When you enter recovery, you want to hear positive stories. It helps keep you going when times are tough. But, it’s also important to hear about stories that have relapse because relapse can happen. It’s best if it doesn’t, but if it does, these stories will help remind you to return. So, here’s my story.
About that night the relapse ended… There was a knock on my car window, the driver’s side. I had been sitting inside for the past hour or so, trying to get high — rather, trying to get “right.” My eyes met the police officer’s as I looked up. I froze. Everything appeared to become very small and far away. Reality was hitting. I took the needle out of my arm, this was it. Game over.
The relapse was out
I am not going to start from the beginning to explain that relapse. I moved to Florida in 2012 to get sober and launched a captive wildlife and exotic animal organization a couple years following that. My success at the time was a double-edged sword that was soon trumped by my self-will and ego. Like any good alcoholic in relapse mode, my downward spiral began about a year before my arrest — cunning, baffling, powerful.
As they say, the relapse begins way before the relapse begins
As alcoholics, we are told to do simple, routine things, because these basics are tools for survival. I stopped going to meetings, practicing daily self-care, praying, and spending time with my support network. My series of events is no different than most of the experiences I hear. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I returned to my old transgressions.
First red flag? When I stopped my routine
Next up? The longest, most hollowing five months of my life. I operated merely to numb myself. I hid the secret, cared for my animals, and existed around the people who cared for me. My true self was locked away internally as sickness festered my body. I wouldn’t wish that soul-crushing sentence on my worst enemy.
When in active addiction, I’ve needed a physical barricade to come between me and the drug in order to stop — like that knock on my window. That day was one of the best of my life. I am certain if it did not happen, I wouldn’t be able to share this with you.
But, relapse can turn into redemption
With assistance from my loved ones, I surrendered. I truly let go and when I did, I opened my heart to a higher power. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to treatment and rebuild my foundation in the recovery community. I learned to be honest and tell people when I am overwhelmed or not okay. And, of course, I picked up practicing those simple, daily tools I balked at. It has been a slow, beautifully grueling process.
I have had many past relapses, but none quite as emotionally debilitating as this. My months of using lead to one event and within 18 hours, I lost everything I had built in those three and a half years of sobriety. My animals were moved to a sanctuary for safekeeping so I could get help. My reputation was destroyed as rumors circulated about my downfall. I lost trust and respect from my family. My finances were ruined, and I had charges lingering over my head. I had abandoned my freedoms, integrity, and sanity — only a mere shell of a human being was left to exist.
In March of 2017, I surrendered and started to rebuild. I crawled through my first year of sobriety. I kept to the basics: meetings, support network, group and individual therapy, prayer, a simple job, and no major changes. Hell, I rode a scooter for the first six months. Fortunately, I was blessed with the opportunity to enter a rehabilitation program for the court system, which is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever completed. You have to jump through so many hoops! But rightfully so. I stayed off social media and focused on myself.
After my first year, I was finally able to stand tall. I could breathe easy and relax my shoulders back. I declared bankruptcy for a fresh financial start and was blessed to begin a career in the profession I went to college for. My relationships are being reconstructed — my boyfriend, now fiancé, stuck by my side (big shoutout to him). I have regained my freedoms, grown to be self-supporting, and consider myself a true sober woman of integrity these days.
Relapse happens but so does recovery if you do the work
My point is, there are solutions, but it all begins with willingness. And there is rarely instant gratification, so add patience to the list. I still have consequences I am moving through. Again, rightfully so.
In March of 2018, I launched Kinkatopia, a nonprofit organization. I cautiously entered back into the animal community and introduced my passion for kinkajous to the world. And what a freaking amazing journey that has been. I can’t express the gratitude I have for such an incredible community surrounding these amazing animals.
My recovery is the most sacred thing I possess. I work daily to keep my disease in check: meetings, communication, spirituality, inventory, etc. I see a therapist regularly and seek self-improvement whenever the opportunity arises. It’s wild to think I handle all of this while running a nonprofit and working 2 jobs. I juggle a lot, but try my best to make time for self-care.
Alcoholics are given the opportunity to live two lives in one. I’ve been blessed to throw a couple more in there. It’s like Glenda says to Dorothy toward the end of The Wizard of Oz: “You’ve had the power all along my dear…” I had the information, location for success, and loving support group, but wasn’t ready.
Relapse isn’t a requirement for a successful recovery, but it was a catalyst for mine. I wouldn’t change a thing; except the pain, I have caused others. I needed the opportunity to reset myself. I went through the motions, but I can soundly say the desire to be a better me is truly engrained in my bones.