One issue that I very deliberately do not deal with in my book is relapse. The reason for this is that certainty is a key part of giving up. If you are 100% certain you will never drink again then this is a key way to ensure you don’t crave (this is dealt with in Chapter 24). So to put doubt into people’s minds, and suggest they may not succeed, is not a good way to start things.
However there are two reasons why it is worth covering relapse. Firstly, my goal is to provide a complete explanation of alcohol, and I cannot do this by leaving out important aspects. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it is also the case that relapsing can be a key element of stopping permanently if you make the relapses work for you. Let’s elaborate.
Before you relapse you have to have made an attempt to stop, and to make an attempt to stop you have had to have arrived at the stage that you (or at least a part of you) doesn’t want to drink anymore and wants to stop, or more specifically that the bad outweighs the perceived good. However, to relapse you have to have changed your mind, you have to have reached the stage that you believe you are better off drinking, or more specifically that the perceived good outweighs the bad. I appreciate that there are many factors at play here, both conscious and subconscious. Part of the decision to drink again will be positive (thinking about how enjoyable it would be to have a drink), part will be negative (there may be a cloud hanging over you since you stopped, a feeling that there is something missing from your life), some things you may be able to identify, many you won’t, but the fact is that to stop you have to be in a state of mind where you believe you are better off stopping, to start again this has to shift so that you have to believe you are better off drinking. Whether the many aspects that make up this decision are conscious or subconscious, identifiable or hidden is neither here nor there and frankly there is no need to try to analyse them. It is like a finely balanced see saw, made up of many different aspects that are not all visible and not all constant.
I deal with this process in detail in the Chapter on FAB. Essentially the reason our views change is that when we are drinking we are living with the reality and it is abundantly clear to us that it is not a pleasant reality and we are better off without it. However, when we stop and FAB starts to kick in, we start to see our drinking in an unrealistically positive light. The result is that we start to miss it and start thinking about drinking again.
Often when we relapse it is a specific event that sets us off. For example a barbeque, a holiday, Christmas, etc., but it can just as easily be the slow accumulation of FAB building up over time that eventually leads us to the position where we take a drink.
It is worth pausing here to remember that one of the best tools to aid you when stopping is to solidify in your mind the grim reality of drinking whilst you are doing it, as this can act as a shield to the warping effects of FAB.
So if you do relapse (and I emphasise that if you understand alcohol fully enough there is no reason why you ever should) then you have to make that relapse work for you. Every drink you take on that relapse you have to concentrate on the taste, the effect, how you feel before, during and after drinking. How you feel the next morning, the next day, the next evening. Don’t just concentrate on the bad (although this is a key element), concentrate also on the supposed ‘good’. Does that first drink taste like nectar and induce euphoria and unadulterated joy and happiness? Or do you just feel slightly dulled, and disappointed in yourself for failing to quit? Are you happy to have just one or two? Or does that one drink just create the desire for the next? Does that one drink satisfy the desire to drink, or do you want the next one just as much (if not more) than you wanted the first one? If so then you have achieved nothing by drinking as you are not relieving the desire to drink by drinking, you are just making the desire stronger. It is like try to put a fire out by throwing petrol (or neat alcohol!) on it.
If it is a specific occasion that has caused you to fail and you are drinking at it, have you made the occasion better or worse for drinking? Are you standing there, happy as anything, because you have a drink in your hand? Or are you just standing there wondering how and why you have ended up giving up your alcohol free life with all its benefits for such a paltry return? You will have given up all the joy and self-respect associated with stopping, a good night’s sleep, energy and independence. And what will you have received in return? A dulled feeling accompanied by all sorts of feelings of failure and self-loathing. What about in the middle of the night when you wake up nervous and anxious? What about the following morning when you wake up tired and lethargic? What about the next morning of afternoon or evening when the occasion is over but you still want another drink?
If you go about it the right way a relapse can actually make your next attempt definite to succeed. Addiction, the desire to drink, call it what you will, can only exist if there is a part of you, however small, that wants to have a drink. The spiral of craving is the backbone of any addiction but you will not crave something you do not want. A relapse can be your opportunity to prove to yourself, once and for all, that you are far, far better off not drinking. Prove this to yourself conclusively and you will never have any desire to drink again.
Don’t allow a relapse to be a failure to stop drinking, instead make it a building block to stopping permanently. Use it to prove to yourself the reality of drinking and concrete this reality in your mind so that the relapse is the final nail in the coffin of your drinking years.