Wow, I picked the photo and wrote the title months ago but never wrote my article. I think I was still reeling from the shock of going through a relapse after almost two years of sobriety. So much shame, anger, and frustration I didn’t know how to handle the emotional barrage at the time. The first thing I will tell you is that you can live through it even if it feels like you can’t. It is not the end of the world. It’s definitely not desirable, but it’s far from over. Here are a few things that I’ve learned from my experience.
First things first: A relapse is not the end. A relapse is a reset of a mortal clock (more on that in a bit). Standing back up after a relapse is a new beginning. After one of my relapses I went to my brother’s house for some advice and a 10th step. I was full of shame and fear and frustration. He gave me a huge hug and after a prayer we sat down to read through some things he’d found in the AA Big Book that might help me. The passage that stood out the most was from Chapter 5 (page 63 last para), “This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.” He pointed out to me that the text does not say, “The beginning”, rather it says “a beginning.” That was very important for me to grasp. There are many beginnings in life, this was just one of them.
The second lesson I learned was that I tend to get wrapped up around my mortal clock. What do I mean by that? Well, I believe that God has been and always will be. That time is different to Him as a result. For those of us on this earth we measure things in years (average lifespan of 77 years for example), days, hours, and minutes. My brother told me that God is not interested in how long I’ve been sober. God is interested in my being sober so that I can help my fellow brothers and sisters. He does not count how long I’ve been sober and I should not put all of my value into a length of sobriety. But rather, what I do with my sobriety. And for the most part I try really hard to serve Him by helping others.
The third lesson was to look back and to see how I had changed in the last 4 years since I started my road to recovery. When I took a minute to think about how I’m no longer the addict that I was when I began, it was easy to see that God had transformed me in a miraculous way. And that He was far from done with who I will become and how I will be able to help others. One big thing that changed for me was that in the past if I would act out I would become singularly focused on wanting to have sex with my wife. Nothing else mattered. I would bug her and bug her until she relented. There was nothing intimate about the experience, it was for my own lustful desires. Hardly relationship building material. Fast forward to today and I don’t have those experiences anymore. They’re just gone. Oh sure, I enjoy sex with my wife and I love to be intimate with her in non-physical ways too (something that is TOTALLY new for me) — but I don’t have that animal drive that used to consume my mind until satisfied in the past. I love the new me. It’s calm. It’s peaceful. It is serenity. I did not do that by myself. That is not me exercising “more willpower” — that is my higher power doing for me what I could not do for myself. With no effort on my part (in this regard), He simply took it from me as I walked His spiritual path.
The final lesson is the first lesson in a different light. I continued to live after the experience. It was not over. I remember going to my first ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meeting afterwards and being nervous for the share portion as I was planning to let everyone know that I had slipped up. Not that I needed to, but I felt like I would let people down if I hid it and I was going to really let people down when I shared it but that it was necessary for my recovery. The most fascinating thing? I shared and I waited for some weird response from the group and all I got were smiles and head nods and then the next person shared and everyone focused on him. I realized, “It was no big deal to them. They felt bad for me because they had been there before, but they still loved me and I was no different to them than I was before.” It felt so good to be honest and true and still accepted and loved.
If you’ve recently slipped up and fallen — get right back up! Call a close friend or sponsor and let them know what happened. Talk about your emotional state of mind. Talk about what may have led up to your acting out. Was it resentment? Fear? Anger? Selfishness? Something else? Get it out. Give it to God. Make amends. Serve others and get back to being in good spiritual health with God. It’s hard at first because your physical body will want to go back to your drug again so keep calling that friend — every day or even every hour if needed. The cravings will pass. The peace will come and then you can ask yourself, “What would God have me learn from this experience?” Do that a few times in your morning or evening meditation and the answer will come to you, clear as day. And then you will be grateful. For that is part of your journey. It makes you who you are and you are wonderful!
If you’d like, I’d love to hear what you do after you slip up? How do you get back in a groove? How do you give your life back to God?
My name is Mike