After several years of therapy, I slowed down the pace of my Bulimia.
Bulemia didn’t control my life like it once did, but it didn’t completely lose its hold on me until something else had me in its grasp: crack cocaine.
I was 17 years old and about to graduate high school. I was a good student and that changed fast. I started smoking crack. Two months later, I was in rehab for the first time. I didn’t completely get clean until I was 19 and started having the most intense and prolonged panic attacks of my life.
I was scared I was going to die, every day. I reached my bottom and was scared straight. In the anxiety ridden aftermath of my addiction, I started thinking about my life. Why did I develop an eating disorder and why did I turn to drugs?
One thing I always noted is how I traded one addiction for another.
Some people do not think Bulimia is an addiction, but as someone that has experienced both, I can tell you firsthand that the thought processes are very similar.
Both started out as a way to fit in.
I had something missing in my life, even if I didn’t yet realize it. I was insecure, anxious, shaky in myself identity and searching for something. To be honest, I think my Bulimia and my drug addiction both started out as a way to try out an identity, to find a place to fit in.
When I was 13, I wanted to be the skinny girl. I felt like I had to compensate for my social anxiety by setting strict criteria about the way my body should look. I did drugs for the first time, when I started hanging out with that crowd—I wanted to fit in. I tried hard drugs for the first time when a boyfriend asked me to, he wanted me to know what it felt like.
Big mistake, but at the time, I was trying to fit in, to carve out my place.
Then you lose control.
In the beginning I had it all planned out. I would lose a certain amount of weight in a given of time. I would restrict my calories, I would throw up dinner.
Then something happened.
The realization that I could purge my food led to the inevitable—binging. Just like in drug addiction, you crave more and more and more.
You have highs and crashes and soon, you are just out of control. You are never satisfied, and have lost sight of what normal feels like.
It completely takes over your mind.
You get in the obsession/compulsion trap. I remember being completely consumed with my eating disorder. I would make plans and charts for my weight loss goals. I learned the calorie counts of every food. I read books and articles about eating disorders. I would exercise like mad. And of course, I binged and purged every day.
As an addict, my mind was consumed with how I was going to get more drugs. That’s it. Everything else took a backseat, if I acknowledged it at all. Seriously, all day was about how I was going to get more drugs. Even when I was doing drugs, I was already worried about when they would run out.
You wish you could stop, but you can’t.
I knew that Bulimia was wrecking my health, and ironically, my looks. My body was used to binging and purging, not eating normally. It wasn’t as simple as willing myself to stop. I hated the pointless and destructive cycle my body and mind were caught up in.
With drug addiction, I was always at a low, even when I was high, it was short lived and I always anticipated the next. It was a terrible existence.
But with both, the pull was too strong, I couldn’t stop.
You try to find a way to have better control.
Even though I wished I could stop, with both addictions, I was scared of what would happen if I did. With Bulimia, I was still terribly scared of being overweight. I thought it would be ideal if I could stop binging and purging and just switch to anorexia. It didn’t happen.
With drug addiction, I tried telling myself that I could control it, that I could just use on the weekends, or once in a while. That was impossible. I was always chasing the high, but more importantly trying to fill the void of that terrible agonizing low.
There’s almost always underlying issues.
What would make someone self-punish in these ways?
Drug addiction and eating disorders are almost always manifestations of other emotional issues or untreated mental disorders. In order to truly get well, those issues must be dealt with. I have always struggled with social anxiety, and I am sure there are reasons for that as well.
Getting in touch with the root of the problem is crucial.
Relapses are common.
As I stated before, I was in therapy for Bulimia before I got involved with drugs. I was trying to recover, I tried so many times and would be doing better for a while, and then relapse. I did get my relationship with food more toward normal before I became involved with drugs.
My drug addiction led me to three different rehab programs in a span of two-and-a-half years before I finally got clean for good. I felt like I reached my bottom, and I was ready.
You thoroughly have to be 100% committed or it won’t work.
Author: April Uffner
Apprentice Editor:Leah Kroll/ ditor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Porsche Brosseau/flickr