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The Return from Relapse

Feature Article - February 2011 

This can be a difficult time of year for food addicts, compulsive eaters and those with eating disorders. There is still all of that pressure that follows a holiday season, all the after-effects. And then comes the talk about resolutions and weight goals; food and weight seems to be on everyone's minds and it's a big topic of conversation. Then comes slips, relapses and consuming thoughts about what to do next...
We see a lot of “slips” at this time of year, and sometimes those slips turn into full-blown relapse. It's never easy to come back from a relapse. You may feel embarrassed and ashamed, especially if you've had a period of long-term recovery. You may worry that the people around you won't understand - and for good reason, because they maybe won't.
That's why relapse is such an important time to reach out for professional support. This is not the time to try to go it alone or punish yourself by isolating or continuing to suffer. That will just fan the fire and "feed" the relapse. Now is the time for self-compassion, and allowing someone else to help you.
If you're returning from relapse, try these suggested steps:
  1. Seek the professional help of a therapist. The validation you will get there is such an important first step. The other people in your support system may not fully understand what you're going through, and their confusion can just make things harder for you.
  2. Get checked out by your medical team, including your family doctor. Make sure that you're safe and ready to heal on a physical level.
  3. Be gentle with yourself but fight the eating disorder with everything you've got. Don't give up.
  4. Consider signing a relapse contract with yourself. Some people commit things like: I will be compassionate with myself, or I will not harm myself.
  5. Look at what led to the relapse. What part was your responsibility? What was slipping prior to the actual relapse? Some people take an inventory of these slips as a form of self-assessment and reflection. From there, consider if there is something in your environment that needs to change, in order to prevent this from happening again.
Above all, remember that every slip and every relapse is an opportunity to learn and grow. It's the truth. Accepting that truth will allow you to find the positive gem in this challenging situation.