When We Fall

Let’s talk about relapse.

I’ve had one relapse.  Well, if you count every time I said I wasn’t going to drink again–and then drank anyway–I’ve had a LOT of relapses.  But I’ve had one that involved drinking while I was trying to work an active plan of recovery.

Except that I dropped the “active” part.  I had a plan.  And that plan involved recovery.  But for a few days I wasn’t actively involved in pursuing that plan, and so I relapsed.  I fell victim to PAWS and I became very isolated.  I misjudged what my husband and family were telling me:  I thought they wanted me to stop counseling and cut back at AA.  I also was afraid of some of the things my counselor wanted to talk about, so I used the opportunity of “My family wants,” to stop going.  And I slacked at AA, also because I thought my family was complaining that they needed me home more.  I also had a healthy dose of ,”Fuck it,” going on in my brain, and a bit of, “You’re not the boss of me.”  Those are serious red flags for me.

So one day I brought home a box of wine.  And that was that.

I had already relapsed days before I drank that wine.  I didn’t have to actually pour it down my throat to have fallen into enough bad old patterns to be inevitably headed towards booze.  I was isolating.  I was irritable.  I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was reducing the hours spent in active recovery.  I was dealing with terrible sleep patterns and bad eating or no eating and anxiety and what my grandpa would have called ” general cussedness.”

I didn’t know about PAWS yet.  I didn’t know a lot of things about recovery that I know now.  I didn’t have a relapse prevention plan or a stack of phone numbers or any idea of how to handle my shit yet.  I did not yet know the *signs* of relapse.  But  now I do, having learned the hard way.

This is the best resource I found about relapse and its stages.

I know that when I drank, the actual drinking was less important than the reasons I drank. So when we enter recovery, we have to find something better to do than drink for every reason we drank:  If we drank to be more socially outgoing, we have to learn to be social without cracking open a beer.  If we drank to sleep we have to find ways to get healthy sleep without a nightcap or three.  If we drank to stop our brains spinning we have to learn stillness and how to stop those roundabout thoughts on our own.   If we drank to avoid, we must learn to do the opposite of avoidance (embrace, run towards, face your demons or problems or fears or mother-in-law or whatever it is).

Because drinking touched every aspect of our lives, we need recovery in every aspect of our lives.  Once we stop actively being in recovery, we are in danger of a relapse.  Active recovery doesn’t have to mean a meeting a day, or any meetings at all.  It doesn’t have to look the same for you as it does for me.  My recovery, right now, involves  many things, among them:  One on one counseling; group therapy; research into substance use disorders and their treatment; radical honesty in areas that I used to skate around, especially in my closest relationships; meditation; journaling; art therapy;  good sleep; lots of *people* who care about my recovery; medications; AA.

If you are in recovery you should have a Relapse Prevention Plan.  I showed a quick and easy way to make one in the post “How Not to Relapse.”  It’s so very easy and the process of making one, no matter how very simple, will help in and of itself.  (Put, “Read PostcardsfromRecovery,” on there with all the other sober bloggers you love!  :p ) Just since I posted mine, my relapse prevention plan has about doubled with so many more ways to stay sober, more phone numbers, more blogs and books and ideas.

If you’ve already relapsed, or keep relapsing, it’s not the end of the world.  Every minute is the beginning of a new 24 hours.  I believe you can do this.  I believe we all can do this.

If you’ve relapse, don’t be afraid to head into a meeting.  Don’t be afraid to call a friend, a sibling, a pastor, a guru, a dial-a-sober-buddy.  Nothing is harder, or braver, than that first 24 hours.  I don’t care if you have to do your first 24 over and over again.   Just don’t give up.  Everybody there wants to help.  You deserve to be seen, and heard, and helped.  You are deserving of compassion, no matter how many tries it takes you to do what you set out to do.


On another note, I’ve made two huge rhubarb cakes lately and am going to make zucchini pineapple bread tomorrow.  It’s been glorious and beautiful and we went on a hike today that was breathtaking (in more ways than one, I’m pretty out of shape!).

I spent half of today (the not-hiking, not-AAing half) painting wet-on-wet watercolors with Little One.  They’re always fun and so easy and no matter what, they turn out beautiful.  I highly recommend that technique for soothing, very attractive art.  We’re cutting up some of the ones we made to turn into postcards!

I saw two moose on the way back from the airport tonight.  One bull and one cow.  So beautiful.  I’ll try to post the picture from my phone.

I was calling, “Hey, moosey moosey,” but they didn’t listen.

Let’s have a beautiful Monday and keep kicking addiction’s ass, everyone!






7 thoughts on “When We Fall

  1. I think one of the things that feels like a wall to me is the “why did I drink” question. I have it in my head that I can get to Day 30 just focused on counting the days and being mindful and following a Plan. But I do see that at some point, I am going to have to face that question. Because you are exactly correct… if we don’t solve for WHY we drank, relapse is inevitable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Today, July 9, was my 4 month milestone. One hundred twenty two days of sobriety following a 10 month relapse that ended 5 years of hard fought and hard won sobriety. On the most simplistic level, alcohol is my most deadly enemy. Why did I let, no, invite that bottle of vodka back into my life? I quit “working my program”, as we in AA are prone to say. But that’s not all that happened. I actively turned my back on the tools I had learned and practiced and chose to drink. I planned and anticipated. I romanticized the act and result of drinking and then followed through. For 10 months I was stuck in hell again, not knowing how to sober up yet again, how to face sobriety head on and get it back.
    Walking through that door, taking a seat and saying out loud, “My name is Patsy and I’m an alcoholic,” took every ounce of nerve I could muster. Now I firmly believe that the key to my sobriety was in the act of attending that first meeting of We Agnostics. Being accepted back into a group was a piece of cake for those doing the accepting, but earth shattering to me. I cried during the first 3 weeks of meetings, while slowly reassembling my far flung tools for the work of sobriety.
    Relationships matter more this time around. The dogma of AA matters less. I need people. I need validation. I need to rebuild my self respect and that is largely accomplished through feedback from other alcoholics. I trust what you have to say. I will try your suggestions and give them my best shot. The We Agnostics group of. Is a good place to find myself. Thank you Fairy Child for your part in my recovery, even though you may not see your influence on my recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Penelope, for sharing your experience about relapse and what you’re doing now to prevent it in the future. You brought up some very good points. People typically start a relapse way before the drink even touches their lips. I firmly believe we must build a strong foundation in early sobriety: Steps 1, Step 2 and Step 3, a committment to attend meetings, a sponsor and a sober support network. In other words, you acknowledge you’re an addict, you know you are not alone and at any sign of faltering from your program, you immediately reach out for help to someone or everyone! For me, it’s an automatic response. If something doesn’t feel right, I’m already on the phone with someone. I don’t let myself think. I can’t. If I do the rest won’t matter because I’ll be drunk wondering how the hell I got there. Indeed coming back from a relapse is harder than the first time we come into a program. Some say its part of recovery (which I disagree). When I have the experience of talking to someone who’s relapsed, the WHY isn’t important. Approach recovery with a clean slate. I believe three components are important in any program of recovery: honesty, openmindedness and willingness. If I were in their shoes, I would be saying, “Okay, I relapsed and can’t change it. Obviously, my program didn’t work the first time. Let’s try something new ‘cus in reality, ‘I don’t know anything’.” Alright, enough of my rambling. Great post and comments!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, mikey, for all of those wise words! I love the “stop, don’t think, just call” idea. Whether we work steps, go to meetings, or have a sponsor or not, those are great steps to preventing a relapse.



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