A relapse or a revert?

x spot

Relapse is what brands us ‘addicts’. Non-addicts aren’t trying to stop, monitor, or manage their alcohol intake. It’s a non-issue for them.

And, any addict who says they never relapsed is lying. People … it’s what gets us in the club. We may have stayed clean since ‘detox’ or ‘rehab’ but we had plenty of trying-to-quit before detox or rehab was on the radar.

Relapse is not a thing to feel shameful about. Relapse is an action to learn from.

Most addicts spend so much time feeling bad about the relapse that they never learn anything new about what happened. They just continue to feel remorseful.

When did remorse, self-doubt, shame, and regret help us achieve anything?


When does forgiveness, consciousness, love, and compassion help us achieve?


Yet we are too busy feeling bad about last night, last month, last year … the last two decades that we seem stuck on moving off this x-mark of shame. No one ever taught us to use that moment of regret as a tool to propel us forward. So we used another drink to shove it down. We never learned how to live past the moment of shame, so we just let the shame live on, and on,

And on,

And on,

And on—


We have to get to the Enough place. Relapse has to have a new meaning for us or it will continue to take us out—every time!

We find our enough-ness when we reframe our relapse thinking.

Old thoughts: I’m such a screw-up. I’ll always be an addict.

New thoughts:  I’m human. I’ll have to deal with this issue (to/in some capacity) for the rest of my life and I’m willing to start now. There is much goodness to be experienced in life. I choose to learn how to experience life unaltered. I am willing to begin to see that I need to see a new way. Can something please show up to show me a new way. I can learn from past error. I can learn what it means to learn something new.

Who would I be with the thought that I was a person who could actually learn to be clean, sober, and thriving in my life? What does that look like? Have I ever bothered to imagine?

Just because I have known altering my mind doesn’t mean I can’t learn something new. Just because I have learned relapse doesn’t mean I can’t unlearn relapse.

Contrary to popular belief I do get to choose. But I can’t choose unless I get conscious to the power of choice within me. The fact: The subconscious will run the same programs, for infinity, if I do not intervene and put in a new program. By default I will revert to yesterday’s behavior with no effort on my part.

It’s really that simple. Easy, no. But simple—yes!

The question now becomes:

Am I willing to ditch my old, ingrained beliefs about me and what is possible or am I only willing to stay stuck as a victim of my addiction?

Option I: Freedom (work required)

Option II: Repeat of yesterday (no work required)

Relapse isn’t the problem. My thoughts about the relapse are the problem. The relapse is the gift that showed up to move me in a new direction. The relapse is trying to help me save my life.

If you drank last night and woke up today to read this, be thankful. You’ve been given another chance to choose again.

Choose something worth having. Because you can!

Today I get off the X.

30 Responses to “A relapse or a revert?

  • took me 9 months of on an off relapsing to finally get it. grateful to wake up sober this morning.

  • Man oh man is this not the TRUTH! Great post Lisa. You are absolutely right about relapse, as we need to learn from them. I have a Relapse Prevention Guide listed on my recovery resource pages that is a whole little workbook if your friends need to go copy and paste where it may help. https://catherinelyonaddictedtodimes.wordpress.com
    Look at PAGES and you will see it listed 🙂

    Catherine 🙂 🙂

  • Thank you Lisa, I shared your post with several people whom might not know your writing yet. I hope the post can be of help to them.
    xx, Feeling

    • As, by the way, it is helpful to me because it helps me feel less bad about the years of, well, almost daily relapse I had before I quit. :-/

      • I believe it is something we can all come to terms with. We truly do love our way to health. ♥

      • That’s good, but I do have do disagree with you on one main point: “any addict who says they never relapsed is lying.”
        That’s false. Alcoholics and addicts try for “just one more” EVERY DAY, and the end up DEAD.
        It’s nice to let us know that sobriety is possible, even after multiple attempts, but things like this feed into the lie that “Everyone does it, and they get away with it, so I’m gonna have One Last Hurrah, too!”
        My Sponsors’ son bought into that lie, and she buried him. Tell his wife and pre-schoolers that it’s ok.
        If I want someone to pat me on the ass & tell me it’s ok, I’ll go to a bar.
        Please don’t use your platform to add to our excuses to quit trying.

        I’m certainly NOT trying to shame anyone who’s not managed to “stay on the wagon”. We’re really good at beating ourselves up, without any help from anyone else. I think our time and energy is just better used to help the Still Struggling Addict -the one who is willing to go to any lengths- to keep from “just one”.
        It only takes one.

        • Thanks for your thoughts Abbiegrrl.
          Although I disagree with your assessment of my post intention.
          I don’t see that I am promoting relapse as an option. I am all about a permanent sobriety date. I think if you follow me as blogger (Find a way, not an excuse, May 2014 post) you will see that I am not subscribing, in any fashion to, “one last hurrah.”

          I am not sure your location, but here in the US we have a popular late night commercial that states “Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of your story …” So the conversation here (prior to the post) was relapse. (BTW: The gentleman in the commercial relapsed for 10 years before he got long-term sober.)

          By default none of my post applies to any one that has overdosed. It’s for people who woke up today regretting last night. It’s a place to bridge the subconscious repetition with the consciousness of the possibility of change. As we both know, we don’t keep people sober and we don’t get them drunk. I can only help someone who is here reading and looking for help. If they see/read “relapse is okay” in this post then they see that. I truly do not see where you see that I wrote or implied “Everyone does it and they get away with it…”

          Wishing everyone a permanent sobriety date, Lisa ♥

          • abbiegrrl,
            Comments are a way for us to get to know one another and express deeper seeded thoughts in one another’s words (minds). No need for an apology. We are simply discussing. I take your words to heart and see where they apply. If they do, I try and make corrections. If they do not I set them free. For me, the challenge has been “pretending” to set them free all while I am still angered/confused inside. I still work on “taking things personally.” We are all here trying to manage this crazy world together. ♥

          • I just replied to your comment on a post of mine, about perceptions. I gotta tell you that when I wrote the above response, there was a little voice that said “you’re not really in the best frame of mind to be writing your feelings…”
            And sure enough, I see now that my perceptions were out of whack. You responded most graciously to my remarks and I appreciate it very much.

