A relapse lightbulb from my copy editor!

As far as I know, my copy editor, Julia, is not a clinician and is not in recovery. However, her astute wordsmithing triggered a realization about the “Dammit” relapse , which contrasts it with wishful thinking. The bonus is to see how elegantly the serenity prayer prevents both when practiced by anyone who is tired of falling into these two traps. Julia pointed out that the person saying “Dammit!” and picking up that first drink/drug is “abandoning control.” Having been obsessed with such moments of relapse since 1978, I was surprised to be surprised by this characterization. However, once I got past that I was able to see the truth. Not just that the”dammit” relapse abandons control we do have, but that wishful thinking claims control we do not have.  The person saying “dammit” and picking up the first drink or drug always has the choice of using their control for an infinite number of coping tools, starting with the serenity prayer itself. The person deluding themselves they will have just one, on the other hand, is refusing to accept the loss of control that defines addiction. Either person applying the principle expressed so elegantly in those three lines to the decision itself, would be greatly empowered to make a very different choice. It seems so simple. The problem of “relapse prevention” is to avoid either of the two ways of deciding to pick up the first drink. The solution is contained in a short, practical prayer which blocks both of them. Not so simple— to get a real person with a real disease to a place where they can apply this.

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