It’s popular wisdom in the eating disorder recovery community that drinking alcohol/doing drugs is bad – and there is a lot of evidence to back that statement up. There is a strong correlation between people with substance abuse issues and eating disorders. Alcohol, of course, is detrimental to your health whether you are recovering or not. People who need to re-feed can rely on alcohol for a bulk of their calories and not get the proper nutrition they need. Alcohol is just an unhealthy way to self medicate anxiety. Listen, I understand all of that.
Here’s my well thought out, scientifically backed up, and thoroughly researched counter argument though: I love vodka.
I am not here to tell you not to listen to your therapists and doctors. Every single person is different and what they need to help themselves is unique. However, drinking in recovery was absolutely essential for me and perhaps more than one of you can relate to my reasoning.
Before I was sick I drank… a lot. I was in college and in a sorority in New Orleans. It was hard to avoid, and frankly I didn’t want to avoid it. I loved going out to bars, knowing bartenders, trying new drinks, hanging out with my friends, etc. When I developed ED alcohol was one of the first things I cut out. Doing this may have seemed like a very healthy decision for myself, but looking at it from the lens of an eating disorder I think we can all understand how it really wasn’t. It was simply another excuse to restrict more calories. When I was in quasi-recovery I still refused to drink OR if I did drink I would make sure not to eat all day to compensate. That was the wrong way to approach alcohol. I was rarely drinking and I still did not enjoy it the way I used to.
When I finally committed to true recovery I began forgetting about the “empty calories” and returning to my pre-ED behavior towards drinking. Being able to have fun with my friends the way we used to was essential to me continuing to have the strength and will to re-feed. Returning to my old social life was a “Recovery Goal” of mine, and re-learning how to drink without care of calories was essential to achieving that goal.
Is this the right way to approach alcohol for every person in recovery? Certainly not. If you think that you have a real substance abuse problem than alcohol can hinder any potential progress you might make. If you drink alone often or view alcohol as a way to medicate anxiety instead of as a social lubricant
or way to connect with others than you are abusing the sauce and should not imbibe. If you are still counting calories and restrict your intake to allow you to drink alcohol than I can tell you from experience that is very wrong, dangerous, and ultimately not even fun – so just stop. However, if drinking is a part of your social life that you miss and you understand your body and your limits (and you’re of legal drinking age!) then I think that drinking during recovery is essential to reminding yourself who you can become once again.
Did you drink/are you drinking in recovery? Do you think you’re going about it the right way? Or do you avoid booze completely? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear other perspectives!