A LifeRing Keeper: When Relapses Keep Happening

Here’s a recent posting from LSRmail, the first and largest email group in LifeRing. It’s a response to a member who wrote in after experiencing another in a series of brief relapses. It’s a fine example of the type of response that comes from our online venues.

Hi xxxxx,

It’s good to ‘see’ you again, even if the circumstances could be happier. I’m encouraged to see that you are doing something about the problem. That’s what stops most people. They suffer, but they don’t do anything. You are doing something, which is infinitely better than doing nothing, but it would seem that you are either not doing quite the right thing, or you are not doing enough of it.

You know, people often like to say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I don’t think that is true. I think that is, in fact, the definition of practice. When we practice something, we get good at it. So it’s likely that you are good at quitting, but you may also be getting good at slipping. If I were going to look somewhere, that is where I would look: not so much at the depression itself, and certainly not at the escalation of the drinking when it starts, but more at what immediately precedes the slip. Do you plan? Do you debate with yourself? How long between the decision to drink and the purchase?

If you know these things, and particularly if you have them written down, you can make plans to counteract them. If you have a plan for an action that you will take as soon as your find yourself planning a slip, or a tool (like a previously prepared T-chart) to use in a debate, or a way to prevent impulse purchases (like asking the closest shop not to sell to you), you can prevent them from happening.

Next, I would suggest overkill. This problem keeps dogging you and degrading your quality of life. Time to beat it once and for all. That’s probably worth a lot of time. If you add up the time you spend actually drinking, the time you spend hungover/stressed/spaced out, and the time you spend worrying about your drinking, I bet it adds up. For me, I was looking at more than half of my waking life. If you were to commit to spending half that time working on sobriety (for me that was four hours a day) you’d still come out ahead. And it sounds like you would not be adverse to more activity anyway. Can you travel to a better meeting? Read advanced books on the brain science of what is going on? Volunteer with an organization that helps addicts on the street? Prepare to start a local Lifering meeting when you have six month sobriety? Commit to posting on this mailing list every day? Join the Lifering Forum? Find a SMART meeting? If you can, why not do all of the above? If you can’t, how about most of the above, or a similar number of different things.

I have been watching people both get sober and slip for many years, and one pattern that I notice is that people who go at it hammer and tongs and do, do, DO things, have a much higher success rate than those who do not. People worry about burnout, but I have not seen that be a problem.

After a few months of all-recovery, all-the-time, you’ll be ripe for engineering the rest of your life so as to build a state in which drinking is unlikely, unattractive and untenable. You might start a new career, or take up meditation, or run for office. But the short term goal has to be getting through those first few months.




  1. Ann on October 30, 2011 at 5:16 am

    I feel I drink too much. in fact every day I would have to have a drink. While I don’t get drunk as I would have perhaps 2 glasses of white wine or 4 vodkas. I feel that I really need help as I don’t think its right that I have to have a drink everyday. I am very energetic and a lot of my behaviour is kind of addictive

    • Craig W on October 30, 2011 at 11:30 am

      I’ll be in touch by email. You sound like many of us who felt we were slowly shifting from “social drinking” to something more dangerous.
      — Craig

  2. Ritchy on October 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Relapse is making a decision but never being able to keep it. Temptation is just too strong. We often indulge in the harmful behavior because we like the way it makes us feel, before and during its occurence but like it little after it is done. Guolt kicks in after illicit sex, gambling or use.

    It’s tuff to live our own moral code.

  3. shelley rouse on October 25, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I am a forty three year old woman and i am an alcoholic its sad because i have two beautiful teenage boy whom i love with all my life I am looking for help. Is there a aa meetings i could go to on the mountain. Thanks

    • Craig W on October 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

      I’ll contact you by email to outline the online options that LifeRing offers people in your situation.

  4. JeffK on October 24, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent letter! When I was relapsing all the time, lapsing really, I was definitely not getting, understanding, or doing certain things for certain reasons. The trick is figuring out what that is, or maybe just lucking out and getting it or doing it, for long enough to be able to think clearly. This in my experience is where it’s the hardest. What seems so simple later, or seems simple to other people, can seem impossible.