Driving back from dropping off kids at their respective schools, the approaching traffic light turns yellow. I would not have touched my brakes, except the psycho in front of me comes to a screeching stop. I have no choice other than to stand on my brakes and hope mommy’s swagger wagon has the precise stopping power as Mr. Stop-for-Yellow-Lights. It did.
However, everything my kids have been stashing in the back comes sliding up to the front. I was lucky a fishing pole didn’t take me out. (Mental note: Make the boy get his fishing equipment out of my van)
I’m on my way to the gym, as is my usual practice after unloading the mess makers. So, my gym bag and water bottle are now at my feet along with various empty cups and some dirty socks. This all seems like the normal mess I keep in my car. I’m throwing stuff back into the back and mumbling curses at the dude in front of me while waiting for the green light. I come across an old Pop Tart. No telling how old, as those things never go bad. Thus, I’m reminded why I’m a bad mom for feeding them to my kids. I’m rolling my eyes at the reminder of a morning, when we were obviously running so late that I threw the children in the car and tossed a Pop Tart in after them, and said, “Eat on the way, mother f##ers!”
Oh, I didn’t really say that. I got a little caught up in my story telling. I’m a hot mess of a mom whose van has enough stuff in it to sustain life for a week. I rarely feed the children a nutritious breakfast, because I’m seldom awake enough to fight over food in the mornings. Furthermore, we are running late more often than not, but I’ve never actually called my children MFers. Thought it; never said it. Back to my story…
I’ve been thinking about relapses a lot lately. This driver and his overly zealous yellow light reaction and the resulting Pop Tart reminded me of a relapse.
Whether it’s an eating disorder, addiction, depression/anxiety, etc., relapses are part of recovery. They happen. Here’s why they happen. You’re happily going about your new recovery routine, and someone or something slams your face into a crisis. Then, here it comes, the baggage that you didn’t realize you were still carrying around comes flying up into your view.
One of my relapses happened when on a double date, of sorts. The other couple were a clearly defined couple. I was with a guy who was my friend, of sorts. Are you confused yet? Well, I was too at the time. If Facebook had been around, my status would have said “it’s complicated.” Nonetheless, I rode with him. We met the couple. We had dinner. It was lovely, whatever the hell it was, until we got back in the car. While driving me home, this guy notes that his friend’s girlfriend only ordered a salad. Oh, yeah, sure, I saw that. Hope she enjoyed it. He goes on to say his sister usually eats salads when eating with a group. Now, I’m starting to sense that he’s going somewhere with this. Sure enough, he expresses surprise that I ordered a “real meal” instead of a salad, and his disappointment in my unexpectable choice was clear in his tone.
Here, I was driving down recovery. I’m nourishing my body appropriately. I work out regularly, but not excessively. I’m doing well in school and “complicated” as it may be, I even have a social life. Recovery! Then, this guy stomps on his brakes, puts his weird issues in my face, and here come the Pop Tarts. Relapse.
I was a recovering bulimic. You can imagine what came next. Moreover, I ordered a lot of salads for a while that I didn’t even eat. I spent the meal looking at the food thinking, nope, not allowed. I must be a good girl, just smile, and look pretty while the boys enjoy themselves.
Yes, relapses are part of recovery, but at some point, you have to stop having relapses or you can’t count yourself recovered. You have no control over the yellow-light crisis inducers. They will come. They will come in assholes that you sort-a-kinda date. They will come from well-meaning relatives. They will come from messages from TV and internet. They will come.
What you must do is, first, keep trying to clean out the baggage. If you can get rid of the “Pop Tarts” you’re carrying around before the crisis, you’re ahead of the game. However, some issues you may not realize are back there, or you were just going to bring that up to your counselor at your next visit, and boom, it’s in your face.
I recommend an action plan. Have some ideas of what to do with this baggage ahead of time. If you wait till it happens unexpectedly, you will turn to your old ways of coping. That’s the easy thing to do, so that’s what you will do.
Have an action plan that says, when crisis arises, I go outside with my dog or to garden. When crisis arises, I call this professional or supportive person. When crisis arises, I journal it out. Whatever, have something to do instead of the old behavior. No, have a list of things to do. A long list of things to do. If nothing else, perhaps you’ll wear yourself out until bedtime, and hopefully the urge will be gone in the morning.
Now, let me take a second to make a side note. You’re not bad that you return to your old ways of coping. That’s human nature. That’s survival instinct. You do what you know. You do what comes easy. Ok, so when the voice in your head doubles down and says, hey not only are you unworthy because of this baggage that just popped up, you’re unworthy you relapsed, tell it to shut up. It’s wrong, and you have to get to work on getting back on track. You’re not unworthy, you’re human.
Don’t ever get complacent in your recovery. It’s work. It’s long. It’s trying and failing, and trying some more. It’s hard as hell, but it’s so worth it. You are worth it.
Don’t let the Yellow-Light-Stoppers of the world get you down.