I remember first starting out in recovery back in the mid-90s and how I struggled for several months to stay sober. What I remember most is that after each relapse I'd get incredibly angry with myself and, like a disappointed and very rigid parent, all fun and privileges were temporarily suspended until I got this thing called sobriety right. Through listening at meetings and talking to my sponsor I learned that learning how to be easy and gentle with myself--forgiving myself--was just as important as being perfect in sobriety, if not more so. Having always been a very rigid perfectionist, this was very hard for me to accept, but I worked at it. Subsequent relapses gave me the much-needed opportunity to learn how to be my own best friend instead of a slave-driver. One of the most valuable things I learned during this period was that when I made a mistake in my recovery, instead of beating myself up I would do just the opposite--congratulate myself for even trying to stay sober (you know, I'm sure, the vast majority of alcoholics will die never having once known the joys--and frustrations--of recovery) and then treat myself to a good meal or maybe a movie or go out and have some fun with friends. That was an amazing and powerful experience for me, to learn that I had a choice, the choice to be good and decent and kind and gentle and forgiving with myself. That was a critical lesson I needed to learn, and I'm grateful that I learned it as early as I did in my recovery. Now, I don't wish relapse on anyone, but should you find yourself relapsing remember that the most important thing of all--as important as understanding the reason for your relapse--is forgiving yourself. You're stuck with you for the rest of your life, like it or not. Might as well make the most of that situation by learning to be your own best friend, and we all know that if our best friend were in recovery and happened to relapse at this point we would never consider anything less than complete and total support and understanding. So, isn't it about time we begin to show ourselves that same level of respect and kindness?
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