Relapsing After Ten Years of Sobriety
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Genesis 9:20
Whenever I meet someone who’s relapsed after years of sobriety, I want to know what happened. I prefer to think that anyone who’s maintained recovery for ten years is relapse-proof. So, when I encounter this situation, I must ask what happened. My interest is mostly selfish – I’m approaching nine years of sobriety and that story terrifies me a little. I don’t want that story to become my story. Tell me what happened.
It’s always tempting to put those we respect on a pedestal. When we observe those we believe to be super-Christians, we assume they live on an entirely different level than we do. They could never have an affair. They’re too good to fail. We admire these individuals, and we want to believe they can’t fall. No one is sinless though. Everyone struggles with something. It doesn’t take much searching of the internet to find Christian leaders, who’ve done wonderful things, only to wreck their ministries and marriages with a sexual affair.
The story of Noah is a painful reminder that no one is beyond failure. In today’s passage, Noah had just proven his singular obedience to God through the flood and the ark. So, what did the amazing Noah do after he saved humanity? He made wine, got drunk, and embarrassed himself by lounging around naked. The passage doesn’t include God’s commentary on Noah’s behavior, but I feel it’s safe to say that his actions were self-serving, corrupt, and wholly inconsistent with a man who followed God above all. Noah was a good man, one of the best ever (Ezekiel 14:14), but that wasn’t enough to insulate himself from personal moral failure.
That’s the lesson from the guy who relapsed after ten years of sobriety. It’s usually the same story – I was doing well, but then I got overconfident and complacent. I stopped working on my recovery because I thought I was fixed. Then, life happened. It’s usually some common, predictable stressor – a parent dies, a divorce, or a job loss – which precipitates the downfall. This worries me because I know I’ll experience loss in this life. How will I handle it when my time comes? Will I turn to my faith and recovery? Or will I fall apart, returning to my self-destructive comforts. The answer to that question resides in the choices I make right now. I can believe that I’m relapse-proof and grow complacent, or I can realize that no one is too good to fall, as I continue to work on my faith and recovery every day. No one is failure-proof.