To My Brothers And Sisters Who Have Relapsed


To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

  • You are loved, you are safe, you are protected, you are a child of the Creator, you are where you need to be…you are full of light, even in the midst of darkness.
  • You are important, you are valued, you are human, you are unique, you are one of us, you are valuable, you are irreplaceable, you are wanted, you are needed…you are fearless, even in the midst of hundreds of fears.
  • You are a part of my recovery, I am a part of your recovery, you are a part of everyone else’s recovery, you are a part of whole, you are a piece of the puzzle, you have currency…you are not alone, even in the midst of isolation.

To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Relapse is not a part of recovery – but it is a part of the illness.  Relapse may be part of your story.  Relapse may show it’s face more than once.  Relapse doesn’t define you or your sobriety.  Relapse isn’t a moral failing.  Relapse isn’t a punishment.  Relapse is not your sandwich board to the masses.  Relapse isn’t a marker of shame.  Relapse need not be where you reside.  Relapse isn’t an accident.  Relapse isn’t sudden.  Relapse doesn’t tell your tale.

Relapse doesn’t mean that the day is done.


To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Welcome back.  Be grateful.  Know that you are blessed.  Many go back out and we bury them.  Some have family come out, many don’t.  Passings marked by empty rooms bereft of well wishers and loved ones.  Lonely souls crossing over without final anythings – goodbyes, kisses, hugs.  Left alone, cats picking at dull flesh, empty bottles strewn like butchered soldiers.  But you are here now.  You weren’t meant to be there. Stumbled and fumbled through passage of darkness, alight to the brightness that beckons one to higher ground.  A seemingly small step reveals itself to be a stronghold onto a life that was meant to be lived. With purpose.  With power.  With conviction. With love.  With compassion.  With service. With hope.  With laughter.  With tears.  With faith.  With hands holding other hands and eyes lit up to the horizon.  Beckoning for more.  More life.

To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

You were never alone.  You were just in exile.  Cut off from the arms who wished to grab you and hold you and whisper gently into your ear that it doesn’t have to be this way.  It never has to be that way.  Life doesn’t have to be something ground down and out like a cigarette butt, into the ashes of pain, hurt and loneliness.  The isolation of the relapsed or pre-relapsed mind and spirit is a harsh world.  The winds cut across and slice pieces of us away, bit by bit – self-esteem, confidence, joy, self-love.  Our radiance flickers at the waves of self-loathing. Our shine dulls by the incessant heat of negativity.  Our vision is cut off the greyness that seeks us out.  But you were never alone.  It felt like it, but we all have been there.  We’ve all felt what you’ve felt and feel now.

We’ve also crossed over. Come join us.

To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Don’t let shame colour your world, to stamp it with failure, to paint it with despairing hues, to frame it as a life lost. Shame, guilt and remorse are wasted emotions, actions, thoughts. Shame, guilt and remorse are weapons of choice of our alcoholism, dispatched with apocalyptic fury.  Shame, guilt and remorse separate us from the Creator and breeds contempt of self that brings us further into our pain.  Break through.  Be free.  Reach out.  Talk to others.  Email many.   Be reachable even when every fibre of you doesn’t want to be singed by humanity.  Be reachable when every molecule in you wants to retreat into the very darkness of that which binds you.  Rise above this.  Reach on to the hands of those who await you.  I await you.  Reach out.

I’ve got you.


To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Relapse is more than a slip, an “oops”, an “oh shucks, did it again”.  It’s more than just a teaching moment.  It’s a wake up call.  A call to arms.  A time to realize that it can be a deadly time.  A wasted time.  Many go into that place and never return.  It’s a sinister beast dressed in lamb’s clothing.  A drink here, and drink there, and the tiger wakes up.  The thirst-that-is-never-quenched comes out bearing teeth.  The familiar tailspin and folly and pain and damage comes back with hurricane force.  The body isn’t ready for what the mind has been primed for.  But the beast can be put down again, made tame by a manner of recovery which puts us in a place where there is distance – distance between the want and the bottle.  Live in the solution, not the problem.  Fight to be where you are needed.  Here.

