Recovering addict Mel Harris shares her story: a story of progress and not perfection

Progress, not perfection. That’s easy enough to say, but in reality, a much harder pill to swallow.

I am a perfectionist by nature, borderline OCD in fact. In my early recovery, I was determined to be the perfect mom, the best wife and have a spotless recovery track record that clearly showed my upward and forward momentum.

With childlike energy and enthusiasm, I would wake up in the mornings and take my kiddie and dogs for a walk in the beautiful Limpopo bushveld. Sobriety gave me new-found freedom and through it I embraced a vibrant new lease on life. Sublime bliss. I was on an all-natural high, working my recovery, and elated in every respect that I was finally becoming, after 45 years, who I was truly meant to be.

Then the pink cloud bubble burst

According to the “Pink clouding, or pink cloud syndrome, describes a stage of early addiction recovery that involves feelings of euphoria and elation. When you’re in this phase, you feel confident and excited about recovery.”

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“The problem with pink cloud syndrome is that it doesn’t last forever, and coming out of this phase can sometimes have a negative impact on your recovery.”

“A negative impact on your recovery” is an understatement. How about the impact of falling off a cliff?

Reaching the 100 days clean and sober milestone is a big deal. No, it’s more than a big deal. To me, it was the hugest deal ever.

In anticipation of achieving this milestone, my nine-year-old son and I even made a celebratory A1 poster which read ‘My mom is 100 days clean and sober’. I haven’t made a 100 days in nine long years. In the past, the wheels would always come off at around day 95 or so and then a major relapse would ensue. This time was almost no different.

There isn’t a perfect recovery. People are not perfect. We are human, we are fallible, and we make mistakes. All the time, every day, in every way.

“To err is human, to forgive divine” said Alexander Pope (Poem: An Essay on Criticism, Part II, 1711.)

That it is.

My pink cloud bubble burst on day 98 when a deeply ingrained pattern of self-sabotage reared its ugly head again. I drank alcohol. It was only two drinks, but it was enough to bring reality crashing back over me like a tidal wave

Why did I drink, I hear you ask? To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea

It could have been that I was too overconfident, riding the high of the pink cloud or that sitting and working through the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with early recovery was starting to wear me out. I can’t say definitively say why I drank. I simply just did.

Guilt, shame and remorse quickly set in. It was like someone had just thrown a bucket of ice-cold water in my face. I realised how precious, how fragile and how sacred recovery truly is for someone who struggles with a devastating drug and alcohol addiction.

Guilt and shame are the vicious demons that keep people trapped in the devastating addiction cycle. I didn’t know what to say, what to feel or what to think so I outed myself on Facebook.

I know social media is most often not the friendliest of environments to look to for love and support, but on this day, my day 98, I had an incredible, mind-blowing amount of love and support pour in from friends, colleagues and acquaintances from all over the world. It was pure unconditional love without an agenda. The kind of love that lifts you up and heals you from the inside out.

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I believe it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t end up trapped in active addiction again

I humbled myself and prayed to my higher power for the strength, will and guidance to stop the lapse from turning into yet another full-blown relapse. I rumbled through the tornado of emotions I was feeling, peeling back layer after layer and took accountability for my mistake. It was a wise decision, one that I am so grateful for today.

Critics told me to reset my day counter, that I had to start from day 1 all over again. But I did not. I was not going to throw my 98 days of sobriety away. I have peace about this. My integrity is firmly intact. I lapsed. I made a mistake. I didn’t go down the rabbit hole and repeat the behaviour. I didn’t relapse. And so it’s onwards and upwards.

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Today I’m on 132 days. There’s no more elated pink cloud. It’s more challenging now

It takes real concerted energy and effort to work on my recovery and becoming authentic healed me. The truth is that self-mastery is taking commitment, discipline and courage. It’s not easy to change and unlearn 45 years of ingrained trauma patterns. Evolving, growing and transforming is not easy and it takes a lot of healthy self-love and self-care. It is most certainly better than the alternative of living a lower level addicted life. Without a doubt, my worst day in recovery is better than my best high in active.

To err is human, but as Pope conveyed in his poem, we should emulate the Divine and learn to forgive and this means also forgiving ourselves. I have forgiven myself and continue to go higher, not fighting for victory, but from victory.

This is my journey of becoming. This is me finding a new way to live.

You’re welcome to journey with me and together we’ll discover our New World. It’s raw and real. It’s time. Change the world. Love wins.




Melissa Harris

Rebirth date: 21.04.2020

Just for today.

Support helplines

Narcotics Anonymous Helpline: 083 900 6962

Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline: 086 143 5722

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