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Old 09-09-2017, 12:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Binge eating after quitting the booze


Hi everyone. I'm 37 days sober from alcohol and I've been binge eating. I only have an appetite for carbs and sweets. I ate a pint and a half of ice cream last night and had a food hangover this morning.

I started going to AA and Refuge Recovery and I'm hoping the 12 steps can help me with all compulsive behavior. Refuge Recovery covers all of the addictions including food and sex, so I like that about it.

I'm about 60 pounds overweight and I need to get a handle on this. I've also been really sedentary because I just don't feel well from the alcohol withdrawal. The general attitude in AA is that I should focus on sobriety from alcohol and the food will fall into place. But I've always had an issue with binge eating, it's just much worse now that I don't have the alcohol crutch.
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi there. I just wanted you to know that I totally understand where you are coming from. I am coming up on 8 months sober and am just now beginning to make healthier eating choices.
I started binge eating when I quit drinking but my sobriety comes first always. Maybe just tackle one meal a day at first and add a walk in the mornings. Small simple changes can add up and make a difference 😊
Great job on 37 days!!!
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hello Leanabeana-

So to be up front I don't today struggle with alcohol, and never have. With that said I worked at a recovery center for some time and it was very common for alcohol stopping to be connected with increased sugar and caffeine consumption.

In addition there is data saying that 1/3 of people with substance abuse concerns also live with eating concerns. I attend an women only Open AA meeting once a week and many of those woman share the same things you did about food.

I believe something a little different then what you wrote above. I believe regardless of the addiction we are working on, working on one in the big picture helps them all. My recovery behaviors have included therapy, eating disorder groups, Open AA meetings, Al-Anon, body work etc. We don't happen to have an OA meeting where I live for example but I have found that working on my emotional "stuff," in Al-Anon helps my food challenges to be decreased.

That does not mean that it fell into place overnight. I have been working my recovery from my eating disorder for 17+ years. In that time I met, loved, and married a problem drinker. Like Shrek says "I am a complicated ogre....like a multi-layer onion." I have a complicated story and when I finish with one layer of my recovery another piece is often waiting. With that said food behaviors are better, less stressful and less impactful on my life. Recovery has given me other paths to choose rather than the only one I had previously, food.

The worst thing I can/could do for my eating stuff was to put a number with it (pounds, food, time frames etc) or to "blame/shame," myself when food was hard. If I shamed myself I would get into a shame spiral.....and this would trigger eating stuff again.

What kind of support do you have in place for you with your alcohol use (besides AA). How is it helping you?
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The worst thing I can/could do for my eating stuff was to put a number with it (pounds, food, time frames etc) or to "blame/shame," myself when food was hard. If I shamed myself I would get into a shame spiral.....and this would trigger eating stuff again.
I just wanted to highlight this piece of LifeRecovery's excellent post above.

I, too, found recovery from disordered eating was all wrapped up in my codependency. Learning to love myself for myself, as-is and without exception or condition, has made a tremendous difference in my life and overall health.
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Old 09-09-2017, 07:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hi LifeRecovery. I don't feel like I have a ton of support outside of meetings. I'm also doing Refuge Recovery and LifeRing in addition to AA. Most people I've told about quitting drinking have been pretty supportive but I've had mixed reactions. Quitting makes people think about their own substance use.

I didn't make it to any meetings today because I felt so ill. I think it's partially because of the binge last night. I went to acupuncture which helped.
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Old 09-10-2017, 09:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Hi LifeRecovery. I don't feel like I have a ton of support outside of meetings. I'm also doing Refuge Recovery and LifeRing in addition to AA. Most people I've told about quitting drinking have been pretty supportive but I've had mixed reactions. Quitting makes people think about their own substance use.

I didn't make it to any meetings today because I felt so ill. I think it's partially because of the binge last night. I went to acupuncture which helped.
So I am hearing that you are getting a lot of support in meetings. AA, LifeRing, Refuge Recovery.

I think of acupuncture as a type of support too! I have not done it for me, but I had an older dog who receives it and felt immediately better after one session. I do a type of body work called Rolfing, and my body worker has become one of my support people in my life.

It was hard for me at first to know what kind of relationships/meetings/support were going to help me in the big picture. That was part of what my recovery helped to teach me. For example do you have the kind of ongoing relationship with your acupuncture provider that you can be upfront about what is bringing you to her?

Finally there is the challenge of making contact with people outside of meetings. Typically they are pretty good at meetings of passing out a phone list. I know when I first started recovery and was struggling with connection the phone felt like it weighted two tons.....

It is funny though that when I finally got up the courage to call I was never disappointed and always got support.

