Relapse: Stepping Forward, Stepping Back

relapse: to fall back or revert to an earlier point (Webster’s Dictionary, 1991)

In any form of recovery the word relapse is a scary word. We try to avoid it like the plague. It becomes a “bad” word. Yet, it is completely unavoidable. There is no way around relapsing. It happens. The thing about relapses is that the farther along one is in recovery, the less frequent they become, the episodes may be shorter (an hour or two, maybe just one day not a week), and how we approach them changes (we are kinder to ourselves, we have our toolkit, support buddies, etc…).

When I first started recovery a little over two years ago I wrote relapsing on my FEARS list. In red ink it says: relapsing…leaving therapy/quitting it…recovery in general…among other fears. Relapse was scary to me because I interpreted it as a lack of control and that I was a failure at recovery (and ED’s LOVE to jump on the failure bandwagon). Also, I had no idea what to expect. My relapse could be anywhere from a simple day of over exercising, skipping a meal, counting/measuring my food intake, negative thoughts, weighing myself multiple times a day, looking at Muscle and Fitness or other NPC mags, taking extra fiber pills or laxatives; and how would I react. So much unknown.

Compound this on top of being a perfectionist and relapse is a super bad word/concept/idea/situation. In the perfecitonistic style  you approach recovery this way even though you are suppose to decrease these tendencies and be gentle/kid/loving to yourself. Instead you avoid anything that has to deal with relapse. While doing so, you relapse. It is inevitable to avoid a relapse. Something happens, you can’t cope and BAM you are in a relapse. Your first relapse is scary. You don’t know what to do. It can last for days! Maybe a week. Maybe two. You cry out to your therapist and support buddies for help. Finally it is over. You survived your first relapse. Like anything else, the first one is the hardest. Then maybe a week later you have another one. Another freak out, another cry out. This cycle keeps happening. You are learning to navigate this new life without another person who lives inside of you telling you how to live your life and you don’t know what to do. As time goes on you do know what to do. You have found your own personal recovery relapse tool kit. A blue print. Maybe you can feel a relapse coming on so you call a buddy. Maybe you do some yoga and meditate on positive thoughts. Or you have the ability to make a quick call to your therapist. Anything. You feel strong, empowered. Relapse can’t get you down.

Just as you think you are doing great it has been quite some time since a relapse then out of the woods a relapse comes upon you. Except this time, you are letting your ED in. He/she is coming back to roost. At first you try your tools. You call a buddy, go to therapy, chant a mantra, but nothing works. Then this feeling of laziness, comfortableness, the friendship of your ED comes back and the relapse lasts. It doesn’t stop. You can’t get it go away so you decide to let it be and have a picnic with you. Those scale weighing fits, the laxative abuse, the negative talk/thought conversations, the weighing/measuring/counting, the binges of exercise, hating everything you eat, obsessive “fat talk”  is your life again. And you just don’t… know… what…to… do….

I say all this I am here. I am at the corner of Recovery Road and Relapse BLVD. Melvin (my ED), has come back and decided to make himself a nice little home here again. I try to stay above it all but, I am finding myself lackadaisical with recovery. I am criticizing I what I eat but I follow it up with, “At least I am not restricting or counting.” I am paranoid if I am eating correctly and why I keep eating so much. My hubby tells me, “You did Nutcracker for two weeks straight and ate lots of yogurt and had a weird eating schedule.” I didn’t starve during Nutcracker. So that is a HUGE improvement (I usually eat very little during performances you know because of costumes). I now have boobs and having to deal with those while performing was a new and stressful experience which made me had them even more than I do. I keep checking my stomach to see if I am fat or asking the hubs if my legs are turning into cottage cheese.  I am becoming lazy with journaling and the 12 Steps. I just don’t want to do that anymore. I know I need to but, being the personality that gets tired of things, I want something new. Therapy has just been ok. I feel stuck. I am a four wheeler stuck in the mud and can’t get out. I may be not diving back into old habits but I am not getting out of the mud.

I am sick and tired of being this way. This is no way to  live. This is the whole reason why I started recovery. Life wasn’t as fun as it could be. With this being said and the new year is here, it is time for me to hop back on this recovery train. Start my new year off fresh and kick Melvin out. Start working the steps again, call my circle of support, have special yoga sessions.  All in the name of new life and new year.

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