A Dangerous Mix: Anorexia and Alcohol Abuse
I haven't been sober more than a few days each month since October. I have only eaten a handful of what would be considered real meals in several months.
I consume more calories in alcohol than food, and simply admitting that has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done.I promised myself I would always be open and honest when I started writing Surviving ED last fall. I felt that was the only way to establish credibility with HealthyPlace readers and to truly help those struggling with eating disorders.
But I didn't have any idea what the year held, and several of the things I have written about have been both personal and painful. I have wrote about how anorexia basically destroyed my marriage, and how my husband and I permanently separated in September. I have written about both my triumphs, such as when I reached my goal weight in January, and my ongoing struggles with restrictive eating and anxiety when my husband and I attempted reconciliation this past spring and fall, and my weight again began to drop.
And I wrote about how my abuse of alcohol started soon after our separation. It started out as a way to relax, to ease the tensions and anxieties I was feeling both from the separation and my work in graduate school.
No one sets out to develop an eating disorder. I remember restricting my eating more and more, and at some point in during the 2007-2008 year, I crossed the line from restrictive eater to someone with anorexia nervosa. I soon became addicted to both the high of restricting food and becoming thinner. It felt great, and I didn't care what anyone else thought.
It is the same with alcohol abuse. I didn't plan to mix restrictive eating with drinking alcohol, but once I discovered it could help me cope and feel better about myself, I crossed an invisible line from being someone who had the occasional glass of wine to someone who can't imagine a day without a few drinks and little food.That is the nature of addiction and addictive behaviors. At some point, you get caught and then you find yourself sitting inside a psychiatrist's office trying to explain why you think starving yourself is a good idea. Or why drinking "just a few glasses" of wine is okay. Or why doing both together is not going to kill you, and since you feel your best after a few glasses of wine, why not?
I know that I am not the only one who has struggled with anorexia or another eating disorder, and alcohol abuse. Kendra Sebelius, author of HealthyPlace's Debunking Addiction, covered in-depth the connection between eating disorders and substance abuse. I will leave the statistics and analysis to her, since she did such a wonderful job.
I would like to discuss how restrictive eating and drinking has personally impacted me, and perhaps some readers might see themselves within my words. I half-heartedly joked in an October blog post that I knew having a glass of wine at 9:30 a.m. was not a good idea.
I didn't realize then that would become my regular practice. Get up in the morning, start the coffee, get ready for the day and then pour myself a glass of wine. Sit down and work on my graduate school work until I had too much wine and could no longer focus, and finally passing out on the couch. Repeat every day with few exceptions.
I thought that I was still handling things well. After all, I was attending class and turning in my assignments and was considered a very good student who added a lot to the class.
Then one day I realized I had not even started an assignment due that day. I e-mailed my professor in a panic, and he granted me (and in fairness to myself, many other students) an extension. But the fact that I needed an extension solely because I was too drunk to understand and complete the assignment troubles me. I finished the class with a perfect grade, bringing my total GPA to 3.9.
But I tell myself not to be cocky. I still have to write my thesis, and I have to be both sober and reasonably well fed to be able to research and write a 150-plus paper that is the culmination of my studies. I can still fail, and alcohol and restrictive eating can still both make things more difficult and could harm me.
Then there is how excessive drinking makes you feel. I feel great at first, but when the high wears off and it is all gone, I just feel empty and sad and very, very tired. I am now reaching out for help, as I realize I can't handle this alone. I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings last week. I also talk with my eating disorders psychiatrist about it and how the drinking impacts my eating, since the two are intertwined because I eat less when I drink because of fear of the calories.
I still feel uncomfortable revealing such personal information in public. But if it can stop one person — you — from picking up a glass of wine or some other alcohol, and mixing it with restrictive eating, it will be worth it.
I feel the tide turning as more people understand eating disorders and alcohol abuse, and that it can be very dangerous both body and soul.
Gambrel, A. (2011, December 17). A Dangerous Mix: Anorexia and Alcohol Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2011/12/a-dangerous-mix-anorexia-and-alcohol-abuse
Author: Angela E. Gambrel
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By sharing your experience with mixing alcohol and restricting, you have forced me to face my own behavior. What you wrote is really my own experience in a nutshell. I struggle with it even today. I am so focused on the AN behaviors that it honestly never even registered with me that I should actually get help for the drinking part. How odd. I will bring it up in my next session and see where it takes me from there.
I pray that your daughter is able to get the help she needs. Drinking and eating disorders are a dangerous mix.
Thank you for your kind words. I am going into inpatient on Monday to detox and eat regular meals. I plan to win the fight against both anorexia and alcohols abuse ... It's just a matter of finding the courage to fight!
I will keep your daughter in my prayers. ♥
you are always so real. You know I have struggeled with both (still do) and the damage it has done, Im so glad you have reached out for help, you deserve to feel like, not just what the addictions let you feel, your a survivior and I have full faith that you will absolutely recover?
much love xx