People who are doing well in recovery have built walls that prevent relapse. Working with other alcoholics and addicts–there’s a wall. Developing a spiritual practice through meditation or yoga can be another two walls. The more you build, the less vulnerable you become.

Last week, in a Denver hotel, I found that my walls–if they hadn’t crumbled–had at least become a lot less sturdy. It is often said in the recovery world that a relapse happens well before the actual moment in which someone takes a drink or drug. What is interesting (and devastating) is that this process is often elusive.

On the cab ride to Logan, the Uber driver (Malcolm, if you read the last blog) asked why I was traveling. I told him it was for a bachelor party which naturally caused him to joke about all the lawlessness and debauchery that is often associated with bachelor parties. I could have indulged him in what could happen, but I was quick to tell him “my drinking days are over.” He pushed on, without recognizing what I was referring to (being an alcoholic), and talked about the prospect of the Colorado dispensaries and the abundance of marijuana. I laughed and told him that my drug days were also over. I said all of this with 100% conviction.

For the alcoholic/addict, this phenomenon is what the Big Book describes as “cunning” and ‘baffling.” If relapse was upon me, I was the last to know.

Flash back to that Denver hotel, where there was enough marijuana edibles to kill a small horse, the idea of being high, hungry, and laughing–in a new city–became alluring. Ideas and thoughts move so quickly as to form decisions. Quickly, I made the decision to eat a candy peach that would likely be the catalyst to a dark place.

Thankfully, I had a wall or two still standing.

I first texted my fiance that I was thinking about having a weed gummy and asked her what she thought. 2 seconds later, I got a definitive “No.” This was followed by her reminding me of the 85 times I’ve told her how it would lead to me drinking. There wasn’t much I could say in response, and yet, the temptation still lingered.

I then texted my sponsor who I talk to about once a year. Usually it’s about fantasy sports or religion. I’ve never really bought into the idea that any one person can “keep you sober.” He told me he wasn’t available and I made a decision that if I didn’t hear from him in an hour, I’d probably go ahead and eat the gummy.

In my almost 8 years of sobriety, I’ve had three “close calls.” Oddly, two of them were during bachelor parties and two of them were ski trips. I think my biggest “trigger”–if a thing like that exists–is fun. For a lot of people, stress and bad shit are risk factors with relapse. I think with me, I’ve always had the fallacious idea that drugs and alcohol are ‘enhancers.’ They make fun times more fun. And for many normal people, that is probably true. But for me, I have years and years of actual evidence that show otherwise.  In the hotel, I allowed this notion of ‘fun’ to take hold. The good news is that I associate alcohol with dying. The bad news is that I put myself in a position–mentally–to think that taking another mind-altering substance would be good. It was a recipe of vulnerability + accessibility, and I can honestly tell you that I was 90% committed to following through. The 10% keeping me afloat was pride. I thought about my “time” sober and knew that I could not honestly tell people I’ve been sober for “X” years if I took it. I knew how that would make me feel. My time is probably the thing I’m most proud of, though I don’t explicitly discuss it much. I think I’ve made it a competitive thing which has worked for me.

An hour later my sponsor called and he sounded annoyed. I think he was at work. I nonchalantly asked him if he thought taking a weed edible would be an OK idea. This is the insanity of it all. I think I was hoping he would give me a chance to justify the decision. I have an ego. And nothing is more egregiously egotistical than trying to convince your sponsor that it’s OK to take drugs. 

He thought I was joking. When my tone changed, and it became apparent that I was not joking, his tune changed as well.

“Well if you’re at the point where you don’t know why it’s not OK to take it, it’s probably too late.”

I remembered, shamefully, why I chose this guy in the first place. He’s a sarcastic fuck who doesn’t have emotions.

I hung up the phone and hung up the idea altogether.

I write this post for a few reasons.

1.) It’s a humble reminder. You got over-confident and it almost fucked everything up.

2.) For others in recovery. There are people who are a lot less fortunate than me. Maybe they have these close-calls frequently. Maybe that sponsor didn’t call and they went through with it. We’re not that different.

3.) For those not in recovery. People who know me now–even the ones closest to me–have become comfortable with me as a sober person. It can be a fragile and elusive thing. It’s just probably a good thing (for everyone) to know that this lifestyle is not a temporary condition.

Life isn’t all soaks and smiles. Thankfully I dodged a weed-gummy bullet and can move on and be a little more humble.

Time to build a few more walls.