Is Alcohol Preventing Your Full Eating Disorder Recovery?
Whenever I would accumulate a little time between myself and eating disorder behavior, emotions would arise; so I’d pick up alcohol for comfort.
When I really got serious about my eating disorder recovery, I knew I had to give alcohol up too.
Substance abuse and eating disorders are linked
Did you know that up to 50 percent of us — those who struggle with eating disorders —also struggle with substance abuse?
Binge eating disorder, bulimia and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED) are significantly more common in people with substance use disorders (SUD) than without SUD.
Between 30 and 50 percent of individuals with bulimia, and between 12 to 18 percent of those with anorexia, abuse or are dependent on alcohol/drugs, compared to approximately nine percent in the general population.
How do you know if drinking is a problem?
You may be like me. I never wanted to give up alcohol. Alcohol felt like my lifeline to feeling "normal," once I put down the eating disorder behavior. I am a sensitive being, and when sober I tended to feel like an oddball among my peers — and I didn’t want to feel that way.
Alcohol was my backup plan to ED behavior; it provided me freedom from myself.
Sometimes, I’d commit to only having one drink when out at dinner, and I achieved that. But, most of the time, “one drink” turned into black outs, ultimately sending me back to eating disorder behavior.
Are you drinking for fun or self-medicating?
I knew that I wasn't drinking just for fun; I was drinking to medicate myself from the pain that was lurking inside — under the eating disorder. The pain would arise every time I ceased eating disorder behavior.
I relapsed for seven years trying to get recovery from an eating disorder, while still trying to "drink like a lady." I traveled the world searching for people who could prove that it could be possible—I can't remember most of it — but I can assure you, I did — I even had the credit card bills to prove it!
So, thirteen years ago, I put down alcohol too, even though it was not my "primary illness." Removing alcohol and drugs was part of my eating disorder recovery. And, for the first time, I got recovery.
Putting down alcohol can make life easier
My eating disorder was no longer triggered from bloating and shame after drinking too much. I was finally able to commit to my treatment plan (alcohol makes for blurriness). I could fully focus on getting to know myself, and what I really wanted in life, and I could begin to deal with all those feelings that I was hiding from — feelings that kept me in the cycle of mental illness.
Feel your emotions — instead of numbing them
At some point in recovery, we must be willing to confront our feelings without numbing them. The truth is, the only thing that can protect us from our feelings is to go through them without any barriers. We can take it one step at a time, showing up and facing all the parts of our illness that prevent us from living our life fully. By doing this, we can get to the life we were born to live.
Are you giving yourself the best chance at recovery? Is there anything standing in your way?
Robyn Cruze is National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.