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Old 08-09-2015, 06:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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5 days / relapse question


Good morning! (well, morning for me anyway)

Getting my start on day 5 of total abstinence from alcohol. Feeling pretty good. Had some weird emotional dreams last night. It's really interesting how these emotions are bubbling up after years of numbing them with alcohol and pot daily.

I've really enjoyed incorporating SR into my recovery plan. And unlike the last time I tried to quit in 2013, I'm actually participating in sharing this time, which I hope will make a difference.

I've been trying to learn as much as I can about alcohol/drug addiction this last week. I've been encouraged by all the success stories, but one thing that scares me to death is reading stories of people who had many months and sometimes years of sobriety before a relapse seemingly comes out of nowhere (I'm sure it's not that simple, right?) I guess my question is: how does this happen?

I'd really be interested in hearing from people who had a significant stretch of sobriety before a relapse. What factors, conditions, mindset, etc. led up to it. Of course, I realize some people are successful at putting the bottle down for good, but some of these relapse stats are scary.

I wonder if I should even be thinking about this as I'm only on DAY 5, lol. I guess this is more of a curiosity at this point. Thoughts?
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Old 08-09-2015, 06:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hey Beanskillet!

Not sure I qualify to answer your question as it's early days for me (I'm approaching 4 months sober). After 25 years drinking I also managed a 6 week sober spell last year but relapsed.

In retrospect, I think that last time round I just wasn't ready to call it a day. Although I would never admit it, I couldn't then envisage a life in which I'd never drink again. I think I can now. I think this is the same as a lot of things. If you really, really want it more than anything then you can have it. But you need to want it more than anything else. When I was a kid I really, really wanted to play electric guitar to a top level so I practised for hours every day and I became a guitar player. My son says he really wants to play guitar but he doesn't practise...so he can't play.

What I mean is that there's a difference between wanting to want something badly enough and really wanting something so bad you'd give practically anything to achieve it.

I'm not sure if this will make any sense to anyone apart from myself but man, I want this sober life to work for me so badly. I have so much to lose and everything to gain if I can only keep myself in check.

I know anyone can relapse any time, anywhere but I also feel that even if you do it's how you deal with it that counts.

Anyway, hope that makes a little sense
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Old 08-09-2015, 06:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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BeanSkkillet, congrats on 5 days! Although I think it's best to focus on today, this most definitely is a scary topic. I think there are a number of things that can trigger a relapse and that can be different for each of us. When we drink alcoholically, some of our brain cells are permanently altered so I don't think anyone is 100% safe from a relapse. That said, I now believe that there are things we can do to minimize the risk of a relapse. Earlier in my life I could stop very easily and quickly so I wasn't aware of how difficult this can be. The last time I became sober, I stayed that way for 13 years.

I am now 70 years old. This time i struggled for over 2 years to become reliably sober. In order to accomplish that (I am now at one year plus a few days sober) I had to make sobriety my #1 priority way above all else. For me, the following have all been important:

...First and foremost, accepting that I am and always will be an alcoholic.
...Learning all I can about how this disease works and the treatments available. In this regard, I highly recommend the video "Pleasure Unwoven" available from a major online retailer for about $30.
...Not isolating! Isolation and lying are the AVs best friend.
...Making my sobriety my very first priority, front and center - imprinting it on my brain cells, so to speak.
...Communicating with others in the same boat
...Being totally up-front with my medical care team about my drinking. Some of them have been very supportive, others don't want to hear about it and that's ok.
...Here's a hard one: accepting the fact that I am an alcoholic and relapse happens. Instead of running away and fearing it, I'm now accepting it, strange as that may sound. What I'm afraid of causes me problems. I now have a plan in place for dealing with relapse in case it happens. I don't fear it anymore. I had one very brief relapse during this past year and almost immediately went to my pdoc to discuss. Treating it as something that I don't ever want to happen yet accepting that it could and having a plan to deal with it has left me feeling "relaxed into" my sobriety.

IMHO, the feelings of shame most of us have about alcoholism makes relapse scarier and harder than it needs to be. Focus on being sober and fully present in your life today!
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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amp kind of sums it up nicely.

I hope you will get a lot of responses to this. Normally these threads do.

the word 'complacency' also comes to mind. Make no mistake about it, this is a lifelong commitment. And sometimes when we think we are just cruising along through life, something comes up and we forget that we don't drink and forget why we quit in the first place. Never forget why you wanted to quit. Never.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:10 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm one of those. Complacency. Very simply, I drifted away from and then stopped using my recovery tools. And I forgot where I came from. Relapase never "just happens".

I was sober for 20 years with regular and active support group involvement and managed to last another 10 without it. I had moved to a new neighbourhood and I didn't bother finding another support group. I just let life get in the way of all that. It was pretty a pretty isolated and lonely time.

