Addiction, Habits & Relapse: Why Do We Keep Doing It?!
3 Minute Read: Addiction, eating disorder, relapse, mindfulness, habit shifts, recovery.
Food is never just about food, and eating is never just about eating. They are intimately tied to our identity, our history, our social context, our biology, our emotions, and our core beliefs.
What’s more, our relationship to food affects every part of our being and every relationship in our lives.
Every. Single. One. All of it. All of us.
That’s why changing unhelpful patterns around food can be so frickin hard. And that’s why the stakes are so high.
A quote from my client Alyssa (not her real name, and I hear similar versions from clients and others daily):
“All of my eating habits are tied to my emotions. I don’t know how to break this. I’m frustrated by a conversation I had with [my partner]...I go searching for something that will make me feel better for a second. Only to ultimately make me feel worse.
Same goes for having a rough day with the kids or on the flip side celebrating the start of the weekend. I feel infinitely better when I eat/drink nourishing whole foods. So, why don’t I always do that?!”
Well, there's the million-dollar question! ;)
Why, seeing an unhelpful pattern – knowing 100 percent where it leads and will always lead – do we keep doing it?!
Why, knowing that healthy eating makes us feel better, don’t we stick with it already!
Sigh. This is why "food rules" alone are never enough.
As I told Alyssa: Good news is, you're already doing the only sort of work and practice that can make a difference. The kind of work and practice that will change your trajectory.
Maybe not 100 percent for all times, but little by little – putting one foot in front of the next, pointed in the direction you want to go...all the while being conscious of where you are right now, including your triggers, patterns, successes and challenges…with honesty, curiosity and kindness.
So...if Alyssa’s struggle sounds familiar, and you too find yourself in an unhelpful cycle on repeat despite knowing how it always ends up, start here:
Step 1: See and name the pattern.
Keep doing this, returning again and again with an abundance of honesty and compassion. Be really clear.
Also see and name when you do something different – when you change the script and step out of unhelpful cycles. Celebrate that – it is precious.
Step 2: Place one foot in front of the next, pointed in your desired, chosen direction.
See the longer trajectory even amidst temporary stumbles. Keep showing up. One healing step after the next.
It will change where you are and where you land. No question.
Step 3: Do everything you can to provide for your true wants and needs.
When you are well-resourced and have enough time, pause and helpful surrounds (including people, social media messages, etc.), you'll be infinitely more likely to do Steps 1 and 2 in a steady, sustained, successful way. It's just how it works, for us humans ;).
Choose your “advertising.” Bring in what nourishes you. Edit out what’s feeding your addiction. This is non-negotiable. Your heart must choose and defend it fiercely.
Here’s the other thing.
We are never "solved" as people. We never "finish" healing. We grow a bit. We stumble. We return again.
But in coming back to the practice...in coming back to honest, mindful witnessing...in coming back to putting one foot in front of the next (even making space for the struggle, rather than resisting it), we face old stuff with new eyes.
We learn new ways of being with our patterns, ourselves and others. In doing this work, we do change – it couldn't possibly be otherwise!
So hang in there, return to your why, and give yourself breathing room – meeting yourself where you are with honesty and care…even as you take your next healing step.
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Here’s to your next healing step.