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Post Info TOPIC: Welcoming People Back After A Relapse

Senior Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 182
Welcoming People Back After A Relapse

Hello Family:

I got a call today letting me know that an A.A. friend passed away this morning.  My heart hurts because I saw him return to A.A. after relapsing a year ago (he was sober 5 years when he relapsed), and know how difficult we struggle to return to A.A. if we relapse after years of continuous sobriety.  When he returned, I shared with him my own process in coming back after relapsing (after 18 years of continuous sobriety), and encouraged him that the guilt, remorse and shame would lift in time.  He shared with me that there were some A.A. members who were harshly critical of him when he returned, and I told him that I understood, since I had experienced the same from some A.A. members.  Unfortunately, despite some attempts at renewed sobriety, he was unable to stay sober, and that ultimately led to his passing.

Bottom line, I don't believe that the vast majority of A.A. members intend any ill will or harm when speaking to people who have returned after a relapse.  But, I think we all can be reminded that anything much more than "I'm glad to see you, welcome back, we need you here," or similar words of hope and encouragement, may do significantly more harm than good, even when we think that we're just showing "tough love."  I was my own worse critic when I returned, and remained that way for well over a year.  I know from my own experience that, given my level of sensitiveness and shame when I returned to A.A., the last thing I needed was for "salt" to be added to my already extremely painful wounds.  By the grace of God, I was surrounded by enough encouraging, supportive A.A. members that in time I was able to heal regardless of what some members said.

When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. to be there, and for that, I am responsible.

In love and support,
BGG (By God's Grace)


Senior Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 435

I had a slip after five and a half years of sobriety and stayed away for over two years. Oh how I hated returning to those rooms but I ran out of options. At that time the group I was a part of was very supportive and I do believe they got me through all the shame and guilt I had. I don't know if I would have made it without their help and support.

The group I belong to now looks down on relapsers and it is sad. Those folks are always made to feel unwelcomed... and yes I say that because you can feel the tension in the air. I always start my talk with saying, "John Doe, I admire your strength and courage for coming back. You have more strength then I did when I slipped."

You are right, they beat themselves up enough without adding fuel to the fire...

I am sorry for your loss

"A busy mind is a sick mind.  A slow mind, is a healthy mind.  A still mind, is a divine mind." - Native American Centerness

Creating Dreams, from the nightmares of hell...

MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 525

I remember after drinking the awful feeling of having to go back to a meeting and admit that I had drank. The longer I stayed away from AA, the harder it was to walk thru the doors. But I knew there was hope in those rooms, and I knew those ppl had something .. sobriety.

For 2 yrs I did the 30,60,90 day shuffle ... at first going back to the meetings most ppl were very welcoming. But after doing it so many times .. I'll have to be honest and say that I doubt anyone had any faith in me, cuz most ppl weren't as welcoming after the 6th or 7th relapse as they were on the 1st or 2nd one.

After ( what I pray to be ) .. my last drunk a good trustworthy friend of mine told me that many of the regulars that I attended meetings with had placed bets on how long I would stay sober this time. Nice huh? And no, I dont have resentments against these ppl, I do know that they did not in fact have my best interest in mind and thats okay with me today. It has taken me awhile, but I have learned that not everybody in AA is well.

I have been in meetings where ppl come back after getting drunk and I Have heard other so called 'long time' members thank them for coming back .. cuz' they claim that they needed that particlar person to 'go out ' there and get drunk, to let the member know that its still out there. HUH, WHAT ???? That kills me, lol. Sorry, but I most certainly do not need anybody to go out and get drunk to prove to me that booze is still out there. I know without a doubt that its out there.

Its my job as an AA member today to be as welcoming, loving, understanding and tolerant of anyone in the rooms ... no matter how long they have been sober. No matter how many times they go in and out the doors.

