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The truth is our "relapses" are not harmless . . .

Old 07-15-2014, 05:53 AM
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DD -- I really appreciate your perspective... more than you know. Some of the things you said sounded just like things my partner has said to me... it helps me realize how true it is and that even though I thought I wasn't hurting anyone when I relapsed... I really was.

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Old 07-15-2014, 06:13 AM
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going to aa has certainly helped me to not to relapse anymore, i simple do what has been suggested ie get to meetings, share, get a sponcer, work the program as best as i can for how i understand it

each day i have done this i grow and get stronger, the longer i am away from a drink the more i like how i am today from what i was, so i grow in the belief that its working for me

if the day comes along were i pick up the drink again i guess i will have been wrong and have to try again but try something different
so far this treatment has lasted 10 years and because i keep doing it, then its working for me
i am surrounded by people who are just like me in aa some further up the road than i am at this moment and others who are behind me
but together we help each other get that little bit further up the road

people relapse all the time and its when this happends they have to look at what there doing to try to stay sober if the answer is they keep relapsing then i would suggest they try something else that might help them

but here is the problem as you have to be totaly honest about why you keep on relapsing and not try and dress it up or look for excuses etc
i kept on going back to aa meetings as i could hear the truth from others in the rooms and i learned from them how to get honest with myself

in fact i have learned much much more but thats what recovery is all about, learning how to change learning how to cope learning how to do things differently

we are not going to lose our old habbits over night and suddenly change into upright model people who dont drink anymore and give out love to everyone we meet lol

we have to learn by experiencing life sober and how to react to it, i had to learn how to react to life when things dont go my way, instead of hitting out and running off for a drink as that will show them lol
i had to learn to experience pain, lonelyness, bordom, worry, stress, heartache, you name it i have felt it and i have had to learn how to not run off and drink on it

so if you want to become a dr you will have to go off to school and learn how to do it, its the same thing i get from aa except there i learn how to live without the need for a drink
so far its working
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Robert777 View Post
Are you an alcoholic or just a problem drinker? It is very rare for real alcoholics to never relapse and I think the relapses are painful enough without others passing their judgements onto others.
DD, I am a Real Alcoholic and a Real Addict too. I relapsed but just had many years between. My last period of sobriety for a great length of time was in '96. I had bouts of 20-30 day periods, disguised as cleanses within the next 17 yrs. However, on 8/26/13 I made a conscious decision to not drink ever again. 8/27/13 is my sobriety date. It has not been easy and I do subscribe to AA 12 steps, the genesis of the term the "Real Alcoholic." May I suggest we not confuse Powerless and Helpless, as I see the two as very differnt adjectives.

I like htis thread, as I am dealing with active parents (Alcoholic and Gambling Addict) and how much exposure they have with my children 3 and 6 that idolize their grandparents.
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:56 AM
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I always wonder about why others rush in to relieve people of their shame/guilt. Should I not feel ashamed for what I did to my children? I locked them inside the house (keyed from the inside) and attempted suicide. Prior to that I was drunk every single night for 7 years, often too drunk to bathe them at night and put them to bed without help.

I can tell you what my shame did for me. It was the impetus for me to change. To make real and lasting change.
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Old 07-15-2014, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by soberlicious View Post
I always wonder about why others rush in to relieve people of their shame/guilt. Should I not feel ashamed for what I did to my children? I locked them inside the house (keyed from the inside) and attempted suicide. Prior to that I was drunk every single night for 7 years, often too drunk to bathe them at night and put them to bed without help.

I can tell you what my shame did for me. It was the impetus for me to change. To make real and lasting change.
I tend to agree, soberlicious, and the consequences of relapse do not, in my opinion, even need to be as severe as what you experienced in order to take the relapse seriously. A relapse, far from being "part of recovery," (an unfortunate description created and sustained by well-meaning but misguided and unhelpful people in the treatment industry) is defined by drinking and all the behaviors that come with it. An instant, largely thoughtless dismissal of a relapse for the sake of sparing one's feelings, no matter how seemingly trivial the consequences, is misguided support and comes dangerously close to supporting drinking in the service of getting sober. A paradox of subtle but potentially harmful proportions.

