If you’ve ever been in treatment for your eating disorder you will understand exactly what I am talking about when I say that the group of people you meet become like a second family to you. They learn more about you on any given day then most people who have known you your whole life have learned. Fighting an eating disorder is an internal war you engage in every day and your group members are warriors fighting a similar war, even though we are all individuals our common goal (RECOVERY) keeps us united. A very good friend of mine calls us brothers and sisters in battle, hence the title of this post.
If you haven’t been in treatment you might ask, well how is that possible? How could you bare your soul to a bunch people you barely know? The truth is, it’s so much easier to start off a relationship with 100% honesty then it is to start being honest with someone you’ve known for years. This is because when you try to start fresh with someone you know, you must first come clean about all your past deceptions and then trust has to be reestablished which can be a long, grueling process.
In treatment though, you meet people that you can relate to. People that empathize with your shame filled accounts of past deceptions. They have the ability to jump in and say, “I’m sorry you went through that. I’ve been there too and I’m with you now. You aren’t alone anymore.” Sometimes that’s all anyone with an eating disorder needs to hear for them to be able to finally breathe a sigh of relief. To realize they no longer have to suffer alone in silence. So of course you become close!
But the thing is treatment professionals discourage people with eating disorders from fraternizing outside of treatment. Which I don’t understand personally because the opposite is encouraged in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. People suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction are strongly encouraged to spend time together, whether it is at meetings or sober living. They spend as much time together as possible to hold each other accountability and to keep each other on a recovery focused track. I think the same can be said about people in recovery from an eating disorder.
I understand the nature of eating disorders are competitive. There is a lot of comparison, not just to others with eating disorder but to everyone. In my personal experience though some of the most important and influential people in my support network are people I was in treatment with because when you are struggling, you don’t really care to hear that “everything is going to be okay” from someone who has never experienced the living (barely) hell of having an eating disorder. You would rather hear it from people that truly understand you. People that know the darkness and can join you in it with a flashlight. Hand in hand with these people I feel like I can do hard things. And I have. I make a conscious choice every day to disregard the “recommended discouragement” of seeing the girls I was in treatment with and that is the right thing for me.
I can also see the other side of the coin. Like I said eating disorders have a tendency to be competitive in nature and some people struggle keeping that in check. Sometimes a friend from treatment falls into a relapse. It happens and it’s possible that instead of trying to support them back onto a recovery focused track, you slip too. At that point the relationship becomes toxic and I believe that is what treatment professionals want to avoid. Everybody is different though and will handle a treatment friend relapsing in a different way. I know that for me personally I would do everything I could to support my friend back into a place of recovery and if things got out of control to the point that I felt I was being triggered that’s when I would need to take a step back in order to honor my recovery. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my friend, I just have to love myself more so I can be healthy enough to support her (or him) whenever they are ready to receive it.
Your brothers and sisters in battle are a vital part of your recovery in a treatment setting and in life if you believe that is what’s best for you. Ultimately the decision is yours to make and as long as you keep your recovery above all else. You are doing the next right thing for you and that is all that matters at the end of the day. To all my brothers and sisters fighting against this disease alongside me, I have nothing but love and respect in my heart for you. Just remember you are never alone. I am with you always.