Relapsing. It’s the dreaded word for anyone in recovery. Unfortunately, it’s more common than one may think, but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or your recovery process didn’t work. You’re human and relapse is common, with relapse rates being between 40 and 60 percent, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This rate is very similar to rates of relapse with other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma, or type I diabetes.
I’m bringing this all up as I personally slipped up in the beginning of January after becoming more frustrated about my health issues: I was dealing with a broken foot for 8 weeks and previously had surgery that prevented me from bike riding. My ways of dealing with life (being active) were taken away from me, and I didn’t think of other outlets. So, after many years of avoiding narcotics, I slipped up.
The next day and following week I felt like a complete failure. I felt like I let everyone down: my family, friends, and supporters. I kept on thinking, “How could I possibly continue Active For Recovery if I’m a complete screw up?” I was being extremely harsh on myself. The feelings of being ashamed began to overwhelm me. I went into a dark space.
Over the next week, I felt like I could no longer be who I previously was… someone that was an example of being sober.
And then I heard a song while listening to an auto-generated playlist on Google Music (“I’m feeling lucky”). It was by Macklemore called “Starting Over“.
Once I heard the first few lyrics, I focused in.
And every kid that came up to me
And said I was the music they listened to when they first got clean
Now look at me, a couple days sober
I’m fighting demons
Back of that meeting on the east side
Shaking tweakin’, hope that they don’t see it
Hope that no one is looking
That no one recognizes that failure under that hoodie
If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over
I was honestly in complete shock that something so appropriate played when I needed it the most. I began reading more about Macklemore and his path from being a drug dealer/user to a prolific artist. That one song brought me back on track as I realized that while relapsing may be a reality we all face, what we do afterwards makes the difference. I began to open up and share what happened with others; I let them into my life rather than ignoring phone calls.
What I learned is that there’s a major decision point when someone relapses, especially after being sober for a considerable time. You could easily say screw it and go back to your old ways. The other option, the harder option, is to accept what happened and realize you’re not a screw up, like I did originally. Take the hard road: Be honest with yourself, treat yourself well, and begin opening up. It’s not easy starting over, but if you have an open heart and mind, it can be an incredible growing & learning experience.
So, what’s helped you when you had to start over? Is there a song you think of? A community you go back to? Leave your comments below!