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One of the really challenging things about recovery is being out in the real world,  around other people who either aren’t aware of or working on healing their disorder, or who don’t actually have a problem with the behaviors that you must stay abstinent from.

Some examples:

A bunch of people (presumably men) get together for a bachelor party and, as is traditional with American bachelor parties, they go to a strip club. But let’s say one of those men is a sex addict and one trip to a strip club has him spending the next several weeks going to strip clubs daily, spending all his money, ruining his relationship, and feeling unable to stop.

A group of ladies go out to Sunday morning brunch and all order Mimosas with their omelets. One women has a problem with alcohol and after brunch spends the rest of the day at bars drinking,

A woman has spent the past few years recovering from anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive exercise. She moves into a new apartment with a roommate who eats very little and exercises constantly. She begins to think that she should be stepping it up on her exercise and reducing her food intake, this then triggers a binge-purge cycle for her and she relapses into her eating disorder.

Recovery is hard. And when you are surrounded by people who have behaviors that trigger your own very dysfunctional behaviors, it can seem impossible. You might begin to feel angry and resentful. You might begin to wonder why it is that other people can do these certain things, but yo can’t. You might feel that it’s unfair. You might even begin to think that their behavior is normal and that it’s okay for you to do the things that you had spent so long trying not to do. It’s a trap.

If you are allergic to mangoes, you cannot eat mangoes no matter what. Even if you are at a party and everyone else is eating mango and talking about how great the mangoritas, and the mango salsa, and the fresh mango juice is, you cannot go near those mangoes because your throat will close up, you will break out in hives all over your body and you will wind up in the hospital being pumped with epinephrine.  Are you resentful of those who can enjoy mangoes?

That’s the way you need to think of your eating disorder. “I just cannot go there. I know that everyone is sitting around eating Halloween candy, but if I eat a couple of Almond Joys, I will spend the rest of the week bingeing, possibly purging, and being depressed. It’s just not worth it. Just because she can doesn’t mean I can. I’ve been there before and I don’t want to go back.”

The best way to deal with this kind of pressure is to get support from those trying to heal themselves. You cannot kid yourself into thinking that because everyone else can handle it (supposedly and you don’t know what others are dealing with) that you can. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.  It’s so easy to become resentful and angry. That’s okay and it’s normal, but don’t allow yourself to get pulled into the false belief that because others can diet, can snack on Halloween candy, can drink a glass of wine with dinner, can look at porn (whatever!) that you can. You are a perfect individual with your own individual issues.

When you find that others are triggering your issues, it’s important to either extricate yourself from the situation or to grab some support. For example, you’re at a party and you get into a discussion with a woman who begins to tell you about her latest diet. You don’t have to engage. You can excuse yourself from the conversation. You can change the subject, or you can even say, “I don’t believe in dieting,” or you’re at a party where everyone is overindulging in food and alcohol and you find that your self control is running out. Leave the party. Or find a private space and call someone else who is in recovery so that you don’t feel so alone.

Remember, everyone has their own issues, and just because people can seemingly do things that you cannot, doesn’t mean you have to give it a try. You know yourself the best. If going to an all you can eat buffet will hurt your recovery, don’t go. If you are being triggered, leave the situation and get support. If you can’t beat ’em, don’t join ’em. Leave ’em.

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