I was told during my recovery that recovery is not a straight line and there are a lot of ups and downs to prepare for. It wasn’t until the down days in my recovery and the need to pull myself up did I really understand what my team meant to me. When I speak to folks today, I tell them the same thing as it’s an important tool to be prepared for the days that you fall and it’s hard to get back up.
My recovery was not a straight upward line of ease and wonder. It was filled with hard days and multiple relapses, but it was also filled with happiness and pride. During those times of relapse, I got down on myself and felt like a failure in many ways- I wasn’t even sure if I had the strength, will, or desire to get back up and do it all again. Yet, I did and you can too!
Relapses occur and to help you get back on track, I want to share with you some things I did to help myself and perhaps they may help you as well. Sometimes we don’t know when a relapse will happen. However, you can help interrupt it if you become aware of triggers that get in your way. Take some time for yourself and brainstorm with your team of supports to think of some triggers that you may/do face during recovery. After those triggers are identified, come up with recovery tools you can put in place to help you avoid a relapse. (Over 100 recovery tools can be found in my book, Telling Ed No!). Then, if and when you come upon a difficult situation or trigger, you can follow the plan you have put in place to help you through it and stay on track. Planning is essential and putting that plan to work when needed is vital.
To also help me get back on the recovery track, I talked with my supports and came up with a few ways to help me if “they” saw me relapse. We agreed that if they saw me struggling and falling, they would approach me and use “I feel” statements regarding the path I was on so I wouldn’t feel attacked. It would be something like this: “Cheryl, I feel scared right now because I am aware of how strong Ed is right now. Let’s figure out together a way to get in his way and join recovery again.” Educating my supports about awareness of my issues and how I might be struggling gave me the ability to listen and reflect.
To help me get back on track, I would reach out for more support in multiple ways. At times, I would call Walden for an intake and go back to treatment and would do what they said (inpatient, partial etc.), even if I didn’t like it or didn’t approve. I knew enough about myself that my anger or distrust was driven by Ed so I did some positive self-talk during my intakes to help me accept the gift of treatment.
Also, to help me get back up after a relapse, I acknowledged my fall, brainstormed with my team and supports to determine the reason (trigger) I fell (and added it to my list, like I mentioned above), made a plan to help if/when that trigger came again, and then said “I can do this…time to get back up and kick Ed’s butt!!”
Also during my relapses, I would utilize the other aspects of my team more often. I would increase my visits with my therapist and nutritionist. I would also journal every day to get my feelings out so I wouldn’t keep them inside to fester. I would also write down what I was grateful for (gratitude journal) so I could see the positives even if I felt so low or down.
An important reminder is when and if you relapse remember this…YOU DID NOT FAIL. Do NOT beat yourself up and let Ed tell you that you can’t do recovery and need him…HE IS LYING. Even when you relapse, you are learning…you are still making progress even if it doesn’t feel like you are. Look at everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. Learn from your relapse, retain that information, and use it to continue to fight Ed and move forward. Don’t let the relapse be a way to let Ed have control again. A relapse is NOT an excuse to go back to Ed and give up; it’s a learning experience to gain strength and continue to move forward.
Recovery is not perfect. If you do fall, immediately get back up, brush yourself off and grab the hand of recovery. You are strong and you can do it!
With health, hope and strength,