Today’s post is a bit more adult — it deals with alcohol struggles. I feel it’s important to share because if we don’t look an initial struggle in the face and learn to scratch the record and do something different (and support our teens as they learn in their lives), that initial struggle may go away, though another one may very well take it’s place.
After I stopped purging and left behind the worst of my food binges in my mid-twenties, I started drinking more. Wine, mainly.
From the outside, maybe it looked like I was doing better. I had lost some weight and wasn’t as hung up on food and what I was eating, at least in public. That was what I wanted myself and others to see and believe. It was easier to pass on “bad” food calories — I wanted to save some for alcohol and “treating” myself at the end of the day. (Though as I drank too much, I’d rationalize eating more and more, so that line of thinking was flawed).
Alcohol became my crutch, my soother, my way to numb out, taking the reins from food.
It wasn’t that I had healed from my eating disorders. While some healing had taken place, there were huge dark crevasses inside where I still felt like a failure and not enough. Alcohol was just taking food’s place. And it was a seductive charmer, allowing me to let go of the cares of the day and relax into its embrace.
The fact that I hated my job? No problem! Forget about it for a while. It doesn’t matter. Hate what I see looking back at me in the mirror? Honey — you’re looking better with a drink or two.
And it worked! At least until I woke up, feeling even worse. Not only was I still fat (at least in my mind), now I had a ferocious headache to start the day. And I felt like an even bigger failure, a total weakling. Great. The solution? Make it through the day and then go home and have a glass of wine.
Looking back now, I see that my kids were a turning point and saving grace — I’d made the decision I wasn’t going to drink while pregnant. The absence of alcohol in my system made crystal clear how crappy I usually felt, and it was eye-opening. However, it wasn’t until after my second pregnancy and my little girl was around one that I began to really see the connection for me between alcohol and fun. My story: alcohol = fun, and I thought I couldn’t have a good time, relax and unwind, without alcohol. (And if alcohol wasn’t available, food was a good substitute.) Until I admitted that to myself, nothing was going to change.
Three big “get this now” learnings I came to see:
- Numbing out can take various forms: alcohol, food, Facebook, TV, etc. The behaviors are related.
- If you don’t deal with whatever is going on, it’s not going to go away. You can push it down but it’ll come back, maybe in some other form. Numbing out doesn’t fix anything.
- Numbing out makes me miss out on life. I can’t show up to what is around me. And missing out on life hurts — and it hurts more than risking the pain that can come with showing up.
Sometimes life hurts — for us all. We can numb and/or run, but we’ll never be able to numb it completely or outrun it. And when we take the risk to see what is really there, to try and scratch the record rather than numb or run? We may find things we never expected, as well as the happiness we’ve been looking for.