The Story of my Relapse

It was two years ago this very day that I relapsed after coming home from rehab. It’s a story I have alluded to on here whenever I talk about my recovery, but I’ve never told the story in full. To anyone really.

I remember so vividly that it was this day for two reasons. Nobody would shut up about how it was Pi Day, and my husband had a very massive surfing accident that earned him extensive surgery and an overnight hospital stay.

The day started off like any other, really. It was a Saturday, the boys and I were having a lazy morning at home. Brien went off early to surf, as he often did.

As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the doorbell ring. At that time, we had a gate on our house and you had to unlock it with a key, or get buzzed in. Brien did not bring his keys with him when he surfed, so I was pretty sure it was him. I told Bowie to let daddy in. Instead of pushing the button upstairs, he decided to go downstairs and greet daddy.

As I was getting dressed, I heard Brien yelling my name. And saying, “Bowie, go back upstairs, it’s too scary.”

I went down there and Brien was covered in blood, and his nose was…not where it should be. “I think I broke my nose,” he said, cool as a cucumber. “I need to go to the emergency room.”

So, off we went. And the boys and I waited in the waiting room for a while after Brien got checked in, eating breakfast from the vending machines. I got texts from him every once in a while with an update, but he didn’t know much. Eventually he told me we might as well go home, it was probably going to be a while.

And then I didn’t hear from him for hours. When he did text he said he needed surgery, he’d text when he was able to again.

In my mind I’m like SURGERY. Dammit. Is my husband ok? How much will we have to pay for this? I was going into what I can now recognize as Panic Mode. A state that, once I am in it, I have a hard time regulating my thoughts and emotions, and I have a hard time coming back down to earth.

Hours and hours later, I still hadn’t heard anything. I took the boys to the park to get my mind off of things. And, I talked myself into having a drink. I figured that rehab had “fixed” me. That it was ok to have a little wine to take the edge off. I went directly to the grocery store and bought a bottle. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Afterward, I regretted it, of course. But I didn’t crave more, so I still thought I was ok. But, I did crave more in the days that followed. Every couple of days I’d have more. Until eventually, I was right back where I started.

My dad and younger sister came to San Francisco for a visit a few weeks later. I drank my way through their visit, using it to “calm my nerves” or whatever nonsense alcoholic thing I was telling myself. Meanwhile I made a fool of myself and ruined their whole visit. I regret it deeply.

My husband and my rehab counselor urged me heavily to return to the rehab house for a short stay, get my feet back on the ground, try some new strategies. I refused. I insisted that I was fine. Everything was fine. Just a slip up from the stress. I was ok.

Except I was not ok. One afternoon, I picked Bowie up from his OT appointment and as I pulled away from the curb and realized I had a flat tire. A totally flat tire, not the kind of flat tire I could have limped home with. So, I pulled over and called Brien to come help me.

I can change a flat tire. I know how and everything. It’s just that…I was in no shape to be changing a flat tire that afternoon. He knew it, I knew it. Bowie’s OT knew it, everyone at Ferris’ preschool knew it, it was one of the lowest and most humiliating moments of my life.

I went back to rehab for 10 days. I was terrified. If rehab couldn’t work on me, then what hope was there? Would I ever be able to get over this? Would anyone ever want to speak to me again? After a few days of drying out, I was able to see very clearly how and why I wanted to stay sober.

Seeing life as it could be, with me feeling happy and strong, and then returning to that dark and awful place, showed me that it was the happiness I wanted. Everything they were teaching me at rehab suddenly made sense. And I finally, finally took the advice of three doctors, two rehab counselors and dozens of friends and accepted medication for my depression and anxiety.

When I returned home, things were very tense between me and Brien for a while. I didn’t know how to interact with my kids. I didn’t know who knew my secrets, who was mad and judging me and who still wanted to be my friend.

But, I got a part time job, and I went to AA regularly, and I soldiered on. Turns out the majority of people didn’t know, and the ones who did know didn’t judge me. The ones who did judge, they were few, and I knew my life would go on without them. I had help, I had support. I made it to a year without a hitch. That day, as many of you know, is April 22.

I would not recommend a relapse to anyone in recovery. The fall is so much harder than the first time around, and the pit is so much harder to climb out of. It is a very, very dark place. You will regret it.

But what I will say is that for me, personally, it was one of the best things that could ever have happened to me. I finally fully hit rock bottom. Before that, I had been hovering just above. I had my eyes opened to the damage my addiction was really making. I was aware of the control that alcohol had over me, and I was determined to regain that control. I finally admitted that maybe my mood disorders were too much for me to handle on my own. And by taking medication and seeking therapy, I was among so many other people doing the same thing.

I hate Pi Day, for what it represents for me and my family. It was a dark, scary day and I have a lot of bad memories of all of it. And worst of all, I caved to my addiction, which I still feel pretty ashamed of, even though they all tell me not to be.

I learned a lot from the whole situation. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t discount the benefits it created, ironically. They say that relapse is the rule, not the exception. Not to condone relapsing, but to remind those of us who have relapsed that we are still ok, we can still beat our addiction, we are still worthy of recovery and still worthy of love.

I’m lucky to have been surrounded by an extremely supportive community, and to have a team of people working with me. Some are not so fortunate, but you can be an advocate for someone who is suffering. You can’t force anyone to recover, they have to be ready to do it on their own, or it won’t work, it just won’t. But, you can let them know you’re there for them. Millions of other addicts have gotten better. There is help out there.