The other night I had a really vivid relapse dream. I was sitting at the dining room table across from my long-dead grandmother and great-aunt, who were bickering about something. They were sisters prone to bickering in real life, so what they were bickering about is probably not important. To my right at the table, my own two daughters were bickering about something unclear and, again, probably not important. In the dream, my dad poured me a glass of pink wine and I gulped nearly all of it and then had the thought “no wonder I drank so much…it’s so sweet” before realizing I had just blown my sobriety. I was of course heartbroken and the dream so vivid I felt relief like I’ve never felt upon waking from a nightmare.
The reason I had this dream was probably because of a recent conversation about why we may never fully be able to call ourselves recovered. This, to me anyway, implies that we’re cured, and getting too far removed from the pain of drinking seems to be why many people relapse. This isn’t why everyone slips though, and yesterday I came across a reason I can more easily understand.
Every once in awhile I like to google famous people I know were sober to see if they’re still sober. I don’t know if it’s morbid curiosity or if I’m looking for affirmation that doesn’t mean much anyway since we’re all on our own journey. I read a touching piece on relapse by an author I remember reading in early sobriety.
Her relapse was not with alcohol, but with pills, and it read to me like something heavy and complicated. She had her heart broken, and damn, I guess we all know what that feels like. You don’t think it’s going to hit you that hard, but it does. This is the relapse threat that scares me most of all…these devastating, if inevitable losses in life.
What I found interesting in her article was that she’d previously listed with her sponsor all of the things she thought might make her drink. Her list was not surprising…the death of a child, terminal illness, loss of a parent or loved one. The idea of planning ahead wasn’t surprising either, though I admit I was taken aback at the idea of having a mental escape clause, a free pass if life got too rough to handle sober.
My drinking got out of control when I used it to cope with hardship. It took about two years for me to realize I had dug a hole that looked suspiciously like my own grave, but I can easily trace it back to that time in my life when I drank to dull the pain. Let me be perfectly clear that a Stresssful Life Event did not lead to my alcoholism. If it hadn’t been one thing, it surely would have been another. In typical Polyanna fashion, I am in fact extremely grateful for this pain for allowing me the chance to bottom out sooner than I might have otherwise. I learned that drinking may dull the pain, but it brings fresh layers of hurt that I can only blame myself for.
There is no reason bad (or good) enough for me to want to drink. I can’t afford to give that idea a millimeter of room in my head, though I suppose it helps to know firsthand that it doesn’t work anyway. One day this idea will be tested. Something bad will happen at some point in the future, of this I am sure. Today I choose to believe that success is the best revenge. If life hurts me, I hope to do my best to keep moving forward.