How to recover from a relapse
August 6, 2009 2:37 PM   Subscribe

As an addict, have you dealt with a hidden relapse?

I was sober for a year until last February. I have been hiding my relapse well since then but I know it will fall apart. How can I best tell the people who love me that I have fallen off the wagon? How did you do it? There is nothing obvious right now other than brutal honesty.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why are you hiding it? It's nothing to be ashamed of, many addicts relapse many times before maintaining abstinence. I have never relapsed but I don't kid myself into thinking I couldn't, in fact, I've seen it happen so many times to other people I understand very clearly how easily it does happen even to people who have maintained abstinence for prolonged periods. The truth will set you free, as they say. Let some people who love you know where you're at and go get the help you need.
posted by The Straightener at 2:42 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've known addicts who relapsed and recovered, and they did it by being open and honest to their loved ones about their need for help. The Straightener is right - relapses are not uncommon. They aren't the end unless you close yourself off from help. So, tell someone. You'll probably find that those close to you won't judge you for it at all. They'll be relieved you came to them, and they'll help you get back on the path.
posted by katillathehun at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2009

My sister just fell off the wagon after a number of years of sobriety. She hid it the best she could but was eventually found out. When confronted, she went into a treatment program. Since she's at least taken that step, everyone's been (to the best of my knowledge) accepting, even those who have no real reason to be.

Admit what's happening and take the appropriate steps before you're found out. The people who love you will love you either way, but if you take the initiative you'll save them the pain of busting you. Nobody wants to be the cop.
posted by lekvar at 3:05 PM on August 6, 2009

Relapse is part of the recovery process. It's not a failure. It feels like a failure, a let down and something to be ashamed of, but it is not. For someone relapsing, any type of honesty (brutal or otherwise) is the better than any type of secrecy. Unfortunately, this is one of those things you're just going have to do.
posted by milarepa at 3:51 PM on August 6, 2009

Admitting the relapse is the first step to getting better.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:54 PM on August 6, 2009

If you keep it a secret, you feel shame, which makes you drink/use more. Yes, be brutally honest and just tell your loved ones. They love you, no matter if you relapsed.

To deliver the news, first prepare them then tell them. Like this: "I have something important to tell you, that's a bit hard to share with you. I started drinking/using/whatever again. This started last February."
posted by Houstonian at 4:00 PM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't think you're going to be able to get out of this and ensure it doesn't happen again without being honest about what has happened, first with your group or therapist, and then taking it from there.
posted by WPW at 4:02 PM on August 6, 2009

There's nothing shameful about relapsing. It is what it is. Your loved ones might be disappointed, because they love you and want you to be happy, but if they know anything about addiction I doubt they'll judge you. Relapses are just part of the recovery process. The worst thing that can happen is that the shame holds you back from getting the help you need or becomes a rationalization to keep using. Take it as a learning experience and keep moving forward.
posted by granted at 4:11 PM on August 6, 2009

Please tell your loved ones. I know that you have probably hurt and disappointed them in the past, and the guilt and shame you feel are in part what are keeping you from doing so. I have a sister who has been in and out of rehab for several years, and is only now (touch wood) taking her sobriety seriously. I have been on the receiving end of that news, but I'll tell you what - there is a good chance that you may not realize it, but you are already giving off signals. I can just tell when my sister is using, even when she hides it. Please tell, because when you tell, you can start down the path of sobriety again.
I also second the therapy, 12 step, groups, rational recovery, etc., whatever has worked for you in the past. If you start your recovery before you tell those closest to you, that could be encouraging for everyone. I wish you the very best of luck.
posted by msali at 4:48 PM on August 6, 2009

i did this. twice. it's a shitty, shitty feeling.

the first was the worst because i was going to meetings regularly at the time. i kept telling myself it was only that one night. but the burden i carried just ate me up. i honestly don't know what my impetus was, but i sucked it up, let it out, & started over. i wish i could say that shitty feeling was lifted immediately, but it wasn't; people were *wonderful* about it, but i still felt shame that i hadn't come clean sooner.

