Lectures were by far my least favorite part of treatment. This was, in part, because I’d read so many books about addiction that the concepts weren’t new – and in part because the people giving the lectures were better suited to the group therapy they also did than actually lecturing.
Oh, ok -- if I’m totally honest, another reason why I didn’t like them was probably because when they happened, which luckily wasn’t often, they usually were the second half of the evening, when my thoughts had long since drifted to dinner.
But anyway, lectures. The most useful one, which I think may be up there as one of the most useful things I learned there, was about relapse drift. Basically, relapse isn’t an event. It’s a process that usually starts out innocently enough, like skipping small things – meetings, calls, regular grocery shopping, whatever -- that support recovery.
What makes it tricky, of course, is that life happens in recovery – not every time you skip something does it mean anything. But there are all sorts of other signs of relapse drift that are individual to each person – things no one might notice but you, and that may have absolutely nothing to do with food. One for me is when I stop blowdrying my hair, because I can’t be bothered to make the effort. Or I’ve stopped gathering what I need for the morning the night before, so I’m always that slight bit stressed and late leaving the flat. Or – this one is particularly embarrassing – I leave my gym towels on the bench in the locker room for the cleaning staff to pick up, as opposed to putting them in the used towel bin.
How is that last one a sign of anything, you ask? (If indeed you’ve even made it this far.) It’s a tiny thing that makes me feel bad about myself and contributes, even in a small way, to the idea that I’m a bad, unlovable person. Which, of course, is at the heart of an eating disorder. Or at least, it’s at the heart of mine.
I fear I’m in relapse drift. I thought it yesterday morning and on into yesterday afternoon, which is when I started (but didn’t finish) this post because I had to go to my (beginner) tennis course. (If you’re wondering if I have Wimbledon potential, I do, in that my balls are so wildly out of bounds at this point that they could, theoretically, end up there from Chiswick.)
This morning I thought about it more, and it worried me that I wasn’t more scared of it. Earlier this year the mere thought of relapse was terrifying, and I’d have done anything to avoid it.
I thought about how my food has gotten a little messier – and sometimes a lot messier -- than it has been in a year, and how I’ve justified that to myself as recovery from my restrictive side. So tricky to know with an eating disorder, isn’t it? But that combined with these other behaviors, of which there are many, is… worrying.
Because I do not want to go back to where I was over a year ago. I don’t want to buy clothes I don’t like because they’re the only thing that fits. I don’t want to worry about what will fit every morning – that losing battle, where I feel defeated before the day has even started. I don’t want that fear that people are judging me (unfavorably) because of my size and that worry and constant feeling that I need to make up for it. I don’t want to shrink my life again, first with the bingeing and then with the need for everything to be safe in early recovery. I don’t want to feel like I’m not living the life I want because of this eating disorder, which has already destroyed so many things over the years.
I could go on and on. And so I told my counselor today and I’m writing it here. The drifting stops now.