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Life After Codependency and Emotional Eating

Codependency robs us of a self and of self-love. We’ve learned to conceal who we really are, because we grew up pleasing, rebelling against, or withdrawing from dysfunctional parents. This sets us up for trauma.

As adults, even if we’re successful in some areas, our emotional life isn’t easy. Looking for security and love, most of us struggle to get into or out of relationships. We may remain in unhappy or abusive relationships or try to make painful ones work. Many of us would be content just to find a reprieve from ongoing anxiety or depression.

Trauma After Ending an Abusive Relationship

However, leaving a relationship isn’t the end of our problems. After initially rejoicing and reveling in newfound freedom, there’s often grief, regret, and sometimes guilt. We might still love the very person whom we’re grateful we left. We may no longer speak to estranged friends or relatives, or even children we still love or worry about. These are unexpected losses to be embraced.

Going "no contact" doesn’t necessarily end the pain, either. The trauma of abuse isn’t over. Our self-esteem has surely suffered. We may lack confidence or feel unattractive. Abuse may continue in a new relationship, by family members, by an ex with whom we co-parent, or through children who’ve been damaged or weaponized.

As hard as it was to break up an abusive relationship, it may still haunt us—sometimes even after the abuser is dead. One day, often decades later, we may learn that we have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—trauma scars from the abuse we thought we’d left behind. We might have nightmares and become risk-averse or hesitant to love again.

It’s not easy to “leave” for good.

Fearful of re-experiencing abuse, abandonment, or loss of our autonomy, many codependents become counter-dependent. Yet, our inability to be alone and/or low self-esteem can cause us to again make poor choices. Out of fear, we may settle for someone “safe” who isn’t right for us and to whom we’d never commit.

But despite our intentions, we nevertheless reattach and find it difficult to leave. We don’t trust ourselves and ponder whether the problem lies with us or our partner. And although we’ve vowed to never again let anyone abuse us, some of us may once more be betrayed, abandoned, or mistreated in ways we hadn’t anticipated. We have to let go all over again.

This cycle of abandonment can make us fearful of intimacy. If we opt for being alone, our needs for love and closeness go unmet. Loneliness can trigger toxic shame from childhood when we felt alone and unloved or unlovable. It may seem like there’s no hope or escape from our misfortune.

Dealing with trauma after ending an abusive relationship is a significant challenge that many people face. It’s important to recognize that the end of the relationship is just the beginning of the healing process. Here are some insights and steps that may help in coping with the aftermath:

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s normal to experience a range of emotions such as grief, regret, and sometimes guilt. These feelings are part of the healing process.

  2. Understand the Trauma: Trauma can persist even after the relationship has ended, manifesting as nightmares, fear of intimacy, or hesitation to trust again.

  3. Seek Professional Help: Therapy can be crucial in addressing the trauma. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and develop coping strategies.

  4. Connect with Others: Support groups or networks of friends who understand what you’re going through can provide comfort and advice.

  5. Self-Care: Prioritize your well-being by engaging in activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental health.

  6. Rebuild Self-Esteem: Abuse can take a toll on self-esteem. Engage in positive self-talk and activities that make you feel good about yourself.

  7. Set Boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries in future relationships to protect yourself from similar situations.

Remember, healing from trauma is a journey, and it takes time. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the space to heal at your own pace. If you need more information or resources on coping with trauma after an abusive relationship, I can provide that as well. Keep reading below.


How can I manage triggers related to the abusive relationship?

Managing triggers after an abusive relationship is a crucial part of the healing process. Here are some strategies that may help:

  1. Self-Awareness: Increase your awareness of the moments when you’re triggered. This can help you understand what’s prompting the trigger and how it’s affecting you.

  2. Recognize Symptoms: Identify the symptoms of a trigger, such as anxiety, fear, or physical reactions like nausea or fatigue. Acknowledging these symptoms is the first step in managing them.

  3. Grounding Techniques: Use grounding techniques to stay present and reduce anxiety. This can include focused breathing exercises, mindfulness, or engaging your senses to connect with the here and now.