To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Come with a new plan, a new attitude, a new action set, a new blueprint, a new way of being.  Lean on others who have been there and have what you want. Lean on others who have trudged that path, and still do today.  Lean on others who are waiting for you, giving you a warm smile, a gentle nudge, a hug, words of encouragement.  Lean on those who are happy to give away what they have.  Lean on those who light the path ahead.  And then help those who struggle behind you.  Pass it on.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  Go deeper.  Look at yourself with utter and loving honesty.  Find those things which make you feel prickly about yourself.  Heal.


To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

Alcoholism doesn’t go down without a fight.  Alcoholism doesn’t go away.  Alcoholism is relentless.  Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful.  And patient.  Alcoholism doesn’t discern between age, sex, money, status or education.  Alcoholism is an equal opportunity killer.  Know this.  Understand this.  Relapse isn’t something to be taken lightly.  And yet, it’s not to be picked over and gazed at and autopsied.  We move on.  We look upward. We push back and head towards the light.

To my brothers and sisters who have relapsed:

There is hope.  There is always hope.  If you are here, there is hope.  There is hope when we get together and talk about this.  There is hope when we clutch onto those who know what it’s like.  There is hope when we help someone else down the line.   There is hope when we return to the rooms.  There is hope when we reach out here.  There is hope when we go a day without alcohol.  There is hope when we love you until you love yourself.  There is hope when you decide to come out swinging.  There is hope when you know you don’t want to die.  There is hope when you perform that act of self-love and decide to pick yourself up again.  There is hope.

There is always hope.

Welcome back.  You are loved, my brothers and sisters.


63 Comments Add yours

  1. This was beautifully written! Thank you 🙂

    1. Thank you Amber…I look forward to reading your work. And thank you for being here and reading.


  2. HighOnHugs says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for your kind an inspirational words as always. Yes, there is hope. There is always hope.
    Relapse is a part of my story. I had 1 & 1/2 glasses of wine on my 90th day after a meeting. I went to a meeting the next morning. I was lucky that just 1 & 1/2 glasses proved to me that I make poor choices the moment my brain is altered. Some may say this wasn’t a big deal or that this barely counts as a relapse. Boy are they wrong.
    You see even though I went to a meeting the next day, my disease was in full swing for the next 9 months or so. How you ask? I was in denial. I didn’t tell a soul and continued to falsely claim sobriety chips as if I’d never drank. I went as far to get a 1 year chip & celebrate my sobriety birthday surrounded by friends, family & my sponsor. Lies, secrets, and knowing me and my higher power knew the truth were eating away at me. I continued working steps to boot. My sponsor had even asked me during my 5th Step if I had any secrets or had anything I was holding back from her. More lies. DENIAL=don’t even (k)no(w) I am lying!
    But I did know. My fears were winning out & I was missing out because of it. I was missing out on trust, unconditional love, forgiveness, serenity and then some.
    The saying, ‘your secrets keep you sick’ was playing out in a major way. My secret was eating me up. I finally got honest right around my true year sober. I was working another 4th step. I got honest with my sponsor, then my family. The hardest part was yet to come…The birthday meeting. The last Friday of every month in our group. Everyone who has celebrated a year or more picks up their chip & shares with the whole group. It was my turn. I stood in front of everyone with my fears, my lies, my secrets.
    I got honest about my relapse, lying to myself, God, and my peers, and walked through my fears. I was literally shaking with nervousness in my voice & body, but I did it.
    What happened after baffled me. THEY SWOOPED ME IN THEIR ARMS WITH LOVE?

    What? No one is kicking me out of AA? Out Of the group?

    What? Some of you did the same thing?

    What? I did not pull a Clairey?
    I’m not alone?

    What? Y’all still love me no matter what?!?!?!

    Well I’ll be damned! I was in the right place!

    I had gained freedom! Freedom from myself, from my disease, and from fear.

    Thank God for AA and it’s members.
    Thank God for the 12steps.
    Thank God for those who love me for me.

