Busting - for those of us aware of the term, it is our worst nightmare. "Busting" means that after a period of abstinence, we use or drink again.
It is a heartbreaking experience for us, and extremely disappointing for all our loved ones. Not only that, but "busting" can be a matter of life and death - it is a very serious situation. To those reading this article who do not have the disease of addiction, "busting" must seem like insanity and stupidity. You are perfectly correct. And even though we know this, relapse rates are high. The mental hooks that the disease thrusts into us with are very strong and buried deep. We are so smart that we fool ourselves into thinking that we can socially drink/use again. Sometimes, we just couldn't give a damn about being responsible for our illness, it does get tiring. Or we just want to taste the oblivion for one last time. For some of us, it will be our last time - we will die, and perhaps take others with us.
The circumstances leading to busting vary, but the bottom line is that it isn't usually an accident - it is by design. We place ourselves into dangerous frames of mind or into situations that we know aren't healthy for us. For a recovering addict, any human emotion experienced in its extreme state i.e. anger, loneliness, depression, self pity or even euphoria is like playing Russian Roulette. It is very important for us to keep a tight rein on our emotions.
Have I ever busted? Yes, two years after I had accepted my illness. I remember the lead up to it well. I was trying to get my business off the ground and working 3 different jobs to finance it.
Mistake one - overworking.
I was experiencing trouble with one of my employers and was getting pretty wound up over it.
Mistake two - inappropriate anger and frustration
Sleep was becoming an interference to my activities
Mistake three - not sleeping
Due to the intensity of my emotions, I was grieving for the oblivion that drugs and drink used to provide me.
Mistake four - "stinking thinking"
I was working a couple of jobs where alcohol and other drugs were easily obtained.
Mistake five - bad environment considering the other circumstances - constant temptation
I wasn't having much contact with other recovering addicts
Mistake six - I had cut myself off from my support networks
I thought I had "earned" one day's respite from the illness....I'd just have a few drinks to unwind. After all, it was the Christmas season. (!?!?)
Mistake seven, the fatal one - Insanity - I fooled myself. I conveniently "forgot" that I was powerless over these substances and there was no way I could control my intake.
The end result was that I drank and dropped a few tranquilizers. 2 years of hard work was lost in under 24 hours. The next morning when I awoke (or more to the point, regained consciousness), I was in withdrawals. Even after years of abstinence, you return to where you left off. I knew what was going to happen next, so I rang the hospital and begged for detox. I spent the next five days there sweating, shaking and hallucinating. I put my various jobs, myself and others risk through my irresponsible actions. All for the privilege of experiencing oblivion. Insanity and stupidity.
I was once again a very lucky man. They say that God looks after drunks and fools. Seeing that I fall into both categories, I must have got special attention! The hospital looked after me well. I was actually working there as a Ward Clerk at the time of my bust. All employers stuck by me and I was able to return to work 2 weeks later. It was a shameful experience (small town), but I learnt a great deal from it. I hope never to tempt fate like that again.
Looking back on it now, and reading the above lead-up it is all too clear to me why it happened. No accident; I set myself up nicely to fail. Why? I guess I'll never really know. While life was tough at the time, it was nowhere near as bad as it had been during the "dark days". I hadn't really recognized my own limitations, so pride was also an issue. I discovered the hard way that the parasite within (I have published another article on the "parasite" concept) was a great deal more powerful than what I thought - even though I had been taught better than that.
In speaking with a number of addicts over the years, I have discovered one common point in all the "busting" stories. We "forget" that we have no control over the substances that threatened to destroy us. It's like a rather bizarre allergy. The allergic reaction is all the negative things that we do as practicing addicts. Yet, like moths to a flame, we are drawn back to it - knowing deep down that we will be burnt.
The other common cause for busting is being "dry" instead of clean and sober. In alcoholic terms, a dry drunk is someone who has ceased drinking but has done nothing to rectify the deep seated behavioral and emotional patterns which are the results of years of self abuse. The dry drunk may seem stable and happy on the surface, but tends to harbor deep resentment towards their lot in life.
This is why it is so important to go into recovery for yourself, not for your wife, children or friends. Recovery is a selfish process, but down the track other people will benefit from your recovery if you have the right initial motivation. If you do stop using/drinking purely for the sake of others, you will more than likely start feeling resentment towards them - and bust when the frustration builds up. Sober is more than cessation and sobriety is a life long study. There are no days off.
Before you get to the busting stage, become aware of patterns in your own behavior that may lead to the flashpoint situation. Avoid them or remove them. But please remember, if you ever do "bust", it does not mean that you can never be sober. Swallow your pride and ask for help - if you are lucky enough to be still able to.............some of us are made silent forever.
The parasite within likes to win and will wait patiently for decades until the time is right........I remember one recovering alcoholic saying that every morning when he wakes up, he envisions a vulture sitting at the end of his bed.....waiting. He then makes his daily affirmation not to drink. It's a pretty strong mental image, one that I choose not to use, but I could understand where he was coming from.
"I am the secret,
I am the sin,
I am the guilty,
I am the thorn within"
The Thorn Within - Metallica - Load
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