Recovery fatigue is a real thing that can happen in sobriety and just recently, a sponsee of mine began to face it. What is it? Quite simply, it’s when a person gets tired of doing their recovery work week in and week out.
Recovery fatigue is most definitely something I faced once before. I say once because the actions I took from it eventually almost led to a relapse and convinced me I need to do my recovery work for the rest of my life. It’s probably best I explain now how I learned this invaluable lesson.
Back in 2009, I had two years under my belt of recovery work. I had finally saw the promises of a recovery-based life coming true. My life truly was coming back together after 12 years of being a dry drunk before ultimately realizing I needed to do the step work, which I began in the fall of 2007. There was such a dramatic difference in my personality by the end of 2009. I was happier, laughed more, had increased confidence, and extremely energetic. I was also sponsoring five individuals through the steps, going on AA speaking commitments at least two to three times a week, and attending about four 12 Step meetings on top of that. One day in the midst of all that, I thought to myself,” Why do I need to keep doing all this recovery work?” I had learned the steps and was practicing them to the best of my ability, I wasn’t feeling tempted to engage in my old addictions, and felt very stable in my day-to-day moods. Recovery fatigue had set in and I bought into it.
First thing I did was to change sponsors to someone who didn’t have any recovery requirements for their sponsees. Then, I began attending less meetings. Sponsees started to drift away the more I drifted from the program. And somewhere along the way, I stopped doing most of those commitments as well. But, I still felt good in my own mind and hit a meeting here and there, telling myself it was enough. Oblivious to it all, new addictions began to take over my life. A year later, I almost relapsed with alcohol and drugs, attempted suicide, and was institutionalized for a number of days.
So, what happened?
They say that once you get a taste of true recovery from addiction and have worked a very healthy program, it’s hard to get away from it, because you’ll notice a big difference if you do. They also say that the recovery work for an addict is medicine that’s no different than the insulin a diabetic requires. Both are crucial for survival. Yet, my ego didn’t believe that. While I had heard all that so many times before I gave in to my recovery fatigue and was convinced none of it would happen to me, but it did and almost cost me my long-term sobriety and my life!
So, when a sponsee told me recently they were going to start attending less meetings for the very same reasons I once did back in 2009, I told them about recovery fatigue and what happened to me when I gave into it. But, even with that, they were still convinced it was ok for them to take somewhat of a break in their recovery work. In light of that, my final suggestion was to take a total break for a period of time, because they had been doing their recovery work with much reluctance for a good while and it was totally apparent.
While I don’t know how this individual’s story will turn out, I do know that Bill Wilson once said if someone wasn’t convinced of the recovery way of life, that they should go out and try some controlled drinking again. In the case of my sponsee who really doesn’t want to go back to their addiction, they are still doing somewhat of the same thing by attempting to control their sobriety on their own.
Trying to control my own sobriety without the support of recovery work left me defenseless and put me at great risk. It almost killed me. I’m not willing to face that again, which is why I’ll keep on doing my recovery work, God willing, to the day I die. Let’s just hope my sponsee will figure that out before they reach any where’s close to where my recovery fatigue took me…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson