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When Other's Don't Embrace Your Recovery

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

One of the hard lessons I had to learn during my recovery was that not everyone was going to support my journey, nor would they embrace the healthier me. I had assumed those in my life would be on board, happy to see me get physically and emotionally stronger, but this was not the case, especially with some of those closest to me.

As I grew healthier, I began to find my voice and speak out about treatment I found unacceptable. I became more independent and relied less on the advice and opinions of others on how I should handle situations in my life. I became more confident and self-assured, trusting I was capable of dealing with life without the crutch of my eating disorder.

What I learned in the process is that recovery changes the dynamic of any relationship. In a close relationship such as a partner or family member, a more significant shift is likely to occur, but even interactions with friends and acquaintances will be different. Some will embrace this change, while others will push back in ways that can sabotage your recovery.

Sabotaging a person's recovery is not always a conscious decision, and it can happen for many reasons. Often, the person with the most apparent problem allows those around them to avoid looking at or taking ownership of their own issues. Recovery can change the power structure of a relationship if the other person tends to be more dominant, leaving them to fear the loss of control. If the relationship is based on a shared, unhealthy behavior, the bond may begin to weaken and leave the person not in recovery feeling judged. In co-dependent relationships, fear of abandonment or not being needed can fuel sabotaging behavior.

Below are some examples of sabotaging behavior:

  • Pulling emotional or financial support

  • Trying to make you feel guilty or selfish for seeking help

  • Putting down your healthier behaviors

  • Telling you that they liked you better, or you were more fun, when sick

  • Refusing to participate in family treatment

  • Making it difficult for you to get to treatment or therapy appointments

  • Making derogatory or passive/aggressive comments about your recovery

  • Using behaviors around you (If drugs or alcohol: using around you or keeping them in your home. If an eating disorder: going on a restrictive diet, talking about dieting, weight, size, calories, good/bad foods, bringing problematic foods, diet pills, etc., into the home)

  • Trying to convince you that you don't have a problem

  • Telling you that your recovery won't last

  • Asking you not to discuss a particular topic

As the person in recovery, it can be hard to recognize sabotaging behavior leaving us to doubt ourselves and our healing. Even if we do recognize it, we may be left wondering if our recovery efforts are worth the turmoil that is being created. It can force us to choose between our recovery and a relationship, which is what the saboteur may hope will happen, even if they don't realize it themselves.

Seeing the big picture can be hard. Understanding that the change in relationship dynamics is a good thing can be even harder. The healthier we get, the easier it becomes to gain clarity in these situations. During my recovery, I had to let go of some friendships, and stand my ground while others adjusted to some of the changes in my personality. But one of the most important, painful, and scary steps in my journey was ten years after being in solid recovery, and that was leaving a marriage of over thirty years that continued to threaten my mental and emotional well being.

While working on recovery, it is important to remember that those who really care about you will begin to embrace the change and work to change with you. Those that can't, or won't, will leave you to decide the role they will play in your newer, healthier life.

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