Watching relapse in friends

Watching relapse in friends

One of the worst thing in recovery is watching a friend or somebody you know relapse. It sadly happens from time to time over the years.I gave up drink and drugs a few years ago and have met many people who are doing the same thing. I think some form of fellowship is a good idea, although I am not a member of any formal recovery groups any more. I feel comfortable most of the time and try not to make recovery the focus of my life. I am involved in a wide range of activities and work hard in a pressurised environment. I would rather define myself by the way I live life today rather than the mistakes and poor choices that I have made in the past. I do not brand myself as an alcoholic on a daily basis, like those in AA as I do not like the self image that the term “alcoholic” suggests.


That does not mean that I can simply forget about the things that have helped me and just act on every impulse. Although I do not feel that relapse is around the corner, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and outlook. If you don’t, you can start to run a huge risk. Something I have seen a few times, is that people start to hang out with people who drink and get dragged back into their old ways. Drinkers generally do not decide to get sober when they sit in a pub with an alcohol free person. The alcohol free person is more likely to become a drinker if they are in a hard drinking environment, and their resolve is weakened.

Although I do not credit the “12 step solution” as being much use, I do feel going to meetings with alcohol free people, which were an environment away from drinking several times a week at times when I would normally have gone to a pub, did actually help break the habit. I was not a fan of all the sharing or the religious side, but it helped break my ritual of drinking, after work. After a while, I moved on to other activities, which were generally more health based, although playing music at a decent level again has also been something that has helped as I feel creative in an area I enjoy. If I ever go to a bar, it is because I have a specific reason to be there such as music. I rarely go to social events where the people there are more interested in getting drunk than talking. As a result, my collection of friends has evolved over time. Most of my friends tend to have a healthy outlook on life.

Other people have a tougher time of it, especially women who often drink at home. If your kitchen or living room was the place you drank, you may have a harder time breaking the habit by going to meetings and getting involved with CBT techniques as soon as possible may be a good idea. It is hard to stop if the things that trigger your drinking are in your home.

Other people do not change their social group very much and do not make any great changes to their lifestyle. They may take on aspects of an AA lifestyle, but they cannot move on from the desire to drink.They have not found anything better to do, and feel deprived. Unless you can see, that your life is much better as a result of stopping and that you have found better choices, particularly in ways to spend your leisure time, you can end up in trouble.

Some people do manage moderation, after having problems in the past, but it does depend on circumstances and how secure a person feels. I would find drinking would actually be a violation of my own beliefs these days. I view it as poison and would have no wish to consume something that has a negative effect on my health. Most people look at smoking as a revolting habit and are not keen to take it up, unless young and immature, and I feel the same way about drink. I do not look at drunk people with any fondness. I look down on smokers, but admire people who run in the park. My values have changed over time, and this is what has helped me keep alcohol free. My whole view on life has changed over time, and I feel being away from formal recovery groups has helped this.

I always feel some kind of bond or at least link to other people who are attempting an alcohol free lifestyle. I certainly don’t like quite a few people in “recovery” and would really not want to socialise with them, but I always hope they succeed. I understand how difficult going alcohol free is and what a struggle the early days are. I drop into the soberistas site a couple of times a week, and often read about people struggling. I try to offer a bit of encouragement, where appropriate, or mention something that has helped me. I am open about the fact that I struggled in the early days and that different solutions suit different people. Just because something helped me does not mean it will be appropriate for you. There are so many conflicting views about the cause of alcoholism and the best solution, that it can be really bewildering,to find a sensible solution that will offer support, and is in line with your beliefs. When I see people struggling, I feel sorry for them, but am very glad that I am not,and strengthen my resolve to stay that way.

It is always a shock to see somebody drinking in a bad way, when you recognise them from a recovery group. You have often heard them share about the pain from the past and know they are back there. It is very sad, when people go down hill, after fighting so hard to stay alcohol free. In percentage terms you have more chance of remaining alcohol free, the more time you have under your belt, but people still need to be careful. People with a year stand a good chance of carrying on and those who make it to five years are generally considered, to have a solid recovery. However time does not always guarantee success. You also have more to lose, and if you are a subscriber to the powerless model, the shame can pile on and the consequences be bad, as people have almost set themselves up to fail, by giving themselves a negative self image. The core belief of powerlessness that helps some people, can destroy others. People who have subscribed to the powerless or disease model and who then drift away from their support group often do very badly when they lose the resolve to stay alcohol free. Some people like calling themselves an alcoholic or addict but I look at that as a negative image. It is an image of me in the past, not today, addiction is something I have worked hard at to beat.

The first time I saw someone getting drunk who I knew from a recovery group actually made me feel quite vulnerable. They were someone who was held up to have a good recovery, was a public figure and had actually written a book, which told a lot of his recovery story. I read this and had been motivated by it, so it was unnerving to see that things had gone wrong. I have since seen other people do the same thing and although I have rationalised the situation more than my early days, it is never a pleasant experience when it is obvious that somebody is going down hill. I still have a slight feeling that it might happen to me, which is not a pleasant feeling. It is not as strong as it was, but it is still there.

