RELAPSE: THAT TYPICAL DAY IN OCTOBER

That typical day in October of 2008 was just like any other. There were no orange cones and flashing hazard lights. There was no sign with the word ‘relapse’ written all over it. I didn’t wake up and say to myself, “Hey! You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’? Mmmhmm. Time to throw away the past three years of sobriety. Alcoholic asshole brain: ACTIVATE!”

Now that I think it through, there actually were warning signs. The actively seeking recovery me is now able to identify what happened and what went horribly wrong. After about a year into my first round of sobriety, I began to coast. I put on cruise control and got really busy and involved in my career. I was CRAVING fulfillment in my artistic and professional life after spending so many years in the gutter being completely worthless. So I threw myself into it and slowly stopped making time for the work that would keep me sober and sane. Obviously, it wasn’t intentional. I was extremely confident in my sobriety even though I stopped working a program and for the longest time I had absolutely no issue attending events and going to parties without having a drink. I could have gone to a pool party and swam around in 10,000 gallons of vodka and would be sure not to swallow a drop but still have a great time and retain my status as the life of the party. It was just my normal and I was THRIVING. I didn’t want alcohol. I was doing so well without it. I thought I was finally free and would never have to even think about it again for the rest of my life. And maybe if everything kept going swimmingly and without a hitch, I could have maintained my sobriety even longer than 3 years. But things didn’t keep going swimmingly. And that typical day in October finally came.

At the time, I had been in a relationship that had lasted about 8 years and started when I was very young, unformed, and not at all knowing what I was looking for in a companion. Over the course of a few months, everything began to unravel and conversations began being had about splitting up and going our separate ways. It was extremely traumatizing for us both and although we weren’t married (we aren’t allowed to be because yay America!), every part of our lives were so comingled that I can’t refer to the separation as anything other than divorce. I continued with my artistic pursuits, kept working really hard, and tried my best to deal with the horrific emotional pain. We lived together for several months after having split. It was by far one of the most damaging and difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with. To this day, I still feel guilt about the whole thing and regret not having ended it sooner than I did.

That typical day in October of 2008 had me follow my normal routine. I went to work, then went to a rehearsal, and then went to a bar next door with a friend as I had done without drinking dozens of times. I ordered a hard cider, did damage control and convinced the friend it was okay. Everyone knew I was sober. I lied and said I had been drinking beer and cider for a long while and I was totally fine with it. I drank the cider, got buzzed, went home, and went to sleep. These singular drinking incidents began happening about once a week at first. Then I found myself at that bar a few times a week. Sometimes alone. The boyfriend finally moved out and I quickly progressed to drinking wine at home. I stuck to wine and beer and refused to pick up vodka, my drink of choice. It would be about 1.5 years into my relapse before I caved and traded the wine and beer for my old 80 proof friend.

Nearly six years later, I woke up. That typical day in October 2008 was a very distant memory. Who the fuck WAS that person who so carelessly threw it all away? How did he go from adamantly sober and self-assured to this? I was dumbfounded. Terrified. I felt as if I had been abducted. Possessed. Guided by something outside of me for the past six years. And now I had a mess to clean up but I forgot how to.

I’m very very fortunate. This time I stopped before it progressed to the physical dependency stage. I remember that clearly. 2004 was a year of vomiting in the morning, drinking to stop shaking, barely being able to speak or do anything remotely normal. But in 6 years time, I didn’t wind up back there and I have no idea why. I could have easily killed myself and cannot explain any of this away.

My first go at sobriety was built on an almost non-existent foundation and was propped up by ego, fear, and professional distraction. For years, the winds remained calm and because nothing came crashing down, that false sense of security was reinforced. A massive storm was on the horizon and I was clueless to its approach. My relationship began to fall apart. The winds began to blow. And my makeshift structure of ill-conceived “sobriety” crashed to the ground.

I know things now that I didn’t know then. For example, I know that I can never stop attending to my disease if I want to stay sober and accomplish my goals and have a family. I know that in those moments where I feel like nothing could possibly take me down, I must swiftly check my ego at the door and remind myself that I am still very much sick and that with continuous and proper care and treatment, I can lead a happy and healthy life.

But I must say, I am still very traumatized by what happened to me after I thought I was totally better.

I’m terrified of another relapse. Because it can happen to anyone caught off guard. I don’t intend for it to and I plan on doing everything in my power to prevent it. But there is always the possibility and no one is immune to it and that thought has to be one of the most frightening things imaginable.

I’m terrified that after I hit ‘publish’ on this post and immortalize my thoughts forever on the internet, years could go by and someone like you might find this blog and read these words and wonder why the posts just stopped again on another typical day in October.

16 comments

  1. Your post made me cry. We will all come looking for you if you stop posting.
    Thank you so much for sharing what must be a extremely hard memory. I’m going to keep a copy to remind myself what could be.

  2. I have not been an active commenter here, however, I have “lurked”. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your words. They have given me the courage to try this sobriety thing again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  3. Thank you for this. Although I hear it in meetings, keep coming back it works if you work it, sometimes it just becomes words. This is great for me, with close to 6 months sobriety to realize that the work should never stop. Like working at my relationship every day, I have to work at staying sober. I am so afraid of having a typical day in October.
    Great post.

    1. Thank you. If we had HIV, we wouldn’t stop taking our antiretroviral drugs just because we feel better one day. So easy to forget the disease element of this awful thing called addiction!

  4. Oh my. i have exactly the same thoughts. once i finally told my readers it terrified me so much i felt like i couldn’t breathe. this post resonates deeply w/ me – thank you so much.

  5. I expect you were just sick of hurting and thought you had tried everything else. It is always possible that when mourning a severe loss we will, in desperation, head back to something we once believed gave us solace. We just have to hope that if that happens, we come through it and we’re strong enough to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and be grateful for staying alive. Some people don’t stay alive, but you did: just maybe your three years sober was what gave your body the strength to have another bite of the cherry. Life is a series of near misses and humans are frighteningly fragile if you choose to dwell on it, even sober ones.

    1. Yeah. Going back to that thing that gave me “peace” was exactly what I did. I just think if I had been vigilant in keeping myself armed and ready for a relapse, I might have made it through. Would’ve should’ve could’ve. But now I have another chance to get it right.

  6. Wow. Thank you for writing this. Three years is the milestone I fear for relapse personally (didn’t really touch on that in the post I just published though I was thinking it…hmm). It is beyond helpful to read how it happened for you. It helps to read the slow but steady progression. Yes, I know I never could drink normally, but your story helps me to know I never would either. I’m sorry for the jumbled comment, but just really excited to have found your blog and want to thank you for writing this and for coming back.

  7. I only had overcome smoking (did I just really type ONLY) so I can not say that I know how you feel when it comes to alcohol, but I know I will always be addicted to Nicotine, no matter how confident I feel. I know that one will lead to 20 a day and just one puff could throw me right back into this deadly addiction. You are an inspiration and I hope you know that. I will slowly read my way through your blog and will leave silly comments now and then 🙂

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