Chutes and Ladders

I was discussing life and recovery with Dr. H today, and somehow the idea came up that recovery was a lot like the childhood game Chutes and Ladders.  It seems that it's much easier to slide back down than it is to climb your way up.  What's more, it seems that there are far more chutes than ladders, and the chutes seem to take you bad much further than the ladders propel you forward.

"I remember getting so close to the final square as a kid," I told Dr. H, "and then I hit that stupid slide that took me back to the very beginning."

So it seems with recovery.  My recent struggles have made me feel (however incorrectly) that I'm back at the beginning again.

Then Dr. H said, "That horrible slide takes you back, but never to Square One. You're never back at the very beginning. At the worst, I think you end up on the second square. But never the very first one."

Translation: you have always learned something along the journey, however much you may feel you have failed completely.  Realizing you're at the end of a slide and have lost ground is disheartening, but you've never lost every last inch.

And ED slips can be often like a trip down a playground slide. Exilharating at times, but then the ride comes to an end, and you hit the ground with a thud.

Of course, the entire point of a slide is to climb up and go down.  The point of recovery is to not slide back down.  That being said, I think we all do at some point or another.  We slide a bit--maybe not all the way back down to the asphalt, but standing at the top of the slide can seem rather alluring.  We think we can catch ourselves before we hit the ground.  Sometimes we can, and sometimes we can't.

Not to mention that climbing back up a slide isn't the easiest of tasks. Just ask these kittens.

Remember: no matter how much you slide, you're never back to Square One, not really.


Dawn said...

So very true! This past fall my relapse took me far down that slide. In the beginning, as anyone with an eating disorder will tell you, it is extremely difficult to keep up with recovery. One day I discussed something similar with my therapist, and that was 2 steps forward 1 step back is still 1 step ahead of where you started.

hm said...

Really, really? Cuz sometimes it seems like you land so fucking hard that it's not worth getting up and climbing again. Yes, there is the learning that accompanied and propelled the climb. But then to bring that into balance lest it go to your head, there is the knowledge that you've failed IN SPITE of all of the things you now know. Failure hurts more when you understand more profoundly exactly what it is that you have fucked up.

Not trying to be a debbie downer or a naysayer, but feeling awfully discouraged and tired and frustrated. Reading a blog from someone as intelligent as you, esp. re: eds, helps alleviate the guilt- knowing that you hit a slide space too sometimes even knowing what you know, but somehow you are still trying to climb. I guess I wonder if the ladder spaces appear out of nowhere too, or if that is only the damn slides that do that- can I wait this out and hope to land on a ladder or do I have to get my ass up out of the dirt and go look for one. So. Damn. Tired.

And so disappointed in myself. Well, tomorrow's another day, and another round on the board. Maybe a ladder will magically appear in my kitchen.

Cathy (UK) said...

We called/call this game 'snakes and ladders' in the UK. I loved the game as a kid. Each board is different and we had a board with a HUGE snake on it, that was right on the next to last square on top line.

I am thankful that I've remained fairly stable in my recovery/remission over the last 5 months. My last 'snake' was in October 2010 when my Dad died. I went through an existential crises (which is perhaps not unusual after the death of a close and much loved relative...) and felt it was too much effort to eat.

[I have never enjoyed eating so I always find it confusing when I hear people say "anorexic people love food; they just won't let themselves eat it.. Not so with me. I hate cooking, I eat to live and that's about it..].

But I ensured I ate and did something else ridiculous instead: I had (almost all) my hair cut off, in an unusually impulsive behavioural blip.

Cathy (UK) said...

P.S. I have the urge to scoop up that little kitten and give it a cuddle :)

Anonymous said...

So true about never back to square one. I never thought of it that way. It definitely "feels" that way sometimes.

hm: I do think the ladder spaces appear out of no where too. Those are the moments when you look around and realize you are three steps further than you ever where before. And it wasn't mountain climbing to get there.

Libby said...

I needed this reminder today. Thank you.

HikerRD said...

Ah, if only recovery were more like Candy Land! Landing in a new patch of gum drops or candy canes would be challenging, perhaps, but exciting nonetheless.

Mary B said...

Thank you for this post. Especially this sentence: "We think we can catch ourselves before we hit the ground. Sometimes we can, and sometimes we can't." I've slipped and climbed, slipped and climbed a number of times over the past 16 months of recovery, but none so drastic as my last slip. I found myself thinking "this isn't what I should be doing, but how do I stop myself my now?" The slide is indeed "alluring," each time I find myself standing at the top I'm filled with both a sense of dread and a tickle of excitement - it's as if ED is daring us to give it a go just so we know who's really in charge.

Tiptoe said...

I used to love chutes and ladders as a kid, though not necessarily in life. It is true though, I do think, well at least hopefully, that even with any slide back, you learn something from it.

I know for me, each time has been different but never to the point of completely where I was when I was in my teens.

And you know each time, we are able to climb back up the slide, it's another success for us.

Abby said...

I also like the comparison that if you get a flat tire, you don't go and slash the other three. You fix the one that's flat.

And now I fondly remember burning my skin on metal slides in the summer, not really sliding as much as sticking and pushing myself down. I need to watch the kittens again...

EDNOS said...

Wow! That is a great analogy and so what I need to hear right now. Thank you so much for sharing it.

My ED analogy is much less fun. I've been thinking about it as drowning (you can read my analogy here: )

But I'm totally going to think about recovery as Chutes and Ladders now :)

Anonymous said...

perfect analogy. When I had a little slip in march (which, of course, I projected as an OMG THE WORLD IS GONNA END I'M NEVER GOING TO RECOVER relapse), my therapist reminded me that recovery is a journey of ebbs and flows, and one rarely goes back to square one. further more, each slip is a learning experience. awesome post!!

Unknown said...

Thank you! And SO TRUE! Today I had an AMAZING day - a breakthrough in my recovery- I climbed the tallest ladder on the board, the one that takes you from the second row to the second to the top row, and I must say, it is both exhilarating (sp?) and terrifying. I think what I want to remind myself right now is that even if it is only 10 more squares to the end, tw of those squares have slides on them and I have no idea where I will land on my next turn. BUT, if I slide down, the more ladders I come upon as I continue the game....

Thanks for this inspirational post :)

Tessa @ Amazing Asset said...

Hi There!
I just found your blog from another person's site and am thankful I did. I am recovering from years of disordered eating and am so freakin sick of it. I like this analogy, because like you said you don't go back to square one, and even though it seems like you are never going to get back to the top, it really is possible. I am definitely bookmarking your page and looking forward to reading more :)

Lorretta said...

I hear the chutes and ladders analogy a lot. Really unsure about it. The game itself is random chance. I don't think life is - you make your own luck.

I get it, I really do, but rolling a dice and randomly going down a chute or up a ladder is not really how life works.

Anonymous said...

So so so true! Great insight :) and I think it is always so important to remember this to not get discouraged :)


Ladders said...

Classic game. Many a night spent with my family playing "snake & Ladders" or what ever you want to call it. That and mouse trap.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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