If "getting back on the horse" or "getting up and dusting oneself off" is all a person does, then the relapse is rendered meaningless, and there is no reason to expect that multiple relapses will not be brought into play. This kind of thinking ranks among the most pernicious and perhaps among the most common self-deceptions and acts of bad faith that we can conjure. Framing a relapse as a "slip," a "bump in the road," or a momentary "glitch" is nothing more than excuse-making, and is degrading to the person who chooses to describe it in such a manner, if only because doing so strongly suggests that the person was not/is not responsible for his or her own actions. Such thinking comes with the added bonus of dismissing the reality of the suffering that I inflict on other people during a relapse, and releasing me from further responsibility, all this to allow my fragile ego to remain intact. And, within this context, no one who detaches themselves or their personal responsibility from their own behaviors has a very good chance of achieving long-term sobriety.

The only modification I would make to your comments would be to substitute 'guilt' for 'shame', the latter being a near-completely destructive emotion or state that only precipitates further relapse. Shaming people, either publicly or in private, is not an effective treatment option, and should be avoided at all costs.
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:12 AM
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I think it all depends on the person, support is all about meeting the person where they are at, and providing support as necessary to see progress in that person's life.

My dad was an alcoholic and took absolutely no responsibly for his actions, my parents finally divorced and in my dad's remaining years there was no remorse, no acknowledgement that his actions as a result of alcohol had anything to do with the family structure dissolving. This was a great way of loosing all compassion for for his addiction when the person doesn't see any need or have any desire to change.

The parallel I see with someone coming from a relapse is you can generally gauge that someone is either pretty shameful/remorseful already of their actions or not too bothered for the nth time, usually it's pretty clear as to the words they use which camp they fall into.

To those that are cut up and beating themselves up over it, gentle encouragement as a supportive community IMO is the safety net we can provide, because deep down the person may already have re committed to Sobriety and they know they have messed up, whereas those that aren't feeling too much or anything at all over the relapse, especially if it's multiple times need a few more probing questions to get them thinking about their way forward.

Overall IMO a one size fits all approach isn't what is needed, we need to meet people with different degrees and types of support, some with more tough love than others!!
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:59 AM
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DoubleDragons, thank you for a thought-provoking post and topic.

Originally Posted by EndGameNYC View Post
Framing a relapse as a "slip," a "bump in the road," or a momentary "glitch" is nothing more than excuse-making, and is degrading to the person who chooses to describe it in such a manner, if only because doing so strongly suggests that the person was not/is not responsible for his or her own actions. Such thinking comes with the added bonus of dismissing the reality of the suffering that I inflict on other people during a relapse, and releasing me from further responsibility, all this to allow my fragile ego to remain intact. And, within this context, no one who detaches themselves or their personal responsibility from their own behaviors has a very good chance of achieving long-term sobriety.
EndGameNYC, thank you for elaborating on this.

I've been thinking there's a big difference in concept and effect between "I had a slip" and "I chose to drink" -- or between "I relapsed" and "I chose to start drinking again."
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by ForgetfulKevin View Post
EndGameNYC, thank you for elaborating on this.

I've been thinking there's a big difference in concept and effect between "I had a slip" and "I chose to drink" -- or between "I relapsed" and "I chose to start drinking again."
I tend to agree, two of the statements are bareboned examples of honesty, the level of honesty one needs to acquire to realize the other two while perhaps true are not entirely honest.
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:30 PM
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If you're referring to my comments, Purpleknight, and I'm not assuming that you are, I am not a proponent of "tough love" as that expression is commonly used. I am, however, in favor of both physical and emotional well-being, as well as in personal responsibility. As per my previous comments, I am radically opposed to shaming as a means of provoking meaningful changes in behavior, and the history of humankind supports this.

To reiterate, if all I do is pick myself up and move on following a relapse, then I have learned nothing and, perhaps worse, am only setting myself up for further relapse. What I think is needed is a sober (and, ideally, a sobering) re-evaluation of what I've been doing in order to achieve sobriety up until that point. Something different needs to be tried in place of "All I need to do is be more mindful and not drink the next time." Sustained, long-term sobriety cannot be accomplished, I believe, without an honest and rigorous accounting of myself and my strategies to remain sober.

