to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement
As the dumpster fire that was 2017 burns its final fumes, I thought I’d lighten the mood and talk about relapse. 1
Like most recovery types, I have a relapse story. I’d been abstinent for years, and I was kicking ass at life – new house, new family, successful career. I was doing so well that I let my contact with other folks in recovery slide.
Spoiler alert: That never ends well.
I was trying to start a family. My uterus had other plans. After my third miscarriage, feeling like I had nowhere to turn and nothing to hope for, I gave in to the voice in my head that likes to say “You deserve to feel better, now, and by any means necessary.”
I binged. I smoked. I abused prescription medication. All of it made me feel different, but none of it made me feel better. Because the only thing that makes me (you, and every other human person on the planet) feel genuinely good is taking care of myself.
I’m not special. I mean, I am, but not because I relapsed all those years ago. Everyone is capable of backsliding after a period of progress. You don’t need to be an alcoholic or a drug addict or a food addict or a smoker to be in this club.
Have you ever committed to working out, did it for a good stretch of time, and then stopped?
Congratulations, Love. You’ve relapsed.
Ever stopped eating something because it made you feel like crap? Ever said “Screw it” and all but rubbed it on your body as you devoured car-sized helpings of that very thing?
You’re in, Baby.
Thanks to certain recent events, I hazard to guess that more of us 2 have relapsed in 2017 than in any other year in history. Every week, I get emails from folks saying that they were at the top of their game when they got blindsided at the end of 2016. Suddenly, all hope was gone.
I get it. After three miscarriages I felt like I couldn’t trust my own body. After last year lots of us felt like we couldn’t trust anything. Scared, angry, and unmoored, many of us regressed, falling back into old, destructive behaviors: drinking too much, eating too much, moving too little, and/or caring hardly at all.
It’s almost 2018, and most of us have yet to recover.
If you’re ready to feel better – dare I say, genuinely good – here are four suggestions for how to bounce back from The Great Relapse of 2017:
1- For the love of all creatures great and small, START.
While this year has stretched on like an offensive, badly-edited PowerPoint presentation, time is still flying. You cannot, you will not, you must not wake up in a year feeling even worse than you do now, but that’s what will likely happen if you don’t take action. Start treating yourself like you want to be treated so you can feel the way you want to feel. If not today, pick a date in the near future. If you can, remove any offending substances from your house. Get specific about what you’re doing (taking better care of yourself), why (because you’re sick of this shit), and when (for as long as you have free will, TYVM. 3) What if you mess up? What if you have a good day and then falter? Just start again. As many times as it takes. You’re worth every do-over.
2- Get creative about your tools.
Resources that worked before may not work today, or may not work as well, so your success in recovering from The Great Relapse of 2017 could depend on your willingness to get creative. Be open and curious, and unless an option is out of the question, check it out. Maybe find a shrink. Maybe talk to your doc about medications. Maybe take a wellness class online. Maybe read that book you’ve been hearing about. When the voice in your head says “You’re being high maintenance. Chill out,” tell it to go eff itself.
3- Find your peeps.
We take on the traits of the people around us. Want to stop smoking? Try hanging out with non-smokers. Want to stop drinking? Spend time with sober folks. Want want to develop a healthy relationship to food? Hang out with me. No matter what you’re suffering from or with, someone is recovering from it and you can find them. You’re one Google search away from finding the right 12-step group or online support space, local meet-up crew or knitting circle. Reach out and step in. And if it feels weird, remember – everyone was new at some point. Take a deep breath and get on with it.
4- Recognize that every good day is a victory.
Recovery, from anything, is simply the sum of thousands of tiny victories. If you don’t let yourself see each good day – and each good choice – as an all-out win, it’s only a matter of time before you slip again. Some folks in recovery thank their higher power at the end of every day that they haven’t relapsed. The frequent acknowledgement of success builds self-confidence and helps make long term recovery possible. Maybe you can write down your wins, or toss a quick “Thank you” to the universe as you climb into bed. Be prepared to feel like a fraud, or like you’re bragging, or like a fool, and then do it anyway, because saving your life is more important than saving face.
Before I wrap up, be warned: The voice inside your head is gonna tell you to keep scrolling until you forget that you read this. If you listen to that voice, The Great Relapse of 2017 may never end.
Luckily, that voice doesn’t control your actions.
Are you struggling to get back on track with food? From now until January 1 I’m hosting a FREE pop-up workshop just for women. Click HERE to join my closed Facebook group, STRONG START 2018.