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The War in Recovery Part 4. Misperceptions

December 2014


It is a common misunderstanding that we recovering alcoholics are rigid when it comes to relapse, that if a person fails to maintain continuous sobriety, they are viewed as a failure by the rest of the group.

This gets a little tricky so try to keep up… On one hand you have drug programs that try to convince a recovering person that “relapse is a part of recovery”, which it most certainly is not. Relapse is simply a part of doing something incorrectly when it comes to staying clean or sober. On the other hand, the draw of “the escape” in getting drunk or high, especially early in recovery, is very hard to break. To use Star Wars as a simple example, it’s like breaking away from the Death Star’s tractor beam… The only chance you have to break the pull is to turn around before you’re caught. Once you decide you’re getting high, that you’re relapsing, you’re done as the turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

We recovering folk all know and understand this. We try to change things up, to help even the most chronic relapser find the right combination, until we get to one simple point: There is a wrench for every nut in recovery. I worked with a guy for years. He would come in for six months to a year and go back out, only to come back with his tail between his legs a few months later. I gave him everything I had, short of throwing the kitchen sink at him but he just kept relapsing. This last time he came back, after more than a year “in the madness”, he asked me to sponsor him again. Rather than attempt to take him under my wing, yet again, I told him that it might be time to find a wrench who fit him a little better. That was more than three years of consecutive sobriety ago for him.

Now, if I wanted to explain this away (and I don’t), couldn’t it be said that I failed him? It could, but that would be just as wrong as trying to take credit now that he’s successful! The truth is, it took what it took – he had to go through what he did to get to a point where he was willing to turn away from the tractor beam before he was caught. He did and now he is recovering. It’s that simple.

Now, his falling short cannot be blamed on me any more than you could blame the Pope that he couldn’t stay sober. Getting drunk or high is what drunks and addicts do. He didn’t fail on the previous tries, he was running himself out of ideas, out of options. Most finally sober up when staying sober is the only option, the only idea left. Only the individual can decide they’re at that point.


Another, less common, misperception is that recovery groups are some kind of cult. I’ve heard and read quite a bit from bitter, silly people who believe such nonsense. Unfortunately, if you actually look at the definitions of the word, well the case could be ignorantly, clumsily made. The truth is, we accept people from all walks of life and from all religions to a complete lack thereof. The truth is, cyclists are more of a cult than an a group of recovering dunks, though I should be careful there… Most cyclists I know would agree with that, wholeheartedly shouting their devotion from the rooftops! When you look at someone like me, you’ll see what you want. We do, after all, speak strangely when contrasted with others nowadays… We speak of rigorous honesty, integrity, fidelity and decency. We speak, in lieu of me, myself and I, of “we”. Rather than charging people out the nose for our services, we provide them free of charge with a pat on the back or a hug, for no better reason than someone did the same for us. We don’t seek praise or adulation for our newfound desire to be good. We’re simply happy that we get a chance to make amends for our past and live a happy life.

How that’s bad is beyond me.

Belief in God is a requirement for recovery

More than 85%-90% of the population of this planet believes in some form of Higher Power or God (last I heard). With that said, there is an entire chapter on atheists and agnostics. The important part of this most difficult is the following which never appears in the book… Not in such a simple form at least. Recovery is meant to be worn as a loose fitting track suit, not a straight jacket. We have been chained to alcohol and drugs for too long to simply change chains. While there may be a lot of misunderstanding out there about what actually goes on and there may be a Bible thumper from time to time, sweating God should be the least of your worries. Remember, we do our level best to be accommodating to all who wish to sober up.

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