the second time was 'easier,' but only because the relapse was a year-plus long & i was in a position where i'd destroyed a relationship & quite frankly wondered how long i had to live if i kept it up. at that time, i was in a new town & went in like i'd never been to a meeting before--and then did 90 & 90, 120 & 120, etc. i think my butt was in a meeting seat 360 days out of every year for the next 3 years.

that was ... 15? 17? ... years ago, and for whatever reason, it seems to have taken this time. i used to think that without the relapses i would have close to 25 years now. the truth is, though, all we really have is today, it's not the length it's the width, and every other platitude they spout. because it's true.

you'll survive telling people who love you about the relapse much better than you'll survive knowing you've breached a trust & you're too chicken to fess up. the guilt could very well send you back out, and if you're anything like me, you might not have another recovery in you.

sobriety is an exclusive club. sometimes the 'membership dues' seem steep, but it's nothing compared to the return on your investment. best of luck.
posted by msconduct at 5:22 PM on August 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

This has happened to people close to me. The secrecy is part of the structure of your addiction: part of recovery is honesty as you know. You're not going to get better if you keep trying to hide this. It sounds like you know what you are heading for. It is only going to get worse with time.

To start with disclosing to the people who need to know about this (you know who they are) it might help if you have someone like an old sponsor from a program or someone else who is genuinely knowledgeable about addiction and familiar with your history (preferably themselves recovered), because they will hold you accountable, know what you need to do and not sidetrack right into a bunch of beside the point (for now) questions. Eventually you are just going to have to suck it up and tell the important people and it's going to suck, but that's not really your big problem right now, stopping using again and getting back on whatever sort of program was working for you before is. After you've broken the silence and are getting back on track with your sobriety I suspect (again this is based on second hand experience) the disclosure issue is one that will occur pretty naturally, and though not easy it will seem much less difficult when you're no longer basically protecting an ongoing relapse.
posted by nanojath at 6:04 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am the adult child of an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon more times than I can even remember. If she could have, just one time, admitted it, in whatever way she felt comfortable with HOWEVER it felt right to her, maybe I wouldn't feel like I will never trust her. No, she always tried to hide it and it would work for a few months and then, inevitably, we (my sisters and I) would find out and it was the worst feeling ever. Here's the thing - it wasn't the drinking; it was the lying. I could have forgiven her anything, but not the lying again and again and again. I could accept her, love her if she could have just admitted that she had a problem and she needed help. At least admitting it would have indicated that she knew she had a problem and that problem effected us and hurt us. Not saying that this is your situation. Just my .02
posted by bdowngold at 6:24 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anyway - my advice is - just say it. The people who love you won't care how it sounds; they will care that you love them enough to be honest with them.
posted by bdowngold at 6:25 PM on August 6, 2009

: I was sober for a year until last February. I have been hiding my relapse well since then but I know it will fall apart. How can I best tell the people who love me that I have fallen off the wagon? How did you do it? There is nothing obvious right now other than brutal honesty.

“I fell off the wagon” seems to catch the nuance of the situation nicely.

Since there really are no easy ways (you clearly know this) the person looking for easier ways to do this is the addict inside you who wants to enable further addiction. Choose now and act.
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 AM on August 7, 2009

as someone who dated an addict for years, brutal honesty is the way to go. just, out with it.

the secrecy is part of your relapse/addiction. chances are, the people in your life already suspect something is up. even if they don't, the kindest thing an addict can do is be honest -- because addiction is all about dishonesty, and that is one of the most scarring parts of dealing with an addict. being honest shows that you are truly willing, and are already taking the first steps towards your own recovery.
posted by unlucky.lisp at 10:38 AM on August 7, 2009

Brutal honesty. They already know something's going on and, if they're idiots like me, they've brought it up with you, you've denied everything, and now they're trying to figure out if they're going crazy or you are.

I don't know what support network you've been using, but I've been to a couple AA meetings that people in relapse come to and I didn't hear anything but sympathy from the rest of the group. As I recall, the operative phrase was "a desire to quit drinking."

YMMV with other groups, but I'd be surprised if anyone thought bad about you for it. It's just a hassle, not shameful.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:57 AM on August 7, 2009

« Older What training and orientation does your workplace...   |   Contractor vs. salaryman: Two types of worker... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.