His friend quit drink­ing and smok­ing, but she de­vel­oped an eat­ing dis­or­der

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE GUIDE TO THE LIVELY ARTS - AMY DICKINSON Amy’s column ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ad­vice. Write to [email protected]­dick­in­son.com or Amy Dickinson, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

Dear Amy: “Char­lotte,” my dear lady friend of many years, looks more like a string bean than a hu­man be­ing be­cause she has been purg­ing.

Char­lotte has re­cently over­come ad­dic­tions to smok­ing and al­co­hol, con­cur­rently. She has a distorted image of her fig­ure and ex­er­cises to ex­treme in or­der to main­tain that ap­pear­ance.

I re­al­ize that she needs to con­vince her­self to turn the tide and take ac­tion to tackle this lat­est prob­lem, and I’ve let her know that she’s at a great risk of in­creased ill­ness if she stays so thin.

She has yet to seek pro­fes­sional ad­vice.

I’m won­der­ing whether it would work if I got some trusted fam­ily mem­bers and close friends to­gether in or­der to con­front her and speak some wis­dom to her? Concerned Chap

Concerned Chap: Ac­cord­ing to a pa­per pub­lished by the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Al­co­hol Abuse and Al­co­holism (ni­aaa.nih.gov), many stud­ies show that al­co­holism and eat­ing dis­or­ders fre­quently “co-oc­cur,” but as yet, no de­fin­i­tive link be­tween the two ad­dic­tive dis­or­ders has been iden­ti­fied.

All of this is to say that your friend’s other ad­dic­tions are likely re­lated to her cur­rent bulimia, that this is com­pli­cated and that she needs pro­fes­sional help to deal with her un­der­ly­ing is­sues be­fore she can get healthy.

In­ter­ven­tions — by fam­ily and friends — seem easy. You just get to­gether and go around the ta­ble and tell the af­fected party that you are wor­ried about her and that you want her to get help.

And then the sub­ject of the in­ter­ven­tion rages, or cries or sits sul­lenly, or tells you all to go to hell, leaves the ta­ble and stops com­mu­ni­cat­ing with you be­cause, even though your in­ten­tions were great and you were all gen­tle and lov­ing, she feels at­tacked and mis­un­der­stood.

If this hap­pens, then “Char­lotte” will be with­out the thing she needs the most, which is con­tact with loyal and lov­ing friends.

This is why in­ter­ven­tions are best led by pro­fes­sion­als. A ther­a­pist or other spe­cial­ist can de­liver con­struc­tive and con­crete ideas, as well as the in­spi­ra­tion and in­cen­tive to be­gin treat­ment.

By all means, share your con­cerns with your friend: “You’ve been through so much lately. I’m wor­ried be­cause you’ve got­ten so thin. Are you see­ing a ther­a­pist?” Of­fer to help her find one. And also con­tinue to ac­cept her as she is. She has a se­ri­ous ill­ness.

The Na­tional Eat­ing Dis­or­ders As­so­ci­a­tion of­fers a “find treat­ment” tool (na­tionaleat­ingdis­or­ders.org), as well as a helpline that she (or you) could call: 800-931-2237. Dear Amy: I at­tend a pro­fes­sional net­work­ing potluck lunch ev­ery week.

This is our lunch hour and the only op­por­tu­nity some of us have to eat lunch that day. Most of us bring a sub­stan­tial main or side dish to share.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, at­ten­dees bring noth­ing at all, or, as re­cently hap­pened, a group of four co­work­ers from the same of­fice brought a small box of choco­lates.

We are not at risk of run­ning out of food, as most peo­ple bring more than enough, so it seems petty to quib­ble about the amount and type of food some­one brought, but this is puz­zling, es­pe­cially as we are all work­ing pro­fes­sion­als. What is a po­lite, but clear mes­sage to such potluck par­tic­i­pants?

Puz­zled by Skim­pers

Puz­zled by Skim­pers: If the group is not at risk of run­ning out of food, then def­i­nitely gen­er­ously share your main dishes and sal­ads with the choco­late peo­ple. You can as­sume that peo­ple oc­ca­sion­ally sim­ply for­get that the meet­ing is hap­pen­ing, or when they left the house in the morn­ing, they didn’t think they could make the meet­ing, but now they can.

If the same peo­ple con­tinue to ne­glect to bring food, then be­fore you start the next meet­ing, your leader(s) can say, “We’re here to net­work and com­mu­ni­cate; that’s the most im­por­tant thing. But we’re also here dur­ing lunch. One way for us to eat is to ro­tate the task of bring­ing main and side dishes. Or we can each just bring our own lunch and not worry about shared dishes. Can we get a con­sen­sus on how to han­dle this?”

Dear Amy: I won­der if other read­ers were shocked by the ques­tion from “Still Shocked,” whose mother had car­ried on a long­time af­fair with the fam­ily’s high school for­eign ex­change stu­dent. I don’t know if I could re­cover from that knowl­edge.

Also Shocked Also Shocked: I agree. Mom wanted to sweep this af­fair un­der the rug, but I agree that it was ob­vi­ously wrong in so many ways, and she should an­swer for it.

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