You Can’t Fail Until You Quit

Did you know that relapse is a part of recovery?

According to the Nation Addiction Centers of America, less than 10% of people who attempt to get sober from drug and/or alcohol abuse get clean on their first effort.

Checkout these stats from and other sources regarding addiction and other diseases.
Turns out, addiction is not much different than many other diseases:

  • Between 50 and 70 percent of those with long-term high blood pressure do not take their medication for hypertension as they are supposed to
  • 30 to 50 percent of those with Type 1 diabetes do not stick to their doctor’s treatment plan
  • 50 to 70 percent of those who have asthma fail to implement lifestyle changes or take their medications as directed

Now, take a look at addiction:

  • 90% of people will relapse after their first attempt at recovery.
  • In people who have achieved at least a year of sobriety, less than 50 percent will relapse.
  • And of those who have been clean for at least five years, less than 15 percent will relapse.

Isn’t My “Consecutive Clean Time” the True Measurement of My Sobriety?
Not at all. Not long ago I left a recovery meeting and saw a friend crying in the parking lot. She had just gotten her 1 year chip and I assumed she was crying because she was happy. Turns out, she was crying for another reason.

I asked her why she was crying and she replied to me with this: “I would have had 3 years today but I relapsed a year ago. I got drunk one night, took some pills, felt awful and came right back into the program. I feel terrible about my relapse.”

All I could think of at the time was how blessed she was for having a whole year clean. And then it hit me:

Me: “You mean out of the last three years you’ve only had one day of using drugs and alcohol?”
Her: “Yes. I would have three years today if I hadn’t screwed up.”
Me: “Don’t you see? Out of the last 1095 days, you’ve only had ONE BAD DAY! That’s a miracle! I’ll bet your family is sure proud of you!”
Her: “I didn’t think about it that way. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I have more to celebrate than I think I do.”

People Get WAY too Wrapped Up into Consecutive Clean Time
I have almost 7 years of sobriety as of this writing. And yet my sobriety is still a daily gift. I’m not struggling. But, I do realize that if I let my guard down bad things can happen. I’ve used Suboxone, been to over 2000 recovery meetings, have a sponsor, do the 12-steps, sponsor other people in recovery and yet, I’ll never be done with recovery. Recovery is a journey, not a destination.

The good news is recovery isn’t a chore. Recovery is awesome!! I look forward to group recovery meetings. I look forward to seeing my therapist. I enjoy talking to my Suboxone doctor. I have new friends who are living just like me – without drugs and alcohol. Life isn’t boring clean, it’s incredible. I can see for the very first time in my life how awesome life really is.

Life isn’t perfect, and bad things still happen. I’ve lost both my mother and father since getting clean. Almost got a divorce. Dealt with serious financial issues. Yet, I have never been happier in my life. I now have tools to help me deal with life on life’s terms. I’m finally growing up.

Back in the Fall of 2013, I got out of a long-term treatment center and was miserable. After 13 years of daily drug abuse, my body, my brian, my soul.. all felt like hell. I was clean and hated everything about it. I lasted two weeks, and then called a friend and got some pills. I again stopped. I started again a week later. I bounced back and forth between being clean and being sober for 6 weeks. I couldn’t imagine life with pills, and I couldn’t imagine life without pills. I was f’ing miserable.

A friend invited me to an AA meeting despite knowing I was more of a drug user than a drinker. I went to some meetings, totally high. But after a couple weeks of going to these meetings I noticed there were other people in the room who had gotten clean. They were happy, healthy, smiling, and appeared to be enjoying their lives.

On January 7, 2014 I called a Suboxone clinic. Not a great place to go, but better to try something than nothing.
On January 9, 2014 I took my last drug. I’ve been clean ever since. Not a single pill or drop of alcohol.

I had relapsed 6 times in less than 6 weeks before I got clean this time. I was absolutely miserable, hopeless, and ready to die. There’s nothing worse than going to treatment and then using drugs. You feel like a total failure. My family was in shock that I was using again. Life sucked, big time.

Weeks after getting clean I was driving to a meeting with another person in recovery. He asked me how long I had been clean. I told him it had only been a few weeks and that I was a chronic relapser. He had over 15 years clean at the time so I asked him, “Why do you think some of us relapse and some of us don’t?”

I’ll never forget what he said to me: “Less than 10% of people get clean and stay clean on their first attempt. Truth is, you just weren’t ready yet.

I’ve witnessed people relapse who’ve had over 20+ of sobriety. I know people with 15 years of sobriety who are as nutty as a golf tee. None of that matters. Your relapses don;t matter. What matters is that you keep trying, because if you do keep trying someday you’re going to get clean and stay clean. And, isn;t it better to have most days clean than none?

Don’t ever quit trying to get clean.

If you need a simple roadmap for getting clean and staying clean, I recommend reading my book – “The 4 Hacks to Getting Clean and Staying Clean for Life“. I wish I’d had this book 7 years ago. It may have saved me months or even years of misery.

You’ll need four simple things to stay clean for life from opioid addiction and they’re all detailed in my book:

  • Suboxone Treatment (for some time)
  • Private Therapy
  • Group Recovery
  • Community

Read my book. Never quit. God bless.

— Andrew Stephen

Leave a Comment