Relapse, The Teacher

I relapsed five months and two days into my recovery. I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt horrible. I felt dirty. I had fallen and was unsure of how to get back up on my feet. I wobbled. My sponsor assured me that a relapse was a part of recovery. I couldn’t make sense of that. I’m an addict. Everything is in its place, I live in a perfect world, I had a perfect recovery. Now I had blown it. All I kept hearing was the self talk of how I failed again just like always. I was no good. The reality was I wanted to act out again and again to make the pain go away. My sponsor told me again that relapse is a part of recovery, but added that it was a great teacher as well. Why did I relapse? What was the underlying cause? I felt entitled, I just wanted to act out one last time, I was childish. The list could go on for days. The next steps of action would determine my growth from such an event. I wanted in the worst way to stay sober. For the next two months I picked up white chip after white chip acknowledging my surrender, however, I still had a reason to act out. It wasn’t until I didn’t have a reason to act out that I stopped. I had learned my lesson. It came in a sentence that I use to this day, “I’m powerless over my disease.” Today I put my higher power in between myself
and my disease and I’m able to stay sober, one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one
hour at a time, none-the-less I’m in recovery for today.

21 thoughts on “Relapse, The Teacher

  1. This has been the BEST post for me since this blog was started. I am Ally and I am a sex addict utterly and completely powerless over this disease of sex addiction. It is devastating and demoralizing to keep on hurting myself over and over so cruelly and so completely. GOD, please do not let my addict kill us!

  2. Self control…it was what I preached when I was an addict and what I strive for in recovery. When I was in my addiction, I suppressed all of my emotions and convinced myself that I was in control. As I have given control to a higher power, I have been able to reconnect with my emotions and gain self control by setting proper boundaries, living the Serenity prayer and giving up the illusion of control to my higher power. As my relationship matures, we realize that trust in me is really trust in my self control. By opening my emotions to see the pain caused, not just to me but to everyone involved, I am able to keep my boundaries in check. When I am weak, I am able to remove myself from uncomfortable situations, when I am strong, I have to realize my limitations. It is a daily challenge but one that must be done to remain in recovery.

  3. I have a hysterical story to share and just one more piece of evidence to me that there are no coincindences. This weekend my family and I went on a short camping trip at a local park, I arrived before my family, they had a previous commitment they had to keep, (as did I, my Saturday morning home group meeting), anyway as I am driving throught the park and off of the pavement onto a narrow trail, I am getting excited about spending some down time in nature with friends and family. I continued down the path, which got narrower and canopied with trees. I took a sharp right turn, as that was the only direction to go, and immediately stopped. The path ahead looked too small and I could not back out my station wagon. After trying a “97″ point turn I got out my 500 pound phone (find reference in one of the earlies blogs ;-) and thought I was calling my friends to help me get unstuck, but it was my sponsors number that was on the last most recent dial. All I heard was a hello and I started babbling, “I can’t get out I am stuck! I am afraid to go forward because I don’t know what is ahead, I don’t want to go backwards and I just CAN’T stay right here!” (Insert tears) I heard a small giggle and my sponsors’ voice say, “Ally, are you sure you wanted to call me?” When I noticed it was my sponsor and not my friends we were to be camping with, I busted out with a huge belly laugh. Driving through those woods to meet, “the healthy friends” I had a relapse/recovery revelation.

    I am afraid to go forward because I do not know what lies ahead. I just CANNOT go backwards again and staying put in the middle is just not an option.

    As for the camp out, my friends arrived and guided my back out of the narrow passage, but I did not have to go ALL the way back. And as my sponsor pointed out, I had friends there and I asked for help.

    As for recovery I think I have had the gift of a huge step forward. I can ask for help, I can go back a few steps with out falling all the way down and I can move forward into that big unknown I have avoided my entire life. I have no idea what is ahead but I know that my higher power not only has the idea but the plan and I have faith and trust that HIS ideas and plans for me are certainly much better than anything I have done so far.

  4. I have learned that the past is the past and you can live in it, but you can’t change it. When I relapsed with the internet stuff, I had the attitude that I had already screwed up, so what difference is it if I screw up some more? I also kept it hidden from my recovery partners for a long time and that only increased the shame and self-loathing.

    That was living in the past, not in the moment. All the shame, frustration depression and self-loathing in the world will not change what is in the past.

    So I agree that when there is a slip, there is only one thing you can do that will change anything…learn from it and choose to take that lesson with you as you live in the here and now.

    It’s easy to talk about shrugging off an emotion but much harder to do. Seeing people at the meetings (and on here, or in a phone contact) stand up and hold themselves accountable is one of the things I cherish the most about the program. That kind of courage makes us proud of ourselves and our recovery partners. Replacing self-doubt and shame with some healthy pride is a great place to start.

