One night after mom gets home from support group says, “Well, did you tell them about my incident yesterday?” Ramping up the sarcasm, “Did any of your new little friends have ADVICE for me?” Mom, experienced and engaged in her own recovery is startled by her own easy breezy response, “Why Suzie Q, this group is for me and about me. Your name doesn’t even come up in the conversation. So no, we didn’t talk about your getting caught throwing up in the school bathroom. And also no, no one gives advice in our group.” Then mom gives Suzie a hug and a peck on the top of her head and says, “Whew! I’m headed to bed.” Mom has learned the signs of when Suzie is trying to instigate an argument and she neatly sidesteps the trap. Suzie, startled by changes her mother is making begins to push for more of a reaction. She begins to up her aggression; she starts blaming her mother for her issues.
- This: Our “isms” love to deflect and distract. If we think of Suzie’s eating disorder as a mouthy bully trying to belittle Suzi and avoid detection and treatment, it is not surprising the amount of blame and shame that Suzi heaps on mom. Notice how mom keeps focused on the real deal. Her group is for her, not intended to fix Suzi. It’s my experience that people who benefit the most from educational and support groups do so because they eventually realize that this is true. Groups get frustrating when we attend with the hopes of finding a fix or a cure.
- This: Notice how mom is able to assess that Suzi is not actually engaging her in conversation, she’s trying to push mom’s buttons. I love how mom has figured out “escape hatches” from conversations that she knows are headed nowhere productive.
- In the recovery community we have a saying, “When nothing changes, nothing changes.” But I’d like to throw out an alternative and equally true phrase: “When someone changes, stuff changes.” It may not be the change we wanted (Suzi getting cured.) but things do need to change in order to make that even a possibility – nice that mom is starting the change process.