Off the Wagon

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened to be in a store last night, with about 75 others who also had the phenomenal idea to show up for the Grand Opening. We went inside because the drive-through line wrapped around the entire building  and down the street. I was with my 15 year old son who would not give in to the bribes I offered him to just “come back tomorrow when we won’t have to wait in line for 30 minutes to buy a donut. ”  So we waited. And waited. Around the corner we saw that they were selling t-shirts. I am typically cheap enough to say “no” to this type of gimmick, but then I noticed a sign on the table that told us that the proceeds were going the the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. I suggested to my son that I just stand there and collect the money directly, to help pay for my Leukemia bills. He was not amused. So we bought one. Of course, being Heather-ish, when I got to the front of the line I asked the woman who seemed to be in charge why they chose that particular cause to donate to. While the other 75 people stood in line patiently, she told me that her husband has Leukemia. She also told me that he has relapsed THREE times. He is currently undergoing several rounds of Radiation. I gave her my name and number, just in case she or her husband wanted to talk about it with someone who has been there and done that (although, thankfully, not 3 times!). Just to add another cool “God thing” about this interaction; she lives out of town and is only here for the grand opening. If we had “just waited until tomorrow” we would have never met. I just love that God does that.

That said, my point is actually about the idea of Relapse. I know some of you are thinking, “Finally! A subject that won’t speak directly to me and my problems.” Not so, fast slick. Relapse is defined as “a deterioration in someone’s health after a temporary period of improvement.” It took me until morning to put two and two together; that I suffer from relapse on a regular basis. Not a relapse of Leukemia, but of my old “default settings.” I woke up this morning feeling sort of “hung over” from how I behaved the night before. I had responded to an old problem with the same old, sick, selfish behavior. I was so disappointed in myself for not using the tools I have accumulated to deal with life differently than I used to. It does me no good to have such tools, if they just sit in the toolbox or if I don’t use them properly; like using a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. I have been letting God take my character defects over the past few years. They are ones that I have used to cope with life, even though they are not healthy or beneficial. Through Recovery programs and literature and mostly by the example of people in those programs, I have learned new skills to deal with life’s issues. However, after a “period of temporary improvement”, I occasionally relapse. I forget to use the tools, or more often than not, am too stinkin’ stubborn to use them. I react to a problem with the same ol’ juvenile behavior.

Maybe you can relate. This is part of human nature. I get it. It will probably continue to happen for the rest of my life. But, here’s where there is hope. If I keep asking and learning and listening and humbling myself, I can have periods of improvement. The relapses will get farther and farther apart and the time I spend beating myself up for those relapses will gradually shrink. Eventually I will apply my tools, and I will turn to God and other wise teachers BEFORE I relapse. Now wouldn’t that be something? I want my healthy, confident response to trials to be automatically guided by the principles I believe in at my core. I want to avoid what Dave Ferguson (author) refers to as the “Sorry Cycle.” You know it: relapse-redemption-relapse-redemption-relapse, etc. My goal is to eventually reduce how often I fall “off the wagon”.

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