  5. Today I put my higher power in between myself and my disease… That is powerful. I thought I had heard everything, but I guess I had not. I have been in this program for almost 2 years and I have picked up my fair share of white chips. I bottomed out over a year ago. However, I still struggle with other inner circle behaviors. I keep asking myself why I am still struggling and I keep thinking I know the reason. Maybe I don’t know the reason. But maybe I don’t need to know the reason. Maybe Today I just need to put my higher power in between myself and my disease. Thank you L.J.

  6. Relapse the teacher. Teacher, that implies I am willing to learn. When I am IN relapse NOTHING can get to me. It is after the relapse in the pain and shame part that I allow the teacher to come in, whether it is a person in recovery, my feelings, or my childrens saying to me, “Mommy, why are you crying?” That has been a big teacher, they are quite empathetic creatures. I know now I am going to have to go through the experience until I realize I am done, until I am willing to LISTEN to the teacher. And to realize BEFORE the relapses I have a choice no matter how much it feels like I don’t.

  7. Relapsed again, BUT lying about it this time. Well of course I have been lying to my husband all along but somehow I have found or been given the strength to be honest in the S rooms. This past month has been a month of half truths, lies and intense shame.

    I have been doing some serious thinking this weekend 19 years ago when I was 21, I went to my first 12 step meeting. The thought of admitting I was powerless was not something I was ready to accept and apparently I am still not ready to accept it. I can give lip service, I can say the words, “Hi I am Ally and I am a sex addict” but what does that mean to me? I don’t think I have a disease, I think I can still control my actions, obviously I can’t. I often wonder, am I the type of addict that really has to lose it all before enough is enough is enough?

    What I have now that I did not have 19 years ago is not only a lifetime of experiences good and negative but I do have a higher power today, that was completely absent way back then. As a matter of fact, I went to my traditional Episcopalian service today and one of the readings was specifically about “fornication”. I thought I was going to fall out of the pew. My sponsor calls this a “God shot” I called it a medicine ball to the gut. The line that really hit me was “Or do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you….” Of course I have always heard our bodies are our temples but I never thought of it being a vessel for my higher power, usually I think of it as only something to be used and abused by others because that is all I am worth.

    STILL I so strongly feel I am not worthy of God’s love, my husband’s love, my children’s love and the amazing amount of love and support I have received in the S rooms of recovery. I use this feeling to justify my acting out to continue the cycle. I have NOT put my higher power between me and my disease.

    “It wasn’t until I didn’t have a reason to act out!” This is my fifth post to this entry and I feel like this is the first time I am reading that line. I have so many reasons NOT to act out but only one very powerful reason to act out, to kill myself. The only purpose of my acting out is to kill myself. And right now my actions are saying that is exactly what I want to do. I feel like I am NEVER going to get it, that I am NEVER going to surrender. I know by writing this post and being honest I am getting a step closer, but I would have to say right now is one of the toughest times I have had in recovery yet.

  8. My name is John. I am a liar, cheat and a sex addict who has relapsed and slipped. I know that the promises says that this program will work for those who have the capacity to be honest. I have that, but shame makes me dishonest while I am in addiction. I despise liars, so does that make me self loathing? I do not lie to people when I am not in addictive behavior. So I feel no shame. So I ask myself, why do I risk the shame of getting caught acting out? Because as it is told to us, this addiction is cunning , baffling, and powerful. It sneaks up on you when you are in a state of vulnerability (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). It makes you wonder why you fall for its empty fulfillment. Then it overpowers you and takes from you the capacity to be honest. But it also takes your morals because you give them away. I have said often that addiction is a choice. I stand by that and take responsibility for how I lost my way and gave my addiction what it craved, my free will. Today I choose the road to recovery with a sponsor who cares, a higher power who simply wants me to let go and wonderful spouse who I believe is truly an angel.

    Thanks for reading,

    God love you.

  9. I have talked a lot about this recently with some of my brothers in recovery and with some of my sponsees. It always brings to mind my journey so far in this program. I always say that with every relapse there is a lesson that can be learned if you are willing to see the lesson. Admittedly, in the very beginning, when I just walked in and was still acting out and relapsing, I don’t think there was much of a lesson to be learned, I was just in full acting out mode. However, as I progressed in my recovery and program and started to see what this fellowship was about, then the lessons started to come. With each subsequent relapse, something was different. First of all, each relapse became less and less “severe” in terms of the type of behavior that I was doing. Yes, it was still inner circle and it was still acting out, but the further along I went, the further away I went from my core acting out behaviors. And as I went along, with each relapse, I would go from a 2 week relapse, to a one week relapse, to an all night relapse, to a one time relapse. The point is that as the program had its effects on me, I grew and my acting out became less and less. And each time I did have a slip, I realized that I was missing something in my program and in myself that led me to that slip. And I was able to take something away from the slip to make my program stronger and keep me moving forward. So, yes, I agree that relapse can be a teacher if you want it to be and are open for it to be. For me it has been part of my journey. I pray each day that it is a part of my journey that is over. But all I can do is pray that today I am sober and that tomorrow I will be too. And right now I am sober and for that I am grateful.

