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I Relapsed. Now I Feel Like a Failure.

In the last week I’m not sure what’s happening (Mercury retrograde or whatever) but a number of women shared with me that they’re either at the end of their rope with their eating disorder or have relapsed – some after several weeks or months of recovery.

Not everyone relapses at the holidays and for some people the holidays are a really joyous, festive and deeply spiritual time in their lives.  I have a sense from the emails I’ve been receiving that for many of you that’s just not the case.  Things are tough out there.  I can relate.

A woman asked me if I ever relapsed or binged/purged after I started recovery in 2005.  She relapsed after having several weeks of recovery and was feeling super strong, super committed to her program until that point.  I could tell by her email that she was bummed, ashamed, let down and a little disempowered about what had happened.  Perfectly natural behavior.
What I told her and I want you to know, too, is that relapse and recovery kind of go hand-in-hand.  I don’t know if there’s a single human being who’s ever done recovery 100% perfectly.  If there is, they didn’t have it so bad or were able to get off planet Earth and check out of their life long enough to not be effected by the every day living of our lives.

The reason I say I had bulimia for 20 years is because it took me that freaking long to finally get a handle on this thing called recovery.  Until 2005 I had tried many, many times to stop the urges.  To stop the negative self-talk that corroded my spirit away.  I’d promised myself hundreds and hundreds of times that “tomorrow I’ll turn over a new leaf and won’t binge again.”  Come 3pm that afternoon when the cravings and mind-frick would over take any sense of will power I tried to muster, I’d give in and binge the hell out of some carb-heavy foods until I couldn’t take another bite.  I’d march my merry little ass into the bathroom for a round of purging and come out promising that tomorrow is the day!

Yeah right.

Tomorrow would come and go.  Then the next day and the next.  Then 20 years later and you want to talk about some low-down dirty name calling I’d have accumulated.  Whew! I think I’d be arrested if I said out loud any of the cruel and unusual mental punishment I’d lay on myself after each binge and purge session.

The Turning Point

What I told my friend by email who’d asked if I’ve binged and purged since I went cold turkey in 2005 is that I have my own personal definition of what recovery is for me and according to my definition, I’m clean.  In my world, if I don’t go out and buy large quantities of food for a binge, I don’t sit around and binge until I hurt and I never purge, then I’m sustaining my recovery.

Does that mean I don’t ever eat too many cookies or chocolate?

Nope.  I do overeat chocolate here and there.

I do overeat salads and fruit and sweets and all kinds of things.  I’m not perfect.  That’s ok.  I sometimes don’t pay close enough attention to my body’s full feeling and so here and there I do eat more than I should have.  I don’t binge out of emotional upset. I don’t lock myself away from my friends or family to eat.

And I don’t beat myself up for eating too much.  A little maybe, but it sounds more like “I wasn’t paying attention and ate too fast just then. No wonder I’m so damn full.  Need to slow down when I get home from work or eat a snack before I leave so I’m not so famished when I get home and dive into the fridge.”

That’s how a normal person sounds when they talk to themselves.  They’re not manic.  They’re not screaming the self-hatred lies and smears across their brain and ranting and raving about what a complete loser they are.

You’re not a loser. I’m not a loser.  I’m stil lovable and so are you.

One of the things to look at in your recovery is your self-talk.  The things we say to ourselves in our minds/heads.  The listener is our highest self – our true self.  Thoughts are like bubbles.  They pop up here and there.  We don’t have to absorb or own every thought we have.  Observe the negative thought bubble, allow it to be there, and then respond to it.  Don’t take it on like it’s true or it’s you.  Your mind is constantly racing, especially if you’re under stress.  This is when it’s especially important to let those thought bubbles just “be”.  Let them come and go and if you can learn to disconnect from them and know they’re not YOU, then you can have a different thought.

I preach this, but it’s not always possible even for me.  It takes being self-aware and recognizing that YOU are not your thoughts.  You have thoughts, but you are not your thoughts.

You are a spiritual being.

You have lots of thoughts throughout the day.  It’s a lot easier to have negative thoughts than it is to have positive ones.  In order to have positive thoughts more of the time it takes practice.  Literally, it’s like lifting thought weights.  You’ve got to practice, practice, practice.  First, you’ve got to WANT to think positive thoughts.  You’ve got to stop yourself when you catch yourself having negative thoughts and you’ll need to refocus your thoughts on what is going well instead of what isn’t.

One Last Comment

Ok, I started to say that there was a turning point for me in 2005.  There was so allow me to explain just a little.

My turning point came during years of personal development work.  Some people do intensive therapy or go into a treatment center.  Whatever works for you – do it.

What I learned that was my turning point is the idea that my mentor shared…

“My word is law in the Universe.”

When he said that I was stunned.  I knew this guy to be incredibly powerful in creating and manifesting whatever he put his mind to.  I thought about that phrase for a long, long time.  I learned a lot from him about the power of words and listening in the world.

What “my word is law” means to me today is that when I say something (sometimes all I have to do is say it in my mind these days) I know that it will come true.  I’ve put it to the test many, many times since that first day.  I can now trust my own word.  When I say something I expect, it happens.  If I intend something to happen, it comes about. If I commit my life energy to it…it’s done.  The Universe starts conspiring with me to make it so.

When I said in 2005 that I saw myself and would be a non-bulimic that was my declaration to the Universe about what I wanted.  Then I lived into that vision for myself.

The more you practice keeping your word, a little bit at a time, the more powerful you become.  Someday, you will be able to declare that your word is law, too.  Then, when you promise yourself you’ll keep to your recovery YOU WILL!

Start with small things as you practice keeping your word.  If you’re anything like me when I first started I was a bit of a liar.  A little too comfortable and familiar with telling white lies.  The problem with telling lies is you stop believing in yourself.  You don’t trust yourself any longer. If you don’t trust yourself it’s no wonder when you say “I’ll stop binging and purging tomorrow” you don’t believe it!  Why should you?!  You don’t keep little promises. How can you be expected to keep something as big and important a promise as that one?!

You can’t.

Not yet any way.

Start small.

Set a promise to yourself or someone else and keep it.  Keep making and keeping promises and the stronger your belief in your own word will be.  If you don’t do it perfectly at first – who cares?!  Keep trying.  Make a promise.  Keep a promise.  Make a promise. Keep a promise.  Rinse and repeat.

The more you focus on what you want (positive), what’s going right, making small strides each day to make and keep promises the stronger your recovery resolve will be.

Recovery isn’t some major overhaul that happens when the sky falls and you suddenly change into some completely different person than you were before. It’s your every moment, every day decisions and small steps along the way that make you who you are.  Your choices set the course for your life.

Do you choose to keep your word or to tell a white lie again?

These small choices will make up your character and allow you to become the person you’re so wanting to be.

You can do this, ok?

Now get to it.  Practice. Practice. Practice.

Don’t forget you have a resource in my book…How to Stop a Binge.  There are grounding exercises in there that can help you if you just can’t stop the urge to binge.  Don’t keep struggling in silence.  Get my book and get the help you need.