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    Lapses & Relapses

    Learning a new skill is rarely done successfully without error. Learning from your mistakes can help you avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

    Farmgal on "Sliding back into abs," nominated by dld

    Dear All,

    We've had some emails and discussion around the plus sides of abs and mods recently, which have been very inspiring and motivational. But they raised a point (Weebletree) - how can we remind ourselves why we're not drinking / drinking in moderation without having to break abs / have a WTF etc?

    Well, I feel pretty crap this morning, I can tell you. I've been getting my abs days in, just. But I drank 4 white wines last night, and boy do I feel rough today. I've been experiencing the slide first hand in the last couple of weeks - my first one as a MM subscriber, and have recommitted to abs as of today, til the end of March at least. I think I'm gonna find it harder this time that the last time somehow.

    So I thought I'd write down my recent thoughts to re-read when I'm feeling tempted to drink, and thought I'd share it with you guys too...

    1) Emotions. My emotions during and after drinking are all over the place. I have little control over them, which makes me an unpredictable person to be around. I do not like this. Without drinking, I am a positive, outgoing person, nice (I think) to be around, and this, in turn makes me feel better about myself. When drinking I am completely unpredictable: it's like whichever button alcohol pushes first is the person I become. Post-drinking, I'm angry at myself, and things around me, I swing to depression a day or two after drinking (if I don't drink in the meantime, that is), and it's always a real crasher - desperation, worthlessness, self-hatred; the whole shebang. I'm so used to being this person, that when I'm not her for a while, I think I miss her! I think that's what sends me back to drinking. There's a certain comfort in depression, ironically, as someone else said (sorry, I forget who), drinking is a good excuse not to do things 'I'd be really good at that, if I didn't have a drinking problem' - the same's true of depression. It's an out. The point: I came here to work out who I was without drinking. For the most part I like the sober Farmgal, she's more like the person I want to be.

    2) Lack of sleep / broken sleep. I didn't realise until I absed, how much alcohol disrupts sleep. Waking up at stupid times and lying in bed stressing for hours on end is bad news. When I stopped drinking, I also started dreaming again, and hadn't noticed that I'd not been. Admittedly, I've had a lot of nightmares though. But the point is at least it's a proper sleep, and definitely needed to function properly.

    4) Money - alcohol is a huge waste of cash. That's the point here. I'm trying to save for a self build with my SO, and in the CFC (current financial climate) this is obviously hard work. Without alcohol, I'm sure I'd be a good £30 - £40 quid better off each week (including going out) - that's £160 quid a month, nearly £2K a year!!!! Cripes!!

    5) I have a meeting with my boss this morning. Yesterday, when i saw her, I felt together, confident and worthwhile. Today, I feel hungover, tired, apathetic and pretty grumpy. NOT the professional image I'm trying to portray at all. The point: My job really matters to me, and so does my boss's view of me. Often it's the thing that'll tip me over the edge when drinking, especially if I've been working late. Drinking harms my professional performance.

    6) Similarities in patterns associated with binge eating and drinking were mentioned a while ago. When I stopped absing, I slipped straight back into my eating disorder (ED) pattern again. I stopped going to the gym, and basically revived all my old self destructive habits. Maybe I did too much too soon, I don't know, but my positive changes are all corrupted. I'm not changing everything all at once this time. Drinking first, and hopefully the ED stuff will straighten out too, that's my key goal.

    7) Toaster, just having the clarity and presence of mind to enjoy life and get out there and do and see things, without feeling poo cause of drinking. I don't want to waste any more days with HOs.

    I'm sure there are other things, that'll occur to me when I hit send... If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If/when I post to say I'm thinking about breaking my abs, I hope these reasons will be there to make me wisen up. For me, it just ain't worth it.

    Last edited by donna.dierker; 06-13-2014, 01:21 PM. Reason: made attribution more explicit


      Mike on Going back to drinking

      A lot of serious stuff lately, which is necessary because this is serious business. But in my mind, time for a little levity. So in full sarcasm mode and with a nod to David Letterman, here is my top ten list.

