps would help me find it quickly. The new sponsor was not because my previous sponsor had done anything wrong, but because a new one would have new perspectives to increase my experience.
- I was super nervous and worried that my fellow ARP group members would be disappointed in me because I fell. I don’t know why I thought that other than simple pride, but when I shared it with them they were fairly non-disturbed, took it in stride, and we’re super encouraging that I would get back on track. That was a completely unfounded fear.
- I also met with my psychiatrist to discuss what had led up to my relapse. As he dug around in recent events his conclusion was that I had a more extreme case of anxiety than I had had before and that I didn’t know how to come down from it and handle it and turned to what had worked for me in the past. In a more recent meeting he said that it looks like I’ve had this constant companion of anxiety for most of my life. Learning to deal with that through good exercise, sleep, and guided meditation (that’s a new thing for me and I like it!) was super helpful.
- Although a positive environment and definitely helpful, for me, I do not feel that my church’s Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) is enough. I feel more connected to God and recovery when I participate in the AA Big Book primary purpose recovery meetings (saapp.org). I will keep attending the ARP meetings and the post meeting support group but I will also add back in the saapp meetings as well. I need both apparently.
- Going through the 12 steps again is actually a really great experience!
- I realize that I’ve not been giving my will to God (step 3 and step 11) and I am recommitted to do that as best I can with a focus on doing whatever He asks of me. When I fear being able to do it, I will simply ask for His help to do His will and then go give it my best shot.
- My wife still hurts. A lot. This is probably the worst part of this whole experience. Even worse than the despair and self-loathing I went through. I wish I could wave a magic wand and take all of her fear and pain away — but I cannot. Only my higher power can and I have to have faith and leave it in His capable hands. All I can do is try my best and keep praying for her.