“Want to go to a bar tonight, drink and pick up guys?” She hasn’t gotten that invitation in a long time. Matter of fact, she hasn’t gotten a call or seen that person for a long time.
When a person is seriously ill with her eating disorder, many people are attracted to her and maintain a relationship with her as she lives and responds in life with her eating disorder intact. They are attracted to the needy, people pleasing, high risk taking person who rarely says no.
Being in in recovery and in harmony with her true self attracts more healthy relationships.
- Some people are in your life because they admire your strivings toward being your best self and your eagerness to learn. Others, who suffer from their own disorders, appreciate being with someone who shares their symptoms.
Changes in recovery
When you are deep in your eating disorder your friends and associates have a relationship with a sick person. When you start to get well your attitudes, choices and responses change.
- You are more caring and respectful of yourself.
- You resist sacrificing your personal resources (time, money, skills, energy) because you no longer believe that others are more important than you.
- You begin to use your resources to make your own dreams come true, dreams you didn’t know you had because they were buried by the eating disorder.
- You no longer engage is high risk behavior for thrills or because you are going along with everyone else and are numb to your fears.
- You feel.
- You regain your mind.
- You have opinions.
- You have a point of view.
- You matter to yourself.
- You say an authentic "No," where you used to give an unwilling "Yes."
You have people in your life who appreciate your growing, healing, searching for answers, living the adventure that brings you more healthy development and advancements in your life. These are the people who saw through your symptoms and grew to love the woman you really are.
They cheer your recovery. They are happy to spend quality time with you. They enjoy the gift of you that you share with them.
Objections to Recovery
The people in your life who were attracted to you with you eating disorder symptoms and, for reasons of their own, are psychologically matched to you based on those symptoms, may object to the change toward health in your life.
They can be ruffled, disappointed and then hurt and angry.
If they can grow themselves and accept your healthy attitudes then the relationships change and grow.
If they cannot grow and adapt, if they need a relationship with a person who goes numb, who says yes, who sacrifices and feels guilty and responsible for other people's needs, who takes dangerous and unnecessary risks, then they will grow both resentful and bored.
If you do not go back to how you were when you were ill so the relationship is the same as it ever was, the relationship will fall apart. If you are truly in recovery, you will not or cannot go back to your illness to support people who require a self sacrificing person to fulfill their needs. And you will love the people who enjoy your recovery and share in healthy development more than ever.
As you live your life with more health, as you drop the eating disorder life symptoms, people who are attracted to health will be attracted to you.
New people who have their own solid self-esteem and are willing to be responsible for themselves will become visible to you as you become visible to them.
Invitations are more personal based on what you and the other person care about.
In recovery and growing health, you have more choices and can have more satisfying relationships based on who you are now.
How have your relationships changed as you progress on your recovery path?
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, UT. Author of Book:Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at
*Harmony of Creatures, painted by Margret Hofheinz-Döring