On week 17 of the Hope Dealer, Ed McDonough, GateHouse CEO has on special guest Matt Lee. Matt is a GateHouse alumnus and is now the Medical Liaison at GateHouse Treatment of New Hampshire. Matt and Ed discuss the topic of complacency in recovery, which becomes an issue for many people in long-term recovery that can lead to relapse. Before coming to GateHouse, Matt had 3 and a half years of sobriety, followed by a terrible relapse and Matt is now in long-term recovery again. Complacency was the factor that led him down the road to relapse.
Matt’s First Time in Sobriety
Matt was introduced to 12-step fellowships and the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of 30 when he first got sober. After leaving treatment, Matt got highly involved in his recovery. Matt was working steps, going to meetings and then went against every suggestion that old timers gave him such as, don’t get in a relationship, don’t go back to school yet, and don’t change your career. Matt went against all these suggestions within the first year.
Matt stayed sober for 2.5 years out of spite mostly. He thought that everything was okay because from the outside his life looked great. He had the car, the apartment, the girlfriend, was going to school, working full time and had a full-time job. As addicts and alcoholics, we view situations differently. Everything is seen from a selfish and self-centered point of view. Matt pointed out that the only way he knew how to deal with stress was to drink and drug, but he didn’t have those outlets anymore. Matt would still lie and manipulate situations and didn’t deal with the mess that was going on in his mind.
Matt relapsed right after his son was born. His girlfriend was on methadone, their son was born, and he was premature and had health complications. His girlfriend also had to have emergency surgery after the c-section and her, and the baby had to remain in the hospital for a little while after the birth. They are both perfectly fine now. When Matt went home, he got his girlfriend’s methadone wafers and broke off a piece and took it. Within 24 hours, all the methadone was gone. Matt had told himself in his head “I can use a little pick me up…it’s been 3.5 years, you’ll be okay.”
Relapse and Recovery
A week later Matt was shooting heroin for the first time in his life at 35 years old. That run lasted for 2 years, and within the first 6 months, Matt had lost everything he gained in 3.5 years. Matt said, “I forgot where I came from.” He said his relapse started probably 2 years before he started using drugs again. His behaviors and thoughts were like being in active addiction. Despite having a great life from the outside, he never dealt with the internal struggle.
Matt went to detoxes and rehabs probably 15 times in the 2 years he was running but would always end up leaving. He finally decided that he was either going to live in his car and keep using or go to treatment and stay there. Matt said, “The gig was up.”When Matt realized those were his only two options, he went to GateHouse Treatment. When he got to GateHouse, he started seeing people that were happy, genuinely happy. These people were getting things back in their lives, like their family and had jobs and most importantly, they were happy.
Matt started doing the work at this point. He was going back to meetings, working the steps and developed a strong support group. Matt kept doing the next right thing and was able to see his children and started building his life again. Matt says today he has an awareness of his behaviors that cause him to slack on his recovery, he also has a support system of about 5-6 people that will call him out on his actions if they start to change.
Matt still has school, kids, and a full-time job, but he doesn’t allow the stress of these to make him stop working his recovery program. Matt knows that he will lose all those things if he stops working on himself and his recovery.
Complacency is a Killer
Ed makes the point that complacency is like getting a new car. At first, you take it to the car wash once a week, vacuum it out constantly and take excellent care of it. Once the novelty of it begins to wear off, it starts with leaving trash in it or pushing off maintenance of the car. Then before you know it, the car is a wreck and is trashed. The same thing applies to people in recovery when we first enter recovery we’re gung-ho about everything. We work the steps with vigor, and religiously attend meetings. Then once we work through steps 1-9 we kind of slack off, we don’t attend as many meetings regularly, and we slowly stop growing in our recovery.
The words “I got it,” should never come out of the mouth of an addict or alcoholic. When we think that we “have” our recovery or start looking at what “I did,” not what recovery has given us, it’s dangerous territory. Matt and Ed both made the point that if you never stop doing the basics, you never have to go back to them. When we forget the things that we did to get sober, and there are no immediate negative side effects to slacking on them, we think we can get away with it. Ed said: “It’s not gonna kill me today, I’ll roll the dice.”
We have to remain vigilant in our recovery, every day. That is how we stay in recovery and not have to white-knuckle physical sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling after a relapse or are ready to give sobriety a chance, call GateHouse today at 855-448-3588. You can heal, we can help.