I am responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help .. right?
( I consider someone coming back to the rooms of AA after the 1st, or 10th drunk reaching out for help , and If Im there, then I should be helping them in any way I can )



Senior Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 479

Im glad this post was posted. There is a woman I met when I first came in to the program. She is a very educated and well to do lady. I have been in the program over 2 1/2 years. During this time I have taken her to the hospital during one of her relaps. She has relapsed many, many times since and now I find out many times before I knew her. It was a huge learning experience. She said "Boy I will never do that again" Well her relaps are getting closer and closer, but she keeps coming back. The problem I am having is when she comes back its like business as usual with her. I go between being angry with her or just throwing my hand in the air. I know her sobriety is not my concern. What concerns me is how she jumps right on the new people and tells them how to do the program and is very uppity towards alot of the people in the fellowship. When someone talks that she doesn't like she makes noises and just pisses me off. I know I need to just stay clear and mind my own business. I caught myself judging and talking about her with another AA person and after I felt really bad about it. I have no business putting such judgment on another person in the fellowship. I should always be supportive. So I guess today I will pray to my higher power to guide me and to be helpful and supportive to those suffering. It takes alot of guts to come back it and be humble and honest. If I don't work my program better I will be knowing that first hand.


MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 996


So sorry your heart is hurting....thank you dear for making this Post.....

BGG, I was a chronic relapser for over 7 years, sometimes getting 30 days, then 60 I believe was the highest number of days.....and I would always go back within a week, not out of shame, although that was my internal kickname, just knew it would help, and to be real honest, I never paid too much attention to the folks with their looks at each other, or some smart ass comment, like thank you, you helped me stayed sober this week, I agree with the other responder that was so out of line, and so friggen  co-dependant...I always looked at the whole groups as people recovering from Alcoholism, some faster than others, and I was just a person that simple did not "get" the program......but to all that had gone on to achieve long term sobriety, thought how truly wonderful for them....

I felt when I would wake up and feel sick as a dog, hands so shakey  that I had an illness, and was doing the best I could illness that only when I was looking into the grave did it dawn on me, and asked a God, (really not of my understanding), I had long ago convinced myself that the God I knew, or believed in as a child really wanted nothing to do with the likes of me....but it was that utter Surrendering to God,
and begging for HIS Help in Showing me a Different way.

My hideous compulsion to get drunk, 24/7, was simple lifted and I believe and I always will, that God was responsible for showing me how to not drink, one day at a time, and get myself into a chair everyday, and just listen, and after that meeting would Pray to that God to help me return to the next meeting the next day, that went on for months and months.
I had a Big Book, I had had for ages and the 12x 12, but it was that little 24 hour book I used as my real life Bible.....

The critical judgements of others regarding others, I find so very sad, it makes me feel like crying out to these people, can you NOT remember where you came from???

I had an experience with a wonderful, wonderful cheery and also positive stuff to say to all,an Englishman, with his wonderful English accent, he had had many many years of continueous Sobriety,....then  came in one day last year, he looked like a different person, so full of shame, (I am assuming),  but could barely speak with out crying, about how hard it was for him, the drinking and the returning...and the hard part was he then stopped coming back.....Pray is doing ok, today, that is all I can do.

It also brings up another topic on Relapsing, like you said, you relapsed at 18 years, and I just had a 20th roll by, thanks to my HP, whom I choose always to call maybe there is a big difference indeed to having enjoy a lot of wonderful sobriety and having to start over, but We certainly dont lose those long wonderful years, my opinion here,  sure hope I never find out, and if we keep God first always in our lives, but the disease is always waiting....I hear that all the time...

That was then, this is now, and I personal just wonder where the lack of intelligence comes from when we judge  others, I have made it a strong conviction of mine, and Pray also about help with never judging others.  

I sure hope this response has stayed in the  theme  of your heartbreaking Post.....

God Bless us, One and ALL


-- Edited by Just Toni on Monday 11th of October 2010 06:34:45 PM


MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 805

Personally since I was shown Love and Tolerance when I slipped after many years, and my AA friends even remained my AA friends, telling me "we didn't love you because you were sober, we love you because you are you" and I was welcomed back with open arms

When we get to AA we aren't well, and the truth of the matter is many never get "well" no matter how many 24 hours they string together, every area has large geoups of these people who run around with their opinions bothering everyone and when they approached me with their judgement when I came back I let them know I already had a God, and it wasn't them.