Part of my recovery was making modifications in my overall support network. That took time and was frankly very painful at times. I was NOT anywhere close to perfect at it, and frankly I still tend to isolate when stressed. You are right working on your stuff and being open/honest about it can be a mixed bag, especially when people are not quite ready to work on their own stuff.

I want you to know that in the big picture that has changed for me. I attract healthier people in general to me because I am healthier. Recently my willingness to share my challenges years ago allowed me to be at the forefront of two friends mind when they were struggling, and at least consider getting additional support. They came to me about it, not because I thought I could fix it anymore, but because I was honest with them about my challenges, my support and my subsequently feeling better.

Recovery is the best gift I have ever given me. Therapy/body work etc is the best money I have ever spent on me.

Sometimes still I get embarressed that I need ongoing support 17 years after really starting my recovery. You know what though something has shifted in me in that time. I used to think I was "crazy," and that is why I needed help. Now I realized that my "stuff," is pretty "normal," in a pretty crazy making world.....me getting support and stepping out of that craziness not just helps me, but a small part of the world to be righted again.

You got this!
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Old 09-10-2017, 11:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I think of acupuncture as a type of support too! I have not done it for me, but I had an older dog who receives it and felt immediately better after one session. I do a type of body work called Rolfing, and my body worker has become one of my support people in my life.

It was hard for me at first to know what kind of relationships/meetings/support were going to help me in the big picture. That was part of what my recovery helped to teach me. For example do you have the kind of ongoing relationship with your acupuncture provider that you can be upfront about what is bringing you to her?
Yes, acupuncture is absolutely a type of support. My primary acupuncturist charges $80 so I can't go to him as often as I would like. He is very supportive and talks to me for about 20-30 minutes before every session. He knows all about my drinking, relationship issues, you name it. He's almost like a therapist. I'm also lucky to have a community acupuncture clinic nearby that offers $10 ear treatments for addiction recovery so I take advantage of that as often as I can.

Forgot to mention - I have a great therapist. She's the one who made me realize I needed to quit drinking. I increased my sessions to twice a week for the time being.

I have a lot more support than many people now that I think about it. As for friends, family and coworkers that has been mixed like I said. I get responses like, "great, alcohol is empty calories" or "great, you will save money". This is all true, but it's really not the point and they don't seem to get it. The majority of my friends have addiction issues they don't want to face but I will absolutely not be that person who tries to convince them of anything. I want to emphasize that I'm not judging them just because I quit drinking.

I'm supposed to hang out with my friends for Oakland Pride and I'm a bit worried. One of them sent a picture of a wine bottle that she is planning on bringing. I'm already really isolated so I don't want to keep passing up plans with them.
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Old 09-10-2017, 04:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I think it is good you have an awareness of your eating. What I do know is that myself- and a LOT of early recovery people 'crave' carbs and eat and gain weight. I know one guy who eats a loaf of white bread a day. Sugar rush, replacing one addiction with another are common replies. I did a healthy lifestyle workshop...saw my doc to get my depression under control...and use of psychologist with CBT to work thru all my issues...of which eating crap was one. Having an awareness to PLAN a diet, just like having a plan for keeping sober, or getting fit...it takes effort and thought..which you are showing thru your post. Some people can eat like lions- and lose weight- they will tell you it will settle down. Others inhale icecream and gain weight (like me). If you are mindful, and approach it with some thought, I think you will work it out.
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Old 09-10-2017, 05:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks PhoenixJ. Do people in recovery generally seem to believe that replacing one addiction for another is a bad thing? I would think yes, but it's hard to tell sometimes.

For me, I need to be careful because I'm pre-diabetic and have high cholesterol. The consequences for eating a pint of ice cream are more severe for folks like us. I also have really bad self-esteem from being overweight. I was thin until I was 33 (I'm 40 now) so being overweight still feels strange and unnatural to me. I also have rheumatoid arthritis so the pain and fatigue keeps me more sedentary. I know I have to fight through that, but it isn't easy.
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Old 09-10-2017, 07:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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leana- people in recovery groups have opinions are diverse as strangers on a bus. Apart from the physical toll- it is the lifestyle and emotional/mental intelligence which matches. I know someone who replaced alcohol with work. Effected the relationship with her daughter very much. Another who became a gym junkie. They did not change their thinking. If a behaviour and subsequent actions- be it chemical , food- gambling, fitness..whatever is counterproductive and rules a person/'s life to the detriment of them getting better, healing, growing- finding peace..that to me is not good.
I know someone who is absolutely obsessed with AA. To the detriment of everything else. Yes sobriety is first...but there is more to life than AA meetings.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:15 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Yes, acupuncture is absolutely a type of support. My primary acupuncturist charges $80 so I can't go to him as often as I would like. He is very supportive and talks to me for about 20-30 minutes before every session. He knows all about my drinking, relationship issues, you name it. He's almost like a therapist. I'm also lucky to have a community acupuncture clinic nearby that offers $10 ear treatments for addiction recovery so I take advantage of that as often as I can.