Eventually, I started thinking maybe I'd sobered up too young, maybe I was just irresponsible at the time and not really an alcoholic. There's regular parties in the neighbourhood; I started believing that sobriety was getting in the way of having fun. And, after all, I had more responsibility now and that would keep me from Ietting the drinking get so out of hand this time. And if it did get out of hand, well, I would just have to stop again. Not that easy, I found out.

I'm so fortunate I made it back 4 1/2 years later, and now I'm convinced that I'm still an alcoholic and that sobriety is where I belong.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:23 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow. Thank you all for your thoughts. I don't know how to respond to any one person in particular but I really do appreciate you taking the time to share.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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When I relapsed after a year of sobriety, it only seemed sudden to everyone else around me. A part of me had been expecting it to happen for at least 6 months prior. That part of me wasn't willing to accept that I could never drink again. It was the part that believed I could learn to drink in moderation, the part that still envied people who "got to drink" when I did not.

It has taken several years to unpack all of that and learn to see it for the BS it was. I never "got to drink." I had to drink in order to maintain my addiction, along with all the lies it told me that I never wanted to let go of.

In other words, my sobriety that time around was built on a cracked foundation. It's taken a while to fix those cracks, and here I am again.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:35 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I had 5+ years of sobriety and got complacent. I figured that after all that time I probably wasn't an alcoholic and I could control my drinking.

A couple of beers with dinner eventually lead to an avalanche.

Now, I've got 5+ years again and I'm staying focused. I like my sober life to much to jeopardize it by having a beer.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Day five is a good start!!

My first sponsor gave me sound advice - listen to the guy who relapses. I would add, listen carefully.

Most "feel" it coming before it happens. Here's a thread a friend started a few days back and what he learned from his relapse - adding a plan in advance not to relapse.

http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...ml#post5501291

Friends posts of relapse tend to jump out at us. There are many stories of success as well. I could care less about the percentages - this is my recovery and the lot is not yet cast.......

Maybe check out the link of friends stories who have at least a year of sobriety. Might be helpful to affirm the success many have!

Stories of Recovery - SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information

Some of our mods, admin's et al are well worth a read among others

Keep coming back
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:49 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Hi BeanSkillet, I just posted this on another thread relating to relapse;

"I relapsed for 22 years after 6 years of sobriety. Until just recently, I had believed that the relapse came out of nowhere, just snuck up out of left field.

It was reading here at SR that made me think more in-depth about the circumstances that were happening at the time.

a) I had recently moved to a new city, leaving all of my support network behind, and did not make an effort to find new support.
b) I had split up with my ex-husband.
c) I worked in a bar (this was manageable in my former city, not so much here)
d) I had not made any friends outside of work, at said bar, and it was a heavy drinking crowd.
e) So, yes, I was lonely.
f) I allowed the thought "if I drank I would be able to hang out with this crowd and really be accepted" to float around in my head without ever once countering with the thought "drinking is not an option".
g) I believed that my sobriety was all wrapped up tight, I had it in the bag. Despite knowing that my casual over confidence about it put me in a vulnerable place, well, maybe that would put "other" people in a vulnerable place, but not me, 'cause, you know, I got this.
h) Because of my over confidence I didn't value my sobriety, I didn't keep it front and centre, I didn't think I needed to take care of it.

I could keep adding to this list but it is very clear to me now that my relapse didn't "just happen".

I allowed it, encouraged it, did nothing to take a stand and prevent it.

Drinking is not an option and never will be is my new catch phrase!"

Relapses happen, BeanSkillet, but they do not have to be inevitable. It is early days for you (5 days, woot woot!!! ) Educating yourself and being proactive to prevent one from happening is a great plan.

a) Take drinking off the table as an option, ever, no matter what.
b) Care for your sobriety as you would a precious jewel, always know where it is.
c) Don't become complacent with your sobriety, over confidence allows one to become careless.

These are a few things that are front and center for me this time around.

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Last edited by 2ndhandrose; 08-09-2015 at 07:51 AM. Reason: spelling police
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:51 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Two additional comments (have you all figured out that I'll use 100 words when 10 will do, lol?):

If we think of and treat alcoholism like any other medical condition, the whole picture shifts. How many of us would hesitate to go see a doc if we had cancer in remission that reappeared!

Also, in my IOP last year, we learned about the cycle of relapse and tips on how to deal with each stage in the cycle. The first stage is thinking about having a drink and how nice that would feel and wishing we weren't alcoholics. We counter that by thinking through the consequences all the way through to the end. The second stage is when we haven't successfully countered the first stage and are having cravings (when we are past the early days), etc. Awareness of the signs of each stage is another tool. The last stage is an actual relapse where the key is to reach out to others for help as quickly as possible, followed by being back to abstinence. In all but the first stage, reaching out to others is a key strategy.
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:52 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Step 1 has 3 parts. 1. Honest 2. Surrender 3. Acceptance.