    Thank God I know now that I am right where I’m supposed to be. I was when I relapsed. I was through the lies & secrets. I was in that moment at the birthday meeting. I am always right where I’m supposed to be even when it’s uncomfortable, fearful, shameful, whatever.

    For without this all, I would not be where I am right now…RIGHT WHERE I’M SUPPOSED TO BE!

    Thank you Paul. You reminded me that my only shame in relapse was not telling the truth. I am so grateful for people like you loved me until I loved myself. God Willing this coming February, I will have 6 continuous years sober (and clean)!!
    Miracles Happen!

    Love & Hugs,
    Clairey Grubbs

    1. warmginger says:

      HoH, what a great reply.:)

      1. No kidding! Better than the post…loved it! 🙂

    2. What a wonderful, candid and powerful message here in your comments, Clairey. What a story. I hope everyone reads this, and understands that we truly are as sick as our secrets. And I have heard stories like this, Clairey. It’s not as uncommon as we think it is. But you saw the value in honesty…and it was eating you up from the inside out holding onto those lies. And that’s what happens to us, doesn’t it? Shame, guilt and remorse erode our self-esteem and our spirit. I think those three are the heavy artillery for the illness. Ego and Pride the generals.

      I am so very happy you are here with us and sharing your story and your thoughts not only here and on other people’s blogs, but definitely on yours. What a blessing!

      Hugs (of course) and thank you so much for your words.


      1. HighOnHugs says:

        Gosh Paul, THANKS!! I seem to always get inspired to write after reading something you have written!! Today our icicles inspired me. LOL, seriously! I’d love for you to read it, stop by ;0)

  3. lucy2610 says:

    Speechless and in awe of Paul. And working on no more relapses xx

    1. Thank you Lucy. You are where you need to be:)

      So wonderful to have you here.

      Love and light,

  4. mishedup says:

    this is beautiful paul, and so needed.
    especially the part about maybe not getting back….I see a lot of people cycling in and out, in and out. I have heard the stories of the funerals, seen the grief on the faces of friends with longer term sobriety than I have, grief with thaw added look of fear, fear of where this disease can take any of us in an instant.
    I assume we all think about it because i still think about it. When the thoughts come up for me i get to work to figure out why, and how to stop it because once i take that first drink i have No idea what will happen.
    and i have no desire to find out.
    after the holidays there are a lot of new people and a lot of people who have relapsed…thank god there are also so many of us who keep coming back with message of hope and love and acceptance, like yours, here.

    1. Thank you for this, M. You are right about this time of year with newcomers. Like gyms. Except that not going to the gym won’t necessarily kill you. I like what you said about working out why the thoughts come, because no matter how much time we have, they come. Maybe with little force behind them, maybe in distant whispers, maybe in an unexpected moment, but they come. And like you, I need to just react accordingly. No need to test those deathly waters again. Been there done that, and I am DONE.

      Thank YOU for your hope and love and acceptance. I learn from you 🙂


  5. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says:

    Very touching with a tear in my eye paul. Worthy of a Re-blog to share this *Beautiful Message* with all my recovery friends on my blog. It’s a good reminder for us to never take Recovery for granted as we all are just “One Drink, One Needle, and One Bet away from Relapse. We can never be “Complacent” in recovery. Thanks a wonderful reminder.
    *Catherine* 🙂 Xo

    1. We can never, ever be complacent…you are absolutely right there, my friend.


      1. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says:

        🙂 🙂 *One LUV = Unity* my Good Friend!
        Blessings back, *Cat*

  6. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says:

    Reblogged this on Recovery Ramblings Blog ~ Author Catherine Lyon and commented:
    I couldn’t have shared something more moving then my good friend “PAUL” has. As I told Paul that this is a good reminder that we can never become “Complacent or take our Recovery” for granted. And to let others who have Relapsed that they are NO LONGER ALONE…..*Catherine*

    1. You’re very generous, Catherine, with your wonderful space there. Thank you as usual for enlightening me and so many others about gambling and the consequences of that illness too. Relapse is relapse, regardless of the drug or behaviour.

