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The Road to Relapse

Audio Version

I came across the following recently in my files. I wrote it when I was living in Bristol, shortly after a relapse in 1979. Fortunately, one day at a time, I haven't had another drink since then. I wanted to share it because it is just as relevant to me today as it was then.

There I was, crying like a baby, begging my wife not to leave me and take our two little daughters with her. I felt absolutely wretched and ghastly. Dim recollections of the night before fleetingly crossed my befogged mind. I vaguely remembered being in a road accident. The rest of the night had taken place in a blackout until the police arrived. I had been drunk, very drunk, and yet I had been in AA for some 21 months.

What had happened? What had gone wrong? It is necessary to go back to a point in time some 10 months before that fateful evening.

I had taken both a Fourth and Fifth Step. When I look back I realise that these were very incomplete exercises. They were incomplete because my Step Four was not very 'searching and fearless' and I withheld certain aspects of myself in Step Five.

Typically alcoholic in my thinking I literally jumped from Step Five to the middle part of Step Twelve. I decided to be fully committed. I went on Twelfth Step calls and participated in telephone duty. I became co--secretary of a group and went to other meetings in search of speakers.

Then I became obsessive about my anonymity. To avoid being recognised on the telephone I discontinued telephone duty and ceased to be a telephone contact. Still alcoholic in my thinking, I stopped my Twelfth Step work because my family were not seeing very much of me. Then I gave up being co-secretary of my group because I didn't want to rock the family boat by going to other meetings to find speakers. Finally I stopped going to meetings. I had become totally uncommitted. In seven months I had gone from one extreme to the other. How insane!

And then came the ultimate delusion of grandeur: I could go 'it alone'. I felt good. I didn't need to go to meetings. "Keep active". "Keep moving". Buddhist meditation.Yoga. Plenty of reading and exercise. Feeling good. Provoking a row with my wife. Straight to the bottle. Drinking myself into a blackout. Shouting terrible oaths at my wife and children. Driving my car into another car. "My God, it has happened again". Admitted we were powerless over alcohol!

I had gradually and totally dismantled all my defences against the subtle insanity that leads to the taking of the first drink. After my Step Five I had failed to move gradually through the rest of the Programme. I had over-committed myself and then went to the other extreme. It cost me my sobriety.

Fortunately all was not lost. I still wanted my sobriety. I had been taught a lesson. I started going to my present group's meetings. I became committed again, but this time in a much more balanced way, having regard to all areas of my life. The Programme is to be practised in all my affairs.

Things gradually got better again and I now have a peace of mind that never leaves me for long. I was lucky. It could have been so much worse. I also know that it could happen again if I stop working the Programme.

GEOFF H, Lancaster Living Sober