I met with a friend of mine yesterday for coffee, we were ‘litter mates’ four years ago and our friendship has continued. During the last four years he has stayed sober the whole time, while I on the other hand drank after one year of sobriety and had to start over.
We were talking about how insidious our disease is and how easy the the ‘monkey’ can climb back on without our realizing it. He mentioned a woman in his home group who just celebrated one year clean and sober and she was sharing her story. Prior to her new anniversary, she’d been sober for 2 1/2 years but relapsed. She wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or down and wasn’t thinking about using when she found herself in her bathroom rinsing her mouth out with Listerine mouthwash (for those of you who don’t know, there is a lot of alcohol in mouthwash). Suddenly out of nowhere she decided that instead of spitting out the mouthwash, she’d swallow it – of course, she went on to polish off the whole bottle.
Two and a half years of sobriety gone, in a split second. She went on to say that she couldn’t explain why she did it and that she hadn’t realized she was in trouble.
Unfortunately this story is far from unusual, but there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for:
- Lack of interest in your recovery program; making excuses to miss the meeting or skip an appointment with your sponsor.
- Daydreaming of how it used to be when we could drink or use (it’s normal to think about this once in a while, but not constantly).
- Stop working on the steps, – keep working the step you are on, whether you are on the 4th step or the 12 step. Our recovery needs daily maintenance.
- Feeling over confident – 6 months or a year of sobriety is definitely something to be proud of but it’s extremely important that we do not rest on our laurels, which basically means: thinking that we know all there is to know about staying clean and sober and no further effort is needed. This is a very dangerous place to be, many people relapse after periods of sobriety because they’ve stopped taking their disease seriously and stopped working on their recovery.
Our disease is always working to get us back out there, so we need to continually work to not let it! Think of it this way, when we are actively working on our recovery our disease is hibernating but as soon as we slack off – such as avoid going to meetings for a few weeks or stop watching out for people, places and things that are triggers – our disease starts stirring and keep neglecting your recovery enough and it WILL wake up and when it does, it’s going to be really, really hungry.
Being in recovery is about getting a daily reprieve from our addiction. We need to be on top of it especially during the holidays – which are fast approaching. We need to actively have a program of recovery in place, going to recovery meetings, working the steps, getting a sponsor, meeting with other alcoholics and addicts and being of service. Having other people around you that can recognize if you are becoming restless, irritable and discontent can save your life.
Its true that as we get more time sober, our lives fill up, we have new friends, new jobs, we spend more time with our loved ones, but just be aware that the idea that we are ‘all better’ after we get a decent amount of clean and sober time is a LIE that our disease tells us. Our disease wants us dead, but it will settle for us being drunk or high.