I've learned in my work and in my own life that meaningful change, moving from misery and despair, and psychological well-being is virtually impossible without doing what is necessary to bring myself to a better place. Being open and willing to doing things that are uncomfortable for me, go against my precious philosophy and values (some of which were killing me), and which I insist that I simply cannot (will not) do have been the foundation for those things that indeed have taken me to a much better place. Sitting still in my misery, hoping for the best, and thinking myself through my struggles is no decision at all
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by EndGameNYC View Post
If you're referring to my comments, Purpleknight, and I'm not assuming that you are
I'm not . . . my view point is without reference to anyone, just my own personal thoughts!!
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ForgetfulKevin View Post
I've been thinking there's a big difference in concept and effect between "I had a slip" and "I chose to drink" -- or between "I relapsed" and "I chose to start drinking again."
This is why whenever I've made the decision to drink again, I am careful about the words I choose. I take full responsibility for drinking again. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here and straying off topic a bit, but I've usually steered clear of the word "relapse" because it almost sounds like an attempt to absolve myself of any responsibility in the matter. A "slip" sounds like something I'd do whilst trying to cross a frozen parking lot. Choosing to drive to the liquor store, going in and picking up a bottle of vodka, walking to the counter and whipping out my wallet, opening the bottle and taking that first drink is 100% my choice and my responsibility (or the lack thereof). I could just as easily have not done any of those things. If I had cancer that went into remission and it came back without my knowledge and against my will, that is what I consider a relapse.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:47 PM
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I absolutely agree with everyone who thinks guilt is an extremely powerful motivator for positive change when it's placed in the right context. Guilt was the number one emotion that pushed me to get sober finally, when I did, but it had been incubating for a long time prior. The second one was anxiety, but that's far more selfish and does not carry much constructive power. Guilt is also the emotion that I've seen numerous times motivating the people that I've respected most highly for their integrity. It can make people get stuck inside their head also very effectively, but with some push in the right direction and great things can happen. A double-edged sword, like many things.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by DoubleDragons View Post
I spent an early part of this month with my family visiting my parents at their home. My mother is an alcoholic. She is very careful to stay somewhat "in control" when we are visiting her, but when we are not there, all bets are off. She was in an obvious bender last week which culminated in an 8:30 am phone call conversation that I had with her on Friday, in which she was so drunk, she couldn't string a sentence together.

Today, I spoke with her and she was sober and apologetic. She said that she "relapsed" but she is working on her problem. I have my own issues with alcohol, so I am forgiving, but I don't forget. I can't. I have children who can be affected by her. They are her grandchildren. My eldest child is headed to college for the first time in a few weeks and I am all over the map with my own emotions and needs, yet once again her drunk antics have been added to my worry list. I don't deserve that.

I have a list in my sobriety journal of every stupid, dangerous, sickening behavior I pulled when I was drunk. That list comprises the most shameful moments of my life, hands down. I have no problem recalling every single one of them and they fill my heart with shame and turn my face red, even though some of these events are decades past. I have forgiven myself. I have to, in order to get better and stay better. But I don't forget them, and I doubt seriously that the people who love me and who were with me, forget those episodes either.

Yes, relapses happen. And yes, we have to move on and get back up. But don't think for a minute that your relapses happen in a vacuum. When you relapse, you are dashing the hopes and dreams of the people who care about you and you are adding another obstacle to the repair of the relationship. And when I read the Friends and Family forum here at SR, I completely empathize with the people who finally have to let their alcoholic go, for their own sanity.

Coming from both sides of the coin, I just don't think relapses are something to take lightly. There comes a time in our alcoholic story that bygones are no longer bygones.
Thank you for sharing this, i feel the same way, sadly i did relapse recently and am working my way through this. THe pain and fear that i have placed in those around me is the most shameful thing i feel. It is not deserved and my relapse was completely selfish. It is good to read what you wrote about this to keep our minds in reality about what our actions do to everyone around us or associated with us.
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:18 PM
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What is the difference between a relapse and choosing to drink? Doesn't everyone who relapses make a choice to drink? Seems like the same to me. I use the word I guess because I thought it meant "going back to drinking again."
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ElleDee View Post
What is the difference between a relapse and choosing to drink? Doesn't everyone who relapses make a choice to drink? Seems like the same to me. I use the word I guess because I thought it meant "going back to drinking again."
well said.
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by ElleDee View Post
What is the difference between a relapse and choosing to drink? Doesn't everyone who relapses make a choice to drink? Seems like the same to me. I use the word I guess because I thought it meant "going back to drinking again."
It's really just a semantics argument, and one that comes up here on SR on a very regular basis. Slip, oops, relapse, setback, etc...are all merely different ways of saying that one drank after a period of sobriety.