      Top 10 reasons I'm going to give up on abstinence/moderation and return to my life of heavy drinking:

      10) I have more brain cells than I know what to do with.
      9) Accomplishing things is so overrated.
      8) I love to fight over stupid thing and so does my girlfriend.
      7) I'm a much more effective communicator when I slur my words, ramble on, and forget what either one of just said.
      6) If two glasses of wine has health benefits, imagine how healthy I'll be drinking two bottles of wine a day.
      5) The money I used to invest in alcohol is just going to be wasted on things like new clothes, concerts and vacations.
      4) I really miss the mood swings.
      3) My low self-esteem is starving. It craves the guilt and self-loathing that drunkenness so reliably delivers.
      2) My doctor says I need more empty calories in my diet.

      And the #1 reason to return to heavy drinking:

      I love the smell of vomit in the morning! It smells like victory!

      But seriously, enjoy your weekend! Have fun, and don't forget to work your program! I think my "Motivational Mike" day whatever of 30 is going to take a couple days off.
      Ciao friends; talk to you soon.

      - Mike D


        randyneworleans on sabotage, nominated by donna
        RD = the book Responsible Drinking

        The Witch Behind The Apple Tree

        One of my favorite images to come out of old Hollywood is from THE WIZARD OF OZ. The scene where Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Woodsman begins with a quick shot of the Wicked Witch of the West lurking behind an apple tree. We see her for three seconds, a flash, and she darts out of the frame, just long enough to let us know that she is up to her dastardly deeds. Dorothy goes up to the tree, pulls off an apple and gets her hand slapped, not knowing that the trees are under a spell. We all have witches behind apple trees and it’s time one of mine comes out from the shadows.

        I’ve been needing to figure out why Tuesday, August 26th happened. It was my birthday. I had been doing so well. I had completed my 30 days, I’d started a meeting in New Orleans (no one was coming, but I’d started one nonetheless), I’d been successfully moderating for over a week. I was feeling pretty good. No, I was feeling really good. I am a tour guide and I’d accepted a job doing a French Quarter tour for a really large convention of realtors. I didn’t mind working on my birthday since it was only going to be a couple of hours in the morning. As it happened, the tour was OUTSTANDING! I had a great group of people, we had a wonderful time, they all stayed with me to the very end. (Often, when doing a tour for a convention, the tour is free to the conventioneers and they don’t always complete it but drop out midway.) I made enormous tips and finished out with lots of money in my pocket. My afternoon was free. It was my birthday and my best friend was working behind the bar at The Double Play, my favorite French Quarter dive. I could have (and should have) gone home – I was right across the street from my bus stop – but I decided to take my pocketful of money to the bar and go have a drink.

        The initial plan was to meet a couple of friends at Pat O’Brien’s for a drink that evening (a birthday tradition). A hurricane (cocktail) has 4 oz of rum in it, which is roughly 2 ½ drinks. I was going to have one hurricane, switch to Diet Coke and go home relatively (if not completely) sober. That was the plan. Instead, I went to The Double Play at noon and said “It’s my birthday. I'll have a beer.” The room was full of apple trees - friends and bar buddies all sitting around - and lurking in the orchard was a witch. That beer was the first of many and many; I would drink myself into oblivion and she would vanish with a cackle and an explosion of sulfur and smoke, leaving me blacked out and miserable. People bought me drinks. I allowed them. And, even though I was not consciously thinking “Oh, screw it! The day is young! DRINK! DRINK!” there it was and I just didn’t care. Did. Not. Care. The witch had cast a Celebration Spell and it was out of my control. The apple trees in the bar were bewitched as it turned into an orgy of alcohol. Her laughter echoed and resounded in the French Quarter for the rest of the day as I drank like a madman and people kept giving more and more of the enchanted brew. More. MORE! She had written SURRENDER RANDY in the skies over the French Quarter; beneath those smoky letters I obeyed and nothing mattered. Drink. Drink. Celebrate! Drink!

        I vaguely remember Pat O’Brien’s. The last thing I remember clearly is eating at Yo Mama’s across the street from Pat O’s. I didn’t know my friends had invited me to a baseball game. I didn’t know I’d seen my friend’s boyfriend. I still don’t know how many hurricanes I had. The witch’s spell continued; Celebrate! Drink! I dimly remember taking a cab home. I called my friend the next morning to apologize if my behavior had been inappropriate. She said it wasn’t – I hope she wasn’t just being nice. But that day, Wednesday, I was miserably sick all day. I went to my meeting that evening, but it took an effort. Luckily no one showed up. I was hopelessly depressed for the next several days. I didn’t even want to post on MM or do Abstar. (I did, though.) I just wanted to live in abject misery and contrition over the horrific frenzy of drinking I’d subjected myself to.

