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What Is Relapse?

I am so glad you enjoyed Cathie’s message last week and I am grateful to her for “Rescuing” me!

The last four weeks we have been talking about rumble strips; and driving patterns as a metaphor for the stages of relapse. Seeing your possibilities for relapses coming, before they arrive, is essential to staying abstinent long term.

What does it mean to relapse?  What does it look like when you tell yourself, “I am in relapse”?  Can you actually see your relapse coming or does it sneak up on you like a wily cat, then just pounce?  Does it grow, slowly, one food error at a time, slipping and sliding, till finally you give up, give in, and dive into the food? Or does it hit you from behind and chew you up with vengeance?  Or is your own internal pain so bad that eating compulsively feels like a blessed relief?

The problem with a relapse is that it distracts you from the life you are trying to create. It intrudes on your thoughts and emotions, your self esteem and your mental peace.

Anne Katherine has said that “Relapse is a return to an earlier way of coping,” (1) and that is likely to be true for a compulsive eater.  You likely learned to use food to manage feelings, to make yourself feel better, to handle difficult situations, early on in your life.  To return to that way of coping feels familiar, safe and comfortable.

I am reading a book by a man who says “Just change one thing.” And then he says that one thing will grow. In food addiction there is one big thing that needs to change first, and that is your use of your addictive foods. And it feels like a whole group of many things and it feels complicated and difficult. It is. And when you are used to it, it isn’t any more.

If you wish, take the time to write a short story of one of your relapses.  Choose a situation that is typical for you.  Write what usually happens, then write about your feelings before, during, and after the relapse. Now tell what you have been saying to yourself during this time.  Last, write what has worked to get you out of relapse.

  • What happened?
  • What was I feeling?
  • What was I saying to myself?
  • Where was my Higher Power?
  • How did I get out of relapse?

Knowing these facts about the way your addiction tends to behave can help you stay abstinent in the early times. Eventually I hope you will be able to move to “a space of neutrality” with food, and find a comfortable way of handling it. That is my goal for you.

This is a tough subject to discuss; be welcome to write questions and comments here, or email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings to you,


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