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ISOLATION AND SUPPORT

One of the most difficult things in my practice is helping my clients deal with other people and the food. I want to talk about this today because I think this is an issue that keeps so many people stuck.

Do you remember the TV show, “Cheers”? Where everybody knows your name, and they’re awful glad you came? And when people walk into that bar they are welcomed by the group? Ever notice that the bartender drank only water? He never touched the hard stuff?

Attachment to food may have come to you at an early age, when your adult caretakers behaved irresponsibly or uncareingly or even hurtfully; but a piece of you decided that you could not trust their judgment, their opinions, or their ability to take care of you, or even that the world was not a safe place to be.  In any event, your perceptions became your reality and you acted on them.

Food was there.  It was your only comfort, your only solace, and it was always there, always reliable.  It was always able to make the pain stop.  You learned to rely on food to solve your problems, or to make the pain go away.

A lot of the time, we see other addictions as having a friendly happy social component. Food addicts tend to take their “Ben and Jerry” home with them. So often my clients binge in isolation. Getting people to go to a recovery meeting is hard for me to do; they do not want to. Isolation feels safe to them. And at a party, they try really hard to not let others see them eating inappropriately. But if I would ask that they simply weigh and measure, that would be too embarrassing.

Food problems usually leave the person feeling isolated and inadequate in the world. You may feel defeated after many attempts to control or solve the problem. And if there was some other trauma in your life, you may find those feelings coming up whenever you try to control the food. You may believe you cannot live without certain foods, and you cannot find a safe and effective way to manage this relationship. And all your other relationships suffer because of it.

In many ways, food is like an abusive lover. It calls to you, promises you will feel better – and perhaps you do for a bit – then comes the morning hangover and the bloated, stuffed feeling that seems to never end.

In thirty years of working with people suffering from this problem, I have not met one person who solved it without the help of other people. (If you have met anyone who has, please ask them to contact me and tell me how they did it!) But I have seen people struggle for years to avoid letting others help, and I have watched them suffer and fail again and again.

On many occasions, helpers and I have offered clients the option of calling us daily, or texting or emailing us daily without charge. Why would you turn down that offer? “I don’t want to be a Bother” you say. And I ask, “Has anyone ever called you for help and support? Was it a Bother?” No. Of course not, is always the answer.

Think about this for a minute.  If you are having a problem, the food is calling you, your mother-in-law is driving you batty – whatever – is it easier to call for help to someone you know well or someone you have spoken to only once or twice?  You need to get to know people and create a group of relationships so that when you need a friendly ear, the person you call will be safe and familiar.

To maintain a stable and strong recovery, I think that two groups of people are needed. One is friends and acquaintances. They are nice to be around, easy to chat with, and helpful in most cases.

Then I need my posse. I need about seven people I can really trust; often for different areas of my life. (I won’t tell my accountant about my medical issues, but I will trust him when the IRS calls!) And I need several other people I can call on for emotional support, for suggestions and guidance, and one or two to whom I hold myself accountable for certain issues.

These are now people I have known and worked with for a long time, but in the beginning, people interview for that role. Can this person keep my confidences? Test it out with something tempting but harmless. Does this person share my values? Does he/she support me in the way I need to be supported? Is he/she familiar enough with my new life philosophy to help me? Without making me feel stupid or beaten down? Can he/she lead me down the path I have chosen?

And some people pass the test and become part of your posse, and some people don’t. And some people in your posse change, and sometimes you change.

For me personally, the most helpful people are the people who know me well enough to say to me the truth about myself and be right. To mirror for me who I am and who I want to become and show me how to get there.

When someone makes a suggestion to you, you may try it even if it seems odd or useless.  If it gets the results you want you will go back to that person again and again. (This means that this person may meet the criteria for your “posse”)

We need people who have gone through similar experiences to show us the way through.  We need folk who understand what we are struggling with and what we are trying to accomplish.  Twelve Step programs are very helpful in this – here is a group of people who have been through situations similar to yours and have found the way out, and are willing to talk to you about it.  They can be helpful in providing information, contact people, support and community.  They have a program of recovery that can teach you how to live a different kind of life.

You need to reach out and create this group of friends and advisers. No one can do this alone.  Let others help you. Let their love and acceptance lead you to the life you want.

But we have to stay focused on finding and maintaining our posse’s presence in our lives. And we have to keep alert for changes. And we have to keep our eyes on the direction in which we want to go, and be sure that is where we are being led.

And sometimes people enter our lives for just a short time. They bring us something valuable, but cannot take us farther. That’s ok. Every person in our lives is a gift and has a role to play. And we use our spirituality, our own inner core of wisdom, to separate the folks who can help from the folks who cannot help, right now, and we keep moving ourselves away from the addictive substances and towards our goals, but never alone.

A posse is an informal way of looking at your support group and their contribution to your life and recovery. Add or subtract people from your support group as you choose.  Use them to teach you to create the life you want, to enjoy life with, to have the fun of growing and learning together. And return the favor by helping when it’s needed.

I am honored to be able to help you on your life path, even if for a short time. Please comment and tell me what you think.  How do you choose others to help you?

Blessings to you,

Theresa

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