It doesn’t happen all at once.

It doesn’t happen all at once. Relapse isn’t something we choose or intentionally decide to do. It happens bit by bit, gradually developing over time, sneaking up on us when we let our guard down even just a little.

It happens when we cheat ourselves and when we begin to let our health take the backburner. It happens when we try to outsmart our bodies.

It happens after a fitful night of sleep followed by a demanding day full of busyness and distractions. Followed by another one. And another one. Maybe not sequentially, but somewhere in between these days and nights we forgot to let our bodies catch up.

We’re doing fine, we tell ourselves. It’s just a little stress. That’s what coffee is for. Everyone is doing it. This is totally sustainable. Who needs sleep when you have WILLPOWER!

Well maybe our egos don’t need sleep but our bodies still do.

It happens when we agree to something even when we don’t really want to. When we put pleasing others ahead of taking care of ourselves. When we keep saying yes to things because we are more afraid of missing out on something unknown than we are of compromising our own health.

It happens when we try to escape ourselves. When we fill our lives with constant stimulation and distraction to escape feeling something we don’t want to feel. When we become so out of sync with ourselves that we no longer know what we need. We become numb, and then desperate to feel anything.

It doesn’t happen in a day. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens when we let our outside environment dictate our lives. Maybe we don’t even realize we’re doing this. Small compromises accumulate over weeks or months until we become so distraught that nothing seems to help.

Nothing seems to bring us that comfort and control that we so miss and desire like the eating disorder, or the addiction, or whatever we are fighting. Nothing seems so familiar, so alluring, so inviting. Nothing else seems so easy.

Then it happens. You’ve gotten so good at overriding your body lately that the illness just struts right back in. At first, it feels good, like coming home. And then it turns on you. And you realize that the one thing you thought would bring you comfort, the one thing that you thought would relieve you of your pain, is actually destroying you in the evilest, most deceptive, manipulative way. It promised you sanctuary, but it lied. At some point you chose recovery—try to remember why.

It doesn’t happen all at once. Like recovery, relapse takes time. Those small steps determine where we end up.

Watch your step.

Image: “Backwards” by Linspiration01 via Flickr and Creative Commons

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