Why There’s No Such Thing as Relapse

Relapse: The most damaging word in the English language.

I rail against this word. Hard.

Because it’s not real

Because the idea of it destroys lives.

Because it’s the Emperor’s New Clothing of all Recovery.

It is darkness and fear like no other

A formless terror that knows no respite.

It’s also complete b*ll*cks. That’s my main issue with it. Actually.

It corrodes a person, shrinking their world into a tiny, claustrophobic place where they are trapped within the parameters of their own beliefs.

It’s the fear of Relapse that wastes years, years of people’s lives.

And yet the moment the fear of Relapse is released, real authentic Recovery is achieved.

Everyday I speak to someone who feels hopelessly addicted -whether they are drunk or sober-and every time the word they use is the same: Relapse. The fear of slipping backwards. Returning to where they started. And it can’t happen. It’s not real. None of us can go backwards. We make a decision to follow a course of action that leads us to a result here and now. Not in the past. And if we can’t actually go backwards, but we refuse to move forwards? We are stuck. Permanently.

So then the idea of relapse is becomes a life of self-made Purgatory. Which would explain why 95% of addicts choose addiction over Purgatory. If I thought those were my only two options? I’d be joining them.

I understand why the idea of  going backwards is an attractive option. If we pretend to go backwards then we don’t have to deal with everyone else who is moving forwards. The past is a known entity. We have the nice illusion of being able to control it. It’s such a useful lie really. But it is just that. A lie.  A lie we liked the idea of it so much that we gave it a name, decided it was a technical term. Wrote books about it. Gave it a corner in every addiction forum ever invented. Talked about it in Recovery meetings forevermore. Gave ourselves and each other permission to ruin our lives as long as we want with it. Living in the shadow of this delusion. Letting our lives be defined by it.

A life where all is pain.

All loss

All waste

It’s completely unnecessary.

If you decide to drink today? You haven’t gone backwards. You’ve made a new decision as an ever-evolving person. Give yourself some credit. You know more than you knew yesterday. You’ll know more tomorrow-and you definitely know enough right now to stop drinking and keep doing it. You know it. I know it. Take the stupid labels off your behaviour. Stop justifying your actions by hiding behind terminology. 

It’s the lies that are killing us just as fast as the drinking is.


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