Getting sober is a cause for celebration—and in a perfect world, you would be celebrating a permanent change in your life. For some people, that’s just what happens. They regain their sobriety and then stay sober for the rest of their lives. But that certainly is not the case for everyone. After all, a substance use disorder is a brain disease that can be managed but not cured. What does that mean? That means many individuals who do the hard work of getting sober are nevertheless going to experience a relapse.
That can be disheartening, of course. In fact, it can be tempting to give up. After all, you have been through treatment, you gave recovery your best shot, and it didn’t work out. You might conclude sobriety just isn’t an option for you.
But you know what they say: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
And if that old saying isn’t enough to convince you that a relapse is a setback, not a defeat, we have collected some additional wise words to encourage you.
Delay, Not Defeat
The motivational writer William A. Ward put it like this:
Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. It is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.
When you experience a relapse, it can feel cataclysmic. To use Ward’s imagery, it can feel like you have reached a dead end and been thoroughly defeated. You might feel as though you are, in fact, headed to the undertaker sooner rather than later.
But Ward reminds us that a failure is not the same as a finish. We can learn from failure—and our quest for success is only delayed. A relapse is a detour, but you can get back on the recovery road.
The Real Test
Former President Barack Obama had this to say about the ways in which life can test us:
The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.
Obama hits on an important truth: Shame can be a powerful emotion—and it can, in fact, cause us not to take the action we need to take to keep moving forward. Like Ward, however, Obama suggests that we can learn from a failure and use what we have learned to make a new start and persevere. To do so, we have to set shame aside in favor of hope.
I’ve Failed…That Is Why I Succeed
When you think about basketball superstar Michael Jordan, many words may come to mind. The odds are pretty good, however, that the word “failure” isn’t in the top 10—or even the top 100—words you would list to describe him. (Heck, even his professional baseball career wasn’t as bad as you might think it was!)
But he thinks about his incredible success through a different lens than most of us would:
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.
We admit that relapsing is quite different from missing a shot in a basketball game—even if that miss cost your team a victory. But Jordan’s point still stands. Failure is often a step toward success, and sometimes a relapse is a step toward long-lasting sobriety.
Getting Sober is the Very Definition of Success
When you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, it can seem as though things will never get better. In fact, it may seem as though things will only get steadily worse. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
At French Creek Recovery Center, we are committed to providing personalized, compassionate care grounded in evidence and expertise. Treatment at our Meadville, PA, center includes medically supervised detoxification, a robust rehabilitation program that includes both individual and group therapy (including treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders), and the ongoing support of a continuum of care.
And if you should experience a relapse, we will be here to help you restart your sobriety journey. You will have our full support as we work together to give you additional tools and strategies that address your specific needs and challenges. We are here to help you succeed as you work to reclaim your life.