The Important Lesson I Learned from My Relapse

The summer before I went off to college, my parents became concerned about my marijuana use. They often caught me smoking and were worried that it would affect my education as it was affecting my life. When the semester started, I felt pressured to stop smoking, and I did, but before long, I made friends who all enjoyed smoking as much as I did. This was the first time I felt like an adult. I was a freshman – living apart from my family. I was able to make choices in ways I never had before. Eventually, those decisions caught up to me.

My drinking became excessive. My grades suffered. I was an emotional wreck. So, I returned home to get sober. When I went back to school for my sophomore year, staying sober was my decision, not just something my parents wanted for me. Unfortunately, the conditions were not optimal for a young adult in early recovery trying to stay sober. I had no support, no guidance, no sober community. I went back to the same environment expecting a different result.

Neglecting my recovery and ignoring what I had learned about my addictive behaviors led to my relapse. But eventually, I could no longer ignore the impact addiction had on my life, and I made a personal commitment not to drink or do drugs.

While relapse can be a potential outcome in one’s recovery, it is not a requirement for sustained, long-term recovery. Sobriety is always attainable. My relapse offered me newfound insight into myself. As a Recovery Coach, I share this experience with clients to help them identify warning signs while avoiding the pitfalls they might encounter in their recovery.

Having a strong sober support network is my personal insurance to prevent a recurrence. I know if I ever experience this kind of setback in my recovery, my parents and sponsor will be there to offer their support and guidance. Experiencing a relapse does not mean I am a bad person trying to become good; it means I am a sick person trying to get well. I would hope to learn something from that event by discussing what led to the relapse while creating new conditions to sustain my recovery.

If I find myself romancing thoughts around drinking or drug use, I immediately discuss it with my sponsor or talk about it in a meeting. From time to time, I have vivid dreams where I have resumed drinking or drug use, but then I wake up and tell myself, “it was only a dream.” No matter what the circumstances, I have come too far in my recovery to ever quit on myself. While I may not be able to control that initial thought, if I do not address that desire to drink or use again, then I am not doing anything to safeguard my recovery.