When I was at university (for the 2nd time) I was tasked with the assignment of writing a full length play. I chose to base my play around a young woman who was procrastinating a phone call with her father. She procrastinated by reading two books (that actually exist) about a father and son's true story on drug addiction. I chose those two books because I happen to be reading them at the time.. as I procrastinated writing my play. The central character procrastinated so much that she began to see her father in her apartment. The father and son characters were there too. It was at this point in my playwriting, that I was most concerned that I would also experience, in any given moment, these characters in my flat. I'm relieved to say I did not. A couple of years ago, not to my surprise at all, these two books were picked up by Brad Pitt's production company, who created the movie staring Steve Carrell and Timothy Chalamet - Beautiful Boy. Carell and Chalamet played their roles exactly as I imagined them in my play. The reason why I bring up these books is because of a quote - “Relapse is a part of recovery." This is what the clinic specialist tells David Sheff (Steve Carell) during his visit after learning that his son has run away from rehab. Over a decade later and in the middle of resetting my health and life goals, I am once again reminded of that quote.
I think we humans are so good at relapsing back into the past. We fall back on new habits and we have many items of "must do's" in our homes and around us, that we never get around to doing. New Year's day is the perfect example that sets us up to fail. We arrive on New Year's day with all the vim and vigor of a man or woman re-born! Goals are set - this year will be our year! We are off to the gym to sign up! We are having a big clean out of our homes. We are starting a journal with a promise to fill it in every day. For a while, you are committed, but eventually the journal is left unwritten, the gym trips halt and by the end of the year, your home is as congested with too much "stuff" than it was at the start of the year. If our new year's resolution was to relapse, we would crush it! But would that mean admitting defeat before you've even started? 19 days into a 30 day reset and I bombed. I mean - stopped. I grabbed food, got into my PJ's, wrapped myself in a heated blanket and ate, watched TV and slept all day. Now, I didn't eat anything particularly bad for me, I had previously banned all of that food from my house and coincidentally, I had also just run out of one of my favourite indulgences - low fat ice cream. A good thing that was too, because I would have consumed the entire tub. In fact I'm still not sure I won't when I re-stock.
But this morning, as I write this, I decided to check in with myself and peel back the layers behind my reset relapse - what went wrong yesterday? Well it started in a rush and I was completely exhausted from a complete lack of sleep the night before. I needed sleep... that's enough all on it's own. It was a cold day and the sun never appeared - not a good thing in my world. What was worse, was that my mindset was... what's the word... in chaos. I was beating myself up relentlessly and yet at the same time, I questioned why I did that. I was angry for no apparent reason other than I just felt like being confrontational and moody. Thankfully I live alone with just Elmo the cat, who kicked the whole day off by waking me to the sounds of him vomiting beside my bed. But living alone means that all my aggression turned inward. At the same time, I was coaching myself out of my mood. I was making choices to find some calm and the only thing I binged on was low fat yoghurt and apples. I no longer have any apples in my house. See what I mean about being in chaos? One day on, and I am reminded of the quote in that book - relapse is a part of recovery. Every time his son relapsed, rehabbed and recovered, his recovery was stronger. He was stronger. Have you ever been in this place, where goals have been set aside or left unaccomplished? Maybe you set out to be a fitter, slimmer, healthier you, but then... life happened and the next thing you know, you've eaten almost all of the big bag of chips you brought from the supermarket, that you said that you would only eat in small amounts on those "cheat days?" Do you know how many times I've been asked why I am not willing to have "cheat days" during my weight loss journey? I seem so unbending and when others have joined me on this journey, one of the first things that get discussed, is what can be eaten on cheat days. Cheat days.. are examples of relapse and the crazy thing is, we welcome them in! But then, relapse is all a part of getting back on track again, right? There seem to be two distinguishable differences between cheat days and relapse:
We accommodate cheat days, we don't accommodate relapse. If we say no to cheat days and then are suddenly hit with a relapse, you find yourself not at all equipped to accommodate the mindset change or have those things around you that you would normally "cheat" with. When you suddenly decide to betray your commitment to your goals and take a break - make it hard for you to do that. The place you break away to, is not as comfortable. I could have sat and eaten chocolate all day long and believe me, I've done that many times in my life. But I was unprepared to fail miserably. I had apples, that would have to do.
We sweep cheat days under the rug and tell ourselves things like "tomorrow is a new day" (like that would somehow make it better) but in relapse, you are already assessing what went wrong and how you can move forward. Tomorrow is a new day... so what have you learned from your cheat day? That you really like chocolate? All cheat days do, is invite more cheat days, there is literally nothing that can be learned from them. Cheat days are just one my way to sabotage your future success at achieving those goals you set out to achieve. They play the "what goes up must come down" game. Relapse on the other hand, plays the "what goes down, must come up" game and every time you get back up there, you've learned along the way, how to improve the climb.
For me, getting back up and running has meant:
Better sleep and a commitment to keep getting more sleep. When I started this whole thing a year ago, the one thing I haven't managed to improve, has been my sleep. Fast forward to today and I realise it's the one thing that started yesterday's bad day. So then, that's the thing I need to focus on as I move forward. Hooray!
Getting back to my routine. Routine has been my best friend in this journey. Having a set routine has meant I have to be prepared with food and I have been able to spend time on other things like better self-care and activity. With the exception of sleep of course - until now.
I have realised that I'm stronger than I thought I was and that's made me feel very grateful. I'm grateful to myself for being more resilient than I've ever been in life, to being able to bounce back so quickly. I have not bounced back like this before - ever. Yay me - growth!
My goals are now more refined... and I feel even stronger for it - let's do this!
If you have read this and this has resonated with your own experiences at one time or another - join me on the reset, reset your reset or reset your reset's reset with me! Today's challenge:
Remove those "cheat day" temptations... for food that's self-explanatory but if it's about being active every day.... maybe put someone else in charge of the TV remote or the wifi password! If it's about having a more positive mindset... start the day with a positive quote of the day app... regardless of what wrong side of the bed you got out of in the morning, there's an example of a positive mindset waiting for you! Maybe start your morning with an alarm that is set to music that will uplift your mood the moment you open your eyes! Don't forget to share your ideas... others might find them helpful too.
Have a journal or journal app to write in, at the end of those relapse days... and answer the following questions...
- Why did this relapse happen and what do I need to focus on moving forward?
- What have I learned about myself during this relapse?
- What will I change to prevent another relapse like this? You'll feel stronger and more resilient than ever, I'm sure of it. Right - I'm off to buy some more apples!! Vickie xx