What Relapse Means To Me

As I tried to fall asleep last night I started thinking about what a damn miracle sobriety is. Maybe it was triggered by re-reading some old my old blog posts earlier, which took me back to those difficult first days where I really didn’t know how I was going to make it. I still don’t know how I have made it this far, sometimes, aside from making a serious commitment and then putting one foot in front of the other every single day. It really does get a lot easier as you keep going, even though a relapse is always only one bad decision away. I don’t want to be negative by saying that, but reminding myself of that fact helps to keep me on my toes.

I quit smoking for 5 years when I was 25, and thought it was the bees knees. I was so happy to be free from that stinky and expensive addiction. I felt so capable and good and smart…I had beat smoking! Yeah! Stuff happened, though. I broke up with my long-term boyfriend, moved out on my own in a new city, and started meeting and going out with friends a lot more. Eventually, within a few months, I was back to smoking cigarettes every once in awhile. I don’t remember how it happened exactly, except that it seemed like no big deal to have one or two. I mean, I had quit for 5 years! Ha. It didn’t take long before I was completely, 100% hooked again, miserable this time, because I knew how wonderful it was to be free from that addiction.

It took me over 2 years…years where I tried to quit about a bazillion times, before I was able to kick the addiction again. I finally quit a week before I found out I was pregnant with my son. And then…I started again after my baby was born and I was feeling overwhelmed, blue, elated, but also completely stressed by my new life responsibilities. My addiction to cigarettes was back with a freakin’ vengeance. So was my alcoholism, but let’s stick to smoking for now. I finally quit last summer about a month before I quit drinking, and I no longer crave them. Once again I am really happy to be done with that addiction.

Sorry for the long ramblings that have nothing to do with drinking, but I am scared to have that same type of experience happen again, this time with drinking. At the time that life lesson, my inability to quit smoking again, felt really harsh, but now I am grateful for it. I think I understand better just how hard relapse can be. Every quit is different. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes your addiction has teeth. Whenever ‘just one drink’ sounds good, or a sneaky thought about how ‘I can drink again for a few days…it was easy to quit…I’ll just do it again!’, I remind myself of that struggle of epic proportions and tell myself ‘no way, ma’am.’

My heart is with those of you struggling now.

13 thoughts on “What Relapse Means To Me

  1. I’m on my second round of quitting drinking, after a relatively brief spell of thinking I had it all sorted. This time I’m keeping better notes to remind myself how hard it is on me psychologically–both the drinking and the quitting. So I’m starting to see that a healthy respect for that one bad decision is a good thing, and I’m paying more attention to that than I did before. Thanks for the thoughtful post. xo

    • We all have to figure it out in our own way… I know that for me, drinking is as much of an addiction as smoking. I think it’s great that you are paying attention, and you are so strong to quit again! I think it helps to have a healthy fear of the negative aspects of addiction or abuse, but not to LIVE in fear. xx

  2. As someone who has been struggling recently after a relapse, after 7 months sober, I really appreciate this post and I also relate completely. I quit smoking almost 3 years ago now, but it was so hard for me, and took so many tries, that I have a deep fear still of smoking. Because deep down I know that I could do just what you did and fall into complacency, or think “Oh I can just quit again” and it just might not be that easy. And, yes, drinking relapse is just the same. You *might* drink just once or twice and then quit again, or it could be weeks, months, years of being back in that horrible on-off, drinking, quitting cycle.

    Last time I drank again after 80 days sober it took me MONTHS to work up the resolve to truly quit again. This time it has been about a month I’ve been struggling after drinking again over the hols. I’m really hoping I can dig in and do it because I don’t want to do the on-off thing for months/years on end.

    As you said, sometimes addiction has teeth. Big nasty fangy ones. And I reckon it’s utterly impossible to predict how hard they will bite after any given quit. So, to anyone contemplating drinking after some sober time I say this: It will likely be much, much harder to quit again than it is to just resist those fleeting urges.

    Thanks for this.


    • Thank you for such an informative and thoughtful comment, Lilly. I think the thing about alcohol addiction is that it makes alcohol unpredictable in users, so you never know what will happen. That is what makes me believe there is no place for it in my life ever again. Drinking could be fine or it could be a total disaster. I am not willing to take that risk at this point, and I hope I continue to feel like this forever. xx

  3. Completely agree that life lessons are so valuable precisely because they cost us so much. I similarly went through a prolonged process of giving up smoking but now I am sure that dependency is dealt with.

    As you say, you might be able to go back to having the odd drink – but why risk the potential disaster of going back to our old ways? The stakes are just too high.

    I also ache for everyone struggling. I know that pain too well.

  4. Good reminder – keep reminding yourself. I have to so that those thoughts of “I could just…” can be instantly countered with one of “No way! Remember how difficult it was…. “etc.

  5. Some days I’m not sure which is scarier – relapse or living sober. On those days, I play the both scenes thru to conclusion, and I know that sobriety is the right choice. But damn it’s hard.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. The word relapse scares the hell of out of me! They say it is a build up of the little things that can drive us to drink again, so it is not necessarily the big things that will put a drink in your hand. I live in constant fear that I am not doing enough to stay where I am in my sobriety. Every time I feel uncomfortable, anxious, stressed I feel like I am one step closer to failing. I guess in some ways this is a “healthy fear”. Maybe it is better to have the thought of relapse in the front of our mind. If we allowed it to drift to the background it may leave it too much room for the negative crap that contributes to drinking. Thank you for your honestly in this post.

    Take care and stay awesome! – Heather

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