“Perhaps we didn’t believe that our compulsive eating was a spiritual problem, or we felt that God was concerned only with more important matters and expected us to control such a simple thing as our eating.” — The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, p. 15
This may seem like an unusual lead-in to relapse, yet for me, this is where relapse begins. As a COE, bulimic and anorexic, relapse can certainly be seen as all about food. Yet for me, that is the culmination of relapse. There are many symptoms of my disease before a food relapse that reappear and or worsen. A food relapse means my symptoms have returned and my physical functioning is decreased. Sometimes symptoms can worsen, but my physical functioning is not affected; this is not considered a relapse. For me this means that I can be doing everything I know how to do in my recovery and life’s circumstances may throw me a curve. That curve may cause me to struggle. Struggle is not relapse. Ultimately struggle is a part of me getting stronger, provided I do not struggle alone. In my recovery journey from C.O.E. I am learning to pay attention to the underlying problem – i.e. spiritual – of my disease.
My symptoms seem to have a hierarchy:
- Stopping whatever spiritual practice has worked for me
- Mood swings
- Not asking for help
- Not going to meetings
- Poor eating habits
- Poor sleep habits
- Thinking about people, places, and behaviors I engaged in before abstinence
- Glamorizing my past eating behaviors
- Lying-not limited to, yet especially about, food and food behaviors
- Hanging out with old “using” friends. For me this usually involves impromptu eating out or cooking foods I have experienced as being difficult for me.
- Fantasizing about food
- Thinking about relapsing
- Planning my eating relapse [bingeing, purging, restricting, bizarre eating rituals or diets] around other people’s schedules
Physical relapse – This is where it actually becomes all about food. Once relapse is here it can be so much harder to back up or change directions. Although it does take practice, I am learning to pay attention to the signs before I get here.
With the holidays and COVID there is ample opportunity for me to unconsciously slip back into relapse. There is also the opportunity for me to use the tools of recovery. Am I willing to go to any length? I need the spiritual insurance. Today I am.