Lee Wolfe Blum, a blogger over at Gurze, wrote a post on You, Me, and ED that referred to the Al-Anon mantra:

"You didn't cause it.
You can't cure it.
You can't control it."

Although well-meaning, in practice parents often find that that type of advice both distancing and disempowering. Although in a more recent post Blum explains her reasoning, and what parents CAN do, it is my observation that those second two phrases leave parents feeling alienated and frightened.

They take from this that they should stay out of it, that the behaviors and thoughts of the illness are not their business, and that the patient is in charge. There is an implication that there IS no real cure for this, and that one is being overcontrolling and overinvolved to even try. These sentiments have been used for a long time to keep parents at arm's length, to keep us out of the treatment team, and as a chiding companion to the phrase "Don't be the Food Police."

The evidence is quite clear that parents DO need to be the Food Police, we DO need to make these behaviors our business, and we do need to be as much a part of the treatment team as the clinicians are. To draw out the addiction model, a family would expect to have a drug-free home, and would not condone alcohol use with a child or recovering alcoholic.

This may be a matter of emphasis over content, but if so, I choose to emphasize: You did not cause this, you are a necessary part of the cure for this, and your loved one needs you to take control until he or she can.


  1. This post really touched on a tender spot today! I feel so much for parents trapped in this situation, having to watch their child struggle with something like an eating disorder must be completely soul destroying. Well in fact it is soul destroying, and seeing my family over Christmas has made me realise just what it has been like for them on the other side of the ED fence.

    The words "Powerless" and "desperate" were used more than once, something which I recognised but completely disregarded a few months ago.

    Parents should know they can be part of the recovery process at any age of their child. And the best thing about it, aside from building back health and life for the sufferer, is the relationship to be found at the end. Fighting together builds an amazing bond.

    Lola x

  2. i never thought about al-anon for eating disorder related problems, yet eating disorders cause all the same symptoms as addicts... most of them are remembered though but when you're in the mode you don't realize who you're hurting and how poorly you are treating people!


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