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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why Do Alcoholics Relapse? Why Do They Fall Off The Wagon?

Why Do Alcoholics Relapse, and Why Do They Fall Off The Wagon?

Alcoholics Relapse, Fall Off The Wagon
Ok, I'm declaring myself an authority spokesman on this question! NOT! I can only speak from an alcoholics perspective.  Maybe I've never been committed to climb aboard the wagon, or never truly wanted to quit so relapse was inevitable. Here are some reason's why I think alcoholics in general often relapse and fall off the wagon.

They Never Quit For Themselves - Often alcoholics quit for reasons that aren't conducive for long term success. I have quit because of legal consequences in the past. While that is definitely a good reason to quit, because nobody wants to go to jail, their minds and hearts aren't in to a life free from alcohol. If you have ever been to an AA meeting you probably have seen people having the leader sign a piece of paper verifying that they attended the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I have done this myself. It was a nice "abstinence" break, and it did look good when I presented the paper to the judge, but in the back of my mind I knew that I was going to relapse....... and probably even looked forward to it.


Alcohol is Everywhere - You can't go to a grocery store, watch television, or to a restaurant without having incredibly easy access to your addiction. On television, it is romanticized and often associated with beautiful and successful people. It's easy to forget that an alcoholics lifestyle isn't that glorious at all.

Hanging Out With The Wrong People - Alcoholics generally hang out with other people who drink themselves. In the mind of an alcoholic, hanging out with a sober person is like grinding your fingernails down a wall. If your a drunk, you just don't want to hang out with people that are sitting there and looking at you (probably in disgust) judging your poor behavior. Many alcoholics even detest a sobers person judgmental attitude. (yep, that's how we think).

Stress becomes too much - With many alcoholics, your life is a total mess when you "quit" drinking. Probably a major reason why they fall off the wagon. Their relationships with their family, wife, girlfriend/boyfriend is probably in shamble. Many times the alcoholics significant other is a drunk themeselves. How can you avoid relapse when you live with an alcoholic. Easiest way to temporarily relieve the stress is to take a drink. Ya, I know that drinking only will add to the stress, but that's not how alcoholics think. It's just not. We have shut down part of the brain that see's the long term overall picture. Or at least we have forgot how to use it.  Relapse, here we come.

You get lonely - Well, we are first taught that recovering alcoholics need to hang out with people who don't drink. Well........., that's everyone we know! We never went to the same places, and never had anything in common with sober people. The lifestyle of being sober sounds incredibly dull and lifeless (yes, I know sober people think the same as a drunk's damaging lifestyle). It takes awhile to find enjoyment in things that sober people love! It takes time, and like I mentioned before an alcoholic has shut down part of their brain that can see the overall long term vision of what happiness lies in the future. They can only know what can satisfy them immediately (even though, that is what brings them sadness as well).

You begin to feel TOO GOOD! : How could this be a reason why people fall off the wagon? How in the world would things becoming TOO GOOD trigger a relapse?  I can't remember how many times that I have "quit drinking" that I would start to feel GREAT! I would spring out of bed in the morning. I wasn't feeling shaky, nauseous, lethargic, and tired all day! I was up with the sun and had more things accomplished by noon as what it would take me a week to do when I was drinking.

Somehow (incredibly insane I know), the first thoughts that would enter my mind when the sun would begin to fall would be "how fun it would be to get drunk right now!" My body feels great, my head is clear.. I'm up for anything! Alcoholics become so used to feeling bad all the time. What is an everyday experience to a sober person, is a shocking new experience to an alcoholic that has recently quit and is "riding the wagon". We spend the majority part of the day just trying to function and feel better.

When you feel great you want to get out and do things and experience life, but do what? Remember, when I mentioned that alcoholics have forgotten how to use the "long term satisfaction" parts of our brain? Remember that we don't know anybody who doesn't drink (that we want to hang out with at this point)? Remember that sober activities seem boring to alcoholics for quite awhile when they jump on the wagon?

These are just some assumptions that I came up with. There is a reason why alcoholics relapse, and there is a reason why they fall off the wagon. They don't intentionally want to feel horrible all of the time, hurt everyone that loves them, and wreck their lives in a suicidal fashion. Alcoholics think different. We used different parts of our brain and shut down other areas for so long. Maybe rehabilitation clinics should focus a little more on the way alcoholics think, and a little less on the way we should think.

I dunno.........



3 comments:

cynthia said...

you hit the nail on the head , those are all very true reaons for relapse , we don't believe we "desrve " anything good in our lives , deep shame and guilt take care of that .

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. My ex and love of my life is a recovering alcoholic, and I am terrified for him. About six months before we broke up, I saw him slipping liquor into his coke while we were vacationing with friends. When I talked to him about it later, he told me that he was feeing nostalgic, and believed that he had learned enough in his time away from alcohol to be able to reintegrate it in a healthy way. I told him that it had to be his decision, but that I didn't think it was a good idea for him to drink again. He told me that he wouldn't drink if I didn't want him to. I told him that the decision HAD to be for him, not for me. I suppose he put me in an impossible situation, because obviously his reason for remaining abstinent had to come from within him, but of course I didn't want him to fall off the wagon! Maybe he came to see me as an impediment to his drinking (I am a very light drinker myself, especially in comparison to his friends, many of which are functioning alcoholics). Six months later, he had purchased a ring and had asked my parents for permission to marry me. Two weeks after that (and some considerable stress at home involving our dog and a crazy neighbor), he dumped me. I recently saw through pictures posted by a mutual friend that he is drinking again. He was drinking Strongbow, when he had said for years that he detested cider.

His own mother told me after he left that I needed to start going to Al-Anon meetings to help me understand his head, but even after two months, I haven't been brave enough yet. I keep asking myself whether maybe he is right, and he will be able to drink in moderation after four years sober. Then I was the person who was trying to stop him from doing something that he actually COULD do. But it was only out of love for him that I told him I thought it was a bad idea - it's EASIER to be in a relationship with someone who can drink! He hasn't been in a recovery program in those four years, and he has some demons he hasn't addressed (he has some self-loathing issues, and even though he is brilliant, has this bizarre misconception that he is incapable of doing the things he wants to do, such as leaving a retail job that he hates to go back to school and finish his degree that his alcoholism took him from in the first place). I'm terrified he's going to relapse, but I feel like there's absolutely nothing I can do. I know he loved me, but he has cut me from his life completely for reasons that don't make much sense to me. My punishment doesn't fit my crimes. None of his friends will speak to me either, which really upsets me. And if he does relapse, there is this question of: will he blame me for it?

Sorry for the life story. I'm struggling so much with this, and want so badly to understand the mind of someone who has had these difficulties. I only ever wanted to help him - I only ever wanted him to be happy.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately darling,alcoholics will always blame something or someone
Its no.ones fault. All or most humans will do the same.It's damn hard to accept our own weaknesses
How could we possibly be the cause or reason for the terrible state we are in
Who in their right mind would do this to themselves
There's your answer.They are not in their right mind and you have to, you need to accept that You have tried to solve the problem by supporting that person,being there trying to be all as in friend, lover,mother,sister and brother ,counsellor and mental punch bag at times more than likely. YOU HAVE DONE YOUR BEST, IF IT WAS,NT ENOUGH. YOU DIDNT FAIL. iT WAS AN IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

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