Yes, I’m a 37 year-old man who used the title of a Britney Spears song for this blog post.
So. Yeah. It happened again. I relapsed. I’ll get into the why – or at least what I think the true “why” of the relapse was – in just a moment. I first want to stress that while relapsing isn’t a good thing and should of course be avoided, it isn’t rare. The published numbers regarding AA members who go out and come back in aren’t a big secret. It happens to the most responsible and adherent of us and doesn’t discriminate by race, color, creed or what the last chip you collected is.
If you’re reading this with a smug attitude, basking in the glow of your perfect sobriety that will last until the heat death of the universe, congratulations on being kind of a dick.
If you’re reading this thinking, “that’s a shame, but I’m glad he’s back,” well, thanks. Good of you to avoid taking someone else’s inventory and being a decent person.
So now with the ugly details. I didn’t drink because I wanted to drink. I drank because I wanted to kill myself (though some would say the act of drinking alone is exactly that). When your plan is to go at your wrist with a kitchen knife until it looks like spaghetti, your precious sober days don’t mean much at all. In this sort of situation, you drink because getting stabbed is actually pretty painful, so I was trying to take the edge off. Is that a knife pun?
Suicide is something a lot of people with our particular condition have considered more often than we’d like to admit. Remember the cliche about jails, institutions or death? There’s truth to that. Personally, my life was falling apart bit by bit and I didn’t know how to stop it. Being sober didn’t help at all. You don’t have to drink to hit rock bottom (but it certainly helps).
For quite some time now, I’ve been diagnosed with something similar to schizo-affective disorder – to avoid armchair psychology, I’ll let you google that one yourself. But in general, there’s a poem I’m fond of that illustrates the difficulties therein; the first verse reads:
“As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. Oh how I wish he’d go away.”
Quick and dirty version? Sometimes I see or hear things that aren’t really there (come on, you didn’t think dual diagnosis was only depression or OCD, did you?). Sometimes it gets really, really old.
So there you go – the what, the why, and the how. I spent Christmas and New Year’s in a hospital eating bland food and making friends with people who were similarly afflicted. It makes for interesting conversations being in that particular group, but thankfully I was able to find some solace in the realization others have it much worse than me
Ultimately, the point here is that anyone can relapse by making one small mistake – a snowball of a temptation becomes an avalanche of relapse, and it often hurts more than just your liver. If I’d sought more help in raising money for my medication, it wouldn’t have happened. A small matter of pride led to this.
But I’m not extraordinary or special or unique; people out there are facing situations that cause relapse every day in mundane situations. Maybe you think it’s fine to join your coworkers for karaoke after work on a Friday night. Maybe you’ve been sober enough that you think you can just have a few while you watch a game. Maybe you think it’s fine to take a day off of sobriety to celebrate a wedding, an anniversary, a birthday or a graduation.
Some of us relapse because of big errors, some of us because of small ones. But please keep in mind, no matter what it is, it only takes one mistake.