National Eating Disorders Association

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When to walk away?


I have a long post so for anyone who take the time to read this, thank you so much.
I myself am in recovery from anorexia and bulimia and have not been involved with my ED for the past 5 years. I don't see myself going back down that path, life without ED is amazing. My best friend (for the last 8 years, we are attached at the hip) has been struggling with anorexia for the last year. She has always struggled with her body image and has engaged in other risky behaviors (drug use, shoplifting) as ways of acting out in the past. These were always hidden from me but she says that when she feels down about her body, she engages in these behaviors. About a year ago I began to notice her weight dropping and less food being consumed. She would also lie to me about what she had eaten during the day, we are roommates so I could clearly see what was happening. This all continued for 5-6 months. She looks sick. In our 8 years as friends she has always maintained a healthy weight, she is truly beautiful. She also began to spend more time at bars, with friends who were bad influences. She’s into abusing illegal and legal drugs. I ended up in the hospital with a very serious medical condition late night last winter and she showed up from the bars, clearly on drugs. She also began a relationship with a married man. During this period she began to see an ED therapist. She recognized that there is a problem but did not want to fix it. Her therapist agreed with me (I attended a session) that more help was needed but these behaviors continued and intensified.
I finally had to say something more than just "I want you to seek more help."My own emotions have been so rocky from all of this. I would worry constantly and cry at night. A lot of the time it was hard for me not to be annoyed and angry with her. I went back to seeing my own ED therapist for advice. She said that her behavior was a risk to my own wellness and that eventually her behavior could become a trigger for me. I told my best friend what my therapist said and that I was very tired of all the lies, and that she had lost my trust. Soon after, she began an intensive outpatient program. She was very committed to the program for 4 months, though she hated going. I was so proud that she was doing this for herself. She gradually began to look healthier but never 100%. I can still tell that she is struggling. I would make meals based on the program's plan for her but she would not finish them. I know recovery does not come all at once so I never wanted to pressure her or say anything like 'you need to eat your dinner.'
A few weeks ago, her insurance ran out and she is now reduced to going to the IOP two sessions a week but she has stopped going altogether. She has stayed out too late and missed her appointments, made excuses for not going. I have noticed that she is drinking more and cannot stop at just one drink, it is always to excess. She has also started to smoke cigarettes (at least 3 a day). Her body weight has once again dropped dramatically. Yesterday, I found drugs hidden in her things.I don't know what to do at this point. I am so worried for my friend but I need to maintain my own health. I've told her that I can no longer eat meals with her because it is triggering to me to watch someone not eat. When I say triggering I mean that my emotions go haywire. I get annoyed and want to cry, I feel so helpless. I felt like we were beginning to rebuild trust in our relationship but now I feel like I may never be able to trust her again and that maybe I need to leave the friendship. I would never issue an ultimatum but I don't know where to go from here. Any advice would be so appreciated.

L, thank you for sharing your

L, thank you for sharing your story. I admire you for you strength, bravery, and compassion for your friend. You are a remarkable person. I have never been in a situation similar to yours, so I can’t offer any particular advice, but I am sure there are posters on the forum who will have words of wisdom. I am happy to hear that you are setting boundaries when it comes to your own recovery. This is so hard to do, especially if the boundaries are toward a close friend, but they are so necessary for the continuation of a healthy recovery and you absolutely cannot feel selfish for that. You are a wonderful friend and want to see your friend do well and be healthy, but as you said, you have to take care of your health and emotional well being. You describe feeling helpless which I’m sure is a common theme among family and friends of people suffering from ED’s. It is so hard to watch a loved one suffer - especially in your situation - because you have been there, but have also come through to the other side. From the way you describe your friend, it does not sound like she is truly ready to recovery. If that is the case, it might be hectic and haywire until she does decide that. If you choose to set a boundary between you and her - remember that you are setting a boundary between you and her ED. Deep down, she is still the friend you once knew. She is just very lost right now. Perhaps looking at it from that perspective can make your next steps a bit easier. I wish you well and encourage you to continue to reach out!