What do we do when we slip?

A slip is not the same as a relapse or a binge, but it can become one. When we slip, we may have eaten something that is not on our food plan (such as a trigger food) or engaged in a food behavior that we eschew as part of our plan of eating (such as eating standing up). We hope they are relatively minor, one-off type events by comparison to full-on binge eating or a relapse.

The question is how to keep a slip from becoming something worse.

First off, what’s the number one thing that a slip does? It reintroduces a substance or way of thinking and acting into our lives that is known to cause major issues for us. If we ate a trigger food at a meal, for example, we are not doomed to eat it or any other unsafe foods again. God is more powerful than this disease after all. But we need to recognize that we are in danger, and over the next several days, we may feel things we haven’t felt in a while:

  • food-relations changes: cravings, food thoughts
  • physical changes: low energy, sleepiness, aches and pains, gastro troubles or headaches
  • mood changes: depression, anxiety, highs, lows
  • mental changes: confusion or fuzzy thinking, laziness
  • spiritual changes: a sense of distance from our Higher Power or our OA group.

What we do when these crop up determines whether we will return to our former compulsive-eating ways or whether we will simply resume with our abstinent way of life. An analogy that’s often mentioned at meetings is that of driving on the highway. If we get a little sleepy or distracted in our program, a slip is akin to hitting the rumble strip. Like any driver, we want to turn the car back toward the road, but we are in danger of that old thinking that says “I’m doomed!” and then fulfills the prophesy by turning the wheel straight into the ditch.

The ditch isn’t where it’s at for us OA members.

Instead, we can look toward the support we have in our meetings, our network, and our literature. We can talk to others and listen for helpful suggestions. We might ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Have I cut back on meetings recently?
  • Have I cut back on service recently?
  • Have I been honest with my sponsor recently?
  • Am I jammed up with resentment or fear?
  • Has my thinking moved away from OA principles and toward self-centeredness?
  • Am I in gratitude or am I in attitude?
  • Have I been passing the message of OA onto other suffering compulsive eaters?

We can ask God to help us answer these questions (and many others) honestly and openly. Because the substance or behavior is in our system once again, we may find the answers cloudy or difficult to locate. Talking with others can help us since they will have a more objective, outside point of view.

Whatever the answers are, we can safely skip over any kind of repetitive thinking that centers on the “If only…” of the situation leading to the slip, the kind that says “I’m so stupid…,” or the kind that says “I’ll never get my abstinence back.” These lies are the foundations that binges and relapses are built on. They are merely different flavors of the thinking that lead us to compulsive eating in the first place. We can’t go back to the moment before our slip, we needn’t judge ourselves harshly for being humans with a disease, and we cannot afford to seed the future with the junk from our past.

Instead, we can remind ourselves of some helpful slogans:

  • “Don’t eat no matter what; no matter what don’t eat.”
  • “Easy, easy, easy.”
  • “One day at a time.”

In addition, we should not tarry on taking action based on whatever answers we find. Stopped going to as many meetings? We can start going to more, immediately. Stopped taking effective inventory at night? We can start again. Never worked the steps? We can ask a sponsor right now for help. While the substance is in our body or the remembrance of the eating behavior remains fresh, we are in gravest danger. We can’t wait until the substance has washed out of us again, we must take action to prevent worse food lapses.

No matter how long we have been abstinent, a slip smacks us right where our pride is located. It triggers our fear of others’ opinions, our fear that we aren’t good enough, our fear that OA won’t work for us, and our fear that all that abstinence we had is no longer valid. This last point is especially insidious. It is helpful to remember that whether we had three days, three weeks, three months, three years, or three decades, every day of abstinence is a gift from our Higher Power. Just because we slip does not mean that our abstinent time wasn’t good enough or can’t return. It only means that we have some action to take to resume our abstinence. God hasn’t gone anywhere, we just need to remember how to get in touch with our Higher Power.

If we slip, a lapse, relapse, or collapse is not inevitable. Not if we can let a slip become a teachable moment. Humility is the idea of being teachable, and humility is one of the principles embodied in our steps. If we ask our Higher Power to show us what we need to know and do after a slip, we can resume the safe, sane, and useful lifestyle that abstinence gives us without first ending up in the ditch.