Is relapse part of recovery?

by bonnietown

Green Mamba

Green Mamba (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

I work with addictions.  Occasionally clients, having maintained some period of sobriety, will relapse.  They are quick, sometimes, to repeat something they’ve heard somewhere before.  “Well, relapse is part of recovery, right?  In fact, I’m glad it happened.  I learned that I don’t want to be back out there.”  And then they wait for some confirmation from me that they are right and that there is still hope for them.

Of course there’s hope.  As long as one has any willingness whatsoever, I feel I have something to work with.  But if they forgive themselves too many times for that relapse, even I will lose hope because I know how terribly progressive the disease is and I know that each relapse will be more difficult to overcome both physically and mentally.

I positively hate snakes.  One of my fellow bloggers refers to snakes as “legless freaks,” and it just resonates with me, so I’m going to adopt his description.  For those of you who are enamored by legless freaks, please just overlook this paragraph.  I do not want to have to defend myself and the legless freaks, no matter how special they are to you.

Let’s say I purchase a legless freak that is known to be venomous.  Let’s say I’ve done my research and I know the danger involved in keeping one of these specimen.  But my intentions are just to purchase and re-sell, not play with it.  Then let’s say I just can’t control myself.  It appears so harmless laying there and the thing hasn’t done anything that appears even remotely dangerous up to this point.  And as I turn in for bed I give in to some impulse that says, “He looks so attractive, and he really doesn’t appear to be all those things that I read about or learned about.  I’m just going to let him sleep in my bed tonight.”

Now, if I am fortunate enough to live through the night and have the opportunity to share with the emergency personnel that the damned snake didn’t even give me any warning before he struck, they will be right when they chart –  under “Psychological” – “Just plain nuts.”   

Some folks do not have the reaction to alcohol that you do.  Those folks do not end up in rehabs or 12-Step meetings or DUI school.  If just once you have been to treatment for drugs or alcohol, you are aware that this is not something you can play with.  You know the dangers.  If you have been to just one meeting of any 12-Step program, you know the dangers.  So is relapse part of recovery?  No.  Relapse is an active addict and/or an active alcoholic.  You have lapsed right back into insanity.  We can even call on the dictionary here.  You don’t need to take my word for it.  Look up some definitions.

Relapse:  To fall back into illness after convalescence or apparent recovery.

Relapse:  To fall or slip back into a former state.

Relapse:  To fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error.

Relapse is NOT part of recovery.  Sobriety IS part of recovery.

Any questions?