Doctor, my eyes! Tell me what you see… I hear their cries… just say if it’s too late for me? Jackson Browne
I didn’t sleep last night and probably won’t tonight …
Tomorrow a new chapter in my life begins and I am consumed with self-doubt. I have the answers to everyone’s problems but suck at taking my own advice. Realizing this doesn’t lessen the anxiety and make me more determined to succeed. I feel like that guy I left in Florida …. nebulous and naked (emotionally)!
I begin counseling at a substance abuse center that is not on Skid Row… these are people that haven’t reached the depths of depravity some have… their “rock bottom” still has a six figure income attached to it! These are people like me that have enjoyed the privileges money can provide… such as cocaine and rehab.
What if I fail at this… what if I provide a view point so obscure that I damage them for life? What if they look right through me and realize I do not have any answers or that I can’t fix them… that I will never be able to provide them with individualized solutions to their “life problems”?
What if they stand up and walk out on me?
What if it all happens just as I fear?
Maybe I don’t need to have any answers… I can’t fix them. I can’t create a google “life map” that will get them from tomorrow to the grave without bumps or bruises. I can’t make anything go away that they’ve done! I can’t do shit!
The only thing I know with certainty is that I’ve got to suit up and show up and know when to shut up!
I can listen and I can share what my life was like… what happened and what it’s like now.
OK …. you’ve relapsed … so what? You’re disappointed and a lot of other people are too. Believe me … you’re not the first to get off track. You’re still alive and you can put it behind you. The world has not ended and Santa will still be stopping by next December… Lighten up and get over yourself!
Why can’t I stop this? I will never be able to quit. Others have done it why can’t I?
I asked myself these questions over and over each time I attempted to get sober. I did everything humanly possible to succeed except the right things… my belief system needed changing… as well as a lot of everything else!
Would you like to know a startling fact…. Statistics show that for every 100 people that make a conscious decision to stop an addictive behavior … (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, over eating, gambling … etc.) only 3 will be successful in the long run. All 100 honestly intended to change but simply didn’t… Was recovery impossible to achieve or were they weak?
Here are 5 relapse myths that we need to dispel right away:
1. Relapse is a single event.
Contrary to popular belief, relapse is a process not always a single event. During that process, there are often warning signs in the recovering person’s attitude and behavior.
A relapse begins long before a person actually returns to drinking. A recovering person will usually start thinking and behaving in the same way they did before, while in the grips of their addiction. They can experience a shift in attitude and decide that recovery just isn’t as important to them as it used to be, or they could start to deny they ever had a drinking problem at all.
Learn the signs of relapse and keep it at bay. Remember why you started this recovery journey in the first place and keep some affirmations handy for when the going gets tough.
Most importantly, when you need help, reach out and get it.
2. Relapse Means Failure
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Recovery is ongoing. If you or someone you know relapses, it is completely possible to get back on the path to recovery.
A relapse cannot destroy all of the hard work you’ve put into recovery thus far. Relapse is not the end of your sobriety journey.
The difficulty of restoring recovery will often depend on how far into the relapse you’ve gotten. If you catch a relapse early enough, you may be able to benefit from a quick turn around. But if you’re deep into a relapse before it’s discovered, you may need to enter or re-enter a treatment facility. No matter the depth of your relapse, you CAN restore your sobriety and get back on the right track.
3. People Who Relapse Just Aren’t Motivated Enough
Conquering addiction requires more than just motivation. Sustaining sobriety takes an enormous amount of willpower and willingness to adapt. But anybody can relapse. And the process can be triggered by things like strong emotions, difficult situations, or tempting environments.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 years into sobriety or 20 days in. Mistakes happen, relapses happen. It has less to do with motivation and more to do with how prepared you are for the worst-case scenario. Relapse is a real threat for everyone, that’s why recovery is a lifelong journey.
4. Someone Who Relapses Just Hasn’t Hit “Bottom” Yet
There is no prerequisite “bottom”. Thinking this way perpetuates the dangerous idea that some people are not yet worthy of treatment.
If you feel like you’re sick enough to seek treatment, then by-golly you’re sick enough to seek treatment!
You don’t owe any particular amount of pain and suffering before you’re worthy of recovery. A relapse is a relapse. Anyone can slip up.
