Listen, I know this stuff annoys a lot of people so if you’re one of those types who want it sugar-coated, maybe you should read something else. But please, let me just explain something first.
There are two types of relapse – random and deliberate.
When an addict is in the thick of it, his or her mind is completely tapped, gonzo, and will have sudden, random onsets of relapse. Addicts will literally just pick up without even thinking about it, for no reason at all, as the mind sort of blanks and experiences a kind of temporary insanity. That sort of relapse during active addiction can be characterized as choice-less as the addict does not possess the power of choice. If we can’t even so much as process a thought before reflexively picking up, we have lost control. I get it. We suffer from what we like to call the mental obsession. When it hits, we’re done. We’ve already relapsed. Gonzo. There is nothing that can pull us back once the obsession takes hold.
The above situation, however, is totally different than an addict who has been clean and sober for a while and has done some work and has regained the power of choice. Addicts who relapse after regaining their willpower, after regaining the ability to think and make conscious choices, have deliberately chosen to go back out and start using again. This situation is really nothing more than a personal failure.
The good news is that any addict on earth who has the capacity to be honest with themselves can recover and recover for good. If you refuse to believe that, I can’t help you. Nobody can. But the truth is that any addict can not only regain the power of choice, but can also ensure that once they do, they maintain total control over their addiction and thus quite easily choose to never use again.
How does one achieve this? Here comes the simple part.
1) HARD WORK.
It’s really that simple. And guess what? The solution is free, so maybe keep your life savings.
Despite all of that, you will hear from the establishment of the very complicated dynamics of addiction, how every single addict needs an elaborate, expensive, custom-made treatment plan, how triggers exists and how relapse is part of recovery. You will hear that some addicts will never get better and recover, which is true but not because they can’t. You will hear about “miracle drugs” like suboxone and methadone and vivitrol shots. And you will hear of new age theories about how science and not yelling at your addict changes them. By the way, “miracle drug” for addicts is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. The bullshit it is piled so high and that the pile is so thick, it’s difficult to see over or through, but still, you have to try not to fall for it.
When I first came home from treatment, sure I was still a mess. The obsession had been lifted but it certainly could have returned if I didn’t work my ass off and place my life and my trust in God’s hands. I came home to a mountain of debt, broken relationships, broken trust, emotional extremes, you name it. I remember talking to creditors on the phone and in less than ten minutes I felt manic, anxious, even depressed. In early recovery, almost any amount of stimulus sent me reeling, and I immediately retreated to go meditate and pray in silence.
But you see, that is the point. You walk through it, or even fight through it at times. You do what you have to do and continue to put one foot ahead of the other and plow away. Within a year or so, I had paid off all of my debt, finished college, made all of my amends, run a big book group, spoken publicly, and was trusted once again by friends and family, even counted on and sought after for help and advice. But even then, I still had moments of emotional extremes and plenty of ‘recovery needs’, as it were. There were still worldly challenges and projects I couldn’t tackle yet. I didn’t have the guts or the strength yet to leave a regular job and start my own business. I could only handle so much.
Then my Dad died. In fact, several in my family died. Then I had abdominal surgery and wrist surgery without narcotics, and the truth is I was actually excited to refuse them. Besides, what right do I have to work with others if I cannot set a strong example? So I had changed, and instead of continuing to live my life as a coward, I wanted to challenge myself and see how much pain and reality I could take. I was on a new drug now. Life. Growth. Change. Strength. Success. The hospital thought I was nuts. Sure it hurt like hell, but it’s not impossible. It can be endured, just like much of what we go through as humans. When addicts whine about their wisdom teeth and how they need to take the Vicodin, well, um, you have a problem. That’s an addict who’s not recovered at all and is just waiting to relapse.
So fast forward ten years and because of perseverance and hard work, there isn’t too much that freaks me out anymore, even the delusional assholes that sometimes comment on the blog or email me. Forget about ten minute conversations necessitating a quarantine for my head, I now deal with people all day long and run a business of sorts. I have two young children and am essentially a chore robot. There is no time. There are no breaks. There is no going to meditate alone in my car whenever I feel like it or need to. But it doesn’t matter because I’m okay. If we continue to work our butts off (and by that I also mean balancing between work, family, service and inner-spiritual), we just get stronger and stronger, year after year.
The point is that we recover from addiction by pushing through and working hard every day for the rest of our lives. I am so far removed from being a worthless drug addict and the reason is simply tons of action and complete faith in God. Try it. To be perfectly honest, it’s really just about growing up and taking responsibility for ourselves and our lives.
And remember, the spiritual actions of the Steps don’t fail anybody. If we fail it is because we fail ourselves. I believe that with all my heart because it is my experience. And isn’t the truth what everyone deserves? What good is my recovery if I’m not honest with you? And what good is our time and energy and all of the efforts we make if we are not honest with ourselves?