          • Lol. It’s all good. You keep me on my toes.

            It’s so confrontational: when we are faced w addiction and death. I sponsored a gal who over dosed. Talk about life lessons. Geezzzzz.!! Sending love Abbie.

          • Thanks, doll. Listening to you on Buzzkill this evening. 🙂

    • Ohhhhhh
      Thank you Feeling.
      Like all of us, I love being shared.

  • Relapse vs. lapse. The way I understand it is lapse is a single bout of alcohol consumption while relapse is an extended period of alcohol ingestion. Kinda like sucumbing to peer pressure to take a flute of champagne at a buddy’s bachelor party. That’s lapsing. Relapse is kinda like going on a three day bender. A one time lapse could be a learning moment, but a relapse would be devistating. This is one reason why it is so important to me to count the days I have been booze free. The harder you work the harder it is to surrender. Especially to the booze. Keeping an exact and accurate day count is my antabuse. Today is day 593.

    • You’ve said so many great things it’s hard to know where to start. First, thanks for commenting. I value your ideas on recovery and I love your conviction and permanency in your recovery. Very inspiring. For me, whether a lapse or a relapse the notion is that from a totally “sober” state of mind I allowed/participated in a drink entering my body. Whatever it’s called, I never, ever, want that to happen. Period. Once I put one in, all bets are off.

      I’m with you on counting. I’m at 4,240 today. I am not planning on going back to day one.

      This post for me was about the people who really get down and stop looking for hope. I want them to know that the failure is optional. We all struggled. But one day we did find our day one and stuck to it. Happy day 594 ♥. Lisa

  • “Acceptance is the key” there’s that famous excerpt from one of the stories in the AA big book. The first thing I had to do was accept that I was an alcoholic, really accept that. In the end for me when I sat there in rehab and tried to figure out how I’d got there the last 13 months in particular of control, lose control, stop, start, control, lose control, stop… repeat ad infinitum! hit me. I had some condition that simply meant I couldn’t start again. “Don’t take the first drink” – simple genius. I was always trying to stop taking the 5th or 10th 0r 20th when it got there, but by then I was screwed. So… don’t take the first… therefore no 5th… or 10th… or 20th! Blimey! Genius!
    So I agree with you – since rehab and getting on a 12step programme (which is what has worked for me to stay sober and grow as a person) I’ve not (yet) relapsed but like you say the relapses before were the defining characteristic that made me determined to find a way to cope with life and remain abstinent.

    • Furtheron, An excellent thought. It makes me think about when I got sober (2004). I was only going to quit for one year. After all, any non-alcoholic could go a year without a drink. Easy. It wasn’t easy. Not even close. I was miserable. And that’s when I realized I was a true alcoholic. Whatever “alcoholic” was, I was it. I think I got into acceptance at about month 8 or 9. By the time 12 months rolled around it was clear I was part of the recovery club. Proud to be in it too. ♥ Lis

  • Love this. Like the first commenter, I had a solid 9 months of relapsing before I got it. And I’m still relapsing on soft pretzels, so now I shall re-frame my thoughts and see how I might learn from each one!

    • Miracles,
      I love this. Can I ask the reframe question?
      Maybe you aren’t relapsing on soft pretzels. Maybe soft pretzels are supposed to be there.
      Who would Miracles be without the thought that pretzels were the problem?
      Pretzels aren’t the problem. Pretzels are the answer. The answer to _________ .
      Maybe pretzels can stay once a week or month. 🙂 If you find another answer for the above question.
      ps. I swear we have all the same loves (cookies, soft pretzels, sugar) LOL
      Coming over for the Monday meeting. I think I missed last week. ♥ Lis

      • You did not miss, I was away, and now am sick 🙁 I promise I will be back next week, and, in the meantime, I will be posing these thought provoking questions to myself!

  • Thanks for the post, Lisa. Always an inspiration!

  • “My thoughts about the relapse are the problem”. LOVE THIS! Judgement often leads me to shame if I don’t catch it. Shame causes me to revert back to old, harmful thought-patterns…then to the harmful behavior patterns (as if some of my thoughts aren’t harmful enough!). Thank you for another excellent post.

    • Always a joy to see you over here. How is your workshop/course going? You really have me thinking a lot about the vitality (non-vitality) of some of my food choices. It may not be McDs, but it’s a packaged processed bar nonetheless. I think I may need to come over for some coaching—seriously. I want to learn some tips on having prepped food ready for eating-on-the-go. I have a retreat coming in January and one of my favorite parts of retreat is having the yummy, organic, wholesome meals prepped and cooked. (I would be in heaven with a full time chef.) If you have free time in January come and join us in CA. 🙂

  • Awoke this morning and read this after a relapse. It is so true and helpful. Its about resetting our minds. I never thought of a relapse as a positive thing before but I’m glad to be alive and have another chance. Thank you for this. It’s what I needed

    • rubytuesday18,
      Glad to be on the other end of your mind this morning. My morning (personally) has already been rough and I was wondering (for just one moment) why I even work so hard, day after day. Your post made the whole difference in my day. So many thanks to you for having the courage to comment. Seize your recovery as you seize your next breath. Let your beauty live today. You never have to give your strength and power to alcohol again. ♥♥♥

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