October 1, 2020

Relapse is Not the End Unless You Let it Be.

Author's Own

*Warning—salty language ahead!

After this, read how Jake accomplished the tough task of recovery: How I turned Relapse into Redemption.


Once upon a time, I had over two years of clean time from heroin (and everything else).

Which for me was a huge accomplishment. I had been living the worst kind of life for about eight years before I got clean. Homelessness, jail, overdoses. Seemingly doing everything within my power to hurt myself and everyone else.

But I did get clean. And for two years I worked hard, got all kinds of praise from my family, completed probation, moved to a new state into a home with my beautiful girlfriend and her daughter. I had finally achieved what I perceived to be my “dream life.” Then I started using again.

The factors that lead me back to using create a pretty complicated web of interlacing plot points all the way back to the beginning of this stretch of sobriety.

Meeting your future girlfriend at the inpatient facility where you both are shacked up as patients is not a good start. Allowing yourself to go into full-blown codependency mode is a bad look. And pouring pretty much all of your spare time, energy, and finances into your relationship while leaving almost nothing for yourself is the shit icing on the cake of garbage that was my thought process post-rehab.

And the worst part about that?

I already knew better, and I did it anyway. Because I was convinced that I was in love. And when that happens, logical thought will always come second to emotional feelings. As a result, the relationship became unhealthy pretty quickly.

Add on the fact that I neglected to follow up with a doctor once I moved, said “fuck it” to my mental health meds, and basically became a ghost to all of the other people who made up my support system and—yeah, doing drugs seemed like a good idea.

As for the first time I used again. It fucking sucked. I got high and was “happy” for all of 30 minutes before all of the realizations of what I had just done came creeping through my skull. I hadn’t even sobered up yet, and I already hated myself. And what did I do to push those feelings back down? More drugs.

I swear that I could feel my vertebra slowly cracking under the immense pressure of shame that I had laid upon my own shoulders. How in the fuck are you supposed to tell everyone who has been singing your praises and building you up to be this “great” person that you are anything but? That’s not to say that I am a bad person for relapsing, quite to the contrary, but that’s exactly how I felt. I felt like the world’s biggest phony.

Still going through the motions and pretending that everything is going just fine when, in reality, I was dying inside—all day every day. Because I knew that if I continued to use, everything was going to go away. But I was too fucking scared to do anything about it. So I tried my best to pretend that I could handle it and that everything was going to be just fine. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

At a certain point, just how bad things had gotten became impossible to ignore. My work as an independent contractor had dried up. My habit/tolerance was out of control. There was no way to hide just how sick I was on a regular basis. And finally, I would have no ability to pay the upcoming bills I had promised to take care of.

Therefore, I had no other option but to tell on myself—that’s exactly what I did. I was so afraid of facing the repercussions of my actions that I waited until the last possible moment, and my life imploded in an instant.

I remember seeing the realizations and emotions of finding out all of this wash over my girlfriend’s face, then receiving the (well-deserved) torrent of “fuck you” in all of the varied and terrible forms that poured from her mouth. That was unpleasant. I watched as everything I had been working so hard to achieve for over two years was ripped right out of my hands. And it was all my own damn fault.

Maybe things would have been different if I actually had the balls to tell on myself right after I relapsed, instead of months after the fact. But the “maybes” don’t matter. This is the way things played out because of my choices.

I will never forget the phone calls I had to make. Calling your parents out of the blue and telling them that you fell off the wagon, have no money, that you no longer have a home, and that you have absolutely no idea what to do is a painfully hard thing indeed. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And for that, I am very sorry.

Long story short, I ended up staying at my mom’s place. I was only allowed to stay under certain conditions; a lot of trust was lost during my first bout of addiction and for good reason. Mainly, I was not allowed to be unattended in any areas of the house that contained valuables. And again, this was totally fair, seeing how broken and desperate I was and given my prior offenses.

I slept on an air mattress in the corner of a room for five weeks. The first of which was spent navigating the web of absolute bullshit that is the health insurance industry, all while extremely dope sick and really having no idea what I was doing. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t figure it out.

At the time, it felt kinda like going through the motions as I really didn’t see the point of living much longer. But having absolutely no orientation for my life or direction to move toward seemed even more miserable. In retrospect, I realize that there was something deep down inside of me letting me know that I was not finished just yet. After all, I was still alive.

Despite my best efforts to cease living (I was doing a lot of drugs), I survived those five weeks, made it back inpatient, and have been clean ever since (about nine and a half months at the time of writing this). Many have asked me, “what is so different this time?” The short (and perhaps cliché) answer is—everything.

The stories from my second round of rehab are for another time—there are too many people (new and old) and lessons for me to cover there. But I made it through and left inpatient in the middle of February with negative 300 dollars in my bank account, a few of my possessions (most were at my ex’s house, six hours away), no real home, my truck, my tools, and a vague direction to head in.

It’s now September, and I am typing this from my own apartment, in a new city I love (Pittsburgh), with a new truck (well, new to me), new job, bills paid, and a strong support network filled with people who love me. I have a newfound purpose and direction, and an unrelenting excitement to experience life for the first time.

I got my life back on track and turned it into something that is better than it ever was before I relapsed. And I did it in about nine months.

I also had a lot of help from people close to me. I had above-average motivation and a great support network, right off the rip. However, it was my own choices that catapulted me from simply surviving to thriving.

As for more specifics on what led me to this point, I have published those details in a companion piece titled “How I turned Relapse into Redemption.It outlines the most important parts (for me) of coming back from this relapse.

If there is any one thing I hope you take away from all of this—it’s that relapse is not synonymous with “the end.” But rather it can be turned into a totally new beginning.


Read how Jake accomplished the tough task of recovery: How I turned Relapse into Redemption.


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