Slips are not slips. This was one of the first things pointed out to me in early recovery. The term "slip" is a way of minimizing a life-threatening, serenity, family, and employment shattering relapse. What such relapses do to one's sanity, self-worth, integrity, and values was best summed up for me by someone returning to the program who said: "If someone else did to me what I have done to myself, I would've killed the sonofabitch."
My sponsor used to refer to "slips" as "planned campaigns." He would smile at me and say, "It's like for a week I poured motor oil all over my front steps, then stepped out one morning and "slipped."
Oops! That was certainly unexpected. How did that ever happen? These are all other ways of telling ourselves and others, it really wasn't all my fault; not really. And just a little slip wasn't that bad (I'm still alive, right?), and here I am at a meeting so I'm all better now and can't we talk about something else?
It has been said before: Cheating at poker is merely dishonest; Cheating at solitaire is insane. When addiction is in control, the lies recovering addicts both tell to and believe themselves only have one purpose: To prepare the addict to pick up again. And addiction's purpose in having you pick up again is not so you can have a little break from recovery or a moment of fun. Its purpose in having you pick up again is, in the end, to kill you. And, if you have been around long enough to have a relapse, you also know that every relapse hurts more than just the addict. It hurts people who care about you, who love you, who depend upon you, who trust you: they all get wounded.
Yeah, so I was at a meeting and heard another addict trying to come back to the program after a series of relapses. It was the first time I had ever seen her at a meeting, but before she shared I already cared what would happen to her. I was scared for her, and I told her so. It made me think of a scene from my mystery novel, Rope Paper Scissors.
In the story, a school teacher and a couple of students managed to trick and blackmail a number of druggie students into attending their first NA meeting. The student, Edgardo Rodriguez, comes from a using family and has a heroin-addicted older brother not far from death. Edgardo is talking to Uncle Tom, one of the NA old timers, outside before the start of the meeting.
~ ~ ~
He (Uncle Tom) looked at Rodriguez. "No one ever got to that door, Eddie, because life was great and everything kept coming up sunshine and lollipops. However and whyever they started using, right now they got big holes in 'em they think they have to try and fill with drugs; Never good when what's causing the problem is the only answer you got."
"You mean it's pretty much hopeless?" asked Edgardo.
"Hell, no," said Tom, holding out his huge hands "Hope is our big draw. See, somewhere deep inside each one of 'em, they know they caught by somethin' big and mean. Nobody like being a slave. What to do about it is still a question to them. Maybe they pick up an answer or two tonight. Maybe they pick up a drug, OD, and fucking die before sunrise. That's all up to them." He looked at me and back at Rodriguez. "See, it's not your problem; it's their problem. Time for them to deal with their problem; Time for you to let go."
"And if they just fucking die?" asked Rodriguez, his tone somewhere between anger and desperation.
The big man paused, looked into a shadow or two, then shifted his gaze to Edgardo. "Then it's time to cry, and then let go." Uncle Tom dropped the remains of his cigarette into a butt can next to the door. He turned back and faced us. "You get into recovery, you live longer." He put his hand on the doorknob and looked back at Rodriguez. "You get to go to a lot of funerals, too." He waved good-bye and followed the others through that door, closing it behind him
~ ~ ~
Recovery isn't a life style choice, something you do to please someone else, nor something to do in order to keep out of jail or pass a drug test for employment. It has certainly been used for all of that, but those things are side effects. Recovery is the first step in moving from being a using obsessed drug addict to a genuine human being. Its principle symptom is that state of ever increasing choices called freedom.
Imagine a newly freed slave picking up the chains he had worn for years and through all of his beatings, losses, and crushed hopes and then trying them back on because, well, slavery wasn't really all that bad. That is what a relapse is.