Secretly Hoping for Edmund’s Demise

edmundborderWhen I was newly sober, I had a list of possible tragedies which, should they come to pass, I thought would warrant a relapse. Surely, if my husband died or I got terminal cancer, no one would begrudge me a drink, right?

But since part of me hoped for such an excuse, I amended the list to include the more bearable scenario of my dog Edmund’s sudden and tragic passing. 🙂

Which might explain why twice during my early recovery Edmund was almost killed due to negligence on my part. Once a car hit him because I had him off leash. Fortunately, he’s so small he bounced off the front spoiler and rolled away to safety. Another time, while lowering my passenger seat for a nap, I inadvertently pushed Edmund out the rear window and onto the freeway in Denver. Fortunately, traffic was stalled and we noticed he was no longer in the car before we drove off.

If you’re an alcoholic, you understand why I used to think, When’s this little prick gonna die so I can drink?

Today, the idea that I might drink seems unlikely—a fact which, ironically, makes me more vulnerable to relapse. Especially when you consider I never saw it coming when, at six months sober, I drank at Dave in the Minneapolis airport.

So, in the spirit of vigilance, here’s an unscientific list of conditions that may increase our risk of relapse.

  1. We have a history of slipping. The more we relapse, the more relapse starts to feel like an option we can come back from—until we can’t.
  2. We were active in our addiction for many years. It makes sense that the longer we used or drank, the more deeply engrained those patterns of behavior can be, and the harder to break.
  3. We have been in recovery a long time. It’s true. The longer we stay sober, the harder it is to remember our powerlessness, and the easier it is to think we’ve changed enough that we could handle a drink.
  4. We have a lot of YETs. We haven’t yet got a DUI. We haven’t yet lost our job, our kids, or our marriage due to our stupid habit. Yets are good news until they make us wonder if we’re really alcoholics or addicts like the rest of those people we meet in meetings.
  5. We aren’t part of a recovery community. Most of us just can’t do this thing alone. We need the support and accountability that comes from being vulnerable with—and deeply connected to—others on the same journey.
  6. We take prescription meds that can be addictive. For many alcoholics and addicts, this is a slippery slope that takes us right back to our drug of choice.
  7. We keep our recovery secret from friends and family. If the most important people in our lives wouldn’t know or care if we relapsed, we probably don’t have enough at stake in our sobriety.
  8. We live or work in an environment rife with “triggers.” Repeated exposure to situations that weaken our resolve—for example, excessive stress, anxiety and conflict—set us up to seek relief in our bad old ways.
  9. We think we’re beyond danger. There’s a big difference between healthy confidence and the kind of cockiness that results in complacency. The latter is likely to lead us to a drink.
  10. We are unwilling to seek outside help. Many of us get sober only to discover we need to address other mental health issues, which if neglected, can threaten our sobriety.
  11. We fail to take the actions our program suggests. We rely on God to keep us sober, but God relies on us to do our part. Unless we take the steps historically proven to help, our sobriety is likely to be precarious.
  12. We don’t help other alcoholics. We often remind each other in meetings that we keep what we have by giving it away. Assisting newcomers reminds us of the nightmare we’ve been saved from, and helping others gets our attention off of ourselves.

You know what? Reading through this list right now, I realize that at least three of these apply to me today. This doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong, it just means that like everyone else in recovery, I need to stay vigilant if I want to stay free.

By the way, don’t worry about Edmund. Let’s face it, he has good reason to believe he’ll live forever.

In the meantime, I no longer secretly hope for his demise.  And if he dies, I promise not to drink at his funeral.

I’d love to hear from you today. What do you think I should add to this list? What else puts us at risk of relapse?

In case you’re interested in this topic, I wrote another post about relapse called No One Will Know if I Eat This Cake: The 12 Lies of Relapse.  



Author: Heather Kopp at

Heather Kopp is an author and blogger who writes about the intersection of addiction and faith. Her memoir about her recovery, Sober Mercies, was published by Jericho, a new imprint of HBG (Hachette Book Group) in Spring 2013.

33 thoughts on “Secretly Hoping for Edmund’s Demise”

  1. Pingback: Acai
  2. How about: WE GO ON VACATION. Have you noticed that there are ENTIRE countries that qualify as “triggers”? England, Puerto Rico, THE BAHAMAS* to name a few… I’m new to this sobriety thing. Sometimes I wonder, should I just stay home?

    *the gold star of drinkin’ countries where booze in the morning is “Bahamian Breakfast”.


  3. Heather, beautiful as always. I don’t know if I’ll be sober for forever, but I do know, with certainty, that I will be sober today. Remaining vigilant to tools and teachings of recovery is paramount. This is a great list. I just started up with my coach again and several people asked me, “why?’ My response, “It was time to get back to looking more closely at Lisa.”

    Alcohol was never my problem, Lisa was my problem. Alcohol was my pseudo-solution. I know better today.