Firstly you need to get honest and look bavk at your drinking career. I had to surrender to the fact that everytime i drank not only did i not drink like regular people, but alcohol and drugs were making my life unmanageable for a long time. Lastly I needed to accept that I was an alcoholic. Us alcoholics are different than other drinkers. I had to smash the idea that I could drink like the average (normal) person.

So now that you've built a solid foundation what can ya do about it? Like yourself when i first got sober I kept looking at stories of how people relapsed after long periods of sobriety. They relapse because they stopped or weren't working a good program.

Im an AAer myself...we do things "one day at a time". So today I am just going to stay sober for today...I'll worry about staying sober tomorrow...tomorrow. much easier to stay sober for a lifetime doing it one day at a time.

Do you have a support group? Do you go to AA? Thats great that you are on SR but this supplements my main recovery plan. I am willing to go to any pengths to stay sober...my life depends on it...if your an alcoholic so does yours!

Good luck!

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Old 08-09-2015, 08:09 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I had twenty years sobriety when I started drinking again in 07. I had forgotten why I quit in the first place. This time around I'm more serious about it and will never forget where I came from.
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Old 08-09-2015, 08:23 AM   #14 (permalink)
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There isn't just one thing that causes a relapse.

In my case I not only became lazy with doing what I had been doing to maintain abstinence (meetings, sponsor, etc) but I was stuck on simply not drinking. I knew there was more to it than that, but I didn't know what to do to get to the next level in MY recovery. I figured that when the time was right I would know when I was ready to start doing the actual hard work, but nothing really changed.

I was 15 months clean and sober (pot and alcohol) but not "working my recovery." I was on the right path, but the way was blocked. Unfortunately I choose to remove that roadblock by sabotaging my sobriety. Fortunately I was able to get back on the right path right away without causing any more damage, and believe me, the tuition for this lesson was very costly.

I guess my recent relapse incident (one night) was something I had to go through in order for me to learn what I needed to learn to be able to move forward. Could I have moved on without the experience of this relapse incident? Possibly. I'll never know because how would I know something I never knew in the first place? I'm sure there are other ways I could have learned how to get from point A (abstinence) to point B (bridge to long term sobriety).

I kind of feel like I was in recovery kindergarten and now I've moved up a grade. Not that we ever get to graduate, because it's continuing education for life.

So a relapse isn't the end of the world. It's not an excuse to drink either. Survival is not guaranteed.
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Old 08-09-2015, 08:40 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Hi Beanskillet:

I had around 3.5 months sober the first time I quit alcohol - that was back in 2011. I was feeling really good about that and I was quit fit too, having incorporated healthy eating/exercising. I then celebrated the birth of my great niece and within a few months of her birth I was right back to drinking just like I'd never quit. I had a few weeks/month in between where I'd try sobriety again and last year I found myself in a very dark, dark place and was drinking heavily every day. What caused my relapse - I figure I had just not made a firm commitment to sobriety, perhaps thinking that after 3.5 months I could control my intake.

This time - it's different. I left a miserable 28 year marriage, moved and made HUGE changes to my life including putting down the drink. It's not been easy and there are times when I would love to just drown myself in booze and forget about everything - but that would be a temporary thing and when I wake up (if I woke up) I'd still have to face my problems coupled with a horrific hangover and withdrawal. I cannot and will not face another Day 1. For me that is the difference between the first time I tried to stop drinking and this time. I took control over my addiction.
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Old 08-09-2015, 08:47 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bookmaven View Post

I kind of feel like I was in recovery kindergarten and now I've moved up a grade. Not that we ever get to graduate, because it's continuing education for life.

So a relapse isn't the end of the world. It's not an excuse to drink either. Survival is not guaranteed.
Interesting perspective. I think the longest I've gone without drink since I started was about 45 days. I've never graduated to anything past sobriety infancy. But now I'm looking at things differently. The idea of never drinking again doesn't bother me as much as it used to.
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Old 08-09-2015, 09:32 AM   #17 (permalink)
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The best advice ive ever had on this subject was from Dee74 when i first arrived at SR i was 13 months and so many ppl were relapsing all around me

Dee simply told me relapse is part of my addiction not part of my recovery

It made so much sense heres the original link to when i asked this

Shoutout to D as this advice was super helpful http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...1-relapse.html
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Old 08-10-2015, 07:57 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I saw someone in the neighborhood and had a long chat the other day. He was carrying a beer across the street to talk to neighbors - something I always did.
When he found out I didn't have a drink in over 18 months he was impressed. He told me I could probably drink again as long as I was careful. I told him I was never gonna drink again for as long as I live - I don't need it.
Then he confessed that he realizes he has a problem. I hope he can do something about it. It reminds me of me, always had a beer in my hand.
Never again. I am relatively an infant as it pertains to being sober, but I hope that in the years to come I can keep it fresh. One thing is seeing other people drinking - it always brings me back to, "I don't want to do that to myself again."
That is one of the reasons I read the newcomers forum almost every day. It reminds me that even those with more time than I have are prone to relapse. And we see it here all the time. Never let your guard down.
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