The Chronic Slipper: Advice to Those Who Think They Can’t Stay Sober

The Chronic Slipper: Advice to Those Who Think They Can’t Stay Sober

You’ve come to AA, you’ve gone through the 12 steps, or at least most of them, you’ve even enjoyed periods of sobriety-maybe even years. Yet you continue to return to the bottle despite your best efforts to stay clean. Why is this? Is there any hope? Is lifetime sobriety possible for all people or are some just not cut out for a life free of alcohol?

The beautiful reality is that the gift of lifetime sobriety is available to all who desire it. It will take work, rigorous honesty, and the shifting of your priorities and paradigms, but it is indeed possible. If you have been struggling with slips or a more prolonged relapse, it may be helpful to consider some of the following points as you plan your return to sober recovery.

Is sobriety your priority? Recovery asks a lot of us, but it also gives quite a lot back-perhaps you have already experienced some of the benefits. We are told that sobriety and the program we work must be the No. 1 priority in our lives. Without it, we can do nothing else well. Making the program your first priority means you value your relationships with God and family, your job, and the other aspects of your life enough to keep your disease in check. Without your program of recovery, nothing else can be your priority. Alcohol takes all.

How Hard Are You Willing to Work?

Sobriety doesn’t come naturally to anyone, despite appearances. It’s often said, “it works if you work it.” Are you working it, or are you simply showing up at meetings and trying to stay dry? Recovery requires action—specifically the actions detailed in the 12 steps. Have you thoroughly and honestly worked each of the steps? Are you willing to do the emotional heavy-lifting that is required for lifelong sobriety?

How honest are you willing to be? Is there something you are still hiding? Does your pride keep you from reaching out to others when you start to enter the danger zone? Recovery is not only a matter of honest examination of the past (though this is indispensable); it also requires a willingness to be honest about the state of your recovery in the present. Do you avoid having a sponsor or forming relationships of accountability with other members? Do you prefer to keep your matters private? This is your choice, but it is our secrets that keep us sick. Recovery happens in the light. Transparency is essential.

Are you open to input? We learn a lot about ourselves and our shortcomings when we ask for the opinions, guidance, and feedback of others in recovery. Are you teachable and willing to learn, change, and try new things? Can you accept that your way isn’t working and that there may be a better one out there?

Get back on the horse. If we’re going to recover, eventually we simply have to give it another try. If you have avoided attending meetings, finding a new sponsor, or renewing your commitment to recovery, it is time to do it. Recovery doesn’t happen by thinking about it. We can’t worry about the future or sit in fear of another relapse. Take what you have today and pour it into your sobriety.

Many who have slipped fear the judgment of other sober group members; this is largely a projection of your own self-judgment. Others are thinking about us far less than we imagine. Make the decision to do what you need to do for you. If you do feel genuine tensions or judgment in your group, find a new group.

Above all, release shame, guilt, and your sneaking fear that you are destined to keep walking the same sorry path. Every day is a new opportunity at recovery and a new chance to live in the blessings of sobriety. Make that one decision today. And then get to work.

“About this slip business—I would not be too discouraged. I think you are suffering a great deal from a needless guilt. For some reason or others, the Lord has laid out tougher paths for some of us, and I guess you are treading one of them. God is not asking us to be successful. He is only asking us to try to be. That, you are surely doing, and have been doing. So I would not stay away from AA through any feeling of discouragement or shame. It’s just the place you should be…It is not always the quantity of good things that you do, it is also the quality that counts…above all, take it one day at a time.” (Bill W., Letter, 1958)

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