Two weeks into practicing recovery practices due to being discharged from rehab, I admit it, I caved and up’d my dose of laxatives and lowered my intake of food again.
Relapsing feels shameful ― but I feel I have an excuse almost, especially with Covid in a backwards sort of way. Taking laxatives gives me a sense of relief that no game of jigsaw or episode of “Tiger King” can provide.
About a year ago, I’d gone through a breakup that was directly caused by my ED. My partner and I had been fighting about the way I behaved and how reluctant i was to get help. My constant need to fulfill cravings ruined our outings. We only dated for six months, but my decline was rapid. My partner could see the way addiction changed my behavior and attitude in a matter of weeks.
Along the way, I also had been shedding friends. From getting carried out of clubs to starting petty arguments, my erratic behavior scared off a lot of my friends because I was putting myself at risk. The laxatives made me gret drunk so much faster and easier so i feel back onto alchol and drugs. as another rescue when things got bad.
I would rather spend time alone, surfing the internet and taking laxatives by myself.
After my partner and I broke up, going home with men I had just met — while drunk — became a regular habit. I would leave my friends in the blink of an eye for men I had met 20 minutes before. I would skip out on birthday dinners or work celebrations to get drunk and swap stories with regulars at local bars. The bubbly, playful person I once was had been transformed.
Alarmed by losing my relationship and my increasing distance from friends, I sought out a year long treatment program.
Before quarantine, I felt I had finally become grounded in my recovery. I had just reestablished trust with family and friends. I made amends with several friends who had seen me at my worst. I could finally see myself becoming ‘normal‘, slowly but surely.
But the isolation of living in quarantine made my obsession with my weight worse. It was 10 days into quarantine when I ordered a Deliveroo of Wagamammas and started to binge.
I usually got to go to rehab or speak to my councellor when i was struggling but that had all cancelled over lock down and it was over the phone. When we finally got to talk, they advised me to take it one day at a time. Told me stories of people whose lives had been ruined by relapse and reminded I was only making things worse.
Despite the advice, I kept binging, purging and restricting. A few days a week, I would order take aways from different restaurants to make it seem as if I cared eating, almost as if i was recovering. In reality, I was using the food to distract myself and binge.
When I first started taking more laxatives again, I was under the illusion that I had regained a sense of control.
I soon spiraled into classic ED behavior. I overslept and stopped attending Zoom meetings. I began to put off work, exercise and socialization. I started to lie to family and friends who asked about my ED and how i was doing. I would order food from Deliveroo and secretly eat it in my room before my housemate realised. A collection of empty food containers began to pile up next to the kitchen bin. I brushed it all off as stress from social distancing.
When another scientist or political figure surmised how long we were going to remain inside, I comforted myself with “just a few more laxatives.”
I relapsed in quarantine because I was afraid of what was going to happen to me, the lack of control had got control of me. The world feels like a scarier place than it used to be. It felt like laxatives and food was helping me cope with my fear, but actually, it was making everything worse.
Towards the end, around June time, I had set a routine for myself that had helped me stay sane and cut back on laxatives significantly. I went for a walk, did puzzles, started painting. But it does not fully take away the craving to take more pills. I am encouraged to do Zoom meetings, but for me, virtual meetings cannot replace the camaraderie that comes with being face to face and saying “keep coming back.” or “see you next week”.
But, although I still have the desire to stop taking laxatives, I have struggled again recently. As you know, I have recently been let go from rehab for the next year. I’m putting it down to that, along with the fact that I was put onto a break from my antidepressants. I had made the huge achievement of coming down from 280- laxatives a day to just 20. but in the last few weeks, i’ve scrambled my way back up to 50 a day. although it may not sound like much of a relapse… 50 is where i was at in January. It feels as if i’ve undone 10months worth of work in 14 days.
In the coming months, I will continue to try to adapt back to the routine that i had come to know. Because while I can’t change the uncertainty of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, I can change how I deal with it.