I like to say "continuous" because I'd have 20 years if I measured it starting when I first tried to get clean and sober. 24 years if I measured it starting from the first time my parents put me in rehab. In all honesty, I'm having a hard time feeling good about my 3 years. I've had 3 years before so I tend to downplay it by saying "I have 3 years...again." Like it won't count until I have 3.5 years because then I'll be in new territory; sober for longer than I ever have been before.
My relapse 13 years ago began with Vicodin that was prescribed to me by a doctor for actual pain. I didn't take it. Not because I didn't need it, but because I was heroin addict and Vicodin is some BULLSHIT in comparison. I also didn't throw it away, like a good clean and sober person. I put it in the back of a cabinet, just in case. Just in case what??? Just in case I come down with some pain combined with a severe need to be constipated? Any addict knows what that "just in case" was. It was a reservation. It was proof that I had quit working my program and that I was getting my survival tools ready for when the pain of life happened. And it did, because it always does. The difference between me today and me in my 20's is that today my arsenal doesn't include opiates or alcohol. It's chock full of the 12 steps and service to others and not being so goddamned selfish all the time.
Funny story: I've had 2 doctors actually try to prescribe me Vicodin this week because of a double root canal. But I'm so terribly afraid to go back out after what happened to me last time that I (rather aggressively) turn the script down. Also a funny story: I felt like a superhuman who should be rewarded with a fucking parade down Market Street for declining the Vicodin. I'm guessing the character defects associated with that bullshit are ego, entitlement and pride. I can work on those. And it'll be a lot easier to do that than it was to come back to the rooms after 10 years being back on the battlefield. I feel like I'm using too many weird references; I'm just talking about coming back into recovery after being a drunk junkie for a while.
I feel so humbled when I see the people who got clean with who stayed sober, so I don't think I'm worth a whole hell of a lot. However, I guess that what I do have to offer is that I do know about relapse. So I have this one gem to impart: if you're clean and sober and you're going through pain and it seems unbearable, stay in your seat and hold on for dear life.
Working through literally anything is easier than it was for me to come back after relapsing. I mean that.
I hope this helps someone.
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