The word slip has about 50 meanings. No exaggeration. The meaning when it’s applied to an alcoholic means taking a drink after a period and intention of sobriety. I have heard it discussed, long ago, that some people mean a slip in this context to mean drinking by accident. Having someone drug you, picking up the wrong glass, being told there’s no alcohol in something containing it. I have not heard of this actually happening in my experience. I mean, with all the stories I’ve heard and all the people I’ve talked to I have not known this to actually happen to someone.
The way it’s used now is describing a purposeful drink. There are truisms that are well known around the program of how this happens to people. One definite connection is that when people stop going to meetings, they often slip. My question is what came first, the slip or the cut back of meetings? Did the person drink because he or she stopped going to meetings, or did they stop going to meetings because they were going to drink?
Some of what I’ve learned about the challenges of oldtimers has to do with people getting plain bored of the repetition of what occurs at AA meetings. At times I’ve looked around at the oldtimers at a meeting and wondered if we just have more of a capacity to tolerate repetition than the people who faded away. Of course I’m still there, so I can’t really know what happened in the heart of someone who isn’t. I imagine people also just wonder, after a long sobriety, if they really were alcoholic or were mistaken. They may also fall under the spell of denial, even after years, and think they can handle it.
So it often happens that a person stops going to meetings, then drinks. Other times they don’t stop going to meetings, and they drink. I’ve seen it happen as a result of pain medication. I’ve seen it happen as a result of some huge life set back. When I think about it, it doesn’t surprise me that an alcoholic might seek escape once again through the power of the bottle. I guess we should be more surprised when it doesn’t happen.
I’ll write about my own experience next time. It was, like all slips, a fall into error, a becoming lost, a slide away from support, a loss of grip, an involuntary slide, the making of a mistake.