Are you Struggling?
Yesterday, one of my Twitter friends sent a tweet saying that she would be deleting her account because she was drinking wine again. A few weeks ago, another friend on Twitter posted that he’d relapsed and he would be deleting his account because he’d promised himself that he wouldn’t keep half-assing sobriety. Perhaps you have seen these messages. Perhaps you’ve sent a similar message. Perhaps you feel an incredible desire to pickup a drink or a drug. Perhaps, you are struggling.
You are not alone.
We are all struggling right now. Humanity has not witnessed a pandemic like this one in over 100 years when the influenza pandemic of 1918 occurred. That’s three generations of humans who haven’t seen anything like what we’re going through at this moment the time. The human condition is difficult.
We are gifted with self-awareness and cognition. That self awareness and cognition mean that we ponder big questions. Questions like What is the meaning of life? and What is my place in this world? These questions are difficult to answer, and indeed the answer for each of us is unique.
We are also social creatures. Yuval Noah Harari argues in his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind that our defining characteristic is our ability to form collective groups around a common story — that what makes us human is indeed our social tendencies.
We are inundated with bad news in the 24 hour news cycle. Daily, we witness dysfunctional responses to a global pandemic by our elected officials — not all of them, but many of them. We see the news of mobile morgues and mass graves for bodies that are unclaimed. We grieve for life as it once was, not so long ago. And we are largely isolated. Cut off from our friends and family. Cut off from our coping mechanisms.
I believe, firmly, that alcoholics and addicts are no different from the rest of humanity. We have maladapted coping mechanisms, but every human being struggles with feelings and emotions. What we experience is part of the human condition.
Frankly, people who suffer from addictions are in a very precarious situation at this point in time. Many of our coping mechanisms have been taken away. Our addictions feed on isolation and we’ve been told to self-isolate. So, it is not surprising that some of us have relapsed. What’s probably more surprising is that others have not.
Shame and guilt are two deep emotions that every addict knows intimately. And the sense of shame that accompanies a relapse or a slip can be overwhelming. I am grateful that I have not had this sense of shame in a long time. But I know what it feels like. I felt it every time I went to the liquor store after I’d vowed not to drink again. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that I hated who I was after getting drunk when I’d told myself I wouldn’t do it again.
Shame and guilt are killers.
And that’s why those of us in recovery have a duty to tell our brothers and sisters who have slipped that we understand. That they are welcome back into the fold. That we don’t judge them.
If you’ve slipped, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I get it. And I’m here for you along with an army of other people in recovery who are ready, willing, and able to help. Reach out to us.
Fall down seven times, stand up eight.