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Feature article: Preventing relapse


Relapse. No one likes to talk about it, but not talking about it won't keep it away. In fact, the opposite is true.

According to the Transtheoretical (Stages of Change) Model developed by Prochaska and DiClemente, once someone has passed through the active stage of recovery they enter a maintenance phase, when the entire focus is on preventing relapse.

As you move away from actively focusing on your recovery towards integrating recovery into your day-to-day life, there may be triggers hiding everywhere, such as:

  • Small things, like a friend arriving late for a visit or someone taking too long at the checkout counter
  • Big things, like uncovering new issues in therapy
  • Normal human emotions, like grief, overwhelm, anger, sadness, abandonment, shame and guilt
  • Unexpected reactions from your loved ones to the changes you're making in your life
  • Fear of living without the eating disorder - your long-time companion
  • New compulsions and obsessions that move in to replace your eating disorder

One of the quickest ways to slide down the slippery slope into full-fledged relapse is to isolate from others and keep everything to yourself. It's too easy to get trapped in a pattern of negative thinking and to start believing your own perception because it's the only one that you have.

That's why it is so crucial to put a support system in place, whether that is a buddy, a support group or a therapist. They can help you to keep your thinking clear so that you can choose whether you're going to follow the downward spiral or pull yourself back up; because you always have that choice.

So stay connected and stay the course. Yes, recovery is challenging, but there are so many beautiful moments in discovering who you really are underneath your eating disorder. Don't give in to the addiction just because you don't see that beauty right away. No matter what your economic situation or how other people respond to your changes, you are giving yourself a priceless gift when you choose recovery.

Slips and relapses can be part of the recovery process but they don't have to be. When they do happen, the important thing is to learn from them and grow from them.