To me the words mean much less than the reason one returned to drinking - and even more importantly how one figures out how to make it not happen again.
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Old 07-15-2014, 03:12 PM
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I rarely post on this forum because I don't want to intrude here. However, I'd like to share some thoughts about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the relapse.

When my former husband used to drink, he would say hurtful, vicious things to me that cut to my core. The next morning when I tried to tell him the impact that what he had said and done had had on me, he would tell me that he didn't remember saying or doing any of that. Sometimes he would accuse me of lying, saying "I never would behave like that; you must be very disturbed to say I did that". Other times he would say "Well I wasn't present last night. That was someone else who was doing all of that. Not me."

To him, he had no responsibility or accountability for anything he had done or said. Because, in his mind, nothing had been done that was harmful or more than a nuisance value, there was nothing to work out with me. Case closed.

For me, loving him deeply, my despair deepened and I began to doubt myself and believe that I deserved what he did. To save myself, I eventually fled my home, and then left my marriage behind.

What he did damaged me. To move beyond it and continue the relationship, I would have needed a forum in which we could talk about the consequences for me of his behavior while in the depths of alcoholism. For him to not acknowledge that his behavior had touched me was, to me, to deny the truth of what our relationship was truly about. A partnership between two people has to have the integrity of the truth as its core value. Trust is the currency of exchange in a relationship.

So to me, there are two issues here. One, from the alcoholic's point of view, is their desire to be sober, and their relapse, their deviation from how they want to behave. This person needs and deserves support, validation that yes they were achieving their sobriety goal, and yes, they can and will again achieve that goal.

The alcoholic's partner needs to know that the alcoholic owns what they did in their drinking, and owns the consequences, for better or worse. That willingness on the alcoholic's part to face squarely what they did and how it impacted someone else is what will begin to restore the trust that is the core of that relationship.

"I had a slip" may be enough to get the alcoholic through their relapse enough to try sobriety again. It isn't enough to re-balance a relationship so that the partner is willing to open themselves to intimacy again; the partner's pain and fear have to be acknowledged in order for them to move beyond the "relapse". It doesn't have to be perfect or complete. The beginnings of comprehension of how your behavior affects others is the beginning of healing for all concerned.

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Old 07-15-2014, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ElleDee View Post
What is the difference between a relapse and choosing to drink? Doesn't everyone who relapses make a choice to drink? Seems like the same to me. I use the word I guess because I thought it meant "going back to drinking again."
As ScottFromWi said it is largely a semantics issue but, personally, I tend to steer clear of the word "relapse" because I have seen so many misuse it. To me, relapse implies a lack of control. While an alcoholic does tend to lose control once the drinking starts, that first drink is entirely within his/her control. That's the one we all need to prevent!

But I do see upon looking up the definition that one of them is: "the act of returning to a previous condition: a return to a former mood, state, or way of life, especially a bad or undesirable one, after coming out of it for a while." So, maybe I am just splitting hairs, after all!
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:31 PM
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Thank you for sharing that shootingstar. I needed to take responsibility, not just for me so that I could quit, but for all my loved ones I had harmed. They deserved that and it's the only way to heal...to fix the mess.

You deserve that. I'm sorry you had out go through that.
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:54 PM
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I totally get it. Using the term "relapse" could make it sound like you couldn't help it, I couldn't help it. I'm probably not saying that right but when you say I chose to drink again, that sounds worse I guess so using the term relapse is a way for the addict/alcholic to play it down. Don't jump on me... I'm not sure I'm using the right words.

Hey I have never been able to say that in my situation, my partner gets angry and won't have it. He says "relapse" psycho babble and "YOU CHOSE TO DRINK AGAIN" Yes I did. I am sorry and I have learned a lot just in the last couple of days how my drinking has hurt him and I really really don't want to do it anymore.
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