The potential of a relapse is a reality that every sober or clean person lives with every day.
I relapsed twice — once before I went into the inpatient program, and once after.
About a year before I was booked into the inpatient rehabilitation program, I first tried to quit drinking and drugging through an outpatient program. The reason I chose this route should have sent alarm bells ringing. I didn’t want anyone to know I was in rehab. I ignorantly thought I could pull off this minor miracle without involving anyone close to me.
My thought was I’d go twice a week to an Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous session and Hey! Presto! I’ll be better in no time. After booking in, for what I thought was an outpatient program, the therapist stood up and said, “Bring along your bags, I’ll show you to your room.” Confused, I begged, “No, but I am booking into the Outpatient program?” She promptly sat back down, picked up my file, tapped it on the table to straighten the pages, and barked, “Well, I guarantee you failure.”
I recall thinking, “I’ll show her!”
After being clean and dry for 8 months, I relapsed in spectacular fashion. Without ever having made the commitment to stop drinking, I was fooling no-one (only myself, it turns out) when I started drinking 0% alcohol and alcohol-free drinks. I thought this was a great solution to the pesky problem of not being able to ‘socialise’ without a drink. I could fly under the radar, no-one ever suspecting I’m a recovering alcoholic. Pretty soon I was on the 0.5% alcohol versions, then the 2.5% one, and on it went.
Before long, I was in big trouble again.
The craving and desire to self-destruct was back. But this time it was making up for lost time, and playing for keeps. My body and soul felt trapped. I was treading water, my face just popping out above the water, slowly being dragged down, I was gasping for air.
On the morning of my son’s birthday, my wife begged me for the umpteenth time for a divorce. I had been out on another binge the night before, the unravelling now almost complete. This time I agreed. She had asked me before but I would usually try to brush it off as her being silly, or promise her that, “I will never do it again.”
This time, I listened. For the first time I ‘got’ that I had done too much damage.
Looking back, I now realise, this was the beginning of ‘handing over.’
This new development fuelled my darkness even further. It was a mere two weeks later when it felt like I had given out my last gasp, and slipped under the waves for ever. But, after a dark night of binge drinking and drug abuse, in the morning I decided to drive to my minister’s house.
Driving there I knew; my homing beacon is back!
Childishly, I was hoping he could perform some kind of miracle and exorcise the demon that had taken over my body and soul. There was a miracle. Not like I thought would happen, in a blinding flash. Rather, it was many miracles. The conditions that all needed to align so that I could get the proper help I needed, are too many to mention. For example, there were no beds available at a rehabilitation centre which was far closer to my home. Yet, the cognitive program run by the centre I ended up going to, is world-renowned for its better-than-average success rates. They had the only bed available immediately in the province.
It would not have been possible without the people around me that loved me enough to wait for me to find my homing beacon, and to walk with me, while I healed.
The universally accepted standard of any credible rehabilitation program starts and ends with an acceptance that we cannot do it alone. We acknowledge we need help from people who love us and a higher power. As Ron H. an ex-addict and staff member at CAC says, “…it is clearer than ever that the antidote to the soul-sickness of addiction in all its forms is the awakened spirit.”
As far as I know, only two from that group of 45 that passed through the doors during my stay back in 2005, are clean and sober today. That would be my roomie from my last week in rehab, and me. To this day, we are still in contact with each other, cheering each other on.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence we also share being awakened spirits.
I guess you could say we both get the meaning of Live Well.
Have an awesome weekend! 😄
Check in next week for Part 3 of Live Well.
Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on July 19, 2020.