Recovery Reflections: When Substance Use and Eating Disorders Collide
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September is Recovery Month! In honor of this month and the brave souls who’ve forged ahead in their journeys toward recovery, we are featuring anonymous stories from courageous clients who are living life one day at a time in sobriety. Today on the blog, a woman who struggled with both alcoholism and an eating disorder offers her story of hope:
**Trigger Warning: Drug and Alcohol Use**
My Journey: Discovery of a Hopeless Alcoholic with an Eating Disorder to Finding Freedom
I know I didn’t get to sobriety overnight and I couldn’t fathom what the outcome could or would look like. I was in my own personal hell being stuck in what just seemed like “this was my life”.
I grew up with a father that was an abusive alcoholic and had an eating disorder. As a child, I didn’t realize that humiliating my overweight mother to weigh herself in front of all of us was abnormal; but it was and it had a devastating effect on my self-worth and how to handle what life would put in front of me. I also remember thinking alcohol made people happy and I wanted to try that; ignorant considering my 14-year-old brain mistook ounces of beer to vodka as being equal. There is nothing to glorify here, just remorse for my decision-making capacity at that age. What followed in years to come was an absent moral compass and using alcohol to sedate any life issues I had. Looking back, I would not relive any of that, based on how soul sucking it really was and how blind I was while “living” my own life.
What I came to learn about myself, once I was willing to listen to someone else, was nothing short of the little girl inside that came to live what she had been told; she wasn’t good enough, in all aspects of her adolescent and teenage years. While I now understand, a major piece lacking for me, was the recognition that there was the little girl inside that has not healed from the traumas. For myself, it was more like, I grew up this way and the skills I was shown in life, were the only ways to deal with life. I was so wrong and I was so stuck.
My eating disorder started with a desire to lose weight. I went through all the typical symptoms of not feeling good enough, needing to look a certain way to fit in to society’s preconceived notion that “looking thinner” is better and all that entails towards a human’s view of themselves. When I “grew out” of these ideals, I was still bad and not good enough at all. Then my eating disorder “grew into” a management/coping skill to deal with life again. Control. During these years, alcohol would assist my eating disorder by taking place of food and evenings would be spent drinking instead of purging.
The most devastating part of my admission to alcoholism, was not seeing the destruction of the process. The undertones of resentments, anger, fear, anxiety and nowhere to go with all those feelings. A human left untreated is a waste of such potential light, and yet, you could not have talked me into any of the solutions. I simply couldn’t see any possibility.
I must admit my desire to get better didn’t start with me suggesting I go back to treatment. This was not my first treatment center. The first treatment center was for my eating disorder and second for alcohol. This final opportunity came as a chance for me to look at both. This was the effort to look at my whole self for the first time, and what a chance that was. I was willing to take a chance on myself; that perhaps there might be different ways or strategies than using an eating disorder and drinking every day to get through life.
The ironic part to my drinking history is, all on its own, it went from working with me to against me. This “friend” got me through everything; good, bad, celebrations, depressions, anything really. Now sober, I can see it didn’t change overnight, and being under the influence on some level constantly, I wasn’t able to see where I was in my disease and what others could see as it progressed.
There are still many problems in life and ones that make me feel out of control. There are also ways to handle what I come up against; my PAUSE response. I’ve never had that before, I just reacted first… and it all started with forgiving myself, taking care of my little girl inside and all she had endured. Most importantly, becoming responsible for my own life, not the one started on my behalf.
My biggest lesson in my sobriety has been not going it alone. I have friends in recovery and a team of professional therapists I am willing to trust along the way. What a blessing it is to not suffer alone and to see myself healing because of my efforts.
In thoughts and prayers for the still suffering.