I live every sober day with the fear of relapse. It is always in the back of my mind. For all 333 days of sobriety, I have had 333 days of fear, fear of drinking again.
I often think that at this point in my sobriety, closing in on a year, I should not still be having cravings feeling triggers, or still be thinking about drinking, but I do and I am. This makes me nervous, and that translates into fear.
I am still aware of the drinking going on around me. I am not as hypervigilant as I was in the beginning, but it is still there. There are still certain visual triggers. Certain bottles of wine, names of vineyards, and family gatherings are all palatable trigger points.
I was at my home group meeting two weeks ago, and a gentleman shared a story. He was at a meeting where a man received his 19 year medallion. The holiday season was in full swing, and the man with 19 years disappeared from the weekly meeting he always attended. A month went by, he returned and picked up a 24 hour chip.
He had seen a holiday advertisment for Kahlua and coffee. He went out, bought a bottle of Kahlua, and proceeded to have just ONE. The next thing he remembers is waking up in detox.
I sat there flabbergasted. Thinking to myself, HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN??? WILL THAT HAPPEN TO ME?? WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN??
This past Monday night, I went to my home group with 12 the Hard Ways post, Back to Zero fresh in my mind. I was having a pre meeting meeting with one of the old timers. I was telling her about the blog post, and how it affected me, and how afraid I was that it was eventually and inevitably going to happen to me.
The meeting moderator asked for a topic for discussion, she threw COMPLACENCY and relapse on the table.
The discussion was enlightening.
I constantly hear the old timers say that staying sober has to be the number one priority of every day. I had listened to that so many times, but until Monday night’s discussion, I never really HEARD it.
My home group is mostly made up of old timers. The stories and the wisdom are fascinating. Everyone had a relapse story. Either their own or someone they had met along the way.
Each story ended the same way. The person in recovery stopped tending to their sobriety. They stopped going to meetings. They stopped doing their readings, they stopped meditating, the stopped tending the garden of sobriety. They stopped keeping it green.
Instead of getting up each day and doing the work, they told themselves; I got this, no problem. They became complacent.
As they were sharing, I began to think, great, more work to do. Then I realized, I am doing the work. I do it every day. I read sober blogs, my daily meditation, my Big Book, and my 12 & 12. I go to recovery websites, I read sober posts on Twitter, and Facebook. I text or talk to my incredible sponsor.
What I learned is I need to work at this program, come hell or high water. Whether my mother is dying, or my son is under- employed and living in my house, or I am knocked around by any of the other obstacles that life throws at me. I have to do the work to stay sober, every day. I can’t take a chance on thinking, I will do that work tomorrow, because that is the day I will end up drinking. I can’t become complacent.
I often wondered why my home group was filled with so many people with an amazing accumulation of years sober. Why did they still have to come to meetings? Aren’t they bored with the program after so many years? They may be but they can’t afford to become complacent.
I have worked very hard to get here. The fear of relapse is still there, but now I look at it as a positive emotion, it will remind me to do the work that will keep me sober.
I have to keep working, because it only works if you work it.
I have to keep it green.