        Away off in the distance I could hear the dim echoes of a witch’s laughter.

        But who is this witch? How can I combat her if she doesn’t have a name? She isn’t Denial – at no time did I say “This isn’t happening” or “I’m not drunk.” She isn’t Anger – I’d had a great day full of wonderful people and made a lot of money. She isn’t Low Self-Esteem – I came off my tour on a cloud and felt really good about myself. She isn’t Celebration – in fact, that was the very curse that she’d placed on me, that frenzy of drinking; as if I’d put on a pair of enchanted shoes and was uncontrollably dancing myself to death. She isn’t Stress – I didn’t drink because I was upset about things in my life. No, no – quite the reverse – I was feeling exceptionally well. Things were going good. Everything was terrific! And it was in that very realization that I was able to identify her:

        Her name is Sabotage.

        I am not going chapter and verse into the story of a brutally bullied gay boy growing up into a dysfunctional human male. That story is not unique and relating it would be self indulgent. Among the many scars left on the soul of the bullied child is the feeling that success and happiness are not normal. If, for 8 years of a child’s life, a day without abuse is abnormal then when that child becomes an adult with the freedom to create one’s own environment, one finds comfort in feeling worthless – because that is normalcy. And if there is no one around to provide the necessary abuse, then one must do it, oneself, and make certain that all is as it should be. “I am dirt and all is right with the world.” Sabotage has been lurking behind my apple trees for a lifetime and it’s only been in the last several years I’ve been aware of her, if only on a subconscious level. Aware, but not really thinking much about it. I marched right up to the apple trees anyway and got my hand good and slapped for yanking off an apple. (There are better apples out there, by the way.) But this time she made her mistake when she cast that Celebration Spell on me – she should’ve been more subtle.

        My birthday HAD to play out exactly as it did. Because drinking is just one of the many tools that Sabotage uses to devil me and, if she had not sacrificed her subtlety, she’d still be lurking in the shadows. As I was reading Chapter 7 of RD and looking at all of the drink trigger worksheets I was thinking “I have no triggers here. My trigger isn’t people or places or activities…” It was then that I saw Sabotage lurking behind that damned tree! Sabotage. She is my trigger. “Things are going well and I am feeling great! This has to stop!” Now that she’s out in the open I think can I fight her. I may never melt her – but I can fight. Now I know what to do.


          Donna on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A view from an outsider

          I've never been to an AA meeting, but have heard dozens of people in MM (listserv, message board, chat, face-to-face meetings) share their experiences. AA has helped my dad and other loved ones. The fellowship and broad availability of meetings can be life changing, if not lifesaving. But nowadays, anyone with internet access can get convenient, anonymous help through their computer, using support groups like MM, SMART Recovery, and others.

          AA was intended for people dependent on alcohol. Step 1 is to admit that your life has become unmanageable. But due to the lack of alternatives in the past, several sources have referred problem drinkers to AA (e.g., psychiatrists, courts, frustrated spouses). It could be that the more unmanageable one's life has become, the better AA fits. For people just slipping into bad habits, though, cognitive dissonance is likely to be greater: Powerlessness, the disease theory, doubts about being a 'real' alcoholic. But there is a lot of gray area between "slipping into bad habits" and dependence. Drinker's Checkup ( can help you gauge your problem severity. But even if you are dependent, you might not be ready to quit yet. (MM can help you quit gradually, e.g., adding abstinence days and building up longer stretches of abstinence.)

          People do drink themselves to death, and psychiatrists, for example, see the whole range of problem severity. And the more unmanageable one's life has become, the more likely a sponsor can help a judgment impaired drinker make better decisions. It is admirable that so many AA sponsors have given of their time this way to help others become better parents, spouses, employees, etc. True, a small proportion of sponsors have preyed upon vulnerable people (e.g., as Gabrielle Glaser describes in "Her Best Kept Secret"). And this model is more predator-friendly than those built on personal responsibility; however, the worse the drinking problem, the worse fit the personal responsibility model becomes. We need to help people *before* their lives become unmanageable.

