Beth (not her real name) had been recovering from a compulsive eating disorder for eight months. She visited her therapist once a week, attended 12-step program meetings, and wrote diligently in her journal every single evening. She was gaining more confidence eating in public settings, and was usually able to speak up and ask for what she needed, whether that was specific foods, or extra support.
Things were going so well that she didn’t want to rock the boat by paying too much attention to a few niggling thoughts in the back of her mind. For example, she was feeling really nervous about starting a new role at work. Sometimes when she started thinking about it, her thoughts would spiral down until she felt so low she wondered if an extra helping at dinner or a sweet treat might make her feel better.
She’d heard the word “relapse” and the idea terrified her. So much that she didn’t even want to mention her worries to her therapist or anyone else in her support network. She thought that talking about it might make it happen. She was probably just being dramatic.
Two weeks later, Beth was in a full-blown relapse, wondering, “How did this happen? Things were going so well!”
At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we hear from many people who let their guard down and then fell into a relapse situation.
You never actually “graduate” from a recovery program, because life will continue to present new challenges that you must go through without sinking back into your compulsive behaviors. But you can pursue more intensive “graduate-level” recovery activities.
Your goal is to constantly strive for your next level of recovery, and to always be on the lookout for anything that could threaten your new way of life.
Learn from Beth’s experience – talk about your troubles and don’t stop working on your recovery. That way you can avoid relapse before it starts.