Backsliding and relapse happens.
It’s not evidence that we suck. It’s not evidence that we’re not trying.
It’s evidence that recovery is really hard. No more; no less.
Our depression, addiction, or trauma might try to use a backslide or a relapse to bury us with shame.
We might hear a voice in our head telling us that we backslid or relapsed because we suck, or because we’re not tough enough, or because we don’t “want” recovery enough.
It’s not true.
Nobody LIKES backsliding or relapsing. It’s frustrating. It’s often painful.
it sucks to see ground we’d gained, lost.
Sometimes when we backslide or relapse it has very real consequences for those around us.
It’s perfectly legit to HATE all of that. I hate it when it happens to me.
We can take responsibility for the pain and inconvenience our struggles cause other people— without letting shame take over and convince us that we are irredeemable as people.
The truth is, struggling in recovery is not about “toughness” or “character.”
It’s usually about the fact that we got overwhelmed, and weren’t able to access just the right skill or tool at the moment.
I’m not saying that backsliding or relapsing “doesn’t matter.” Of course it matters. The stakes are high in recovery, and often we very much do have a lot to lose.
You bet we’re gonna feel bad when we relapse. We might feel guilty, or confused, or frustrated.
It’s really important to NOT let a backslide or relapse crack the door for toxic shame to sneak in and make us feel fundamentally horrible about ourselves.
You are not a bad person because you struggle.
I don’t care if this is your first time or your hundredth time starting over after a relapse— you are not hopeless.
Toxic shame tries to tell us that we struggle not because this stuff is hard, but because WE are somehow deficient.
Toxic shame tries to tell us that other people don’t struggle as much as we do, because they are better or more determined or more moral than we.
Toxic shame tries to tell us that no matter how hard we try, we’re still going to fail, because we are who we are.
Toxic shame lies.
Toxic shame doesn’t care about why this is hard. All it cares about is you feeling a certain kind of way.
If you notice, toxic shame uses language that tends to be very similar to the language used by certain people in our lives once upon a time.
Toxic shame wants YOU to pick up where your abusers and bullies left off.
Toxic shame wants YOU to collaborate in your own abuse.
Toxic shame wants to take the focus of this whole project off of the skills, tools, and tasks of recovery, and put that focus on you as a person.
That’s not the route to success.
You have exactly the same chance at recovery as anyone. I don’t care how old you are, I don’t care what your history is, I don’t care how you arrived at this point.
Even if you’re starting over right here, right now. Even if you’re at Square One— and even if this isn’t your first time at Square One.
Your job today is the same as anybody else’s in recovery for anything else: managing your thoughts, feelings, and behavior one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.
Just handle today.
Just handle this sixty seconds.
I believe in you. I really do.