      Much love,

  7. How incredible and knowing of a spirit you have to remind us all that alcoholism never disappears. It lives within each and every alcoholic; no matter how long they have chosen to walk a sober path. It dwells within the deepest and most darkest parts of our souls and no matter how much we try to suppress it, sometimes, we just aren’t strong enough to say NO.

    But with every mistake we make, there is hope. Hope for a new start and better day. Hope to still work on the person within and the spiritual connection we need to hold on to in order to stay on the sober path. And you want to keep this connection as strong as steady as possible. Because one thing is for sure; you will die alcohol wins in the end.

    I love when you wrote, “Alcoholism doesn’t go down without a fight. Alcoholism doesn’t go away. Alcoholism is relentless. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. And patient.” This pretty much sums up the on-going battle within all of us. You are absolutely right; alcoholism does not go away. No matter how hard we try to bury it, we must remember that you can’t make it disappear. We are not magicians or super heroes. We are, however, extraordinary people who are capable of not giving up without a good fight.

    With relapse there is always hope; with hope, there are second chances and forgiveness. We must also remember to not beat ourselves up because then the struggle just continues. I wish all of the people who are reading this blog and struggling out there the best in their journeys; especially you my blessed and beautiful friend.

    1. We may not be super heroes or magicians, but when we come together like this or in other manners, I certainly feel like you guys are. I love what you wrote about not beating ourselves up. That is the first inclination for an alcoholic who has relapsed. Bad me. Bad me. I knew I was a failure, etc. I thought that of myself so much of my life, and drinking was something that I thought would help, but it was just a viscous cycle. Relapse can be a viscous cycle as well.

      Thank you for the insightful words…you have a calming spirit that helps slugs like me 🙂


  8. Mrs D says:

    Yeah.. I would never ever give anyone a hard time for relapsing. To have got to a place of brutal honesty and faced up to an addiction… then dug deep and worked really hard to be without the drug of choice for a while is totally farking awesome.. to then be enticed back to it for a while doesn’t make all of that hard work and awesomeness go away. It just proves the power of the drug and the addiction.. not anything negative about the person. And it shows they have the ability to fight.. so Fight On I say!! xxx

    1. Lilly says:

      Thanks for this comment Mrs D. Makes me feel so much better to read right now.

      And THANK YOU PAUL for this awesome post. Also what I need to read right now.

      Lilly x

      1. I know Lilly – Mrs. D says it very well, doesn’t she? This is why I love the comments here – they add so much and teach me something as well.

        Love that you’re here, Lilly. Nice to see you around these days too…you’re a blessing in my recovery life.


        1. Lilly says:

          Thanks lovely Paul 🙂 I am here and picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting over.. though thankfully not right back at square one. I have learned so much these last 7 months and from my time around here that it feels very different than it did last May – thankfully. xx

    2. I love what you say here, Mrs. D. There is no shame, and nothing is lost. The experience of our sobriety time only adds to our new experience of the relapse. you are right – it’s the power of addiction that shows us just how relentless it is. It’s not a moral failing or weakness. That is the worst thing for me to think about someone who has relapsed. We are there to help, not judge. I sometimes get sad, and that might come out as silence or avoidance. But I love every alcoholic out there – sober or active. We are one and the same.

      Fight on!


  9. Beautiful post Paul! Relapse is a huge part of my story! 4 years of in and out. Crazy. But I was so stubborn and I didn’t believe that it was this powerful! Cunning and baffling for sure! But there is hope and I found that other alcoholics in my support network were always there with open arms, welcoming me back! I didn’t understand why, till later on when I realized that only an alcoholic understands how powerful this disease is. For me the support was crucial. And I do hope that all that have relapsed know that it is not the end it all! Many of us had relapsed – it can be so hard to believe that alcohol has wrapped itself around us so tightly. It’s hard to believe that we cannot control it or drink like normal people. We understand, we have been there. But don’t give up! Sobriety is attainable! Just keep trudging forward! We are all here to help and support each other!

    1. Thanks Magz!

      You have some strong, uplifting and powerful words here. I can’t add much to what you’ve said, but as you said, we are always there with open arms because we know what it’s like. We know. And that is how our fellowship is built and built upon. Sharing of ourselves and our struggles. Relapse is in many people’s stories. Not all, but certainly the majority, if I can surmise from the stories I have heard here and in the rooms.

