Recovery teaches individuals to replace unhealthy behaviors for positive practices, coping mechanisms. Often that means instead of purging after a meal, the individual is taught to do something such as coloring, knitting, etc. to help take the individual’s mind off the temptation to engage in harmful behavior. However, there are times when an individual picks up another harmful habit to replace the original harmful habit. In my case, I was starting to become a closet drinker to replace the emotions the eating disorder attempted to drown out.
In my family there is a history of addiction. Without throwing all the people under the bus, I will say my dad was an alcoholic. He may not have admitted it, but he was; I believe it played a part in killing him. To some degree, I believe I inherited his addictive personality. The eating disorder was similar to an addiction in that it gave me a “high” when I restricted food or purged. I used the eating disorder to cope with stress, loneliness, sadness…well, just about any emotion or feeling possible. While I have not been using alcohol to fill all those voids, I was using it to cope with loneliness and stress above all else.
Living in a marina, I am surrounded by people who drink on an unhealthy level. The ship store offers a wide variety of craft beers and wines that are easily accessible. There are people who drink early in the morning and continue to do so all day long. Smelling alcohol on someone’s breath at 10am is not abnormal. I feel into the trap of thinking drinking every night was completely fine for me. Perhaps for some people having a beer after work stops there, but for me, it became something that made me salivate. Got in an argument? Grab a beer. Feeling lonely? Open up that wine. Boat troubles got ya down? No worries, a rum cocktail should fix that right up.
Before I knew it, I was having a beer or two nearly every night and drinking them without eating much on top of that. I had moments where I would want a drink so bad my mouth would water and I was having an all-out craving so I would walk up to the ship store and take care of it. While I love living on the boat, the availability of alcohol when I lived on land in a house was not like it is now. On land I would’ve had to drive 10-15 minutes to get to a store, buy the beer, then drive 10-15 minutes home. By the time it was all said and done I didn’t think it was worth it, and at that time I was still in treatment so utilizing positive coping skills was easy. Convenience is everything.
Over the years I thought I had found my balance with alcohol. For example, I realized three years ago that I can’t drink vodka because it makes me incredibly angry and argumentative. Just ask my old iPhone that got thrown down in a fit of vodka-fueled rage onto the pavement and shattered. Wine makes my nose stuffy, but I drink it anyway because it is socially common since it “pairs well” with food. Of course mimosas for breakfast and brunch; especially in the South. Then there is beer. Not your run-of-the-mill Anheuser-Busch beers, but the well-crafted, flavorful beers. They come in all flavors now–cold brew coffee, PB&J, notes of citrus fruits–I could go on and on. Lets not forget my Caribbean island favorite–rum…or rhum, depending on where it is from. Just typing that all out makes my mouth water thinking about it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been down this road. The first time I ever went to therapy for the eating disorder, back in 2008, my therapist was concerned about my drinking. Of course, at that time, I was a senior in college so drinking a lot and often was not uncommon. Again, alcohol was and is an accepted societal norm. I still have the charts from that therapist regarding “how much should you drink” based on your age, weight, and other factors. At the time I didn’t think anything about drinking; even though I still feel bad about the one time I showed up for my appointment a little tipsy. My reasoning? It was St. Patrick’s day so Ann Arbor was full of green beer.
I’ve said the words, “I’m going to quit drinking” several times over the last few months to my husband. I would try and it would last a few days, maybe a week then I’d be back at it again. While my husband has been away on business I realized I really don’t think my behaviors toward alcohol are healthy. My mindset isn’t simply having a drink with dinner, but having a drink to drown something out. Quite honestly, the prevailing thoughts are similar to what made me want to restrict food to numb out feelings and get a high from it in the first place. Either way, none of it is healthy. Therefore, I’m calling myself out and making it public to work toward accountability. I’ve been living my eating disorder recovery as an open book, so I’m adding this to it.
If you’re reading this and you want to offer me a drink next time you see me, please don’t. Social drinking is so common and accepted that I struggle to say no. I don’t want to be the odd duck; which makes me smile a little when you consider in high school I wouldn’t drink at parties, but instead would drink plain orange juice to try to fit in. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug. Heck, I studied that in graduate school. Some people can have a drink and that is that; there is no deeper emotional reasoning behind it.
That person is not me.
I am the person who uses it to replace “my” addition of disordered eating.
Once again I find myself returning to tried and true coping mechanisms I learned in treatment, as it is obvious I still need them. Finding my center and my ability to cope with loneliness and stressful situations in a healthy manner is of the utmost importance for my recovery and my future; therefore, I must give up alcohol. I know this is not going to be easy, as I’ve said, it is socially common and acceptable; however, many before me have done it and I know it is what is best for me.
During a phone conversation with a friend and mentor the other day she said, “When you crave it is an opportunity to spiritually connect. Discontinuation of a behavior is trusting in God’s power.”
If you need me, I’ll be crafting a little memo with that on it to post in my kitchen.
With Body Love,