    Thankfully, Lisa

    ps a belated happy mom’s day … you are one of my mom mentors 🙂


    1. Lisa, thanks late for this comment. You inspire me. Your words about Lisa is a my problem remind of that saying about how the problem isn’t what happens when I drink, but what happens when I don’t–and I have to deal with ME. So true. Carry on your good work, Lisa. Hugs, Heather


  4. Heather thanks again for the victorious vulnerability you reflect in your missives which are heartfelt and prompt…at least for me…a strong sense that vulnerability cannot happen in isolation but requires community. Finding the right tribe is key. Caring and committed. Nothing self aggrandizing. Jesus followers more than doctrinal defenders of the faith. Broken…limping but with love as a free offering to others on the same path where progress is celebrated and perfection is seen for the silly goal we ever made it. I did. That only fueled impossible standards and desert seasons where alcohol was justified by the pressures of performance which sadly came from the conjoined twins of a workaholic bent and the fact it was extreme effort on behalf of ministries, churches, para-church organizations and other expressions of the
    “Kingdom of God.” My recovery path is still in an early dispensation. But I find that there is a special grace that comes in being quick to acknowledge fault and ask for forgiveness. To actively look for others who are suffering especially Christian leaders for whom I know there is a quiet crisis and nowhere safe to turn. And in the end even with the mercies which are new every morning the mundane things of life where average miracles occur we do best when we realize much of our day-to-day rhythm is driven by the understanding that often we “manage tensions more than solve problems.”

    Thanks again. The seeds you thoughtfully scatter find fertile soul in this guy.


    1. Butch, I’m late answering comments on this post, but yours is so wonderful I have to reply. Thanks for taking time to share your wisdom and thank you for being available to others who struggle. And yes, there is a special grace… Take care, bro.


      1. “Lessons learned are like bridges burned….you only have to cross them once. Is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain…are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?” Insightful words from that noted Evangelical scholar and modern day Psalmist….Dan Fogelberg.” 🙂 Happy “after birthday” where blood sugar gets regulated again.


  5. Great post Heather. I laughed REALLY hard at paragraph 4, folks in my office were wondering…
    I think having a wife/husband/partner/S.O. who is not ‘recovering from our addiction’ by going to Alanon can be a trigger for relapse. Along with all the great ones you mentioned.


  6. I have had two of what I call my “worst” day’s sober and I try to tell myself that if I were to drink again it would have to be worse than what I have already been through. I can not keep setting myself up for something worse….I have found out I must be careful what I pray for, I just might get it.
    I am grateful the first time I wanted to “use” was a day another woman new in recovery kept me sober, I am just sorry she died last year from active addiction. That is one more reason for me to keep sober today.


  7. 13. We fail to Surrender our lives to Christ. Surrender is not a weakness but Intelligent Delegation. Making a decision to follow Christ is not a weakness, it starts with a thinking decision, an act of cognitive strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It is a pro-active empowered decision to gain control of your life over displaced behaviors (addictions-all hurts habits and hangups). When you give Christ control over your life, when you delegate control to Christ, you regain control of your life, your displaced behavior, when God returns the values and character of the Holy Spirit to your life. This isn’t rocket science. This is basic psychology that Jesus Christ has been teaching for over 2014 years.


    1. You bring up a great point. If we can’t surrender our lives and our addiction to God and give up trying to control everything ourselves, we’re not going to get far. The definition of addiction is that we aren’t powerful enough to beat it by will power. Thanks for taking time to comment!


  8. Heather, Last week my friend opened up and shared that she struggles with addictions. Thanks to you, I feel like I had the right words for her. Your “Key In Our Hand” post was timely as I read it just hours before meeting up with my friend and it totally applied to her since she recently hit “rock bottom”.
    Thank you.


  9. Hi Heather. I’d add one thought. “Being nibbled to death by ducks.” I heard that early in my sobriety. It’s not necessarily the “big things” — the loss of a parent or other loved one, divorce, finally getting our Master’s degree or achieving a similar accomplishment. We mentally brace ourselves and say “I need to get to a meeting” and we call on our friends for support. It can be the gentle, daily realities of “life on life’s terms” — the leaky faucet that needed a plumber, the unexpected car repair, the daily grind of the workplace, the challenges of parenting. I think those things can add up to “what’s the use” kind of thinking and then “suddenly” a drink seems like a good solution. We need to maintain our spiritual condition on a daily basis.


  10. Love this one Heather. I think joy is the biggest trigger for me. The minute I finish a 10 mile run, i know I’m going to want to smoke a Marlboro Red. I probably won’t do it. But just knowing how joy is a trigger, I can plan to be with folks who get my particular brand of crazy. Also, being afraid and starting a new graduate program makes my angry which again is a trigger. So, joy, fear and anger. But the greatest of these is joy;)


  11. Awesome, Heather. I saw so many things on the list that have been the snare for our men. I also like what Vernon added. Truth, the strong, unvarnished kind.


  12. We are alcoholics and sometimes its our default setting…so we do a daily programme to keep us doing what we sometimes seem wired up to do. Reading your blog when it arrives is part of the things I do too….so good check list there. Thanks and glad your sobriety doesnt depend on your dog :-)……and what is dog backwards?


  13. Thanks Heather! This list reminds me how well Im doing and I must remain vigilant in my recovery. If I could add one to the list it would be practice being honest with your thinking, feeling and actions. I have seen many addicts with substantial clean time relapse because of their inability to be honest with themselves and others.


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