  10. I am sharing on this topic tonight because this week a fellow brother in one of my group’s relapsed. I think I shared on this last night, but I cannot remember. It is just fresh on my mind and I want to share on it again. I just know that I need to keep the idea fresh in my head because I know that I am just one slip and one hit away from a slow or quick spiral out of control and a completely unmanageable and powerless life of drugs and sex. And I do not want to go there. I like my life today and I need to do whatever I can to stay sober. Like posting on this blog even when I am not home. ESPECIALLY when I am not home. And right now I am at my mother’s and I need to stick with my commitment to post so that is what I am doing because I do not want to relapse.

  11. I relapsed about six months into my recovery. The reason? I was never in recovery. I did not want to be sober. I was attending group and therapy in order to save my marriage. Although saving one’s marriage would seem like a good reason, it was not. I was not there for me, I was not in recovery because I wanted to be sober. I just wanted to show others that I was going through the motions, and going through the motions was exactly what I was doing.

    The only possible result from this action: failure.

    After falling, I lived in my addiction for about three months until I was inevitably busted. Then came the redoubling of the pain, the chaos, and the shame. I finally looked around and asked myself what I was doing. The answer came back: Destroying yourself and everything you love. Suddenly recovery was needed for me, myself, and I.

    It’s funny (not really) how relapse can focus us on our need to recover. How it can point out our unawareness to our own failures. Suddenly I saw the damage I was causing to those around me and not just myself. Suddenly I wanted recovery more than anything else in the world, and I had reached the point that many addicts do: No one believed me. It was then that I realized I had to recover for myself, no one else. I realized that nothing else in my life would ever go as planned or be fruitful if I did not recover from my addiction to sex.

    Relapse educated me on the fact that I am an addict and powerless to fight this on my own. That word addict scares me, because it connotes a complete lack of power, and power over my own life is the only thing I have ever believed I truly had. Now I look to others for strength, and I find peace in my recovery.

    Oddly enough I never would have discovered this with out relapsing. Having said that, I hope never to need this lesson or teacher again.

  12. My initial thought on this was, “I have not relapsed, so this doesn’t apply to me”. Then I realized that it doesn’t have to be a “big” relapse (inner circle) to teach me a lesson. Other relapses, like not being truthful, not being open, not treating others with respect and caring, are also relapses.

    I am thankful that I have not had a “big” relapse. I am also thankful that the little relapses can be just as important – don’t lie, don’t treat others as objects to use, and act always with integrity in your life’s dealings. I pray that I keep learning these small lessons, until I reach many years of sobriety.

  13. Relapse the teacher – yes, it can teach, if I want it to teach me. Or it can just be plain old acting out. I have had a long journey of recovery that has had its fair share of white chips. But luckily for me with each white chip I have learned something about myself and or my recovery. I have been able to take something away from it that helps me to grow or move forward. I am not saying that I am glad that I had a relapse, but I am saying that I can take from it and learn. I can learn why it happened, what I let go that I should not have in my program, what I need to do more of, etc… And I can learn more about how to better take care of myself so that I don’t allow myself to get triggered or overwhelmed. So for me relapse is a teacher. Now, the key is to not need to be taught anymore, to stay sober every day, one day at a time.

  14. I am sharing on this again because I just got a twinge of wanting to surf around and look at pictures I should not look at on the internet – and I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to relapse. So I am writing this post instead and going to bed. I need to stop the feeling I have inside me that wants to do it and this is the best way I know how. And to turn off the computer. So I am posting and turning off. Ciao Bello and good night.

  15. Relapse is no joke, it’s not longer fun and I would go as far as to say that when it happens, the compulsive addictive side in me wants to run and hide, wishing that I just had a bad dream. As unfortunate as it sounds, relapse is inevitable, yet with working the program steps with a sponsor, rigorous honesty, and fully surrendering ourselves, will and pride to a loving God, it can be avoided!!! How can it be avoided? Well for me, as I look back on my relapses, I can see where either I didn’t pick up the phone, or stay active in my reading/step work, missed a few meeting here and there or I allowed a trigger-moment or stressful situation to pitch tent in my heart and mind.

