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Friends of the Foundation

Relapse: When Gravity Strikes

by Craig Grau

Sometimes the best minutes spent are outside, sitting and feeling the blood under your skin push back against the sunlight. The music comes so easily during these times, when you’re clear and just . . . aware.

That all gets muddled under a busy mind when we fall back to those old chemically laced grounds. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Is relapse destiny, though? For those of us who answer The Chemical Call, does the concept of a round trip guarantee a sure bet?

Relapse is just another trip curbside for some of us. But it’s not​ inevitable. If you had no control over drugs/alcohol whatsoever, you’d never come to ask this question.

For many, relapses are diminishing echoes of old behavior – instances that fade along a timeline illuminated with forgotten lessons ranging from paranoia to hangovers to lighter burns, steadily shrinking to zero. These hard knocks are the reminders of why we considered embracing sobriety in the first place.

So maybe what’s important is to find not transience or permission but value in the relapse.

All lessons have their costs. Any relapse can be fatal regardless of drug, through internal or external means, a la strokes, overdoses, car crashes or the muzzle of a police officer’s semi-auto. Or one could just end up pissing the bed. Simplicity can drive a stiff nail.

What’s important to remember is that relapse is no reason to give up – regardless of the odds, which are admittedly thick. Various studies peg the relapse rate among those who’ve undergone treatment at about 50 percent within the first year.

Staying in touch with fellow addicts through social networks like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous goes a long way for some folks in staying clean. But walking into a meeting and working the 12 steps isn’t any guarantee either.

So how can you take control of your neural destination?

Always remember where you’ve been. Then visualize your objective.

The fact that you’ve survived the pitfalls and situations that line the pathway of addiction shows you’re crafty enough to maneuver through a particularly tough mode of living. Applied to “normal” everyday life, that moxie can drive an individual into the upper strata of whatever endeavors they seek.

Also, never forget the worst moments.

Fistfights with bouncers, the mornings spent vomiting, the sweaty court appearances and frenzied hospitalizations – all these little cameos in hell can serve to remind you of a lifestyle best left in the rearview. It’s a choice​ to echo those notes, not a sentence.

After all this noise, the simple truth is that relapses just might screw you tighter to long-term sobriety. That is, if they don’t kill you first. But just as people don’t compulsively skydive, there’s no need to mindlessly strap on the shackles of addiction once again either.

Just ease toward ease. Surely, easier said than done.