      Thank you for being a part of my recovery story 🙂


  10. Debbie says:

    Words I needed to hear. Mil gracias

    1. Thank you Debbie for being here.


    1. Thank you Sherry. I am glad that is resonated with you.

      congrats again on those four years!!


  11. iamsobernow says:

    Beautiful post, Paul. I’ve started over so many times and never made it very long. I’ll add my voice to those who say don’t give up. There is hope. We understand, we’re here for you and you’re worth it.

    1. Don’t give up indeed. And you know, it’s those who have gone out and back and out and back again who really have a deeper understanding of that merry-go-round. And that is where people draw some inspiration from. So thank you for this. We’re all worth it.


  12. Thank you so much for this beautiful post! Everyone needs to hear this!

    1. Thank you so much, annarose. I look forward in reading your work in your corner of the world! Glad our paths have crossed 🙂


  13. fern says:

    What a heartfelt message written on your blog today. I never have printed out anyone’s blog post before but today I did. Amazingly, I did it even before reading the post. My day was busy with sports and family stuff so I figured if I stuck your post in my purse I would get an opportunity at some point to read it. That time came at the end of the day, as I sat in my mini van waiting for Chinese take out.

    Paul, your words were so genuine and from the heart I wished I could curl up like a baby and hear them. They washed over me and settled my spirit and gave me hope.

    You are a sensitive soul who is helping me trust that my life can get better without alcohol. Thank you for giving so openly.


    1. I am very touched Fern…don’t know what to say (not usually a problem for a motor mouth like me). I am a printer upper…subway reading. But I was picturing you in the van waiting for Chinese take out…ha ha. Thank you and so glad that this resonated with you. I wasn’t even sure about this one…I held off and wrote it rather quickly. But hey, it’s funny how the ones that we are a bit fearful of are the ones that connect more often? (hint, hint? ha ha)

      so glad to hear from you here, Fern. It’s always exciting to read you here too.

      Blessings and hugs,

  14. fern says:

    Reblogged this on emotionaldrinking and commented:
    The most soothing words I’ve read on my sober journey. A must read (even if you haven’t relapsed). –Fern

    1. Thanks Fern for your generosity in sharing your space 🙂


  15. warmginger says:

    Paul, I nearly didn’t read this…nothing to do with me, I thought. So glad I did – it’s like a beautiful prose poem. 😀

    1. Thanks, my fair lady!

      I am terrible at poetry, so this is about as close as I get to it.

      Thanks for the encouraging words and glad you found it 🙂

      Love and light,

  16. D.Zucho says:

    This was such a beautiful post. I had relapsed a few times and each time I lost hope for being able to keep going and not give up. Knowing this is out for people to read will give many who are going through the same thing that exact hope and support they need.
    Very glad to have come in contact with you! Hope all is well!

    1. Thank you Danny and welcome.

      It’s words like yours which have more impact as you have been there…that holds more depth and weight. So it is I who thank you. I look forward to reading more of your blog. I enjoy what I have seen so far 🙂

      Glad that we’ve crossed paths too, kind sir 🙂


  17. It will be redundant, but I have to say it anyway: beautiful post, Paul. As someone who had a solid 8 months of relapse time before I got sober, I wish I had had this to read!

    Well done, Paul!

    1. Thanks Josie. Seeing that smiling face of yours here always makes my day. I was at a meeting the other night and heard a man say he had nine years sober and then went out for nine. My Lord, I don’t know how some make it back, but they do. I am so very glad you did too. It’s just too much sometimes to hear about those who don’t. ugh.


  18. Amina C says:

    This was beautiful. I had a year and a half long relapse. I also know some people who would find great comfort in this. Thank you!

    1. thank you Amina. I have to say, I am enjoying your little corner of the world there…such a lovely family 🙂 Anyway, glad that you found something in this. It makes it worthwhile.


  19. jamilynaz says:

    This is just beautiful, Paul. I relapsed time and time again before this, my last 13 months of sobriety. I wish that I had heard this all those times. You are such a comfort and inspiration to so many. Thank you.

