The Second Big Lie About Relapse

Lie # 2:  My Previous Progress in Recovery Was Wasted.

Sometimes, someone who slips will claim in exasperation, “I lost all my clean time. I’m back to day zero. I have to start everything over.” That’s just how your disease wants you to look at it—as a huge mountain to climb that’s so big, you just might as well not even try again, and keep the party going. A more accurate way to look it as is: “I have been sober 19 of the past 21 days. Compared to any other three week period before I came into recovery, this is progress.”

Yes, you must restart your sobriety clock and establish a new sobriety date, but you don’t lose the lessons learned from your previous recovery time. I’d be willing to bet that your previous clean-time experience (be it once or a dozen times) probably helped you come back to sobriety faster this time around. We just don’t suddenly lose all that experience. It stays, working on us from the inside. That’s why it’s important to remember, even though you reset your sobriety date, your previous clean time counts. It’s there, accumulating wisdom.

Now, let’s be clear: none of this is to encourage or excuse relapse, but we need to learn not to demonize relapse, either. But, if you are involved in any groups of recovering meth addicts, from CMA to rehab to group counseling, you will see people relapse. You may not relapse yourself, but people you care about will. So relapse is important to address.

If you have relapsed recently, look at the last several months, or year. If you have more clean time in the last three months than you have relapse time, focus on that. You are definitely heading in the right direction. Don’t beat yourself up.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And a solid program of sobriety usually isn’t either.

(Now, having said that, there’s this: there is an emotional, spiritual, and physical growth that only comes with long-term continuous sobriety. It’s something you’ll have to experience for yourself.)

Again, none of this is to encourage or excuse relapse, but you need to learn not to demonize relapse, either.

If it never happens to you, great. No one is happier for you than I am. But, if you are involved in any groups of recovering meth addicts, from CMA to rehab to group counseling, you will see people relapse. You may not relapse yourself, but people you care about will. So be kind to yourself and your fellow tweakers who are with you on the journey to sobriety.

Now, get back into the rooms of AA or CMA. Raise your hand when they ask if there are any newcomers. Take a 24 hour chip. You have nothing to be ashamed of—in fact, you’re one of the bravest people in the room at that moment. Recovering addicts are some of the strongest people I know and, when sober, become men and women of amazing character. Our suffering makes us that way.

In your relapse you “lost” nothing other than “continuous time” clean–and you just may have gained some profound insight into yourself and a healthy newfound respect for your disease’s trickery. Let’s hope so.

So if you relapse: let all that knowledge you’ve accumulated from meetings and the program fuck your high up as much as possible. While still high, recognized the miserable turn in your journey you just took and do an about face. Come back to the path, heart and mind open to lessons learned. And remember, you haven’t lost anything but “continuous” sobriety.