Alcoholism relapse

Program-Spotlight-Relapse-Prevention-Program-RPP-Summit-HelpsI’ve been in recovery for about 4 years now and have dealt with several relapses, even though I’ve done the Steps, go to 5-7 meetings per week and see a therapist.

Fortunately, my relapses have been very short lived and I’ve gotten right back into the program. However, each relapse has caused major problems and most importantly they have destroyed the trust I’ve worked so hard to build with my wife and family. It’s like taking two steps backward for every one step forward. It sucks. Big time.

Why did I relapse? Why do people in recovery relapse? Addiction scholars have written books on this subject. There are no easy answers to the question.

For me, I’ve usually relapsed when I was feeling very good, and often to celebrate and reward myself for some job well done — usually after a big win in court or a big closing deal. For normal people, this sounds completely insane, but for alcoholics and addicts, they understand. I’ve relapsed because the cravings to drink have taken up way too much space in my brain, and I did not “rat myself out” to my AA group, sponsor and therapist, allowing the cravings to become overwhelming. I would try to ride them out myself, and “out-think” them, but eventually they got me. I’ve relapsed because my disease tried (successfully) to convince me that my drinking wasn’t that bad and that I did not deserve to be an alcoholic. We call that the “built-in forgetter.” I’ve relapsed because I’ve slacked on meetings and didn’t make my recovery program the #1 priority in my life. I’ve relapsed because I made the conscious decision to pick up a drink, despite all the negative consequences.

People in meetings often say that at some point the obsession and compulsion to drink has miraculously gone away. Well, that has not been my experience. The craving to drink has never gone away, and I can tell you that I think about some aspect of drinking just about every single day. But it’s not like the craving itself is going to kill me. Yes, it’s distressful and frustrating, but it does go away eventually (and returns as well).

The most important thing about relapse, in my humble opinion, is to learn from the mistake and try not to make the same mistake again. It sucks big time to have to get a 24 hour coin (a topic for another post), but you don’t lose all those days of sobriety, and your foundation, while temporarily cracked, can be rebuilt, even stronger. Keep on getting back on the beam. Don’t quit!

I would love to hear from any of you who have dealt with relapses. Why did you relapse? And how have you come back and learned from them?


As I approach 90 days of sobriety — for the 3rd time — I was going through my computer and came across an email I sent to my mom, dad and brother two days after I relapsed. For me, it’s very powerful and emotional. I was a train-wreck. Despite how good I feel now, I cannot ever forget how shitty I felt that day and the days which followed.


I know you guys are angry, resentful and incredibly disappointed in me, as am I. I wish I could explain why it’s been so difficult to deal with this disease and my own character defects which are many. I am so, so sorry to have put you guys and my family and everyone else around me through this ordeal. It seems like a bad nightmare. But I have to take responsibility for my personal failings and deal with the aftermath, however painful it will be.

I’m sorry for lying and being dishonest to you guys. When I am drinking I think I literally become a different person, a bad person with little morals or ethics or basic decency. It’s like it takes over my soul. When I am sober, it is so much easier to live an honest life. I don’t have to lie or cover anything up, and I’m much better at expressing my feelings, however negative they are. When I drink, I isolate myself and wallow in my own “misery,” while rejecting any attempts to help me. I’m at a loss to explain why this happens, but it’s part of the disease from what I’ve been taught at Hazelden and through the AA literature. Doesn’t make it “right” though.

If the shoe were on the other foot, I don’t know how I would react. So if you guys don’t want to talk to me or be around me for a while, I totally understand. They say in Al-Anon that the family member needs to take care of him or herself first, and I hope you guys do that, for your sake and mine. “Detachment with love,” is the mantra.

Dad, I’m glad to hear that you went to Al-Anon the other night. If you want me to come with you to any meeting, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

Brother, I know you are very angry with me, and it’s justified. I’m so sorry for being a bad brother to you. You have always loved and supported me, and I really appreciate it. You are my best friend and always will be.  I don’t want to lose you, and I won’t let that happen. I think it would be helpful if you started going to Al-anon. If you want me to come with you, I’m there.

B. (my wife) has been amazing. I’m just blown away. I’m sure most other wives would have kicked my ass out by now. She is my guardian angel and I love her so very much. I’ve been hugging her non-stop and it helps. I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with her at my new “home office,” in the car and the real office. She can come to court with me too! I have a very good feeling that our marriage will get back to where it was through this. I’m sure going to do everything to make that happen.

I’ve hit rock bottom. There’s no way but up from here. Whereas before I held out some little glimmer or hope that maybe I wasn’t truly an alcoholic, it’s finally time to accept my fate: that I’m a full-fledged alcoholic, the same as any other in the AA rooms. I never chose to have this life, but it is my life and I have to accept it. It sucks that it took this to get here. But I guess it beats some other alternatives, like killing someone else or myself. I need to keep some sense of a positive outlook or else I’ll go crazy with guilt and depression.

I will get through this, one day at a time.  The guys in AA have already stepped up to help me. [The guys] took me to a meeting last night, and I got a ton of hugs and support (and some tough love) from the guys there. They are taking me to another meeting tonight, and they are already setting up rides for me to get to other meetings. I’m grateful that I’ve made these friends because it will make my recovery less painful. I will get back to therapy of course, and whatever else is recommended to help me.

Well, that’s about all I have for now.  I’ve been a mess since this happened.  Lots of crying and feeling worthless.

With everyone’s love and support and my own self-love and acceptance, I’ll bounce back. I have to. I have no other choice. For me, B., the kids and you guys. I will be a better person. And some day, years from now, I can stand up at an AA meeting and tell my story and how I went to Hell and came back—and be proud of myself that I was able to do so. One day at a time, of course.



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