Being a Chronic Relapser: The Husband's Story - Page 2

By Jimmy Long 05/21/13

I have 10 days back. And while I've been a member of AA for 24 years, I've been drunk for the last 12.

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Then I met a sponsor who took me through the steps right out of the Big Book, quickly. I started to have a spiritual connection unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I made amends and started writing 10th-step inventories every day. I prayed and meditated, and did service. My wife allowed me to move back in with her. I stayed sober for 11 months and 14 days.

Then I went to the doctor. He wanted me to quit smoking and prescribed Chantix. I took it, and within 10 days, I was drinking again. I found out that some people have a bad reaction to the drug. My wife had told me to stop taking the medication because it was changing me. I was becoming depressed and angry.

Right now I have 10 days—I started this piece when I had one day back—and I'm feeling more hope than I have in a long time. 

Is this an excuse for my relapse? I really don't know, but that's what happened. I went from feeling the most serenity ever in my life, to rage and hate and depression, almost overnight.

That was four years ago and I haven't been able to surrender since, although I keep trying. I put a few days, sometimes weeks, together, and then I pick up.

Right now I have 10 days—I started this piece when I had one day back—and I'm feeling more hope than I have in a long time. I'm doing everything it's been suggested to do. And so far today, it has worked; I'm sober. I have to put all the uncomfortable feelings of being a chronic relapser in God's hands. So instead of feeling lousy about being in and out so much, I'm trying to look at it from the point of view, of how lucky I am to make it back and have another chance. I am grateful for today. I can't worry about what others think. I'm not here to people please. As I've heard it said, it's a 'save your ass' program, not a 'save your face' program.

I've really tried to surrender. I have worked the Steps, even more seriously than in the past. I've done service. I make meetings, and I've had a few different sponsors. I pray and write inventories. I even did my Ninth Step amends, including to the newcomer I was with before relapsing. She stayed sober and ended up marrying a nice guy from AA, which I am thankful for.

I've hit a lot of bottoms in my 12 years of relapsing. I lost a good job. I had a heart attack. I fell through a glass table while drunk, and also got a concussion when I hit my head on a filthy toilet after passing out in a bar bathroom. My marriage is in jeopardy.

People in the rooms mean well and are trying to help. I recognize that. But there does seem to be a lost art of carrying the message. When I first came to AA, people treated me like an equal, despite the face that I was homeless, jobless and relapsing. They never spoke down to me or preached. They never told me what to do. They only told me what worked for them. I could take it or leave it. I felt no judgment.

Often now, I have people come up to me and lecture me on what I should do. Like, "Think the drink through." If I could do that when the obsession hits, I'd have nearly 30 years sober. I feel like they think because they have a little time under their belt, this is okay. Like I'm a stupid relapser and if I knew anything, I wouldn't keep going out. That "Take that cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth" kind of attitude. This just makes me angry and rebellious. I know this is pride that causes me to become defensive.

Some people—people who have known me for years, even people I helped get sober—will tell me, "You've been around, you know what to do." And they are right. The problem is, knowledge without power is useless. So I'm trying to find that Power, to turn my will over to it. I really believe in my heart that it is only by the grace of God that I will be able to stay sober.

That's my take on staying sober. It's ok with me if someone else works it differently. I only know what has worked—and not worked—for me.

Jimmy Long is a pseudonym for an AA member. He is married to Fix contributor Sadie Long, who's response to this story is overleaf.

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