What Happens When You Stumble in Recovery?
The water rushed through my fingers as my goggles fogged with condensation. At the local aquatic center, I was racing the older gentleman next to me; although he was clueless to our competition, I could not let him win. I had skipped breakfast that morning, and the guilt and the old familiar high was hitting me all at once. I was timing myself… I must swim X amount of minutes or, in my mind, I did not exercise at all. One more lap. One more flip turn. One more…
I stopped and ripped the goggles off of my face. A familiar sinking of my stomach shook my wise mind back into being. What had I done? I meant to have a relaxing swim, yet once again, I skipped a meal and pretended to be Michael Phelps in the water. I slipped.
You see, I am a recovering anorexic with purging tendencies. Exercise was my drug of choice, and I had sustained from running for over a year, so when the opportunity arose for me to have a leisurely swim in the lap pool, I thought, “What harm could it do? I am not running!” Well, it only took me 10 minutes to figure out that swimming was not harmless for me, and the actions leading up to that innocent swim were most defiantly a slip in my recovery.
What is the difference between a slip and a relapse? According to Recovery.org, “There is a major difference between having one slip and having a relapse. A lapse represents a temporary slip or return to a previous behavior that one is trying to control or quit (usually a onetime occurrence), whereas a relapse represents a full-blown return to a pattern of behavior that one has been trying to moderate or quit altogether”. In the pool that day, I had experienced a slip in both my anorexia and my exercise addiction. I got out, dried off, went directly to the Chinese restaurant next door and ordered Mongolian beef.
The thoughts and feelings after that slip were varied and many… It was my first slip, so I was confused, scared, disappointed, and lost. I didn’t know what my next move should be, and then I remembered the cycle of addiction that I learned about while in treatment.
Image Source: www.Adfam.org
I had gone through the first two steps of relapse, and I had experienced a slip. I pre-contemplated the swim by getting my bathing suit and going to the pool; I contemplated the swim, and then I acted in the behavior of exercise. I had a lapse! The cycle can go on and on until I am in full relapse mode, but I stopped the trend by recognizing I was in the middle of my addictive behavior and I stopped it dead in its tracks.
In the past, I had not been so quick to stop my behaviors, and I had gone into full blown relapse… numerous times. The good news is, whenever you recognize that you are back in the old behaviors, whether it be immediately after the act or weeks into a relapse, you can ALWAYS choose to begin recovery again. Staying clean in any addiction and/or eating disorder behavior is not easy. It is a process that may need to be revisited for months, years on end, but it is a process that will save your life. There is no one person that is too far gone; everyone has the chance to fully give his/her life a chance, and everyone is deserving of a life free of disorder and addiction.
If you are in the midst of the lapse/relapse cycle, take some time to sit with your wise mind. We all have it; sometimes it just takes honest refection and hard action to restart the journey to recovery. There is hope. Recovery is possible. And no one person is too far gone. Keep fighting to live free. You are worth it.