Alcoholic Relapse. Why Do So Many Fail?
Personal Experience Speaks Louder Than Words
I first entered the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1988, twenty-four years ago. I went because my then-wife insisted I get some help, and going to an AA meeting was easier for me than arguing with her. I stopped on the way to the meeting and bought a bottle of cheap champagne. I drank some of it on the way to the meeting, and drank the rest of it on the way home from the meeting.
Needless to say, whatever was said at the meeting did not do me a lot of good.
Naturally things progressed from there, until in 1990 I found myself in a treatment center. For two weeks I listened and learned about the disease of alcoholism, and when I was released from the center, I was gung-ho and ready to take on the disease, head-to-head, toe-to-toe, and nothing could stop me.
Sobriety left me eighteen months later; this time I ended up in a detox center over the 4th of July, 1992, and again came out ready to tackle my demons and show everyone I was made of the right stuff.
Sobriety lasted ten years that time, but in 2002, facing my second divorce, I relapsed and once again slithered back into the embrace of the only answer I had for life.
For the next four years I was in and out, in and out, trying to find the solution. It turns out the solution was right in front of me all along.
I had to do the work.
Is there an alcoholic in your family?
The One, Two, Three Waltz
Alcoholics Anonymous is built around the Twelve Steps of A.A., sort of a How To manual for changing your life. The first three steps are as follows:
1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Many newcomers to AA have no problem with these three steps. Let’s face it, nobody ends up in the rooms of AA while riding a winning streak. Unless court ordered, anyone who willingly enters an AA room knows that there is a serious problem.
Many are so disgusted and so miserable that they are even willing to believe in a God, or at least some Power that can help them with the insanity.
Step Three is a bit harder, for it requires that the alcoholic give up control of their life, and turn it all over to the God or Power. Giving up control, for an alcoholic, is not an easy thing to do. It basically says that I can no longer handle my life and I need help, and that is a tough one indeed for an ego-driven alcoholic. Hell, it’s a tough one for any human being!
Regardless of the difficulty of these three steps, many alcoholics reach the point where they can do them, and believe in them. Those alcoholics who have been in and out of treatment or detox have no problem believing in the first three steps, and each time they return to AA they breeze through those steps like a knife through warm butter.
We call it the One, Two, Three Step Waltz….do the first three steps and relapse. Do the first three steps and relapse. Do the first three steps and relapse.
So what’s the problem? Why do so many relapse after doing the first three steps? Aren’t they doing what has been suggested that they do?
The answer to that last question is yes and no! Yes, they are doing what has been suggested, by doing the first three steps. No, because they never move beyond the three steps; you see, there are another nine to go, and those nine are what are called the action steps. They require some rather unpleasant soul-searching AND action, and that’s where many fall by the wayside in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When one is miserable enough, it’s easy to admit to being an alcoholic. It is considerably harder to actually do something about it and change your life.
What’s so Tough About the Remaining Steps?
Well, let’s take a look at a few and find out.
Step Four states that we must make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, and then Step Five goes on to say we must admit all of our wrongs to God, to ourselves, AND to another human being.
It’s one thing to write down all of the things that are wrong about you as a person; it’s another thing to write down all of the moral defects that you have, and all of the pain you have caused others. It is quite another, however, to admit those things to another human being.
One, two, three, and relapse!
Even if you get through four and five, you are still faced with eight and nine. Step Eight asks us to make a list of all persons we have harmed and be willing to make amends to them all, and then Step Nine actually asks us to made direct amends to all people wherever possible.
Let’s be perfectly honest: many of us have destroyed lives because of our alcoholism. We have caused emotional and psychological pain, and in many cases physical harm as well. Now we are being asked to confront those people and ask for forgiveness?
One, two, three, and relapse!
My thoughts about a solution
- Alcoholism: There Is A Solution....How Bad Do You Want It?
Does alcohol control your life? If so there is a solution but you have to want it more than anything in this life.
And so the Cycle Continues
Sadly, many cannot move on in the program because those remaining steps are so difficult, and sadly, many die because of it.
It is said often that drinking is just a symptom of an alcoholic’s real problem, and the real problem is the alcoholic. Freeing oneself from the addiction of alcoholism requires a complete change in the person, and therein lies the reason for the One, Two, Three Waltz. I have said often that anyone can give up booze for a day, or a week, or sometimes months. Not everyone, however, is willing and able to change who they are.
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There Is a Solution
Yes, I have known people who did not belong to AA and managed to give up alcohol for the rest of their lives. Yes, I have known people who somehow managed to live years of sobriety based on willpower alone. They are rare but it has and does happen.
However, this alcoholic needed to quit doing the Waltz and start changing who he was; the solution existed if I was willing to do the work. Luckily, when I returned to AA in 2006 after almost drinking myself to death, I was willing as only the dying can be. I knew, in every fiber of my being, that I had one chance and one chance only remaining to me. Since I did not want to die I took that chance, and I did the work, and now, six years later, I have found serenity.
And so, too, can you!
It took me twenty-four years but I finally made it. Hard work indeed and yes, determination and yes, willingness. And I could lose it all tomorrow!
The choice is mine!
I could live the rest of my life happy and content.
The choice is mine!
I know what I choose! How about you?
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)