Joe Hawk was a powerful carrier of the message. He passed away several yrs ago. He used the term step zero. He said this is when you have received the grace of God to stop drinking but have not worked the steps. How long can one stay sober without working the steps? I wrote that the disease occurs when you are sober. So sober without program is very scary. Without the steps how do you live with anger and fear? My friend always says if nothing changes nothing changes. Another always says if I don’t change, my sobriety date will. If you are a real alcoholic the big book says you must have a spiritual way of life -or else.
How many steps do you need between you and the next drink? I think relapse is when you are living at step zero and the grace period runs out and the alcoholic drinks again. The big book says hard drinkers can stop if given sufficient reason. In the description of the alcoholic they describe different stages and degrees of alcoholism. Once the alcoholic has lost the choice over drink he has no defense from the first drink. His defense must come from a higher power. Step zero is not drinking but no relationship with God as a result of the steps that provides the defense from the first drink.
If you are at step zero please get into the big book and work the steps out of the book. That was the purpose of this site to help one go down the path.