“If You Lose, You Can Guide”


A reader sent me one of the inspirational quote pics that he saw posted on Facebook. It was by Swami Vivekananda and read:

Take risks in your life.
If you win, you can lead!
If you lose, you can guide!

I’ve been thinking a lot about that, especially in relation to relapse. You lose when you relapse. It’s a loss of continuous clean time, for one. Also, perhaps more importantly, it’s a loss of trust, especially in the relationships you have with others who know you’re in recovery. It’s also a loss of self-confidenceand trust in your own ability to stay clean.

So what’s the guidance in all this?

A person who relapsed recently told me:

“Recovery was becoming my new normal. This last time out paradoxically reinvigorated my program. It gave me a clear purpose—to love myself. Never before, had I seen it’s a simple choice. I can choose death and despair. Do I love myself or not?  To use drugs is to kill oneself. I now see clearly that I need to love myself enough to walk away from meth forever.”

What’s the guidance here? Firstly, learn to love yourself and you’ll more likely stay clean.

We might also read between the lines to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for oneself, for the person who relapsed. But as equally powerful, I think, is that  friends and family forgive the relapser. It’s not condoning the behavior, or somehow encouraging it. The user had an acute flare up of her disease of addiction.

When a person relapses, he comes back as a guide to how fragile sobriety can actually be, to how we shouldn’t take our own sobriety for granted. If you listen closely to what  many returnees say, they will point out how the dark underworld of meth hasn’t changed one iota since you were last there. That path is still as poisonous and deadly as ever, leading only to jail, institutions, or death. We don’t have to repeat their painful mistake.

The hip hop rapper Macklemore has a powerful song demonstrating just what I’ve been trying to say in today’s blog. He relapsed after a very public three and half years of sobriety. He had a choice. Tell no one. Or guide us through honesty and courage and self-forgiveness.

Try listening, even if you don’t like rap—it’s very hip hop lite. Here you go. Enjoy…