  4. Healthy Coping Skills: Replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthier ones, such as exercise, journaling, or creative activities.

  5. Support System: Lean on friends, family, or support groups who understand what you’re going through and can offer comfort and advice.

  6. Therapy: Consider therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you develop coping strategies and work through the trauma.

  7. Avoidance When Necessary: While it’s not always possible to avoid triggers, minimizing exposure to known triggers can be beneficial. Just ensure it doesn’t limit your quality of life2.

  8. Transform Triggers: Work on transforming your response to triggers by slowing down the process, reflecting, and allowing room for insight and flexibility.

Remember, it’s important to be patient with yourself as you navigate through these challenges. Healing takes time, and it’s okay to seek help and take things one step at a time.


What are some grounding techniques that work well for trauma survivors?

Grounding techniques are designed to help trauma survivors detach from emotional pain and connect to the present moment. Here are some effective grounding techniques that can be particularly helpful:

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Engage your senses to reconnect with the present.

  • Identify five things you can see.

  • Notice four things you can touch.

  • Listen for three things you can hear.

  • Detect two things you can smell.

  • Think of one thing you can taste.

  1. Controlled Breathing: Focus on your breath to help calm the body’s stress response.

  1. Mindfulness: Connect to your body and become aware of its responses.

  1. Physical Grounding: Use physical sensations to anchor yourself.

  1. Visualization: Use your imagination to transport yourself to a calmer place.

  1. Movement: Gentle movements can help release pent-up energy.

It’s important to find what works best for you, as different techniques may be more effective for different individuals. Practice these techniques regularly, not just when you’re feeling triggered, to make them more effective when you need them.


Trauma-triggering emotional eating

Recovering from codependency and emotional eating can be a transformative journey that involves self-discovery, self-care, and the establishment of healthier habits. Here are some steps that may help in the process:

Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection. Each step you take towards understanding and caring for yourself is valuable. If you’re looking for more detailed guidance or resources, I can provide information on books, articles, or online resources that might be helpful.


The Core of Codependency

We didn’t expect that after coming out of denial, courageously setting boundaries, and leaving unhealthy or abusive relationships, we would then have to face the core of codependency. Our codependent symptoms have been coping mechanisms that masked our basic challenge: How to fill our emptiness and loneliness with self-love.

In part, this reflects the human condition, but for codependents, these feelings are connected to trauma. Our insecurity, self-alienation, and lack of self-love and self-nurturing skills fuel addictive relationships and habits that cause us recurring emotional pain.


Real Recovery

Just as addicts turn to an addiction to avoid unpleasant feelings, so do codependents distract and lose themselves by focusing on others or a relationships as sources of well-being. If we stop doing that—often not by choice, but due to isolation or rejection—we may uncover depression and feelings of loneliness and emptiness that we’ve been avoiding all along. We keep recycling our codependency until we address our deepest pain.

Healing requires we turn our attention inward and learn to become our own best friend because our relationship with ourselves is the template for all our relationships.

With some insight, we discover that we’re quite self-critical and haven’t been treating ourselves kindly with self-compassion. In fact, we’ve been abusing ourselves all along. This is actually a positive revelation. Our mission is clear: Learn to relate to ourselves in a healthier way.

Our tasks are to:

  1. Revitalize our connection to our internal cues—our guidance system—to trust ourselves.

  2. Identify and honor our needs and feelings.

  3. Nurture and comfort ourselves.

  4. Meet our needs.

  5. Heal our shame and affirm our authentic self.

  6. Take responsibility for our pain, safety, and pleasure



Follow the recovery plans laid out in Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency, and/or attend Codependents Anonymous (CoDA meetings). PTSD and trauma don’t resolve on their own: Seek counseling.

© Darlene Lancer 2019



I Can Help in Developing A Plan For Self Care

Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your own busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.

Dr. Nikki LeToya White trauma informed nutritionist
Dr. Nikki LeToya White

About The Author:

Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC Art Wellness Studio, and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to the fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. I love my low-sugar balanced lifestyle.

Best Regard

Dr. Nikki LeToya White


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