Eating disorders are addiction adjacent. [i]
Some people consider eating disorders to be addiction-proper. They follow that model at my last inpatient centre. It does tick a lot of the boxes. It’s beyond our control, for sure. And some of the recovery steps for addiction work well with an ED. I found pursuing them during my last inpatient stay quite helpful.
Fearless inventory? Sure, why not. It turns out I minimize much of my past – it was good to see it written out and to discuss it with someone ready to hear our confession – in my case a lay priest who worked for the recovery centre. I liked her. I even made amends to the people I felt deserved them – namely my son, my parents, and a couple of friends.
People with eating disorders don’t blow up their worlds that often. That’s different from addiction, though eating disorders are quite determinedly self-destructive. Drug and alcohol addiction can be accidental. One rarely stumbles into an eating disorder.
People with eating disorders can’t abstain from their drug of choice. One can give up vodka or valium and roll along nicely, but one dies from prolonged starvation. It’s also the chosen behaviour that sees large chunks of the eating disorder population in treatment or dead.
People with eating disorders can also work on recovery while still participating in active “addiction” behaviours. That’s not usually recommended for drugs and alcohol.
Nobody really believes in California sober.
My periods of abstinence began during my last inpatient stay, but they only started to solidify when I was able to solidify mental progress. The became much longer when I was able to get serious about boundaries – though those are still a work in progress.
Periods of abstinence gave me time. They let me breathe, and think. They also gave me a thirst for more sober behaviour.
The terminology of addiction is another benefit of the comparison – there’s a “clean” language option for not throwing up. The language of addiction helps people with eating disorders communicate more easily.
Why is this on my mind?
The end of the year approaches, and this year was chaos. Life has felt like garbage since September 2021, in point of fact, and the hits keep coming. And at some point during this past year, I think following my father’s hospitalization, my life got aimless. And by “aimless” I mean structure-free. And while drifting is nice, I haven’t accomplished much beyond improving my eyeshadow skills. Which is somewhat annoying to realize as the end of the year approaches. Though letting my brain have a break was nice. Time to gut up once more, however.
I decided to read a Stoic quote every day again this year, so I headed to my library to grab the book in question. That’s when one of my Geneen Roth’s caught my eye. [ii]
“Women, Food, and God” is the fifth Geneen Roth book I’ve read and the fourth I’ve owned. “Feeding the Hungry Heart” got me started on the road to recovery, though it took a long time to get there from first exposure. Recovery literature walked lock-step with my disorder and I suspect I’m not unique.
I grabbed it from the shelf and flipped it open to chapter nine, “Breath by Breath”:
“We think of ourselves as walking heads with bothersome, unattractive appendages attached. It’s as if we’d rather pretend we don’t have bodies. As if they are the source of our trouble, and if only we could get rid of or otherwise dismiss them, we’d be fine. We crash around in our arms and legs, let them lift for us, hold our children for us, and walk for us without ever taking time to actually live in them. Until we are about to lose them.
An article in the New Yorker about people who romanticize committing suicide (the ultimate body removal technique) by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge quote one man, saying, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except for having just jumped.
The problem isn’t that we have bodies; the problem is that we’re not living in them.”
First, about the Golden Gate quote – I assume it was made by a survivor. I always wonder about epiphanies like these. I tend to think the regret is real, but that the concrete thoughts come about later, in the hospital, as one recovers and reflects.
Second, I’m on board with the idea that I don’t live in my body. If suicide is the ultimate body removal technique, eating disorders make it a lifestyle. I’m almost never in my body. I’m anywhere but here a great deal of the time, even if my brain is attentive and focused.
As Ms. Roth mentions, my body is still something I can do without. [iii]
I’m particularly unhappy with it today. A week of reckless abandon has left my jeans tight. My eating disorder is taking this moment to suggest that I can’t be trusted. It’s possible. A more accurate analysis would be I still have serious body hang-ups, behavioural recovery status notwithstanding.
I remember reading something by Thich Nhat Hahn about being in the body. How funny that the ultimate in mindfulness doesn’t exist in the mind at all.
Dissociating out of the body was adaptive for those who do it, once upon a time. Unfortunately, we’re not that good at letting go of what it is we no longer need, be it a pair of Daisy Dukes or behaviours that no longer serve.
We’ve become habituated so quickly that we angrily reject suggestions about change without even thinking about the original reason for the behaviour. When it comes to maladaptive choices, we never seem to find the time for performance reviews. It’s a shame – if we did, we’d find they weren’t getting us close to where we wanted.
Contract termination for failure to fulfill the terms and services would be a fabulous way to get out of a pathology. It seems easier than the work currently required. I plan to try it on my internet provider this year anyway. I’d be happy with a twofer.
(header credit: theweedpatchstore.com)
[i] I had this written already, and it works nicely with Bloganuary day two – how are you brave. Win.
[ii] I call it my library. It is a tiny storage space I co-opted. I always co-opt a space for my books. Usually, it’s a dedicated wall, but this is better. It is, however, very small.
[iii] Prefer to live without, if one’s being honest.