“Struggle is the gold.”
– image from Ishita Gupta at Tribe Conference.
As I had my second large cookies and cream milkshake of the week, which has been followed by a week tons of unhealthy food, I wondered, “Why am I really back here again?”
[I can really take something to the next level, by the way.]
First off, “back here” can be defined at our worst moment–whether it’s weight or health or addiction. Five days of ice cream and some pizza does not a “back here” moment make.
In fact, I have experienced many “back here” moments.
Falling down is an integral part of the health journey. Staying down, however, is where we get into trouble.
A “relapse” is important in our life. Not necessarily in the alcohol or drug sense–although I think that many of us have to relapse on sobriety before it sticks and becomes part of us.
Relapse is a strong word. And I really find it useful. To me, the word provides a sense of suddenness–like “okay, I am doing something that does not make me the best version of myself.” It has a sense of “we must go in another direction.”
I don’t like to think of relapse as shameful, though. I like to think a relapse as a terribly-paved road. Okay, we went over that, now let’s pick up some momentum and find the blacktop.
A relapse in our plan, our mission, our dedicated changes, our food habits–it all serves to provide rest, refocus, a new sense of dedication and discipline, and more.
But the key is actually resting, refocusing and finding a renewed discipline.
When I was drinking like it was my full-time job, the relapse would last for months and months, and eventually years. I would fall down, and I would stay down–with my bottle of Chardonnay and hordes of unhealthy food. I realized that I was not getting up from my fall, when I had gone a solid year with drinking every single day. With choosing unhealthy food and habits, every single day.
I had relapsed, fallen down, and stayed down.
This week, I haven’t pounded that amount of sugar in my body probably since I was presented with a triple-scoop ice cream challenge by a friend over spring break.
That’s not to say that I have figured out all of my demons and my health.
But I know that I am on a health and wellness relapse. I also know that if I don’t do the following THREE things, that I might stay down for longer than is good for me, my goals and my well-being.
When I say that changing our food and health is a lifestyle, I mean it. But for those of us who have addiction issues or emotional or mental health struggles, we can go on these health streaks–but then relapse–and stay down.
The key is not to stay down.
The key is just simply getting back up. Here are three things that help me every time I experience a falling.
1. Recognize that you did something crappy–YOU are NOT crappy.
Depending on the type of relapse, most of our behavior that leads to relapse is fulfilling some need in our life. For example, I had worked really hard in the months leading up to the race on Sunday. Not just in training, but in many (many) other areas as well.
My whole health stress was huge heading into Sunday.
When I finished the race, I felt like I could let up on the gas a little. I did a big sigh of relief, and dove right into some comfort food.
And I dove with my eyes wide-open, consciously and with choice.
[It has been wonderful. ]
But now, five days later, I feel puffy, yucky and I am thinking, “Oh NO! What have I done?”
Nothing, that’s what. I have done nothing, and that’s exactly what I needed.
But it’s time to put the flame back on, get back on my training and eating to fuel my life, and stop the binge eating.
And because I have serious addiction triggers—this is not easy. But I know that I can do it. Why? Because I have done it before. Over and over again, I start again.
Because that is what life is about! We are never going to be perfect. Relapse is part of our success.
Managing the relapse on our big plans is one of the big parts of the life journey.
We often take out the flogging stick and begin to beat ourselves up over these relapses.
Remember: perhaps you ate/drank/smoke/did crappy things. But you are NOT crappy.
Time to recognize what happened, accept it, and make the plans to move on.
2. Keep the Promise to Yourself
I interviewed Lauren Zander on a podcast (one of my favorites by the way), and she talked about how we often create these big plans and dreams—and then we are non-starters.
That what we are essentially doing each time we don’t take action in the direction of our dreams is that we are breaking promises to ourselves.
I have spent the last two years just breaking myself into pieces, deconstructing the pains, the issues, the ills, the food, the lies I tell myself, what I tolerate from others, and all of this has broken me down, over and over again.
But in all of the destruction and fires, I have made and kept a plan. I created and worked towards goals. And even when I relapse into milkshakes, I know that I have made promises to myself.
Keeping these promises to ourselves is the only way we can scrape ourselves off of the ground.
We must get up, and go.
- Did you sign up for a big race? Then go train. Keep the promise to yourself. Get out the door and do something in the direction of that race.
- Did your bloodwork come back with all sorts of yucky, but fixable food-and-drink related health issues? Eat well, be kind to your body, stop the insanity. Keep the promise to yourself.
- Do you have to get out of that job, relationship, etc. because you know it is killing you? Start preparing and taking the steps to do it. You don’t have to leap blindly, but start taking real steps to move on. Keep the promise to yourself.
Here’s the thing: a relapse is not a broken promise.
A relapse is hitting the pause button. All is not lost.
But we can’t stay paused. That’s called stopped.
Promise-keeping requires action, not talking or thinking. Talking and thinking are great, but at some point words are just words, and we have to make movements.
Create a promise that you must keep to yourself for 5 days. Do that thing every day for just 5 days.
Once you are done doing that thing (or not doing that thing) for 5 days, then keep going. Add on another 5 days.
One day at a time, in 5 day blocks.
That’s all I’ve been doing with booze for almost two years. I don’t drink every day, in blocks of 5 days. Then I repeat. It’s all about tricking the mind and then keeping the promise to myself.
3. Stop Giving Yourself an Out
If we have a goal and it’s important to us, why are we sabotaging it? Remember the promises we are keeping to ourselves? Let’s keep those. Why are we intent on breaking them?
Somewhere along the way, fear of change became a thing for those of us who struggle with this.
Many of us have a need for certainty and stability in our life. For some of us, this is our number one basic need.
Interestingly, by continuing our destructive habits and behaviors, we are actually fulfilling that need for certainty, predictability. We are predicting our own terrible and non-progressive outcomes.
We are certain we will never reach our goals.
We are certain that we will always be drunk and fat and sad.
We are certain that no one will ever love us.
We are certain that we are broken.
- Certainty is our need to feel in control and to know what’s coming next so we can feel secure. It’s the need for basic comfort, the need to avoid pain and stress, and also to create pleasure.
- Our need for certainty is a survival mechanism. It affects how much risk we’re willing to take in life—in our jobs, in our investments, and in our relationships.
- The higher the need for certainty, the less risk you’ll be willing to take or emotionally bear. By the way, this is where your real “risk tolerance” comes from.”
What is the secret to absolute certainty? Doing absolutely nothing.
Or bingeing and stuffing macaroons in our faces.
That outcome is certain. If we do nothing, nothing will happen. We get our certainty.
If we want something in our life–if we really want it, the lesson is to understand that the outcome of trying, working hard, and making changes is not certain–and that’s okay. We do it anyway.
If certainty is a need in your life, then think about how you are certain that you can reach your goals. You are certain that these changes are in your best interest, and will help you lead your best life.
I also have a need for certainty. I was fulfilling that need with destructive behavior for years. So I just flipped the certainty and made it into something else.
When I decided that I would give up drinking, I knew one thing:
I was certain that I could not live my best life AND be a drinker.
When I decided that I would work on eating better and stopping the self-sabotage, I knew one thing:
I was certain that I would never have the chance at the body or race or life I wanted if I kept treating my body like a trashcan.
It doesn’t have to be massive change.
But there does have to be a change. Action must happen.
There’s usually a small change that we can make… one thing that will make ALL the difference. Whatever this one thing is, must be tackled first.
So what is the one thing that you can change in your life that will make a HUGE difference? Start there.
- Don’t beat yourself up for your past.
- Make and keep this one promise to yourself.
- Don’t give yourself an out.
You got this.
We got this.