People often look so much better when they don’t drink and you get used to seeing them that way. They look alert, have life in their eyes and if they don’t smoke, they normally have good skin. This often changes really fast, when they start to poison themselves and go down hill with substance abuse. They often avoid eye contact, and you can feel the shame coming off them, if they see you. It is hard to know what to say sometimes.

It has recently happened to two people that are a couple, who I met when I had stopped drinking. They formed a relationship in recovery but have relapsed together. I had not seen them for a few months which was odd as we would often all meet up and go to the theatre or another social group. I wondered why they were avoiding us and then I bumped into them. I was staggered how they had changed in such a short space of time. They were certainly not enjoying their drinking, it looked like they had really gone for it.

We talked about it and they said that it had happened when away with a hard drinking crowd. these people have to do a large amount of entertaining, and there is always champagne around. They still keep a large wine cellar in their luxurious house. They made some rather embarrassing excuses, but I can tell by a person’s body language when they are crushed. It is a real shame and I hope they manage to turn things around.

Some people become evangelical about a type of recovery solution that has worked for them, and say that all you have to do is follow the suggestions of that group. In my experience, this is not true. You have to try many solutions until you find a new way of living, that you enjoy and provides you with the support that you need. You have to be prepared to work for a solution, and to be honest with yourself about the worth of some of your activities. It is not really a good idea to simply swap one addiction for another. You have to learn to face the world, and to be brave enough to ask for help when needed. That is often the hardest thing to do, as pride can get in the way, but the alternative is often much worse.



Commenting area

  1. Thanks for another thoughtful post. I really thought I had a good handle on my sobriety, even though it had only been 4 months, until I went on vacation with my husband (from whom I am separated, due to his drinking) and my 14 year old son. We went to a beautiful place by the ocean, and my desire to drink became very strong, possibly because it was a vacation, which I associated with relaxing/drinking as part of the experience. My husband did not drink in front of me, except one time at a restaurant when I told him if he wanted a drink that would be okay with me, and he just had one drink. I was in a great deal of pain from all the walking we were doing (I have various physical problems that cause pain when I walk too much, and suffer from chronic inflammation) and I had brought along some hydrocodone (an opiate) to help the pain. I was also taking clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication, in a much larger dose than normal. By the time we got to the airport for our return flight I was a little loopy on the drugs, and during our flight back two small children seated in front of me began screaming. One of them screamed the entire two hours. I was seated across the aisle from my husband and son, and when the drinks cart rolled its way down to me, I ordered a glass of wine. My husband gave me a dirty look and chided me, which was the pot very much calling the kettle black, and I snapped back at him. Although I did not immediately descend into a binge, I had one glass of wine a week for the next three weeks, always at a restaurant with a companion. I was reasoning with myself that I could drink in moderation this way, that moderate drinking was considered to have health benefits, etc. etc. but then last week I was to meet a friend out to dinner, and before we went out, I was at a store that had the one serving small bottles of wine. I bought two, and drank both of them before the dinner, then had another with dinner. I woke up with an awful headache the next day, and the fear that I was once again going down that slippery slope. I have not touched it since. A friend of mine has been trying to get me back into AA, but I know it is not for me, the religious overtones were just too much. Thank you for writing this blog, reading it really helps me.

  2. Most people stop and start at the beginning, before coming to the conclusion that drinking is not for them. A small period drinking after a period stopped is actually good progress and has helped you make your mind up.
    If you do not fancy AA have you looked at joining a Smart group?

    • In order to join a Smart group that is not online only, I would have to start one in our area. Believe me, I have given it serious thought. However, at the moment I am struggling with so many health problems (another good reason not to drink) that it takes up all my time and energy. I saw a neurologist two days ago who thinks I have early onset dementia. He never asked me if I had been a drinker. I figure it may show up on the MRI, I don’t know. There is the phenomenon of “post acute withdrawal” which may actually be the problem. I hope so, because that is something reversible, at least to some extent. I do see a therapist, who is trained in alcohol and substance abuse issues, and we meet once a week. There are people I can call, as well. Thanks for your response, much appreciated.


  3. Daryl Scott March 19, 2015 at 2:35 am · · Reply

    Hi everyone! I unintentionally read this post and also your comment too. Thanks for this article. I am a drug abuser and alcohol dependence before and tried to do a treatment program here at Better Drug Rehab Treatment. While I’m reading this article, I’ll do remember all the past memories when the time a felt down because of my addiction. My friend still on my side whatever happen, even he feels that I am not interested to the help he offers to me. Every time I drunk, he always help to stand up and always telling me, “you don’t have to worry, I’m still here”. Until now that I am here in my treatment consultation, he always help me. I know he really loves me as his friend.

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