To Anyone Who Has Relapsed

Relapsing. The ugly possibility that every good person in addiction recovery hopes they never know intimately.

Sober days become sober months become sober years, woven together with pride, a sense of success you never thought you’d know when you were in active addiction, once upon a time. Another life.

The day-to-day is going well. Maybe even better than ever. Recovery meetings become a thing of the past; sobriety is the new normal, after a lifetime of defective coping, and you have finally figured it all out.

And then, like a lightning bolt on a dry winter day, a trigger. Maybe it’s a song, the scent of a cocktail, an old friend you run into, an offer you didn’t see coming, the look in someone’s eyes. Before you blink, the familiar behaviors envelop you, drown you, devour you, own you.

I wonder if you know the shame and defeat of relapsing, of having to admit that all the hard work, all those meetings, all the lessons you thought you had solidified, like dependable concrete in your psyche, failed you. Too ashamed to admit at recovery meetings you’ve quietly started attending again. Too ashamed to tell your therapist for fear the honesty will crystalize your human value as nothing. Questioning if the road to recovery was wasted time, wasted energy, wasted life force, if maybe you’re a fraud, defective, impossible to tame.

If this is you, listen carefully now.
You were not born to be perfect.
You were born to expand, to learn, to suffer, to evolve, to know yourself completely and accept what is, only to transmute it a thousand times over.  
Listen again: You were never meant to be perfect.

It’s OK to stumble, even to fall flat on your face after you’ve mastered soaring.
It’s OK to feel humbled by your own impetuous foibles, to admit it’s hard, and to ask for help.

Stand back up. Again. More resolute. More aware of your own fragility.
More fully the person you are meant to be.

Stand back up. And I’ll be here to hold your hand.