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Why Recovery is so Hard to “Get”, From Ruin to Recovery to Relapse and Back Again

May 2021

Up until my 22nd birthday, my longest sober stint in four years was one week. I don’t remember much of that week as it was in my lost year (1991). I don’t remember much of anything from that year other than I was told my liver was shutting down and I had about eight more years on the right side of the grass at my current pace. I was bad enough that I tried to swear off drinking on my own, of course. I lasted one whole week. I knew AA was out there, but I didn’t want that to ruin my chances of going back to drinking once I righted myself.

A year later was what turned out to be my last drink and/or drug. I was down to seven years left on the right side of the grass. That stuck. I found AA and I finally hurt bad enough that I didn’t care about all of the BS negative clichés surrounding “the program”. I needed the pain to stop and, if possible, to lead a happy life. I’ve said it and written it a hundred times, if someone would have told me standing on my head in the corner would help me stay sober, I’d have tried it.

I’d hit “f*ck it”. That’s “f*ck it”, I don’t care what anyone else says, this life I’m leading isn’t going to end well if something doesn’t change drastically, and right now so I’ll do whatever it takes to change it.

Everyone knows millions have recovered using AA, a free program that doesn’t require anything other than showing up and working some steps. No doctors (though there’s nothing that says one shouldn’t include doctors, mental or medical, to the list of aides), no expensive plans… A Dollar to help cover the cost of coffee and rent – and that’s only if you have a buck to give. Well, those odds seemed a whole lot better than anything else out there, so that’s what I went with.

It’s worked, without fail, for 28, going on 29 years. Not only did it not fail, I did get that happy life out of the deal.

So what’s the trick to sticking with it?

There’s a list as long as my arm, of course. Make meetings, work the steps, be done and stay done, surround yourself with recovering people, work with others, give it away to keep it… but there’s something, one thing, that sticks out slightly above the rest. I have to work at it.

Folks, if I want to watch my life change for the worse before my eyes, all I have to do is stop working at a better recovery. For those newly clean and sober, if your recovery “sucks”, work a little harder at it. Early recovery is never easy, not when you’re dealing with all of the anguish related to the difficulties you created. The only way to get out of the muck is to plow straight through it. If we work at recovery, the suckiness doesn’t last long – and the harder we work at it, the faster the improvement (generally speaking).

That’s the trick. Work.


  1. unironedman says:

    Turn up. Do the work. Fall down. Get back in the saddle. Do the work again. Get better.

    Anyone jealous of your Strava stats should follow this advice too, by the way. 🙂

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