Relapses happen. It is unfortunately one of the shitty things you will probably have to go through in order to hit your “rock bottom”. Relapses can happen to anyone for many different reasons, some even pretty stupid reasons. They do not discriminate; they do not care how powerful you are, how famous you are or how nice you are. A relapse can happen at home, at a friends house or on the edge of the earth. And the scary shit is that a relapse happens with just one sip.
When I was becoming sober I would read posts from long time sobriety veterans who had recently just relapsed. Holy shit- I am struggling on day 3 not to cave in and this guy did it after 20 years. So I speculated how this happens. How does some bloke decide to pick up the bottle after two decades?
One of the most dangerous aspects to your sobriety is your “scumbag brain”. Your brain can be your biggest opponent- even over the physical withdrawals you are having. It’s amazing the persuasion your “scumbag brain” has over your sensibility. Two years ago when I was trying to get sober I was finally able to make it 30 days sober. Thirty very hard days. I decided to celebrate my achievement by doing the only sensible thing- getting drunk. I thought “Hey man, you just made it 30 days! You did awesome, let’s celebrate. Let’s have a drink. You don’t have a problem- you just made it 30 freaking days!” As you can imagine, I went right back to where I began. I also nearly lost my job the next morning for showing up two hours late and reeking of booze. Nothing says professional like showing up smelling like a French whore house.
“It never really mattered if I thought I could handle alcohol any more- I had lost the right.”
So this time around I recognized this. I recognized this was the trickery my brain would try to play. I also had to come to the realization that my brain would try this same trick not only on day 3 but on day 30, day 300 and thirty years from now.
!! Don’t let this deter you from your sobriety or quitting drinking. While you do still get the brain trickery, it becomes substantially less frequent and much, much easier to recognize and dismiss immediately!!
So what was going to keep me from relapsing on day 3 that would also keep me from relapsing three decades from now? I quite simply had to come to the fundamental conclusion that I had lost the right to drink. That’s right- I had been given the right to drink and now I had to take it away. I lost the right with the way I treated people. I lost the right with how I had failed my employers. I lost the right the way I had caused so much pain for my friends, family and past/current significant others. I lost the right when I endangered people by drinking and driving- which landed me in jail for a DUI making me lose many more of my basic human rights than just drinking. Shit, I even lost the right when I passed out under the kitchen table with my pants hanging at my ankles.
So it never really mattered if I thought I could handle alcohol any more- I had lost the right. This is all I pedaled through my mind for the two first weeks. “I lost the right. I lost the right. I lost the right!”
Want to have a sip at a dinner party? I lost the right.
Want to stop at the liquor store? I lost the right.
Want to celebrate a huge achievement (like 30 days sober)? I lost the right.
I had simply, forever, lost the right! In fact, on a very struggle-some day 21 my journal entry consisted of me writing down “I lost the right” over and over like a madman. Notice how I keep reiterating “I lost the right”? That’s because that is exactly what you have to do to get it into your sluggish brain and your core beliefs. You have to make that belief a part of you now. It has to be just as much a part of what you believe as your highest ideals, even your religion (if you have one). Because if you recognize you no longer have the right- the chance of an unforeseen relapse appears to diminish. And that in itself is incredibly comforting.