‘Don’t Give Up’: Words of Wisdom From Chronic Relapsers Who (Finally) Achieved Long-Term Sobriety
Some people develop a drug or alcohol problem, get help, and stop. And they stay stopped.
Maybe they went to detox or treatment, or they joined a 12-step fellowship or a church, or they got counseling or went on meds, or some combination of these things—and it stuck. They continue to do the work, and it continues to work for them. They’ve only had one sobriety date since they started tracking such things.
Then there are people like me.
We’ve tried to get and stay clean again and again, as the months turned into years and the confustion turned into panic turned into terror. We’ve had dozens of sobriety dates and disappointed dozens of well-meaning family and friends. We’ve lost our kids and our jobs and our homes; we’ve jumped from detox to rehab to halfway house; we’ve made promise after promise after promise.
And we mean it when we say it. I meant it every time.
It was that way with me. Perhaps it is that way with you.
If so, this post is for you.
‘Why Can’t I Stay Sober?’
The truth is that for whatever reason, some people can stay clean and sober on their first attempt and some can’t. No one is 100 percent sure why.
Addiction is a shameful disease to have. We’ve read the reports (like this one from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and this one from Harvard Medical School) that define addiction as a medical disorder with both biological and environmental risk factors. We are told that it’s not a matter of willpower or a moral flaw, but a chronic neurological disease beyond our control.
It’s not as simple as bad people with bad behaviors making bad choices, they told us. And we wanted to believe you.
But when we were getting kicked out of sober living again and getting fired again and picking up a newcomer chip again—man, it sure felt like we were bad people.
Sometimes it made us cry, Why even bother? Why even try anymore?
On March 14, 2012, I tried one more time. It has not always been easy, but I have been clean and sober ever since, and my life is genuinely filled with joy. I am free.
It can also be this way for you. Here are some words from those who’ve been there.
Hope for the Hopeless: Encouragement From Recovered Addicts & Alcoholics
Shana, 8 years clean & sober
I’m a three-times relapser whose last relapse came after being sober for 11 years. By the grace of a mysterious and loving God, I now have 8 years sober.
If you’re struggling with relapse, my advice is this: It takes what it takes. Never lose hope. These truly are the best years of my life, in love and service. Keep working at it, because it truly works if you work it.
Alyce, 14 years
I’ve made countless vain attempts to stay sober; thank God I kept trying and didn’t give up. If you’re having a hard time, simply try again. It’s not how many times you fall down that matter. It’s how many times you get up. So get up and try again.
Lonnie, 24 years
I had to be beaten into a state of reasonableness. That took time, and it was painful and humiliating, but necessary! I was the king of relapse and felt so ashamed because I couldn't get it. Once I got out of the way, I could receive and store new information. I got it, finally.
Today I am grateful for the journey, the pain, the suffering and humiliation that is part of that journey. No matter how many relapses you have, if sobriety becomes your priority, you will achieve it! Half measures avail us zero, so move full throttle ahead with a god of your own understanding at the helm.
Leo, 3 years
If you fully give yourself to this program and go to any lengths to get sober, the promises do come true. Give your all to a God of your understanding and it will happen in time.
Edmund, 4 years
My last drinking experience showed me that I will never be able to beat the game and will eventually die. When I came back, my sponsor asked if I had been enlarging on my spiritual life. The answer was no. He had also ingrained in me that sponsorship was vital to permanent sobriety, but I didn’t listen or put in the work. Now I work with others like my life depends on it and haven't stopped, because it does!
I am spiritually sick. But remember, the spiritual life is not a theory; we have to live it. (Big Book, pg. 83).
Nora, 8 years
I started recovery in 1978 as a 16 year-old. I was sober for about 23 years until I got divorced, and alcohol sounded like my solution. I spent the next 10 years off and on various mind-altering substances. In 2007 I did try sobriety again, but by 2009 I found another reason to give in to my disease.
Today I have 8 years sober and I know that through any insanity, I can stay sober. My words of encouragement would be, “It's not how you start, it's how you finish.” Pick yourself up and try again.
Julie, 3 years
My advice is this: Embrace your negative experiences as being part of your growth. Doing this helped me deal with my shame. Be of service, whether that’s in your community, as part of a religious denomination or in a mutual self-help group. It always makes you feel better. And live for today. Not yesterday or tomorrow. Stay in the moment.
Chris, 3 years
It’s as simple as this: Don't give up.
Need Addiction Treatment? Cornerstone Can Help
If you’re struggling to get and stay sober, you’re not alone. You’ve just read about several people who needed to try again. It’s just that way with some of us. Perhaps it will be that way with you. Never give up hope.
Contact Cornerstone Healing Center to learn how we can help. Reach out today - 800-489-1781. You deserve a happy, sober life.
By Megan Krause