I had a chat with a friend recently who (like myself) has struggled with compulsive eating amongst other things like alcohol and drug abuse. They were worried that despite being clean and sober, binge and compulsive eating was a sign that they were struggling with their programme and emotional sobriety…

In a case like this (and this is me speaking from experience here). We need to remember that we’re making huge changes in our lives by coming into recovery. During my early days I saw the recovery I wanted in others, I saw people who were emotionally sober, they were living a largely happy and free life. Life wasn’t perfect, they had problems just like everyone else, but the difference was they seemed ok and able to carry themselves in a way which seemed alien to me.

After some initial time in the rooms, you might start to feel emotionally and physically better and there might be an urge to try to fix other areas of your life you’ve wanted to either improve or change at the same time. Time for, You, 2.0.

I went through this phase like many others in early sobriety, I stopped smoking and made the switch to vaping. I hired a personal trainer to create a twelve week exercise and meal plan to get myself into shape, I decided to quit caffeine, I started seeing a new therapist and also began to reconsider my career and life plans just for good measure.

Unsurprisingly this mad sprint didn’t end well, it was taking on too much too soon. I ended up not being able to complete the twelve week workout plan, I wasn’t able to stick to the brutal diet and so my compulsive eating habits came back into the picture (they got worse in fact), after a few weeks of vaping and then quitting nicotine cold turkey I started smoking a pack a day again.
It was all well intentioned and the truth is that with recovery we do get the opportunity to make changes in other areas of our lives, but we need to do this over time and from a place of stability. 

Our addiction can swap seats once we remove main behaviours or substances. For myself removing alcohol and drugs initially meant that my smoking and eating were things which began to worsen before they eventually got better. While we’re still in early recovery we’re still learning to cope emotionally with ourselves and the world around us, any unease can trigger these behaviours.

When this happens I need to remember that I’m still relatively early on in my journey and that I’m now smoke, alcohol and drug free. That’s a huge achievement in itself, I need to remember to be kind to myself and remember that I’ve had a lifetime of dealing with emotions through compulsive behaviours and substances, that’s not something that I can turn around in a short amount of time. If I slip with small things I need to remember that I’m going through a lot, that this is a life long journey and that I already have made great strides which I can be proud of. 

Try to look at yourself with compassion next time you’re worried that you’re not the person you wish you were in recovery, however far you’ve come it’s something to be proud of and something you can build on each day. It’s a journey of progress not perfection…