As someone who has gone through a relapse (the word I choose to describe my experience of drinking alcohol after a period of abstinence), I can tell you from personal experience that it is not easy. Not only is it physically taxing, but it’s emotionally exhausting — made worse by the shame and stigma. But the truth is, relapse is incredibly common — 70 to 90 percent of people in recovery will experience bouts of drinking before they are able to remain sober for an extended amount of time. So why are we so ashamed when it happens to us?

Part of this could be the word “relapse” itself. It implies a total regression as if all of our progress is wiped away and we’re back at square one. But that’s not the case. We get to keep what we learned before and we can use these experiences to our advantage. We can learn from them to better understand our triggers, we can build new coping mechanisms, and we can know when to ask for help.

If you are trying to quit drinking, but can’t quite make it stick, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Just like all great things, success takes time and is built on hard-earned lessons. That’s why we asked our Instagram followers to tell us what they learned from their own experiences. The answers we received were full of pain, but also full of hope. Most of all, we hope these responses remind you that you’re not alone.

  1. “That in order to be my best self I needed to quit the shit.”
  2. “That I’d learned things that made it easier to stop the second time, so I don’t live in fear of relapsing.”
  3. “That my gut instinct that I had a problem and needed to stop drinking was spot on.”
  4. “That life is precious.”
  5. “That I can’t do it alone. And choosing a date to quit is different from actually quitting.”
  6. “That drinking absolutely leads me to suicidal ideations. Sober me does not want to die.”
  7. “That alcohol is NEVER worth it and I always regret drinking.”
  8. “That it’s a process. That I can learn and move forward.”
  9. “That our addiction really is waiting for us right where we left it, even years later.”
  10. “That I need community.”
  11. “That alcohol doesn’t work anymore.”
  12. “That it isn’t ever worth it.”
  13. “That relapse doesn’t erase all the sober days I earned prior.”
  14. “That it always happens when I feel I have a handle on sobriety, when I let my guard down.”
  15. “That I have an unchanged relationship with alcohol, and how my associated unhealthy behavior quickly repeated.”
  16. “That alcohol didn’t work the same way I remembered it working.”
  17. “That I can’t do it alone! Made a therapy appointment in two weeks.”
  18. “That the idea of a drink never lived up to its expectation and never made up for the disappointment.”
  19. “That I can’t learn to moderate or drink normally. This is just part of my psychobiology. No shame.”
  20. “That I could not get sober alone.”
  21. “That it increases my already severe depression. Plus, I hate myself afterward.”
  22. “That life is going to throw tough things at you and those problems will NEVER be solved with alcohol.”
  23. “That I am a much, much happier sober person.”
  24. “That alcohol didn’t change while I was gone and it never makes anything more fun.”
  25. “That a lapse is not a relapse.”
  26. “That the negative effect alcohol had on me was of a spiritual one, not just physical.”
  27. “That I felt much better when I wasn’t drinking.”
  28. “That the community doesn’t stop supporting you.”
  29. “That I have to reach out for help when I recognize the first sign.”
  30. “That a clear me is my best friend, loving, parent. Hungover me is pinched and far from all that.”
  31. “That alcohol makes me feel like shit and dI like myself so much better sober!”
  32. “That moderation is a slippery slope and it crashes you right back.”
  33. “That there is no prototype for recovery.”
  34. “That there is nothing for me in alcohol anymore. Nothing at all.”
  35. “That I need to go to therapy regularly to deal with my anxiety in healthy ways.”

The process of recovery isn’t easy, and it is a process. Meaning: it’s not linear. There will be ups and downs, moments of success and setbacks. But through it all, we keep learning, we keep growing. And in the end, our number one lesson is that we’re all in this together.