See just like the first time I got sober, the effort I put into my sobriety was all I was responsible for, and if I let the judgmental attitudes of a few sick people keep me from getting sober, the responsibility was on me, me blaming other people for my drinking or running away from my responsibilities because people were "mean" was the first "old idea" I had to let go of in order to get sobriety, when we talk about having to want sobriety more then anything else in the whole world, that's what this means, we let nothing and no one stand in the way of our sobriety no matter what.

I drove 1 hour a direction twice a week, 2 hours a direction once a week, and 15 miles a direction once a week in my first six months of sobriety on a suspended license in an area where the cops knew what my car looked like and knew I didn't have a license, I didn't care, this all falls under the "prepared to go to any lengths" category

With friends that did the same thing, such as still calling me things like "newcomer" between 9 months and a year and 3 months I pulled aside and told them what they were saying hurt my feelings, and they were making me feel unwelcome, and if they continued to give me a hard time I would be unable to remain their friend and would be compelled to attend meetings where I was made to feel welcome.

The behavior stopped, with the others, the "know it alls" from their lofty perches on the hilltop of moral and spiritual superiority stopped in time as well, when they saw me doing the deal, getting a sponsor, working the steps, getting commitments, setting up chairs, sponsoring others, in short when they saw me doing the work required to achieve long term sobriety I earned their respect back

I am sorry alcoholism killed your friend, both his and the people around him's alcoholism, but it happens here, alcoholism kills people and it's nobodies fault, that's why it's called a disease, all I can do is my part to remain loving and helpful towards the newcomer, and sometimes my love might look different then yours



it's not the change that's painful, it's the resistance to change that is painful

MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 3590

I think there are ways of talking to a person about their relapse that demonstrate caring and concern rather than criticism. For example if a person blabs and blabs and never listens, but keeps going out and coming back in, it would help them to be told to listen more, but it can be done in a tactful way. We are here to help each other, but not enable each other. It is not my place to judge a person's whole character for having a relapse, but the shame and guilt is all self induced and cosigning a person's bullcrap doesn't help them.

It's a fine line of calling a person out, but doing it in a loving way. Just my thoughts on the matter...

I am sorry for your loss BGG...It is a shame but ultimately it comes down to the disease and to person in AA is to blame for someone's relapse. Alcoholism is to blame. I don't need others to go out for me to be reminded to stay sober, but it does make me more mad at alcoholism and that makes me more vigilant.

Keep coming back. It works if you work it. So work it. You're worth it!

MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 1427

So glad this thread came up - just back from a meeting and spent time with a returnee. After 11 dry months, made up of 6 months rehab and 5 months supported sober living, he thought just the one wouldn't hurt. That was 3 weeks ago. He's made it back across the pennines having been on the streets for those three weeks, got himself in a hostel and got to a meeting. He says he'll walk to tomorrows meeting as he has no money for the bus and refused a lift.

he says it get's worse. much worse.


It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you got.

When all else fails - RTFM

MIP Old Timer

Status: Offline
Posts: 1052

Great topic and thread.

I'm fortunate to encounter the judgmental crowd very rarely in the Fellowship. I find that when I do, the folks dispensing what they see as "helpful advice" are very well-intentioned.

For my part, I just consider what it says in the Big Book, "Never talk down to an alcoholic from any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they worked with you. Offer him friendship and fellowship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to help." (page 95).

Admittedly, that part of the BB was intended for AA's trying to find new alkies to carry the message to, but I doubt that the same principles don't apply to dealing with folks who have been around a while and have gone out again.

It's not up to me to call anyone out on the advice they give, but it us up to me to share my own experience with the person coming back and what I did when I had a drink and came back (if they want to hear it).


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