    1. That is very kind, Jami. I just read your post today and found it very inspiring as well. I love that we can come together and share of ourselves and get something out of it all the time. Thank you for being you, Jami.

      Blessings and hugs,

  20. lifecorked says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Paul! I truly believe if it hadn’t been for my relapse I wouldn’t be here. It’s when I finally surrendered and said “Enough!” I was scared as hell to walk back in the rooms, but everyone embraced me with love and acceptance. I had a new plan and I was ready to do the work. Love this!

    1. I heard Don P. speaking on tape today and I had to tweet it, and will share it here: Surrender sounds like this – “I can’t do this anymore”. the only time I change is when I object to who I have become.

      Love it…your comment reminded me of that. It works if you work it, as they say. And you have not only worked it, but rocked it, Chenoa 🙂

      So happy to see you here…and at your blog posting. I know you’re a busy one, but it sure is nice to see ya around 🙂


  21. AuntieLex says:

    This is beautiful… I felt a warm hug holding me as I read.. You are something special..

    1. As you said on your last post on your blog, none of us is perfect, none of our journeys are perfect…and we certainly aren’t perfect…but that’s the perfect part of it. That imperfection about us. And that is why I clutch and hold onto you and everyone else. I get better, I get more out of life with you and everyone else in my recovery life.

      Thank you…you are special too 🙂


  22. Debbie says:

    Reblogged this on Dangling on the edge and commented:
    I also had to share this great piece from Paul. Even if you haven’t relapsed, it touches your soul.

    1. Thank you Debbie for your generosity on sharing this on Dangling..,made my day 🙂


  23. big mike says:

    Good post.

    Any alcoholic can stop drinking. Anybody.
    Staying stopped is the trick.

    Relapsing goes with the territory. There is nothing unique about it. Its more like welcome to the club. Relapsing defines the alcoholic. Do normal drinkers relapse?

    The only reason I am sober today is because of the grace of a higher power that I don’t have any understanding of, and the hard work of surrender. That’s right, the hard work of surrender. Believe me, If I could walk away from the AA program and remain happy, joyous and free, I would. But I cannot stay sober on my own. I’ve tried and it wont work. Relapse always follows when I try to do this thing on my own. If it was easy to get sober, everybody would do it. As it is, more people die from this disease than recover from it.

    When alcoholics relapse, its always for the same reasons.

    Its our own overblown ego and self destructive pride that fights surrender and ends up killing us through alcoholism.

    Take it easy Paul.

    1. Love your words, Mike. Bang on as usual. I think that we do see some people who figure they’ve got it now, that they no longer need the program (or whatever it is that has worked for them) and then disconnect. And in most cases, there is a relapse. Our ego takes credit for our sobriety and decides to march on. Well, guess what – no one told my HP that. I forget to include Him in my plans. And we all know what happens when we make *plans* don’t we? Oh dear.

      I love what you said about normal drinkers relapsing. Of course not. You’re right. I don’t relapse over playing a scratchy lotto ticket. But if I were in Gambler’s Anonymous or something like that, then yeah…back to the drawing board. I tried stopping many times in the old days. Six months was the longest I got methinks. But ego got in the way and thought I was ok. Certainly it wasn’t the case.

      Thanks again for the wisdom. Muchly appreciated, kind sir.


  24. Karen says:

    Paul, you really nailed this one. In my experience, those of us with addiction issues get stuck in all/nothing thinking which makes the issue of relapse so defeating. Why try again if I’m bound to fail? This is so loving and compassionate and a post I will share with those I know who need this message. It’s also a reminder to me that there is always hope. Always.

    1. Thank you Karen for the kind words and encouragement. I think you are bang on with the all-or-nothing thing that we do (I still do it sobriety). The self-sabotage is the great crippler for many of us. Sad, but it’s amazing how much our mind really lords over us…good and bad.


  25. time684 says:

    Fantastic blog & good info on relapse. Its all part of recovery

    1. Thank you for the comments and for taking the time to read 🙂


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