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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.

Sex, Love, & Food

Geneen Roth wrote a book almost 20 years ago called When Food Is Love. Of course,  this is using food when what you are really craving is love. A common theme that I’ve noticed in women with eating disorders is this  sense of unworthiness or a belief that they are not loveable. It’s incredible to notice that what you might do with your food is what you might do with your life. Binge eating and binge loving are one in the same. Real love vs. fake love is similar to real food vs. fake food. We can tend to binge on the fake stuff more easily than the real stuff.

Real Love vs. Fake Love:

Real love grows slowly and is based on years of trust, problems, fun,  tragedy, grief, drama, trauma, blessings, caring for one another and learning about one another. Real love is deep, lasting, and unpainful. Fake love is a quick flash in the pan that feels like being very, very drunk. It’s intoxicating and uncomfortable and painful and urgent.  Then you have a terrible hangover from it. Then it’s over. And you realize that it wasn’t actually love. It was chemicals, hormones, anxiety, and fear. It was something that you were using to help you to feel better about  something else that was going on in your life (kind of like the way binge eaters and bulimics use food!) The problem with real love vs. fake love is that fake love is so intense and uncomfortable, that comparing it to real love, which tends to be much easier and sedating can really mess with your perception of what is real.  Real love can begin to not  feel like love at all anymore because it doesn’t have that intense edge, it’s doesn’t elicit the same chemicals.

I have seen a great deal of overlap in my practice with women who use food to help them to escape and women who use love and sex to help them escape. There are often affairs, infidelity or just becoming obsessed with unavailable people. These affairs are short lived and problematic to either a marriage or a psyche. Women who become obsessed with unavailable men are escaping from their lives and obsessing on something that is just not going to happen. This can bring forth so much pain, stress and anxiety. It can also keep them from nurturing healthy relationships with otherwise available people or with their husbands or partners.  Those fake love chemicals are just so strong that people can feel high from them. Comparing fake love to real love is like comparing the high you get from doing yoga and meditating to staying up all night blowing lines of coke and doing shots of tequila. One is healthy, and something that you can do forever, it’s a long lasting but less intense high. The other is dangerous, depressing,  intense, and probably feels wonderful briefly. But if you really are craving a high, you’re going to opt for the latter. All you can do after that night is recover.

Real Food vs. Fake Food

As we know, either obsessing about eating food, or not eating food (dieting), having a perfect body or finding the perfect binge food or the perfect time to binge,– is an effective escape from reality. Fake food like donuts and Cheetos and Pepsi might be more appealing to binge on than yogurt, wheat germ, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli. The fake food gives you a quick seratonin boost and makes you temporarily numb to anything else going on the world. While the real food, though not as exciting provides real nurturing and can help you to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

Do you ever binge on fake food when you’re actually needing real love? Do you ever binge on fake love when you’re actually looking to escape?

It’s more difficult to distinguish fake love from fake food, but the following questions related to figuring out if it’s fake food or not, might also help you to figure out the love thing.

Is it something that will nurture your body and your spirit?

Could you eat this every day for the rest of your life?

Will your body feel uncomfortable after eating this food?

Can you eat just the right amount of it without bingeing on it?

Are you eating this food in private (are you isolating with it?) or is it okay to eat this right out in the open?

Is this food nourishing? Will it help you grow or heal?

Stop what you’re doing for a second just to think about what you’re doing. Not just with eating, but with everything. It can often be illuminating.