The most important part of relapse is your response. Make sure there are people holding you externally accountable for your recovery. Find support in other people who are seeking sobriety. If you have built a good support structure, people will notice changes in your behavior or if you withdraw. If you’ve prepared them for all possibilities, they will be able to intervene and help you.
5. We Shouldn’t Talk About Relapse
Did I say wrong already? Because this is so crazy wrong!
You know that expression “the best offense is a good defense”? Well it rings true in the addiction world. To avoid relapse, you should know as much about it as possible.
Talking about relapse won’t make it come about anymore than talking about a new car will make one magically appear in your driveway. How will you noticed the warning signs if you don’t even know what they are? Talk about it and talk about it often. Tell the people in your life what a relapse might look like and get them in your corner. Help them help you.
Tune into your mental state and be conscious of your behavior so that you’re able to recognize the signs of relapse. If you start seeing those signs, ask for help, sooner rather than later.
I’m not here to condone relapse. I’m here to tell you recovery is possible no matter what kind of bumps you hit along the way.
Knowledge and honesty will be your best weapons in the fight for sobriety.
Understanding the truth about relapse is the first step to avoiding one.
I’d seen her on several occasion walking from Hollywood Boulevard to our building. Even before we passed on the sidewalk I knew her… I had seen her my entire life living in the south. She has that kind of hair Pentecostal women had when I was a kid. It’s huge and red and did I mention huge? I’m not sure how a person can maneuver through life or even the subway with hair that big… but she does.
Everything about her says 1981. She has the big Nancy Reagan glasses and the business suits in loud colors. Everything she wears is old and worn and loud… but on her it seems to work. The first time I saw her I froze … it was like I was looking into the face of Divine … a drag queen that the character Ursula from The Little Mermaid was based… but as I’ve said with badly dyed red hair….
Our encounters have always taken place on the sidewalk with her ‘yelling” baby talk to Shmuli and Kooli from a block away. The dogs love this giant person and go nuts each time they meet. Who am I to judge style or affection? There is a connection and in a neighborhood where people look through you instead of at you … I wasn’t about to squelch it. So for a few fleeting minutes she carries on with the dogs not really talking with me … and then she’s gone. Always in the shoulder padded suits and worn high heel shoes… Dear God! She could have made a great drag queen.
I didn’t know her name until Thanksgiving Day when we met in the elevator. There is something about elevators that bring out a person’s authentic self. MJ and I were dressed like Elvis impersonators with giant wigs and sunglasses and she was dressed like always with hair bigger than ever. I explained we were the entertainment at a retirement home dinner and we all laughed. She was going to a healing service at an AGAPE church in North Hollywood run by actors. In her hand was the one thing all big haired women have… a Jell-O salad!
I do not care what the function might be… big haired women all have a spare Jell-O salad sitting around somewhere. It’s usually that green kind with chunks of pineapple and cottage cheese. Who gives a shit what’s in it!? It looks like someone congealed vomit… They all carry one like a big haired badge of courage… and they put it out in the middle of the table so everyone has to look at it. It’s like saying … “Hey, I really don’t care about you and here’s a Jell-O salad to prove it!” She had to be from the south…
Yesterday… we met on the sidewalk and actually talked. It was all the niceties you’d expect from someone you didn’t know but sorta knew… until she found out I was in addiction counseling… suddenly… it got real.
I found out a lot about her… I learned our lives were very similar. Her name is Nancy Jean from Beaumont, Texas and at 63 years old is living in an apartment with three other forgotten actors… all waiting for that big break. She was a regular on a show in the early 1980s that I remembered. She mentioned she had married an actor that was recognizable from a long running TV show and her life went to hell. She mentioned a home in Brentwood that was lost and an apartment in Koreatown where her marriage finally fell apart. She mentioned the physical abuse and desperation of living at the bottom. She said that was her wake up call… or as she put it her “come to Jesus” moment.
For the past 13 years, she has been working for a temporary staffing company and waiting for a call that may never come. She waits with three other aging hopefuls in a Hollywood two bedroom apartment where she’s safe and every one is sober. She’s happy with her life. She’s accepted life on life’s terms and found a God of her understanding. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? I know I am.
Now her big hair and loud suits made sense to me. It was part of a life she knew and lost and like the Jell-O salad… it’s all she has to hold onto. I think Shmuli and Kooli are pretty good judges of character. I approve.