Relapse is a Part of Recovery
Carl Rogers introduced the concept of the “ideal self” to psychology. This concept is a part of his theory of self-actualization, which happens when a person achieves all of their goals, desires, and wishes during their life. This ideal self is the person who we would all like to be, the person who could easily achieve self-actualization. For many of us, this person is always on time, always disciplined, eats and drinks the way we believe is best 100% of the time, and exercises every day – and for others, this person is less disciplined and is much more carefree. And then there is the self-image. That is how we view ourselves based upon how we actually are in the present. Our self-image may be that of a person who is frequently late, has little self-control, eats a diet they would prefer not to eat but “cannot resist”, drinks too much, and exercises only when getting off of the couch to find the remote – or this person may work all of the time, never having any time to let loose and have fun.
When our self-image and ideal self are this different, it is said we are in a state of incongruence – the person we wish we were and the person we are currently are very different. This may be very upsetting to us. We may have told ourselves 100 times not to eat that cheese, but still somehow wound up eating it. We are not the person we want to be, and that can bring up some very negative feelings. Or, it can prove to us that we are correct – we are the bad person our poor self-esteem believes we are. But let me tell you something. If you were truly ready to stop eating that cake, start exercising, stop binging on Netflix, or whatever it is that you want to do – you would. There is a reason why we do the things we do.
I’m going to be completely honest here and share that I am coming back from an extended relapse. During that relapse, I was very ashamed. “What am I going to tell my audience? If they’re even still there… Who am I to be teaching them about health when here I am binging on peppermint patties, pizza, and Netflix, completely lacking in self-control!” I would think to myself. And the truth is, I needed this relapse. It taught me so many valuable lessons. I understand now why people eat the things they eat when they don’t want to. The truth is, sticking to any lifestyle change is hard work – especially when we are surrounded by other lifestyles that do not mesh with ours.
I was not ready to let go of my old lifestyle. I had forgotten during the process of getting healthy how hard it had been and how much work I had done. And since I had gotten healthy slowly, I had a hard time seeing how the food and lack of exercise truly affected me. I still had a ton of negative emotions that I didn’t know how to integrate and just wanted to numb through eating. But nothing can numb feelings forever.
I wanted to start eating healthy again, but every time I tried, something came up and I would let myself believe that I wanted the food more than I wanted to reach a long-term goal I had prescribed for myself. I let myself believe that exercise was no longer possible. I would tell myself I would change when this life event occurred, and then once that occurred and I still hadn’t changed, I was getting frustrated with the lack of congruency in my life.
Increasingly frustrated, I wrote down a list of how my poor lifestyle habits had affected me. Here’s that list:
How Eating The Standard American Diet and Stopping Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation Affected Me:
- Lethargy and exhaustion
- Brain fog
- Poor memory
- Loss of intuition
- Poor decision-making skills
- Intrusive thoughts
- Overpowering food cravings, no – food addiction
- Constant hunger
- Alcohol cravings
- Cigarette cravings
- Craving virtually anything that would take my mind off reality
- Rapid weight gain
- Near-constant heartburn
- Excess gas
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Inflamed lymph nodes
- Loss of strength
- Loss of endurance
- Loss of flexibility
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of willpower
- Extreme difficulty returning to a healthier lifestyle even when I wanted it with all of my heart
Yeah. Not pleasant in the least. Even with all of that, I needed for this to happen. I justified this relapse initially by saying I was only doing it for a week to get food cravings out of my system. And then I continued to justify it by saying eating healthy was too expensive (even though eating the way I had cost the same as eating healthy), and that raw was too extreme, etc., etc… Excuses, excuses! But the truth is, I tried for FOUR MONTHS to kick the unwanted habits I picked up that I planned on only continuing for a single week. And I needed every day of that time to learn the lessons I needed to learn.
I learned that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Nothing I ate during that time was worth how negatively I was feeling. And yet, at the same time, none of the foods had killed me. Nothing I ate sent me to the hospital. While I was eating raw before I had relapsed, I developed a serious fear of eating unhealthy – yet, I still wanted to do so. This relapse tackled that fear head on. I learned that even the foods I am highly sensitive to that will throw even the healthiest gut out of whack, did not cause any life-threatening or severely painful conditions. Just a gradual onset of all of the symptoms I had started eating healthy to avoid. See, I don’t eat a raw, living, vegan diet just for fun. I eat this way because I have several serious health conditions that I am treating this way. I am detoxifying my lymph nodes to help heal vaso-vagal syncope, a condition where I can pass out easily due to a number of triggers, as well as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, and anxiety. I am detoxifying my colon to heal all of the above, as well as the IBS-C (irritable bowel syndrome, constipation type) that has afflicted me since childhood. I don’t actually have a diagnosis, but I’ve also suffered fatigue throughout most of my life, and the raw living diet helps with that as well.
So, here’s how I feel when I take care of my health:
How Restarting the Raw, Living Lifestyle, Exercise, and Yoga Affected Me:
- Moods have stabilized
- Feeling sharp, alert, and focused, more aware of my surroundings
- Memory has improved
- Intuition has returned
- Decisions based upon clear thought process rather than addiction or avoiding anxiety
- Happier and better able to cope with negative emotions
- Anxiety has lessened and is easier to deal with
- Mostly craving-free
- Weight loss
- Less constipation, but I know I need some colon hydrotherapy and an extended juice cleanse before it will be fully regular
- Gut beginning to heal itself – no bloating, heartburn, excess gas, or nausea
- Skin noticeably much better – no acne, rashes/hives, or itchiness
- No severe headaches, only the occasional detox headache
- No joint or muscle pain
- Lymph nodes no longer inflamed
- Strength returning
- Endurance returning
- Flexibility returning
- More motivation than I’ve ever had (proof: this article!)
- Willpower returning
- Exercise is both desirable and enjoyable
- My sense of smell is better than it had been in over a decade
I feel better than I’ve felt in my entire life – even better than I felt before I had relapsed, even though I’ve still got about 10 pounds of fat that I gained as a result of this relapse to convert back to muscle. The reason I feel so great is that this time around, is that my ideal self and self-image have both become more congruent. My self-image before I relapsed was that I was clinging to the raw lifestyle based upon fear, not love, truly believing I should be able to have gluten, dairy, and sugary desserts (and even a taste of meat here and there) whenever I wanted to do so, but would pretty much literally die or at least get hospitalized if I actually did. Now, seeing what happens when I eat the standard American diet, I changed my ideal self from being someone who could switch from the raw, living foods lifestyle to eating anything I had a craving for, to someone who wants to eat raw, living foods 100% percent of the time. And I love it!
So, how did I change after all of that time struggling? Well, I’ve got to eat breakfast and get myself to yoga… look out for my next article!
Just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the many people who got me to the point where writing this article was possible: Jace, for telling me how important my blog was and how many people wanted to read it and actually cared about what I have to say. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you terribly. Seth, for helping and encouraging me return to raw, living foods, exercise, and yoga. Anthony, for helping me with getting my blog up and running, being a great friend, and giving me a push to actually write for my blog again! My parents, for loving me, being open-minded to this diet, and helping me with groceries! And always, Jake for helping me start this blog at all.
Also, I want to add a little disclaimer. Just because I had these results does not mean you will have the same results. Had I not detoxed prior to relapsing, I would not know my body well enough to know what it wants. I also make no claims that this was done scientifically. I needed results much quicker than testing each variable individually would yield! I would love to see someone test the variables presented scientifically!