Dear Rae: I Relapsed. How Do I Move Forward?

Dear Rae:

I am (or was) a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober for three years. Yesterday, it was raining and gray and my husband was out of town on business. For some reason I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of vodka. I didn’t really even think about it – it was like a dream. I drank most of the bottle in an afternoon. And when my husband called he accused me of being drunk. I lied and said I wasn’t, but he didn’t believe me. We got in an argument and he hung up on me. I am sitting here now wondering what to do. Feeling sick that I relapsed. I am terrified the whole mess is going to start over again. Rae, how do I move forward from this? K. D.


Dear Recovering K.D.:

First, let me say you can move forward from this. In fact, sitting in the feeling you describe will perpetuate your sense of failure and guilt. So, let’s get back on track. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as , “A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” The ASAM adds, “Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.” As to feeling like it was a dream, the nature of this disease can block recognition of the warning signs or even signal a need to use. Triggers like dismal weather or isolation can be negative influencers.


Time to get back to your recovery …

This is not an excuse, but it is something to remember as you pick yourself up and get back to your recovery. If you have anything left in the bottle of vodka, pour it out. And when your husband gets home it is a good idea to tell him you relapsed and that you are sorry you lied. Your family can be your best allies, but only if you put your trust in them.


There are warning signs before a relapse. And a lapse usually means your recovery plan is in need of some tweeking. You don’t say whether you have children or work outside of the home, but it is always important to be accountable to someone or something. It is time to up your recovery game and include your husband or other loved ones in the process. If your family is educated about the disease of addiction they can help you be vigilent.


A wise man once said, “Recovery is like going up a down escalator. You must keep moving forward.” Now is the time to find a Relapse Prevention class or consider an Intensive Outpatient Program to help you develop the tools to manage the disease.

Rae Green, JD, LPC, CAADC