Friday, May 30, 2003

Dealing With People Who Relapse a Lot

--- In, "fibejebe" charli883@i... wrote:

"...The truth sometimes hurts but it is still better than a load of bullshit. Any comments?" -- Fiona.

Not long ago, on LSRmail, one of our members who's been struggling with repeated day-1's since first becoming involved with LSR late last year, in referring to the response from Ellesarians to his latest slip, put up a post which included this line:

"...When I drank 9 days ago a lot of lsr's said don't worry about it, get back on your feet, move on. Should I still take that attitude?"

My response is copied here:

What attitude makes the most sense to you, XXXXX? It seems to me that somebody who's made a sincere decision to end the admittedly devastating, suicidal lifestyle of active addiction would not take lightly any episode of drinking, regardless of the circumstances.

Addiction is serious business, and the only known way to arrest it is abstinence. Lapses in abstinence, if dismissed too casually, can become seen as inevitable, or "no big deal". The danger in that attitude, of course, is that the lapses will become more frequent and last longer.

When does one cross the line from being committed to recovery and really making a concerted effort to change, back over to being resigned to a life of struggling with alcohol?

When does a pattern of slips become nothing more than active alcoholism in the form of periodic or binge drinking? I'm not sure there's a clean line there. I'm very sure the danger exists, because that's exactly what I did some years ago.
So, when I hear people suggesting that one "Don't worry about it, get back on your feet, move on...", what I hear is "Don't spend a lot of time wallowing around in guilt and embarassment, by all means stop drinking immediately, and redouble your efforts to attain stable abstinence."

What I don't hear is "Hey, no big deal, forget about it." It is a big deal. It's a failure to achieve what you set out to do. It's a disappointment, a frustration, a bummer. It's an indication that you've more work to do, that there are things you might consider doing differently. It should not be forgotten about, it should be looked at very carefully to see what can be learned to prevent it from happening again.

I guess I'd say the worst attitude one might assume in the midst of, or in the wake of a slip would be, "See? I can't stop drinking. I'm a failure. Screw it, it's too hard, I can't do this, the hell with sobriety." A much better attitude might something like, "See? I'm human, I'm not invincible, I let my guard down and got bitten hard. But I'm not beaten, I'm going to learn what I can from this and do what I set out to do for all the reasons I know in my heart I must, if I'm to live a meaningful life."

I would find it a bit worrisome that after a damn good period of sobriety you drank, then about a week later you drank again...that's a disturbing trend developing. Time to get serious, if you're serious about sobriety. And I believe you are.
And that about sums up my personal view on the question, except to add that the better I know an individual, the better feel I have for what attitude to take in my support of them. I, personally, am likely to pay more attention and actually think about what's being said if I get some straight, no BS talk (and maybe a slap or two) from someone I trust and respect. At the same time, I realize people react differently, and it takes time to get to know what's the best way to get through to somebody. When in doubt, I'll lean toward the "gentle" approach.
Rick Booth 5/30/03

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