Alright, so, today I’ve been mulling over just how much recovering from alcohol abuse disorder has shed light on my old eating disorder.
One of the hardest parts of overcoming the E.D. to which my life became tethered throughout my late teens and early twenties was my deep confusion, guilt and frustration about it. I felt like a totally failed feminist and intellectual. How had I elevated controlling my weight to such a level of significance that it dominated my thoughts, day in, day out? I recognised that this pursuit of thinness was ‘shallow’, and wanted to be rid of the ridiculous, time-wasting obsession.
Thinness absolutely was NOT worth the amount of mental, emotional and physical energy it was stealing from me. I longed to accept my natural body shape and weight. Why couldn’t I?
I wish someone had explained to me then (hnmmmm…. why didn’t they?):
EXTREME DIETING IS AN ADDICTION.
As is binge-eating, obsession over numbers (on the scale, on food packaging, on the treadmill)- all these things are terribly addictive because they do WHAT ALL ADDICTIONS DO: they create a cocoon, a feeling of safety, in which you can hide from trauma and stress. You might be hungry, but that heavy millstone of self-hatred is infinitely lightened, because you will WEIGH LESS tomorrow- you can tuck yourself into a safe ball within that boring little fact for years on MISERABLE years, believe me.
Like ALL addictions, we realise too late that the comforting pillow fort that we have built for ourselves is no fort at all. It’s a prison cell. And so we begin scratching around in the dark, desperately searching for the key, so we can escape the barren cage of numbers. We don’t know what the key looks or feels like – no-one does – because it’s different for each person. And because our world is made entirely of numbers and measurements / glasses of wine /- enter whatever addiction you have – by this point, we often miss the key, even as it dangles on a chain before us.
I can’t help wondering if my E.D. recovery might have been swifter or less confusing if I’d been educated about the nature of addiction…. perhaps I could at least have forgiven myself for it sooner. Who knows.
Time for dinner.