How do Deal with People Who Trigger your Issues

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.

How to Squash your Inner Critic

  You know those voices that pop into your head and tell you that you’re fat, that you need to lose weight, that you’ve eaten too much, that you’re ugly, stupid, boring, or whatever?  A lot of people with eating issues suffer with these voices. They hear them and believe that the voices are right. They get sucked into them.

But you don’t have to engage with those voices. When you hear them, rather than listening to them and believing them and doing whatever you can to change yourself so those voices won’t pick on you quite so much, you can turn to them and just say, “there’s no room for you right now, I hear you, but I’m not going to listen to you. I’m choosing not to engage with your mean words.” Just because you hear these things, doesn’t mean it’s true.  The truth is totally subjective and you can choose your own truth. That truth might be, “You are perfect, whole, and complete, just the way you are.”

These “voices” so to speak is the voice of your eating disorder, or your super-ego, or your inner critic. You might not be able to shut it off, but you can choose not to listen to it or not to let it control you. You can choose to tell it that you are not making space for it right now. You can choose to create a different voice that helps you to feel better about yourself.

What are some things that you do to disengage with the critical  inner voice?


Friday Q&A– How do I get rid of negative emotions?

how do i get rid of negative emotionsQuestion:

Submitted via email by Sarah in San Francisco, CA

Can you tell me how to get rid of negative emotions? Like, first off, my boyfriend and I broke up over 5 months ago, but I can’t stop thinking about  him. He doesn’t want to get back together but  I can’t stop calling him. I’ve been  drinking and binge eating almost every night. I’ll get totally trashed by myself, then order a whole pizza or Chinese Food and binge on it, and then  I call my ex and sometimes I don’t even remember doing it, I just know from the phone log each morning. It’s really embarrassing and he’s even asked me not to contact him anymore. He blocked his number and unfriended me from facebook. And I still can’t stop thinking about him.

I really don’t want to be drinking every night and I don’t want to be binge eating and I don’t want to be obsessed with my ex. But I can’t help it. Can you tell me I stop feeling so in love with my ex? Can you tell me how to stop wanting to drink every night? I don’t know how to make myself feel different than I feel. I just want to know how to feel differently so I don’t do these things anymore.

-Sarah T. – San Francisco

Hi Sarah,

Wouldn’t it be so great if we didn’t have to deal with these pesky feeling thingies? You ask how you can not feel what  you are currently feeling, but it seems to me that all three of these issues are intertwined. You say that you don’t want to feel so obsessed, and I think that when you use alcohol, you are attempting to mitigate those very challenging emotions and the feelings of rejection. You actually have found away to not feel your feelings. But we’ve got a Catch-22 here. You don’t want to think about the ex, so you begin to think about drinking to numb that pain. There’s a part of you that doesn’t actually want to drink but the pain of obsessing over your ex makes it feel too hard not to.  Once you’ve been drinking, you begin to lose all control. Your emotions get too big and you can’t stop yourself from doing things like binge eating and contacting your ex.

So, back to your original question, how can  you stop feeling those awful feelings that you don’t want to be feeling.  The answer is that you don’t. The crux of the issue here is that you’re still hung up on your ex. But just because you have these uncomfortable feelings doesn’t mean you have to act on them. When we think about mindfulness, we think about watching the feelings without carrying out the behavior that we need to carry out to lessen them. We just watch them without judgment and with compassion. For example, you begin to miss your ex. The feeling becomes so overwhelming that you have to do something to make it go away. You believe somewhere (even though rationally you know the truth) that calling him would make you feel better, or that drinking would make you feel better. But of course these things all build on themselves and create a vicious circle.

Think of ex—–> Feel sad, anxious, desperate, want to call him—–> Drink to make feelings go away so you don’t call—–> Feelings get bigger and you lose control——>Call ex——> Feel Worse——> Binge Eat

And on and on. But what if you could stop it right at the beginning? Right at Feel sad, anxious, desperate, want to call him. What if you could sit with those very, very hard feelings without acting on them. This is like strengthening a muscle. When you begin to sit with uncomfortable feelings, you increase your capacity to feel them without acting on them. Feeling them enables you to work through them. When you quickly do things to make those feelings go away, they don’t really go away. They get stuffed down and build and build and build and of course come back even worse. But you don’t have to be with your feelings alone. That can be very frightening.  You can ask for support. You don’t have to come home alone at night and face the takeout menus and the bottle and the cellphone and facebook by yourself. You can always get out of the house and spend time with a supportive friend or family member. You can talk to a priest or a rabbi or a minister or a counselor or therapist or someone that you might feel safe with. You can go out and do volunteer work . You can also sit with your journal or your blog and write about what you’re feeling. If you don’t know of anyone to talk to,  there are  lots of great groups such as LAA or AA. There are also online support groups and message boards to help you work through these feelings.  Don’t let yourself be alone with your feelings. Feelings aren’t bad, but when you don’t acknowledge them through talking about them or writing about them, that’s when you will act out in harmful behaviors. When you stuff them down and let them sit inside of you, they fester and grow into monsters. Talk about them, write about them and let yourself be with them. I don’t know how to get rid of them, but I do know that you can choose to manage them in a healthy way. Eventually, as you begin to take care of yourself, you will return to tending to your own needs and you will pull yourself away from obsessing over your ex and begin to think about yourself and take care of you. Taking care of yourself is crucial in dealing with challenging feelings. When you are feeling bad or sad or angry or lonely or depressed, remember to be good to you. You need to be treated gently, especially by yourself.

Good Luck,


Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.