I’m in recovery from my eating disorder, Bulimia.
After thirteen years of actively binging, purging, and repeating – I’m officially 34 days into my recovery. 34 days without binging or purging, and honestly, it’s been both a blessing and a nightmare. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me. And there’s one thing that hurts the most.
In recovery, with other Eating Disorder [ED] sufferers, you may be asked if you have an enabler in your life. Typically we all have someone who doesn’t care about what we’re doing to ourselves; they encourage us to do what we want – even if that’s eating loads and purging afterwards.
Enablers are usually the worst people to be around while you’re in recovery – whether from an ED or Addiction. But there’s another type of person that you’ll need to keep an eye out for:
Enabling Justifiers [EJ].
Of course, to enable someone is to provide them with the means to continue their habit. For people with EDs or Addictions, it could be that the EJ is buying foods that trigger binges or providing alcohol to an alcoholic.
What is an Enabling Justifier [EJ]?
It’s someone who not only enables, but also uses you to justify their issues; this can be done consciously or subconsciously.
A key example is them overbuying trigger foods and convincing you to eat them, triggering a binge, to make themselves feel better about their overeating/binge/purging.
Effectively, they make you relapse in order for them to feel better about their habit, justify it, and even make themselves feel morally superior because they were able to do better than you. They see EDs and Addiction in the same way most EDs and Addicts see recovery: it’s better to do it together.
Struggling with an ED or Addiction on your own is a nightmare, so EJs typically find someone impressionable to either manipulate into developing an ED/Addiction or find someone with an ED/Addiction and coerce them into continuing the damaging cycle they’re living in.
Looking back on my years with an active eating disorder, as well as the years leading up to this, I’m confident that the past eighteen years of my life have been a combination of manipulation and coercion to justify someone else’s ED – which inevitably lead me to develop an ED myself.
Many individuals will develop an ED due to social expectations – one of the main factors in developing an ED is external coercion and pressure – whether because we’re not thin enough or too thin. And while I was constantly, for seventeen years, pressured to be thin, which almost certainly contributed to my development of an ED – I can guarantee that the start of my poor relationship with food and my body was due to an EJ.
So, if you’re trying to support someone with an eating disorder, please consider that there may be someone who is deliberately halting their recovery. And while the EJ also needs help, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Understand that if the person you’re supporting is regularly relapsing – even when they appear to be doing well – consider an outside/environmental factor: who are they around when it happens?
If you’re trying to recover from an ED/Addiction, please look at the people around you during your most challenging times (near and total relapses), see who is encouraging you, and see what they’re doing. If you have an EJ around you, while it won’t be impossible to recover with an EJ around, it will be much harder. However, as soon as you see them for what they are – you’re likely to disregard their advice and coercion much more effectively.
I’m happy for you if you’ve never had to deal with an EJ. But consider whether you’ve been an EJ for someone else, and if you were – make amends because that’s also part of recovery.
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