My nutritionist pointed out that every time I go to a support group my behavior gets way worse. She has a point there. The last time I did a support group I lost considerable weight! Comparing my thighs to everyone else was a huge motivator for me. I went from a size eight (I was appalled at having gained so much in recovery) to a size two in three months. My muscles and extra skin from yoyo dieting will never allow me into a size zero but I most certainly would have been in that size, or double zero, otherwise. Anyway, that’s not the point… moving on…
I decided to take a break so told the person who started EDA in this area. Like OMG, the backlash!!! I felt like it was AA all over again; seriously?! I was very good in my explanation and she thought that instead of simply listening and saying I understand, she would share her (gag) “experience, strength and hope” – a catch phrase in 12 step programs. I was in a vulnerable position already and didn’t need her judgement. That happened a lot in meetings. Basically it was, “this is what I did, you should do it too if you really want to recover.” It was utterly invalidating. Hmmm, think I’ll copy the conversation here and let you judge, then share what I did or wanted to do afterward. Plus I need some advice. I’ve added comments for clarification in italics through out this conversation.
(Her) My only response to you is that we all have different recovery needs and different aspects of recovery to work on that may not be the same as someone else’s – being open minded and respectful of others needs – taking only what I can use and leaving the rest – this is what works for me —- cheering on each other’s victories cause it’s not all about me – making it all about me keeps me stuck. (the concept of ‘leaving the rest’ simply doesn’t work for me, especially when I’m actively engaged in anorexic thinking. When I hear triggering words, I can’t unhear them.)
(me) Thanks, that’s why I asked. I’m not enough into recovery to be able to not be bothered by things so if I could be removed from the list I’d be grateful for now. (referring to the milestone group text list.)
(her) I just want to tell you that you are much further in recovery than you realize and have much to offer others in recovery.
(me) It’s so much easier to focus on helping others than myself so yes, I can offer others support. But I am, in fact, moving backwards so the challenge is actually focusing on myself so I can become healthy enough to help others. Does that make sense? I need to walk the walk in order to talk the talk. You are far ahead of me on the road to recovery. I am one step away from being put into a treatment center. I hope this helps to make sense of all this. (Started getting angry with her presumptuousness of knowing where I am in recovery, which is no where since I’m emotionally not wanting to recover and only moving forward, barely, so as not to go into treatment. It’s also implied that I’m being selfish because of my unwillingness to help others at this time. It may not seem like that is what she is saying but that’s because you don’t have the benefit of many past conversations, etc. That’s why I’m adding clarification points.)
(her) Yes I totally understand — and don’t forget that I’ve been in your shoes several times (knowing her story, she has never been anywhere close to being in my shoes) — and I am where I am today because I continued to show up at support groups plus therapy and nutritionist – one does not have to run the show, just show up and listen – Benefits of support groups include decreased isolation, expression of feelings, improved coping skills, increased investment in treatment and to provide support to one another, gaining understanding and empathy as well as support and gentle pushing, which allows members to experience themselves through the eyes of others. Goals include increased self-awareness, increased social comfort, exploration of new behaviors, emotional support, skill development and practice in interaction and communication with others….
(me) OK, I’m confused. Do you think I should still go to the support group even though it’s making me worse? I’m not quitting forever (I am) but it is contributing to worsening behavior. (I think it’s impossible for 12-steppers to accept where a person is and simply acknowledge that they understand and want to (or not) be a support. This is a backwards means of judgment against me completely invalidating that I know where I am and what’s best for me.)
(her) No I’m just telling you what has been working for me – at first I did get worse but I kept going till my thinking began to change because I had a sick mind with sick thinking I could not rely on my own head – I needed to hear about others solutions and recovery thoughts over and over until I began to feel them too. (I know she means well but she’s been conditioned by AA for over 16 years and probably doesn’t even realize why this is inappropriate to share with someone who is not in recovery. “I” means “you”.)
(me) Probably should have talked in person. The way it’s written sounds like a chastisement that I’m not seeing what seems evident as well as supporting information of why my perception is wrong. I know that wasn’t your intention but texts don’t depict motivations. I found people often shared in this way at AA meetings saying what worked for them but implying it would work for others if only they would pay attention. I’ve probably misread this text. (I didn’t misread but but said this so she wouldn’t become defensive but that was a waste and I habitually give a person a way out of being responsible in a conversation, grrr. Saving others at the expense of myself, my voice so to speak.) It did kind of make me angry because I felt invalidated and not heard. It makes me wonder if our perspectives are too far apart. An example might help. When someone talks about how they’ve learned to love themselves happened at last meeting) it isn’t inspiring but instead only reinforces how much I hate myself. It will probably be inspiring when I’m a bit healthier and have worked through a few therapy issues but for now, it motivates me to further ED behavior so I don’t have to feel those feelings.
(me, continuing) I’m very happy support groups help you (validating her). History has shown that they haven’t helped me, as much as I wish they did. Having close friends and sharing on a one to one basis has been a greater support. 98% of people (who go to groups) won’t understand but even my therapist admits that some people flourish in groups and some people don’t. It hurts me that you don’t understand and that you are inadvertently assuming we are all the same despite differences in behavior.
(me, continuing) I’m grateful to have experienced all this though, as it has helped me to better understand myself and my own individual needs.
After that she once again said that she was “only sharing what worked for her”. It wasn’t about her. I wish I had said that but it would have been like talking to a brick wall so it was best to end the conversation. At this point I wasn’t a little bit angry, I was furious. I really didn’t need anything triggering more behavior. I felt like my world just became unsafe and out of control. But then, I did something I’ve never done before – I texted a friend I knew who has an objective view and would validate my feelings in all this. I went to her house and she read through the texts and actually got quite angry that I had to go through this. We hung out for quite sometime and when I got home I was able to say No to other behavior. It was a successful day and I wouldn’t have to waste valuable therapy time on this.
I need advice though…
I was meeting with this girl for coffee to talk about things we could do for recovery that were beyond the scope of meetings. Because I’m a wimp I agreed to see her next Monday, the 16th. I’m still quite angry at all of it so canceled saying I had a dental appointment. I do have a dental appointment but it is the following week. She understood of course and we set up for the friday after that. I just couldn’t say I wanted to cancel because I didn’t want to see her. Honestly I never want to see her again. But my (save the world) side wants to meet to help her understand my position. I fear it will set me off again, no matter what she says. I simply think there is too much a gap. I know she won’t understand if I say I don’t want to meet. She’ll “say” she understands and wish me well and probably that she’ll pray for me and all that. She’ll say I’m always welcomed back because that is what she’s supposed to say in the 12 step context. I won’t be able to not read the text and know it will irk me to no end. I’ll feel guilty and harshly judged, just as I did, still do, from AA. I simply don’t do rejection well and that is how it is interpreted in my brain even though I am the one doing the rejecting. Huge historical reference that I may elaborate on at some point.
So do I suck it up and go? Do I cancel and deal with all that? I really want to cancel but am I operating out of anger? I simply don’t know.
Sometimes I just hate people……..