When we speak about relapse, we tend to speak in terms of ourselves. This seems to be the natural thought process that occurs. But what about when we think of others relapsing? Or actually get news that a friend or loved one has gone out and relapsed? I don’t think we realize the full impact that a relapse has on others. This can be a devasting event for a friend or relative.
I once (once) had a friend who was my closest friend for about 24 years. We were like two peas in a pod. She taught me about the gift of surrender. She was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and was chairperson of her home group. She travelled to international conventions and sponsored lots of people throughout the years. She was truly an example of love and service. Her sobriety date was December 25. Yes, she got sober on Christmas. So, the time rolls around and it is her birthday. I call her up to wish her a happy birthday. She stated that she had something to tell me.
She said that for the past nine months she had been enjoying a glass of wine in the evening with her husband. I was totally shocked and in a state of disbelief. This couldn’t be happening to her. So I said something to the effect of “you mean that in all of our conversations for the past nine months you have been drinking?” She stated yes. I told her how I felt totally betrayed by her dishonesty in not disclosing this to me earlier. I also brought up how for 24 years she had been Miss AA and believed in the power of the program to keep people sober. She just calmly stated that she just wants to relax with her husband. I asked her how she had been relaxing just fine for 24 years without alcohol and why did she now need alcohol to relax? She had no answer for this. I also asked her what if she got out of control again. She calmly stated that she would go to rehab as they had good insurance.
I was blind-sided by all this like never before. I could not believe what I had just heard. And the dishonesty she had practiced on me for nine months! I asked her how she could talk to me during those months and have me think that she was sober? She stated that she just talked and wasn’t ready to tell me until what would have been her 25th birthday rolled around. She told me not to worry and that she was only drinking at home with her husband.
Not to worry!!!!! Here was my best friend of my entire life telling me that she had been lying to me for nine months and was drinking again. We met in AA and functioned together in AA. And now she was drunk. My heart was broken. I was also worried that she would become out of control again and start doing crazy things like driving under the influence of alcohol. Maybe she would begin sneaking a glass of wine before her husband got home. This was just too much for me to grasp at the time. So we talked for a few more minutes and she said she would call me if she needed me. And after 25 years!
Relapse is heartbreaking for those we leave behind. It’s especially heartbreaking if we have amassed some time sober. Loved ones and friends feels betrayed and are saddened at this change of trajectory of the person who chose to drink again. And relapse is a choice. It’s a decision we make while stone-cold sober. Once we begin drinking and using the physical allergy kicks in and we are off and running again. And it will take an act of God for us to regain our sobriety and remain that way once again.