Getting Sober With an Eating Disorder: What Nobody Told Me

It’s no secret that people struggling with chemical dependency often have other underlying issues that might not be as noticeable. These co-occurring illnesses are usually harder to overcome, thanks to a lack of obvious consequences and the ability to better hide them.

This is my story.

Bumps in the Road

While I openly battled alcoholism for six years, I was secretly battling bulimia for twelve. It started in fifth grade and continued until I was twenty-three years old.

The last five years of my illness was when things really took a nosedive. I started stealing from my cousin’s piggy bank to buy food, purging thirty times a day, and leaving dinners or parties to “get cigarettes” when really I just needed access to a private bathroom.

During the time I like to call “the beginning of the end,” I was also drinking way more alcohol than my 110 lb body should’ve been able to handle. My caloric intake strictly came from drinking up to 12 bottles of wine each day. The largest meal I had was a bloody mary – with a strip of bacon for protein, celery sticks for veggies, and limes for fruit.

Eventually, I ended up in the hospital because I was throwing up blood. I found out I had a tear in my throat from all the violent vomiting, along with completely depleting my body of potassium. I could’ve died within days.

First Things First…

I knew I needed help for both my alcoholism and my bulimia, so I found a dual-diagnosis treatment facility.

Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to understand how to treat this combination. I was assigned a bedroom with a private bathroom, allowing me to safely purge. Then came the sugar cravings – my worst nightmare.

My body was accustomed to getting nearly 60 grams of sugar per day from alcohol alone, so getting sober left my body in a state of shock.

To make matters worse, I was put on a very high dose of Seroquel, which intensifies sugar cravings to ease withdrawals. I began eating cookies with jars of frosting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This just added fuel to my bulimic fire.

Destiny or Miracle?

Once my alcoholism was in remission, my partner moved into my apartment, something I believe was the work of my Higher Power. I no longer had my “safe bubble” to act out on my eating disorder.

I learned that my “why” must be greater than my addiction. I didn’t want to lose my relationship. I didn’t want her to think I was weak or gross. So, I gave it a couple days without purging and succeeded. Then a few more. And then a few more.

I ultimately figured out that the more space you put between yourself and your vice, the easier it becomes to separate completely. I can now proudly say I’m five years purge-free!