Category : Addiction Treatment

Is Relapse Part of Recovery?

“Relapse is a part of recovery.” We’ve all heard it. But is it true? While you could interpret this phrase to mean that relapse is unavoidable, that is not the context in which it is meant.

Darryl S. Inaba explains it well in his book Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders: “Relapse must be accepted but not excused in recovery.” In other words, if a person in recovery does relapse, he should be treated with compassion, not shame, but the event should be processed thoroughly to determine the cause and prevent it from happening again.

Accountability In Continued Care

One of the most important lessons taught in treatment centers is accountability. To maintain long-term sobriety, clients need to be pushed to be responsible for their own recovery. Products like Soberlink are making it easier and more convenient for them to take ownership of their behaviors.

Cindy Feinberg of The Recovery Coach designs treatment for individuals whose careers make it difficult for them to attend inpatient therapy. “We decided to implement Soberlink into our treatment program around two years ago,” she said. “What I like about it is [clients] don’t feel like prisoners and we’re not hovering over them. We set them up to have their own accountability.”

Royce Dockrill of Valient Recovery, another satisfied client, concurs. His program works to assess and treat mental health conditions related to alcohol and drug dependency. “Soberlink … provides a really good support system, keeps patients accountable, and helps rebuild trust in family units and relationships,” he said.

How I Stay Accountable: Sean

While we all have different journeys in recovery, most will agree that accountability is a crucial component when it comes to staying clean and sober. Once we admit we want to rebuild our lives—whether it’s to a close friend, a family member or all our followers on Instagram—it becomes a lot harder to just pick up a drink or pop a pill. After all, who wants to risk having to come clean and admit we lost focus for a sec— or, er, three years? Accountability is how we stay on track and we all have people, places and things that have helped us reach our recovery goals. This is how accountability has worked for Sean.

What does accountability mean to you?

Well, for starters, that word accountability sounds like a lot of work. Like ugh. If I am accountable I’m going to have to own all of my terrible, destructive behavior and change who I am. Which is all really hard and a drag in some ways but absolutely necessary. So accountability means owning my past, owning behavior and trying to clean it all up the best I can on a daily basis.

Does the fact that people know about your recovery play into you staying sober? How?

It absolutely does. Much of my alcoholism was based on secrecy and me working overtime to lie and tell everyone how fantastic I was doing. It was an exhausting way to live and really hurtful to those around me. So now that everybody knows, it helps me continue to be honest.

Who or what are you accountable to in your recovery?

My dad and my sister have over 45 years of recovery between them and have been paramount in my recovery since 2009. They get me and know what I’m going through. They and are incredible resources. Likewise, mom (who is in Alanon) knows the lingo and behavior inside and out and I can always count on her. Plus my sober littermate in Los Angeles, my sponsees and other program friends help keep me stay accountable too. Since I got sober, I’ve always, always had a home group and that’s an immediate source of relief; to have a place I can go into and say, “Hi. I’m acting like a nut job. Please help me.” But my normal husband who has never seen me drink is a great person to be accountable to as well. I know we wouldn’t have the relationship we have if it wasn’t for me being sober so I try to be as honest as I can with him.

How important is having a community to your staying sober? Why?

I would say for me, it’s vital. I tried a billion times on my own to stay sober and failed every time. The missing ingredient was the help of other alcoholics and addicts. My brain can talk me into some crazy shit when I’m alone and isolating so having a community, in person and online, has helped tremendously.

Have you ever relapsed? Is there anything you could have done that might have prevented that?

Okay, I have not relapsed in the sense of being in the rooms and then going back out. I was all proud of this, like “Yay me, I got it on the first try.” But the reality is I’ve been trying to quit or control my drinking and using since I was 19 years old and I didn’t get sober until I was 36. So yes, I’ve clearly relapsed and I think biggest reason was that I tried to do it alone. I always thought, “I got this! How hard can it be?” But time after time, it was really hard and I went out. The last time I relapsed, I had five months sober and got evicted from my apartment. I reached for a bottle of wine that day and my whole life fell apart over the next six months. What I didn’t have, what I never had, was a defense against that first drink. And I didn’t have a support system. Had I had those things, the outcome would have been very different.

What advice do you give someone who wants to get or stay sober?

Like most addicts, I detest unsolicited advice but if someone asks me I always say, make sure you’re really done. Like, be positive that you are really ready to do all the work and put in the time it takes to get sober. Don’t put yourself through hell if you’re not really done drinking and using. The other thing I tell people is, and I heard this in a meeting at the Marina Center early on, “Give yourself a break.” We tend to beat ourselves up so badly in early sobriety and when I heard this it felt like an exhale. It was a comfort to know that life was not going to be perfect and that it might even suck but as long as I didn’t drink or use, I would be okay. Eight and a half years later, I still have to give myself a break and realize that recovery is a one day at a time gig and it doesn’t get easier if I kick the crap out of myself.

How important do you think transparency is in your recovery?

For me, transparency is everything. I’m such a colossal bullshit artist and liar that a great antidote to that behavior is being 100% transparent and honest that I’m an addict and alcoholic. In fact, I’m probably overly transparent now and everyone knows all of my business all of the time but I really don’t care. The more open I am, the better I feel. Being transparent has another upside too: other people might benefit. Since getting sober in 2009 and blogging about recovery since 2011, I’ve had lots of people in my life reach out and want to talk about addiction. It’s been really cool and being transparent is a small way I can also try to be of service.

How does it feel to earn people’s trust back now that you’re sober?

Unreal! Like me the guy who even lies about books he’s read can be trusted? Crazy. It’s really special to even fathom that people can trust me and rely on me. That being said, I was a full-time liar for decades so it would also be a lie if I said, ”Yeah I’m totally honest all of the time.” I’m not. I still lie about stupid stuff but at least now I have tools to use to help me come clean and be less of a lying jerk on a daily basis.

For the ultimate in accountability Soberlink’s Share Program provides recovering individuals a technology to build accountability and structure. The program is designed for those who want to share their sobriety with their support network.

Follow Sean on Twitter.