          When Bee was in AA, she took what worked, and left the rest. Repression of anger didn't work: "I can see where we need to find safer ways to diffuse our anger, deal with it, and even express it, but to disallow it doesn't seem possible. I still feel angry from time to time and have discovered that drinking only exacerbates it, so I try to manage it in other ways."

          It could be that what works well for an angry drinker with inflated ego (e.g., fearless moral inventory, being told he/she is flawed) works less well for an anxious drinker full of self-loathing, who could better benefit from empathy and self-care. The degree to which these types can benefit from the other's perspective may not be equal.

          Bee wrote: "We were told in meetings that we had to admit to our selfish self-centeredness, lust, greed, avarice, anger, etc. Instinctively I knew that one of my main problems was low-self-esteem & mother-issues. I wasn't lustful or overly greedy, selfish or angry. It was impossible for me to do that 4th step writing to the approval of a sponsor. Several years ago I went to therapy for 6 months & grew in self-confidence by leaps & bounds because I was dealing with my real issues & not labeled issues. One of the MM philosophies that attracted me most is the belief that we are all different in both our reasons for drinking & in what moderation path works for us. Sheryl, a Forum member here, says that what works for us at one point in our life may evolve into something else which works at a future time. I believe that too."

          My biggest beef with AA is when dogma ("AA lore") masquerades as fact. I hear it from so many independent sources, e.g.: "one drink, one drunk" or "once an alcoholic always an alcoholic". NIAAA research does not support such claims: "Twenty years after onset of alcohol dependence, about three-fourths of individuals are in full recovery; more than half of those who have fully recovered drink at low-risk levels without symptoms of alcohol dependence." [1]

          This quote from Larimer, Palmer and Marlatt [2]is also worth repeating:

          "Marlatt and Gordon (1980, 1985) have described a type of reaction by the drinker to a lapse called the abstinence violation effect, which may influence whether a lapse leads to relapse. This reaction focuses on the drinker's emotional response to an initial lapse and on the causes to which he or she attributes the lapse. People who attribute the lapse to their own personal failure are likely to experience guilt and negative emotions that can, in turn, lead to increased drinking as a further attempt to avoid or escape the feelings of guilt or failure. Furthermore, people who attribute the lapse to stable, global, internal factors beyond their control (e.g., 'I have no willpower and will never be able to stop drinking') are more likely to abandon the abstinence attempt (and experience a full-blown relapse) than are people who attribute the lapse to their inability to cope effectively with a specific high risk situation. In contrast to the former group of people, the latter group realizes that one needs to learn from one's mistakes and, thus, they may develop more effective ways to cope with similar trigger situations in the future."

          MM is about lending a hand to those who have stumbled and learning from each others' mistakes.

          1. NIAAA's "Alcoholism Isn’t What It Used To Be"

          2. Larimer ME1, Palmer RS, Marlatt GA. "Relapse prevention. An overview of Marlatt's cognitive-behavioral model." Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(2):151-60.
          Last edited by gemdropper; 01-16-2015, 12:21 AM.


            Very interesting discussion lately about letting go and having a "binge." Great job, K, getting right back on track. I'm finding that the consequences of binging for me are not becoming worth the good time (and it often is a good time). I absolutely hate the hangover and as I've aged my body can't handle it as well and I tend to get sick and/or blackout if I go over 6 or so, esp. if I mix my favorite scotch w/wine. When I get to that space, someone has to take care of me, and my pride doesn't like that. I'm starting to look at myself (just myself) w/distaste when I think about how I repeat myself, go over the top with affection, and generally act foolish. So my physical hangover is almost always accompanied by remorse & embarrassment, esp. if I can't quite remember what happened and need others to refresh me...unless I was totally in a blackout and then whatever happens is completely gone. So one of my MM goals has been simply to not get drunk anymore, not get to that space of being sick and browning or blacking out. I had a person very close to me go on a bender last week, and had some pretty awful consequences...I'm feeling their pain and it's been a wakeup call for me as well. Perhaps at some point in the future, it'll be ok to let it all go for a night, but I think that time is pretty far away for me. Right now, I'm abs'ing for a week or so after some moderate, but daily drinking (daily drinking doesn't work for me as it really disturbs my sleep), and then I'll be back on the mod train.

