A step forward and one backward is no step

When you adhere to the spiritual principles that enable recovery, you should do it with the conviction that you are doing it for yourself 

BY JACOB OKETCH

It is painful to see a friend slide back to alcoholism just after getting out of a rehab. We are human and there are all sorts of temptations that one needs to watch out for. With the vibrancy that is out there, there is no guarantee that one can keep to the straight and narrow. 

I have just called a friend who left the rehab a week ago and he is dead drunk. This is the second time I am reaching out to him after doing so yesterday when I found him in the same condition. I called his counselor and implored upon him to reach out to my friend and avert a further slide.

There is this guideline that a recovering alcoholic should avoid all sorts of triggers especially when they have just been discharged from the treatment centre. However, the big book sanctions free movement and interaction if one is spiritually strong and can withstand the pressure. You can attend alcohol serving parties, hang out with friends in a pub, and conduct business at a bar as long as you are strictly observing the spiritual principles that safeguard you from being tempted to take a drink. This is a rare quality in a recovering alcoholic and what is best to do is to totally avoid these places, people and events.

Furthermore, an alcoholic normally goes through a harrowing experience before they check into a rehab. The litany of personal losses that one contends with is assumed to be enough punishment and can make one to rethink their action. But this view misses the whole point of recovery. An alcoholic is allergic to the substance and therefore powerless over it. Any assumption that one can still control the use of alcohol after or during recovery must not be entertained. My friend has lost virtually everything in the course of his drinking and it would only be fair for him to start a new chapter of rebuilding his life.

By resuming his old habits so soon, it seems my friend did not internalize the recovery program. Real recovery starts while one is still at the treatment centre. There is the dictum that the program can only work if you work it. That is why it is extremely important to start actualizing what is being instructed in the program while still in there. And also the one- on-one sessions with the counselor are meant to address all the fears that a patient has. 

When you adhere to the spiritual principles that enable recovery, you should do it with the conviction that you are doing it for yourself. One of the challenges of checking out of a rehab is that there is no surveillance of any kind. You must continue the recovery program by being accountable to self because there is nobody to crosscheck whether you are staying clean or not. The notion that you are recovering for anybody should be forever expunged from an alcoholic’s mind.

When an alcoholic slips, it crushes the hopes of those who would want him to recover. At the treatment centre, patients bond with one another. Consciously or otherwise, they strive to see each other through the program. Even when they have been discharged, they stay in touch with one another to monitor the progress of each other. In fact, this interaction is one big reason why people remain sober after leaving the rehab. That very concern for each other’s sobriety is a therapy in itself. Hence, the support system that one creates while in rehab should be cherished and protected by recovering alcoholics. Granted, the one who is susceptible to slipping and eventually relapsing may act defensive and keep aloof from his genuine fellow patients. But a concerned friend should not feel shy to contact their friend’s counselor or sponsor when they notice that their friend is slipping because he may deliberately frustrate the counselor or sponsor’s efforts to reach him.

Somebody may have gone through a hard time getting to finance his or her treatment. In the case of my friend, he was assisted by a group of friends with whom they were in high school. He had reached a point where not even his immediate family wanted anything to do with him. It is only when he posted his situation on Facebook that his former classmates fundraised for his treatment. I imagine how they will react to his situation now. I would urge them to understand and to recognize that their friend’s condition is a disease and that he is not acting out of lack of gratitude. They took a major step in heeding to his call and they need to be there for him now to steady the ship. It is not easy to act that way but it is the best thing to do at the moment.

You see, somebody who steps up to the plate to help a friend is hard to come by. These are people who see potential in somebody and are willing to spare nothing to ensure that one realizes their potential. These kinds of relationships are formed in schools and colleges. This kind of friendship is based on something much stronger than just having good times together. It is the same kind of friendship that arises out of spending time together in a rehab. If for instance, the fellows who financed my friend’s treatment chicken out in anger, they will just be fuelling his further slide into a full-blown relapse and their money shall have gone down the drain with nothing to show for it. I intend to reach out to these people to implore upon them to soldier on with their effort to ensure that my friend is fully recovered.

I am even thinking of seeking out my friend and convincing him to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. I wouldn’t mind meeting him even when he is drunk. These meetings do not shun someone because he is drunk. Instead, they welcome all alcoholics irrespective of their current disposition. My friend bought a brand new copy of the big book and I am sure he is still keen to read it and internalize what is in it. I intend to urge him to do so. I will not give up on my friend because I have become part of his support system and I will be failing in my duties by just standing by and seeing him go deep down back into drinking.   

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