So You Had A Relapse

Hey there.

Yes, you.

Can we talk?

I saw you with your New Year’s resolutions. You were going to quit drinking. Or start saving 10% of your paycheck. Or start meditating 30 10 minutes every day. Read to your kids every night. You joined the gym. You bought a new planner.

You had plans, friend! You had the best of intentions.

New Year, New You!

And yet, here we are. Ten days into the new year, and you already took that drink you had forsworn, have eaten things you didn’t plan to, have skipped a day at the gym, meditated twice, overdrawn your checking account.

Dammit! How did this happen, you ask? You had a plan!

But as Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Plans happen in a vacuum, and life, sadly, does not. So the healthy food remains in the cupboard, you haven’t saved $10 yet, and you’ve already had your first hangover this year. When life happened, your plans went out the window.

And now you feel like you have let yourself down. And maybe you feel like a failure. Like you can’t change.

I have spent more than 15 years watching people dramatically change their lives despite horrific odds stacked against them. And in that same time, I have seen people with every advantage as their lives fell apart. I know a little bit about how people change.

People change when they are ready. It’s that simple. If you are truly ready to start meditating, to quit drinking, to start saving money, if you have reached what people who study these things call the “action” stage, you will make changes. And if you are not, you won’t.

The chart up there is from the “Trans-theoretical Model of Change”, and it changed my life. Literally. The idea is, as people change, they go through stages.

First, change isn’t even on your radar. Then you are considering it. Then you are determined, and maybe start researching. Then you take concrete action. And it’s easy to think you have changed. This was you on January 3rd.


But then.

It’s important to realize that relapse is also part of change. In the 12 Step Programs, the literature suggests that most people relapse on average 7 times before they quit the behavior they want to change.

So, you had a relapse. You went back to doing whatever it was you used to do. It’s OK. It happens. Most of us don’t get it right the first time. What matters is, if you are ready to change – like, really ready – that you start again. Because once you realize you have made a mistake, the most important thing to do is quit making it.

You don’t have to wait until tomorrow to go back on your vitamins. You don’t have to start exercising next week. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to pick up a new habit. You don’t have to start being sober again tomorrow.

You can be sober from now on. You can eat the way you planned to starting now, at the next meal. You can start meditating today instead of tomorrow.

If you are ready, you can change. Even if you relapsed. Especially if you relapsed.

Because you already did the hard work of getting to the action stage.

Because you deserve the benefits of your change.

Because it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down.

Because it only matters how many times you get back up.