Everyone has a slip-up now and then. Whether new to recovery or a long-time clean and sober individual, none of us is immune to falling down. The difference is only how we respond and react once we have made a mistake, fallen down or relapsed.
In essence, there are two choices: fall down and stay down, or fall down and get up – and learn from the experience.
Suppose we fall down frequently? Are we somehow in danger of losing our fresh start opportunities? Ask any addiction recovery expert and the likely answer is that it is never the number of times that a person relapses that is the ultimate determining factor in whether or not that person will ever be able to maintain sobriety. Instead, it is always whether or not they are willing to pick themselves up and get back to work doing what is necessary for their recovery.
Even though we may have relapsed – fallen down – three to 11 times, this still doesn’t close the door to recovery to us. We always have the opportunity to make changes in our life that will benefit our sobriety and help us to maintain our hard-won recovery once again.
Isn’t it funny, how we often have such a hard time believing this? To what can we attribute that? Let’s look at some of the things we tell ourselves about what just happened.
- We must be bad; otherwise, none of this would have happened. Many of us equate our inability to “get it right” the first time as somehow indicating that we must have something really wrong with us. Maybe we are just bad people, not worthy of a second chance at life. We may even have others in our lives who berate us for our failures, calling us names, making us feel less worthy of success than we’d otherwise feel. But the truth is that we are not bad at all. We just haven’t begun to believe in ourselves yet. We need to find the good within each of us, to be able to clearly discern our motivation and to separate the actual experience of relapse from any feelings of lowered self-worth.
- We can’t seem to learn. Here is another common rationalization that may very well keep us mired in negativity, especially after we’ve made yet another mistake or suffered a set-back or relapse. Maybe we tried to take on too much at once. Did we even think of that? Maybe we were in such a hurry that we skipped or missed a few critical steps. Maybe we weren’t ready to tackle that next challenge, problem or issue on our agenda or to-do list. There is such a thing as taking it slow and steady. Maybe we forgot about that recommendation? The good thing about having made mistakes or having a relapse is that we can always learn something positive from the experience. In fact, we only get stronger when we are able to see what, where and how we went wrong – so that we can correct our behavior and make better decisions the next time we encounter a similar experience.
- Everything is stacked against us. The common lament that the world is against us and we don’t have a fighting chance is just one more piece of erroneous information that we pile up in our heads. We may even find ourselves saying words to that effect to any and all who might listen to our tale of woe. Again, it’s just us rationalizing instead of taking responsibility for what happened, trying to figure out the best approach to solve the problem or difficulty – like re-entering rehab or going for additional counseling or therapy – and moving on. We literally have to pluck the idea that the world is against us or that we don’t have a chance from our thoughts, quite simply because it isn’t true. Get on with the business of living and stop finding excuses for not trying our best.
- What if it doesn’t work? No one has any guarantees about continuing sobriety. That much is clear. But what if whatever we try or try again, as in redoing rehab, doesn’t work? Suppose we are unable to stay clean and sober and relapse yet again? What if, what happens then, and so on? These are all good questions and quite common concerns among the newly recovered and those who have found themselves repeatedly relapsing. It is normal to worry about the unknown, in this case, what happens when what we try doesn’t yield the desired outcome – sobriety? Make that continued sobriety. Well, maybe it won’t work exactly as we had hoped or planned. Maybe, however, we will have learned something very valuable in the meantime. We cannot possibly go through rehab or treatment again without gleaning something positive from the experience. If we don’t, we aren’t putting ourselves wholeheartedly into the effort in the first place. Bottom line: if it doesn’t work, we just keep on trying until it does. We are getting stronger the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we grow. All of this will prove beneficial to our recovery and make our fresh start all the sweeter and precious.
- No one believes in us, anyway. Ah, here is another comment striking hard of self-pity that many of us may be tempted to make. If we think no one believes in what we do, then we aren’t apt to believe that they are supportive of our recovery, either. It’s time to stop projecting our own feelings onto others and make some definite attempts to work on building up our self-esteem. We also need to take the time to participate in and really listen to what’s being said in the rooms of recovery, to work closer with our 12-step sponsor to iron out some of the difficulties we’ve been consistently having, and to create reasonable and realistic short-term goals that will help us begin to feel better about ourselves and our abilities.