Forgot to mention - I have a great therapist. She's the one who made me realize I needed to quit drinking. I increased my sessions to twice a week for the time being.

I have a lot more support than many people now that I think about it. As for friends, family and coworkers that has been mixed like I said. I get responses like, "great, alcohol is empty calories" or "great, you will save money". This is all true, but it's really not the point and they don't seem to get it. The majority of my friends have addiction issues they don't want to face but I will absolutely not be that person who tries to convince them of anything. I want to emphasize that I'm not judging them just because I quit drinking.

I'm supposed to hang out with my friends for Oakland Pride and I'm a bit worried. One of them sent a picture of a wine bottle that she is planning on bringing. I'm already really isolated so I don't want to keep passing up plans with them.
Have you been able to talk to your support about the food stuff in addition to the alcohol stuff right now?
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:37 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I talked to my acupuncturist and he was very understanding. He's been giving me nutritional advice for years that I haven't followed and he's very patient and non-judgmental. He suggested I take L-Glutamine which is an amino acid that helps with cravings. I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to.

I talked to my friend about the food stuff and he was understanding but a bit impatient because he's also been giving me advice for years.

Nobody in recovery has taken it very seriously because they think it will pass and that I should focus on sobriety from alcohol. What I haven't explained is that I have long-standing issues with food including anorexia when I was a teenager. It seems off-topic at meetings so I don't go into it.
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Old 09-12-2017, 03:47 AM   #13 (permalink)
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It can be so hard period, but especially I imagine in early recovery to use the word moderation to anything, especially something that you have an addictive history with.

Gently I would offer that offering advice is not understanding.

I have found in my relationship with food that I "Know," what I should be doing. It is when I can't reach that expectation that I slip into the shame spiral and use food inappropriately.

Knowing is only half of the challenge. Though it sounds counterintuitive giving up some of my expectations around food actually helped me to respond to food more appropriately.

Though I believe many people in early recovery do have food stuff come up, about 1/3 of people with substance challenges also have food disorders which I believe can be another layer to recovery to work on.

Are you still grounded in any of your support from your anorexia recovery? Were you in actual recovery from that or did you kind of switch addictive behaviors with it to food (no judgement, I just know it happens). Are you able to talk to your therapist about the food stuff?

My recovery from food things has spanned a variety of professions.

Therapy, body work (like massage), dietitians, eating disorder groups, Al-Anon, open AA meetings, I took a therapy certification for a body centered therapy called Hakomi, meditation, anti-depressants, etc.

I don't say that to mean that you can scatter shot your recovery. I do mean to say that all of it helped me, all of it in different ways, but it all moved me forward in my recovery from my eating disorder and codependent behavior tendencies.

There is a saying in AA about comparing our insides to someone else's outsides. I learned a lot about that for myself on this recovery. Is that part of the challenge you are experiencing right now?

Congrats on continued recovery. You are doing a lot of hard work.
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Old 09-12-2017, 12:05 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Thanks LifeRecovery. I didn't get any support for anorexia. Luckily it only lasted a few years because it was triggered by modeling. Once I quit modeling, I started eating normally again but still had a bit of exercise bulimia. I never looked underweight because when I eat 300 calories a day I just become thin but not a skeleton. I've always tended towards being heavy, so being anorexic seemed "normal" by society's standards.

I feel the same way that I "know" what I'm supposed to do, I just let the addiction rule the way I eat.

I spoke to my therapist about the eating yesterday. She thinks the more we get to the bottom of my trauma history and I start coming to terms with these things, the eating will fall into place. She also thinks I should keep my focus on abstinence from alcohol.

I'm just scratching the surface of understanding my alcoholism, so I'm hoping with more insight into my addiction, I will be able to address the food issues as well.
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Old 09-13-2017, 06:11 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I spoke to my therapist about the eating yesterday. She thinks the more we get to the bottom of my trauma history and I start coming to terms with these things, the eating will fall into place. She also thinks I should keep my focus on abstinence from alcohol.

I'm just scratching the surface of understanding my alcoholism, so I'm hoping with more insight into my addiction, I will be able to address the food issues as well.
Ah the "normal" about starving oneself but not being skeletal. I am not trying to poke fun but looking "normal," was part of the excuse I used to convince myself that I did not have food stuff for a long time.

It is common for eating disorder behavior to be on a continuum. Over the course of my addiction I have many struggled with binge eating disorder (non-purging), but I have overexercised to an extreme, undereaten etc.

I don't say that to compare eating disorders. I do say that for me the behavior comes from the same root. Not want to feel my stuff.

