How I Escaped the Relapse Cycle
After spending seven years making the same mistakes again and again.
Trapped in a Cycle
I was in my early twenties when I first tried to quit drinking, but it wasn’t until a few months before turning thirty that I finally managed to stop.
I often call the period between these two attempts my “seven-year relapse.” Lately, though, I’ve realized that this description isn’t entirely accurate because those seven years weren’t one single, long relapse. They were actually filled with more relapses than I can count.
I think a better description might be “seven years of relapses.”
The first time I tried to quit, I lasted a few months. I poured a lot of energy into that early attempt at sobriety. I went to a therapist every week, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day, and even moved back in with my parents for extra support.
It worked. At least initially. I stopped drinking altogether, started to improve my life in other ways (like getting a new job and making friends), and I felt happier than I had in years.
My progress was truly astounding, but before long, I became complacent. Quitting drinking had quickly turned my life around. Ironically, I took this as evidence that I never really had a drinking problem to begin with. After a few months sober, I decided that I’d had enough, and I returned to alcohol—naively promising myself that this time around I’d drink in moderation.
I didn’t drink in moderation.
Throughout my twenties, I got drunk nearly every single day. Throughout my twenties, I also spent nearly every single day thinking about quitting.
Most days I didn’t actually try to quit. Thinking about quitting was hard enough. However, very often, I did make an attempt, albeit typically halfhearted.
My attempts to quit led to very minimal success—even less than I had experienced my first time around. Sometimes, I’d stop drinking for a few days. Occasionally, I’d even make it a few weeks. No matter what, the end result was always the same: relapse.
In fact, some of my attempts were so brief that I’m not even sure if “relapse” is the right word. I often woke up determined to quit drinking but didn’t even make it through the day.
I went through so many swings back and forth in those years that I left myself completely exhausted. It was emotionally draining to try and fail so many times in a row. I’d go from confident about sobriety one day to totally demoralized the next. I spent years stuck in that pattern, and it left me feeling worthless, pathetic, and hopeless.
How I Found My Way Out
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