I originally made this video in February 2015 and I wrote this accompanying post in July 2015. I took it down because - sometimes I freak out and mind some type of line that I'm not sure exists. Because Laura and I are releasing a podcast series, "Relapse" (v1, Episode 12 was released this week, on September 30, 2015, and v2, Episode 13, will be released next Wednesday, October 7th), I am finally posting this.
I first stopped drinking without much effort. I read a book, I felt compelled, I cut it out. For two months. And then one night some 60 days in, drinking seemed like a good idea. Because I had so effortlessly given it up that first time, because for once I felt like I had control, I thought, why the fuck not.
I was certain that I could now do something I had never been able to do in the near 20 years I had been drinking alcohol: have a totally healthy relationship with it. So I drank at a party. No big deal.
But then the next week, as I found myself in New York with a bunch of friends, I thought why the fuck not, again. 3 nights in a row. Before I knew it, I was right back to my old habits, stopping at the liquor store on the way home from work back in San Francisco, buying the slightly warm $5 bottle of Crane Lake merlot, taking it up to my apartment for the same sad little party with myself, my cat, and my spreadsheets.
The fact that I had given it up so effortlessly, and now found myself back to "where I was before" (and by all accounts, worse), was nothing short of terrifying. In fact, it seemed to confirm my fears that I was one of them, that this proved I could not stop, that this proved I was destined to vacillate between being on the wagon and off the wagon my entire life. That I was indeed wholly fucked.
There was something about having succeeded, and having returned to drinking, that felt heavier than there are words to describe. The closest I can get is it felt like a bottomless pit. I started looking at homeless people much differently. Like, I finally understood how that happened.
The second time I attempted to quit was April 1, 2013. I was weak on the surface, but stronger deep down from all the work I had been doing, and I knew I was ready again to try it. So ready that this time I told people I had a problem. And then two weeks later, I found myself in Austin, drunk at a company event, hiding from the people I had assured "I was done forever" as I downed shots of whiskey. That next morning - for the third time - I made the pact with myself that this was really, really it.
And, as it turns out, it was.
When I was in those periods of time - the in between periods - I was haunted not by the idea that I'd never drink again. By then, I wanted anything else in the world. What I was haunted by was far worse - that I'd actually never achieve sobriety and that I'd spend my life trying for it.
From my vantage point today, I have a much different view of that girl, and what was really going on. I see very clearly that the fact that she WANTED sobriety was enough to ensure it would happen. And I see something else even more clearly. That she had to fail to succeed.
Just like all great things and all things worth doing, success is built on the many failed attempts to achieve it.
I made this video in February 2015 before a trip to Hawaii, and had forgotten about it until literally just now as I was searching for an image to post along with what I'd intended to post today - a Kundalini tutorial. As I watched it this morning, I was struck by the timing of finding it. Because this week Laura wrote this piece on her blog. Because this week I posted this on my Instagram. Because my "Failure is temporary" post-it keeps falling off the wall and sticking to things (like my shoe). Because - as per usual - a few friends and clients found themselves with a drink in hand after having some days under their belt (especially over the fourth of July weekend) and I heard myself saying for the 1,000th time that "fucking up is just the lesson you need to learn right now" and "stop using the word relapse - you haven't gone back anywhere."
This is not the definitive post on the whole relapse or failure thing, or everything I have to say about it. But it is a start. I'll be writing more in depth on how to reframe it, how to use it to your advantage. There are additional resources below. Love love love.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND RELATED ARTICLES.
HOME Podcast #12, "Relapse", v1 of 2.
HOME Podcast #13, "Relapse", v2 of 2.
Pema Chodron has a great short talk on failure. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better.
This is a great Gabby Bernstein lecture on how to recover from mistakes.
Here is a post on how I finally quit smoking Pot and Cigarettes (after 5,000 failures).
Here is a post on the thing that helped me move beyond fear of failure (that, and the fact that I just kept trying). How Fear Cleansing Aids Recovery (And How To Do Your Own Fear Cleanse.)