As I dealt with my underlying trauma my food stuff got better. As I dealt with my other challenging behaviors (especially co-dependency) food stuff got better. I don't mean that it on a day to day basis looked better, but in the big picture it was steps forward. I had to learn to feel (which initially made food worse for me), but once I learned to feel I did not need food in the same way.

I like the way your therapist is approaching it. I imagine alcohol abuse can help to not feel also.

I am impressed that you were able to talk about it with someone who can help.

Keep up the good work.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:56 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Thank you LifeRecovery. I'm hopeful that I can tackle these tough issues now that I'm sober. There are a lot of onion layers to peel.
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Old 09-14-2017, 02:28 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I spoke to my therapist about the eating yesterday. She thinks the more we get to the bottom of my trauma history and I start coming to terms with these things, the eating will fall into place. She also thinks I should keep my focus on abstinence from alcohol.

I'm just scratching the surface of understanding my alcoholism, so I'm hoping with more insight into my addiction, I will be able to address the food issues as well.
Leana-

I thought of something yesterday in regards to this post.

I agree with your therapist a lot.

I just wanted to ask what kind of experience your therapist has with eating disorders. I ask because when the ED stuff would come roaring out for me the manipulative power of my ED would make up bald faced lies for me to come spewing out.

Sometimes because of the nature of balance needed to moderate eating disorders that is not always the same with other substances finding someone who knew about ED was important to me......my therapist did not ever fall for my manipulation garbage. I am not sure that a therapist without ED training would have been as intuitive.
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Old 09-14-2017, 08:27 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I've never asked her about her experience with eating disorders. She knows about the anorexia but I think she believes it was triggered by pressures from modeling. She's more concerned about why my parents forced me to model while I was disappearing before their eyes.

I have another session with her today and will talk to her about it. She knows I am very unhappy at my current weight and fitness level, but she believes I use the weight to hide from the world. Once we figure out why I'm hiding, she hopes it will fall into place.

My issue now is that any kind of dieting or compulsive exercising triggers the disordered part of me so I go to the other extreme. When I talk to people about Weight Watchers I cringe at the idea of counting points because I know I would take it to a whole other level. Maybe that's an excuse to stay fat, I don't know.

I know that eating right and exercising will help me with my recovery from alcoholism, but I just can't get myself to do it right now.
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Old 09-16-2017, 10:18 AM   #19 (permalink)
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she believes I use the weight to hide from the world. Once we figure out why I'm hiding, she hopes it will fall into place.

My issue now is that any kind of dieting or compulsive exercising triggers the disordered part of me so I go to the other extreme. When I talk to people about Weight Watchers I cringe at the idea of counting points because I know I would take it to a whole other level. Maybe that's an excuse to stay fat, I don't know.

I know that eating right and exercising will help me with my recovery from alcoholism, but I just can't get myself to do it right now.
Leana-

Boy do I understand all of what you wrote above.

I use food to numb out and hide from the world....regardless of the weight on the scale. It was my comfort and support when I felt alone and isolated.

As I figured out what I was hiding from it did get better.

The paragraph of what you wrote about points etc is why I have found that for now I have to surrender to no scales, no points, no label reading etc. I had to take some significant time off from activity too because I was doing was trying to manage the scale etc. I had to learn to love myself, regardless of what my body looked like in the moment. I spent so much energy assuming I would be happy at a certain weight or size....that I never took the time to love me when I was not meeting those expectations.

Lack of self-care was the biggest behavior that was part of my eating disorder and has taken me a long time to work on.

Again you have this......

Gently I just want to caution you that for me this transformation took me much longer than I anticipated. I don't say that to be a downer but to help you to know that it did not happen overnight (though I expected it too).
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Old 09-16-2017, 12:52 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Gently I just want to caution you that for me this transformation took me much longer than I anticipated. I don't say that to be a downer but to help you to know that it did not happen overnight (though I expected it too).
Thanks LifeRecovery. I anticipate it will take time. I didn't get here overnight. Hard to believe my first encounter with an ED was 28 years ago.

I've cooled it a bit with the binge eating. I'm being more careful not to keep sweets in the house. Hopefully it's because the alcohol withdrawal sugar cravings are reducing in intensity. I know I still need to examine all of the addictions in my life, including food. My therapist is proud of me that I'm looking at all of it. I realized Ambien was also an issue so I'm tapering off of it. I was too dependent on it and looked forward to the sedation and wonky feeling.

The thing with food is that you can't stop eating! I compare it to trying to only drink certain kinds of alcohol with the right ingredients in very specific amounts. It would never work. But this is what we are expected to do with food without becoming disordered. The only time overeating or eating unhealthy food is considered "cute" or acceptable, is if the person is thin.

Baby steps!
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