    The truth of the matter is when it happens, what do you? Do you learn from your mistakes? Do you project your anger and misfortunes on others? Do you take it lightly? or do you minimize that severity of the addiction by saying Im only human? I heard someone say that “you need to work your program as if your life depends on it”. Wow….. That serious… YES that serious…

    Im learning today that YES my life depends on it….. So today as I take another step forward, I have learned to respect myself enough to work my recovery program in light of God eyes. Of course Im not perfect, nor do I have the perfect program. But what I do is make strides of progress toward sobriety.

    • Relapse has been a teacher and a pain in the rear. When all else fails to get my attention, Relapse reminds me of my hopeless condition of mind (obsessive thinking) and body (compulsive urge to act out). I am in a relapse when I begin to allow my selfishness, self centeredness, ego, and long list of character defects to begin to run my thinking and actions. It’s a very tricky thing, because I could be going to meetings, making phone calls, and saying the right thing. But if I am being sarcastic to my co-workers, mean hearted to my fellows, ignoring my family, speeding, etc.. I am in relapse and it’s just a matter of time before I allow myself to fantasize the acting out and then find myself driven by the compulsion to act out. When I return to my old way of living I have relapsed and if I don’t find my way back to the new way of life based on the principles of the steps, I act out.

  16. I started trying to get sober in July 2010. I have had a number of relapses from that point until now. At that point in time, I felt trapped and cornered by my disease. I felt desperate with No Way Out. These relapses were THE END OF THE WORLD for me. Today when I look back on all my relapses, I realize that it was all part of the journey. These relapses taught me that:

    -There is no cure, but WE do recover.
    -Black and White thinking; All or Nothing thinking; Perfectionism had to be set aside and discarded.
    -Stop counting days. its a one day at a time program. I can’t rely on yesterday’s sobriety. I have to focus on TODAY.
    -In order to RECOVER, I had to follow the path of those before me (meetings, phone calls, step work, etc…) I had to work a program.
    -I know only a little and I must be gentle with myself.
    -This is a Spiritual Program. I had to FIND my Higher Power.
    -The MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE IS MY SOBRIETY. Nothing can come before it.
    -Carry the message Not the Sex Addict. I can’t work this program for any of my fellows. They have to find their own way.

  17. I started the program in January 2014. I was earnest about wanting to cease with the relationship integrity issue I had as a result of my addiction. I truly wanted it. So I made an effort into the program.

    After a few months I started in middle circle activity, then outer circle. Not that I was sexually unfaithful to my GF, but, it was still inner circle; communicating with other women. I was caught. As painful as it was getting caught (and it was hugely painful) it was a good thing. It made me realize that relapse is possible. That my addict inside me could tell me that a certain behavior was okay, and I’d believe it. It also was a hammer to the head telling me that I’m still lying, and that if I wanted Recovery, I had to have the capacity to be honest.

    I recommitted to the program, to my Recovery. I also recommitted myself to the Lord God Almighty.

    I’ve learned that relapse is real, and possible. Sin is always at the doorstep Temptation will lean on the doorbell.
    I don’t want to relapse, and I am using the fear of relapse to dig deeper into Recovery.
    I keep telling myself that acting out is not an option. Find something to do spiritually or in Recovery is my medicine.

  18. Reading this blog on RM today has been very helpful to me. I have been sober for 64 days which I am proud of but I wish it was much longer. However I have been in true real recovery for 20 days. I have been committed to my recovery and that I am more proud of. I am working my steps I am talking to my sponsor daily and my therapist and I am being completely honest and transparent in everything I do. I hide nothing from myself or my wife or my sponsor or my therapist. I have set up things so that they all know what I am doing and I share everything with each of them. I have no secrets from any of them. I know that my father my higher power is with me every day since I have let him back into my heart. These things that I say now I take from Santi and I know he is happy to give them to me today I choose to be a holy man and not a scumbag. Today I’m not going to act out I will act out tomorrow if that’s how I feel but today I won’t act out. I am committed to my recovery. I’m not involved I’m not participating I am committed. I have my toolbox and every day it gets bigger and shinier with all the tools I carry to stay committed to my recovery. So today is what I have and today I am a godly holy man and today I will not act out. I thank you father for your strength and your love when I feel weak you are there for me.

  19. when i found recovery i took to it with a tenacious ferocity ,the level i put into recovery gave me a feeling i was not ever going to slip .I asked my sponsor if anyone ever gained recovery without a single slip and he said almost no one but at least one had , i said to him now you will know another . Try as i might after i was 60plus days clean i had a slip ,i felt angry at myself and physically sick that it happened . after the dust settled and i reflected on what i had done i realized that it would have and could have been much much worse than it was . at my peek of acting out i would have been glad for that little minor slip .The tools i had were there i just allowed myself to weaken just enough and ignore my higher power conversations just long enough to go somewhere i should not have .recognizing quickly that i was in a slip i minimized what was happening and made a call to my sponsor to talk over what happened . i hope this was the last time and i am working hard to make it so .

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