If you’re reading this right after a relapse, there are a few things I want you to know.
First thing’s first: breathe.
No, don’t just read that sentence and blow by it, figuring “Yeah, yeah, I know.”
Really, really breathe. Five counts in; hold for five counts; five counts out.
Good. Now do it again. Humor me.
Notice the world inside your head kind of slow down as you breathe.
Notice your back and your neck start to relax— just a little.
Now…about that relapse.
If you’re reading this and you’ve just relapsed, you need to know that this isn’t the end of your recovery— or, at least, it doesn’t have to be.
You need to know that relapse is incredibly common in recovery.
Of course it’s common. Your addiction, whether it is to a substance or a behavior or an institution or even a person, has been conditioned and reinforced, probably for years. Those patterns don’t change on a dime.
A lot of people in recovery relapse. It’s not what we prefer, but it happens. Go to any twelve step meeting, and seek out the old timers, those guys with years and years of sobriety— I guarantee that they’ve all relapsed at one point.
You need to know that you didn’t “fail.”
Having relapsed doesn’t mean you “can’t” do recovery.
All it means is, you had a day where the pressure overwhelmed your coping skills. That’s literally all that happened.
Could you have made different decisions to avoid that relapse? Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter right now. It happened.
You need to know it’s not the end of the world.
You need to know that you can’t take the relapse back— no matter how hard you try.
You need to know that, if anything positive at all is going to come out of this relapse, then it’s on you to figure out what this relapse has to teach you.
That’s right. Relapses have things to teach you. In fact, relapse has things to teach you that sobriety cannot teach you.
(That doesn’t mean we should aspire to relapse…but it means that it’s on you not to waste the opportunity presented by this relapse.)
But maybe the most important thing you need to know, if you’re reading this right after a relapse, is that it’s not too late—or too early— to get back on the horse.
A lot of the time, when we relapse, we figure, eh, screw it, I’ve already relapsed, might as well really dive in.
That won’t make things better.
There’s a difference between falling off the wagon for an hour…and falling off the wagon for twelve hours.
(Hell, there’s even a difference between falling of the wagon for an hour, and falling off the wagon for an hour and a half.)
The name of the game is, getting back into the game as soon as you can.
As soon as you have control again. As soon as you have a free choice again.
As soon as your head’s clear enough to think again. THAT is when you want to get back on the horse.
If you’re reading this right after a relapse, you need to know that I’m proud of you for even being in recovery.
Recovery is hard. It’s maybe the hardest thing humans do.
If you’re reading this right after a relapse, you need to know that I don’t want you to give up.
I want you to try again.
I believe you are worth saving.
And I believe there is hope.
Not just in general— but for you, specifically.
Please don’t give up.
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