On Ice

Two words have been running through my mind lately: “slip” is the little one, and “relapse” is the big one.

Slowly, surely, I resumed binge-eating, about once a week, then twice a week. It started with a small upswing in non-hungry eating. Overeating at my regular mealtimes. Feeling a little overfull here, adding a “just for fun” snack there. The loss of control was never present…and then it was.

I noticed myself start to think about “addition,” “dependance,” and “loss of control,” loaded words and phrases that have captured me and kept me powerless in the past. Suddenly, they felt like reality. I thought, “I will never not have to manage food and my body. I cannot let go, ever, or I risk ‘letting myself go.’ Forever.”

Was I hanging on to “recovery” for dear life and I “let myself go?” It wasn’t so much a “slip,” then, but a proper fall.

I plummeted into food- and body-obsession. Once my new/old pattern was obvious, I felt myself grasping for a diet, or a program, or a plan to hang on to, something to save me from the chaos of my hunger, and slowly-but-surely expanding body.

Was it hubris? Did I bring this on myself by referring to my recovery as relatively easy and “permanent?” Did I need to be punished?

I stayed in that thought for a while, twisting language and metaphor, trying to decide what I even mean when I start looking for “control.” (What is “control” anyway, with respect to food and the body? What role does “control” have in recovery?)

I could probably come up with a thousand reasons for my slip—and subsequent fall—but they’re mostly trivial. After all, I’ve encountered “triggers” without binge-eating before. The most common cause of a walking-around-type slip, in my ordinary life, is haste and a slick surface: clinging carelessly to a slippery banister or railing; hurrying across wet or icy ground; running on a just-washed floor.

I raced over the frozen-lake surface of my recovery, and slipped. When it hurt, I stayed down, focusing only on the impact. I got lost in the fear of standing up again: “What if the fall cracked it? What if standing up breaks the surface? I’ll drown…”

I spent almost two months just lying on my back, staring up at the stars. My body hurt. I tried to pull optimism into my center and believe that when I stood up, the surface below me would hold. That the fall was caused by the pace at which I tried to cross the slippery surface, not the path itself.

I finally confided in a friend, and she suggested (because I love language so much) that I just redefine my “perfect” recovery. “Perfect” doesn’t mean “no slips.” “Perfect” means “never not trying.”

I’ve been upright again for a little over a week, bruised, but inching forward. No cracks so far, but I’m more careful this time.

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