A friend of mine just got sober again after a brief slip. It didn’t last too long, but it did get ugly. Of course it did. We tend to quickly pick up right where we left off, without the tolerance that years of substance abuse gave us. But for him, worse still were the feelings he had in losing long-term sobriety. Over two decades, in fact. I have some thoughts on that. When we try to get sober initially, we’re lucky to stay sober one day. Several days is unthinkable… seemingly impossible even. The fact that in recovery we’re able to put together any time at all is a miracle. Having a slip during that miracle should be no surprise. The (perceived or real) negativity surrounding picking up after a period of sobriety may need to be addressed. I feel that we may focus too much on continuous sobriety as a positive character trait. When, in truth, we’re all just trying to stay sober today, and that should be enough.

I’ve heard people say that if they pick up another drink they probably won’t come back because their ego won’t allow them to face us! This is especially true after long-term sobriety. My thoughts are, screw that. If you remain sober for 3650 days in the last 10 years (or 365 in  the last year) and only messed up one day, that’s amazing! Of course, the goal is to not drink from one day to the next. But to be ashamed because you made a mistake and did the only thing typical alcoholics can consistently do? To feel bad ‘cause you made a mistake is ok, but shame? Nope, I do not agree. 

I drank way too much nearly every day for almost 20 years. To move on from that, one of the things I had to do is I had to forgive myself. I don’t tend to learn things the easy way. I have to hit myself on the thumb with a hammer in order to learn that it hurts and I should not do that. What’s the difference between hitting myself on my thumb and taking a drink in sobriety? Nothing. My mistakes are the only way I’ve learned what not to do to have a good life. They’re called “Growing Pains” for a reason. I only grow when I am in pain. How much pain it takes seems to be up to me, now.

I have learned I can either wallow in self-pity about my past, or my mistakes can act as a compass to show me the direction I no longer want to go! Mistakes can be empowering, now, if I let them. I used to be cruel to myself because, weirdly, I knew I deserved so much better than me. I let myself down at every turn and couldn’t seem to do anything about it. Now I can soberly look at my behavior today and decide if that’s how I want to act in the future. I can take steps now to change how I would have reacted in the past. What I did is not necessarily who I am. Unless I let it be.

If you have a slip, come back as soon as possible, if you’re fortunate enough to. Learn from it, change because of it. Turn that frown upside down, lol. Share what you learn with your friends and anybody who may need to hear it. Maybe they don’t have to do the same thing. Maybe they do. Either way, being so ashamed because you did what comes naturally that you have difficulty coming back into the fold is just plain wrong. Get up. Come back and tell your truth. Own that shit, and you can be better because of it. You just may help someone else too.

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