I was recently talking to a friend and mentor who’s also in my program of recovery for alcohol and drug addiction. She looked at me and said, “maintenance for people like us is so important and highly underrated. You go to a meeting or wherever and you eventually get and stay sober, and then one day, sometimes months but often years later, you’re enjoying a sunny Sunday watching football with the windows open and you find yourself with a beer in your hand.”
She went on to say this: “It’s never the important times that make us drink again. It’s not the Thanksgivings with our deplorable relatives or Christmases with our overbearing mothers. It’s not the birthdays or the anniversaries. It’s the mundane, boring moments we need to worry about. Those moments are when we’re off guard, taking it easy, maybe missing a meeting here and there and not praying so much. Those moments are the ones that will take us out and, in many cases, never return us.”
If you’ve been sober for any amount of time and then relapsed, chances are it happened on a mundane Sunday (or any day of the week) when you were least expecting to pick up a drink. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to so many others that I personally know. I guess the real question here is: why does this happen? Why don’t we relapse when we’re stressed AF at a holiday party? Why don’t we drink when we’re crying in the closet after a wedding anniversary that ended in fighting rather than in love? Why don’t we swallow a pill when our kid throws a tantrum because he didn’t get the latest $700 Xbox for Christmas (but got other just as equally awesome toys)?
Here’s my theory: The big moments, the equal parts exciting and fearful moments, are the ones we prepare for. We often stock up on meetings, pray a few extra times a day, and talk to a sponsor, mentor, or close friend in preparation for the big day, whatever that day may be. We’re ready, we’re armed, and we sure as shit aren’t going to be caught with a drink in our hands no matter how many times aunt Karen asks when you’re going to finally, for the love of God, get married.
The small, boring, inconsequential moments? We have no defense against them. We’ve let down our guard, not realizing that our disease, our addiction, our craving to drink is right around the corner. We tell ourselves we’re fine, we’re just having fun with the boys or girls, we haven’t drank in X months or years, what’s the big deal if I don’t pray today or reach out to sober friends or catch a meeting? What harm could come from hanging out around booze or drugs with a spirit that’s running on low from lack of recovery-related efforts? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, my friends, everything.
My mentor concluded with a phrase I’ll never forget: “It’s better to call someone for help before you drink than when you’re in a jail cell.”
That jail cell can be whatever propelled you to get sober – a broken marriage, a lost job, a DUI, or the inability to face yourself in the mirror every morning. Once you’re in that cell, it’s so, so hard to get out.
Just make the call. And make it before the mundane moments in life lead you to drink.