When I started this blog in October of 2016, after a 5 month stay in jail, I had no inkling of where my sobriety would take me. Fast forward to My Recovery: 53 months, still clean and sober! See one of my earliest posts about self-condemnation, just 15 days into my treatment at the VA.
From October of 2016, until November of 2017, I learned about recovery through multiple VA treatment programs for Veterans. The principles I learned helped keep me strong, when I finally went back on my own. I even developed an acronym for the 5 pillars of my recovery.
The acronym, S.N.A.G.M., stands for SPIRITUALITY, living in the NOW, ACCEPTANCE, GRATITUDE, and MINDFULNESS. I actually dedicated a blog page about S.N.A.G.M. here!
These 5 principles, along with the lessons I learned in therapy, courses like Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, have served me well in my recovery journey; I have not relapsed once since I was basically forced into sobriety by jail, on May 12, 2016.
What is the process of relapse? I learned early on that the process of relapse is not in the taking of the drug. The tendency to ignore other symptoms of relapse, cross addiction to “acceptable drugs” like nicotine and caffeine, and the use of compulsive behaviors allows the process of relapse (dysfunction in sobriety) to begin. When you begin the process of dysfunction, you begin the process of relapse.
While looking at the process of relapse, you recognize there are warning signs before and acute relapse occurs. When you recognize relapse warning signs before you drink, you can get help and interrupt the process.
As a member of several online sober groups, I am dismayed by the number of folks who attribute their relapses to “slips” and “blips.” Commentaries on posts about these “blips” and “slips” show just how pervasive is the misunderstanding of what constitutes a relapse. The commentaries are rife with reinforcing thoughts and opinions, further muddying the waters of the true nature of relapse and its consequences.
True sobriety, as it was taught in the halls of A.A. and the V.A., is abstinence from addictive drugs plus abstinence from compulsive behaviors plus improvements in bio-psycho-social health. Sobriety includes all three things. To the extent that you have accomplished those three things, you are sober; to the extent that you have not accomplished those three things, you are not sober.
Sobriety is not defined entirely by whether or not you are drinking or using drugs. It is defined by the completeness of your sobriety. Therefore, in my humble opinion, relapse is not part of recovery, it is an active part of the disease. And, until some folks begin to get real and get honest, about their so-called “blips” and “slips”, they may very well be doomed to become a chronic relapser…maybe.