Recovery is a tricky thing. Not just because there’s triggers everywhere you look, but because it’s a personal journey, and often a bit different for everyone. How much should you say to a stranger? How do you explain why you’re drinking club soda, or why you don’t keep candy in the house, or why you had to move out of your childhood neighborhood?
This is a question I’ve been struggling with (so bear with me, this article may have fewer references than usual). One of my big triggers is having people discuss weight loss efforts, so you can imagine my day to day life is triggers galore. I read an article about body hatred as a bonding technique for women , but we can all testify to the truth of it without even reading the supporting literature. The literature that’s even in Glamour – it’s so SHOCKING that women have poor body image, isn’t it?! It’s ubiquitous for women to share their hated body parts (“god, my ass is so big!”), weight gain (“I swear I gained 5 pounds just looking at that cake!”), weight loss efforts (“I shouldn’t eat that cookie”), sage family advice (“once on your lips, forever on your hips”) and so on. This talk is everywhere in every kind of situation, and can serve as filler for silences or in new, uncomfortable situations.
While this discussion is old, my concern is where those in recovery should draw the line between speaking up and letting conversation pass. I don’t suffer from anorexia, but I would assume listening to thin women (or women of any size) complain about their shape would be difficult to deal with. It’s difficult for me to deal with! The question is, do I ask other people not to talk about those things around me? Or do I just refrain from engaging in that conversation?
It’s different with close friends, who, at least in my case, know that I’m dealing with food issues and for the most part respect my desire not to talk about weight loss. It’s different with coworkers, or people in the gym, or clients. With client’s its easier, because there it’s a clear distinction between therapist and consumer. Do I tell my supervisor not to discuss her daily eating plan because it makes me want to binge? Do I share with the woman who uses the locker next to mine that when she tries to get me to buy her diet products, it is uncomfortable because I’m aiming for recovery?
We tell alcoholics and addicts to avoid liquor stores and “wet places.” To be assertive in their recovery. At the end of the day, however, I believe most of recovery is dealing with your own stuff. It’s not anyone’s responsibility not to talk about diets but mine; my responsibility is to increase awareness and manage my reaction to these triggers, because in no reality are triggers always avoidable. Sometimes, though, that boundary is hard to maintain.