            Moderation, Not Drunk


              Kenny on complacence (after a bender that followed a five month abstinence):

              Looking myself back over this thread, at least the relatively recent material - it bothers me quite a lot that immediately preceding the 10 day derailment at the start of this month I was in here commenting that I didn't see myself drinking again on an impulse like that. Then boom, I turned around and did exactly that. And at the time I really thought I was past seeing something like that happen. This is telling me that I'm still walking through a mine field and I really have to watch my step. I can't get complacent and start feeling like I have it beat. That's when my very next step will be on a land mine that blows my lower torso off. It's fascinating to me that my very own behavior can be so unpredictable. I'll say one thing one minute and do the opposite the next. What the hell is that all about?

              Kurt nominated this post, because it addresses the ongoing process of dealing with the "flaws in our psychology." The Main Forum's Accountabillibuddies thread depicts Kenny's journey in graphic detail. Sustained, brutal honesty can be very powerful, but we heed Kenny's warnings about complacence. If you are concerned about your drinking, then you can register for the main forum, which is password-protected. Odds are, you will stumble across this popular thread.


                Dave on Re-entering Earth's Atmosphere
                Hello all,

                Just thought I'd share this observation, though I'm fairly sure I shared something similar recently.

                A binge, bender, wtf can be likened to being catapulted off into space.

                An unqualified astronaut hurtling through the ether of space without a clue where he is. No clue of a destination. At one point he gets dangerously close to the sun where his ship almost melts away and he may be left there forever. Meanwhile, back on Earth, life is moving on. People are living their lives, and the astronaut is mostly unaware of this. The only contact he can muster to make to Earth is to call in sick at work as he is unlikely to re-enter the atmosphere on time. "Mayday, mayday, lost in space". Any attempts to contact the astronaut from Earth are ignored. He is too lost and frightened.

                Eventually he manages to gain control of his spacecraft and steer in back towards Earth. He can see the atmospheric rings around the Earth and knows he must penetrate them and get back down to land. He is terrified of burning up on re-entry but he has no choice. He takes a deep breath, guides the spacecraft Earthwards and makes his tumultuous descent. The spacecraft shakes violently. The astronaut is sure this part of the journey will be the end of him. He holds the controls for dear life, clenches his teeth and his fists. He screams as the spacecraft approaches the sea and lands with a crash.

                He's home. He opens his capsule and is surrounded by the sea. In the distance, there is land. There are people waving frantically at him. "Swim" they say. "Swim back". The astronaut swims back to land, heavy with his suit and his space gear. Struggles back to the arms of his loved ones on land. He climbs on the sand and looks at his people and sobs, for he missed them so.


                  JJ, to someone who drank too much all weekend

                  Don't lose hope! But also remember, hope won't get you where you want to be. You don't have to conquer this problem all at once. 'Harm Reduction' can be a good place to start when all else is failing. It could look like 'I can drink today but I have to spread the drinks an hour apart and eat something nutritious every second hour.' Or, 'I can drink today but not until X o'clock, and then one an hour'. Or, 'I can drink today but every other hour I drink a glass of water instead of an alcoholic drink.' Or, 'If I am able to abs today I can have 3 drinks tomorrow.' Whatever you think will WORK FOR YOU. Those of us who get caught up in the pull of alcohol ~ I have been much of the summer ~ have to be realistic about setting goals, because it's easy to throw them out the window when the loud voice of Al Cohol starts calling, at least until we break through the spell it has thrown over us. For instance, last weekend Beach Baby put out a call for people to join her on a 30. I knew that would be a good thing for me, but I also knew that 1) it was still the weekend and Al Cohol was still chatting away at me incessantly, and 2) we had social plans for Monday evening and I knew it wasn't realistic for me to think I'd abs through it. I said I'd start a 30 but not until Tuesday, and by Tuesday I was ready. I felt really weak and lame saying I couldn't do it until my drinking plans were behind me, but I was being realistic, not setting myself up for failure (which would have no doubt led to even more drinking). See what I'm saying? Harm Reduction. Set a _do-able _plan. It gives us confidence to continue to set do-able plans and I have found that when I feel successful my mood lifts and I feel some pride and my confidence builds and I'm on my way to better days. Hope this helps ~jj