You hear it in meetings every day: trust God, clean house, help others. Those are the fundamental tools for long-lasting sobriety for us. We must obviously find small ways to implement this structure into our lives by doing small things daily to keep our recovery going. Not doing so is one of the most common reasons why people slip and go back out. While this is definitely a scary phenomenon among us addicts and alcoholics, there are certain things that we can learn from relapsing. First Of All, It Happens All The Time If you are like me, you may have relapsed once or twice… or five times throughout your journey of recovery. It leaves us with a huge feeling of guilt and shame and resentment toward ourselves and the program. For many people, relapsing makes it harder to come back in because we feel as though we won’t be welcomed back, that we are judged. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. If there is one thing for certain about our fellowship, it is that no matter who you are or what you have done, you will ALWAYS be welcomed back in with open arms as long as you genuinely want to stay sober. It is helpful to remember that despite relapsing, we are still the same loving and caring people that we were when we were working our program. All of our friends still love us, our sober supports still love us, and our home groups need us. Each of us is vital in someone else’s journey of recovery and that is sometimes hard to see. We can be so hard on ourselves that we miss the value that we bring to the lives of others. Next, We Learn What Went Wrong Just as with anything else in life, there are lessons to be learned from every false step we make. Some are hard to see and others will be glaringly obvious, but if we take an honest look at all of our actions, and learn from them, then every mistake becomes a lesson. For those of us who relapse, there are a few basic things that I have heard people say in meetings. For example, every time someone has shared about going back out after having a length of sobriety, they often say, “I just stopped doing what I was supposed to do,” or “I slowly started to slack on my day to day program.” The decline can be slow for some and fast for others, but the message is clear — we absolutely MUST maintain our dedication in our program just as much as we maintained our using. It is funny that addicts and alcoholics suffer from the only disease in which our brain tries to trick us into NOT getting better. We can get a little time under our belts and our minds let us believe that we don’t need to go to that meeting or we don’t need to reach out for help. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Now granted, our obsession to use will be lifted, but our addiction will act out in other ways, i.e., isolating, lying, greed, sex, oversleeping and eating, etc. When we stay involved in our program and our daily process, and when we are actively helping others, we have a much lower chance of relapsing. How Do We Stay In The Middle? It’s really pretty simple, and we probably already know what to do. First of all, we have to attend meetings regularly. Once we get some time, the reason we go to meetings changes as we are now there solely to be of service. By sharing where we are, we could be helping someone else who could be going through a similar situation. By hanging out and talking before and after the meetings, we are fellowshipping. By staying behind to clean up and organize the chairs, we are doing service. The main goal of this program is to be of service to others; when we fail to do that, we start slipping back into our selfish behaviors. Next, we have to maintain our daily routine. This is different for each person, but taking some time in the mornings and at night to center ourselves places us just a little bit closer to a serene life every day. As they say, “Yesterday’s drunk wouldn’t keep me drunk today, just like yesterday’s work won’t keep me sober today.” We must be vigilant in our spiritual maintenance every day; not doing so keeps us wrapped up in our heads and our selfish thinking. Being there for others is vital, not only at meetings but with our own sober supports. Keeping an open dialogue with the people we trust allows us to bounce ideas and thoughts off of them, and help us to keep connected to our fellowship. This process, which was one of the hardest aspects of sobriety for me, is one of the tools that truly keeps me sober today. When all else seems to fail, talking to another alcoholic is the one thing that will work every time. In the end, anyone who has worked a program already knows how to prevent relapsing. However, it is all about maintaining our spiritual condition and being involved with our program. We can only keep what we have by giving it away, and we must start each day with the same drive to stay sober that we used to stay drunk and high. When we stick to the middle, we will be safe from relapsing. Getting Help at Wayside House If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as programs for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.