With any recovery, the path is never straight. It might be pretty even for a while, suddenly dip down, turn to the left, or hit a steady incline. Some periods are going to be trying. Some are going to feel simple. There are so many factors in life.
Many events, experiences, surprises, etc. will influence a recovery path. Sometimes, they can all get to be too much to handle. Sometimes, they can make you struggle a lot with maintaining recovery. Sometimes, they can make you slip.
But, a slip doesn’t have to become a relapse.
Often, when times are tough, it is hard to distinguish the difference between a slip and a relapse. But they are very different. I always describe a slip as a lapse. It is a pause in the usual recovery schedule. A relapse, on the other hand, is reverting back to pre-recovery behavior indefinitely.
To use my own recovery from anorexia as an example, in a slip, I would realize that I counted calories but I would not continue to do so. I would work to become more intuitive and ignore nutritional facts.
A relapse, on the other hand, would look more like preoccupation and obsession with the nutritional information when choosing and eating food amounts. It would disregard hunger and focus on numbers. A relapse would be more “severe,” so to speak.
Slips a hard. They are discouraging and often something for which one feels shame. I struggle a lot with my slips. I beat myself up and I get frustrated and often feel like I am failing.
But, the truth is, I am not failing.
My struggle is valid. My frustration, too, is valid. Slips are annoying! Anything that isn’t smooth sailing is bothersome. But it is normal, expected, and definitely not shameful, even if it feels like it.
This true, not just for me. Your feelings are valid. Your experiences and struggles and frustration are valid.
To be in recovery does not mean to be perfect. It does not mean you never encounter times when it feels hard to continue. Perfection is not real. Perfection is not attainable. Imperfect is beautiful and natural and expected. To hold yourself to a standard of perfection is to set yourself up for a feeling of failure.
In approaching slips, I find it helpful to remind myself that it will pass. But, I also have to remember that my struggles will not pass without work. I cannot be passive in my recovery, in general, but especially when rebounding from a slip.
Getting back on the course is work. It is something I must be mindful of and commit to doing. I cannot just wait for it to get better. In fact, if I do just sit back, it will likely get worse.
I do not say this to be discouraging but in the spirit of full disclosure. Brutal though it may sound, recovery is never easy. Slips are no different. But they do not have to become relapses. It is our attitude and approach that can make the difference.
This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals.